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

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.

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