2019 - December
Today in Masonic History it's Christmas Day
On this special day I am taking the opportunity to talk about Freemasonry and its role in the world. Freemasonry, as you know it is not a religion. We welcome people of all different faiths and beliefs into our organization we only ask that you have a monotheistic belief in a supreme being.
This brings me to the time of year we are in, Christmas. At one time in the world this was the celebration of hope as we moved from the darkest day of the year and the days began to get brighter. We now celebrate with Christmas and the birth of Christ who taught very specific lessons when dealing with your fellow man. These lessons are taught in other religions as well. The lessons Christ taught were of tolerance, justice, hope and kindness, to only name a few. These lessons are taught throughout Freemasonry. It is because of this that I believe Freemasonry truly embodies the idea of the Christmas season year round.
In our lodges and other Masonic organizations we daily, not just at this time of year, plan and perform acts to help the communities we are in. We teach our brothers to deal honestly and fairly with all whom we encounter. We stand on the level with our brothers whether we have known them for years or we are first meeting them on that day. We don't care what their religious affiliation is or their political affiliation we know that if they are standing there in that room with us, they believe that we have the right to our beliefs just as we believe they have the right to theirs. The positive energy that is generated in our lodges hopefully makes its way into the community through the acts of the individual masons. We learn the lessons of tolerance, justice and hope so well in our meetings and Masonic activities that we instinctively act in the same way when out in the world.
We have been accused of running the world, most certainly not the case. I do believe we are changing it every day though, when we walk out into the world and display that Masonic Spirit, that Christmas Spirit and we make the world just that much better by being in it and sharing with the world the ideals that Freemasonry is founded on.
I say this in the most secular way possible, Merry Christmas to all regardless of faith. May this season bring you joy, happiness and a better tomorrow!
2019 - November
The Entered Apprentice; The Meaning of the Term
Excerpted from “The Masonic Scholar: A Manual of Masonic Education for Candidates”
You are now an Entered Apprentice. The first step in your journey to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason has been taken. Doubtless you found your initiation an experience you will never wish to forget. A Degree of Masonry is not an isolated experience, but an ever-enduring privilege. Always you may sit in your own lodge when open on the Entered Apprentice Degree; always you can return to observe, to participate in, and to study its ceremonies.
Doubtless you have an eager curiosity to learn more about this remarkable Degree before you receive that of Fellow Craft. Perhaps its ceremonies seemed strange to you; its language fell on your ears with unaccustomed accents; and at its end, you may have been somewhat bewildered. It is our function to help you interpret it by giving you a brief explanation of the term “Entered Apprentice”.
The builders of those remarkable structures in Europe and Great Britain, from six hundred to nine hundred years ago we call operative masons, because they were builders in the literal sense. It was necessary for the Operative Masons to recruit new members to replace those lost through removal, accident, illness, or death. To do this, they used the apprenticeship system, which was in vogue in all crafts for many centuries.
The word “apprentice” means “learner” or beginner, one who is taking his first steps I mastering a trade, art or profession. The operative apprentice was a boy, usually from ten to fifteen years of age. He was required to be sound in body, in order to do work requiring physical strength and endurance. He had to be of good habits, obedient and willing to learn, and of unquestioned reputation, and be well recommended by Masons already members of the craft. When such a boy was chosen as an apprentice, he was called into the lodge where all the members could assure themselves of his mental, moral and physical qualifications. If they voted to receive him, he was given much information about the Craft, what it required of its members, something of its early history and tradition, and what his duties would be. He gave a solemn promise to obey his superiors, to work diligently, to observe the laws and rules and to keep the secrets.
After being thus obligated, he was bound over, or indentured, to one of the more experienced Master Masons. As a rule, he lived with this Master Mason, and from him, day by day, learned the methods and secrets of the trade. This apprenticeship lasted usually seven years.
After this young man had “gone to school” in this manner long enough to give assurance of his fitness to master the art and to become an acceptable member of the Society, his name was entered on the books of the Lodge and he was given a recognized place in the Craft organization and, because of this official entering of his name, he was given the title “Entered Apprentice”. All those of the same degree of advancement constituted the rank or grade of Apprentice Masons.
It is difficult to appreciate the care our Operative Masonic forebears devoted to these learners. The Intender, as the Master Mason to whom the Apprentice was indentured was called, was obliged bylaw to teach him theory as well as practice. Not until the Apprentice, after many years, could prove his proficiency by meeting the most rigid tests of skill, was he permitted to advance to a higher rank in the Craft. Other Master Masons with whom he was set at work at the simpler tasks also were his teachers. He was given Moral instruction; his conduct was carefully scrutinized; many rules were laid down to control his manner of life. When we read the Old Charges and ancient documents that have come down to us, we are impressed by the amount of space devoted to apprentices. The Operative Masons knew that the Apprentice of today made the Master Mason of the future.
As time passed, therefore, there grew up about the rank and duties and regulations of the Apprentice an organized set of customs, ceremonies, rules, traditions, etc. These at last crystallized into a well-defined unit, which we may describe as the Operative Entered Apprentice Degree. When, after the Reformation, Operative Masonry was transformed into Speculative Masonry, the Entered Apprentice Degree was retained as one of the Degrees of the Speculative Lodge, modified, of course, to meet the needs of the Speculative Fraternity.
As an Entered Apprentice you are a learner, a beginner in Speculative Masonry. You have taken the first steps in the mastery of our art. And it is because you have this rank that certain things are expected of you. First, you must learn certain portions of the Degree, so as to prove your proficiency in open Lodge. But you are to learn these parts not merely to pass this test; you should master them so thoroughly that they will remain with you throughout life, because you will have need of them many times in the future. Second, you must learn the laws, rules, and regulations; by which, an Entered Apprentice is governed.
As you stood in the northeast corner of the Lodge during your initiation, you were taught a certain lesson concerning a cornerstone. The meaning of that lesson should now be clear to you. You are a cornerstone of the Craft. The day will probably come when, into your hands, will fall your share of the responsibilities of the Lodge. You are a cornerstone on which the fraternity is being erected. It is our hope and expectation that you will prove a solid foundation, true and tried, set foursquare on which our great Fraternity may safely build.
2019 - October
I Am Proud To Be A Mason
by Seymour Atlas
Taken from the Masonic Short Talk Bulletin.
I shall never forget my first thought as I made my initial entrance into the Masonic Lodge that conferred the Entered Apprentice Degree on me, and followed with the Fellow Craft and Master Mason Degrees. I was immediately made to feel that I was surrounded by Brothers. I felt there were no strangers present. This was one big family that seemed to have adopted me, and I, in turn, was elated to adopt them as my family.
My horizon of Masonry expanded, and my pride and joy were bubbling and effervescent. I couldn't wait to be able to confer the Degrees on others as there was so much I wanted to explain and elaborate about each Degree.
I was offered this opportunity and immediately began to study and memorize many parts, and over the years I became very active, holding office, lecturing, and taking an active part in every phase of Masonry where my talents and abilities could be used. One aspect of Masonry that has made a great impression on me was the ability of all Brothers, regardless of religion, to ask me “why did I need Masonry as a Rabbi”, because my profession was one of integrity, kindness, honesty, and all the attributes expounded in Masonry. It was difficult for many to grasp my need for this addition and supplement to religion. I worked with men of different religions, as well as of the Hebrew faith, and they were all impressed when I would say that Masonry is not a religion, but to be a Mason we had to believe in God, and if this was the only aspect of our religion and we had no other formal religion, yet we adhered to all the moral teachings of Masonry; this too would have put us in the category of men of integrity. However, Masonry is not a substitute for religion, nor is it a religion.
My experience has shown that Masons are, for the most part, deeply religious men. I am proud to be a Mason and a part of an organization that is devoted to helping, without question or embarrassment, widows, orphans, and those in need.
I am proud to be a Mason and to be a part of a Fraternity dedicated to the upholding of the Constitution of the United States of America and the Bill of Rights.
I am proud to be a Mason who believes in the freedom of mankind and the sanctity of human life.
I am proud to be a Mason who believes in the dignity of God's children and opposes hatred and bigotry, and stands for truth, justice, kindness, integrity, and righteousness for all.
I am proud to be a Mason and shall always be happy to number myself among those who uphold those cardinal principles and moral standards of life that are so needed if our organization is to continue on the high level that has been its character from its inception. May God grant it continued strength to go, to grow, and to glow so that I and all Masons can exclaim: "I am proud to be a Mason!"
2019 - September
The Art of Forming a Pleasing Concords: Music and The Masonic Lodge
Music is the sixth of the seven Liberal Arts and Sciences. Pythagoras and his followers were keen on studying music as a science. But what is the meaning of forming a pleasing concord?
The meaning is “The state of being in agreement or concord. The combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce a pleasing effect. The quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole.” The Senior Warden is sometimes associated with this Science of a Pleasing Concord, as the Senior Warden asks for harmony in the Lodge.
Music is part of all of us. Our heartbeat is the basic pattern, with sounds ranging from the first cry of a newborn baby to our last gasp for breath. The sense of hearing is improved, so that we recognize ditties and rhythms and syncopation. Clapping and singing are part of who we are as humans.
Vibrations cause sounds. Pitch is determined by the frequency of the vibrations. We learn to hear major, minor, and chromatic scales. If we attempt to match the pitch of the lead singer, although it takes discipline, we can achieve harmony. Many have sought to hear the sounds of the universe in radio frequency. Whole pieces of music have been dedicated to the music of the spheres.
Music as a science isn't just about making sounds that are pleasing to the ear. It is the study of the dimension of time. This is easy to observe in the musical element of rhythm. In the musical element of tone, it is observed in the frequency of vibrations which cause sound. This study of vibrations and their effect on matter was a new concept during the period of the enlightenment, but it has grown into modern wave theory.
Music, as an art, used to play a much larger role in Freemasonry than it does today. In the early days, there were songs for every occasion. It should be noted, however, that Freemasons were still meeting in taverns at this time and tavern songs were part of the normal culture. At a gathering every man present was expected to lead or at least participate in a song. Even up into the modern period, nearly every lodge had a Lodge Musician or Organist.
Freemasons are encouraged to be "lovers of the Arts & Sciences". Music, along with grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy, is one of the seven "liberal" arts & sciences. Liberal, because free men were expected to learn them as part of their education.
Ritually, music is referred to at least twice in most Masonic jurisdictions in the world. These references are publicly available from many sources, but they find their origin in Preston’s Illustrations of Masonry: ‘Hearing is that sense by which we distinguish sounds, and are capable of enjoying all the agreeable charms of music.’ and ‘Music teaches the art of forming concords, so as to compose delightful harmony, by a proportional arrangement of acute, grave and mixed sounds.’
As with most of those other liberal arts, the use of music has become woefully absent from many Lodges in North America. However, in those Lodges where it is present, it has become almost unimaginable to conduct a meeting without it. In most observant Lodges, music is a full partner with the ritual, whether it be in the form of Masonic opening and closing odes sung by the brethren, or the performance of, or playing of recorded music throughout the meeting, as well as at significant points during the degrees. Then of course, there are the songs meant to be sung by the brethren at the Festive Board after the meeting.
Some observant Lodges offer a Moment of Reflection, which, while often being a period of silence, can just as well be an opportunity to silently meditate with a reflective piece of music. While silence is equally powerful, the use of music for such a moment has an additional advantage: it allows the Master to be fully engaged in the meditation as well. This provides for every brother to focus on the reflection without worrying about the responsibility of closing the period of silence, leaving this to be determined by the end of the music. When planning a Moment of Reflection, a note on duration is useful: unless one knows his brethren to be particularly indulgent, care should be taken to use compositions that are no longer than three to four minutes in length.
So, forming a pleasing concord in lodge is no more than the brethren being in agreement. Remembering that we meet on the level.
2019 - August
There are two groups of Women Freemasons. There are Co-Masonry lodges, which admit both men and women and the Women Freemason lodges which admit only women. The members of Co-Masonry lodges and Women Freemason lodges take Freemasonry and Freemason Ritual just as seriously as their all male counterparts. Ascending the chairs in their lodges is a much slower process than in the all-male American Freemasonry, as much study and a very high degree of proficiency is required.
While "regular" Grand Lodges across the world do not formally recognize "mixed" CoMasonry (male and female) nor Women's Masonry, in many countries there is a growing measure of mutual respect bestowed upon some of these groups, many of which use the same working tools, lectures and ritual as regular Freemasonry.
Parallel Fraternal Spirit:
Members of both Co-Masonry and Women Freemason lodges work toward the same Masonic ideals as that of regular male Freemasonry. They wish to be of service to their fellow man and woman.
Le Droit Humain is an organization which admits women Freemasons to the craft, however they are viewed as clandestine within regular Freemasonry. The term "clandestine" in Freemasonry means not formally connected with "regular" Freemasonry. Women’s Freemason Lodges and Le Droit Humain generally recognize each other and are free to visit one another, although their rituals and traditions differ in minor ways.
Women's Freemasonry is growing in popularity around the world. Since the early 1900s, women's lodges have become quite widespread in France. Internationally, women Freemasons now number in the tens of thousands and there are more than 60,000 women Freemasons in England.
Women Freemasons Working Tools:
Entered Apprentice Degree: Common Gavel, the 24 Inch Gauge and the Chisel. Fellow Craft Degree: Plumb, Rule, Level and Square Master Mason Degree: Skirret, Pencil and the Compasses.
For American Freemasons, whose Masonic education does not include the skirret (nor the chisel and pencil), and who, therefore, may not be familiar with the skirret as one of the working tools of the craft, below is a description.
A skirret is a line of cord on a reel. At the loose end of the cord is a stake. Within Freemasonry, It is used symbolically to create a straight and undeviating line of conduct. The spool of cord resides on a cord holder which freely rotates on a center pin. We might commonly see this tool used by a gardener in which to create straight rows of crops. The rotating cord holder reels out the cord which is stretched tightly. In this way, the skirret was used to mark out straight lines to create not only straight rows of crops, but perfectly straight lines for the foundation of a building or edifice. In most non-American, but English-speaking, all male regular Freemason lodges which work Emulation or similar or related ritual, the skirret is one of their working tools, as well.
Each local group is called an Obedience. Membership is by invitation only. Everyone is eligible regardless of race, creed, ethnic background or sex. All members are expected to actively participate or resign. All gatherings are formal and not social occasions.
There is no "G" in the Masonic symbol for Droit Humain lodges. There is, instead, a star, or both a "G" and a star.
For more information on this or other Masonic articles, go to https://www.masonic-lodge-of-education.com/women-freemasons.html.
2019 - July
FREEMASONRY AND MORMONISM
A Veiled Relationship
The subject of the relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism has been and may still be, filled with poor information and misunderstanding. Neither organization has sought to emphasize any relationship with the other. Basically there are very few records that pertain to the early formation of the Mormon Church and its relationship and early similarities to Freemasonry. The records of the Grand Lodge of Illinois were almost entirely destroyed in the fire of February 1850. And just as noteworthy, a number of smaller fires of uncertain origin destroyed key records in related and neighboring lodges. Reliable information then, is scarce.
What is known is that the family of Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of Mormonism, had developed a close relationship with Freemasonry, even before the family moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, where the Mormon Church essentially came into being. In fact many writers claim that the Smith family, and therefore Mormonism, believed that Freemasonry had been of divine origin, but had been corrupted by human ambition. Thus, Mormonism could be the restoration and cleansing of a "fallen" set of beliefs.
In the early 1840's a Masonic lodge was formed by the LDS Church members in Nauvoo, Illinois. The men of the Smith Family were key members. The lodge grew by leaps and bounds, initiating large groups of Mormon men at one time, in a number of single ceremonies. Soon the local Mormon membership totaled approximately 1,300. Incidentally, the estimated entire Masonic membership in the rest of the United States was approximately 2,000. Problems occurred. Irregularities in initiation and advancement in the Mormon lodges were among them. Because of apparent and claimed attempts of the Mormon lodges to control local Freemasonry and the ritual procedures, the Grand Lodge of Illinois ordered all the Mormon lodges "to cease work and be dissolved." However, the Mormon lodges continued to operate as clandestine lodges. In 1844 local antagonism, perhaps including some Masonic participation, against the Mormons, drove them out of the area, causing them to eventually settle in Utah.
It has been said that Masonry acquainted Joseph Smith Jr. with a new ritual style that he admired and accepted, and apparently emulated in Mormonism, particularly in the Rite of Endowment (or Joining). Additionally, it must be remembered that many of the early leaders of the Mormon Church were Freemasons.
Some of the apparent similarities in the ritual and ceremonies of the two organizations are: using a prescribed ceremonial script; imparting signs, grips, and passwords; making oaths, while kneeling at an alter; vowing not to reveal ceremonial secrets; using dialogues to solicit passwords; repeating orders or reports two or three times verbatim; knocking three time for entrance; reciting three syllables in sacred language; acting out a ritual drama which represents a biblical figure; wearing an apron; using symbols such as the square and compasses; delivering lectures to review the ceremony and expanding on it meanings; and the use of such symbols as the all-seeing eye, the inverted five-pointed star (as in the Eastern Star), and the beehive.
It should be noted however, that certain revisions to the LDS Rites of Endowment took place in the 1920's and in 1990. In 1990, the use of the five points of fellowship was one of the elements eliminated. Additionally, it has been said that the current Saints i.e. the leaders of the Mormon Church do not believe that the Rite of Endowment has any relationship to Freemasonry.
2019 - June
MILITARY LODGES, A BRIEF HISTORY
(This paper uses material from the MSA Short Talk Bulletin of July 2011, “Military Lodges.” The paper includes direct quotes and excerpts from that publication. Other sources were used also.)
“A military lodge is one whose charter is granted to the members of a military unit. The lodge is not limited to one city, but moves about with the unit. Freemasonry was spread throughout much of the world by traveling military lodges.” (Complete Indiot’s Guide) The consent of the commanding officer of the regiment had to be obtained before a military lodge could be formed. Similarly, he could order its closure. Grand Lodge rules forbade civilians from joining military lodges. They were to join their local lodges.
The concept of military lodges is not new. Freemasonry, as was indicated, owes much of its world-wide nature to the Regimental Lodges of the British Armies. Accommodations were made for the professional soldiers when Grand Lodges began issuing warrants and charters to have traveling Military Lodges.
Using the system of warrants, the Irish Grand Lodge established lodges in the British army and navy. For example, the first Battalion of Royal Scots received its warrant in 1732. This lodge traveled with its regiment for over a century. By 1813 the Grand Lodges of Ireland, Scotland, and the Ancient and Modern Grand Lodges of England had a total of 218 military lodges on their roles. And, Masonic Military Lodges had been established by several members of American Regiments in the Revolutionary War. The American army had ten military lodges between 1775 and 1780. These were in regiments in the Continental Line. Seven of these lodges held warrants from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Three of these lodges were for troops raised in that state, while the other military lodges were for regiments from North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. New York furnished a warrant for one lodge, while each of the competing Grand Lodges of Massachusetts authorized one military lodge each.
The American Civil War saw the creation of the greatest number of military lodges in the history of the nation. This was due to the duration of the conflict and the number of men mobilized. The then common practice of ceasing campaigning during the winter months provided opportunities for increased fraternal association. As many as 244 military lodges (94 from the North and 150 from the South) formed, having been given permission from the appropriate Grand Lodges.
Several commanding generals on both sides of the conflicts were Masons. In fact, the Northern General George B. McClelland, was initiated in a military lodge in Oregon in 1853.
There are some references to military lodges in the Spanish American War. However, beginning with WWI and continuing until the end of the draft in 1973, there was a shift from state and /or local organized units to individual draftees assigned to different units as needed. It in fact remained such until the Persian Gulf Wars when Reservists and National Guardsmen again went to war as part of identifiable and distinct units.
These papers are presented one per month as part of the Masonic Education Program of Bellevue Lodge #325 A.M. & F.M. at the monthly Stated Communication.
2019 - January
Corn, wine and oil were the Masonic wages of our ancient brethren
(Taken from www.masonic-lodge-of-education.com)
In ancient operative times, the Master of the Work received the highest wages. His wages were corn, wine, oil and sometimes the coin of the realm. Fellowcraft and Entered Apprentice wages were less than the Master was, but they were kept in "mete and drynk" (meat and drink).
In Speculative Freemasonry, Masonic wages are not earned in coin. They are the rewards earned through acts of kindness, good deeds of service, and the gift of your time to others. They are earned by mentoring other brethren, helping others, remembering the widow and the orphan and visiting the sick. In short, wages are earned much as the biblical verse says: "Do unto others as you would HAVE them do unto you."
Corn, wine and oil are the Masonic elements of consecration. The adoption of these symbols is supported by the highest antiquity. Corn, wine and oil were the most important productions of Eastern countries; they constituted the wealth of the people, and were esteemed as the supports of life and the means of refreshment. David enumerates them among the greatest blessings that we enjoy, and speaks of them as in Psalm 104: 15: "wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart".
In processions, the corn alone is carried in a golden pitcher, the wine and oil are placed in silver vessels, and this is to remind us that the first, as a necessity and the "staff of life" is of more importance and more worthy of honor than the others, which are but comforts.
In devoting anything to religious purposes, the anointing with oil was considered as a necessary part of the ceremony, a rite which has descended to Christian nations. The Hebrews anointed their Kings, Prophets and High Priests with oil mingled with the richest spices. They also anointed themselves with oil on all festive occasions, whence the expression in Psalm xlv, 7: "God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness." The tabernacle in the wilderness, and all its holy vessels, were, by God's express command, anointed with oil. Aaron and his two sons were set apart for the priesthood with the same ceremony. And the prophets and kings of Israel were consecrated to their offices by the same rite.
Hence, Freemasons' Lodges, which are but temples to the Most High, are consecrated to the sacred purposes for which they were built by strewing corn, wine and oil upon the Lodge, the emblem of the Holy Ark. Thus does this mystic ceremony instruct us to be nourished with the hidden manna of righteousness, to be refreshed with the Word of the Lord, and to rejoice with joy unspeakable in the riches of divine grace.
Wine, as a symbol of the inward refreshment of a good conscience is intended, under the name of the Wine of Refreshment, to remind us of the eternal refreshments which the good are to receive in the future life for the faithful performance of duty in the present. And, thus, your unspotted white lambskin Masonic apron is a symbol reminding you of the necessity of the purity of heart, and uprightness of conduct in order to earn the Masonic wages, which are due you.
Your final wages will be earned when you leave this world and travel to "that House not made with hands", where you will receive your Masonic wages for a life well spent in the "coin" of that realm.
The material in this papers was developed from a variety of sources: books, encyclopedias, magazine articles, M.S.A Publications, television, and the internet. Most, but not all, of these sources were written and/or edited by Masons. There is no claim made that the information in these papers is original, or was originally developed by this writer. Each paper contains: direct quotes, excerpts, and paraphrasing from the sources used.
These papers are presented one per month as part of the Masonic Education Program of Bellevue Lodge #325 A.M. & F.M. at the monthly Stated Communication.
- Br. William H. Miller