Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ruffian Masonic New Year's Resolutions.

1. We resolve to agree once and for all on the Worshipful Masters hat. And that Stetson has to go.

2. We will memorize more than our grocery list this year.

3. We will finally remove the shag carpet from the Temple floor.

4. We will throw out the leftovers and leave the 'Mystery Meat' to the Elks Club.

5. As soon as we figure it out for ourselves, we will reveal the secrets behind Hanger 18.

6. We will apologize to our wives for mumbling incoherently to ourselves between degrees.

7. We will agree to 'Party Like its 1799.'

8. We will open and close each lodge meeting on the same day.

9. We will stop allowing the Tyler to bring a 'Wii' to the Outer Door.

10. As a Resolution of Health in the New Year we will add a period of rigorous calisthenics to our meetings and degrees.

The Treasure of Freemasonry


We Masons know well of the rituals, the working tools, the degrees, our Obligation and the words and signs of our Order. We learn them through usage, study and repetition. But what do we know? Time and again, those outside of the Craft accuse us of being ignorant of our own Mysteries. Do they really know something that we do not? Have we stumbled on our Path to Light?

These days, following the publication of books such as 'The DaVinci Code,' it seems in vogue to delve into the mysteries and legends of our collective past. Many synthesize their own histories out of vacuous second hand accounts. And some others malign the Order and interpret its motives to be more sinister than magnanimous.

Time and again, as a Freemason, I am reminded of how open our Order has become to scrutiny. Freemasonry has become a favorite dramatic device and finds itself at work behind the scenes in movies, books, web articles, and the other portals of the popular imagination.

That sort of scrutiny leaves many wondering. On one hand, outsiders tell me they know more than I do about the 'truth' of Freemasonry. And, on the other hand, many Masons I know simply dont bother to learn the basis of the symbology of the Order and its teachings or, worse, they would rather avoid all of that in favor of the comradery and familiarity that Masonry offers them in the Lodge. As much as some may want to 'know,' others dont want to wonder. They are almost more comfortable not knowing.

Do we Masons really know where the Ark of the Covendant is or the Spear of Destiny for that matter? What of the Holy Grail? Are they but myths or are they really something more?

It might take volumes, even libraries, to expound upon each of these world mysteries. But what is really at question here is whether or not we Freemasons have preserved something of these secrets over the centuries or simply preserved folklore and legend that anyone with a computer might now uncover.

I do believe that we have.

It is my assertion that Freemasonry has protected and preserved some of the greatest mysteries and some of the most illustrious inheritances of mankind if for no other reason than through the Order's forbearance of lawless despotism and its tolerance of multiple disciplines and ideologies.

We Masons who have witnessed the degrees of the Scottish Rite and the bodies of the York Rite must certainly agree that there is a common philosophy at work. Masonry begins at King Solomon's Temple under the aegis of the wisest of Kings. Here we begin to learn of the value of such things as tolerance, of service to state and mankind and of the importance of personal mastery.

Still, where does all of this come from? More importantly, what does all of this mean? If we look closely and study as we are instructed as Fellowcrafts to do, then we find the guarded metaphysical philosophies of the East and many of the familiar caveats of the Greek Miracle. Like Many P. Hall we discover the Kabbalistic and Hermetic ideas of universal cosmology. And in so doing, we begin to understand the reasons to hide and keep secret knowledge that struck at the heel and heart of the Church of the Dark Ages. In those fevered and agonized minds full of fire and brimstone, knowledge was a fearful freedom and anathema.

What secrets has the Order preserved that are more important than those open minded philosophies of the enlightenment of the rennaisance? These secrets include arithmetic, geometry, the metaphysics and the hard natural sciences. Men of intellect and men who sought freedom from tyranny simply found one another in the Lodge.

What could you do with the Holy Grail in your cupboard or the Mercy Seat to rest on? Do you seek the power to turn lead to gold or some other promised magical reward?

The degrees of Freemasonry are meant to help us in uncovering our treasures within. They are thus aids to restoring the temple that was lost, that perspective of ours, and the treasures it affords. There is a secret in all of that if you really want to find it. It isnt at all subversive. It certainly isnt sinister. But you do have to want to find it.

Ignorance confounds the rewards of the Great Mystery. But there have been those who, through the centuries, have sought to understand. They imperiled themselves in times of darkness to preserve those ideas, philosophies, sciences and legends that might lead the free thinkers to the actualization of the human seed of consciousness and the unfettered awareness of self in relation to nature and God.

Anyone who is truly on that path knows something of Freemasonry.

The Light is strong. We must remember that the shadows it casts are cast by ourselves as we stand revealed before it. Blind we begin our search but we learn to trust our guides as we walk the light and the dark. Shall we simply cast them aside when they are no longer brothers, but words, signs and tokens?

In the end should we not all be Craftsmen of our own personal mysteries? Indeed we must know and reach a balance with the light and dark in our inner temple. 'For the Kingdom of Heaven is within.'

Freemasonry is a personal journey. It is a Path to Light and knowing. What treasure is greater than the Ark, or the Emerald Tablet, the sceptre of a King, or the mitre of a Bishop?

You are.

Monday, December 8, 2008

That Brotherhood Stuff

A few of us Ruffians, myself included, spent much of our weekend at the Shrine Fall Ceremonial for Abou Ben Adhem Temple in Springfield, Missouri.

We had a great time.

If you're imagining a lot of guys sharing stories and jokes, drinking, and carrying on like theres some kind of party going on...then you're not far off! We Ruffians did a lot of all of that. But there were also new Candidates to prepare. There was instruction to attend to. And there was a lot of work going on in the background.

True to form, I made my way up and down the stairs...in and out of the rooms and slipped here and there fraternizing among the brothers. I like to get to know people. And I like to involve myself in whatever I can to keep myself busy.

During the two days I spent mixing it up with my fellow Nobles, I came to be impressed with something I found. There are a lot of good men in there!

I remember going through the rites of passage of the Shrine myself. It was quite a bit different from the Blue Lodge to be sure. But I understand and happen to agree with all of the many rites I have passed through in Masonry. A man must prove himself along the way as a Mason...to his Brothers...and, most importantly, to himself.

When I went through my Shrine initiations, I wasnt sure what to make of all of these guys giving me a hard time and testing my mettle. Frankly, I wasnt sure anyone there liked me at all! I was a Mason...but not a member of the Shrine then.

After I became a Noble things changed. I came to find the same Masons I had liked so much from the Lodge and the Rites before. It was another door opened to me in Freemasonry. And the guys seem to respect the fact that I had bothered to knock.

I came across something that one doesnt necessarily expect in this kind of event. In the midst of all of the fun and the craziness I happened to notice a lot of clear Masonic heads. Time after time, when situations arose, I witnessed men of good character standing together and seeing to it that, in the end, the Masonic thing was done.

There were a lot of guys with a great deal of compassion and Masonic worthiness watching over their Brothers. I saw them stand up against unmasonic conduct, defend the ideals of the Order and come to their Brothers aid when needed.

I found all of this very encouraging.

From everything I know, things havent been so smooth in some parts between the Blue Lodge and the Shrine. Many Masons are concerned that too many men are simply using the Blue Lodge as a gateway to the Shrine. Admittedly, I have been concerned about that as well. And yet, time and again when I attend Shrine events (at least in my area) I find that I am not simply cavorting with Shriners...but with Masons still.

I do not agree with those who would divide the bodies of Masonry. The Shrine is an important part of Freemasonry. It offers a place for Masons to gather together where they can stand at ease. They wont forget the Obligations and standards of the Order so long as there remain as many honorable Brothers as I know there to be in the rank and file. The Shrine offers so much to Masonry and serves so very well in its charitable contributions.

I would like to see all of the bodies of Masonry thrive. And it is up to every Brother to provide real honor and substance to the Order. Each Brother must stand tall among his Fellows wherever he finds them. If each man follows his Masonic Obligation he is part of the foundation. And if that man helps his Brothers follow it as well then he is a Builder.

We are Masons. We are Craftsmen of the Spirit. We are all indeed builders. Let us celebrate the bodies of Masonry together. Thus, together, we will keep the spirit of Freemasonry strong and never weaken that Light in our Temples.

I congratulate those Candidates who made it through their individual ordeals to call themselves Nobles. I'm sure you'll find the other Nobles, such as Masons, welcoming company. Becoming a man, building character and taking a good look inside are never easy things to do. But they are worth it.

It's all part of Brotherhood.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Here's to the brothers!

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“We take good men, and make them better.”

This is the creed of modern Freemasonry. Do we really make them better? Does Freemasonry really have that much of an effect? Is it possible to go thru the degrees, be raised on a one day class, maybe even join a handful of appended bodies, and simply be a better man? Or is it just a stepping stone? A beginning to what is a lifetime of education.

Tonight I had the privilege to spend the evening with four of my brothers, two of whom being my fellow founding Ruffians. One was a guy I had only seen at lodge, and one I met only for the first time. We didn’t do anything wild and crazy, like most men our age might have done, left alone and unsupervised. We simply indulged in the pleasurable company of each others insane stories, and our plots to leave our marks on this world.

We take good men and make them better. This saying came to mind as I drove home and I found myself thinking about what had just happened. For one of the first times ever in my life, I was able to sit around, with just the guys, share my thoughts and opinions, and listen to theirs, without having to climb on some soap box, or get defensive and get all upset. We were able to talk about religion, politics, women, and cigars and we even had a chance to play some poker, without anyone getting upset, or rowdy.

Good men. When I looked around the table tonight, watching the faces of the guys, as they tried to bluff their way through the game, I came to a realization. These men that I was sharing my evening with, the men that I gladly call brother, they are good men, and it is through Freemasonry that I have had this chance to meet them. It is through Freemasonry that any of us have ever met. One was a teacher, one a real estate agent, one a bartender, one I don’t even know about, and myself being in IT support. Where would you ever see such a combination? It is under the flag of Freemasonry, that you see men from all walks of life, come together, and unite for both brotherhood and fellowship.

WE make them better. Who are “we”? We are the fellow brothers that interact and befriend the newly made brother. We are the brothers that are there for you when you are alone in the darkness and need help being brought to Light. We are the brothers that help, aid, and assist you in becoming a better man. We are the brothers, that when you are walking down a wrong path, or are living a destructive life, are there to be a shoulder to lean on, even sometimes a crutch. It is the fellow brothers that are the ones that are making us better men. Freemasonry is a place where men who are good can come and associate themselves with other good men, and through this social intercourse become better.

Tonight as we left and said our goodnights, we all took the time to shake each others hand, and also, greet each other with a brotherly hug. Not because we are all mushy inside, but we all recognize that the time that we just spent together, was not just fun and games. We recognized that the time we just spent together was not just another night on the town. We recognized that what we had just done, was not only strengthen our bonds between each other, we had just also added something very important to each other’s lives. That was the gift of brotherhood. We had just participated in an age old event, which brought us all closer together, not just as Freemasons, but also as brothers. I have no doubt in my mind, that if I ever needed anything, I could call on one of these four guys, one of these better men, and they would be there.

Do we take good men, and make them better? Yes we do!

So here’s to you guys. All the Brother past and present, and especially to my brother Ruffians, I thank you, and I love you. ( as much as a brother can love a brother )

Monday, November 10, 2008

Not Just Your Dad's Freemasonry.


Who does Freemasonry and all of its illustrious and profound Mysteries belong to? This is a question that needs answering once and for all.

First of all we must consider the forefathers and founders of Freemasonry. Perhaps, as some believe, these early Masons were Knights Templar, fleeing from the fires of King and Pope. Maybe they were only Rennaissance Guilds of stonemasons who chose to take a more speculative and philosophical view of their trade. Whatever the case, we Masons today owe a debt of gratitude to these men for creating the Fraternity that we adhere to as Brothers.

Certainly we must take into account men like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Pike, Estienne Morin, Florence and Fleming... for these such men changed the very face of Freemasonry. And so very many others who have come before...

Next, we must turn to the Master Masons of the present hour...all of us Brothers who are the living representation of Masonry as it is today. Is Freemasonry not in our hands? Are we Fellows not the bodies and minds of the Order...the very expressions of this sublime Craft?
Indeed we are. Each and every Master Mason is, by his Obligation, the embodiment of that Grandmaster...fated lost to the Three Ruffians. And just as that Grandmaster trancends the Ruffian injustices, so too does the Craft transcend the weathering of time...in each of us.

We Freemasons cannot fear and resist change. It is an axiom that change is the only constant in the Universe. Change is life. Therefore, the absolute resistance of change is death. We can only hope that young men, full of life and vigor, will pick up our Working Tools and apprentice our Craft. And we cannot deny that these men will be different than ourselves. The times will make them different...the culture and even their own experiences. Masonry too will have changed and what these men inherit from us will be unique in its own right.

We must not only then accept this change...new attitudes and perspectives on the Order. We must encourage them. Masonry can still retain its moral and spiritual center...its grand virtues and mysteries. The spendor will not differ, nor the Path to it's True Light. It will simply take on the 'dress of the times' and endure in the accoutrements of those who express its most modern design.

Freemasonry belongs to no single man. It is an Abiding Spirit that, unlike man, is not fettered by the bonds of mortality. Freemasonry belongs to each successive generation that weds it. And so in each generation it blossoms anew with renewed fragrance and aplomb.

For all of us today and to each generation hereafter...Masonry is ours.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Take a Leap of Faith! Vote!

Here is something from the 'News and Views of the 34th Masonic District of Missouri' that our Illustrious Brother Tim Couch KCCH had to share:

"Greetings Brothers,

I hope your day has been filled with fresh squeezed happiness and seasoned to taste.

Well, here we are about thirty-six hours away from what is probably the most important election some of us will have ever voted in. It seems appropriate that I should offer some last minute advice or words of wisdom as the clock ticks down to Tuesday.

I've been wracking my brain all day trying to come up with something that hasn't already been said by a thousand different people in a thousand different ways and you know what? I've got nothing. It's all been said.

If the seeming eternity of political commentary and the endless reams of political articles and the constant political bickering and the fluffy white campaign promises haven't done it for you by now, then nothing I can say is going to make a bit of difference. All that's left as far as the election goes is to cast your vote on Tuesday and then hope for the best.

What troubles me more than what will happen on Tuesday is what will not happen beginning on Wednesday. After the election is over and all the hoopla and the falderal have subsided, will we allow ourselves to simply go back to sleep as a nation or will we do what our founding fathers intended we should do from the beginning? We are not supposed to close our eyes and trust our government to do the right thing. We are supposed to monitor our government and insist they do the right thing. We are supposed to be active and informed citizens. We the people are supposed to control our government, not the other way around.

So cast your vote on Tuesday and hope for the best. But after the votes are all tallied and the victors are proclaimed, stay informed and stay involved and insist that your elected officials do right by you and by your family. We have the power but only if we are willing to stand up and use it. "


Bravo Brother Couch! That's the Ruffian Way!

News

From the 'Scottish Rite Journal' of the Southern Jurisdiction, Nov/Dec 2008:

"At their annual communication on Friday, September 19, 2008, the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina extended fraternal recognition to the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina and Jurisdictions. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge, founded in 1870, extended recognition to their counterparts in 2004. North Carolina is now one of forty-one American states and the District of Columbia that have joint recognition."

Good. Another step into the future!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Traveling to the Chairs

Why do we become Freemasons?

I'm sure that the answer to that question is different for almost any man who joins the Brotherhood. Some come for the Fellowship. Others join the Order to learn about and improve themselves. A few join because of their fathers or grandfathers before them. And some, join to serve.

For whatever reason a man becomes a Freemason, simply being a part of the Great Fraternity will change that man. In whatever way a man participates in Freemasonry, he is a part of something greater than himself...and something noble. In the Order, a man can identify with integrity, virtue and honor.Still, I think that, as in every society, it requires different men to fill the varied and necessary roles of the group.

As each human body must have a heart...and a brain...and a liver...and so on...the organization of Masonry lives because of the contributions of unique and divergent minds and hearts.I know many very fine gentlemen who have sat in the East or in the Warden's chairs. Others aid as ritualists or officers of their lodge. I applaud their work, their dedication and their commitment to the Order.However. The organization of the lodge...the memorization of the proficiencies...this is not the reason for Freemasonry. This is not the Light Itself. It is only part...one part...of the Path.

Dont get me wrong Brothers! I urge you all to work diligently in your lodge. Travel the chairs because, as my friend Tim Couch KCCH reminded me, you will learn much through the experience about yourself as well as the Order.

Still, it is my contention that the organization of the Order is meant to see that the Order may be propogated into the future and its wisdom preserved. Truly, this is indeed a noble purpose and it is absolutely - absolutely - necessary to the survival of the Order. Yet, we cannot allow ourselves to lose the purpose of Freemasonry...for its works.

I'm afraid we Masons often dont see the forest for the trees.

Why do we become Freemasons? I know that I didnt become a Freemason so that I could practice parliamentary procedure. I became a Freemason because I wanted to serve. I wanted to serve a cause greater than myself. I wanted to serve my God, my Family, my Community and my Brothers. I wanted to humble myself after a life of managing others and building businesses for myself. I wanted to give something back.

Surely, sitting in the chairs is a form of service. I agree! So too is working in any capacity of fruitful labor in a ritual, production or otherwise. But each of us must be left to our time and place and encouraged to produce our own true fruits. Jesus said that we may judge a tree by its fruits. And so there are many kinds of trees.

There is much more to Freemasonry than the ritual and the chairs! This is but the skeleton and sinew of the Order. I urge Masons to seek first that Great Light of Freemasonry. If you dont know what I'm talking about or you think I am speaking of vaporous and spurious philosophies then you have settled into the comfortable sense of belonging that a chair offers and forgotten that Path you are Obligated to.

The moment any of us become a Master Mason...we are as 'high' in the Order as we can get. It doesnt matter after that if you are a Worshipful this or that...or if you are a 32* or 33* or Grand Ancient Sovereign Master of the Solar Council...The Master is it.There is greatness to this fact, because it means that when a man, as a Master Mason, truly becomes a full Brother in the Fraternity...then he is simply an Equal.

Freemasonry is a Round Table. And all men who sit at that table share a chair side by side with their Brothers. If this is ever forgotten then the honor of the Order is lost and so too its value.

Liberty! Equality! Fraternity! This is Masonry.

By all means...do what you can to help your Fellows and to aid in the services of your Lodge. But understand that each man walks his own Path...for that Great Light calls to each in his own way. Beyond the general labors of the lodge, the greatest work each Mason can undertake is his own personal journey of discovery. For we are not traveling to the chairs but to the East!

Travel Light Brothers.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reflections on the Scottish Rite Reunion in Joplin

Greetings Brothers!

I wanted to share a bit of my personal experience this last weekend at the Scottish Rite Reunion in Joplin. My Ruffian friend Dave was on his way though the Rite and I was excited to go with him and spend some time with many of my other friends and Brothers in Freemasonry.

First of all, I think that just about everyone knows how much I love the Scottish Rite. I'm a free thinker after all and Pike's work is simply masterful. I wanted to catch some of the degrees that I havent seen and so I hiked up and down the stairs so that I could keep an eye on the candidates and still keep myself glued to the rituals at hand. No doubt I would have lost some real weight doing this...but Freemason's like to serve lots of food...and that blessing is a curse as well!

They do a very fine job at the Valley of Joplin in Missouri. The temple is one of a kind with lavish backdrops, marvelous costumes and props, and beautiful architecture to admire. The ritualists and the crew and everyone that has a hand in it does a wonderful job and I congratulate them.

I saw a lot of great Brothers there in Joplin. Randall Jones 33* was there to greet me with a warm smile and a hug. Greg Ross KCCH had his family on his mind; as busy as he was, he was thinking of them. "Sid" Rosenbaum 33* was his usual jovial self...singing to the guys in the dining hall and telling lots of jokes; he also managed some of the best ritual work in the degrees I have seen! Speaking of ritualists, Brother Gary Benskin 33* is always fantastic; his memory of ritual is amazing and seeing as I see him in my blue lodge, the York Rite and at just about every Masonic proceeding, he represents a truly rare kind of dedication to the Craft.

There are so many others whom I would love to mention. Unfortunately, I don't know every Mason by name. There are a lot of us! I do want to mention Bart Tucker 33* however. Though I don't know him, he always does a great job organizing the degrees as the Auditorium Director.

I spent some quality time with Brother Tim Couch KCCH. He provided a stunning 25 minute oration in the 30th Degree. I tried to pick his brain about memorization secrets. As forthcoming and helpful as Tim is, I think that I would have those skills if I just had Tim's brain! It's Halloween and I'm watching a lot of 'How To' videos on that subject that they call 'movies.' Still, as smart as he is, Tim's heart is one of the biggest in Masonry. He always offers advice and encouragement. And I very much appreciate both. Thanks Tim.

This time around, I wanted to really listen to each and every word in the degrees. I have been studying 'Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite' for some time now. I can attest to the fact that there is so much to take in that you have to really study it all. And it helps if you can broaden this learning perspective by both watching the degrees and reading the material available on their meaning.

The Scottish Rite rituals are a beautiful and important work. Thankfully, the Scottish Rite yet preserves many of the more philosophical and esoteric aspects of the Fraternity. My only hope is that Brothers aspiring within the Scottish Rite do so in earnest and so truly pay attention to the mysteries and teachings it offers them. Those teachings are from a different time than our Modern Age. They are yet unspoiled by our hapless modern frivolities. May they stay that way!

The Scottish Rite is something very special in Freemasonry. It's teachings delve into the human condition, the soul, and meaning in the world. It is full of patriotism and rests on a moral and virtuous foundation. I am very proud to be a Scottish Rite Mason.

I want to Congratulate my friend, Brother David Caldwell, for becoming a Master of the Royal Secret 32nd Degree and all of the other class members this time around who did the same. Well done gentlemen!

Brothers, I had a wonderful time at the reunion and I look forward to the next opportunity when I can spend time with some of the best guys I know.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Joplin A.A.S.R. Reunion Oct. 24th and 25th

Greetings Ruffian Brothers.

On Friday and Saturday, October 24th and 25th, the Fall Reunion of the Scottish Rite Valley of Joplin will be held in Joplin, Mo. For more information on this Reunion visit the Valley web site at http://www.joplinaasr.com/

I received my 32 Deg. at the Valley of Joplin in Missouri and will be attending this event with a few of the other Ruffians this weekend. We look forward to another fantastic time.

For those of you who have never visited the Valley temple, you are missing something! It is really an amazing edifice and it is well known for its irreplaceable backdrops, scenery, architecture and a myriad of other details that you simply have to experience for yourself!

If you are not yet a member of the Scottish Rite, I would encourage any Mason, wherever you live, to look into this branch of Freemasonry for the furtherance of your Masonic study. There is a great deal of profound information made available to Freemason's in the Scottish Rite and you will also find another wonderful avenue for Fellowship and Brotherhood.

As for myself, I was very happy with the last several degrees of the Scottish Rite. If you are looking for 'further Light' in Freemasonry then you need not look too far.

I look forward to seeing some of my Ruffian Brothers in Joplin this weekend. And if you were with us last time...then you have my word we will do our best to curtail our Ruffian ways!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Speculative" Wisdom

Hearken Brothers...

""Ye cannot," said the Great Teacher, "serve God and Mammon." When the thirst for wealth becomes general, it will be sought for as well dishonestly as honestly; by frauds and over-reaching, by the knaveries of trade, the heartlessness of greedy speculation, by gambling in stocks and commodities that soon demoralizes a whole community. Men will speculate upon the needs of their neighbors and the distresses of their country. Bubbles that, bursting, impoverished multitudes, will be blown up by cunning knavery, with stupid credulity as its assistants and instrument. Huge bankruptcies, that startle a country like the earthquakes, and are more fatal, fraudulent assignments, engulfment of the savings of the poor, expansions and collapses of the currency, the crash of banks, the depreciation of Government securities, prey on the savings of self denial, and trouble with their depredations the first nourishment of infancy and the last sands of life, and fill with inmates the churchyards and lunatic asylums. But the sharper and speculater fattens. If his country is fighting by a levy en masse for her very existence, he aids her by depreciating her paper, so that he may accumulate fabulous amounts with little outlay. If his neighbor is distressed, he buys his property with a song. If he administers upon an estate, it turns out insolvent, and the orphans are paupers. If his bank explodes, he is found to have taken care of himself in time. Society worships its paper and credit Kings."

Albert Pike. "Morals and Dogma."


"But, to preserve liberty, another must be added: "that a free State does not confer office as a reward, especially for questionable services, unless she seeks her own ruin; but all officers are employed by her, in consideration solely of their will and ability to render service in the future; and therefore that the best and most competent are always preferred."


Albert Pike. "Morals and Dogma."

It's all rather relevant, isn't it, in this time of stock market bailouts, economic recessions, bank foreclosures ... oh... and Presidential elections.

We dare not forget or sully the remembrance of the great founts of wisdom of our Ancient and Illustrious Order. Those who do not remember their history are doomed to repeat it indeed. All too often I witness the degradation of the very foundation stones of our Order. The ignorant workers cast the most virtuous and noble stones into the pile.

Brother Ruffians...we must seize these honored artifacts and restore them to their rightful place in our Order. We are not the mere gathering stonemasons many would have us be in the spiteful illusions of so-called history. Our great Order is Speculative and our tools are tools of heart and mind, of myth, philosophy and metaphor.

What is the worthiest Art of a Freemason? It is nothing less than striking the David from the rough marble. We are the perfection of rough ashlar in that a man restores himself to that Divine Image he was fashioned in...cleaving away imperfections gleaned along the path of his long journey home. This is philosophy...this is the essence that the heart understands and the mercurial symbols that the mind itself is defined by.

Albert Mackey, A.E. Waite, Manly P. Hall and, finally Albert Pike are among thousands of Masonic voices interpreting this "Speculative" Freemasonry...and rightly so. For it is the interpretation of the world that defines the Masonic view and sets it aside, in character and wisdom, from the headless follies of so many other common ideologies.

In distinct opposition to this view, the modern noted Masonic scholar Chris Hodapp writes:

"In your research about Freemasonry you will doubtless come across the writings of Albert Mackey, Manley Hall, Arthur Edward Waite, and Albert Pike. These men and many others have filled reams of paper with scholarly observations of Freemasonry. They eloquently linked the Craft to the ancient Mystery Schools of Egypt and elsewhere. They wrote that Masonry was directly descended from pagan rites and ancient religions. Some wrote that Masonry was the stepchild of magick, alchemy, and the shadowy mystics who dabbled in the world of the Kabala (Jewish mysticism) and in mysterious ancient writings like Hermes Trismigestes and the Key of Solomon. The works of these men were filled with fabulous tales of beliefs and cultures and cryptic theories of the deepest and earliest origins of Freemasonry.

In short, they wrote a lot of crap."
Christopher Hodapp. "Freemasonry for Dummies."

And 'toss' goes the wise stone into the pile.

There can be no doubt that these Masonic writers wrote in terms of their current knowledge and their own personal religious views. Still, there is much to be learned therein. "Morals and Dogma" is a very fine example of Masonic wisdom. Of course, it was tossed out of the Scottish Rite some years ago following precisely these forms of unwitting prejudices.

What stands opposed to the common idea offends the common mind. It is free will and free thought that alone allows us to approach that Divine Ladder from Wisdom to Beauty, from Faith to Love. Dare we Freemasons renounce our rightful philosophies and cast them scorned into piles of burning books? In this, we audit and censor our vision, blinding ourselves to the jewels of our past and the reasoning minds of our predecessors.

Are we so superior now that Aristotle was a fool? Certainly, this great sage conceived many aspects of the world in error. And yet, did he not offer us logical reasoning and scientific observation? Did not Aristotle peer into nature with that empirical modern eye? Are his ethics any less reasonable now...or his contributions to logic and refined thought?

We now walk together along a precipace with a bag over our shoulder, a trusted guide by our side and our eyes fixed on the sky. Do we not see that the edge is there and that the calamity of our ignorance awaits us? We cannot be the greater fools to follow impudence. We must open our eyes and dare to look to the path from whence we have come so far, as well as to the future just ahead.

We are the inheritors and so too the interpreters.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Era of Statesmen

Def:
states·man
n.
1. A man who is a leader in national or international affairs.
2. A male political leader regarded as a disinterested promoter of the public good.
3. A man who is a respected leader in a given field.


The Presidential elections are forthcoming in the United States. Many people are reflecting on the character of the two men who are seeking that highest of public offices. Whatever may come after the voter turnout in November, it brings to mind those traits that we all value and trust in man.

George Washington. Benjamin Franklin. John Hancock. Paul Revere. These names, just a few among so many iconic Americans, represent the guiding light and spirit of Freemasonry. Though flawed as all men are, they represent true patriots, soldiers, rennaissance men of their times.

These men were Statesmen.

A man does not have to be an American to be a great man of his country. There have been heroes and patriots of every nation on earth...and in all times. Hearken to Caesar, Marcus Aurelius and Alexander.

In this modern era much has indeed changed. Still, the value of character remains the same. This is the value instilled in countless generations of Freemasons. After all, Freemasonry "makes good men, better men."

Regrettably, the politics of the times owes much of its power to greed driven bureaucrats and all too many others who readily shovel human rights into the jaws of the waiting corporate maw. Whatever challenges that may come with the future, we cannot lend our interests to men of questionable principles or character. This is not simply a matter to be taken in light of Presidential or partisan politics. These ideals must be considered in every corner of the electorate and in every bastion of governmental or corporate power.

Who is the man fit for the job of leading other men, his country or his organization? I daresay he is a man of heart who is willing to sacrifice his own needs for those whom he obligates himself to protect. He must be an ear to the cries of the persecuted. He must be a steady hand, a watchful eye and a man whose purpose is to serve the greater good of all.

When a man ventures to the solemn doors of Freemasonry, he comes humbly to knock. He knows then he must serve the cause to serve his brothers. No man is a Mason without his willing Obligation to serve something higher than himself.

We cannot be haters of any man for conscience must be our guide even in adversarial times. Rather, we must transcend and so stand above prejudices...be they against politics, race, age or any creed or faith not so well understood as our own.

A man of character is a humble man...tried, tested and forged through experience. He is a man of patience, passing judgment without ill passion and only in fairness. A man of character is a man of service and honor, a man who believes first in the good in others but who is resolute in defense against evils he may find instead.

Still, any man is only...a man. We are all prone to personal failings and the weaknesses of our human nature. Forgive such men, as we are obligated to help our Brothers and Fellows find their way back to the Light lest they be lost. For, at last, our true Obligation as Masons is to humanity.

Perhaps no single man must be the Statesman of the future. This is the Age of accountability when all free men must rise to meet their fullest human potential, each acting as any true man of character should.

The country, the world...we are all in this together.

All men of Obligation...stand up! Look to the bell tower and steady yourself for the ride ahead. There is no enemy but that you do nothing. At home, at work, in your Lodge and for your Country...be a man of character and act for the common good.

Freemasons! Never forget what you have sworn to do. And do not forget the men who have served before you. Honor yourselves and honor them...with your service to the Greater Good of All.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Esoterica - Follow Up

It is clear from the overwhelming response to 'The Esoterica' post that this subject is highly relevant to Freemasons today. I have received a number of letters from all across the world on this topic.

Things of the Occult are 'Hidden' indeed. For those who have 'ears to hear and eyes to see' the mysteries are readily apparent.

It has always been that those who are not ready do not perceive the Universal Truths. However, those who do deign to seek with integrity and conscience deserve the wisdom of Masters, Teachers and a Knowledge to aid them along the way. This is the shamanic way. And, for many generations of men, this has been the Masonic methodology of tutelage.

I agree that the secrets yet exist hidden within the Rites. I have seen them myself as a Scottish Rite and York Rite Mason. And yet, they are often interpreted, or mis interpreted, by those ritualists who aid in the degrees lacking the wisdom themselves to understand the shadowed meaning.

The Pentalpha, or Blazing Star, is an excellent and profound example of the divide in modern Freemasonry. It is all but shunned in many lodges as it has been demonized by religion in this modern age. And the truth of it? It is indeed a perfect geometric archetype. It is nothing less than the symbol of the 'Golden Mean.'

Perfection is evil?

The Burning Times are over but the superstition remains in the minds of the fervent. How many have feared the revelations of science? Consider Copernicus, Gallileo and Darwin.

The Craft has protected the knowledge of philosophy and the sciences from ignorance and sheltered it for centuries from fearful and superflous religiosity. And it has been damned for doing so. All one has to do is Google the Craft or watch a few errant videos on YouTube and you will find one attack after another against Freemasonry levied by those whose imaginations far outweigh their intellects.

Today, the legacy of Freemasonry rests in the hands and hearts of the many Master Masons who are not afraid to challenge their earliest indoctrinations. The aim is not to destroy but to reveal...to understand...to clarify. Most importantly, the aim of the 'Esoteric' and symbolic aspects of Freemasonry is to afford a man, a Mason, perspective in the world he has found himself in. How like science this is. This 'Esoteric' aim is a philisophical quest.

What are we Masons to do with our Ladders...Pillars...Angels...and Working Tools? Why is it important to become proficient in these arts if what we are doing is not holding them, protecting them, for other seekers like ourselves? We cannot be ashamed of our illustrious heritage and rip it away from the hands of those who knock at the door. I was told that Pike's 'Morals and Dogma' was too wordy, lofty and 'Esoteric' to put in the hands of this modern generation. Many excuses can be offered but none suffice. Perhaps men cannot understand these ideas simply because they have been repressed and put out of use for so very long.

Do we remove the symbols from the Order because it is the politically correct thing to do? It is true that the meaning of symbols evolves over time. But we are not ignorant men and it is the Origen of these symbols that we seek...and not the foolishness that has obscured them with the falling sands of time.

As a seeker myself, I was startled by how closely modern psychology, particularly analytical psychology, confirmed the myths and resembled the religions of man. Science has worked to map the very soul. And yet, science is incapable of offering the Great Truth. For science meanders in the feebleness of its reach. With science alone we are stunted by paradoxes of nonlocality and the reach of time. And that Great Truth? Whose?

Only the philosophies afford the inner epiphanies. For ultimately, meaning is subjective. How can we be completely objective within a world we are a part of? The great analyst Carl Jung once remarked that if you look deeply enough into the psyche you will find the world.

Symbols are the organs of the psyche. They are the paint that reveals the wings of angels. But we must not forget that those wings are there...only going unseen without the proper frame of reference.

The Masonic symbols do not belong to the Cowans or the ignorant who strive to bend their meaning to their own ignominious purpose. Thus we Freemasons only rob ourselves of our inheritance when we aid these outsiders in removing them from their importance to our Masonic journeys.

The Esoteric side of Freemasonry belongs to us and to those like us who strive with purpose toward the Light.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Esoterica

Freemasonry could aptly be described as the One Light that can only be experienced to be known and yet whose varied spectrum of principles and disciplines are the only ladder of knowledge that reveal it. This being said, those very same divided lights, be they Greater or Lesser, thus conceil the Mysteries of the Order as much as they ever aid to discern them.

Most Freemasons today are actually discouraged from seeking the inner Masonic truths that were once so brilliantly espoused in works such as Pike's "Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry." In my case, I looked into contributing an article to one of the Masonic publications. Following a cursory review of my work on 3Ruffians I was admonished that much of my work was simply too 'Esoteric' to warrant publication.

I have argued time and again that the greatest value of Freemasonry lay in its Principles and in its Fellowship. However, it is clear to me that many Freemasons know very little, if anything at all, about what those Principles and their Symbols even mean. A good Lodge, like my own, encourages its Members to study these things on their own. And the Scottish Rite still offers some further written instruction by giving 'A Bridge to Light' to its new Scottish Rite Masons. But, all in all, most new Masons are content with bringing their own light into the Lodge...and standing by it.

This Masonic website is not a site I consider for detailed Masonic interpretation and exposition. The reason for this is that I myself am a Freemason and I respect my Obligation as well as the other Members of my Order and the 'secrets' themselves. Of course, most of these so-called 'secrets' can be freely found on the internet. Of course, they will be open to someone's interpretation and, most often, that is skewed through that person's particular lens.

I have met a number of men in Masonry with wonderfully open minds. That is exactly why I love the Craft so much. The Goal of the Lodge is Light. The Center of the Lodge is Truth...in the form of the Greater Lights...one of which, the Volume of the Sacred Text, may be freely exchanged to reflect the Candidates personal beliefs concerning Deity. I applaud this about the Craft. Freemasonry is not a religion. It is not a Portrait of a particular God. It is paint by numbers on a White Canvas. The knowledge of Freemasonry posits that there is inherant Order to that Canvas. The face of that Order is left to the seeker who must indeed personalize it in order to comprehend it personally.

Still, I have met other men who have insisted that Freemasonry follows one certain God or another, one set Religion or another. I patently and vigorously disagree with that. In my view, Freemasonry has become an ideal of free thought and an 'Ordo Ab Chao' - Unity out of Difference. Order from Chaos.

Narrow thinking only obstructs the purpose of the Order which is to Unite men under Absolute Truth, Goodness and the Supremacy of the Principle of God however that God is approached on a personal level. I have found that many men of this outlook shun the 'Mysteries' of the Order. They see them as being 'too Esoteric' but I wager that they fear what they do not truly know themselves. Carrying their own ideas of philosophy or science or religion so close to breast, these men close their minds and become the intemperate paragons of ignorance that drove the earliest Freemasons to second floor secrecy.

How much do you know of Pike's works? Have you bothered reading his 860 page Opus cover to cover? If you have then you might find yourself scratching your head at Alchemical Operations, Gematria and near endless dissertation on comparitive religion, anthropology, psychology and governmental science. Pike's work is not so distant from 19th Century Theosophy. In fact, much of it is by very definition, Occult...though that word, simply meaning hidden, has been hideously bastardized since his time and driven into shadows as occidental superstitious distraction.

Another well known Masonic author, Manly P. Hall, compiled 'The Secret Teachings of All Ages.' This too is an occult compendium of Hermetic, Kabbalistic, Rosicrucian and Masonic knowledge. As a young Christian many years ago myself, I feared what such knowledge might do to my soul. It was the Apple in the Garden. I yearned to eat of it but knew that my comfortable perspective would likely be lost. So be it. There is a flaming sword at the Garden now.

There are so many countless esoteric treatises on the symbols and secrets of esoteric Freemasonry that I cannot hope to name them all. But, at heart, they all represent one abiding thing...Man's Search for Meaning. Today, little explanation is given to the esoteric aspects of Freemasonry for a number of reasons mentioned. How can this, man's search for meaning, lay discarded on the Temple floor, itself now relegated to meaninglessness in difference to fellowship?

In denying the Esoteric aspects of Freemasonry we do nothing less than to deny the highest aspiration of Freemasonry which is to seek further Light! To know our place and find our personal truth we must eat of that forbidden fruit, we must fall from the Grace of the Garden and we must imperil ourselves in the awesome doubt that alone can afford reflection. The Great Light can only be experienced. To know it, we must discern it.

The symbols of Freemasonry allude to those great truths at its foundation. Certainly these philosophical and, dare I say, 'esoteric' sciences do more to reveal man's perception of nature than nature herself. But it is within this personal, human perception that Meaning and Truth at last reside. There are indeed many facets to the Mysteries just as there are many colors in the grand spectrum of light. Each abiding symbol becomes a focal lens into the Universe and toward the Greater Light. Each of the symbols is a working tool for the speculative Mason who labors to perfect his spiritual ashlar as it were.

Let us not forget that Freemasonry is a 'Peculiar (specific or rarified) System of Morality, Veiled in Allegory and Illustrated by Symbols. As such, it is a system of morality that helps to clarify common purpose and discover inner truths. We must not allow its esoteric traditions to be discarded in favor of its principles of fellowship. For these esoteric traditions are these Symbols that 'Illustrate' this great Moral System. "For you shall not surely die...your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Knowledge comes at a price. In attempting to attain it we are faced with dark corners of the self that we are afraid of. We find ourselves alone and standing under the judgment of Divine Light. This is an allegory of our place in the world, naked in the arms of nature.

If a man truly seeks further Light in Freemasonry then he must be unmoved by fear and self doubt, and by the fears or doubts of others. No man is a Master Mason who turns his back on the Light once he is afforded the priviledge and the tools to seek it for himself. He must climb the ladder with Faith, Hope and Charity as his guides and with the Knowledge of finding his way.

I urge you Brothers. Seek Further Light.






Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Nation of Freemasonry


It can certainly be argued that the 'Nation' of Freemasonry is indeed the United States of America. After all, the USA was primarily founded and organized by a veritable litany of prominant Freemasons not the least of whom were George Washington, its first President, and the statesman Benjamin Franklin. Most Masons know a bit about this early American history if only because they know the famous name of John Hancock who was a Mason himself and one of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence. Even so, I argue that there is indeed a 'Nation of Freemasonry' and that it reaches far beyond the American shores.

Freemasonry has been around for hundreds of years and spans the continents of the world. As old as it is and as broad as its reach may be, its core has changed but little since its beginning. Freemasonry remains a trust between men of like mind and heart. And it is that trust and the ideals it espouses through its Degrees that transcends borders and barriers on a map.

Today, Freemasonry is challenged from many sides. Some doubt its modern relevance. And others only mistrust the intent of such a vast organization. Every generation brings with it the change that comes with social upheaval and cultural evolution. Still, the modern generations have witnessed religion brought under the harsh scrutiny of the scientific light. And with that science has come heady uncertainty. The simple truths of medicine, the Atomic Bomb and the latest pictures from the Hubble have made a mess of our most stable philosophical and human approaches. We are left wondering again at the Great Mystery.

Like so many other men, I looked to the Light of Freemasonry to help answer my own existential questions. I travelled the road from Apprentice to Master and faced the Ruffians of my own doubts and fears. Following my journey through the Degrees I again am left with the Mystery. It is the Mystery of my own personal journey under the guidance of Masonic Light and Faith.

There are men who have come away from the Degrees who have missed something in them. Perhaps in some ways the organization itself has faltered from time to time in affording each seeker the most adept Masonic instruction. But more than the Word of Freemasonry seems to be lost in this modern world. The very relevance of Freemasonry and the Light that is so central to the Order seems to be lost to so many new Master Masons as well.

Men join the Order, proceed through the Degrees, and are left with no more certainty of their place in the Universe than when they began.

These men, these particular seekers, have simply missed the point.

At last, a man must come to realize that his place in the Universe and his personal relevance, much like Freemasonry's, is a matter of perspective. The Universal Mystery is not an Answer, but a Question. The God of the Kabbalists is a Verb. And the Light of Masonry is a Verb as well. Life is being.

The secret of Freemasonry is the value of that being, its inherant freedom and its inherant right. It comes full circle really. A man joins the Order after he answers a question regarding his belief in Supreme Being. And it is at last to that answer he returns.

As men of faith, we search for such secrets within and labor to see our governments recognize the rights of men and women who share this Mysterious existence together. That very search sets Freemasons aside from others. It does not make them better men in the sense of having greater human worth. It does, however, afford such men a sense of that Universal perspective once had only in the Garden.

Masonry is an Organization of these seekers of Light who congregate under the same spirit and ideals. It is simply preposterous that Freemasonry is irrelevant today precisely because an assembly of these like minds is in itself relevant. This is the Nation of Freemasonry and it is not a nation of lands or territories. It is a United Body that spans the world men have made from the natures of God.

Freemasonry is not and cannot be merely a fraternal bureacracy in the lowest sense of the word. The traditions are sound and its history must be carried on. However, this is only the framework of the Order's intent. It must never become a limitation. The Lodges and Appendant bodies of Freemasonry that impart the Degrees of the Craft must always be mindful of the purpose and never lose sight of the Light Itself.

The Nation of Freemasonry must return to its Glory and wrest free of the challenges of the times and the all too familiar organizational red tape. The United States of America has indeed embraced the Red, White and Blue of Democratic organization and the spirited bonds of human brotherhood. But it is only a part of the greater whole.

"Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses...yearning to be free." This is humanity in the hands of those who labor to do the work that the Light has set forth to do. The Masonic Ideals stand in any earthly country...steadfast.

Men of character. Men of truth. Men of wisdom. Men of compassion.

This is the Nation of Freemasonry.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Politically Incorrect

We Ruffians are Masons. And as such we like to keep to the tenet that most things of a religious or political nature are not discussed in lodge.

Of course this isnt a proper lodge. However, for our internet community abroad, this website will just have to do. Which is why you fellow Masons won't see a lot of political mumbo jumbo or pandering on this particular site. Frankly, if you want to know more about what I think politically, on a more personal note, then feel Free to check out my personal gonzo blog http://www.scottfreeblog.com/ . Just be advised that the Ancient and Illustrious Order of the Three Ruffians in NO WAY affiliates itself with this blog. Ruffians wont have it!

Still, as Freemasons, we Ruffians cannot escape our duties as citizens. If you are from the USA as I am then you will understand why I say with pride that this is OUR country that is built upon grand Masonic tenets. And, I for one, intend to keep an eye on it.

I am proud that we have a two party system. And from the look of it I think that it is functioning pretty well all told. In my opinion, if either the Republicans or the Democrats usurped control for decade after decade then our Country would be the poorer for it. America must remain a balanced and civil standard of Freedom. And to be this, it must always allow for dissent, contrast and even opposition of a political vein.

I applaud the achievements of both party Candidates. Both men have led exemplary American lives and prospered under the Red, White and Blue. Debate is critical to the lifeblood of a culture of freedom. I wish them both well and hope that it is not the man, but the people of America who ultimately win in the end.

I would urge that all Freemasons pay close attention to this election, whatever side you may be on. And I would caution you to look for the good in both of the Candidates so that you do not fall into the traps and snares of judgment, prejudice or small mindedness. The issues are what matter now. And on the way to making a good decision we should never enslave our minds with the poison of anger, mean spiritedness or the like.

We must look for the Light in each man, as we must in every man. And we must strive to uphold, even in spirit, those high Masonic ideals that the United States of America were founded upon.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

No Apologies Necessary

Greetings Brothers. As a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason I am proud to have experienced the instruction and the pageantry of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. I did my degrees in the Valley of Joplin, Mo. The temple there is simply outstanding. And the set pieces and backdrops are nothing short of breathtaking.

Many of you are Scottish Rite Masons I know. I encourage those of you who are not yet Scottish Rite Masons to seek further Light and join this Illustrious appendant body of the Craft. In the degrees of the Scottish Rite you will witness the marvelous works of Brother Albert Pike and others who contributed so much after its founding. There is simply a wealth of material to be explored. So get to it!


That being said, I was reading over my latest mailing of the Scottish Rite Journal when I came across an article by Brother Cliff Porter 32nd Degree. The article, entitled "A Scottish Rite Mason Without Apology" deals with a lot of the issues that are haunting and holding back the genius and grandeur of the intended Rite.

In my opinion, and speaking as a Member of both the Scottish and York Rites, I believe some of the Scottish Rite degrees to be the very most personally profound in all of Freemasonry. There is some excellent subject matter for those who pay attention, faithfully participate and who strive to study on their own paths. Still, the times are challenging for modern Freemasonry and the Scottish Rite has not escaped the difficulties they present.

I applaud Brother Porter's article and hope you all will read it as I have. He expresses many frustrations that I witnessed firsthand in the Rite. I hope that we may address them respectfully and see the Scottish Rite restored to its finest array and spectacle.

Here is the full article... "A SCOTTISH RITE MASON WITHOUT APOLOGY"

(This article appears in the September/October 2008 Issue of the Scottish Rite Journal)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Changing the Guard

I was goofing around with my new gadget today, the new iPhone, and it made me think about just how much our world is changing. Cell phones were the stuff of Science Fiction a generation ago. You might have seen one in Captain Kirk's hand when he was asking Scotty to beam him back to the Enterprise. But no one imagined that not so far into the future...everyone would have one.

Technology is changing our world. We can now access vast reservoirs of information and stream everything from movies, tv, games, books and much more straight through a personal computer that is about the size of a pack of playing cards. The world is getting smaller and more accessable.

It's changing our culture. With all of this information at our fingertips, we're practically spoiled by it. It's educating us, brainwashing us, entertaining us and its doing it because we want it to.

Our grandfathers can barely recognize the world that we, as grandsons, now live in. In the span of just one hundred years, we have advanced from horseback to jet plane. Imagine how much the automobile changed the world. And now just think about what the cell phone is doing.

Like all things, Freemasonry too must accept change. It must embrace the world as it is now...and not as it once was.

This is not to say that the ideals or the spirit or the traditions of Freemasonry must change. Certainly not. Such things are immortal and ageless in their way and will abide the sands of time.However, it is important that Masonry today keeps up with the changing times and modernizes.

The trestle board was once just a circle in the sand and now, in most lodges, it is displayed on a slide projector.

The point is, we don't have to accept that what we experience at lodge is all there has to be to Freemasonry. Why not vote a dues increase and offer something tangible in return...like the kind of lodge a Brother would look forward to going to as often as he could...filled with activities and relevant services to his Brothers and his family?

We need a vision of the future of the Order. Interest in membership is declining and attendance is woeful indeed at many lodges. I know of countless Greek college fraternities that offer more relevant activities than many well worn Blue Lodges. What is going to interest the younger Mason to join...let alone stick around when the excitement after initiation settles?

Face it. The generation gap is huge. There are teenagers that know a lot more about computers than I do. Of course both the older and the younger Masons have much to offer. Experience that comes with time must never be discounted. And the drive of the youth is the very future of the Craft. Both have their part in the Lodge. But they must work together and, above all, recognize the necessities of the times at hand.

How do we organize the potent energy of the new Entered Apprentices, Fellowcrafts and Master Masons? We need better avenues of communication. Websites for lodges, blogs and the like are a definite step in the right direction. But most of these are run by individuals with a purpose or small groups trying to make a difference. There is often too much red tape in getting any actual work done. And that is just one more thing putting the kabosh on real growth.

Going to church today is like going to the mall in some cases or going to a local YMCA. You'll find a Starbucks, flat screen plasma tvs, retail sales kiosks, a gym, a bookstore, basketball courts, pools...you name it! What would make the local Blue Lodge 'sticky?' You tell me!

I think that being a Mason you should be a 'part' of something...not just 'associated' with something. But that means that lodges need to keep up with the needs and the interests of the generations that are going to fill up the seats.

Is meeting now and again to initiate new members enough? The lodge has become a kind of office. It needs to be a meeting place. And, in this day and age, that meeting place does not have to even be in a building. After all, the members themselves are the 'lodge.' Local lodges must reach out to their members. And members should do what they can to support their lodges, their Brothers and their communities.

The Working Tools of the Order will never change for they embody certain and various virtues. But there are new tools the Order can put to good use. Email, Websites, and Blogs count among them. Also among them are more and varied activities, member services and real commitments to taking part in the future of the Order together.

What is required of every Mason is fearlessness and personal responsibility as an active member of the Craft. Vote in your lodge. Make a difference. Make it better. Build it or fix it or modernize it. Remember that Freemasonry is a part of your life and a part of your experience among Brothers and friends. Make it your own.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Who's Minding the Store?

Well Brothers...I'm angry.

I'm angry because too many people, Brothers included, rationalize their actions. Everyone is 'doing the right thing' if you listen to them. We all have our justifications it seems. We all have our golf 'mulligan' our love 'mulligan' and our life handicap.

BS. You heard me. Hogwash. Whatever happened to 'personal responsibility?'

I'm really actually angry about it. I met a guy recently who told me that he earned $300,000 as a bookie. Apparently, he got his start kicking people's teeth in and beating people senseless with baseball bats. Now he's bragging about his earnings (he's probably about 25 years old) and he considers his previous actions 'justified.'

What an ass.

Wait. Let me say that again. 'What an ass.' 'What an ass.' 'What an ass.'

I guess I'm just tired of weakness. Because, in my opinion, people don't really have an excuse to 'do the wrong thing.' It's weakness...pure and simple. And if you're a Brother and you think it's okay to wrong people, or screw people over or steal from people then you need to really rethink being a Mason.

The Masonic Oath certainly bonds Brothers. We agree to look out for each other etc. Still, the Masonic Idealogy Bonds our faith in a higher regard. How can we strive for the Light if we revel in the Darkness? Truly, I ask you?

I know that people make mistakes. I have an inglorious past myself up until the age of 27. Still, I am in no way proud of those actions against the Light. Rather, I live every day making up for them in some fashion. I could have been a better person. I can be a better person!

We have too many damned excuses today Brothers! 'No one will care. It's not a big deal. He or she deserved it. They owe me.' What the hell!?

If any of us really intend to approach the Light then we need to get our crap together. And if someone we know is doing the wrong thing then the right thing is to let them know! Cowardice or inaction is a kind of action and acceptance all by itself.

Yes, I'm angry Brothers. We can all do better. And, as Masons, we must reach to the Light and do our best to be beacons of Light for all onlookers.

The world is ours to change...for the better.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

NY Grand Lodge

Our Illustrious Ruffian Brother Matthew thought that we might enjoy a tour of the New York Grand Lodge facilities that are posted on their website. The State of New York boasts a Masonic membership of 54,000 members! That is indeed impressive.

Take a look now, Ruffians, inside New York's Masonic Hall located on West 23rd St. in New York City. http://www.nymasons.org/cms/virtualtour

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Network

The World is a Business...

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
- Professor Keating (Robin Williams) in 'Dead Poet's Society'

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad.
- Howard Beale (Peter Finch) in 'Network'

There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today!
- Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) in 'Network'

There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those *are* the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state, Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business.
-Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) in 'Network'

Human life is what matters; the living of it, the sanctity of it, the continuing of it, the beauty of it, the sorrow of it, the joy of it. More and more today, perhaps the world is becoming a business. The quotes from the movie 'Network', a movie released in 1976 that was ahead of its time and eerily prophetic of our own, offer us a kind of perspective on the pattern of control in our world today. Indeed, if we forget the value of human life in favor of the 'illusion' then we are as lifeless as the institutions.

We cannot surrender to mindless despotism in any form. We must transcend this kind of thinking. We must think for ourselves.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Towers

The stage is set. And the heads of the corpulent aristocracy are soon to roll. Somewhere down below the palace walls, below the guilded parapets and the pampered, preening monarchs gather the throng of the furious peasant mob.

High in their towers, the monarchs cower. Where once they laughed at these impotent serfs, they now hide in terror from them. The army of the oppressed stand together at the outer gates led by a peculiar spirit of destiny and a righteous sense of freedom. Their time has come.

The wait has been a long one. Each and every day, the sun has risen and set on the peasant's labors and miseries. Months and years of enslavement to the elite has sapped their will and strength. But all souls regard their own lives. Anger replaces the empty pains of hunger.

Too long have the downtrodden borne the loads of their masters. The yolk has grown weighty with their children's cries, heavy with desires to share the comforts of the rich and burdensome with an endless repetition of hard work without due reward.

Where indeed is this place of such a melancholy scene? Is this Paris before the French Revolution? It is. Is this the Bolshevik tide at the Czar's palace? It is.

And is this the future of the free world as corporations, so like the elite in their towers, gather to exploit the sleeping consumer culture? It could be.

Today, the kings and monarchs reign as CEOs, lobbiests, special interests, financial syndicates and political oligarchies. For decades, Wal-Mart, the giant of retail commerce, has driven small, local business to extinction. This trend of supercorporations has smashed the 'little guy' and swept him up to labor under the standard of the corporation. The entrepreneur struggles to compete and finds himself wearing a nametag and working for his competitor.

Oil companies drown themselves in wealth year after year taking in vast billions in earnings. They excuse themselves in the tides of war and rely on the apathy of the masses to do nothing other than to obey and consume. Huge oil reserves sit untapped. And advancements and energy alternatives are sidelined in favor of the bottom dollar.

Banks foreclose on houses that they risked their greed upon as low income families clamored to them in need daring to roll the dice on high interest in order to find shelter in the storm. Businesses close. Icons like Anheiser Busch are gobbled up by even bigger corporate fish.

What are the promises of politicians worth if people don't know their own minds? The people are complacent. And, in many cases, the few who act otherwise prove to be as soulless and greed driven as the mindless corporate devourers.

The masses swallow their cultural opiates, fed to them nightly on the television, in movies, and through the corporate media. Britney Spears sees more airtime than the War on Terror. If Paris were burning...people would look at once to Hollywood.

Who is manning the drive-thru? Pray they aren't working for NORAD next week. Their hands are at their work but their minds are miles away. Religion has failed to stand up to its own ideals. Science has confused as much as it has enlightened. And people have lost their innate divine perspective. They are left with only empty ego...and a quiet desperation for more.

Make no mistake my Brothers. All states of being are brought about through specific conditions. When the undergrowth of the forest is dry...even the treetops will burn.

I fear that our innate humanity is all too easily forgotten. Cell phones and computers have become our idols. Machanical things and empty contrivances have replaced the forest gods, Divine Light, and the spirit of nature in man. Mothers feed their babies from a plastic bottle. Young women starve themselves to match an unattainable ideal. And fathers fight to find their place and their role as a modern provider.

We humans are indeed weak and the steels of industry are certainly stronger. Are we the masters now or are we but the servants of our governments, our institutions, our developed belief systems and our inventiveness?

Thoreau and Emerson. Their noble and enlightened visions fade amidst the consumer tide.

Awaken young man! Do you see the beauty of the world...the real world? Do you not see the beauty of life, living things and being itself? Stop chasing your vanities. Slip the bars of enculturation and release the awesome power of your own individual life.

I am Da Vinci! I am Mozart. I am Armstrong stepping onto the shores of eternity. I am!

You cannot brainwash me! You cannot box me in or make me forget that I am a natural thing. I am not a sound bite. I can live without your latest trends. And I don't need 15 minutes of Warholian fame because I will matter; I will make a difference; I will pursue a noble and relevant life ... for a lifetime.

The palace walls are made of stone. But I bear nature's beating heart. I am watching you in the towers.

Friday, August 8, 2008

...While Away On My Journey...

Woe is me, Woe is me, Woe is me.

Woe is me my brothers. Oh how it has been a long time since I last took up the keyboard to make a post. Woe is me my brothers, since I last took up my phone and made a call. Woe is me my brothers since the last time I looked at the website.

My brothers ( especially Brother Free ) it has been too long since I last showed my face. Little do many of you know, I have been on a trying journey, a quest if you will, to locate answers, to find results, to find the light.

While I have not been lost, I was still not found.

Nearly 3 months ago, Brother Free and myself were on the verge of something big. It was a project of sorts. And while that something big has not lost any of its momentum, it seems that it has been moved to the side...for the time being.

This project was an outreach program, and community based group, that would be dedicated to giving back.

In preperation of this project I felt myself thinking about what the goal would be for something like this. What would be our reason, what would be our angle, why were WE doing it. What was so special about 3 guys, 3 brothers, 3 RUFFIANS, that we thought we could have made a difference in a world where a person can have 5 kids and not give damn about a single one; in a world where we have men and women DYING to be able to share the same freedoms we have with the rest of the world, AND EVERYONE IS AGAINST THEM. What did i think i could do to be able to make a difference?

Today is August 9th, 2008, and just 3 hours ago the 2008 Summer Olympics kicked off with, what I would say, would have to be the best opening ceremony I have ever seen. There were people there that would rather shoot the person next to them let alone run or swim next to them. But for some reason, they were able to bring it all together, to be able to demonstrate the pride of their country and uphold a century old tradition.

Just two weeks ago the movie 'The Dark Knight' came out ( 614 mil so far, by the way ). For those who havent seen it, I wont spoil it. But while watching this movie I thought to myself, "what this world needs is a BATMAN," "what this world needs is a super hero," someone who isnt scared to strap it on night after night; to protect and uphold all that is good in this world.

And it was while I was reading a post from brother Lightheaded1 that the picture started to become a little clearer for me. I started to see the path back to where I had come. I started to see WHY. It is guys like Brother Free, like myself, like you, who have to step up and make a change.

Lets face it people, there's no Batman, there are no superheroes. There is only you. There is only me. There is only us.
Why does it have to take a worldwide organized event like the Olympics just for people to get along for 2 weeks? Why do we only take the time to be in the presence of those we cannot tolerate... just so we can compete with them?

Why cant we be that drop of water that causes a tidal wave; not just as freemasons, but as brothers of the human race? Why do we look to fictional characters to do the job that we should have never stopped doing to begin with?

People lets face it. Lets stop making excuses. Lets put on the big boy pants and make a stand. Yes I know that I have kind of fell off the planet for the last 3 months. I needed that time to get my mind in order. But I can clearly see now what the job is that needs to be done.

We need to make a change. We need to get involved. And it needs to start now. It needs to start at home. There are too many of us who chose to take care of ourselves first... and our families second. There are too many of us who chose to go out at night and then sleep all day the next day.

From there we take it outward. We start in our neighborhoods. We start with local churches and schools. We just START. I can't begin to count how many times I have talked to brothers, and friends alike, who all say they want to be doing something to make a difference. Do we even know what a difference is?

I recently adopted a cousin of mine whos father is being sent to prison. I didnt know it but this kid had never been told a bedtime story. And when I came in to tell my boys their bedtime story he was stunned as to what I was doing. Thats the kind of difference I am talking about. It's something that will cause a chain reaction for the better.

Let's face it. Our future is looking us in the face. All the boys and girls that we see walking to school in the morning and home again in the afternoon...they are our future. They are the ones who will be making the decisions on whether or not we use foreign oil or if we trade with Cuba. They are the ones who will keep us moving forward or the ones who will bring us down.

Guys. I can't go on anymore. I actually want this to fit on the page. All I'm getting at is that I'm sorry I was gone. But I'm back, and I'm ready to go forward. And I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. ITS TIME TO MAKE A STAND, ITS TIME TO MAKE A CHANGE. SO I'LL BE WAITING. I'LL BE READY. WHEN YOU ARE READY YOU HAD BETTER START RUNNING... CAUSE HERE I GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



"The Purpose of Freemasonry"

In his just published book, "The Purpose of Freemasonry," noted Masonic scholar Stevan V. Nikolic of New York addresses the very questions we have been discussing here. While I have not yet read the book and can not review it there is a good article regarding it on PressRelease365. I'd be interested in the opinions of anyone who has read it.

Fraternally yours,

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Does Anybody Think Anymore?

A friend of mine works for one of the presidential candidates as a pollster. Basically, he makes phonecalls to random people throughout our great state and asks people details about their political affiliations.

Disturbingly, this friend relates that the vast majority of people dont give a damn about issues or details or anything of that nature. Most of them simply ask if a candidate is a Republican or a Democrat. They KISS (keep it short and simple) the political machine. A good political ad can work wonders on this sheep mentality. Buy the car because of the girl on the hood. Drink Lite beer because of the girl in the bikini and vote whatever...because.

Additionally, none of the voters are given an alternative to the two parties. There's not much middle ground when there is no money behind it.

I'd like to hear 'the people' debating the current political issues rather than the pundits over endless hours of talk show rhetoric. Could they do it? 'We the People' are supposed to run the country (assuming you are an American or living in a Democracy) but do 'We' know what we are doing at the wheel? Are 'We' paying attention?

Hey. On the off chance it might work...

Send me a thousand dollars because I said so. Bah! Bah!
If you think that's a stupid idea. Then good for you for thinking. But send me the money anyway! Please this time!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What To Do...What To Do......

I just read Brother Lightheaded1's astute observation of Masonry's role in society (Posted on Sunday, August 3rd) and Two Bowl Cain's comment on the post. They both bring up very relevant and fascinating points about modern Freemasonry. These points are timely indeed and I don't think they should be overlooked by any active Mason. Thus I encourage you all to read the post and give it some real thought.

Where exactly does Freemasonry fit into the modern world? I of course would argue, as many Masons would, that it contributes to character and morality. I have argued as much right here. More specifically, as Brother Lightheaded1 brings up, what makes Masonry any more useful than other institutions for private welfare and charity?

I think at that point of thought, Two Bowl Cain's comment certainly comes into play. He argues that Masonry was created to sidestep the hypocrisy of the Church and State, two institutions that - at the time - were more eager to beat the people down than to raise them up. It's definitely questionable as to how much, if at all, these institutions have changed over time for the good. Perhaps then, the relevance of Masonry remains in providing avenues of Free thinking to people outside of the socially accepted norm. But is this the only difference?

I recently heard a story about a very nice Mason I know telling another Mason that you cannot be a Pagan and a Mason. He insisted that Masonry was founded upon the Jewish and Christian God alone. This is interesting to me. Certainly the Templar influences on Masonry were Christian. Still, the Templar were in the midst of heinous persecutions brought about by the Church and the State. As they were all excommunicated they no doubt had their own questions about the idea of God that their torturers maintained.

I personally think that Freemasonry is outstanding because of its tolerance. God is Light, not a name, not a region, not a holy book and certainly not a particular dogma. I like to think that God is God. There are lots of foreign words for tables after all...and they are all still tables.

Freemasonry is being diluted perhaps as government institutions take the lead on charitable works and in providing aid to those in need and even simple services. So too is it being molded into personal images of particular Masons and within particular regions. There you are...the State and the Church.

In my opinion Masonry must stand apart from both Church and State as Two Bowl says. This is not to say that either institution is inherently evil. Both, however, are human institutions relegating the behavior of men through the rule of law. Freemasonry relegates the behavior of men through the rule of ethics. The Church was intended once to do as much but without the true seperation of Church and State such a thing becomes impossible. Freedom is the ultimate ethic so long as it is recognized for all. And that takes tolerance.

Maybe we Masons should bring less into the Order from the outside and,instead, bring more from the Order to the outside. From what I see culturally and politically, I think that our great institutions are in need of an overhaul.

Should we really leave the work upto the cowans and eavesdroppers? Let's get out there again and show others what the Light is like. Whatever your religion or affiliation there is so much you can do remembering the tenents of Freemasonry.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Greetings Brother,

This is my debut post here in the 3Ruffians multi-verse so I will do my best to not ruffle too many feathers, this time. I do have an observation, though, and I'll follow it up with a question. My observation is this:
Freemasonry through the ages has prospered and thrived best when it fulfilled a necessary function in the society of the time. Prior to the industrial revolution and the New Deal era fraternal organizations, and especially Freemasonry, served a very defined purpose in society. We helped men find jobs; we provided for those less fortunate; we educated the orphaned; we assisted the widowed; and we bettered ourselves. Laudable goals all.

But, most if not all of these societal benefits can be and are provided nowadays either by our government or by professional non-profit organizations. They can and do perform these functions better than we can. We can not and should not be in competition to help those in need. Certainly, if someone needs help and we are in the best position to provide it we can not turn them away, but perhaps our time, money and talents can be better utilized fulfilling an unfilled need in society. Which brings me to my question.

When you look around in the town in which you live; when you interact with your co-workers, family members, friends and associates; when you listen to the nightly news or read the daily paper what is not being provided? What do people need or want that they can not get from the government, from Salvation Army, or at the mall?

Freemasonry has redefined itself many times over the centuries, and it's time we did it again. Our society is suffering and the solutions are not going to come from Capitol Hill, or from the State Capitol Buildings, or from City Hall. They will come from "We the people."

As Freemasons we obligate ourselves to Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. Relief can come in many forms. It's time we consider the form of relief that our people need.

Fraternally yours,

Lightheaded1

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Age of Innocence

Picture this...

A young girl, twenty years old, leaves a party after a fight with her boyfriend. She is intoxicated. And in her anguished state she foregoes all responsibility to others and takes to the road in her new truck. She takes a corner too hard and blacks out, careening her vehicle up a driveway and into a garage door.

Her engine catches on fire.

The story continues. Obviously shaken by the tumult, the residents inside walk outside to survey the damage where they clearly see the truck and the havoc in their garage. They also spy the young female driver, her face bloodied and smashed by the impact and the beginning of the fire in the engine. Smoke is rising from the engine block and the girl's dog is barking in the passenger seat.

Several moments pass in this incident. The residents retrieve a camera and begin taking pictures of the scene. A neighbor dials 911. Over the course of a few minutes, the residents manage to snap some shots of the fire building in the truck, and finally engulfing the young girl.

No one, through any of it, seems to think it is a good idea to get the girl out of the burning truck. In the end, it is her dog that pulls her free.

Following months of grafts and left with life changing injuries, the girl faces the legal ramifications of her driving under the influence. She is fortunate in that no one was hurt, or worse, because of her actions besides herself.

Those who took no action to come to her aid after the accident are kind enough to send her pictures of her on fire. They send a note and a part of it reads "this is what you get for what you did to our house."

Indeed.

Where is the line here? How can it be possible that we have forgotten the most basic of human virtues? Is not God alone the judge of all men?

Make no mistake. The girl, choosing to drive while intoxicated, certainly bears responsibility for her actions. She could have killed someone and she very nearly killed herself. This sort of irresponsibility is epidemic as evinced by the thousands killed every year because of someone's selfish choices.

Still, how many of us have made similar bad choices? Weren't we just a bit luckier than this young lady? Christ said "He who is without sin, cast the first stone." I think all of us would be laying our stones at our feet.

Much of our society has become too callous and far too fearful of lawsuits and the legal ramifications of lifting a hand to help others in need. We are all too familiar with stories just like the afore mentioned. Recently, cameras in a hospital ward captured a woman writhing about on the floor in her death throes. No one came to her aid. In another shocking instance, a man was hit by a car at an intersection. Passers by gawked at the scene and some even approached the man in the street simply to get a better look. Is this what we are becoming?

Certainly there are heroes. Think of the firefighters racing through the Twin Towers on 911. Keep in mind the policemen who risk their lives daily to uphold the law. And never forget the men and women of the armed forces fighting for our freedoms in far flung regions of the world.But do we have to wear a uniform to be a hero? Praise to the local hero, a concerned neighbor perhaps, who runs into the house fire to save someone he has never even met.

The Masonic Charge is to aid our Brothers and so too those who simply require our help. Masonry asks us to dare to risk our own lives if there is a better chance of us making a difference than simply perishing in the effort. Are these only Masonic virtues? Of course not. Remember the good Samaritan and be one if the occassion calls for it.

We are often so overly concerned with punishing the criminal or seeking revenge that we lose our souls to our anger and our prejudiced personal sense of justice. We forget entirely the pillar of Mercy that the world rests upon. For it is a balance that must be sought between that Justice and that Mercy.

Two pillars Brothers. Two.

I happen to know the young woman from the accident. The courts did not find her remorseful of her drunk driving. Her neighbors surely did not. The girl I know is emotionally withdrawn. She doubts herself now. It is not a lack of remorse on her part that keeps her going. She simply walled up her emotions and turned a blind eye to her mirror. You will find her to be a very fun loving girl. It's a kind of mask perhaps to the pain inside. She works now in a pet and animal clinic and she takes good care of a lot of little puppies.

Everyone is responsible. And sometimes it requires courage to live up to that fact. Am I 'My Brothers Keeper?' Of course I am.

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