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.
May 9, 2011
First off, let me say that I have always enjoyed attending meetings. Whether my own lodge, visiting another lodge nearby, visiting a Prince Hall lodge, or when traveling on business or pleasure, I have never been disappointed in a decision to go to lodge and enjoy the company of my brethren for a few hours. I have made friends and met some great individuals all across the country.
Usually, when traveling, I make it a point to find out if there is any Masonic activity in the area while I will be there. Sure, the dinners are not the sort of food I would order in a restaurant, but the company can’t be beat. The evening’s entertainment isn’t near as lavish as the latest Hollywood release or Broadway Theatrical , but the seats are usually comfortable, the atmosphere is warm and inviting and the cost is always very affordable.
One of the most important reasons I attend when I can is that every time I see a Degree, two things happen. First, I am returned to the time and place where I took my own degrees, even if only for a moment. Secondly, I learn or re-learn some critically important lessons. I am reminded of my beliefs, of the wonderful symbolism of our degrees and of the many moral and ethical lessons contained therein.
In my service as an officer and Master of two lodges, I have had the incredible opportunity to assist in the initiation, passing and raising of many Masons. Some I hardly knew. Some were long-time friends already. Some became friends. I initiated my father-in-law and initiated, passed and raised my own father – what a complete joy and honor!
I heartedly recommend that every Mason attend lodge when he can. Nothing like it.
However (if you know me, you know there HAD to be a “however” somewhere nearby),
There are some masons who equate attending lodge with being a mason. They seem to believe (and express verbally) that a mason is somehow less of a mason or failing his lodge when he does not attend. Not an officer or when one has a part to play or something to present, but all the time, everyone.
Yes, as I describe above, I get a lot out of attending. I wish I could be in lodge every night. But I have a family that needs me, a living to make, my health to consider and other demands on my time, attention and energy. In my degrees, I clearly remember being told about my duties. As Master, I have similarly advised candidates during their degrees about their duties. The first, and most important duty a mason should observe is to his Great Creator. Duty to one’s country should come next. One’s neighbor has the next claim on a mason’s kind offices, followed by his own family and those he supports. Every mason has a duty to himself as well. In the ceremonies, the candidate is advised that only after these more important duties are met should one look to his service to the lodge and the fraternity.
This order makes a lot of sense to me, and is strictly in keeping with everything else we teach and believe.
Let’s look at a few examples, to put all this in context.
Which duty is taking preference when a mason should be resting up for or from a difficult day, goes to lodge and comes home exhausted?
When a mason is looking for work, who is being served while he takes time from his job search and money for gasoline to go to lodge?
There are more examples, but let’s proceed with these two for now.
I remember a lesson from a brother, who lived in Los Angeles. He described the following.
“I get up at 5:00 in the morning. I get ready for work, grab a breakfast I can eat on the run and drive an hour to an hour and a half to work. At work, I put in a ten-hour day, then drive two to two and a half hours home. If it is a Lodge night, I have to shower and change clothes, grab a sandwich to eat in the car and drive thirty to forty five minutes, maybe more, to lodge. Most lodge meetings run until 10:30 or 11:00, then I have to drive another half hour home. If you expect me to do all that very often, you are going to have to make it worth my while. Stale sandwiches and cold spaghetti, followed by boring talk about bills, or poorly-conducted ritual just isn’t going to cut it.
Give me a reason to come to lodge.”
What’s the answer?
I have heard some brothers (like the ones mentioned above) who blame poor attendance on the members who don’t show up. Maybe the lodge management team deserves some credit for attendance. I firmly believe that it is a rather simple mathematical equation. This is true for Stated Meetings, degrees, recognition nights, special and social events and even fund-raisers.
If a lodge wants a lot of members to attend meetings, the lodge should have the kind of meetings that a lot of members want to attend. Interestingly, the same applies to increasing membership. If a lodge wants to attract members, they should be a lodge that is attractive to the kind of members they want to have.
It is simple, but by no means easy. It takes work, requires effort, demands sacrifice and risk. In practical terms, it may involve doing some things differently, and doing some new things. Here are some questions to consider.
- What are the stated meetings like?
- How much time and energy goes into planning an event or a meeting?
- Is the family included?
- Are wives invited and provided with something to do while the members are in the private part of the meeting?
- Does the meeting consist of anything more than the secretary reading minutes, a few notifications and bills, maybe a ballot?
- Is there Masonic Education?
- Are the committees encouraged to make their presentations in the dining room, to include the wives and families?
- Is the menu the same as the last twenty meetings?
- Is everyone wearing the same thing to every meeting?
May 3, 2011
The Hiram Award is the single highest honor a California Mason may receive. It cannot be sought or applied for, but is awarded at the request of the individual’s Lodge, and bestowed by the Grand Lodge of California. The District Inspector makes the award presentation on behalf of the Grand Master.
The Hiram Award is an award presented to a Master Mason who has served the Lodge and the Masonic Fraternity with devotion over and above the ordinary. It is the highest honor (other than being Master of the Lodge) that can be bestowed on a member of a Masonic Lodge. The Hiram Award is not given for service as Master or any elected or appointed office or committee. The recipient is recognized by his brethren in Masonry for his service to the fraternity, because of his efforts to support one or more Masons, a Lodge or Lodges, a District, the Grand Lodge or the fraternity as a whole. It is a singular distinction, and indicates the esteem, respect and admiration of the members. A California Masonic Lodge may bestow a maximum of one Hyram Award each year.
I was invested with this distinguished recognition in 2004 and am grateful to the brethren of my lodge for this honor. Considering the brethren who have been so recognized before me, I did not, and to this day do not, feel deserving. Interestingly, I have never yet met a recipient of the Hiram Award who does – and I have met many.
Here is the text of the Inspector’s presentation:
Worshipful Master, Brethren, Friends and especially our Honoree.
It is an honor and privilege for me to have a part in presentation of the Hiram Award to our Honored Brother. While a good Mason does not work for the benefit of Honors or rewards, I am very happy that XXX Lodge Lodge has seen fit to nominate such a true and trusty friend and deserving mason to receive this award.
While we are all here to honor our distinguished brother by presenting him with the prestigious Hiram Award, there are probably some in our audience this evening who are unaware of the background of the Hiram Award. You may also wonder who Hiram was and what Hiram means to Masons.
Hiram is a biblical name meaning “Most Noble”. In the Holy Writings, 1st. Kings, Chapter 7, we read that King Solomon sent and fetched Hiram Abiff out of Tyre. Abiff is a Hebrew expression for father, a term of respect. Therefore, Hiram Abiff translated means “Most Noble Father”.
We also read that Hiram Abiff worked for King Solomon in the erection of King Solomon’s Temple, not only casting the metallic ornaments for the temple, but also as a master architect of the work.
According to legend, over 150,000 workmen were employed in the building of the temple which took approximately seven years to complete. To those workmen who labored faithfully on the project was promised the status of Master Mason upon completion.
But some time before the Temple’s completion, some of the workmen became dissatisfied and demanded the promotions which they had been promised, and conspired to extort them form Hiram Abiff.
In spite of their violent threats, Hiram steadfastly refused to yield to their demands. Reminding them of their obligation to King Solomon and his God, he resolutely insisted that they honor the contracts by which he and they were bound. Three of them, more brutal than the rest, conspired to attack Master Hiram to force the concession they were demanding; but he, being faithful to his trust, was more adamant in his refusal, and they in their wrath slew him in the unfinished Temple.
That, essentially is the legend of Hiram Abiff which has become in Masonry one of the most impressive ritualistic dramas of all time. The real importance of the story of Hiram Abiff is that it still stirs men to serve the truth, by steadfastly maintaining the necessity of those noble aspirations, even to apparent defeat in death.
The first award of this kind was presented to Brother Andrew Miller, P.M. of San Pedro Lodge No. 332 in 1932.
In February 1977, Galt Lodge No. 257 selected a worthy brother to be the honored guest for the evening, and presented him with and award called “King Solomon Award”. It was then suggested that the name be changed to the “Hiram Award”.
This was brought to the attention of the Grand Master, Kermit Jacobson, who felt it would be good for Freemasonry to promote this type of award, and the Hiram Award of today was accepted in the Grand Lodge of California in 1978.
The Hiram Award is the highest honor which can be bestowed upon a member who has unselfishly given of his time, talents and energy for the betterment of his Lodge and freemasonry. The Hiram Award is intended for the brother who, year after year displays his devotion to the Lodge and our beloved fraternity without asking for anything in return.
The real warmth and pleasure of being chosen for this special honor is most satisfying, because it comes directly from the Brethren and friends he has accumulated within his own community. The Hiram Award is simply the official recognition of a Brother by his own Lodge for his devoted service to the Lodge and to our Masonic principles in general. His is a labor of love for the fraternity. The true and steady hand of assistance which is that living cement that binds our Fraternity into a true Brotherhood.
I can think of no other name for this award that would mean as much as “Hiram”. We believe that the recipient of this award tonight is indeed worthy of the name, and is a Mason justly deserving of the Hiram Award.
While this Hiram Award Certificate is coming from Grand Lodge of California, it is this Lodge that has made the selection of the honoree. Therefore, on behalf of the Most Worshipful YYY, Grand Master of Masons in California, I am happy to deliver this Hiram Award Certificate to the Master of XXX Lodge for presentation to our Brother.
April 14, 2011
Many years ago, I was active in a few Masonic forums on the internet. I got an email from a Brother in the mid-west.
His dad’s best friend was living out here. He was a life member of a lodge back “home” in the mid-west, but never joined one here. Anyway, the man’s doctor advises him to make his final arrangements sooner rather than later. He really wants a Masonic funeral, so he calls a member of the lodge near his house.
The member – meaning well but doing the opposite – tells him all about the problems and issues involved with this sort of thing. This secretary has to call the Grand Secretary, who has to write to the Grand Secretary, who has to call the secretary of his home lodge, who has to do the research… it might take a month or two to sort it all out. he was very sorry, but he didn’t see how everything could get done, verifying his membership and everything, in time.
As far as the process and protocols were concerned, he was correct.The member said it could take a month or more, probably two. The doctor said he might have a couple weeks, more likely one.
The old man gets on the phone to the dad and starts crying. He is a 50 year member in his lodge and can’t even get a Masonic funeral.
That’s when the son contacted me, asking if there was ANYTHING I could do. Thankfully, I know a few people here and there, and don’t mind causing a stir. I got the Inspector for that lodge’s district on the phone (prepared to go higher if needed, but a good start) and explained the situation. My friend, the Inspector just about blew up! I won’t repeat his comments, mainly because I don’t think the terms of service here will allow such language. Did I mention that the Inspector is a very religious man? 🙂
When he calmed down, he asked me if he could call me back. I don’t know what he and the Master of that lodge talked about, but when he called back he told me that the funeral arrangements were completed – with the member’s deepest apologies.
The man got his Masonic funeral. I was both angry and sad when the son contacted me. I was relieved and redeemed when it was over.I saw two lessons-learned here. One, the member was willing to deprive this dying man of his last wish, because the paperwork and red tape was going to take too long.Two, happily, the inspector put Brotherly Love, Justice Charity, Relief and just plain old humanity ahead of the red tape.
Turned out the man was in good standing. But what would have happened if he wasn’t? Was the sky going to open up and spit lightening? Was the entire free world going to be placed in desperate peril? Or would someone have to say “Woops” and life go on?
Happily, I am a member of a fraternity in which the vast majority of members really do care – about each other and about everyone else. The events described here do happen sometimes, but whenever the tape gets too red, another Mason is always around to sort it out.
I remain happy to be a Mason.
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.