2020 - September
THE DEVELOPMENT OF FREEMASONRY AND ITS RITUAL IN THE UNITED STATES
This paper is taken directly and entirely from the April 2012 M.S.A Short Talk Bulletin containing the article "Ritual Developments in the United States" by S. Brent Morris
In the beginning, the spread of Freemasonry in the United States was propagated by itinerant Masonic Lecturers. Some were appointed by Grand Lodges, but often these men acted as independent entrepreneurs. They taught Masonic Ritual usually based on the Englishman William Preston's lectures, which were rearranged and edited by Thomas Smith Webb of Massachusetts. This particular ritual was the apparent basis for nearly all the rituals used at the time by American Grand Lodges. (As a side note" The Grand Lecturer of New York found at that time, five different systems of ritual were in use in his state.)
The origin and development of Masonic Ritual in the United States has had much study. In fact, Masonic Ritual came to the United States from many sources, principally from England, Scotland, and Ireland, as well as from France, Germany, and others. There was little to no ritual guidance for American lodges from their own Grand Lodges or other sources in the colonies. Lodges had to rely on oral tradition and exposes, until the appearance of William Preston's "Illustrations of Masonry" in 1772. Even that important source did not adequately cover aspects of Degree work, or openings and closings, and additionally, it did not appear in American editions until 1804.
Actually, the best information on rituals used in America came from exposes. Imports of exposes from France, England, and other sources were highly sought after in America for use and reprinting. Between Ben Franklin's "The Mystery of Free-Masonry" in 1730, and 1826 when William Morgan disappeared, eight exposes were published and circulated in America. The most famous was "Jachin and Boaz" which had 28 editions, including one in Spanish. This particular expose contained ritual practices of both the Ancients and Modems. In fact, The National Observer (publication) claimed that the famous and highly respected American Ritualist, Thomas Smith Webb used "Jachin and Boaz" while teaching Masonic Candidates.
Webb, the American Ritualist, became friends with the Englishman John Hanmer, who taught Webb the lectures of England's William Preston. In 1796, as Masonry was spreading across America, Webb's "Freemason Monitor, or Illustrations of Masonry in Two Parts", was published to an eager Masonic audience. Webb took Preston's book, used most of it word for word, left out some pages, added some, and rearranged others, and published "Freemason Monitor, or · Illustrations of Masonry." He did by the way, acknowledge Preston's contribution to that work. This volume went through 18 editions from 1797 to 1826.
Webb worked to help organize and systematize American Ritual. His book was often referred to as "The American Standard Work", which aided significantly in bringing uniformity to the work of American Freemasonry. Webb's work and lectures became immensely popular. While he may not have found the true original rituals of Masonry, his work was much better than anything else available to American Grand Lodges. Virtually all of the Grand Lodges adopted his work. Pennsylvania did not.
2020 - August
EARLY FREEMASONRY: THE ANTIENTS AND THE MODERNS
It has been said that "the history of Freemasonry before its official 1717 establishment is confounding and elusive." Its post 1717 era is no less puzzling, even though better records were kept and more research has been done.
The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in England was formed as the first Grand Lodge in history. It was composed of four London Lodges named after their meeting places: The Rummer and Grapes; The Crown; The Apple Tree; and The Goose and Gridiron. On June 24, 1717, St. John the Baptist Day, these four Lodges met and officially formed the Grand Lodge.
One of the reasons for the Grand Lodge coming into being was to ensure that Freemasonry wouldn't just become another eating, drinking and carousing club. Additionally, because of the comparatively high number of exposes and somewhat lax Lodge Visitor Examinations, many immigrants, free-loaders, and other imposters were gaining admittance to the Lodges. These "Visitors" were draining the charity coffers and sensibilities, as well as getting free meals and drinks.
To counter this illicit invasion, the new Grand Lodge took it upon itself to switch the. passwords of the First and Second Degrees and make some ritual changes. This not only angered the would- be illicit visitors, but also upset legitimate Masons from outside the geographical and administrative jurisdiction of the new Grand Lodge.
Another festering sore point was that new, or Premier, Grand Lodge was actively courting nobility and royalty as members, and as such was introducing more modern philosophical concepts and rituals. These new classes of membership were more highly educated and more cosmopolitan, and more in tune with the emerging Age of Enlightenment. These efforts of modernization were essentially at odds with the more manual laboring class and the members of the country-side Lodges. These country Lodges had their own traditions and rituals, and they resisted the Premier Grand Lodge in London.
Before long two rival Grand Lodges emerged and each claimed to have more ancient roots than the Grand Lodge in London. The first of these new Grand Lodges was the "Grand Lodge of All England" and was founded in 1725. It was located in the city of York and its group of Lodges was essentially in Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Cheshire. This Grand Lodge encompassed only fourteen Lodges and went out of existence in 1792.
In 1751 another Grand Lodge, one with a significant number of Irish Masons that had been denied admission to various London Lodges, formed "The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons According to the Old Institutions." (As a reminder the Premier Grand Lodge was in fact more elitist and bourgeois; and had made revisions in the rituals.) Many of the Irish and Scotch Masons that formed the new "Antient" Grand Lodge were privy to customs and rituals that not only differed from but also pre-dated those of the Premier Grand Lodge in London. Because of this, and as a means of attracting new members, this new Grand Lodge dubbed itself "the Antients'', and referred to the Premier Grand Lodge in London as the "Moderns". The rivalry continued for approximately sixty years until December 27, 1813 (St. John the Evangelist Day) when the two Grand Lodges merged into the current "The United Grand Lodge of Antient Freemasons of England" which is today formally known as "The United Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in England." Informally it is called "The United Grand Lodge of England."
The provisions of the merger were compromises which avoided standardization of all the rituals and also allowed Lodges to incorporate their own established customs. The Antients were proponents of a Fourth Degree for Antient Craft Masonry, that being the Degree of the Royal Arch. This was an important point of difference between the two Grand Lodges. The merger "settled" the issue with the following "Diplomatic Statement." "It is declared and pronounced that pure Antient Masonry consists of three degrees, and no more, viz those of: the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason (including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch)". This was to make the Royal Arch an integral part of the Master Mason degree and not a separate fourth degree.
Inclosing some additional points are of value:
- During the Antients and Moderns schism, The American Revolution took place.
- Many of the English Military were Scotch and Irish, and many of them represented England's military presence in Colonial America. A high number of these military personnel belonged to Lodges of the Antients.
- The English Military in the colonies was one of the leading avenues for new Colonial Lodges and Masons.
- In the Colonies, the Moderns initially predominated, and they in turn, were predominately Loyalists who were often the upper crust of society.
- As the Revolutionary War progressed, many of these Colonial Moderns returned to England or immigrated to Canada. The Moderns viliually disappeared from America by the end of the War.
- Ben Franklin was a member of a Modem's Lodge in Pennsylvania. He was in fact a Grand Master. When he died, his Lodge, now an Antient Lodge, denied him a Masonic Funeral.
This author and humorist was raised a Master Mason in Lincoln Lodge No. 19, in Lincoln Nebraska in 1902.
2020 - July
The point within a circle is a common symbol used in Freemasonry
Like many masonic symbols the origin of the point in the circle is unknown. In carvings from Ancient Egypt the Alpha and Omega symbols representing God often as a circle with a point between them. In the case of the Egyptian symbol the two vertical lines are replaced with snakes.
Regardless of what the origin of the symbol is, Freemasonry has adopted to represent what is, in the opinion of this writer, one of our most important ideas in Freemasonry. In all interpretations of this image, the point in the center represents the individual man or mason.
Taking just the circle it is a reminder that we are all circumscribed with a circle in our lives and those who enter that circle, both in a literal sense (people we see) and figurative sense (people who our actions may have impact), have a claim on our kind offices. Our good will to our fellow man and our fellow mason is paramount to the moral ideals behind Freemasonry. It can also be said that the same circle is a dividing line between our internal passions and a mason's duty to God and his fellow man. A mason should never allow his internal passions, prejudices and selfish interests to pass outside the circle.
There are many other references to the circle with the point in its center, there are also just as many interpretations of it's meaning throughout history and in the masonic fraternity. As an example some say it is in reference to the candidate circumambulating the masonic altar.
The two lines on either side of the circle, for Freemasons represent St. John the Baptist on the left and St. John the Evangelist the right. Two prominent Saints in Freemasonry because of their connection with what is deemed the Mother lodge in Jerusalem. St. John Lodge of Jerusalem was first believed to be dedicated to St. John the Baptist first and then St. John the Evangelist. The Feast of St. John the Baptist falls on the Summer Solstice, the Feast of St. John the Evangelist falls on the Winter Solstice so the lines are also often said to represent the Summer and Winter Solstice.
Of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Monroe, he was not a Mason.
2020 - June
The Common Gavel
By the Masonic Research & Education Committee, MW Grand Lodge F&AM of Washington
“The Common Gavel is an instrument used by operative masons to break off the corners of rough stones, the better to fit them for the builder’s use; but we, as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to make use of it for the more noble and glorious purpose of divesting our hearts and consciences of all vices and superfluities of this life, thereby fitting our minds, as living stones for that spiritual building—that house not made with hands—eternal in the heavens.”
Similar to the other Working Tools, the Common Gavel is only mentioned in the initial ceremony to the initiate. There is no explanation in later ritual, or in the lectures. This educational piece considers only the Common Gavel, not the Master’s gavel, or the Setting Maul, which may be discussed in a later unit.
The Common Gavel is one of the most powerful tools we have, however. What use is the Square or the 24 inch Gauge if we cannot take some action to square our actions or to improve our behavior regarding how we spend our time? Without the Common Gavel, we could measure our inadequacies, our “vices and superfluities” all we wanted, and quantify them in hours we spend on them in a day, but our self-improvement would be limited, at best.
There are some items in our lives that clearly could and should be eliminated by the application of this tool. These are the items in the Rough Ashlar of our lives that stick out prominently from the surface. Some behaviors, some attitudes do not need to be pointed out to us through the use of the Square and the Gauge. If we are in danger of bankruptcy, it is clearly in our best interest to revise our spending habits. It may be easy to break off these prominent features of our Ashlar with a few hard blows from the Gavel. However, there are some things that are less obvious, and much less easy to remove.
Let us consider an item that some would consider trivial: biting one’s nails. This is a minor vice, one that does not stand out like bankruptcy might. It will not yield to one sharp blow as a large outcropping of rock might. We must analyze ourselves and see that this small imperfection is affecting our lives, and that it must be removed. Then, it must be slowly chipped away at, flake by flake, with delicacy. The excising of habits such as this require a measured response, not a sudden shattering blow.
One must carefully consider what vice needs to be removed, and how best remove it. Think also of the Ashlars. The Perfect Ashlar in many Lodges is polished to a reflective finish. How can this be accomplished with just a gavel? The blows must be very small indeed, for we have no other Tool to use to remove this extraneous material.
The Gavel can also be a consideration when we think of the Trowel. If the Trowel spreads the cement that unites us into a common mass, clearly it will be harder to fit those stones which are unsmoothed by the Gavel into the building. It will take much more effort and more mortar to join the building together if the stones are more uneven and do not fit together smoothly, and the resulting structure will not be as strong.
Without doubt by improving ourselves we improve the structure of Masonry and our community. Let us thus use the Common gavel in our lives in concert with the other tools to break off those rough corners, fitting ourselves to that Temple in Heaven, as well as our Lodge on Earth.
These symbols represent those moral and spiritual virtues which should govern our conduct.
2020 - May
From Masonic Lodge of Education
Masonic retention is a word upon the lips of every Grand Lodge, subordinate lodge and its many Freemason members, today, across the world.
It may surprise you to know that Masonic retention was on the mind of Albert Mackey, Freemason Researcher and Historian, when he wrote Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry over 130 years ago. Here is what he wrote:
"One who commits to memory the questions and answers of the catechetical (sic: Relating to or consisting of asking questions and receiving answers by rote rather than by understanding) lectures, and the formulas of the ritual but pays no attention to the history and philosophy of the institution; is commonly called a Parrot Mason, because he is supposed to repeat what he has learned without any conception of its true meaning.
In former times, such superficial Freemasons were held by many in high repute because of the facility with which they passed through the ceremonies of a reception, and they were generally designated as Bright Masons.
But, the progress of Freemasonry as a science now requires something more than a mere knowledge of the lectures to constitute a Masonic scholar."...Mackey's Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Vol. 2, Page 752, Albert Gallatin Mackey, 33˚, published by The Masonic History Company, Revised ed. copyright 1929, Original copyright 1873.
Memorization without understanding will only take a person to the end of his memorized work...much like memorizing a geometric equation does not prove truly useful unless you understand its components.
Example: If I asked you to tell me the equation to measure the area of a circle, the answer quickly coming from your lips may very well be Pi r² ... and I would applaud your knowledge.
But how useful is that knowledge if you do not know that:
Pi = the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle; approximately equal to 3.14159265358979323846..., or 3.1416 if you round it off.
r = Radius of the circle...the measurement from the center-point to its perimeter or boundary.
² (Squared) = the radius times itself.
Therefore, your quick answer of Pi r² (the equation with which you may perform the task) was absolutely correct, but if you cannot understand each component of the equation, you cannot "do the math", and therefore your journey ends.
Memorization of ritual is important within Freemasonry, however without learning the biblical, symbolic and historical components within Freemasonry's depths, your journey, too, will end without you actually finding Freemasonry's true light.
True Masonic retention is obtained when both ritual and Masonic knowledge are balanced with one another. Masonic education is the only means with which the fraternity can both retain its current membership and produce new members to carry on Freemasonry's proud traditions.
The Western Wall, or “Wailing Wall”, in Jerusalem, is the only part of this building still standing.
2020 - April
The Casting of the Pillars for Solomon’s Porch
Douglas M. Messimer, PM Tuckahoe Lodge 347 # 73 in a series 4/2015
According to the Bible, “In the 480th year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the second month, he began to build the temple of the LORD.”(1 Kings 6:1) King Solomon brought Huram-Abi (thought to be Hiram Abif), whose mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali and whose father was a man from Tyre and a person who was a craftsman in bronze. Huram was very good at all kinds of work. In 2 Chronicles 2:7 it says that he was "...skilled to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, and in purple, crimson, and blue yarn." He was especially good at working with bronze.
Hiram Abif also made before the house two pillars of thirty and five cubits high, and the chapiter that was on the top of each of them was five cubits. Their composition was of molten or cast brass, the better to withstand inundation or conflagration, that they might not be removed by flood or destroyed by fire. They were cast in the clay grounds on the banks of the River Jordan where King Solomon ordered these and all the sacred vessels of the Temple to be cast. The clay used for the casting the pillars of Jachin and Boaz had a peculiar characteristic, and was only found in a particular area of the plains of Jordan between the cities of Succoth and Zeredatha. The pillars and all sacred vessels of the Temple were cast there by Hiram Abif.
In the description of the casting of the two pillars, we find in First Kings, that the clay ground was between Succoth and Zarthan. In 2nd Chronicles, it is recorded that they were cast in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredathah. Biblical scholars have determined that the two names refer to the same place. Zaredathah stood in the Jordan Valley, on the east bank of the river, a few miles northwest of Succoth and approximately 36 miles north-northeast of Jerusalem.
Until recently no one had been able to find any remains of the city of Zaredathah , nor the clay grounds of Jordan, or any place with evidence of casting activity, near enough to Jerusalem to have been used for the casting of vessels for Solomon’s Temple. In 1964 an ancient city was discovered that had been buried for nearly 3000 years that meets all the requirements.
These clay grounds were where the bronze castings for the Temple of Solomon were made. The clay in this area is of unusual tenacity, is rather thick in nature and is nicely fitted for making molds. It is said to be the best matrix-clay in Palestine. It has been used for about the last 50 years by modern jewelers of Jerusalem in making molds for casting small articles of brass and other metals.
It is the ancient Hebrew word for "strength".
2020 - March
America’s Forgotten Custom of “Pounding” People in Need
By Appalachian Magazine - January 1, 2020
The idea of giving someone down on their luck a thorough pounding just doesn’t sound very nice; however, once upon a time in American history, “pounding” someone who had fallen upon hard times was not only an incredible act of benevolence, but also a true act of love.
Despite having grown up in Appalachia and having been raised in church, I had never heard of this phrase until just a few years ago, when a woman whom I knew said, “Our church still pounds the preacher every year!” Upon first hearing this, I wasn’t so sure that pounding the preacher was something that a local church should be bragging about doing until I inquired a bit further. Turns out, pounding someone dates back to the 1800s and can be first traced to America’s Quakers. The act derives its name, because when a new minister would be sent to a congregation in a new town, the members of the new church would all show up at the preacher’s new home with a pound of various items, such as coffee, sugar, flour or honey. When dropping off items to help the new clergyman out, congregants would spend time with him, also getting to know his family.
In October 1895, a Pennsylvania newspaper reported news of a recent pounding, “Last evening about forty of the little Junior Christian Endeavors of Pomfret Street AME Church, led by Mrs. MJ Redmad, Miss Maud Cloyd and Mrs. Richard Thompson called at the parsonage to pay their respects to Rev. and Mrs. JH Bell, in a substantial way and soon after they had well filled the table. Mrs. Redman made the presentation address and Mrs. JH Bell responded. IT was very pleasant affair. After singing a few lovely songs and refreshments the Little Juniors departed with blessings of the pastor and his wife.”
Over time, the act that was once reserved for preachers and ministers began to find its way into the homes of ordinary people, allowing friends and the community an opportunity to help others in their hour of need. At its zenith of popularity, even newlyweds were being showered with gifts, one pound at a time!
Sadly, these days, there aren’t a whole lot of people or churches who still regularly pound people, but as we enter the year 2020 our new year’s resolution is to bring back this forgotten piece of Americana!
Note from the Secretary: Even through this article is not Masonic related, I thought it showed a great example of “Brotherly Love and Charity.”
This Nebraska Mason and prosecutor died just a few days after the conclusion of the famous “Scopes Trial”. (Email the secretary if you think you know the answer at firstname.lastname@example.org)
2020 - February
Taken from The Masonic Short Talk
"Do we put too much emphasis on Ritual, and not enough on the higher things in Masonry?" It is easy enough to state that Ritual are certain words arranged in a certain way, which have come down to us from time "Immemorial" and by means of which we confer degrees, impart Masonic teachings to novices, and incidentally, to the brethren who attend lodge. But when we ask "Why Ritual?" the answer is not so easy.
Why insistence upon an exact memorization of the "Words" of the Ritual? Why lay so much stress upon the successful employment of a mighty memory? Why do we insist that those who confer degrees should spend painful hours in long and arduous study so sentences may be uttered in a certain way for the instruction of candidates? There are several reason why Ritual is important. Let us examine and see for ourselves that there really are explanations of the need for memorization.
One of the great appeals of Freemasonry, both to the profane and the initiate, is its antiquity. The Order can trace an unbroken history of more than three hundred years in its present form (the first Grand Lodge was formed in 1717), and has irrefutable documentary evidence of a much longer existence in simpler forms. There is very complete circumstantial evidence that Freemasonry is the legitimate and only heir to guilds, societies, organizations and systems of teaching which run so far back into the past that they are lost in the mists which shroud antiquity.
If we alter our Ritual, either intentionally or by poor memorization, we gradually lose the many references concealed in our words and sentences, which tell the story of where we came from and when. It is a beautiful thing to do as all those who have gone this way before us. To say the same words, take the same obligations, repeat the same ceremonies that George Washington underwent, gives us a feeling of kinship with the Father of this country which no non-Mason may have. But we may lose this connection if we change our Ritual, little by little, altering it by poor work; forgetting or leaving words out. To drop out a word here, put in a new one there, eliminate this sentence and add that one to our Ritual, in a very few years, the old Ritual will be entirely altered and become something new.
Ritual is the thread which binds us to those who immediately preceded us, as their Ritual bound them to their fathers. The Ritual we hand down to our sons and their sons, will be their bond with us, and through us with the historic dead. To alter that bond intentionally is to wrong those who come after us, even as we have been wronged where those who preceded us were care-less or inefficient in their memorization and rendition of the Ritual.
We give that "Good and Wholesome Instruction" which a Master is sworn to do, but all that may be done without in any way altering the fundamentals of our ritual and methods of teaching. Freemasonry is not a thing, but a system of thought. It is not something that may be bought or sold, it can only be won. We may not wrap up Freemasonry in a package and give to an initiate. Our duty is to lead him so that the way is clear and to give him instructions in such a way that he cannot miss the path. This we do by our ceremonies and our Rituals. In our Ritual are contained the germ of all those philosophical and moral truths which Freemasonry teaches. In our Ritual are at least one explanation of our symbols. In the Ritual are the real secrets of Freemasonry made plain for those who have ears to hear.
If we memorize our Ritual badly, we put the emphasis on the way we say it, not on what we say. If we omit or interpolate, we change the instructions which generations of Masons have found to be effective. If we do not pass on to others what we have received, just as we have received it, we handicap those who profess to teach. And thus can have no right to complain if they do not become good Masons, but merely lodge members. A candidate comes to us knowing nothing of the Fraternity beyond the fact that it is an association of men in an Order which has had the approbation of leaders of men for hundreds of years. The impression we make upon him when he takes his degrees will influence not only the kind of Mason he becomes, but in some respects, the judgment the world make of Masonry, since it can only judge the institution from the individual.
The impression make upon him will depend very largely on the character of the work we do. The care and attention we have given to its preparation, and the ease with which the dear old words come from our hearts and lips.
Any one, with time and attention, can memorize Ritual. But it is not enough merely to know it and deliver it so it sounds as something learned by rote, parrot like, unimpressive. We may not speak as an orator speaks, but we all can attain the perfection of letter-knowledge. We can learn our Ritual so that it becomes a part of us, and give it forth with ease and clarity.
Be not discourage then, if Ritual "Comes Hard." Fail not in the task, nor question that it is worthwhile. For on what we do and on the way in which we do it depends in a large measure the Freemasonry of the future. As we do well or ill, so will those who come after us do ill or well.
This Iowa city was originally known as Shiboleth. (Email the secretary if you think you know the answer at email@example.com)
2020 - January
Mediocrity in Masonry…Shame on us!
By: Robert G. Davis 33*, Grand Cross
One of the questions that occasionally eats at me when I am driving home from a Masonic event, degree, or function that has been woefully mediocre, is how our members can sit through such Masonic happenings month after month and still believe our fraternity is relevant and meaningful to men’s lives? How honest are we in claiming we make good men better while persistently repeating practices and behaviors which are so distinctively average, or worse? Selfimprovement involves some form of positive change. It requires some level of progress; entails some elevated sense of being. Explain to me how a lodge facilitates self-improvement by offering its members a venue that doesn’t “feel” any different when they are inside the lodge than outside of it.
Perhaps many of us come into Masonry looking for nothing more than fraternal association. But, if that’s the case, it ought to be the best fraternal association we have ever had!
Once we encounter the preparation room, or make our progress through the degrees, it is hard to dismiss the awareness that we are engaged in something wholly different from our other community experiences. We quickly learn that Masonry has a higher calling which requires that we make an ascent into the very center of our being.
An endeavor of such high importance and due solemnity is not a run of the mill undertaking. It becomes clear there is nothing mediocre about Masonry. So why do we make it that way?
Here’s the problem. Accepting mediocrity in our lodge practices is the same as living a mediocre life. By making un-extraordinary acts and behaviors our ordinary practice, we entrap ourselves from knowing how precious life really is. We don’t use opportunities that come our way as means of expressing how special we really are. Instead, we walk the walk with the rest of the herd and soon find ourselves in such a deep rut of limitations we lose sight of our own value. We become trapped in mediocrity.
Regrettably, this too often seems the condition in which lodges, Scottish Rite Valleys, York Rite Chapters, Councils and Commanderies find themselves. When nothing extraordinary, educational, insightful, compelling, intellectual, contemplative, spiritual or fraternal occurs in our private, sacred, fraternal spaces, then we become only another ordinary, average, run of the mill, dime-a-dozen organization. It is hard to see how this kind of Masonry takes good men and makes them betters.
It is not the kind of Masonry we should want to share with our friends.
I believe that if we truly want to move “from the square to the compasses,” we have to dare to be different. And we can’t dare to be different by following someone else’s expectations. When a lodge does the same thing year after year, it is accepting by default someone else’s expectations. There is nothing creative, inspiring, or different about parroting ritual, paying bills, and going home. That’s doing only what many others have done before us.
To distinguish ourselves among men and organizations, we first have to perceive in our own minds that we have something to do which will ultimately set us above the average. We start by thinking about the choices before us.
Do we choose what is safe, rather than what is right? Do we only do things right, or do we do the right things? Do we set out on a new path, or take the same old, comfortable way? Do we bring credit to our teachings, or debit them as ideals of the past? Do we become the examples that young men want to emulate, or do we seem to them as just another group of ho hum guys?
You see, the choice always controls the chooser. To be exemplary men, or an exemplary organization, we have to be exceptional in our awareness of who we are, what we are here to be doing, what we know, and how we practice what we know. We have to have the courage to be different from the rest of the crowd—nobler in our expectations and more refined in our state of mind.
Because that’s just the way Masonry is!
A note from Bellevue Lodge’s secretary:
Some of you may be wondering why I chose this article for Masonic Education. I believe that W.M. Kyle has some great ideas that will help lead the lodge into the future and I would encourage all of you to not only listen to his ideas, but to get involved and participate in them. We have seen the lodge try many new things over the last 4 or 5 years. Some worked, some did not. But at least the leadership is trying to find ways to make the lodge an interesting organization to belong to. We have made our presence known in the community, but we cannot continue to expect the same 5 or 6 men to make our events happen. So please don’t just sit on the sideline. Get involved!
This American Grand Lodge was the second to recognize Prince Hall Masonry as a legitimate Masonic body. (Email the secretary if you think you know the answer at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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