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.

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