Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Unity First! 21st Century Freemasonry.

Welcome to 21st Century Freemasonry. Allow me to offer you a few of the details according to the statistics offered by Shrine International (PGM Jeff Sowder).

- There are approximately 1.7 Million Master Masons in the United States as of this year.
- Of those Master Masons, about 10 Percent are Active.
- The Average Age of these Masons is 70 years old.
- There are more members over the age of 80 than under 50.
- There are more Masons over the age of 90 than under 30.

Additionally, over the last 3 years the Annual Revenues for Shrine International's programs, including items budgeted towards the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children, have fallen in Half. The earnings have dropped from about 8.5 billion dollars to 3.5. This isnt good news for the Shrine. This isnt good news for Freemansonry. And this certainly isnt good news for the thousands of children in the Shriner's Hospitals if this is not immediately improved.

The plummeting revenues are not just evident in the Shrines. All across the country, lodges are feeling the economic downturn as it erodes replenishment funds, activities funds and endowments to charitable organizations.

Freemasonry must put its internal differences aside. We must return to the roots of our order and embrace the Brotherhood itself foregoing individual conflicts and differences between the affiliated bodies of the Order. We brothers must consider the big picture which is the survival of the Fraternity into the uncertain future, the modern direction it must take in order to do so, and the significant charitable works that the Craft offers those who are less fortunate.

We are a Brotherhood of men bearing the responsibilities or our Obligations! We cannot let our brothers down and we dare not forget our children's and community charities! We must forge a stronger Unity within our Fraternity and between all branches be they the Lodge, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite or the Shrine.

This season the Shrine Imperial Session opened with the Imperial Potentate's message of 'Unity First,' embracing the idea of strengthening the bond between the Masonic blue lodge and the Shrine. The effort is directed at membership, retention and value to the members.

Toward this end, Shrine International has created a wonderful new program and has taken time to offer solutions to these challenges. Much of this can be found on the new website for Shrine Nobles at http://www.shrinersvillage.com or for aspirant Nobles at http://beashrinernow.com. There are a great many Tools to be found on these sites particularly on the Shriners Village site. One of the many proposals calls for the implementation of a Masonic Unity Council in each area bringing Masons of all branches together.

Membership and retention are problems for all forms of Freemasonry and most of the problems arise as new members are not properly educated or enjoined into lodge activities. It takes Action to make a good man a better man. It takes Action to empower all of those memorized words. It takes Action to make a difference to a brother, to a family, to a community, and to the Fraternity.

Therefore, if you are a Master Mason then you should consider becoming a Shriner or joining the Scottish Rite or York Rite. And if you joined because you wanted to be involved in something other than your local lodge then you should go back to lodge...approach the Light in work and study with brothers and fellows both.

The stakes of the times are too high. We must work together, Masons all. We need better Masonic education in lodges; it's ridiculous when Master Masons learn more about Masonry from popular books, movies and television specials than from the lodge itself! Lodges and branches must offer more membership activities, greater levels of personal involvement and endeavor to greater community outreach.

Presently, members of my own lodge, Gate of the Temple #422, and my Shrine, Abou Ben Adhem, are looking into new ways to work together, to put Unity First and take Action where it is needed. We are working on a Membership Committee what will work with our new candidates and hopefully aid to fulfill their earnest expectations from the temple and the lodge.

As always, the Craft is in your capable hands. It's time to reach out and lead your brothers into the Light and future of Freemasonry.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fall FellowRuffianShip!

Greetings Ruffians!

It's time to get geared up again now that Fall is upon us. There are more than spooks and goblins afoot this October. A lot of lodges are hosting special events. The Scottish Rite Reunion is on its way and Shriners across the country are preparing to welcome in new candidates.

Boy do we have a lot to do and even more to talk about Ruffians! Dont forget to find us on Myspace and Facebook if you havent added us already. You will find a great many Fellow Ruffians such as yourselves. And that's what its all about...

FellowRuffianShip!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Glass Utopia

What kind of a real difference can any one man, or any one organization make today? If you look closely...if you really examine the underpinnings of our modern society, then you see a veritable bedrock of institutions, ideologies and human behaviors. Whether it is the monetary system that forces men to labor under the menace of debt, or it is the social substructure of familial and peer expectations, men are chained to an established order. And it is an order that is failing them.

More than half the world is in poverty. The plenty of many is stolen by the the few. Backs break over thankless labors. Hatred of race, creed, nation abounds. Immorality spreads like a disease and we raise false corporate idols in lieu of sharing our wealth amongst brothers. The planet gasps for breath and chafes under nuclear firestorms.

From birth, we are systematically defined by our instilled patterns, knowledge, beliefs and conditionings. Our parents, our peers, our churches, our schools, and our work...all become a part of who we think we are, or should be. On a larger scale, most of us hold fast to our nations and to those governing laws that we assent to. But are we happy? Do we feel safe?

Liberty. Equality. Fraternity. These are not dead old words. This is not a stale call that once rang out and now only serves to invoke our sense of tradition. These are the words of revolution. And their meaning and their intent endure as much today as they will in a thousand years should man be not free, equal or one with his fellows.

There is a great deal wrong with our modern society, our national ethics and what we call our 'civilized' world. Money and profit are too often the masters and now every nation cries out in debt and despair for there is too much corruption in the mix with this system. And it is the people who suffer for it.

Yet money is not the root of all evil. More to the point is human nature itself. We compete for mates, for resources and for shelter or land. It is in our nature to survive. Even a cursory glance at nature will reveal the fighting stags or the territorial male lions and the dire results should they cross paths.

One solution is to expand the availability of resources to all. After all, the world is prosperous beyond measure. There is an abundance of food and natural energy. And in the hands of a small percentage of corporations and the rich there is enough money to see to it that all men have enough. Still, whatever would compel men to resist greed, profiteering and power for the good of his brothers?

Liberty. Equality. Fraternity. No idle words.

Can one man or one organization make a difference in a Country or in the World? Surely, we as Freemasons can support the needs of our families and work to support the needs of our communities. But are we still revolutionaries at heart...capable of carrying out the dictates of our many oaths and obligations?

Indeed, why are other 'movements' leading the way today for the betterment of mankind or social change while Freemasons content themselves to pass their degrees and see their friends at lodge now and then. Freemasonry is an already established network of like minded thinkers...men who know values, who believe in ethics and who believe in the rights and freedoms of all men. And of those underlying savage natural behaviors and passions? Masons seek to subdue them, to master and civilize those intemperant throwbacks that now threaten the vine from the very root.

We live in an emergent, interdependent world. Change is the great inherent truth. Any 'movement' can be a sweeping arc of action, an interminable force taking hold in hearts and minds. Where do we stow our Masonic principles if not the heart...if not the mind?

I believe one man can make a difference. I recall Abraham Lincoln, Alexander the Great. And I believe that an organization of such men can change the world. America alone owes a debt to such thinking. But it cannot end here or now. The revolution of hearts and minds must continue. It is fragile if not well carried and useless if left forgotten to old tomes and attics of memories.






Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Peace in the Storm

"What is the secret of the Grail? Who does it serve?"

This is the great question of the Grail Quest undertaken by that knavish Knight Parsival. It was he who pursued that greatest of treasures; and ultimately, it was he who achieved it. Of course, the journey seemed a lifetime and perilous beyond measure. More than once this earnest fool reached the Grail and failed...only to be tried and tested yet again.

Who are we? We arrive marooned on this island Earth. If we are a part of something larger we dont know exactly what that something is. And so we we are convinced by others to be a part of something or we simply choose 'something' for ourselves.

Are we the result of instinct...patterning? Or are we created for a higher purpose? Maybe it is will alone that carries us forward...but to where? It is blind will?

I find it spectacularly interesting that most of us can actually be clearly defined. If you are a Democrat, for instance, then try convincing a Republican to see it your way. While a religious person awaits the pearly gates...a scientist spends years looking through them to the stars.

We live in different worlds. And each of us sees the world that we share from a unique perspective. But the terrors that await us outside the womb fashion us from clay to sculpture. Soon, we are defined and contoured into an image that serves the setting well and that pleases our sense of safety and conformity with our perceptions.

How could the Third Reich exist? Who in their right minds could commit such unspeakable acts and atrocities such as the Holocaust? Is this just another sense of identity?

Mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote of 'The Heroes Journey' in which the personal ego is defined through typified and universal human experience. We are each on that journey. Our soul is reaching, growing; perhaps, it is a part of a greater Soul. But who's image are we made in? Is man truly made in the 'image of God?'

If we begin a seed...with a Plan...then are we simply doomed to become a citizen of the Garden? More importantly, what becomes of us when the Garden is changing and the Plan must change or perish? Does that explain the Third Reich?

I have found that the more I have lost, then the more defined I have become to others. It seems that the Universe likes to paint on an empty canvas. I have been oft accused and affronted by good friends and fellows. I am still empty. I have been suspected and judged. And yet, I am still an empty canvas. When one has lost what I have, there is simply very little to cling to and very little reason to do it. I have lost the Plan.

It is very easy then for others to see their own Plans in me. We project, reflect or reject it seems.

And so I look around a little at all of Don Genaro's ghosts on his 'Journey to Ixtlan.' Everywhere around me I see busy, busy people. So many of us are running to and fro, following the Plan. We have things to do. We have reasons to do them. And we only have so much time to get them done.

These are things that were being done before we were born and that will be done well after we are long dead.

Can't we escape all of this and rewrite our destinies; remake our Plan? Of course, it is conditioned and all real change is painful at first. We either make the decision to 'let go' or destiny decides for us and we lose something we identify with.

Take away all of the identification and what is that personal ego left with?

Who is your favorite team? All of them. What is your favorite color? All of them. Who of them do you love? All of them.

Acceptance. This is a perspective. Think...Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Depression and finally...Acceptance. These are the emotional states of loss. And at last, when the clinging is over with ...we indeed 'come as a little child' and Accept things as they are.

Of course...what warrior wins any battles 'turning the other cheek?' Would we build cities if we simply Accepted the world without them?

Why not? Certainly we must Accept the necessity and inevitability of change. So we go on about our business changing things as things change us. But we must be Aware of this process. Our 'self' must be the eye in the center...the peace in the storm. Too close to the edge and we are simply swept away...we are debris and not conscience.

Parsival became a humble man. At long last he lived to serve the World. In so doing he found the Grail within his grasp...as it had always been.

"What is the secret of the Grail? Who does it serve?"

"You Lord. For You and the Land are One."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My Journey to the Temple

I recently returned from a journey where I witnessed wondrous things. I labored in the quarries and learned the importance of purposeful labor, of being true to myself, of taking responsibility for my labors and giving credit where due. I traveled to the East where I learned to obey in order that I might rule. I rejoiced with my brethren at the completion of King Solomon's Temple and wondered at its splendor and beauty. I earned wages, paid homage, assumed obligations, acquired knowledge, and received more Light. I grieved for King Solomon and the destruction of his magnificent Temple; I wept for the Israelites in their captivity and rejoiced in their liberation. I labored in the rebuilding of the Temple and at long last I knelt with my brethren and received the lost Word.

I journeyed back in time and walked arm in arm with the Builder; I learned the blessing of being useful, the importance of preservation and the reward of patience. I descended beneath the Temple where I stood witness to the execution of Ahishar and understood the necessity of constant watchfulness. I saw the chosen working in silence to prepare and ensure that which has value for future generations. I shuddered as King Zedekiah learned the answer to his own riddle of Jeremiah, and I recognized the lessons of loyalty and fidelity.

I journeyed on to Babylon whereupon debate ensued. Which is stronger the King did ask - wine, woman, or king? "Truth," I cried, "is stronger than all," and for this was granted freedom. My pilgrimage was far from done. I needed a Mediterranean Pass and for this I turned to Malta. When at last I arrived on gleaming shores my journey had only begun. For seven years I prepared as pilgrim, warrior, and penitent. And then, at long last, myself deemed worthy, my journey at its end and another to begin, I knelt and was risen a Knight of the Temple.

I could not begin to describe the journey to becoming a Knight Templar. The lessons, symbols, steps, signs, words are all still very fresh and elusive as if in a dream you want to keep dreaming until it all makes sense. The ritual is beautiful and impressive and provocative and intriguing. This is a journey worth taking and one which I sincerely recommend.

Fraternally yours,

Lightheaded1

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The 'Rite' Stuff

"Masonic Light, like the light of day at the close of the long night in far northern climes, must come, not all in one flash, but by slow and imperceptible degrees."

- Albert Pike

Follow the story of a scientist who, as a man in his fifties, had found his life frequented with unhappiness and the meaning of it lost among a lifetime of struggle and failure. All manner of gloom and despair was visited upon him and his body cried out with terrible and blinding headaches.

At his wits end, and determined to make a positive change for himself, the scientist decided to perform an experiment...with himself as its subject. For one month, he would strive to control his thoughts. If his mind turned to the past, he would only concentrate on the brightest and happiest of his memories. In considering the present, he would dismiss the undesirable and favor the opportunities at hand. And when thinking of the future, he would expect only the fruition of his endeavors and ambitions.

After only eight days passing, he began to feel a quickening of his spirit and a virtual transformation of his health. His headaches were no more. As he progressed through such success, the world seemed no longer at odds with him. He was elected to a prestigious position as the President of a great scientific society.

And all of this...because he changed his mind. He altered his perspective.

Of all of the many works, rituals, traditions and degrees of Freemasonry, the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite tasks a man with approaching the Light through an inner journey of personal reflection like none other. Through its series of degrees leading to the 32 and final destination of the journey, a mason travels the labyrinth of his mind and spirit, facing inner Ruffians and ready mercies.

The degrees of the Scottish Rite are not so unlike the modern depth psychology of Carl Jung or Freud's psychoanalysis. What is very interesting indeed is that the Rite itself predates such current psychological systems, by centuries. The Rite is Victor Frankl's reframing in 'Man's Search for Meaning.' It is William James's 'altering of one's life ... through altering one's mind.'

And finally, it is the Heroes Journey of the great mythologist Joseph Campbell, fraught with joy, sorrow, life's breadth, becoming, and death.

Historically, the Scottish Rite evolved as the Rite of Perfection over 200 years ago on the Continent of Europe. It is a respendent amalgam of the philosophical essence of a multitude of learned cultures throughout the ages past including India, Egypt, China, Chaldea, Assyria, Persia, Greece and Rome. Here are represented the timeless truths of antiquity distilled by the most brilliant minds of mankind such as Confucious, Socrates, Pythagoras and Plato.

Those seeking the wisdom of the Rite expand their knowledge of history, philosophy, religion, morality and tolerance and come to know well the treasures gained with focus and rarified discipline. These seekers are guided to reflection, study and personal discernment.

The value of the Scottish Rite is to help a man find self understanding; to reveal the Light within; and to clarify his true place within the greater Order of all things. Perhaps its most controversial feature, these teachings of Masonry deviate from the priest and the prophet. It draws much significance from the Kabbalah allowing that the fruits of the tree of life may be tasted if the soul is made ready for them. Indeed, as a mason examines his inner mental stratums and conditioned behaviors he finally recapitulates the Light within his soul and draws nearer to the Divine through gnosis...the personal knowing of God.

"What is needed first, therefore, is an increase of self understanding - a discovery of your inner selves and of your own essential natures." - Henry C. Clausen, 33* Past Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite.

This is the very maxim of the temple pilgrim. Millenia ago above the entrance to the Delphic Oracle at the Temple of Apollo (the Temple of the Sun/Light) the words read 'Know Thyself.' What is the worth of a man when his very soul is weighed upon the scale? This is a question to be answered through living and not at the moment of one's death. To know the sure path, one must first know where he has determined himself to go...he must discern to what end he has set his mind.

"A man should learn to watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Be a lamp unto your own feet; do not seek outside yourself." - The Buddha

"Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." - Jesus

The Scottish Rite recognizes man's innate inner capacities toward self actualization. Today, much of its teachings are sadly lost on the modern pilgrims who are determined to find their personal rewards easily won and without sacrifice of time or contemplation. It's wondrous teachings are displayed throughout the world in a series of theatrical displays. It is a worthy undertaking and yet but a profane gesture if the seekers content themselves with little more than the spectacle at hand. These displays serve to whet the appetites of those who wish to make that personal journey through the degrees. But each mason must apply the teachings in his own life and examine his own mind along the way.

And so we are all scientists of a sort. We explore and experiment with our lives as we live them. But there are those who have gone before us and who have well prepared our way. The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry is a well worn path, frequented and travelled by the most earnest of good men, becoming better men.

Enlightenment, the true goal of all worthy philosophies, and that too of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, comes about through a proper personal perspective and a revelation that affirms the inner Light with that yet Greater Light.



-- Much thanks to the Past Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite, Henry C. Clausen 33*, for his wonderful story about the scientist and his great many insights into Scottish Rite Freemasonry in his Commentaries on Morals and Dogma.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Through the Gate

I remember vividly my first experiences with Masonic ritual. I recall donning strange clothing and waiting patiently in a small room before I would knock for the first time on the doors of Freemasonry.

I wore the traditional hoodwink and relied on the faithful guidance of men I would later come to know as brothers...and good friends. I walked in darkness aimlessly it seemed. I kneeled at an altar. And from there I beheld the Light from the darkness.

In time, I returned to this scene...twice actually. I participated in a series of ritual degrees that Presidents and even Kings have taken part in before me. I felt honored. I felt the excitement that mystery brings with it. And I felt the weight of centuries old tradition stirring in my neophyte blood. When I walked the steps of Hiram it was as though the All Seeing Eye of providence was indeed looking down on me...me alone, a Freemason.

I was 'Raised' a Master Mason having completed the three degrees of blue lodge Masonry individually. I am proud to say that the man who raised me, Brother Tim Couch KCCH, remains a friend who I still learn from and who embodies the teachings of Freemasonry as well as any man ever could. Tim has been there for me whenever I needed him. And he has offered me counsel and instruction whenever I asked or whenever I just needed it. As Tim says...he 'kept the Light burning.'

Becoming a Freemason is one of the best things that I have ever done. I have made many friends, a world of brothers, and I have finally found a place for my philosophical mind and my spiritual heart.

The Light is the Center in Masonry and in this world. And certainly there are many avenues and approaches to it. But times have changed for Freemasonry. A critical and growing concern among lodges is falling membership; loss of interest; and lack of respect for morals and age old traditions. Across the country, many lodges and districts are looking to swell the ranks through various forms of accelerated degree programs such as Missouri's 'Chance to Advance' program.

Options such as Chance to Advance, or C2A, allow men to complete two (and in some areas of the country, all three) degrees in one day. The setting is instructional and typically there are scores of candidates watching on the sidelines as a single candidate takes their place in the degrees, with explanations to follow. It is a rapid admission into an Order that once called for months, if not years, of proficiency and learning before advancement could be made.

There are many things that can be said about the C2A. There are pros and cons of course. It is perhaps a modern answer to modern problems of time, membership losses, and recruiting. I posed questions concerning the C2A and similar programs on the AIOTR Facebook Group Page for discussion. I received some excellent input from the Brothers...

Brother Tim Couch KCCH, the Brother who Raised me into the Craft, had this to say about it:

"IMHO the C2A is a working tool. Like any useful tool it is good for the purpose for which it was designed. And, like any tool the quality of the result lies more in the hands of the craftsman than in the tool.

The one day class is excellent for Masonic education, brotherly fellowship, and expediency. In some cases it is the first and best opportunity for candidates and Master Masons to witness proficient ritual. It allows candidates to observe Master Masons as a broader group than their home Lodge. However, it is not right for everyone. Some men need to physically experience the degrees in order to make the connection to the secrets within.

We need to do a better job of explaining both, the abbreviated degree track and the traditional route to the candidate. He needs to thoroughly understand what is available to him and be free to choose without influence or prejudice. Masonry teaches that each man is free to find his own way. So to say, "This way is better," is to restrict that freedom. Records show that the retention rate is about the same regardless of which degree track the candidate takes so the problem is not in the one day class concept.

The problem, as I see it, is with our lack of follow up. We bring them in for a full day of intensive Masonic education and then we say, "If you have any questions feel free to ask." They don't ask; we go about our business. We run them through the three degrees in Lodge without any real education or even explanation of what is happening. Some men will soldier on and discover what Masonry has to offer them, but others will simply shrug and look elsewhere for the fulfilment they seek. It's not a matter of how we bring them to Light. It's a matter of keeping the Light burning.

Education, communication, contact. It's a commitment but if we're not willing to make that commitment we shouldn't sign their petitions."

I wholeheartedly agree with Brother Couch. I have communicated with him in addition to his post on the discussion board and he added, "I agree that Masonry in its current form is proffered too easily. It cheapens the institution that we love. However, we also have to be pragmatic. An institution that withers and dies because it holds strictly to its ideals at the cost of membership is just as dead as one that becomes so diluted as to become useless. It's a fine line."

Well. I couldnt say that any better. Besides being a fine line...its a very good point as well. Thus it falls upon modern Freemasons to be both pragmatic in their approach to new members and responsible to their new fellow brothers.

It must be added that some lodges, my own included, are a bit overtaxed on their Masonic work load. C2A allows the lodge officers and the new candidates a way to lessen the burdens on their individual schedules. Considering the times we live in...this is indeed the C2A as a 'working' tool.

The greatest issue at stake is, I believe, that we usher in men who are sincere candidates into our Order. And, most importantly, that these men do not find our Order diminished in favor of expediency or pragmatic necessities. How then can we insure that our Craft continues to gain new and excited members who learn the same traditions, values and moral philosophies of Freemasonry? I think that we must do as Brother Tim Couch said...we must 'Keep the Light Burning.'

We Master Masons must be responsible to our Order, to those who knocked on the Masonic doors before us, and to those who seek admittance to our ancient and established traditions. It is up to each of us to see that our lodges provide the instruction that our faithful foundations demand. Brother Michael J Cockroft of Minerva Lodge #98 in Miamisburg, Ohio suggests assigning specific committees to the task of provoking thoughtful discourse and Masonic resource in lodge. I agree that this kind of direct Masonic education is a necessity at this time whether one passes through the Gate via the C2A or otherwise. Furthermore, I think that we must each take up the shepherds crook and guide our brothers into the future of our magnificent Fraternity.

Brothers. We must lead and teach by example. We must continually strive to be the 'better men' we hope to become.

However a man begins his Masonic journey we must remind him all the while that he has brothers to aid him along the way. I am reminded of a ritual myself, when in darkness I was guided by those steadfast hands of my Masonic stewards. I made my way to the Light...with help.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Hiram's Dust


"I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal these words appear: `My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!' Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away."Percy Bysshe Shelley (The Complete Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley)
----
Time is a commodity for all of us in our modern society. Time translates into opportunity. It is opportunity for service; it is opportunity for work; and it is opportunity for rest....

Hmm...sound familiar?

Thus time holds the greatest of values. Still, we too often squander it and let the sands drift amiss. This is life crossing the divide in death by fractions. We journey our hours toward the end of all our opportunities. So what must be accomplished we must do now. Our service and our work is not a calling so much as a completion.

When we put ourselves in service to our Brothers, we serve the Light. When we put ourselves in service to our Diety, we serve the Light. When we put ourselves in service to our families, we serve the Light. When we put ourselves in service to our country...our community...we serve the Light. That is, we serve what is Greater than ourselves; that which must endure even though we as individuals will pass away as Hiram's dust.

The Hindu faith teaches that men are the realized expression of the essence of God. Christianity, Judaism and Islam profess that man was created in the 'image of God.' And Science informs us that humanity is a biological manifestation of forces and archetypes of nature connected at a quantum level. These ideas are not so different.

Our eyes are the eyes that see the suffering. Our hearts are the hearts that compel our compassion. Our minds are the minds that offer solutions for the wearied. And our hands are the hands that may comfort the fallen.

The very definition of an Angel, the original root of the word (angle), translates into 'messenger.' Angels took on the name of their deity and then a word denoting a description of their individual function. This was a case in many cultures of the past. It is most easily recognized in the Judeo Christian faith in Angelic names such as Michael (the Face of God), Uriel (the Light of God), Raphael (the Healing of God) and even Gabriel (the hero, or even body of God).

What do we Brothers represent? Do we simply represent our own wills, our own desires and our own passions?

As Freemasons we men are taught to 'learn to subdue' our passions. In fact, throughout our rituals and obligations we are cast into a singular image, and as the rough ashlar is perfected...so too are we. What is that image we strive toward? What is a perfect ashlar?

There is Life in this Universe and we are a part of it. To serve ourselves alone is to make a cancer of oneself and to only feed upon that greater whole we are all so truly invested in. Through our service to that which is Greater than ourselves and through our works, we become the face and the healing; and we become the body and, indeed, the Light.

We Freemasons know our working tools so well. But do we know that we are working tools as well?

Time will lead us all along a treacherous path. We will face first one Ruffian and then another. It is Death, the third Ruffian, who awaits us on that path. He will ask you for the sum of your works. But the worthy will have nothing to impart to him. For in the Master, the works are complete.

The Secret is not buried and it is nowhere Lost...for it is Realized.
...


Monday, March 2, 2009

Ruffians Join Facebook

Greetings Ruffians.

The Ancient and Illustrious Order of the Three Ruffians is now on Facebook as well as Myspace. We recognize the powerful networking ability of both social sites and believe that such online groups may well represent the future of broad based Masonic lodges and communities.

Be sure to search for us on Facebook under 'The Ancient and Illustrious Order of the Three Ruffians' - or a derivation of such. And dont forget to find us on Myspace at
http://www.myspace.com/3ruffians

We look to expand Freemasonry into the future and make our Great Fraternity relevant in our lives and our communities! It requires involvement to do so! Join us now!

Howie Damron - The Masonic Ring



Thanks to Howie Damron for supporting Freemasonry through song. If you would like to get ahold of Howie or just tell him that you like his stuff then email him...

Email: cdamron1@aol.com

Sunday, February 22, 2009

3rd Prize for 3 Ruffians


Congratulations to my fellow Ruffians of the Gate of the Temple Lodge #422 for taking 3rd Prize for Best Chili in the Annual Sertoma Chili Cookoff in Springfield, Missouri. It was our first time to enter the competition and I think we did pretty well against 78 other entries involved!

Masters Monta, and Jeremy did a wonderful job building a Masonic facade for our booth and, quite obviously, Monta and Bob managed to mix together some rather good Masonic chili. The recipe is a secret however...as are most things in Masonry.

It occurs to me that we took 3rd Place. After all, we are Ruffians!


With the help of David Caldwell, we put together this shindig in an effort to further expose our community to the values and the members of our Masonic lodge. We had the full support of the Missouri Grand Lodge and we're glad we could thank them with a trophy finish!

We Ruffians urge all Masonic Lodges to get involved in their community events. After all, you can't be in a position to aid your fellow brothers unless you walk side by side with them.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Which Way is Up?

We live in confusing times. Things used to make perfect sense. The earth was flat. The sun revolved around the earth. God spoke from the top of a mountain and death alone was certain.

Then in the last couple of thousand years, we changed our tack. Suddenly, we were all sinful, flawed and fallen beings. A single male sacrifice on a cross solved that problem for a while, but then came Galileo, Copernicus and ... Darwin.

What were we left with then? It seemed that the more we peered into our universe, and the more that we learned about ourselves as humans, we just got smaller, more lost, vulnerable and more meaningless than ever.

All of this has fallen under the all too clinical description of 'existential angst.' We dont really know what that is either, because like everything else in the universe...we don't know much more than enough to slap on a description or a label.

There used to be tribes in Africa that simply didnt have a word for 'war' or 'murder.' They didnt know anything about the concept. Some of them still exist. There are those tribesmen who simply cannot think outside the idea of 'the people.' A man like that will sit in a doctor's office and tell the doctor that "We are sick. Can you help us?" A man like that cannot individuate himself from his tribe. It's pretty common in some parts, so much so that psychologists and doctors have to take it into consideration as they treat multicultural patients.

So here we are...the products of our environment. And we don't really understand a damn thing about it. So it's easier to minimize and individualize everything so that our paths from home to work to friends to lovers to community are well worn. We tap into all of our available Freudian ego defense mechanisms and make lives for ourselves. Cozy. Safe.

Each and every day I am in awe of the universe. It's big. I've seen the hubble pictures. I watched 'Cosmos' with Carl Sagan as a kid and I watch more than my share of the Discovery Channel. The rest I learned in school or I just picked up on the hood of my car with my highschool girlfriend as we gazed romantically into the stars.

But I'm not sure I buy it. Because the Universe is impossible.

You see, things dont just pop out of nothing. Unless its a Hollywood special effect, you cant just make something out of nothing at all. Try making a radio with nothing...a plasma screen...or an iPod. Hell...try making a sound. You still need a lot of something.

The more science goes crawling into its theories or the more religion goes plugging up the gaps, the less we really know about the Universe and the more we have simply 'decided' to know about it. Why? Because we're building something out of nothing.Sure I have my own theories on the Big Nothing. But thats not really what matters is it? That's a peculiar choice of words if you really think about it. What matters? Matter? Ahhh...Nothing.

Its clear that we're all a part of it. It's a big connected nothing that happens to be something if you look at it. And when you think of it that way then you have begun to think like a physicist working on M theory, non locality, or quantum entanglement. Or you just found yourself thinking like Alice...in Wonderland.

What do we do in the middle of this? Or the side? Or the bottom? Where are we!? By scientific reckoning, the Universe is Trillions of light years across...virtually infinite in every direction. You could start walking at the speed of light right now and live trillions of human lifetimes before you made it halfway to nowhere. That's impressive.

I've been living a human life myself thank you, and I have experienced an amazing array of things, everything from happiness to sadness, pain, death, love...

I'd like to think that it matters; that I matter. I guess we all want to shine in the sky and say 'here I am!' before that great night closes in and leaves, once more, only darkness.

In the midst of this labyrinthe of nothingness, people like to make themselves roadmaps. Some people call them egos. People want to know where the ground is. They want a center to their lives. We all avoid the desperate feeling that scuba divers get when you get all turned around deep down and don't know which direction the surface is anymore. Scuba divers have faith that their bouyancy will bring them up. People have faith that there indeed is a center.

Through the centuries, people have made idols to worship. The Sun. Various gods and goddesses. Nature. That's the Center we all yearn for. Yet human 'gravity' moves us to do very few things and it's very linear. We survive and we reproduce. We seek pleasure and we flee from pain. It's a rather binary existence in a world of dualities in the midst of an awesome singularity that we cannot possibly understand in terms of our humanity. And that singularity is the Center that we are trying to find.

In these modern times, both science and religion are tearing humanity apart. Spirituality has become a meaningless, almost taboo, word for the ignorant or the saps and the suckers. And science has glamourized the machine culture as it labels Mother Nature and strips the brain into gears. If you want to find Spirituality then you just have to read about it in a sacred book or, if you're a neurologist, then you just have to look at your grid and give a nice little pulse to the right spot. Voila!

The philosopher Kant supposed that humans could not know reality beyond their perception of reality. Hmmm. That's something to think about. How much can we perceive? And if we are each perceiving reality through our own personal 'lens' then what? Now...put that in perspective with the 'cultural' lens and you might see what Pepsi, Coke and Geiko are upto in their advertising.

Everywhere today I watch as people wear the 'right' clothes, drive the 'right' cars and work themselves to an early grave as they conform to the cultural standards as set by the media and their local peer groups. People look down on each other if they dont dress like they do or if they dont have as much money or drive what they drive. With religion falling apart and the mindless mechanizations of science, the Lost are simple minimizing their world in order to maximize their feeling of safety.

How far can this go? We have now begun to worship ourselves. We wear Prada. We drive BMW, Lexus and Mercedes. And we drink the ambrosia of Cristal. Look at how beautiful we are.

And yet...we are all just wandering around in a jungle seeking out, with the same natural gravity, the required survival and reproduction. We are still spinning around on a speck in space in the middle, or the side, or the bottom...of nowhere. What happens when 'You' die? Do you 'Go' to heaven? And if the universe simply takes you back by gobbling your atoms back in...then who were 'You' to begin with? You had better think about that if you're just the garden variety ego serving atheist with a Mercedes, a trophy wife and all of the other trapping you have surrounded yourself with to mask that horrible odor of 'Fear' that your gut is giving off.

The more we worship ourselves, our own egos, then the more afraid we obviously are.

Spirituality, to me at least, is about perspective. I think we are all the expression of something underlying...call it DNA, God, the Force....I dont care. But, whatever the archetypes, we are the result. We are the Myth made flesh. And perhaps, for our level at least, that is entirely enough.

Still, we must ponder morality and ethics...good and evil, in this topsy turvy house of mirrors. It used to make sense. When we thought that the earth was flat it was easy to say that heaven was 'Up' and that Hell, or the underworld, was 'Down.' This was a part of seeing, Kant might say 'perceiving,' the world from a Dualist perspective. And that's the problem I guess with Good and Evil...

When you really pay attention to the world, the Universe as it is-infinite in all directions, you cannot help but question. Heaven...Hell? Which Way is Up?

Within various psychological models, it is stressed that the so-called "hero's journey" leads us to a kind of communion with the Self...the greater Ego. It is the Center that is everywhere and we are tasked, like Hercules before us, to finally confront our fears and so divest ourselves of the pointless, soulless, trappings that divide us from our shared being.

It is a point of survival to drive the 'right' car or have the 'right' look to succeed, survive and so reproduce. But simply surviving in this way is pointless if we live without perspective. Is it a social perspective, a cultural perspective, a global perspective or just an individual perspective that matters? In other words...what is the 'right' lens of perception? Where is the meaning?

I know this much. People who savage themselves with being 'better' than the other guy are just working very hard to prove themselves to someone who they fear in some way...who they have empowered to be a judge.

Why don't we just let go? Why dont we let go of the fear and just go on with our surviving and reproducing without it? It seems that we can't of course. We moderns are not conditioned to accept ... we are conditioned to excel...to compete... to overcome our judges - those real or simply imagined.

I like what the Bhagavad Gita has to say about sacred actions and the 'right' way to be. In the Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna the archer that actions must be taken without attachment to personal ego. He also urges that Arjuna should always offer his works and rewards to God...to the Center. In that way Arjuna, or any man for that matter, may live from a more 'authentic' perspective. For it is certain that man was not the first something in the great big nothing. He is a form. He is a passing cloud driven by the winds.

Have we sold our souls to the lesser gods of Gucci, New Religion, and Affliction? Why isnt 'Your Name' on your shirt or handbag? Don't you know who You are in this big nothing?

Indeed...if you don't know 'Which Way is Up?' then Take a Look Around.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Geometry of God

'God is ever doing Geometry.' - Plato

'Form follows function.' - Louis Henri Sullivan

'If you want to make an apple pie from scratch...first you have to create the universe.' - Carl Sagan

The square and compass with the letter 'G' in the center is easily the most recognizable and universal symbol of Freemasonry. But even many Masons themselves do not readily understand its meaning. Indeed, Freemasonry is synonymous with mystical architecture, science, philosophy and allegory. Its lexicon of symbols, words and ritual elements serve to reveal (re-veil) deeper truths, thus obscuring those truths even when making them plainly obvious. So what is the truth revealed within the square and compass?

Long ago, men looked up to the stars and marvelled at the workings of the heavens. They feared the dying winter sun and they placated their gods of storms and earthquakes with virgin sacrifices and blood offerings. Of course, our ancestors could be written off simply as ignorant or superstitious. But this supernatural order of theirs was no more or less than a paradigm encompassing their own role in the natural order. They both recognized and unconsciously projected their own patterns of mind into the world about them. The mystical man is an innocent not yet divested of his own connection to nature. Man in the Garden walks with God.

In 585 BCE. Thales of Miletus posited that all things were made of a single substance (he assumed this substance was water). Importantly, he reasoned that the processes of change, or the principles of motion, might arise from within the substance itself.

Whether there are gods or natural forces at work behind the universal curtain, it is the question of will that has driven debates of God's design and man's personal consciousness. Who is behind the scene? Indeed, perhaps all any man can do is observe the effect of the forces (or gods?) for how can a man, as small as he is, look upon the face of God? And, as a man, could he recognize it if he saw it?

Whatever it is that drives the change in the cosmos must then be the very will of the universe. It is the initial cause, the archetype (blueprint) for what will come to be. Today, science seems to agree with Thales in that the universe is a singularity (perhaps not H2O). Still, it is the causal dynamic, the finger on the trigger, or the seed that proves elusive.

Following Thales and others of like mind, the Greek philosopher Pythagoras opened schools of study and learning. Pythagoras looked to mathematical congruence and geometric forms to uncover the Divine. The knowing of one thing would reveal the other. It was the Hermetic maxim...'As Above...So Below.' The macrocosm was revealed in the microcosm. Math was no less a philosophy or mystical approach than a hard science. It was also a very useful tool.

As every Master Mason should already know, the square and compass together represent the width, breadth and depth of all creation that may be so 'formed' or 'encompassed' by such as four corners and squares or circles and compasses. And there, in the center (though not always symbolized by a 'G' or a star), rests the will, the seed, the Light, the Supreme Being that is the mind within the form. Perhaps there is no true distinction between mind and form, between body and soul. And so, the square and compass is All.

The earliest philosphers came to understand geometry as sacred, for with these mathematical tools Order became apparent amidst the seeming chaos of nature. The face of God could be approached at last. This form of gnostic 'knowing' of the Divine was immediately anathema to early Church authorities. And because there was no clear separation of Church and State, these philosophies and sciences were demonized and considered heretical.

Ancient Freemasonry represented one form of philisophical preservation and inquiry. The Mystery Schools were just that, centers of learning. Men of reason were drawn to tenets of freedom, inquiry and a personal relationship with the Divine, free of the abuses of the times and the Inquisition of the Church.

The Square and Compass of Freemasonry represents the succinct ideology and the most sacred wisdom of the Order. The 'G' that sometimes stands for God also represents the natural order of Geometry. What or who that god is is not for me to say. For we all have our own distinct paradigms in which we find our own personal meaning and place. Perhaps it is All a Mind or just simply a mathematical Order. Respectfully, I dont see much of a difference either way.

Sacred math and geometry were not only for the Greek minds. Jewish scholars passed the oral and written traditions of the Kabbalah from generation to generation. Within the Kabbalah can be found the exposition of entire worlds from the simple interactions of numbers.

The Great Philosophy points to a Stairway to Heaven. Indeed the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, made of its ten primary sephiroth (each an Archetypal next step) is a kind of Jacob's Ladder for man to approach the Ineffable. For centuries, men sought to master those very steps whether it was their purpose to reach to God or to understand how the Universe came to be.

When one draws together these philosophies, one arrives at a concise and illuminating explanation for the creation and workings of the cosmos. A simple interaction of space and form beginning from the singularity of 1 leads to a progression of forms, solids, forces and dynamics. This principle remains sound even within biology as the single fertilized egg replicates in accordance to a precise set of parameters set forth by dna. Going back much further evolutionarily, we find the simplest of early forms...and finally single cells.

And so, perhaps, the Universe began most simply as an undivided whole. Now it is still one, just as the human body might be, but it is somehow more as well...revealed unto itself. For every passing moment it becomes more defined. It grows. Perhaps it learns. How much it knew in the beginning or started with may always evade even our most far reaching philosophies. Yet those philosophies are our eyes to see the invisible webs of order...the very Order at the center of the square and compass.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Best of Ruffians 08'!

The Ancient and Illustrious Order of the Three Ruffians is honored that you have checked out what we have had to say and we all appreciate your support within the Fraternity. We hope that you continue with us along our journey...to the East!

Here are some of the most frequented Ruffian Posts from the last year...

April 2008,
"21st Century Freemason"
http://www.3ruffians.com/2008/04/21st-century-freemason.html

May 2008,
"McMorals and McDogma"
http://www.3ruffians.com/2008/05/mcmorals-and-mcdogma.html

May 2008,
"The Masonic Revolution"
http://www.3ruffians.com/2008/05/masonic-revolution.html

May 2008,
"Meet Our Tyler...Durden"
http://www.3ruffians.com/2008/05/meet-our-tylerdurden.html

June 2008,
"That All Men Are Created Equal"
http://www.3ruffians.com/2008/06/that-all-men-are-created-equal.html

June 2008,
"All Those Empty Chairs"
http://www.3ruffians.com/2008/06/all-those-empty-chairs.html

August 2008,
"The Towers"
http://www.3ruffians.com/2008/08/stage-is-set.html

September 2008,
"The Esoterica"
http://www.3ruffians.com/2008/09/esoterica.html

September 2008,
"The Esoterica-Part 2"
http://www.3ruffians.com/2008/09/esoterica-follow-up.html

October 2008,
"Speculative Wisdom"
http://www.3ruffians.com/2008/10/speculative-wisdom.html

November 2008,
"Here's to the Brothers!'
http://www.3ruffians.com/2008/11/we-take-good-men-and-make-them-better.html

December 2008,
"The Treasure of Freemasonry"
http://www.3ruffians.com/2008/12/treasure-of-freemasonry.html

Check out some of these posts and thumb through our hallowed Archive for much more.

Thanks for being a part of the Ruffian Revolution!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

'The Courtesies of Angels'

Brother Tim Couch always has great things to say. He has a knack for words. But its the way Tim looks at things, at life, that I like. Writing in his own blog, www.straightupamerican.com Tim had this to say about the recent airliner crash in the Hudson...

"My wish for you today is that you recognize a miracle.

Every now and then something happens that leaves no doubt about the existence of divine intervention. We had a great example of it this past week. An airliner carrying a hundred and fifty-five people is knocked out of the sky by a flock of birds over a city of eight million people, and no one is seriously injured. How can anyone not see the miracle in that?

The news media keeps calling it a “story of luck and heroism.” Certainly, the flight crew are all heroes, but luck? Luck is drawing to a straight flush. Luck is not skirting skyscrapers and threading crowded airspace with a flying brick and then landing it in heavily trafficked waters without hitting anything. That is miraculous.

But then, if the Great Architect were going to intervene why didn’t he simply move the birds out of the way? He could’ve done that, but if he had it would’ve been just another uneventful flight. It would’ve still been a miracle, but we would not have noticed. Miracles happen every day all around us. We just don’t recognize them.

Every time we climb behind the wheel and hurl ourselves down the highway at high speeds but somehow arrive safely at our destination, it’s a miracle. Consider all the people on the road at the same time who have to do the right thing at the right instant in order for nothing to happen. Every time we cross a street, go for a walk, cross a room, turn over a rock, a miracle might have happened. We just don’t recognize it.

Miracles are happening all around us. Perhaps they are the courtesies of angels, and like most courtesies they are more readily given when they are appreciated. So keep an eye out for your miracles because I assure you they are there. Appreciate them. Be grateful. And, recognize that in a world of possibilities angels are doing miraculous things in your behalf."

Bro. Tim Couch http://straightupamerican.com/recognizing-miracles/

I for one know a little something about living by 'the courtesies of angels.' I wouldnt be here without them.

I think that we all need to pay attention in life. We need to wake up and recognize that indeed life itself is the greatest of miracles. We humans learn so fast and adapt so quickly that a lot of the finery is lost on us. We need to appreciate more. To borrow the cliche, we need to smell the roses.

It's all perspective. It's not how we look at things so much as how we 'see' them.

I remember reading Carlos Castaneda's book 'The Teachings of Don Juan' about his experiences with a Yaqui Indian shaman. Don Juan, the shaman, had to teach Castaneda how to 'See' all over again because, like all Westerners, Castaneda had 'learned' to see what he expected, what he wanted, and what he feared. But he missed what was there and he missed something much greater than that...he missed the bigger picture...and the personal metaphor.

'The Kingdom of Heaven is Within.' 'For those who have ears to hear and eyes to see...'
Both quotes from the Gospels.

And how true that all is. You can't miss the Angels if you have such eyes...if you watch the sunrise...and you 'See.'

That's not spiritualism. That's philosophy. That's a perspective.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Site Maintenance Completed

Greetings Fellow Ruffians.

A few of you might have recently noticed that for the last week 3Ruffians.com wasnt showing up in your browser. Basically, I was running some maintenance and making some changes to the site, its domain redirection and the like. Things like that take a while for servers to process.

Everything should be in order and posts will resume as usual!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year 2009.

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away." --Unknown

"Work like you don't need the money, love like you've never been hurt, and dance like no one is watching." --Satchel Paige

"You don't stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing." --Michael Pritchard

"Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint on it you can." --Danny Kaye

"He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much." --Bessie A. Stanley

"Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

"It's never too late to be who you might have been." --George Eliot

"You only live once - but if you work it right, once is enough." --Joe E. Lewis

"Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem more afraid of life than death." --James F. Byrnes

"Success is a journey, not a destination." --Arthur Ashe

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