"NASA - Giordano Bruno and Other Worlds" by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Travis Simpkins
The best parts of being a freelancer are the frequent surprises that come along with it. When you open yourself up and are willing to work with anyone, you never know who will reach out to you next.
One morning a couple months back, I woke up and checked my email like I always do. Mixed in with the usual communications was a rather peculiar one. The message was from NASA, and the writer was looking for permission to use my artwork depicting the 16th Century Hermetic philosopher/astronomer Giordano Bruno in an upcoming presentation in Sorrento, Italy. The artwork was to be projected on screen during a lecture by Colonel Roger Hunter, program manager of the Kepler Mission, and this particular section of the presentation would focus on Bruno's theories regarding “other worlds.” After restraining my excitement and quickly verifying the information, I very happily agreed to the request.
It was obvious why NASA is interested in Giordano Bruno (1548-1600). He was an ex-friar turned natural philosopher, whose Hermetic teachings put him at odds with the dominant ideological visions of the Church. Condemned by the Inquisition as a heretic, Bruno was burned at the stake in Rome's Campo di'Fiori on February 17, 1600. Among the many theories introduced by Bruno, one of his most profound was the idea that the universe is infinite and the stars we see in the night sky are actually suns being orbited by other planets that have life on them.
It was also obvious how Colonel Roger Hunter and the Kepler Mission are inspired by Giordano Bruno's work. According to the official statement on NASA's website: “The Kepler Mission, NASA Discovery Mission #10, is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets.”
Less obvious, to me anyway, was just how strong the Masonic connection was to all of this. I knew of astronomical references in the lectures and of Bruno's influence on memorization, relevant to our ritual studies, through his well known work on “The Art of Memory” which utilized the many mnemonic devices we all use (whether we credit Bruno for it or not). However, I didn't fully see another much deeper and direct Masonic connection until I shared the news of this project on my Facebook page. Soon after posting the update, Shawn Eyer commented asking if I had seen the old Fellow Craft lectures that related to Bruno's theory. I replied in the negative and he sent me a fantastic article he had written titled “Numberless Worlds, Infinite Beings” that had originally been published in Philalethes (Vol. 65, No. 3) back in 2012. Among the mosaic of valuable insights contained within the essay was an eloquent quote, once included in the Fellow Craft Degree, that directly corresponded to the subject. I found myself reflecting on it's meaning and implications for much of that day. The words were taken from William Preston's 1780 Lecture of the Second Degree: “Here we perceive thousands and thousands of suns, multiplied without end, all arranged around us, at immense distances from each other, attended by ten thousand times ten thousand worlds, all in rapid motion; yet calm, regular, and harmonious; invariably keeping their prescribed paths, and all peopled with a myriad of intelligent beings, formed for endless progress, in perfection and happiness.”
Ask a number of supposedly learned people about Giordano Bruno and at least half of them will reply, “Who?” Never elevated to his proper status among the historical luminaries that comprise the world's greatest thinkers, Bruno is under-appreciated and yet his enduring influence is still ever-present in the shadows. On the landing of the main staircase in the House of the Temple, chiseled into the wall, is a quote attributed to Albert Pike that reads, “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” While meaningful in their own right, Pike's words echo a sentiment written 300 years prior by Giordano Bruno: “What you receive from others is a testimony to their virtue; but all that you do for others is the sign and clear indication of your own.” (On the Infinite Universe and Worlds, 1584)
"First of all, we must be in harmony with ourselves; we must come to accept ourselves. The best way to achieve this is to never compare ourselves with others, because the moment we do, we then judge ourselves inferior or esteem ourselves as superior, resulting in either an inferiority complex or an inflated ego. In both cases the result is a state of disharmony. To avoid this, it is best to begin with the principle that each of us is a unique being and that this uniqueness gives us our worth in God’s view, as well as in the eyes of humanity. Therefore, we should hold to our own standard, comparing ourselves only to ourselves—this being the key to our spiritual evolution." Christian Bernard
Thanks to Brother Randy West, Bartlett Lodge, for pointing me to this.
Highlighting The Mythological Motifs In Freemasonry
When one examines Masonic ritual & symbolism through the interpretive lens of Classical Mythology, the correspondences immediately begin to present themselves and become, at times, strikingly obvious. These inferences and allusions are present to such a degree within the Craft – in the Officer’s Jewels, the Furniture of the Lodge Room, the Deacon’s Rods, even in the rituals themselves – that almost everywhere one cares to look can be found some vestige of the great mythological systems of the world. Considering the fact that it would be nearly impossible to exhaustively catalog every instance of possible mythological import within Freemasonry, the following will be limited to a few of the more glaring examples.
The Orders of Architecture, as described in Vitruvius’ On Architecture, are present in the Masonic Fellowcraft Degree lecture. Several allusions to these orders are also found in the Lodge room and furniture therein.
The Doric order is said to denote strength and was held sacred to Ares, the god of war. In ancient building practices, the Doric order was used in the construction of structures which served a martial purpose, such as those devoted to warfare or defense. This style is especially notable for its relative simplicity. It is the least ornamental of the original Greek orders of architecture, thereby evoking a martial atmosphere through its clean, unembellished lines. The Three Principal Supports of the Masonic Lodge are Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. In Freemasonry, the Doric column is associated with Strength – the Senior Warden’s station.
The Ionian order of architecture denotes wisdom and was held sacred to Athena. Being between the Doric and Corinthian in overall complexity, it is moderate and tempered in appearance. This style was most frequently employed in houses of learning, such as academies and libraries. In the Masonic Lodge, the Ionian column is attributed to Principal Support of Wisdom, which is further associated with the Worshipful Master’s station.
The Corinthian order of architecture was employed when a structure was to be designated for an artistic or aesthetic purpose, such as a museum. This order was considered sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty. The Corinthian style was the most ornate of the three original, ancient Greek orders of architecture. In Freemasonry, this Corinthian column is fittingly associated with Beauty and the office of Junior Warden, which is in the South.
The Senior and Junior Stewards’ rods are ornately capped with a cornucopia within a square and compasses. The cornucopia comes to us directly from Classical Mythology, where it is considered to be the horn of Amalthea, the she-goat that suckled Zeus in his infancy. The cornucopia also appears as a symbol of Demeter, the grain mother. The Roman counterpart of Demeter is Ceres, the etymological namesake of our word “cereal”.
The crossed keys of the Treasurer’s jewel is also a notable mythological motif, as they have been associated with the Greek goddess Hecate, and also with the Leontocephaline, a lesser figure present in the iconography of Roman Mithraism. Hecate, a lunar crone-goddess, was associated with crossroads, silver and currency – which is pertinent to the office of Treasurer. The Leontocephaline, or “lion-headed”, is sometimes depicted with crossed keys held over the chest and a set of hammer and tongs, the working tools of Hephaestus, at his feet. This gains significance, Masonically, when we consider that Tubal-cain inhabits the same archetypal role in the Abrahamic canon (i.e. metallurgical artificer) as Hephaestus does in the Hellenic.
The jewel of the Lodge Organist is the lyre and, therefore, has some of the most developed mythological significance. The lyre is most commonly associated with Orpheus, to whom it was given by Phoebus-Apollo (Apollo in his most solar aspect). Orpheus is said to have charmed man and beast with the instrument and to have used it to gain access to Hades in order to fetch Eurydice, his ill-fated bride. This he accomplished by enchanting both Charon, the Stygian boatman, and Cerberus, the three-headed dog, with his music. The myth of his chthonic descent/ascent is conjectured to have formed the basis of the Orphic Mysteries. One may readily find depictions of the lyre in statuary and/or bas-relief adorning the many Orpheums and Lyric Halls across the Western World – these are, of course, in reference to Orpheus and his lyre, respectively.
The Blazing Star, a five-pointed star within a circle, is often depicted in the center of the Checkered Pavement. This symbol is alternately said to represent the Sun, Sirius (A & B combined, as seen by the naked eye) and Venus. The Solar interpretation is obvious, in terms of the Sun’s Masonic significance as being the “glory and beauty of the day”, etcetera, but the theory of the Blazing Star as a representation of Sirius provides us with much more symbolic substance for our contemplation.
Sirius, which is actually a binary system composed of the stars Sirius A and Sirius B, is the brightest star in the sky, apart from the Sun. This star resides in the constellation of Canis Major, hence the name “the Dog Star” (a name from whence we get the phrase, “the dog days of summer”, or the Latin dies caniculares, denoting the heliacal rising and setting of Sirius during the summer months in that region). Sirius was later personified as the Egyptian Iachen, the Minoan I Wa Ko and thereby the Greek Iakchos, the torch-bearing son of Persephone.
The Blazing Star’s relationship to Venus (also anciently known as the Morning and/or Evening Star) may best be illustrated by the fact that it is represented in the form of a pentagram. This significance comes primarily from the fact that Venus traces a five-petalled rosette at the completion of its synodic period, which is 583.9211 days – the amount of time it takes for the planet to return its originally observed position, relative to that of the Sun, as seen from the perspective of Earth – thus itself alluding to the pentagram. The pentagram is commonly found in Freemasonry, likely due to its prevalence in Pythagoreanism.
The Weeping Virgin of the Third Degree is a statue made reference to in the Master Mason Lecture in Blue Lodge Freemasonry. The work consists of the figure of a virgin, her hands folded as in prayer, leaning over a broken column as an old man, holding a scythe, undoes the braids in her hair. The old, male figure bears a likeness to Cronus, the Titanic father of Zeus, present here in his popular personification as Father Time. The weeping virgin, in this context, could be construed as a representation of Persephone, the Kore.
In this interpretation, we are reminded of an incident in Greek Mythology known as the Rape of Persephone. There are both astrological and agricultural keys to the allegory of this event and these, when used in conjunction, provide us with an interesting narrative. If we consider the figure of Father Time as representing Saturn then, through common and established astrological correspondences, we arrive at the Winter Solstice via the zodiacal house of Capricornus, which is ruled by Cronus. In the myth, Persephone was abducted by Hades while she was collecting wild flowers – an obvious sign of Spring or the Vernal Equinox. He then carried her to his kingdom in the Underworld, which is also symbolic of the Winter Solstice – a place almost universally regarded as the abode of death. The whole scene can easily be read as a wonderful symbolic depiction of certain known aspects of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
In Classical Mythology, we find yet another lens through which to view and interpret the symbolism of Freemasonry. Though, it seems that no matter which lens we apply, Freemasonry stands up to the most intense scrutiny as being more than just, “a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.”
- Bro. Jaime Paul Lamb is a Master Mason in Phoenix AZ, who has published articles in the Connecticut Freemason and Indiana Freemason magazines. Bro. Lamb is currently finishing a new book titled, "Myth, Magick, and Masonry", which should be released in Summer 2018.
A salesman's car breaks down in a remote country lane. A farmer in the adjacent field comes over and they discover that they are "Brothers". The salesman is concerned as he has an important appointment in the local town. "Don't worry", says the farmer. "You can use my car, I'll call a friend and get the car repaired while you go to the appointment". Off goes the salesman and a couple of hours later he returns but unfortunately the car is awaiting a part which won’t arrive until the next morning. "It's not a problem," says the farmer, "use my telephone and re-schedule your first appointment tomorrow, stay with us tonight and I'll see that the car is done first thing!" The farmer's wife prepares a wonderful meal and they share a glass of fine single malt during an excellent evening. The salesman sleeps soundly and when he awakes there is his car, repaired and ready to go. After a full English breakfast the salesman thanks them both for the hospitality. As he and the farmer walk to his car he turns and asks "My Brother, thank you so much but I have to ask, did you help me because I am a Mason?" "No" was the reply, "I helped you because I am a Mason".
The following article is reprinted from The Rhode Island FREEMASON Magazine by permission of the author, R:.W:. Brother Richard Lynch, who is also Editor of the Magazine which is published every other month. In addition to his editorial duties, Brother Lynch is Librarian/Curator of the RI Grand Lodge Library and Museum, Chancellor of the Collegivm Luminosvm, (Rhode Island Lodge of Masonic Research), and an active member of several other Masonic Organizations in many of which he has held or presently holds Office. (TEASER ALERT: You will hear more about R:.W:. Brother Lynch in the future.)
The Triple Dot Symbol
For many the three dots have been used as the equivalent of a period used for abbreviations in Masonic writing and literature. The symbol’s origin is from the field of mathematics. In mathematics the non-inverted triangle shape (⸫) symbol is used in mathematical proofs as the therefore sign. This dates back to a Swiss mathematician, Johann Rahn, in his book Teutsche Algebra, published in 1659. The triple dot predates 1717 when the first Grand Lodge in the U.K. was established.
Albert Mackey stated that it is futile to trace the triple dot back to the Hebrew three yods, the Tetragrammaton, or other ancient symbols. For usage of the three dots in Freemasonry Mackey further states: “Frequently among English and always among French authors, a Masonic abbreviation is distinguished by three points, ⸫, in a triangular form following the letter, whose peculiar mark was first used, according to Ragon, on the 12th of August, 1774, by the Grand Orient of France, in an address to subordinates. No authoritative explanation of the meaning of these points has been given, but they may be supposed to refer to the three lights around the altar, or perhaps more generally to the number three, and the triangle, both important symbols in the Masonic system."
From a usage standpoint, the triple dot is placed after letters in a Masonic document, especially formal ones or those using abbreviated Latin, or on a coin, to indicate that such letters are the initials of a Masonic title or of a technical word in Freemasonry, as G⸫M⸫ for Grand Master, G⸫L⸫ for Grand Lodge, W⸫M⸫ for Worshipful Master, and E⸫A⸫ for Entered Apprentice. On an email, you may see a colon followed by a period (:.) or, as noted particularly with European Freemasons, a period followed by a colon (.:). This is far easier on a PC or smart phone than other methods such as changing to a symbols font or, with the use of a numeric pad, adding in 2234, the code for this symbol, on the numeric pad and then pressing Alt+x.
For those who wish to use the proper display of this symbol, in MS Word press “Insert” from your tool bar, then press “symbol” from the toolbar and you will find this and a host of other common symbols such as the (°) for the abbreviation for degree/s.
ALABAMA FREE & ACCEPTED MASONS BREAK COLOR CODE
OFFICIAL FOUNDING DATE (1717) OF OUR FRATERNITY CALLED INTO QUESTION!
Scholarly paper sheds new light on Grand Lodge of England beginnings
Courtesy of Brother J. Paul Gomez
THE PROFOUND SILENCE of a tiled Lodge during ceremonies such as the initiation of a candidate can be deeply impressive, and naturally induces solemn reflections upon the essential meaning of the work. The Masonic philosopher W.L. Wilmshurst held that an ideal Lodge, when properly tiled and duly opened,
'...would be a sanctuary of silence and contemplation, broken only by ceremonial utterances or such words of competent and luminous instruction as the Master or Past Masters are moved to extend. And the higher the degree in which it is opened, the deeper and more solemn would be the sense of excluding all temporal thoughts and interests and of approaching more nearly that veiled central Light whose opening into activity in our hearts we profess to be our predominant wish. In such circumstances each Lodge meeting would become an occasion of profound spiritual experience. No member would wish to disturb the harmony of such a Lodge by talk or alien thought.' (The Masonic Initiation, 1924)
Local Businesses Help Rebuild Fire-Ravaged Historic Building in Douglasville, GA
WHITESBURG, GA (PRWEB) NOVEMBER 25, 2015
When tragedy struck the Flint Hill Freemason’s Lodge in August of 2014 the community banded together to rebuild this 130 year old piece of history. Among the generous local businesses and individuals contributing to the efforts were NG Turf, Ben Hill Roofing, Tippens Gutters, Moody Heating and Air, King of Pop Nurseries, Groundscapes, Albertson Construction, Jourdan Technologies (security), Sheffield Electric (wiring and lighting), Robert Clemente (sound system), and Will Hester (carpentry).
“What happened here was a tragedy,” comments Aaron McWhorter, president of NG Turf. “We are honored to have been able to be part of the reconstruction efforts.”
“We will be moving into our new building in about a week,” says lodge member Brian Albertson. “That simply wouldn’t be possible without the generous outpouring of support from our community. The arson fire devastated the building – it was a total loss. But what we found even more distressing was losing many historical documents, artifacts, and irreplaceable photos, some dating back to our founding in 1892.”
To honor the historic significance of the location, the members of Flint Hill Lodge have named their building McWhorter Freemason’s Hall. “The original building, which we once shared with New Covenant United Methodist Church, was the last standing edifice of McWhorter, Georgia,” explains Albertson. “We wanted to do all we could to preserve this important piece of local history.”
The middle of the night arson attack on August 29, 2014 was not the first time vandals took aim at the Flint Hill Masonic Lodge. Just weeks before the fire, someone threw rocks through the windows. Shortly before that, vandals broke in and stole the Holy Bible and Masonic furnishings.
“Why anyone would want to do this is beyond me,” says lodge member Ross Laver. “We are a peaceful group of people dedicated to helping others in need.”
Nationally, the Freemasons are well known for their support of widows, children, and the poor. The Freemasons helped found the Scottish Rite Children’s hospital in Decatur, Georgia, in 1915 to provide care to poor crippled children. Scottish Rite, now a part of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, is a world-renowned medical facility still supported by Freemasons.
As part of a state-wide Freemason sponsored event, the members of the Flint Hill Masonic Lodge provide thousands of free state-of-the-art child identity kits every year to help families safely store vital information and DNA samples should their child ever go missing. They also support the Masonic Home of Georgia – a safe place for children from broken homes offering financial and educational opportunities, including a free college education.
The members of the Flint Hill Freemasons Lodge will be celebrating their grand reopening of McWhorter Hall on December 19th at 4:30 pm. The public is invited to join in the festivities as new officers are installed and awards are given.
Masonic Folk Art
SEVEN BLUNDERS OF THE MASONIC WORLD
Ritual without Meaning
Fellowship without Frivolity
Quantity without Quality
Education without Philosophy
Charity without Connection
Frugality without Discretion
Leadership without Competence
Ritual Without Meaning
Too many times, we are more concerned about performing the ritual perfectly without understanding what it means. I know many men that give great lectures, but will confide that they don’t even know what something means. Ritual for the sake of tradition is worthless. Ritual for the sake of enlightenment is valuable. An understanding of the ritual’s meaning is far more important than just memorizing it.
Fellowship without Frivolity
Whenever Masons decide to hold a function for fellowship, a discussion typically ensues about how to make the function have the smallest impact on the lodge’s coffers and the wallets of the members. This results in paper plates, meager meals, and boring events. To spend money wisely in order to make fellowship a grand time is wise for the lodge that wants to be successful.
Quantity without Quality
A lodge with seven great men that believe in the Masonic ideals and actively labor to improve themselves—and therefore the lodge—is far better off than a lodge with one hundred men that show up to lodge just to show up to lodge.
Education without Philosophy
Many times, we think of Masonic education as being a lesson on the local lodge’s history, a famous Mason, the history of the world wide fraternity, or how to do the ritual properly. But if no philosophy is covered in Masonic education, then little self improvement is accomplished. Discussing Masonic lessons in terms of philosophy, ideas, and a man’s conduct is what truly transforms men into Masons. It is important to discuss topics that are foreign to a lodge’s membership and it is sometimes even necessary to challenge our preconceived ideologies through Masonic education.
Charity without Connection
Big institutional charities often require that fund raisers be conducted and large checks written to the people that actually perform the charity. This type of charity is devoid of self improvement because it has no real connection. If we extend our hands to our needed Brethren and devote our own skills and time to their problems, then we are engaging in true, meaningful charity.
Frugality without Discretion
Frugality is not a tenet of Freemasonry, a cardinal virtue, or a Landmark. It is okay for the lodge to spend its funds on worthwhile activities that will enhance the Masonic experience of its Brethren. Not everything should be done in the cheapest way, a habit to which we have become accustomed.
Leadership without Competence
A man does not deserve to be Master of the lodge solely because he has spent a certain amount of years in the lodge. We elect leaders without any regard for the skills that they possess to function in that capacity. Only competent, qualified men should be elected to preside over the Craft.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences
Every Fellowcraft Mason learns of the importance of the liberal arts and sciences,
of which he is instructed there are seven;
namely, Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music
and Astronomy. Unfortunately few Freemasons today take this
instruction with any degree of seriousness and make no further
effort to examine the nature of these arts. Like much of Freemasonry,
the liberal arts and sciences come to us from the Medieval
period, when they were believed to be the sum total of all
knowledge that was worthwhile to a complete education. They
were known as "artes liberales" from the Latin "liber" meaning
Free. In this sense they were the subjects available to free men
and were a contrast from the "artes illiberales", which were
taught for purely economic reasons that a man may earn a living.
These arts were the operative arts of the workmen and were
considered less desirable educational pursuits. While we have
adopted the seven liberal arts and sciences from the Medieval
era, they were known in the Pythagorean and Platonic eras. The
seven liberal arts and sciences were broken into two groups.
One concerning language and the other concerning mathematics.
The first was the "Trivium" or road of three paths and included
grammar, rhetoric and logic. Grammar is that portion of
language that allows us to fine tune our speech like the ashlars
and remove all barbarous expressions. Rhetoric is the art,
which allows us to persuade and have an effect upon the listener.
The last and perhaps most important art of the Trivium is
logic, which permits us the gift of reasoning. In a purely Masonic
sense it allows us to understand our duties to God and towards
each other. The second was the "Quadrivium" or path of
four roads and included arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy.
Arithmetic is the process by which we are able to calculate
all weights and measures, but in a speculative and philosophical
sense can be best summed up by the following quotation:
"For the Freemason, the application of this science is that
he is continually to add to his knowledge, never to subtract
anything from the character of his neighbor, to multiply his benevolence
to his fellow-creatures, and to divide his means with
those in need. Geometry is so fundamentally a part of Freemasonry
as to almost require no explanation, suffice to say it is the
science upon which our very fraternity is founded. It allows us
to create right angled triangles, the symbol of our uprightness
and square actions towards God, one another and our fellow
creatures. Music is a mystery to the Freemason and a mystery
as to its connection to mathematics, but as anyone, who practices
this art, the connection is apparent. Our ancient brother
Pythagoras was perhaps the first to notice the mathematical
correlation between music and numbers. Astronomy is that art
by which we can trace the great symmetry of the hand of the
deity throughout the heavens. Many of our symbols, the sun,
the moon the stars are borrowed from the science of astronomy.
While to our ancient brethren aimed at a blending of all
knowledge, the modern freemason can apply to the seven liberal
arts and sciences a special and appropriate metaphor for a
life of self-improvement and mental growth. This goal is symbolized
in our lodges by the rough and perfect ashlars and by the
Masonic agenda of taking a good man and making him better.
Bob E. Nelson Jr.,
Twin Falls Lodge No. 45
Twin Falls, Idaho
THE PAWNBROKER TALE AND FREEMASONS
A young man passed a pawnbroker's shop. The money lender was standing in front of his shop, and the young man noted that he was wearing a large and beautiful Masonic emblem. After going on a whole block, apparently lost in thought, the young man turned back, stepped up to the pawnbroker, and addressed him: "I see you're wearing a Masonic emblem. I'm a Freemason too. It happens that I'm desperately in need of $25 just now. I shall be able to repay it within ten days. You don't know me; but I wonder whether the fact that you are a Freemason and that I am a Freemason is sufficient to induce you to lend me the money on my personal note."
The pawnbroker mentally appraised the young man, who was clean-cut, neat and well-dressed. After a moments thought, he agreed to make the loan on the strength of the young man being a Freemason.
Within a few days the young man repaid the loan as agreed and that ended the transaction.
About four months later the young man was in a Lodge receiving the Entered Apprentice Degree; he had not really been a Mason when he borrowed the $25. After he had been admitted for the second section of the degree, the young man looked across the Lodge room and saw the pawnbroker from whom he had borrowed the $25. His face turned crimson and he became nervous and jittery. He wondered whether he had been recognized by the pawnbroker. Apparently not, so he planned at the first opportunity to leave the Lodge room and avoid his benefactor. As soon as the Lodge was closed he moved quickly for the door, but the pawnbroker had recognized the young man, headed him off and, to the young man's astonishment, approached him and greeted him with a smile and outstretched hand. "Well, I see you weren't a Freemason after all when you borrowed that $25," the pawnbroker commented. The blood rushed to the young man's face as he stammered, "No, I wasn't, but I wish you'd let me explain. I had always heard that Freemasons were charitable and ready to aid a Brother in distress. When I passed your shop that day I didn't need that $25. I had plenty of money in my wallet, but when I saw the Masonic emblem you were wearing, I decided to find out whether the things I'd heard about Freemasonry were true. You let me have the money on the strength of my being a Freemason, so I concluded that what I had heard about Masons was true, that they are charitable, that they do aid Brethren in distress. That made such a deep impression on me that I presented my petition to this Lodge and here I am. I trust that with this explanation you will forgive me for having lied to you."
The pawnbroker responded, "Don't let that worry you too much. I wasn't a Freemason when I let you have the money. I had no business wearing the Masonic emblem you saw. Another man had just borrowed some money on it, and it was so pretty that I put it on my lapel for a few minutes. I took it off the moment you left. I didn't want anyone else borrowing money on the strength of my being a Freemason. When you asked for that $25, I remembered what I had heard about Masons, that they were honest, upright, and cared for their obligations promptly. It seemed to me that $25 wouldn't be too much to lose to learn if what I'd heard was really true, so I lent you the money and you repaid it exactly as you said you would. That convinced me that what I'd heard about Masons was true so I presented my petition to this Lodge. I was the candidate just ahead of you."
From the January 1977 New Mexico Freemason
A review of “That Religion in Which All Men Agree”
That Religion in Which All Men Agree: Freemasonry in American Culture, David G. Hackett, 336 pages, Berkeley, $49.95
While many readers will know about traditional Catholic opposition to Freemasonry, many may be surprised to discover how Freemasonry engendered significant Protestant opposition as well. David Hackett proposes to give readers the first detailed account of its religious dimension, while remarking that “Catholics were the original operative Masons, working on the great stone castles and cathedrals of the medieval period.” Even after the modern “re-founding” of the Masons by Protestants under Enlightenment influence, it is a “curious phenomenon” that remnants of Catholicism were retained, like celebrations in honor of the patron saints of the medieval stonemasons’ guild.
Catholic involvement with Masonry is somewhat convoluted. With its 1717 re-founding, many Catholics in Europe became members. In less than two decades, however, papal condemnations began to appear. In addition to concerns about its revolutionary aspects, theological objections were raised and deemed far more weighty than the more political dimensions. Religious indifferentism and universalism, confused and confusing religious positions, pagan influences, anti-clericalism, and extreme rationalism formed the heart of papal objections, which bans have perdured into contemporary Catholicism, along with similar prohibitions in Eastern Orthodoxy and many other conservative Christian bodies.
Freemasonry claims to have ancient foundations with occult knowledge and secret ceremonies of initiation, an example of ritual and popular religion, although many Masons have denied it is a religion, which Hackett defines as “shared ideologies and practices that help people become human in relation to transcendent realities.” “Freemasonry’s quest for primeval truth”—like primitivist Christian groups and Mormons—“joining together disparate political and religious leaders” contributed to the secularization of American society by staking out a “least common denominator” approach to religion—a via media between orthodox and evangelical Christianity on the one hand and pure rationalism on the other. Members were encouraged to keep “their particular [denominational] opinions to themselves,” embodying what the author dubs “polite Christianity” or what the 1723 Masonic constitution refers to as “that religion in which all men agree” (hence, the title of the book).
When Freemasonry refers to “rational” religion, this does not envision faith and reason as two wings of the human ascent to the truth, à la Pope John Paul II in Fides et Ratio; on the contrary, its religious equation is reason minus revelation or faith. As Thomas Paine argued, Masonry “is derived from some very ancient religion wholly independent of, and unconnected with that book [the Bible].”
Another interesting historical tidbit informs us of the dependence of Mormonism on Freemasonry, especially in the development of its unique rituals. Likewise interesting is that eleven of Joseph Smith’s original twelve apostles were Masons.
Freemasonry caught on for a variety of reasons, not the least being its ability to forge deep relations independent of (or even in spite of) religious positions, redounding to the social, economic and political advantage of its members. It did not hurt that such prominent founders of the American republic as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and John Hancock were committed members of the Lodge. Interestingly, we learn that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Lodge members rarely attended church services (only 14 percent among San Franciscan Masons), giving credibility to the popular perception that Freemasonry was a religion unto itself. As part of its “inclusivity,” one lodge was comprised of Druids—whatever that might have meant.
The role of secrecy in the organization cemented relationships, to be sure, but also led to its undoing. John Vanderbilt in 1808 averred that “nothing can be more binding, nothing more sacred or more pious” than those bonds, causing not a few observers to give credence to long-standing accusations of Freemasonry’s involvement in plots to overthrow both political and religious establishments. Women also expressed concern that perhaps their marriage vows were in danger as well.
As often happens in closed societies, some members began to question teachings and practices. Apostate Masons divulged secrets and asserted that blasphemies and sacrileges against Christ and Christianity were part of the regular fare of lodges. One such “whistle-blower” was William Morgan, who was kidnaped and never heard from again. As that disappearance was laid at the door of the Masons (and never convincingly responded to in the public forum), it visited deleterious effects on Freemasonry as lodges in New York State alone lost 60 percent of its membership between 1826 and 1835.
Jews seeking to assimilate into American society joined lodges but, for reasons that have never been very clear, left the Masons and in 1843 founded B’nai B’rith, whose “original constitution avoids mention of God, Torah, or ritual obligations while emphasizing Jewish unity”—an approach clearly in line with its evolution from Freemasonry.
The first Catholic bishop in the United States, John Carroll, apparently winked at Catholic membership in lodges, perhaps because his own brother Daniel belonged to one! While individual Catholics were admitted to lodges, Masonic attitudes toward institutional Catholicism “ranged from tolerance to rabid anti-Catholicism.” In short order, though, Masonry’s welcome mat even for individual Catholics was rolled up with the arrival of waves of Irish, Italian and German immigrants as Masonry supported the nativist American Protective Association.
That development triggered the establishment of the Knights of Columbus as the Catholic response to the bigotry of the Masons and the condemnations of the Holy See. Unlike the Masons, local councils of the Knights have always been inserted into parochial life, never functioning as a parallel or surrogate religious institution. Hackett claims that membership in the Knights has tanked in recent years, like American Freemasonry’s, as evidenced in its “aging, dwindling membership” and “its ill-kept and largely vacant buildings.” In point of fact, however, between 1950 and the present, membership in the Knights has actually doubled.
Although repetitious in many places, this is nonetheless a worthwhile and interesting account of the growth, development and passing of a significant influence on American religious, political and social life.
The Reverend Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D., is a member of the Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic High School Honor Roll National Policy Advisory Board, executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation, and editor of The Catholic Response.
A NEW ORDER OF FREEMASONS IS TRANSFORMING THE ANCIENT SOCIETY WITH FLAIR
In Los Feliz, across from a 7-Eleven on North Vermont Avenue, a few dozen men in their early 20s to late 80s share a dinner behind closed doors. Some wear full tuxedos with bow ties and jeweled cuff links, some have shoulder-length hair, and others wear open-collared shirts that reveal the slightest filigree of tattoo arching across their chests.
Over Italian food, retired lawyers and judges sit elbow-to-elbow with owners of scrap metal yards and vintage clothing boutiques. They hold forth on philosophy, the weather; they rib each other and joke about saving room for cannoli. As they reach for seconds, they reveal skull-cracking rings emblazoned with a compass and a square.
Zulu, left, Jonathan Kanarek and Daemon Hillin, pictured in 2008, are among a wave of young Masons who are helping the secretive society gain a higher, hipper profile.
(Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times)
The plainest lodge room in the land was over Simpkin's store,
Where Friendship Lodge had met each month for fifty years or more.
When o'er the earth the moon, full orbed, had cast her brightest beam
The brethren came from miles around on horseback and in team,
And Ah! what hearty grasp of hand, what welcome met them there,
As mingling with the waiting groups they slowly mount the stair
Exchanging fragmentary news or prophecies of crop
Until they reach the Tiler's room and current topics drop
To turn their thoughts to nobler themes they cherish and adore
And which were heard on meeting night up over Simpkin's store.
To city eyes, a cheerless room, long usage had defaced
The tell-tale line of lath and beam on wall and ceiling traced.
The light from oil fed lamps was dim and yellow in its hue
The carpet once could pattern boast, though now `twas lost to view;
The altar and the pedestals that marked the stations three
The gate post pillars topped with balls, the rude carved letter G,
Were village joiner's clumsy work, with many things beside
Where beauty's lines were all effaced and ornament denied.
There could be left no lingering doubt, if doubt there was before,
The plainest lodge room in the land was over Simpkin's store.
While musing thus on outward form the meeting time drew near,
And we had glimpse of inner life through watchful eye and ear.
When Lodge convened at gavel's sound with officers in place,
We looked for strange, conglomerate work, but could no error trace.
The more we saw, the more we heard, the greater our amaze
To find those country brethren there so skilled in Mason's ways.
But greater marvels were to come before the night was through,
Where unity was not mere name, but fell on earth like dew,
Where tenets had the mind imbued, and truths rich fruit age bore,
In the plainest lodge room in the land, up over Simpkin's store.
To hear the record of their acts was music to the ear,
We sing of deeds unwritten which on angel's scroll appear,
A WIDOW'S CASE--Four helpless ones--Lodge funds were running low--
A dozen brethren sprang to feet and offers were not slow.
Food, raiment, things of needful sort, while one gave loads of wood,
Another, shoes for little ones, for each gave what he could.
Then spake the last: "I haven't things like these to give-- but then,--
Some ready money may help out" and he laid down a ten.'
Were brother cast on darkest square upon life's checkered floor,
A beacon light to reach the white--was over Simpkin's store.
Like scoffer who remained to pray, impressed by sight and sound,
The faded carpet `neath our feet was now like holy ground.
The walls that had such dingy look were turned celestial blue,
The ceiling changed to canopy where stars were shining through.
Bright tongues of flame from altar leaped, the G was vivid blaze,
All common things seemed glorified by heaven's reflected rays.
O! Wondrous transformation wrought through ministry of love--
Behold the LODGE ROOM BEAUTIFUL!--fair type of that above.
The vision fades--the lesson lives--while taught as ne'er before,
In the plainest lodge room in the land--up over Simpkin's store.
Lawrence N. Greenleaf, 33°, Grand Master of Masons in Colorado, 1880
TEN IMPORTANT MASONIC EVENTS
1390: The oldest Masonic text known today, “The Halliwell Manuscript” or “Regius Poem” is said to have been written somewhere between 1390 and the beginning of the 15th century. This text begins with a history of the Craft, starting with Euclid’s invention of geometry in ancient Egypt. The text, written in poetic form, is also the earliest Masonic manuscript containing charges. The introduction of the manuscript is in fact followed by a section containing rules of conduct for a Master Mason, thus giving us an insight of the moral behaviour expected by Masons at the time.
1646: The first documented initiation of an English Freemason. Elias Ashmole, a chemist and antiquarian, recorded the proceedings of his initiation in his diary, where he used to write notes about his life with the intention of writing an autobiography. The entry is important because it is the first evidence known of the making of a speculative Mason, and the first one to be recorded in writing. Elias Ashmole is not the first speculative Mason in history, but he is the first one who recorded the proceedings of his initiation in writing (or at least his is the first record that was ever found), and he even took down the names of the other Masons that were present during his initiation. This gives us the first insight of initiations in speculative Freemasonry.
1696: The first recorded ritual, found in the Edinburgh Register House manuscript. Thanks to this record we can imagine what a Masonic ritual in the late 1600s would be like, and it shows the earliest evidence of a two degree system. The third degree first appeared quite a few years later, somewhere between 1723 and 1730, and it spread slowly within the craft until it became part of the Masonic system.
1717: This year marks the formation of the first Grand Lodge in the world and the start of lodges being governed by Grand Lodges. The first Grand Lodge was formed in London on the 24th June, 1717. It is today known as the United Grand Lodge of England and governs more than 8,000 lodges. The Grand Lodge of England is one of the three home Grand Lodges together with the Grand Lodge of Ireland, founded in 1725, and the Grand Lodge of Scotland, founded in 1736. These three home Grand Lodges are known to have started taking Freemasonry overseas to other countries.
1723: In this year an important Freemasonic writing was published: James Anderson’s Constitutions. Handwritten notes of the constitutions could already be found before this date, but now for the first time these were easily accessible in a small printed book. Anderson’s Constitutions began with a short history of Freemasonry (which, however, is widely considered fictitious), followed by a set of general rules of conduct for a Freemason; i.e. the charges. These were followed by Payne’s Regulations which dictated rules on how lodges should be governed, which every Grand Master should follow. The final section contains songs which would be used in rituals. Anderson’s Constitutions were reprinted by Benjamin Franklin in 1734, the same year in which he was elected Grand Master of the Lodge of Pennsylvania. He was also responsible for the printing of the first article about Freemasonry in North America, which he had published in ‘The Pennsylvania Gazette’ four years earlier, in December 1730. The Constitutions kept on being modified in the following years even until 1815, when the Grand Lodge of England changed slightly the part where Anderson wrote about a Freemason’s religion. While Anderson’s original Constitutions said that “a stupid Atheist” and “an irreligious libertine” can never be Freemasons, the Grand Lodge of England modified this and wrote that it doesn’t matter what religion one follows as long as “he believes in the glorious Architect of Heaven and Earth, and practices the sacred duties of morality”. This is still relevant to Freemasons today.
1751: This year marks the division between the ‘Antients’ and the ‘Moderns’, which lasted 63 years. It started when a Grand Lodge of Irish Masons arrived in London stating that the original Grand Lodge had changed; thus calling it one of the ‘Moderns’ while calling themselves the ‘Antients’ as they had not made any innovations, unlike the Grand Lodge of London, they claimed. This division also spread abroad and lasted for about 63 years with the ‘Modern’ and the ‘Antient’ lodges not considering each other regular lodges. The schism was ended in 1813, when the two Grand Lodges united and formed the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). One major change that resulted from this unification was the culmination of a trend during the latter half of the 1700's to remove references to Christianity from the ritual, so that men of all beliefs and religions could participate in the Fraternity's rituals without compromising their personal beliefs.
1772: During this year, William Preston staged a gala at his own expense to introduce his system of lectures. Later that year they were published by Preston as "Ilustrations of Masonry", which went through 12 editions. Many of the lectures we have today in America are drawn directly or indirectly from the "Ilustrations". Perhaps Preston's greatest contribution, however, was to change the focus of Freemasonry at the time from the bar and dining room to much more emphasis on the moral and philosophical. His influence on Modern Freemasonry cannot be overestimated.
1797: Thomas Smith Webb, born in Massachussetts, published his "Freemason's Monitor, or Illustrations of Masonry". He had come in contact with Freemasons from England who were students of Preston, and he studied and learned that system, including the Lectures. In his book, he openly admitted that much of what he wrote was lifted directly from Preston's work, but he re-arranged the Lectures and edited them to some extent, to make them "fit" the American system better. Webb is looked upon by most authentic Masonic scholars as the Father of American Masonic Ritual. Many of his students learned his system and spread his work throughout most of the United States.
1826: This is the year of the Morgan Affair. William Morgan had threatened to write a book revealing all the secrets of the Freemasons and in 1826 he disappeared from Batavia, New York. What really happened to him is still a mystery, but the Freemasons were blamed for his disappearance and this led to the formation of many antiMasonic groups in New York and in the whole United States, which organized protests against Freemasonry. Because of the Morgan Affair, many masons left the Craft. While before the Morgan Affair the Grand Lodge of New York governed 227 lodges, a few years after the Morgan Affair only 41 were left. However, Freemasonry in the United States tripled in the 1850s. By the end of the 1850s there were more than 5000 lodges with over 200,000 Masons.
1843: The Baltimore Convention, held in the city of that name in Maryland, was held this year. Its President was John Dove. For many reasons, but chief among them the loss of membership and skilled lecturers caused by the anti-Masonic movement within the United States, and the resulting disarray of rituals and practices among the various Grand Lodges and their respective subordinate lodges, there was a popular call among many Grand Lodges to unify the various Grand Jurisdictions under a single National Grand Lodge. Although this attempt failed, many beneficial policies that were put forth during the convention were ultimately adopted by all Grand Jurisdictions in the U.S. Among them was the practice of issuing "Dues Cards" or Certificates of Good Standing, a recognition of Webb's Monitor of containing the most authentic Masonic Lectures and practices, and other matters of jurisprudence.
The great object of the Convention, that of producing a uniform ritual of the 3 degrees that would be adopted by all Grand Lodges, was not achieved. However, although the Convention lacked the executive power to enforce its recommendations to the Grand Lodges, many of these recommendations were later adopted by all Grand Lodges, and the influence of this Convention upon Freemasonry in the United States was immense.
FOR THE GOOD OF THE ORDER
An article entitled "Masonic Philosophical Differences in the 21st Century" by Sir Knight John Palmer begins on page 9 of the Knight Templar magazine shown below. However, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Knights Templar rite, degree, or organization. It has everthing to do with the survival of Blue Lodge Masonry in the United States. Even if you don't reach a conclusion, or a decision, after reading it, perhaps you will at least have become more aware about change that is happening all around us.
Change is inevitable. Resistance to change is universal. But refusal to change can very often be fatal.
Traditional Observance lodges are springing up all over the country. It may be that 150 years from now, Masonic historians will look on the period from 2005-2035 as an era as impactful to Freemasonry in America as the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England was to our English Brethren in 1813.
Perhaps reading the article will give all of us something to think and talk about.
Someone at the Lodge
I know there is someone at the Lodge,
There’s a meeting there twice a month.
I know someone cuts the grass,
I can tell because it gets done;
I know someone pays the lights and water,
Because I see them on each month.
I know someone repairs the building;
Because I see it happen when needed.
I know someone teaches the work;
Because candidates go through.
I know someone sends in the reports;
Because the Lodge keeps its charter.
I know someone keeps things going;
I’d like to help but don’t have time.
I’ll let them do it,
They seem to always be around.
I’ll just wear my ring;
And pay my dues.
When others ask about the Lodge;
I’ll proudly say I’m a member.
And I’ll just let someone else,
Do all the things that keep it going.
Sometimes, though, I wonder...
Who is that someone?
Robert E. Rowland, PM
Secretary, Goshen Masonic Lodge No. 71
"During the period when serious business occupies the attention of the Brethren, you must not leave your seat, or engage in conversation with your neighbours, not even in whispers; neither should you move the chair or bench on which you are seated, or make any other noise to disturb the Master or his Officers in the orderly execution of their respective duties. Silence is the leading characteristic of a well-regulated Lodge. I have known many good Lodges spoiled for want of a due attention to these trifling particulars." from The Book of the Lodge by Brother George Oliver (1782-1867)
Why Is Ritual Often Repetitious?
Several "word pairs" in Masonic ritual make interesting studies, such as "duly and truly," "worthy and well-qualified," free will and accord," "parts and points," "hele and conceal."
At first glance, it may seem that these are so arranged only for emphasis.
In Middle Age English writing, especially in the 13th and 14th Centuries, when Freemasonry was in the process of formation, England had two languages. One was Norman-French; the other Anglo-Saxon. To make sure of understanding, word pairs were much in use -- a word of similar meaning being taken from each language.
The apparent redundancy or expression in a number of places in Masonic ritual may be traced back to these Middle Ages. The perpetuation of such usage now, when clarity of thought and understanding might be served as well with one word, is one of the many proofs that Freemasonry delights to embrace that which is venerated and ancient."
(Taken from One Hundred One Questions About Freemasonry, published by the Masonic Service Association of North America.)
"The grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race." Letter to the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, January 1793 - Worshipful Brother George Washington, Writings
A Bag Of Tools By: R. L. Sharpe
Isn't it strange
That princes and kings,
And clowns that caper
In sawdust rings,
And common folks
Like you and me
Are builders of eternity?
To each is given
a book of rules,
A shapeless mass
and a kit of tools;
And each must make
- Ere life is flown -
A stumbling block
Or a steppingstone
The Famous H.O. Studley Tool Chest
Look closely, Brethren.
The Bridge Builder BY WILL ALLEN DROMGOOLE
DEDICATED TO ALL PAST MASTERS WHO SERVE
DALLAS MASONIC LODGE NO. 182 SO WELL
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
A BEAUTIFUL LEGEND.
Dear Brother: - Forty years ago Theodore Tilton in a public lecture delivered in the old Methodist church of this city, told this beautiful legend as to how King Solomon selected a location for the Temple.
Two brothers were left an estate to be divided equally between them. One was married and had a family of children, the other was unmarried and a cripple. After the estate, which consisted principally of grain and live stock, had been equally divided, the married brother decided that his brother who was a cripple ought to have the largest share; and the brother who was a cripple came to a like conclusion, thinking that his brother who had a family ought to have the larger part. Under cover of night they both planned to carry out their purpose of giving a share to the other. It so happened that they fixed upon the same hour and place, and where these two brothers met, each seeking to convey to the other a part of his inheritance, King Solomon built the Temple for the worship of God. Yours fraternally,
S. H. Bauman,
Mt. Vernon, Iowa.
Reprinted from "The Builder", June 1915
When I was a king and a mason, a master proven and skilled,
I cleared me ground for a Palace, such as a King should build.
I decreed and dug down to my levels; presently, under the silt,
I came on the wreck of a Palace, such as a King had built.
There was no worth in the fashion; there was no wit in the plan;
Hither and thither, aimless, the ruined footings ran.
Masonry, brute, mishandled, but carven on every stone,
"After me cometh a Builder; tell him I, too, have known."
Swift to my use in my trenches, where my well-planned groundworks grew,
I tumbled his quoins and his ashlars, and cut and rest them anew.
Lime I milled of his marbles; burned it, slaked it, and spread;
Taking and leaving at pleasure the gifts of the humble dead.
Yet I despised not nor gloried, yet, as we wrenched them apart,
I read in the razed foundation the heart of that Builder's heart.
As he had risen and pleaded, so did I understand
The form of the dream he had followed in the face of the thing he had planned.
When I was a King and a Mason, in the open noon of my pride,
They sent me a Word from the Darkness; they whispered and called me aside.
They said, "The end is forbidden." They said, "Thy use is fulfilled.
Thy Palace shall stand as that other's, the spoil of a King who shall build."
I called my men from my trenches, my quarries, my wharves, and my sheers;
All I had wrought I abandoned to the faith of the faithless years.
Only I cut on the timber; only I carved on the stone:
"After me cometh a Builder; tell him I, too, have known."