May 22, 2014
The One That Got Away
By Brother Gene Goldman, pm2
He came to this country, and learned some English along the way, from SouthEast Asia, as a teenager. When he was a young adult he applied for membership in my lodge. I was serving as Master at the time. One of his investigators mentioned that he didn’t seem to know much about the fraternity, but seemed like a nice enough guy. Not an unusual situation, so I planned to assign him one of our more thorough coaches, to make sure he was taught properly. I never considered the cultural aspects at play.
Imagine the situation here. We had two candidates that night. He was the second, so he waited in the lobby with our Tyler, a retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant (who looked every inch the part). Of course, our Brother Gunny had his Tyler’s Sword prominently displayed, as is the custom. Our young friend seemed to take special note of the big brute of a Marine with the sword who stood watch over him.
The Stewards and Marshall came out to take the first candidate into the preparation room. Visualize this: our friend is being guarded by a Marine with a sword. Out come two more big guys with spears (actually, they are ceremonial staffs, but they do look deadly) and a guy with a billy club (we call it a Baton, but you get the picture). The three armed guys take the first candidate into the preparation room. The big Marine, and his sword stayed with our friend, like he was guarding him.
The Tyler said he never heard a peep and did not see how, but when they came back out to get our friend, he was nowhere to be found.
This is a true story, and happened while I was serving my Lodge as Master. As Master, I blame myself. I should have taken this young man aside and talked about the symbolic nature of our ceremonies. About how everything has a meaning, and that at no time would he ever be in any danger or even be made uncomfortable. I should have told him that all these symbols are presented strictly for their moral and ethical implications and none should be taken at face value. They should be appreciated for their personal meaning. I should also have shown him around the Lodge Room before we opened that evening.
I should have done these and other things, but I didn’t. And it haunts me to this day. So, every opportunity I get, I share the symbolic nature of our ceremonies, and how they are intended to create a transformational experience that will bring the individual from who he is to who he wants to become in a moral and ethical context. I have adapted the Lodge Walkabout guide I found to use with applicants. It takes only a few minutes and allows them to feel much more comfortable.
Especially with a candidate who is less familiar with us and what we do.
April 4, 2011
Due to my rather vocal nature, it is not uncommon for me to get email from someone I have never met, who read something I wrote somewhere on the internet. Here is a recent, interesting thread I would like to share. I am posting it exactly as it happens.
Karren did not email me anonymously, of course, but her identifying information has been redacted.
On Sun, Apr 3, 2011 at 12:24 PM, Karren XXXXX wrote:
Hello Mr. Goldman,
I hope you don’t mind my contacting you to ask a question or two about freemasonry.
I read one of your webpages – “What I get from freemasonry” and enjoyed what you had to say. From the viewpoint of a non-mason, you appear to have the ability to get right to the bare bones of a thing and make it simple and clear.
I was hoping you might be able to help me understand something about freemasonry/freemasons regarding some historical research I am doing.
I descend from a full blood Kaw (Kansa) indian orphan. After much searching I found that 3 freemasons appear to have found her a home with a white family in 1866. They likely saved her life as over 100 members of that tribe died the folowing winter of starvation and exposure. We don’t have her indian name so are unable to go further researching her. But, the idea that these freemasons found her a home got me interested in the history of her tribe and whether other freemasons interacted with them.
I found that freemasons had been involved in what happened to this tribe either directly or indirectly going clear back to the early 1700’s or maybe even earlier.
I’ve researched the various masons connected and various lodges they were members of, with great interest. While I fund many freemasons in government positions as agents and as traders and scouts and even missionaries, I am still having trouble determining what unique effect they had on this tribe………….other than finding my relative a home.
I’m not looking for any masonic ceremony or inner workings of a lodge. I know freemasonry is supposed to make good men better and make the world a better place, but I’m having trouble translating that to what effect the various masons had on the indians. This would of course include Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Zebulon Pike and others. I keep asking what did the freemasons do that was different than their non-mason peers? Or, did they do the same things but better or different?
Part of my problem is that I don’t want to jump to any wild conclusions. I feel like what I’m looking for is fairly basic and simple but I can’t seem to point to anything I can attribute to freemasonry.
The Catholic church offered more pomp and ceremony than other denominations, when they established their missions, and the indians liked that. While the Quakers poured their hearts into their work with the indians, theirs was a very simple and plain religion and the indians tended to find their religion somewhat regimented and boring.
Historians compare the missions of the various religions as I stated, and can point to what unique effect each one had on these tribes. From a writing standpoint I need to draw some concllusions …………… other wise I leave the reader with a list of freemasons and they likely will come back with the question “So what?”
Many of the freemasons I found were clearly dedicated to freemasonry. I guess I’m having trouble seeing the fruits of their labors if you will. I feel like I’m missing some obvious thing here. I was hoping you might have some suggestion that could point me in the right direction to find some answers.
Many thanks for your time and assistance,
On Apr 3, 2011, at 9:15 PM, Gene Goldman wrote:
Ms. XXX,First, Please call me Gene
Secondly, may I have your permission to shift this conversation to my Blog? I think it will have value there.
I want to thank you for reading my piece. I wrote it several years ago, but just started the blog. I have several other works of a similar nature which I will be posting at intervals, so you might find it useful to subscribe to my blog.
I would be thrilled to read the results of your research. Yours sounds like a fascinating story.And I would be more than happy to discuss some of our ceremonies. Some are open to the public, others may be discussed in general. I have a paper, again written a few years ago, that will be published to my blog soon. But ask whatever it is you want to ask, I will do my best to answer.Yes, there are details in them that we consider private – so we do not share those with non-Masons. For further understanding see a book called “Duncan’s Rituals of Freemasonry.
But to your core question – What is this Freemasonry and what did it do to or for these men that caused them to do as they did?The situation you describe is not unique to these men. Look at the relationship between President Truman and General MacArthur.Anyway, here is what I can tell you about what makes Masons different.
Masonry is a fraternity that focuses on the moral and ethical nature of a man. I know many good men, I am thrilled to know a few great and exemplary moral and ethical men. Many are Masons, perhaps most. Certainly not all. However, the distinction is that I am never surprised to learn that one of them is a Mason.Any man can be good, morally and ethically. I believe that most men (and I include women in this) are good and just by nature. As human beings, we are inclined to trend toward good. When a man receives the Three Degrees of Masonry (Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason), he participates in a series of morality plays (think George Washington and the Cherry Tree, with the candidate playing the part of George). In these ceremonies, we use a myriad of symbols (another upcoming paper) to convey the importance of being good, true, upright and just. Square dealing.Plumb and upright conduct.Gauging his time to reserve parts for his service to his Divine Creator, his vocation and his repose.Using a Compass to circumscribe his desires and passions to acceptable limits…. And so on.
During each Degree, the candidate takes an obligation, in which he makes several promises.- to protect the privacies of the fraternity (our handshakes and passwords), of the Lodge (who is ill or late with their dues), and of his Brethren (the fact that he HATES spinnich, but eats it anyway when his wife cooks it because he loves HER must remain private), so long as none of these involve a crime such as Murder or Treason.- to respect the ceremonies of the fraternity and not go changing them without permission of the governing body in that jurisdiction.- to reguard the whole human species as one family, Created by One Almighty Parent, and to treat others accordingly.- to place his duty to G-d first and foremost, duty to himself and family next, duty to his neighbor and country next and that to the fraternity last among these.- to help others in distress, so far as he can without incurring harm to himself or those who depend on him.- to comport yourself with honor and dignity, behaving as a gentleman should.- to obey the rules and regualtions of the fraternity in matters apertaining to the fraternity.
In some, while most men are moral and ethical by nature, a Mason has made promises to himself and his Creator. He has promised to strive to improve himself morally and ethically. He has promised to place his morals and ethics before other considerations. He has promised to do what is right before he does what will be good for him personally.That is why you see Masons prominent in politics, civic issues, charitable endeavors and other good works.Yes, like Truman and MacArthur, Masons can and will disagree about which path is better, but no one will dispute that both are following the path that *they each believe* will serve others the best.
The fruits of our labors are found everywhere – they are large and small. The Shrine hospitals, the Scoutmaster leading a troop of boys to become men, the Scottish Rite schools for children with language disorders, the man who sees a Kaw family without sustenance and finds a family to take them in. We don’t do it for the fame, we don’t do it for money, we don’t do it for the thanks. We do what we do because it needs to be done and we can help make someone’s life better.
As I said, I would love to continue this, and probably have gone on more than I should have already, but I would like your permission to post this exchange on my blog.
On Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 9:23 AM, Karren Xxxx wrote:
Thanks so much for responding and with such an extensive answer. It really helps.
I’ve never used a blog before, I guess that’s what happens when you’re buried in researching the 1700 – 1800’s : )
Can you send me a link to the blog, please : ) I’d like to understand it better before I okay the posting.
In response to your e-mail, it’s easy for me to see the fruits of masonic labors in the present and even with those masons who found my orphan a home. I’m having trouble understanding what the results of masonic labors were among the government officials like indian agents, and among the fur traders. Part of the time frame I’m researching includes colonial America specifically “New France” which became Louisiana Territory. There were french Governors who made decisions regarding the indians for example.
I have a few specific decisions the governors made, but I am not able to tell if freemasonry played any part in those decisions.I’m not saying it didn’t, just that I don’t understand freemasonry well enough to understand if it did or not.
I know the decisions impacted the indians but I don’t know if the fact the official was a freemason was a part of that impact.I hope that makes sense………….
I see you found my blog, and I will post our conversation there. Thank you.
It does make sense, thank you.Maybe I see the issue here.
*As Masons*, we do not involve ourselves in political, religious or economic matters.
*As individuals* many Masons are VERY involved. I would think that most good men consider it their responsibility to be true to their political opinions, and when their opinions are strong enough, they frequently go into the political arena. But there is no political element or anything beyond the admonition to do our duty to our country, our society our neighbor and ourselves. The closest we ever come to having any sort of political position is that we support free public schools, believe in personal freedom and advocate doing our duty to the best of our ability.
Throughout history, there have been Masons in politics – on both sides of just about every issue. You would find it impossible to identify any sort of political trend or pattern. But if you look into the known character, and moral nature, of these individuals, it might paint a little better picture.
Some examples of names you might recognize are:
UNITED STATES PRESIDENTS: George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson,James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, TheodoreRoosevelt, William H. Taft, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman andGerald Ford.
UNITED STATES PATRIOTS: Francis Scott Key (wrote our National Anthem), RalphBellamy (wrote our Pledge of Allegiance), Paul Revere, John Paul Jones, Benjamin Franklin, JohnHancock, Patrick Henry.POLITICAL: Sir Winston Churchill, Randolph Churchill, Thomas Dewey, Everett Dirksen,Fiorello H. LaGuardia, John Marshall, Barry Goldwater, Hubert Humphrey.
RELIGIOUS LEADERS: James C. Baker (Bishop, Methodist Church, organized first WesleyFoundation in U.S.), Hosea Ballou (Founder, Universalist Church), Robert E. B. Baylor (Baptistclergyman, founder of Baylor University), Preston Bradley (founder of the Peoples Church),Father Francisco Calvo (Catholic Priest who started Freemasonry in Costa Rica in 1865), Hugh I.Evans (National head of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.), Most Reverend Geoffrey F. Fisher(former Archbishop of Canterbury), Eugene M. Frank (Methodist Bishop), Reverend Dr. NormanVincent Peale (Methodist Episcopal minister and author) Titus Low (President of MethodistCouncil of Bishops), Rev. Dr. Martin Luthor King, Jr., Rev Jessie Jackson.
ENTERTAINMENT: John Wayne, Gene Autry, Ernest Borgnine, Joe E. Brown, Bob Burns,Eddie Cantor, Charles D. Coburn, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Donald Crisp, Cecil B.DeMille, Richard Dix, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., W.C. Fields, Clark Gable, Arthur Godfrey, DavidW. Griffith, Oliver Hardy, Jean Hersholt, Harry Houdini, Al Jolson, Charles “Buck” Jones, HarryKellar, Harold C. Lloyd, Tom Mix, Dick Powell, Will Rogers, Charles S. “Tom Thumb” Stratton,Richard B. “Red” Skelton, Paul Whiteman, Ed Wynn, Darryl Zanuck.
On Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 4:23 PM, Karren wrote:
Hi Gene,You’ve given me a lot of information to think about. I really appreciate that!At this point, I need to take some time and carefully go through the details you’ve given me and see how I might apply that information to the research material I have accumulated.Just formulating my questions to correspond with you has helped me better understand exactly what I’m trying to find.Many thanks for your time and willingness to correspond,Karren
It is and has been my sincere pleasure. If you have any other questions or issues to discuss, please do not hesitate to let me know. If I cannot give you an answer (rare, but it does happen), I assure you that I will refer you to someone who can.
Please keep in touch.