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Of Investigation and Inquiry – Using Social Media to Investigate

Of Investigation and Inquiry

Of Investigation and Inquiry

Recently I came across a post on the facebook group “All Things Masonic” that was a seemingly simple question.   Asked by Bro. Byron Upton: “Should a petitioner’s facebook or other social media account be used as part of the investigation process?”

It was difficult for me to process the split in opinions on this matter. I couldn’t believe it actually. As of this blog post there have been 141 replies to this question. They range from the indecisive to the absolute polar ends. I cannot even say there is a clear majority without going through and counting each individual posters reply.

I am going to start out by saying my opinion, and then I will comment on a few replies that caught my attention.

For me, and for my lodge, I would say that any sort of investigation into a person’s character utilizes the materials we have available to us. This is especially true when cost is a factor. For no money at all, a lodge can quickly access information on an individual that has been posted on a public forum. Some chose to remain private, some may not understand how to make things private, but for anything that is out there to be viewed, I for one strongly feel it is fair game to use in an investigation of a potential member. It is at least fair game to be used to form questions for the candidate during the interview process.

Some of the responses in the negative included opinions that facebook and other social media sites are not an accurate representative of an individual and therefore should not be used. I say HOGWASH!   ….although I say it with caution. While it is absolutely true to say that facebook does not define a man from tip to toe, it does provide insight into much of their lives, friends, habits, and personality.

I am not sure why I would be incorrect by saying, “Isn’t that what we are looking for during an investigation?”   Granted, an investigation committee should not, and as a matter of fact CANNOT, use or base their overall conclusion on social media alone. That would be un-Masonic, cowardly, asinine, unfair, and downright stupid. What the investigation committee can and SHOULD do in my opinion is look at all aspects of posts and public information available to better create a series of questions for the candidate.

If you are like me, you hate facebook but cannot seem to stay away from it. I hate it, yet I can’t seem to get away from checking in the latest. I am constantly finding stuff that I have posted that was supposed to be private or for families to see only, but find out after 2 years the post was in fact public all along.   Because of this I have a simple rule…….try not to post offensive crap. Sounds simple enough, but never works out.

Your public opinions can land you in hot water. You public opinions can make or break a friendship. Your opinions are, however, YOUR opinions and as such are a representative of you as a person. For a guy like me, I am a very opinionated person. I care passionately about social issues and political topics. I always feel the need to voice my opinion. I have a private page that SHOULDN’T be visible to the general public and the friends I have on my page have either requested my friendship or I have requested theirs. If one of my “friends” does not like my opinion, they are free to unfriend. It is, however, my responsibility to conduct myself accordingly. As a private individual it is my responsibility to police my posts even if I think my political opinion will not be shared with some of my friends on the page.

As a candidate for membership, it is also your responsibility to police your public image and posts. While no one is saying you have to make facebook your professional resume, you would be foolish not to know that what you put online can and will be used against you sometimes.

Take my profile for example: I do not have my birthday listed for the public, however, according to facebook which required I was over a certain age when I joined in 2004, I was born February 29, 1956. If an investigation committee were to see this, common sense has to factor into investigation to a certain degree. Obviously I was not born on leap day 58 years ago.   On the other hand, if I was tagged by someone else in a picture side by side with a group white pointy hat wearing men burning a cross…….then I think it’s pretty much a given that I would either have some splainin’to do, or the photo spoke for itself. That is, a person in such a picture most likely has no place in Freemasonry. Again, this would be a question to bring up during the investigation.

As a matter of fact, if it was my investigation committee, odds are an image like that would be placed on the table shortly after “Hi, how are you today?”    The candidate will either have an explanation, or he won’t. Either way, I am doing my job to guard the west gate.

I honestly look at facebook investigation as a necessary evil. Sure, it’s your candidate’s personal page, but unfortunately that is what we are looking into, your personal life. This topic is of particular interest to me, as I have a first-hand experience dealing with a social media situation.

Like most internet savvy Masons, I constantly find myself looking for news stories, blogs, videos, and whatever, you name it, for mentions of the words “masonic” or “freemason.”   In doing this about a year ago I came across a YouTube video titled something along the lines of “My Freemason Diner.” (NOTE: I’ve modified the actual name here to protect the privacy of the lodge and the individual.) The video was of a young man who was video blogging himself getting ready to go to a dinner and meet a few brothers. Nothing is wrong here. This is exactly what happens all over the world. Because I am inquisitive, I started clicking on the individuals other videos. Some things just struck me as immature. Not so much wrong, but immature. This led me to his twitter and facebook accounts.   The entire time I was doing this I was finding more and more gray areas that, had it been my lodge, I would have wanted brought to my attention. I was seriously conflicted as to what to do, if anything. On one hand, it wasn’t my lodge, my investigation, or my business. On the other hand, it is all of our jobs to police our fraternity for the greater good.

After some back and forth I contacted the lodge secretary. This particular lodge (which was even a different jurisdiction than my own) was very happy to take my information, which I assured them I had no personal connection to at all, and add to their investigation. After a few weeks I received an unexpected thank you message from the secretary that stated, more or less, “Thank you. This man has some maturing to do.”

I think it is important to point out that the lodge seemed to me like they were willing to give some council to the young man. I don’t know what happened afterward. I just hope for all the best.   The main point here is, I found something on a public forum, I passed it along, and I left it up to the lodge to decide what steps, if any, to take. I would hope other lodges would do the same for me.

It is interesting to me that the opposition to using facebook as an investigation tool was as strong as it was. One theme I saw was a misunderstanding of the question where I believe some folks are thinking the questions was referring to using facebook instead of a face to face meeting. Never in a million years would that be acceptable. One on one is what we have to do.   However, I firmly believe we can and should be doing more.

What are your thoughts? Should we as a fraternity use any and all sources for investigation? Should we rely soley on what the candidates tell us in an interview? You know how I feel about it. I am curious to hear what you have to say.

 

-ATO
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All One Day Class Masons Should Just Quit, Right?

I Guess All One Day Class Masons Should All Just Quit, Right?

If you are a One Day Class Mason, you can probably relate to this post.

If you are a One Day Class Mason, you can probably relate to this post.

I felt the need to write this today to address the seriously pompous attitude that hundreds of our brethren have towards individual One Day Class Masons.  I really feel One Day Class Masons have gone through a belittlement and negative treatment by many brothers that is irresponsible at best, and un-Masonic to say the least.

While I am sure that MOST educated Masons can see the serious flaws of One Day Class events, I am left wondering why in the world the rest of the fraternity does nothing to help the situation, or the misguided brethren they seem to have a problem with.  I see equally worthless traditionally made do-nothing pieces of garbage that have slid through the West gate into our ranks that love to run their mouths about how crappy the One Day Class Mason is, while at the same time doing nothing to help the situation or take it upon themselves to study the landmarks and traditions of the fraternity.

I will be very clear in my distain for the practice of making Masons in one day, but as many of you know, I am a One Day Class Mason myself.  I am bothered more by this than any single human being on this Earth.  What I refuse to claim to be is some sort of a lower form of Mason or otherwise uneducated Mason.  I was led to the One Day Class by existing members.  I knew no difference at the time.

There are a few issues here where I can agree with most people who disagree with One Day Classes.

One Day Classes cheat a member out of a crucial experience that other Masons get. – I agree

One Day Classes often leave new members wondering aimlessly with no direction. – I agree

One Day Classes are designed primarily to boost numbers quickly. – I agree

How is any of the above the individual Mason’s fault?  I’m not talking about what he may or may not do once he finishes the One Day Class.  I am talking about the man who has been led to the One Day Class, often times by a traditionally made Mason.  How is it his fault by simply taking up an offer that was given to him?

Here is what upsets me to no end when surfing online or listening to others degrade the guys who have gone through the One Day Class events:  Often times, the pompous mouth spouting off makes zero distinction between his dislike of the PRACTICE of the One Day Class and the One Day Class Mason himself.  This arrogance is un-Masonic.

Look, It’s no secret that there is trash that comes in with a One Day Class, the real secret, or perhaps the unspoken truth that many of these brothers often forget to touch on, is that there is no lack of garbage that make it in the traditional way too.  This garbage will continue to breed garbage regardless if they are a One Day Class Mason or a traditional Mason.

While it is ok to disagree with the practice of a One Day Class, lumping all One Day Class Masons as a group of noncontributing do-nothing freeloaders is more detrimental to the Craft than anything in my opinion.  Look, I hate One Day Classes, but I will put my dedication, effort, and practice of Freemasonry up against any Mason, any day.

Also, another item to remember is that if you disagree with something so bad, make it known to the powers that can do something about it. Don’t arrogantly belittle a man simply based on his misguided ignorance of how the system was supposed to work.  Don’t anonymously post like a coward on in internet forum. For anyone to post belittling remarks about McMasons or other derogatory labels but not have the stones to discuss it with his District Deputy or Grand Lodge shows your cowardly attitude and lack of willingness to help the Craft.

Put yourself in the shoes of the One Day Class Mason who is trying his hardest to find his way.   What are they supposed to think about the Craft and its membership?  I can’t help but be bothered by the arrogance of some of these guys that are supposedly there to help their brothers.  Some super Masons you all must be.  You must be so far superior to all of us stupid One Day Class Mason’s aren’t you?  Thanks for the brotherly love.

If you read any of my previous blogs, or my book for that matter, you will all see that I believe a new member is a new member is a new member.  Yes, One Day Class’s have negatives in so many respects, but no new member is going to be so far advanced and educated beyond all expectations that they will be able to digest the ritual in which they took part in and understand it fully.   Will they be ahead?  Well, yeah, a little. They have a leg up, for sure, but any new member is not automatically God’s gift to Freemasonry.

While the One Day Class robs the member of the experience of being brought to light properly as well as so many other little things they should experience, I want to challenge any new traditional member to sit across the table from a NEW One Day Class Mason and discuss the ritual.  I bet they will both have a million curiosities that will require further instruction.

You are more than welcome to think our leadership has failed us.  You are more than welcome to disagree with the One Day Class conferrals. But it is not ok to prop yourself up as some super Mason and pretend you are so far superior to other Masons for showing up for 2 additional nights. The One Day Class Mason did not fail us; the fraternity failed us by allowing the practice to happen.   It was up to the fraternity to properly guide men and guard the West Gate and stick only the best leaders in charge.  The fraternity failed here in my opinion.  It was up to the fraternity to properly lead and instruct.  Our fraternity failed.

I disagree with One Day Class’s so much that it makes me angry when they come around, but I also took an oath to help aid and assist the fraternity to the best of my ability ,  to remind my brethren of their failings and to aid in their reformation.  While I disagree with what is happening, I also feel it time for the rest of the membership to take a stand and help correct the course. Educate others so that they too will uphold their obligation to help the fraternity and new member who needed guidance.  Don’t sit back and throw jabs and anonymous smart remarks.

As for the One Day Class Masons: LISTEN UP!  You already have a large portion of the Masonic world who thinks you are less of a Mason.  Sure, maybe they don’t say it to your face, but this feeling is out there, and you are kidding yourself if you think it’s not.  Stop giving them reasons for thinking you are a failure and get your acts together.  Perhaps if you don’t care about the fraternity enough to learn anything about it, then leave.  Get out now.  Resign.  Take a hike.  Go to the Moose.  Join the Lions.  You do no good here.   You aren’t doing the fraternity any good and you aren’t doing yourself any good by wasting money on dues for an organization that you are not using.

But, wait a minute, that line wasn’t just for the One Day Class Mason, it is for all the traditionally made trash we have in our ranks, too.

Here is where you all need to reread that paragraph above again.  Go, do it now.  The Masons who are here, who are reading this blog right now, like you, are doing it because they want to be better Masons.  You are either reading because you are a traditional Mason who saw the title and think you are somehow better than I or any other One Day Class Mason, or possibly you are a One Day Class Mason who saw the title and said, “Wait just a damn minute. I am an awesome Mason.”  You could just be neutral on the whole subject and only care about the true purpose of the Craft, which is self betterment and gaining useful knowledge.  Regardless, you are obviously a little more involved than others if you are taking the time to read about the Craft in your free time.

In other words, the crap bags of the fraternity, the card carriers, the low-lives, and the non-contributors are NOT reading this right now.  The men here, the men reading this, the men sharing this are here because they are actively involved in Freemasonry.  It’s my experience that card carriers and crap-bags rarely read books, let alone search out further information on Freemasonry.  Shouldn’t we focus our displeasure on those guys instead of the active members?

It’s all up to you. If you dislike One Day Classes, the work to end them.  Get on an interview committee and educate a potential candidate about the pit falls of a One Day Class.   If you dislike One Day Classes, then work to educate the men who have been led to them.  If you are tired of the crap we have flowing into the fraternity, then put up or shut up for the love of God.   What you can’t do is belittle the brothers who are trying to earn Freemasonry.  What you can’t do is claim dominance over every One Day Class Mason out there.

I’ve spent 10 years earning Freemasonry and discovering the tools that have been given to me. While, I disagree with the Once Day Class, I have seen the good and the bad in both systems.  Stop the ignorance and start acting like Masons already.  You will see that even though One Day Classes may not be ideal, there is no shortage of successful One Day Class Masons out there.

-ATO
——————————————–

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A Mason at Sight – The Rare Special Event with Common Misconceptions

The Following is a report I submitted to the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge.  Again, I’ve tried to reference everything found during my research for accuracy. If you find anything that needs attention please let me know.

A Mason at Sight
The Rare Special Event with Common Misconceptions

A phrase that seems to appear from time to time is “Mason at Sight.”  For many Masons and non-Masons alike this conjures up images of the Grand Master waving his hand like a wizard and saying something along the lines of, “ABRA KA-DABRA…IT IS DONE.”   The result being an ordinary man is instantly titled Master Mason without any effort or knowledge of the craft.

There is no shortage of misinformation out there on the process of being made a Mason at sight.  The term itself implies that with one pen stroke the Grand Master takes a man and declares him a Freemason.  This could not be further from the truth.

In fact, when a Grand Master makes a Mason at sight, it is not too extremely different from our widely accepted one day classes.  Of course there are certain differences that exist between jurisdictions, but for the most part being made a Mason at sight is not as much of a free pass that many people claim.

The actual process of making a Mason at sight is common but rare.  As of 2011, in Pennsylvania, this has only happened 91 times since 1842.1  Often times these special events are very large ceremonies attended by many members to witness the degree work in its entirety as was the case in 1998 when three Pennsylvania State Police officers were raised to the Sublime degree of a Master Mason by the Pennsylvania State Police Masonic Degree Team.2

With the Grand Masters approval, a Mason at sight event can be more than just degree work by any ordinary members.  Many times special degree teams made up of men from specific lines of work make it not only a special event for the candidates involved, but also displays the various special interest degree teams recognized by the Grand Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania.  As mentioned above the Pennsylvania State Police Masonic Degree team was just one of the various degree teams.  Pennsylvania also hosts the Pennsylvania Masonic Emergency Services Degree Team which took part in a similar event in 2002 when two men of the emergency services profession were made Masons at sight.

In Pennsylvania, the Grand Master has the authority as the chief Masonic official in the Jurisdiction to make a man a Mason without the traditional process of petitioning a lodge, submitting to an investigation of his background, or awaiting the outcome of a lodge vote.  In addition, the candidate does not have to wait a month in between degrees. 4

Although it is becoming more common than ever for one day conferrals and mass initiations, especially in Pennsylvania, there are differences between the so called ‘One Day Classes” and being made a Mason at sight.  During an official one day class, each candidate has gone through the exact preparation as a traditional candidate.  He has filed a petition seeking the prayer of his petition to be granted.  The petition was signed by two Master Masons as recommenders.  The petition is brought before the lodge for the approval or rejection of the candidate’s prayer being granted, and then upon approval, the candidate is interviewed by a committee of three Master Masons.  Upon a report to the lodge on the candidate, the lodge votes to approve or reject the candidate for membership.   If approved, the candidate then moved through three degrees of the symbolic lodge either in a traditional format of one degree at a time, or in a one day event receiving all three degrees one after the other.

When a man is made a Mason at sight, he still takes the degree work the same as any candidate would.  The differences lie in the fact that the Grand Master can vouch for the character of the man in question, and therefore forgo the petition, ballot, and interview process.  The candidate still takes his full degree work, complete with charges and investiture.  5

Typically a Mason at sight is someone of high regard or otherwise a pillar of society.  Just a few noted men who have become Masons at sight in Pennsylvania include Samuel W. Pennypacker (1897), Governor of Pennsylvania; John Wanamaker (1898), Merchant; Andrew and Richard Mellon (1928), Financiers; Milton S. Eisenhower (1951), brother of President Dwight Eisenhower; George M. Leader (1955), Governor of Pennsylvania; Fitz Eugene Dixon, Jr. (1976), Philanthropist; and Col. Paul J. Evanko (1999), Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner.6

The record for most Masons made at sight by a Pennsylvania Grand Master is nine.  It is held by Grand Master Benjamin Page who was in office from 1932 -1933.He is followed by William A. Carpenter with 7 between 1984 and 1985.  Tied for third are Grand Masters William J. Kelley (1897-1898) and J. Wilson Smith (1928-1929) each with 5.7

The earliest accounts, according to Mackey’s Encyclopedia, include an instance of Lord Lovell making the Duke of Lorraine, who later became Emperor of Germany, a Mason at sight in 1731.  Mackey also tells us that the Duke of Gloucester was made a Mason at sight in 1766.  The Duke of Cumberland received this honor in 1767.  In 1787, in an “occasional Lodge”  the Prince of Wales was made a Mason at sight.   The term “occasional lodge” can also be called “emergency lodge” which Mackey tells us is; “specially convened by him (The Grand Master), and consisting of such Master Masons as he may call together for that purpose only; the Lodge ceasing to exist as soon as the initiation, passing, or raising has been accomplished, and the Brethren have been dismissed by the Grand Master.”8

Although the practice of making Masons at sight had been recorded in some form or another as early as 1731, it did not become officially authorized in Pennsylvania until 1825.   In this year an addition of the “Ahiman Rezon” was printed that listed one of the Grand Masters powers; “To cause masons to be made in his presence, at any time; and at any place, a lodge being opened by him for that purpose.”9

As of 1995, the authority was expanded to read as; “To cause Masons to be made in his presence, at any time and at any place, a Lodge being opened by him for that purpose; To grant, and authorize to be granted, Dispensations for making Masons, for constituting Lodges, for laying Cornerstones, for forming Masonic processions, and for the burial of unaffiliated Master Masons; Adopted December 6, 199510

It is also worth noting that a man made a Mason at sight still has to petition an individual lodge for acceptance.  So while a few steps in the process have been relaxed with the approval, supervision, and direction of the Grand Master, these men still need to ballot a lodge for membership.  Unlike the one day classes when a man is made a member of a lodge while typically sitting beside many men who are becoming members of different lodges, Masons at sight, many times, are just made Masons of that particular jurisdiction.  A lodge still has to accept his prayer of his petition for membership. This is similar to a membership transfer.

As stated in the current Ahiman Rezon; 19.04. “Brethren made at sight or by Dispensation do not thereby become members of the Lodge in which they are made. To become members they must apply by petition, and be duly elected, as hereinafter provided.”11

The idea that making a Mason at sight is somehow bad or negative to Freemasonry is nothing new.  Many authors have touched on this topic for years.  While it is worth noting this practice has been around for many years, some jurisdictions have claimed they forbid it, but at the same time actually performing it in practice.   One noted Masonic author, Albert G. Mackey, touched on this topic in 1874;

The prerogative of the Grand Master to make masons masons at sight, is a Landmark which is closely connected with the preceding one. There has been much misapprehension in relation to this Landmark, which misapprehension has sometimes led to a denial of its existence in jurisdictions where the Grand Master was perhaps at the very time substantially exercising the prerogative, without the slightest remark or opposition…12

The misleading title of “mason at sight” has caused many uneducated members to hold animosity towards such an action.  While it only takes a few minutes of searching online or browsing Grand Lodge records to prove otherwise, there still exist the thought that a member is somehow less a member because he was made a Mason at sight.  Indeed, there is typically discussion among brethren when referring to our Masonic presidents that often times leads to at least one person pointing out that President Taft was made a Mason at sight, and for that reason was less a real Mason and more of an honorary Mason.

In reality, not only did Taft receive the entire three degree ritual in person, but also went on to witness other men complete their Masonic journey in the Master Mason degree.   When Taft received his degrees at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Ohio in 1909, the Grand Lodge of Ohio had already been performing the Mason at Sight ritual for some time. 13

So often was the notion of “Mason at Sight” misunderstood with a negative connotation that from time to time some Grand Masters would issue statements on such proceedings.  As we can read from Maryland Grand Master Thomas J. Shryock in 1897;

By virtue of the authority in me vested as your Grand Master, I convened an Emergency Lodge, and made, “at sight,” His Excellency, Lloyd Lowdes, Governor of Maryland, a Mason.  An erroneous idea has arisen in the minds of many of the fraternity as to the ceremony if making a Mason ‘at sight,’ and to erase this wrong, and perhaps damaging impression, I deem it but proper to sat that, in the making of a mason ‘at sight,’ by the Grand Master, the candidate is required to pass through all the forms and ceremonies incident to the conferring of the Three Degrees, in the same manner that an applicant does in applying to a subordinate lodge.  The impression of some that the Grand Master, by virtue of his authority, touches a man on the shoulder and creates him a mason is entirely erroneous and I know that this impression does exist to a certain extent.  I think it proper to here state, so the craft may understand it throughout our Jurisdiction, that such is not the case.  The making of a Mason ‘at sight,’ is one of the landmarks of the Fraternity, the prerogative of the grand Master, and I have on two occasions exersized that prerogative, as much for the purpose of not allowing it to become dormant as for any other reason.”14

One thing to take from the above clarification made by Grand Master Shryock is that it would seem a defense added to the use of such a ceremony would be the claim that it must be used in order for it to continuously be understood.  While to some that may seem like a fancy way of politicking the situation, it is very true.  As we see too often in lodges as men move though the chairs, become Master, and move on to bigger and better things, many times the members holding the reins are only educated in what they have personally seen or took part in.  Any ritual, extra floor work, or otherwise seldom used ceremony that is not constantly utilized it often lost to the next generation of men.  For proof of this, I can attest with my own personal knowledge that when Grand Lodge officially allowed stated meetings to be opened and closed in the short way; 15 what at first seemed like a harmless shortcut became a matter of many new members not seeing the long form traditional opening or closing for up to 2 years.  These same men who had never seen the work performed were clueless when asked to do it in ritual.  As easy as it is for some to say, “Attend school of instruction.”  The reality is, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

What is also important to remember is that each Jurisdiction is subject to no one except the Grand Master of their own Jurisdiction.   While this practice has been seen as controversial, it is also widely practiced across the world each year.  In fact, our own “One Day Class” events that are held by dispensation of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in which large numbers of men are made Masons in a one day auditorium type event are very similar in practice.

It is worth noting that those who decry the practice of making Masons at sight, but seem to acknowledge the practice of one day classes are obviously blindly ignorant to what exactly this practice is.  In fact, the one day class ritual could be seen as more detrimental to the Craft, as each candidate is not led individually through the degree, but rather sits among many other men viewing it from a chair.

The growing popularity of one day Masonic classes is not in itself met without controversy.  One does not have to ask around for very long before they realize that there stands a silent but constant negative aura of feelings between some members of the fraternity.  While there is never an official designation of who is or is not a traditional candidate, one day Masons do face scrutiny from time to time.

The rising popularity of one day events has paved the way for a more general acceptance of this practice, although it is up for debate as to its effectiveness on productive membership.  There are arguments to be made on both sides of the aisle.

What is clear however is that there is no shortage of highly dedicated men claiming the ranks of Past Master or other officers of the lodge who are products of the one day classes.  It would seem that no matter how a man is made a Mason, if he, individually, chooses to pursue the path to Masonic enlightenment he will achieve his goals, even with negative and unnecessary hurdles in his way.

Another hurdle that appears from time to time is cross Jurisdiction recognition.  As is the case in any Grand Jurisdiction, each Grand Master technically answers to no person outside his Jurisdiction.  While many states vary slightly in certain aspects of ritual, practice, or work, for the most part they all maintain the same landmarks and mutual respect.  This allows each Grand Master to govern his Jurisdiction accordingly while maintaining harmony and recognition of other Jurisdictions.  On occasion, a Grand Master may perform a dispensation that goes contrary to what most other Grand Masters would feel is acceptable.

There is a long-standing legend among many Prince Hall Masons that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was made a Mason at sight posthumously in 1999 in Georgia.  As is typical online, once this is posted, or reposted, emotions run wild with men from both sides both in support and adamantly against this notion.   As it turns out, this legend is false.  Dr. King was never made a Mason in life, nor posthumously.  Not to mention the shear notion of this action would go contrary to the landmarks of the fraternity.

Although this notion may seem far fetch and unlikely, there is a very large population that continues to perpetrate this myth.  This does raise an interesting question though.  What if a grand Master were to posthumously declare a man a Mason at sight?  For starters, based on the official process of making a Mason at sight, this would be impossible, as a dead man cannot go through degree work.   In the highly hypothetical and unlikely situation that a Grand Master just decided to declare a man a Mason after death without the ceremony what could happen?   This is where the “cross Jurisdiction recognition” comes in.

Each Grand Jurisdiction is subject to no one but their own Grand Master in that jurisdiction.  If any Grand Master in any jurisdiction were to declare a man a Mason posthumously it would not be subject to the debate of any other authority but its own. While this may cause massive ripples in the harmony of the order among other Jurisdiction, the fact is, no other Jurisdiction could stop it from happening.   This sort of action would no doubt cause serious recognition repercussions from other Grand Jurisdictions.

Because many other Grand Jurisdictions carry mutual recognition, a Mason made at sight in one state would stand to be a Mason in another as long as each Grand Jurisdiction recognized each other. In that line of thought, any other Grand Jurisdiction that shares recognition with the Jurisdiction in question would also recognize the dead man as a brother.

In Pennsylvania there is limited (although expanding) Prince Hall recognition. If King or any other man were made a Mason posthumously by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia it still would not mean all men would recognize him as a brother. In fact, at the current time Prince Hall Masons of Georgia are not recognized by the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge, and so, all so-called “regular” members in lodges across Pennsylvania would be subject to the Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and would not recognize Dr. King as a Freemason.

There is no doubt that King carried many outstanding characteristics of a qualified candidate for Freemasonry.  In fact his father and Grand Father were both Prince Hall Masons.   To put this myth to bed though, King was never made a Freemason.  16

To sum it all up; it is safe to say that the act of “Making a Mason at Sight” is justified, regulated, and rightfully preformed.  The candidates are still given degrees, and the lessons are being told to each person, individually.   The Grand Masters who chose to perform this act are neither breaking any landmark nor bending any law of Freemasonry.  This is a practice that has been documented for well over 200 years and has not brought about the absolute destruction of the craft.  Hopefully, with a little education, this practice can lose the negative stigma that it has carried for many years.   We all can have an opinion on the matter.  While it may be justified to disagree with the practice, it is not justified to accuse any Grand Master of malfeasance.

It would wise for us to recognize that no matter how a man is made a Mason, he is only as good of a Mason as he makes himself.  Masons at sight and one day class Masons are every bit a member as the next guy.  These men have every opportunity, right, and privilege that their lodges offer every member.  To degrade their character or membership based on ignorance of Masonic law or differing opinion on the manner in which they were made a Mason would be truly un-masonic.  We are a brotherhood.  We are all with our own strengths and weaknesses.

Bibliography

  1. Pennsylvania Freemason Magazine, Volume LVIII, May 2011, Number 2, page 15.
  2. Pennsylvania Freemason Magazine, Volume XLV, November 1998, Number  4
  3. Pennsylvania Freemason Magazine, Volume XLIX, February 2002, Number  1
  4. Pennsylvania Freemason Magazine, August 1987
  5. National Heritage Museum, Making a Mason at Sight, the Case of President-elect Taft. http://nationalheritagemuseum.typepad.com/library_and_archives/william-h-taft/
  6. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, newly Made Masons at Site, 2001. http://www.pagrandlodge.org/events/masonsatsite2001/index.html
  7. Pennsylvania Freemason Magazine, August 1987
  8. Making a Mason at Sight, Bro. Wildey E. Atchison, Colorado, The Builder, February 1916 http://www.masonicdictionary.com/sight.html
  9. Pennsylvania Freemason Magazine, August 1987
  10. Ahiman Rezon; 19.04
  11. Ahiman Rezon; 12.03
  12. An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences, Moss and Co., 1874, page 441.
  13. The American Tyler-Keystone, decoted to Freemasonry and Its Concerdant Other, Volume 24, Page 55, Craft Movement in Michigan.
  14. Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free, & Accepted Masons of Canada, 1896, page XXXVII
  15. Renaissance as to Grand Lodge, PA Freemason Magazine, January 2010, page 15, (Opening and Closing Meetings) http://www.pagrandlodge.org/freemason/0110/page15.html
  16. The Texas Prince Hall Freemason, Winter 2001, Page 59-62, Was MLK Jr. a Mason?

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Our Red Triangle – Presentation on Freemasonry and the Holocaust.

square_compassThe Red Triangle

Being a Mason and a big WWII buff I was drawn to the story of Freemason’s during the Holocaust in Nazi occupied countries.  This was a presentation I gave to my lodge in January of 2012.  The information is sited and sourced.  I made all attempts to make sure everything here is factually accurate and provable by sources.  If you find anything that is inaccurate please let me know.   Click the link above to download the PPT presentation.  Please feel free to offer up your thoughts.

If you liked what you read here…GREAT.  Be sure to follow me on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SquareOfVirtue

 

UPDATE: 2/19/2014 – I’ve noticed this presentation several places around the web.  I have no problems with anyone showing or sharing this presentation to lodges and members.  My only request is that you please link back to my page and credit my research accordingly.  I love to see where my thoughts and research end up.  Thank You. – Adam

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When is information irrelevant?

square_compassWhen is information irrelevant?  If we are not to associate with clandestine Masons, but find they have something we need and are offering freely, should we take it?

These are some odd questions, I know, but they are important.  I bring this up because of what seems like a harmless and endless source of information is coming from a source that most “regular” Freemasons are not suppose to be associating with.

If you are a Freemason, have googled anything on Freemasonry, or have otherwise sought information on Freemasonry, then the odds are you have come across the website Phoenix Masonry.

What is Phoenix Masonry?  We can start with what we clearly know.  They are an online web based Masonic information resource.  They act as an online Museum, library, and repository for Masonic artifacts and regalia.  They host hundreds of Masonic resources free for the viewing.

Why is this a bad thing and why should we be concerned?

To cut right to the chase, it is not my intention to pass judgment on another man who I do not know and have never met.  My intention is to post simple facts and sources for you all to do more in depth study if you chose.   I will use the terms “regular”, “irregular”, and “mainstream” in this report as my Grand Jurisdiction and recognized lodges of my Grand Jurisdiction label them.  They are not meant to be used as terms of degradation or defamation to another individual.

Phoenix Masonry is owned and hosted by what can be considered an “irregular” Mason.  His name is David Lettelier.  He is currently based out of Salt Lake City Utah and is associated with Athena Lodge No 2009.  Athena Lodge operates under the Juridiction of the International Order of Delphia.  Delphia lodges are mixed gender and operate under the Scottish Rite Symbolic degrees.  They are a mixed gender organization and are considered irregular by mainstream Freemasonry.

(As a side note that some of you may know, currently in America, only a handful of recognized lodges in Louisiana operate the three degrees of the Scottish rite, rather than the Preston-Webb /York Rite degrees most mainstream Grand Lodges follow as Craft Masonry.  More info on this can be found here.)

Mr. Lettelier was not always an “irregular” Mason.  He was a member and former Worshipful Master of Northside Lodge No. 283, in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was expelled from his lodge and the fraternity in 1998.  In his own words, you can read his side of his expulsion here and form your own opinion on the matter.

Given anything you may have learned about his expulsion, I will not ask you to disregard, but to recognize it.  Focus on the bylaws, rules, regulation, and edicts of your Grand Lodge.  There was a member who used to be regular, is now irregular, and runs one of the largest free sources of Masonic information online.  Does this make this man a bad guy?  No.  Does this make this man or his site somehow sinister?  No.  Does this make this man a brother?  No.   In our oath not only do we promise to not be present at, help aid or assist in the making of a Mason clandestinely, nor of a woman a Mason, but in our charges we are also told not to associate Masonically or communicate Masonically with clandestine organizations either.   Any organization claiming to be Masonic, but not recognized by your Grand Jurisdiction is forbidden from you associating with.  Go talk to any Mason or Shriner in Arkansas if you want to learn more about this.

How does this apply to using this site?  I guess I don’t know.  Perhaps I am seeking others opinions.  For starters, if we are not to be associating with this fella, does that mean we are not to take his free information?  I mean, facts are facts, so should it matter where we get these facts?  My opinion is that knowledge can be gained from any source.  After all, I think you would be hard pressed to find a Mason who has not at least seen or read an unauthorized version of the Masonic ritual in some form.  The point being, if the information is there, it can be used. Why not use it?

I guess the largest problem I have with Phoenix Masonry is not that he is irregular, but that it is not very clearly stated on his site what his association is.   With a little time bouncing around the internet, all this information can be found; however, it is absent, or at least not easily accessible from the site.

Because of this, I feel, is why I see so many regular Masons promoting his site and referring to him as a brother.   As a Freemason you should be aware that even if you sympathize with Mr. Lettelier, you cannot refer to him as a brother unless your Grand Jurisdiction recognizes his lodge.  You also cannot communicate Masonically with unrecognized or so called “clandestine” lodges.   Just something to keep in mind in order to stay out of trouble with your Grand Lodge.

I don’t ask anyone to agree or disagree with me, just to be aware.

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The Freemasons vs. Freemasonry – A Complicated Web of Men

11 February 2013 1 comment

FORWARD: The following is an opinion presentation I gave to my lodge on February 11, 2013.  This paper was turned in for credit to the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic knowledge.

The Freemasons vs. Freemasonry  – A Complicated Web of Men

square_compassA lot can be said about the Masonic fraternity.  It’s an odd monster.  There are so many different aspects of the fraternity that a man could literally read a new book every day for the rest of his life trying to understand it and still not be an expert on all things Masonic.  Being that there are so many faces of Freemasonry, it can sometimes be difficult to explain any one particular avenue of the Craft without at least touching on the many other facets of the fraternity.  One could break down Masonry into categories of history, tradition, morals, practices, ritual, or knowledge to try and cover all the basic aspects of the Craft and there would still be more to talk about.

Along with such a large and complicated organization comes a plethora of men making the wheels turn.  These men come from all different backgrounds and professions.  These men all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Every man in the fraternity can bring something to the good of the group if he chooses.  Likewise, it’s important for even the most organized of men to understand that any man who tries to run everything himself can cause ripples in the harmony of the order.  It is important for us to all participate where we can and at the same time also invite and include others.

It is first important to understand that no one man can run a hall or operate their lodge by themselves.  It takes many people performing numerous unrelated tasks to keep everything running smooth. Separately, tasks may seem as though they vary in difficulty and importance, but collectively the slightest oversight could lead to major problems.

There is a business side of the fraternity, as well as a social side of the fraternity.  There is a charitable aspect, and there is a ritualistic aspect.   There are very public faces of the fraternity, and there are also very private dealings within the lodge. There are old members and there are young members.  There are active members and there are men who rarely attend.

It is often assumed that at the top stand a handful of all powerful figures.  This is true in some regard as there is in fact a hierarchy of men with titles such as Grand Master,  Worshipful Master, Senior Warden, and Junior Warden.  Although a lot of responsibility rests with these men, it’s necessary to understand that these men are not always responsible for everything that happens with the lodge or hall.

On the contrary, many times these guys have little to no understanding about the majority of the day to day tasks of building upkeep.  Things like hall rentals, keeping the electricity on, making sure mail goes to the correct people, and making sure the bathrooms are stocked with toilet paper are just a few items that are not often on the minds of the supposed “guys at the top.”

This Brings us to the Lodge and the Hall.

A lodge needs to have meetings which require a building or space. Some lodges have their own building, some lodges meet within a shared hall at different times.  A building or hall requires some sort of hall association to perform maintenance.  In cases where more than one lodge meets in the same building, the individual lodges are required to rent the building from the hall association to fund upkeep and general maintenance.  Members from all renting lodges can be elected to the hall association to act as a governing body of the hall.

Although it is true that there can be great profit in a well run building available for public rental, the main purpose of a Masonic hall is to simply act as a place where individual lodges meet to conduct business.

Individual lodges are run by elected officers.  These officers are charged with upholding the constitution of their Grand Lodge, and the bylaws of their individual lodges.  In addition to elected officers, each lodge also has appointed officers.  Many times these men are any member who shows a desire to advance in Freemasonry and possibly become Worshipful Master in the future.

A common phrase heard in lodge is “advancing through the chairs.”  What follows is the general gist of what is meant by this phrase, although it must be understood that this is NOT necessarily the official practice of any lodge and should never be assumed that this is what will happen with any member.

While these is no guarantee that any man will be appointed to any chair by the Worshipful Master, typically if a man shows desire, he  is first appointed as the lowest officer, who sits in a specifically designated chair on the floor of the lodge. In a perfect world, the following year the same man is again appointed to the next highest office, and consequently sits in a new physical chair on the floor.  This usually continues from year to year until the man is ready and certified to be elected Junior Warden.  If the man is fortunate enough to be elected by the brethren, the following year he is usually elected Senior Warden, and after another year he may be elected Worshipful Master.

There are many exceptions to this unofficial chair progression.  Often time’s men have no desire to advance to an elected position, but enjoy sitting in a minor chair, and so, may spend years being appointed to the same chair as men pass around them.  Sometimes men wait for years in anticipation of being coming Worshipful Master, but fail to fulfill the necessary qualifications and certifications to even be considered for the office.  Sometimes a man spends years being appointed to every chair, learns all the work, passes all his certification, but is not elected by the lodge to be Master for one reason of another.  This is rare, but it does happen.  There is no guarantee a man will become Master, no matter how hard he works.

On the other hand, especially in lodges where there is limited interest from the membership to be an officer, a new Mason may find himself thrust very quickly into a higher appointed chair.  In many jurisdictions a man cannot be elected as a Warden until he is certified and proven to be capable of reciting a degree and covering the business of the lodge. The business of the lodge can be just that, any business of the lodge; opening, closing, memorials, welcoming guest, approving treasurer and secretary reports.   If any member holds this certification he can be considered qualified to be an elected officer. This is true even of a new member who has never sat in an appointed chair. It is rare, but on occasion a man can be elected as a Warden within a year of joining the lodge, and in some cases even become Master the following year.  This is an extremely rare occurrence, and it should go without saying that the value of such a Master who attains this office would most likely not be very beneficial to the order.

From the newly raised Mason, to the fifty year member, we all have the privilege of walking through the west gate to be seated as brothers.  These are just a few faces of the fraternity, there are countless more. The point is; it takes different types of men to control the different faces of the fraternity.

What is Freemasonry? 

That is such an open ended question that it cannot be defined completely in one paper.  There is a classic phrase often used by Masonic historians to explain Freemasonry that goes as follows:

“Freemasonry is a system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols.”

This phrase is original credited to a man named Dr. Samuel Hemming.1 Take a moment and reread that phrase.  “A system of morality veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols.”  It is a beautiful sentence.  It is very poetic.  It flows like literary water.   Although it is a simple definition, it is a very clear one. You cannot, however, expect to gain an understanding of the Craft based on this one phrase.  It is here that the student should look past the poetic charm of this simple phrase and dig a little further.   It is up to the student to expand on this phrase and look into what exactly it means.

Just as often the case that men will not ask for directions, men tend to also not admit they don’t understand something. This is especially the case when they feel everyone around them completely understands the subject and that they somehow are the odd man out.  Because of this, a man will chose to sit in the dark rather than seek enlightenment or education.   For those of you who undoubtedly have sat in an auditorium during a question and answer session, but did not ask your question because you thought your question was too simple or not intellectually stimulating enough to complete with the deeper questions being tossed around, the following is for you. For educational purposes, let’s blow this simple phrase up and complicate it a little.

We start with the first part.  Freemasonry is a system of morality.  This seems simple enough on the surface.  You have to first define what a system is.  Simply put, a system is a set of smaller things connected together to form a complex whole.  This can be an assembly line, or many items working together to create a network or streamline an action.  We move from here to morality.  Morality can be defined as distinctions between good and bad, right and wrong.  We know there are some folks who are morally upstanding, and there are some folks who are morally corrupt.  A man’s morals are his actions and how he chooses to make them either positive or negative.

Because Freemasonry is to be a positive journey for a man, when armed with the above definitions we can safely say that the system of morality we are talking about is the combined items of rules, directions, suggestions, recommendations, and instructions that will positively influence our daily lives.  Simply put, it can be orders to function in such a manner that is beneficial.

How does it give us these orders to function?  This brings us to the second portion of this phrase; “veiled in allegory.”  From my own experience, and asking around in a test pool of friends, I have come to the conclusion that this part is more difficult for most people to explain.    Veiled simply means; covered or hidden behind.  Veiled is a way of saying concealed, disguised, or obscured.  Allegory on the other hand is the word that many men, for some reason, won’t admit they may not fully be able to define.  The words “allegory” and “veiled” go and hand in hand as allegory is usually a story or poem or art form that can be interpreted to reveal a deeper meaning.  Many times allegories contain characters or events that represent or symbolize ideas and concepts. To break this down as simple as possible, with caution, this portion can be described as “art with things hidden in it.”

How can we find what is hidden?  The latter portion of our simple poetic phrase tells us that Freemasonry is illustrated by symbols.  A symbol can be anything that represents something else.  It can be a material object that reminds you to do something.  It can be a mark, character, color, or anything used to help us think, function, or process.

When we put all of the above together what we have is an organization that will give us positive direction in life by telling us stories that will make us better people.  It seems very simple, but it is not for everyone, and not everyone is fit for the fraternity.

It is also worth pointing out that a man can improve himself without being a Freemason.  A man can be perfect without the Freemasons in his life.  One does not need symbolism and allegory to become a good person.  This just happens to be our method of personal enlightenment and betterment of character.

Why the Symbols?

Any Masons, be it the general card carrier or the 50 year Past Master, can tell you that one of the most dominant aspects of Freemasonry is the use of symbols and symbolism.  The important thing for Freemasons to understand is that almost everything is symbolic in a Masonic lodge.  This is not just true of physical items like the square and compass, or the other working tools, but all things, down to the manner in which we are to stand, sit, turn, address one another, shake hands and carry our regalia in lodge.

Symbols are used as reminders for us.  The symbols found in our lodge are also found in our daily lives.  Being familiar with them in lodge will help you recognize them while running about in our daily lives.  The effect of understanding the working tools of Freemasonry and ability to recognize symbols if our daily lives will no doubt make a Mason a better man, and as a result, improve the world around him.

To the unenlightened Mason, or non-Mason, much of our symbolism is lost with them because they are not educated.  This can be one of the main reasons that not all men benefit the rewards of the Craft.  Men come to lodge, men go through the motions, leave lodge, but rarely ask or possibly do not care the reason or meaning behind the many aspects of the fraternity they are a part of.  An argument could then be made that perhaps these men should have chosen a different fraternity, as it is clear that they are not getting the most out of the ancient system of which they are a part of.

What then makes you a Freemason? 

Paying your dues?  Many men think so.   Does perfect attendance make you a Freemason?  Many men think this as well.  Does volunteering, fundraising, or memorizing the ritual make you a Freemason?  Again, many men think so.

These are all noble characteristics of a great Mason.  The fraternity absolutely needs men to do all the above and move.  Why then, question whether any of this stuff makes a man a Freemason?

The answer is because we have lost the concept of what it means to be in the Freemasons, and what it means to be a Freemason.  Think about this for a moment.  Does perfect attendance mean anything if you are not living by the working tools?  If you pay your yearly dues, but have no idea what the working tools are, can you truly call yourself a Freemason?

While “the Freemasons” as a whole can be considered a club by some, Freemasonry definitely is not.  Freemasonry is much more.  Freemasonry is a system of living.  Freemasonry is a living system.  It’s true.  Freemasonry, when practiced correctly, is a system of life that teaches self improvement.  A Freemason is supposed to practice Masonic virtues.  A Freemason is taught to make use of the working tools of the Craft as symbols to aid and improve their daily lives.

How can a man be a Mason?

Well, for starters, it cannot be accomplished through any amount of memorization, volunteerism, charity, or good deeds.  All of the above will certainly make you a great person, and a true Freemason should have all of the above qualities, but these items cannot on their own make you a Freemason.  After all, a person outside our fraternity can volunteer, give to charity, do nothing but good deeds, and if he somehow stumbles upon our ritual, could also memorize the entire thing.

Let’s assume for a moment that a man, outside our west gate, was to do all of the above.  Does that make him a Mason?  If you have any other thought in your head other than a very loud and clear NO, then perhaps it is time for some basic Masonic education.

What then, makes the Masons stand out?  Why are they any different than the Moose or the Elks or the Rotary?  Why does one need to join the Masons to do charitable things?   The short answer is, you don’t.  If you wanted to do charitable things, then any of these great organizations will be able to fulfill your desire to do so.

Perhaps if all you want to do is volunteer and do charity, then maybe the Masons are not a great fit for you.  Not because you are not a good person, but because that is not what Freemasonry is solely about.

To put it in other words, the great list of positive things the Masons can lay claim to are not necessarily a result of us being a so called civic club.  On the contrary, one could argue that the “club” many see is a side effect of the members just practicing Masonic virtues.

Here lies the problem.  In today’s world, unfortunately, many Masons cannot tell you why we are different from other fraternal organizations.  Some men will sit on the sidelines for years and complain about “never doing anything.” They will follow with comparisons of other civil organizations who are doing overwhelmingly well in attendance and charity and ask why we do not do these things.    Others will avoid meetings because they are “boring.”  There is always a reason to find fault in any organization, but for some reason in Freemasonry we have an overwhelming number of men who have no clue what Freemasonry is about, but yet insist we should be “out there” doing things.

This may be difficult for some to listen to, but as stated above, those who truly live by Masonic virtues and make use of the working tools in their daily lives will, by default, not only see the great benefits of Freemasonry, but will also gain an understanding of what Freemasonry is.  They will understand why just “being in the Freemasons” is not enough to actually BE a Freemason.

Freemasonry is about Self Improvement

We are supposed to gain an understanding of the seven liberal arts.  Listen to that again.  We are to gain knowledge of the seven liberal arts.  Grammar, rhetoric, logic, geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy are not just words found in a ritual.   They are not just a string of text meant to be regurgitated to a candidate.   They are to be understood.  If the general member took 2 days to crack a book like “The Exemplar” or “The Builders” by Joseph Fort Newton they would realize that Freemasonry is not just a civic club.

Too many members today seek no education.  They are asking what Freemasonry offers, but yet they are not taking the Craft up on what it is freely giving them.  They ask; “What can we do?” even though it is clearly told to them in the three symbolic degrees.

Where do we go from here? 

We can start by going to the lodge.  Those who seek answers will find them there.  Even if your lodge is complacent and has no form of mentoring or Masonic education chair, you will find resources in your lodge.  You will find books.  You will find minutes.  You will find a likeminded person if you seek them out.  Nothing will come to you until you seek it out.   When you are ready to advance, there will be opportunity.  It is important to state very clearly that nothing will be handed to you.  It will take time and dedication to understand the Craft and benefit its rewards.  No amount of donating to charity or paying your way will lead to true Masonic understanding or benefits.  Remember, wealth cannot purchase your admission.  This is another phrase that actually means something during your initiation.   Until you understand the working tools and symbolism behind the ritual, you will not understand the Craft.

It is important to understand that Freemasonry is a system of moral living and self-improvement.  It is important to understand that Freemasonry is found in the symbolic degrees, or in your blue lodge.  The symbolic lodge is the most important body in Freemasonry.   This foundation is where you are taught about the working tools.  The symbolic degrees are where you learn what it means to be a Freemason.

What about the other orders of Freemasonry? 

You never have to look far to find a man with a blank petition to the York Rite, Scottish Rite, Shrine, or any number of organizations that claim a Masonic connection. So what about them? They exist. They do great things.  There is probably a body very close to you, and they probably want you to become a member.  You see them out in the public.  They are civic and social.  The list goes on and on about what these other fraternities do.   Most of these organizations claim to be founded upon Masonic principles too.  That almost seems like all the more reason to run right out and join, right?  After all, we have all heard about how old Uncle Jim was a 32nd degree Mason.  He must have been pretty high up and powerful, right?

Why is any of this relevant? 

The answer is because we as Freemasons need to understand that these other bodies are completely separate fraternities.  While they are Masonic in nature, and often have degrees and further education, they alone cannot make you a Freemason.  They are not meant to be the foundation of Masonic education.  These orders were designed to piggyback off Freemasonry by taking men who knew Masonic virtues and understood things like working tools and cable tows, the three great lights, the three lesser lights, and all things Masonic and offer them a place to see these things practiced.

These bodies can take a Mason and give him “something to do.”  These bodies can give hours of entertainment and life lesson degree work that illustrates Masonic principles.  Perhaps this is why they are still very popular.  Many of these bodies are very public and very well known as positive organizations in society.  They do a lot of great things.  They can expand your Masonic understanding through pageantry and other degrees. They cannot, however, make you any more of a Freemason than you can become in the first three degrees of the Symbolic Lodge.

Is that a bad thing?

That would depend on who you ask.  Of course these organizations are not bad or sinister in any way.  They help millions of people every day.  They are noble in their mission and popular with their participating members.  So, what’s the downside then?   When dealing with the subject of Freemasonry, the downside to these appendent bodies is that they can too often act as a distraction to the original purpose of Freemasonry.

This is in no way an attempt to degrade of put down these great organizations, but rather point out the fact that these organizations are separate from the symbolic lodge.  You can probably go to any Lions Club, Rotary Club, Elks, Moose, Odd Fellows, or other Fraternity and find many men who also hold membership in a Masonic lodge.  These other organizations do not make you a more powerful Mason, and no one would ever claim that they would.  It may benefit the new Mason to view appendant Masonic bodies as the same.  While requirements for membership in the Shrine include being a Freemason, the Shrine cannot make you any more of a Freemason.  You can rise to the highest office of Imperial Potentate of the Shrine International and you still would not be any more of a Mason than someone who has never held an office in blue lodge, but happens to understand the working tools.

This is where interest is born.  This is where tomorrow’s leaders take their first steps into the Craft.  Maybe it’s time we come back to the basics.

  1. History of Freemasonry, Volume 4, Macky, Cleg, Hughan, page 1264

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Categories: Masonic, Shrine

My Masters Mark

29 January 2013 1 comment

My Masters Mark

My MarkBeing newly exalted as a Royal Arch Mason, there is much I do not understand completely about Chapter or the York Rite in General.  Unlike many Masons, joining chapter for me is not just something I had to do because it is required to join Council which is then required to join Commandry and become a Knight Templar.

On the contrary, at this point in life, I could care less about Council or Commandry, as I have not fully understood the basics of Chapter yet.  There is no doubt that someday I will rise through the bodies of the York Rite and become a Knight Templar, but for now I have no interest, and to be honest with you, I sort of view the idea of a strictly Christian Masonic body to be un-Masonic in practice.  I am speaking as a Christian and a Mason here too by the way.  This is a story for another time.

With that said, for now I am trying to learn a little more about Chapter.  I purposely put off joining Chapter until I finished my year in the East in Blue Lodge and became a Past Master.  I feel that I have a very good grasp on most things from the symbolic lodge and also hold a pretty good understanding of the Craft degrees in general.  I received the Pennsylvania proficiency award for being certified in all three degrees in 2011, although at this point in my life I would have difficulty conferring a second degree, and would most likely need major prompting with the first if it was just dropped on me last minute, as I have not conferred those two degrees in quite some time.  I could, however, tell you about the allegorical stories and working tools of each degree in detail.

I have been interested in Chapter for some time, and I have always had an interest in Royal arch Masonry as I understood it to be a continuation of the third degree.  I joined a Chapter that was slightly closer to my home than my blue lodge which I hope will offer me more opportunity for attendance.

Right off the bat, the first step or degree in Chapter is the 4rth degree or Marked Master degree.  In a nut shell, chronologically this degree would follow the Fellow Craft Masons degree of Blue Lodge as the lessons taught in it are appropriate to what a candidate is taught in the fellow craft Masons degree.

In the course of this degree the 3,300 Fellow Craft masons are passed to a Mark Masters or overseers.  In this degree each of them collects his symbolic wage for good work, true work, and square work.  Again, as my current understanding goes, this brings the working tools of the Fellow Craft Masons degree, the Plumb, Level, and Square, into practice.

The Candidate is also to adopt a Masters Mark.  This is to be an individual mark specific to only the holder of it.  The individual is supposed to adopt a mark that he will use for all time, and will also be recorded in the “Book of Marks. “

I have thought about this Mark, and I think I have come up with one that is both meaningful to me personally, as well as symbolic of both my name, and important Masonic elements.

For my mark (Shown Here) I have used a combination of the Compass, an Inverted Level, and the Point within a Circle.  They are two working tools and a Masonic symbol. Each of these also represents an initial of my name A.T.O.

CompassThe compass obviously teaches me to circumscribe my desires and keep them in due bounds to all man kind, more especially my brethren in Freemasonry.  For me, this is a tool that I try to use, but sometimes fail to execute.  It should tell me to not take on more than I can handle.  I try to tell myself that if I am not ready or prepared for a task I should not attempt it until I have the resources to do so.  This tool alone has helped me in my Masonic journey, as I now know to not join a bunch of Masonic bodies just to get a title.  You will see this exemplified in the opening few paragraphs of this paper.  I am not ready to be in Council, or Commandry, and joining them now would do nothing but place an unwanted burden on me, so I will keep my desire in due bounds until I am ready to move on.

The next working tool that I have incorporated here is the level, or more apparently used here, an inverted level.  As Freemasons we are taught that the level represents equality.  We are all on the level and the same within lodge.  Color, Race, Creed, Politics, Religion, and other social, spiritual, and special interests attractions from your personal life are not visible in lodge.  As Masons we are all on the level and operate with equality.  It also reminds us that we are traveling on that level of time toward that undiscovered country.

levelMoreover for me, the way I chose to use this tool not only visually adds to the mark as it makes my middle initial “T”, but also reminds me of my failings as a human and a Freemason.  When properly using the level a Freemason is not only blind and unbothered by other individual opinions, religious, and political affiliations within the lodge, but he is also to respect each other’s opinions outside of the lodge.  For anyone who knows me in my daily life, they also know that I usually have an opinion on most things I disagree (or agree) with.  As much as I try to let things pass by me and go about my business unbothered, I fail most times.  As some would put it, I tend to “Fly off the handle.”  This is not proper Masonic action, and until I can curtail and correct my short comings I am stuck observing the true meaning of the level, but continually using it improperly.  Hence, the level is upside down.

The third element of my mark is the “Point within a Circle.”  For me, this may represent something slightly different from what another Mason may see.  A google search will give you a million explanations and go into great detail of the “Point within the Circle.”    As you can see, although I use the point within the circle, I do not include the parallel lines on the left and right side, as typically seen in with this symbol.

Operative Masons used the point within a circle to make sure their square was accurate.  With his compass he would draw a circle, with his rule he would draw a straight line through its center past the circumference.  He would then place a dot someplace on the circumference and draw a line from that point to where the line through the center intersected the circumference.  By doing this it would produce a true 90 degree angle, and make sure the square was accurate.

pointcircleFor me, I also use it to help me be a square person.  I am a point within a circle.  Everything I know and believe in surrounds me.   While becoming a square person I also strive to be kept in due bounds to what I can handle (using the compass), but at the same time, I know that the circle is infinite, it is never ending.  So while I may get better and be able to handle more and more, the circle only grows bigger and bigger.  I realize that I can learn to handle more and more, but life will always be bigger than anything I can completely handle.  For me, the circle represents the great destination beyond that I will never reach in life, but will strive to journey towards making use of all the tools at my disposal.   For me, the only way to reach this is to be a true and square person.

While I still have to submit this to my Chapter, I feel I have created a tremendously meaningful mark.

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Categories: Masonic, Royal Arch, York Rite