Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Meaning what?

All month long, we Ruffian Brothers have been chatting back and forth and going over the 'Meaning of Masonry.' It's May. It's perfect for alliteration and hey...it makes you think.

Freemasonry means a lot of different things to different Brothers. One of our Myspace Brothers, Sanozuki, shared this with us:

Sanozuki Sent:

'It means to know what true love is,to overcome ignorance,to see beauty in nature,children and even the lost humans of our world. Masonry is a key and a door to the infinite.

Blessings,
Johnny'

Thanks Johnny. I like that. It seems as though Masonry is about Knowing, and Overcoming and Seeing. It's a Tool and a Gateway. And, ultimately, what lies within it and beyond it is the Absolute, the Infinite, God.

Perhaps Masonry can be summed up as Wisdom. That seems to fit as the first of our Brothers, King Solomon, was known as the 'Wisest Man on Earth.' If he had something to say, then maybe we should be listening.

I am often reminded by fellow Masons that in Freemasonry you get out of it what you put into it or that you are obliged to take as much or as little as you will.

Perhaps it is the fellowship we seek. Maybe it is the knowledge or history. Surely, there is wisdom to be had from old tomes and wizened old fellows. All of these things make Freemasonry as relevant today as it ever was. Times may change, but the heart of man and his windsome soul will ever seek a greater purpose.

The psychiatrist Victor Frankl, a survivor of the Nazi Concentration camps during WWII and the author of 'Man's Search for Meaning,' had these things to say about Life and Meaning:

“Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

“For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment.”

“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how.'”

And finally,

"What is to give light must endure burning.”

We Masons have been 'Often tried, never denied...and we Are willing to be tried again.' We face the uncertain paths together, knowing there are Ruffians afoot. Life will challenge us. Freemasonry will instruct and remind us to be prepared.

Freemasonry is a mirror of life. The Lodge is the length and breadth of the World and the Greater and Lesser Lights are the Laws and Graces of Nature. And so, the Meaning of Masonry is much the same as the Meaning of Life.

Whatever that means...to you.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Meet Our Tyler...Durden.

What is it about Secret Societies that is just so damn provocative? What do they offer us? Take the movie 'Fight Club' for example (or the book by Chuck Palahniuk on which it is based). First, however, here is a test. Don't cheat, but the answer can be found at the end of the blog.

What is the First Rule of Fight Club?

If you know the answer to that question, then you easily knew the answer to that question. Why? Sure you saw the movie, the one with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, but you liked something about it. What you liked was the mystery, secrecy and especially, the power.

For those less familiar with the film, 'Fight Club' is a kind of sadomasochistic modern dalliance into personal and societal expressions of angst. It follows the disenchanted life of Edward Norton's character who, beset with personal anxieties and insecurities, ultimately creates a secret fighting society as a means of personal therapy.

Here's a SPOILER ALERT. The unnamed protagonist of 'Fight Club' has a dual personality. He, in fact, has developed a seperate personality that he believes at first to exist entirely independently of him. This personality is Tyler Durden. Tyler is the antihero. Tyler is the forceful expression of all things that the protagonist is not. He is fearless, self righteous, hyper-sexual, dominant and he dares to challenge the authority of his meek other self...and ultimately the authority of the world as his other self apparently sees it. The result is Fight Club, a group of men who meet in secret to, at last, pugilistically express their pent up frustrations with their lives and the culture they are a part of.

If you're a typical guy, then watching 'Fight Club' gets you stirred up. As revolting as the senseless violence of it is, it makes you wonder what would, or could happen, if people really did do something to shake up their ordinary lives.

Maybe that's one more reason why men all across the country are still becoming Freemasons. It is a secret society. And it does promise real personal change to the individual. Why is that appealing? Sure we want change...each of us wants to better ourselves. That's a no brainer.

What we also want as Freemasons...is to be a Part of something bigger than ourselves that can make some real changes in the world. We all read 'Secret Teachings of All Ages' by Manly P Hall. And each of us has spent countless hours reading books and blogs and pouring over information about Masonry on YouTube and Google. We know that Freemasonry, at least from our Lodges, isnt really controlling the world. It's under fire out there and taking hits from religious groups and those who are either uneducated about the Craft, ignorant of its actualities... or just uninitiated. Still, as Masons ourselves, we want to stand for something, take part in something. We want to matter.

Freemasons today are looking for their Boston Tea Party. At least many of the new Brothers are. We're not Ruffians in the dark sense of the word. We're Ruffians in the sense that we know we have a lot to learn. We know we arent always patient enough. We do know the difference between right and wrong. We just want to DO something, stand FOR something and WITH others like ourselves.

Today, men across the country, as evinced by the May 18th article in the LA Times, are becoming Freemasons, becoming Brothers, because they Believe in something Higher and Greater than themselves. The new Brothers face the East and each look upon the same letter of God. This is their distinction. It lies within the simplicity of the only real prerequisite to join the Order...Belief in a Supreme Being. This is the belief in something greater.

Much like the protagonist in 'Fight Club,' these men yearn to take action in their lives and in the lives around them. They want the Mysteries to be special...to make them special. They want the secrets to be answers to their personal questions. They want the men they find in their secret brotherhood to stand beside them in times of crisis and to accept them as they are. And so, they have faced the 3 Ruffians and have been duly tried and prepared for new lives as Free and Accepted Masons.

All too many negative labels and dispersions have been cast upon Freemasonry over the last several years. There have been so many in fact that many Freemasons themselves have trouble finding their role as a 'man who is also a Freemason.' There are a lot of confused EAs out there. They seek comfort in the rituals but dont really understand them. So they read books, watch movies or do their own research into the Order.

And the truth is...the Order most Masons experience is quite different than the romantic ideas the young Masons expected from those books and those movies. The Lodges have grown smaller. And many of these Masons, though active, find themselves frustrated because they want to be a part of something Grand again.

Well. They can be.

Freemasonry is a value system. But that value system is but a foundation, an edifice, a sacred Solomon's Temple, built as a Grand Lodge for men who wish to stand together in service to their Brothers and to the ineffable Light that shines between them, uniting them.

The sciences that Freemasonry once protected through its secrecy are now late night fodder on the 'Discovery Channel.' But these Pythagorean truths were not the greatest secrets of the Order anyway.

The Greatest Secret of the Order is the Order Itself and, by definition, the power that such 'Order' brings when men of like mind and spirit stand together in Unity. Nations can be won, evils dispelled, and tyrants overthrown.

Raised by the Hand of God, each Mason has already faced such tyrants, Ruffians, and now knows completely that by All standing together with the Light above there is Life even after. And that the life of one Mason may live in the acts of his Brother.

The world is no man's ideal. More often, it is a mirror of the inner savagery of the human soul, an animal thing at heart...part of its shared worldly nature. But if we, as Masons, can begin to govern ourselves by an enlightened Principle then we have made the first real step towards affecting change in the world. Together we can make strides.

Brother Freemasons! Do not forget the REAL secrets of the Order. If you think they are simply handshakes, words or wise alchemical and philosophical sciences then you are missing a great deal.

Today, so many Masons answer the question of Masonry with an obligatory comment about it's charitable nature. And though truly beautiful that is (The Angel of Charity is my personal favorite Angel), that answer usually comes because Modern Masonry is a bit uncertain about where to stand.

The answer is simple. Stand Together Brothers. You have been duly and truly prepared. And if you think you have not then we Ruffians might have a few challenges for you yet. Your journey in life is personal but you do not have to be alone. You are not alone. You have Brothers.

The internet is the greatest gateway between Brothers that we, as Masons, could ask for. We dont need handshakes. We have dues cards. And we're paying our dues most of all when we are active with our fellowship and holding our hands out to our Brothers in friendship and relief to their distress.

What is the Cause of Freemasonry? We will not suffer tyrannies large or small. We aid those in need Brothers or not, and we remember to act in accordance to the designs of that Great Architect's Perfect Plan being souls divested of the rough imperfections of evil.

'Fight Club' is just a movie. But the angst is all too real. We each feel it. Society feels it too. We face an uncertain future and we need to know what kind of men we are if we are to go bravely to it. We can each find the 'man' as Masons. And, along the way, we find our Brothers. What we do next...It will be...It must be always in the Spirit of the Light...a True Good...

But it is our secret.

So, at last, what was the answer to the question at the beginning of the post? The question asked was 'What is the First Rule of Fight Club?'

Easy. You don't talk about fight club.

Funny. The Ancient and Illustrious Order of the Three Ruffians doesn't even exist. So there is nothing to talk about there either.

However, Freemasonry does exist of course. And now, perhaps because of the net, so much more talking can take place; and action as well.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

LA Times Meets The Ruffian Manifesto!

THIS JUST IN!

Here's a link to an article in the LA Times that I think will go nicely with our Ruffian Manifesto of Masonic Revolution! We can all thank Ruffian Brother Caldwell and most especially Illustrious Brother TL Couch (who found it in the first place). Who says the internet isn't the right place for Masonry!? It's the perfect place for Revolutionary Ruffians just like you!

Here's what the LA Times had to say: http://www.latimes.com/features/printedition/image/la-ig-masons18-2008may18,0,4704977.story

Back to Plotting For the World...Not Against It....

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Masonic Revolution

When it comes to the 'Meaning OF Masonry' one must take into account the meaning IN Masonry. And a good question today is...'What are Masons getting out of joining a Masonic lodge today?'

Recently, some of our Illustrious - dare I say industrious? - Ruffians surveyed the incoming candidates at a Chance To Advance event. One of the questions we asked the soon to be Master Masons was 'Why did you petition to become a Mason?'

And the answer? Out of 35 candidates for Masonry, exactly 29 of them joined the Blue Lodge to become a Shriner. 29 out of 35.

Wow.

Granted. This Chance to Advance took place in the Midwest and in the United States. Things are certainly different here than overseas. And, arguably, this sort of phenomenon varies from State to State as well. However, now that it is possible to become a member of the Shrine without being first a member of the Scottish Rite or York Rite, many men are all but bypassing the Blue Lodge to enjoy the benefits of Shrine membership.

Recently, I spoke with a young local official that was interested in becoming a Freemason. He asked me about joining and I asked him to explain to me just why he wanted to. He proceeded to tell me he wanted to become a Shriner 'for the connections.' He made a point to say that he was glad that you didnt have to go through the Rites because 'you don't need that old stuff anymore.'

Again. Wow.

I am of the opinion that the Blue Lodge in many areas needs to wake up. The problem is that many of the most active members of the Blue Lodge, the men with the amazing memories for ritual, are growing older and getting tired. The flames of their torches are dimming. And today, there are fewer and fewer young men who are willing to pick them up and set them ablaze again.

The Blue Lodge and the Rites have a lot to offer. But so much of that greatness sits on a shelf like an old copy of 'Morals and Dogma.' Rituals are acted out, lodges are summarily opened and closed like clockwork and Masons mumble memory work to themselves while on the morning commute. Still, there is something missing in many Blue Lodges.

Masonry is experiencing birth pains as it reaches into its future. Anti-masonry weathers it on the web, through the media, and even through religious lines. There is a great deal of information about it available today. And there is an equal amount of disinformation as well. So the 'Old Guard' holds onto its traditions and rituals carefully, unsure whether or not to defend their old ways or embrace new ways.

Dont get me wrong. I think the Shrine is a great institution. But the Blue Lodge and the York and Scottish Rites of Freemasonry are the heart.

Years ago, Masons gathered together in taverns such as the 'Goose and Gridiron' to conduct their affairs and enjoy their shared fraternal commaraderie. That sort of spirit must continue in the Blue Lodge and be continued and shared outside as well.

Not so long ago, lodges were very active in their communities, whether raising money for local charities or just getting involved in local affairs. Churches are doing this now and many lodges are finding it harder and harder to regain much of this kind of trust and respect lost to barrages of anti-masonry. That seems ironic and sad when one considers that it is this very air of trust and respect that marks a man a Mason. A Mason after all, is Good for his Word and True by his handshake.

Ritual IS important because it preserves the foundation of the Order while teaching patience, memory and the plentitude of moral and spiritual lessons. Even so, lodges must remember that Acting on these virtues is the most important matter of all. What good does rattling off a proficiency do or moving from chair to chair accomplish if no one is contributing to the lives of their brothers or to their neighbors in the community? And how much do we as Masons get out of something if, indeed, we are only looking at what we can 'get' and not thinking about what we can, in turn, 'give?'

Masonry is selflessness. It is the instruction to remove the personal ego and live for something greater; a supreme being; a higher purpose. It is also a kind of 'found family.' Masonic Brothers can be brothers in the truest sense.

There was a time when Freemasonry was Revolutionary - lest we forget the Boston Tea Party among other historic events. Freemasons acted in the service of God, Freedom, Family and Country. And people knew that being a Mason was something to be proud of. Masonic values have been challenged in this cynical modern world and those outside the Order don't really understand its purpose.

Perhaps this is because Freemasonry isnt defining itself anymore through the Actions of its members. We all know George Washington was a Mason. And we all have a pretty good idea of what kind of man he was. Search a bookshelf and you will find countless books on the legends, history, secrets and outright fables of Freemasonry...but you won't find many about the ideals of the Order.

Freemasonry is a society with secrets not a secret society. We must be proud to be Masons, to be Brothers. We must build a home for the Light within and allow others to see what a man of Virtue and Integrity can accomplish...for his God, for personal Rights and Freedoms, for his Family and for his Community or Country.

The Blue Lodge is the beginning for a man on his Masonic journey. But the lodge is important to a community. It is the presence of Masonry in the community. Committed Brothers, real Ruffian folk, must strive to live up to their forefathers in Masonry and challenge the unholy status quo of the modern age and its sicknesses of vice, lethargy, intolerance, materialism, greed and control.

The lodge goes with you into the world. What you get from your lodge, what you learn in the lodge is how you live after you are Raised a Mason. For then you are the lodge. You ARE Freemasonry. You are a builder of better things for your life and the lives around you.

Remember always that you are the Son of Revolutionaries. Take action.

Be Revolutionary.

Friday, May 16, 2008

May's Meaning of Masonry Month - Mouthful.

Greetings Fellow Travelers!

Since May is our Official 'Meaning of Masonry Month' we would like to encourage our visitors to register for our site through Google and then Comment about What Masonry Means To You!

Share a fond story that an elder Mason or your dad told you. Share an experience you've had since becoming a Freemason. Tell the Brothers about what Our Illustrious Fraternity has offered you. Tell us what YOU think Freemasonry is about.

And...the Fraternity lives in You! So feel free to tell us something cool about Yourself!

So Please... Hit the Comments or Post a Comment link below and tell the Brothers what Masonry Means!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Hourglass

I know that last moment. I know death. I have died.

And so I choose Life with each breath.

For in that last moment, I know that I will not have time to reflect on and account for the whole of my life.

So I must settle the accounts of it now and at every moment...while I yet live.

And when that last breath is drawn, I will know peace.

For at peace, I will have always been.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

McMorals and McDogma


Just how many of YOU have read 'Morals and Dogma' from cover to cover? Oh come now. Do you have it in your Masonic library sitting next to 'Born in Blood' or 'The Hiram Key?' Have you thumbed through your Grandfather's edition...the one with the unusually crisp pages that look like good ol granddad didnt pay much attention to it either?

Yes. It IS 800 pages long and Yes...it is at times ambiguous to the laymen, wordy, and something of a Tome. Yes. It is a hard read.

It is also a Treasury of Masonic Knowledge.

First published in 1872, 'Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry' (already a mouthful) was sourced, compiled and written by the Illustrious Grandmaster of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, Albert Pike.

Over the years, the book has been the subject of several revisions, a good deal of criticism and continues even today to stand at the epicenter of modern Freemasonic controversy. For decades, Scottish Rite candidates were presented the book upon their obligations to the Order. 'Morals and Dogma' contains the synopsis of the 29 additional Scottish Rite degrees (not taking into account the honorary 33rd) and expounds at length upon the first three Masonic degrees and the tools, signs and philosophy of Freemasonry in general (without giving the specifics away to outsiders). I surmise that those Scottish Rite masons that gave out the book to the candidates actually intended for them to read it. I wonder, however, how many actually have.

Today, Scottish Rite masons, myself included, are provided a copy of the much less intimidating (dare I say watered down) version of Pike's effort, 'A Bridge to Light.' It's Lite all right. Any shorter in comparison to 'Morals and Dogma' and 'A Bridge to Light' would be a pamphlet. I'm not knocking it entirely. For the most part 'A Bridge to Light' does a more than adequate job of recalling and analyzing the working of the degrees. A new Scottish Rite mason would be much poorer for not reading it as well. Still, 'Morals and Dogma' it isnt.

So what is 'Morals and Dogma?' Essentially, it represents the work of its erudite and academic father, Albert Pike, to delve into the Freemasonic knowledge as he knew it with the tools and probes of 19th century philosophy, religion and science. Whatever else can be said of Albert Pike, he was a Seeker. Like so many of us Freemasons, Pike was not content with the patent ceremonies and rituals of the Order. He wanted to know more. He wanted to know Why.

'Morals and Dogma' is not a perfect book. One of its more infamous shortfalls rests upon Pikes uses of latin verbiage (lucifer or lux fer) from an Academic standpoint when so many people outside of Academia had already formed their own religious connotations of the latin word for Venus, the Morning Star. A simple trip through the Google database will reveal to the aspirant two sides of debate on what Pike meant by these passages in the book. Or you can rest here with the knowledge that he wasnt talking about the devil.

In fact, 'Morals and Dogma' is wonderfully philosophical, wildly scientific for its time, and actually provides a rather large amount of information on comparative religion. This should be welcome knowledge for the Freemason who truly understands what the 'G' stands for and why any man, so long as he believes in a Supreme Being, may become a Brother.

All too often, I speak with Masons who resent the 'esoteric' aspects of the Order. These men would content themselves with their own beliefs entirely. Some of them, I have found, would rather see their beliefs within Masonry...exclusively. I contend, with the contempt for this attitude befitting any good Templar or Bostonian Tea Partier, that Freemasonry is just that...Free. Indeed, Masons must defend the rights of all to delve as Albert did.

I suggest you delve into 'Morals and Dogma' if you, in fact, have not yet done so. For truths are self evident and ideas are only what we think of them. That means we can always accept or reject ideas...and truths (those that are) will only set us free.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Meaning of Masonry


What does it mean to be a Mason? This seems to be a real question these days...between Masons themselves. Outsiders always ask that question. And, no doubt, many of them endeavor tirelessly to answer that question on their own - outside the lodge. They argue and conjecture as to the inner workings and hidden mysteries of the Great Fraternity. But even within the Fraternity the question continues to come up. And answering this is not always easy to do.

These days, an Entered Apprentice can advance to the degree of Master Mason simply by watching the Fellowcraft and Master Mason rituals performed over a Saturday during the local Chance to Advance meeting at the lodge. People are too impatient. This generation of XYZ wants things N.O.W. I argue that something is truly missing here. For, above all things, Masonry is about the Journey and so a title or degree must not be an end in itself. It is well and good for a man to be a Master Mason; but does that man appreciate this noble distinction of character? And has he taken the time to reflect on his own journey through the degrees and what they allude to in his life and in the lives of his Brothers? I wonder if we of the Craft are not failing ourselves and our Masonic mission as we pander to the times we live in out of fear of extinction.

Depending on where you live in the world or even what part of the country you live in, you will find a kind of Masonic Relativism as well. Again and again, I hear Brothers castigating 'Morals and Dogma' by Albert Pike for its 'outdated language' or for being too 'far out' for their personal liking. This seems odd to me as 'Morals and Dogma' is a classic of Masonic literature invaluable to the development of the Scottish Rite and formidable in its laborous exploration of philosophical thinking and comparative religion. Still, Masonry is changing with the times and clearly being adapted to those times and to the mores of the region in which the Craft resides.

I assert that one of the best attributes of Freemasonry is that it allows men the freedom to think and believe freely. The Blue Lodge Mason may approach the Divine Essence as a Christian, Jew, Moslem or from any other faith. Correctly, Masonry discourages political and religious talk in the lodge but this is merely the extension of an ideal. In this regard, Masonry is asserting that on the 'plane' of the lodge all men are equals before God and that there is no political or religious division to seperate them.

Still, many Masons are indeed very different from one another outside the lodge. There is certainly nothing wrong with this. In fact, this is a strength of the Order; that it binds together so many differences and accepts them. However, these many differences should not oust the soul of Masonry in favor of their own.

Masonry does have a soul. It does have a dogma. Freemasonry substitues tolerance for tyranny. It advocates love, charity and truth before God and between all mankind. Masonry advances an Ideal and rests its ancient foundations on timeless virtues. Thus, whatever time may pass, whatever nations may rise and fall, Masonry extolls the virtues of a man's life and bids that he embrace them.

All too many men seek the Mysteries of Freemasonry for social gain or personal power. Others seek to expose them as something dangerous that they are not. And others demand that these Mysteries be changed or altered into the image of their own personal beliefs.

These men have lost the True Masters Word. These men have forgotten that freedoms are hard won and virtues define a man's life. What greater power is there than to live a steadfast life of principle through which one's thoughts and actions lie in accordance with a man's individual truth as he aspires to become a reflection of that Divine Light? In Masonry a man certainly must reflect the Light he receives and this is Masonry's highest meaning to be sure.

Freemasonry 'makes good men better men.' And so it does. If men reflect upon the hidden mysteries then they are looking into their own hearts and minds. And just how many of us are really still only Entered Apprentices in this way? Are we Master Masons? Do we understand the Mystery of the Lost Word as it is revealed in time? We, as Masons, simply cannot understand it if we have sold out our personal journey of introspection for dues cards, car emblems and titles.

So, at last, what does it mean to be a Mason? We can all take so much from it and we will all take something different as we have that free right. But Masonry is something in particular. Freemasonry is an ideal; love, relief, truth, tolerance, charity. Indeed, this is the secret to climb the stairway to heaven that the alchemists and philosophers challenged. For the nearer we approach the semblance of the Light, the nearer to the Light we come.

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