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Categories: Freemasonry

Grand Lodge of California drops recognition of Grand Lodge of Connecticut over ring decision

April 1, 2019 6 comments

Most of you will remember that early in February, Connecticut Freemasons woke up to discover that there now is actually a correct answer to the age-old question of which way to wear one’s ring. The Grand Lodge, tired of the endless debates on Facebook, instructed their DDGMs to quietly “correct” members during their lodge visits so that sitting and past Masters would wear theirs with the points facing out, and those who had never made a trip to the East would have to wear theirs with the points in. The decision was made so that it could be announced and confirmed at the next Grand Lodge annual communication.

Even though the directive is being kept quiet for now, it’s been all over the various Facebook groups, because Freemasons are famous for not being able to keep secrets – so obviously, none of this comes as any surprise.

Now, while the Connecticut Grand Lodge decision is an open secret, it hasn’t been met without some resistance. Naturally there were the usual complainers on the various internet groups in which this was discussed, and several podcasters had some snide comments. However, nobody expected the reaction from the Grand Lodge of California last month:

Whereas the Grand Lodge of Connecticut has cast aside the time immemorial traditions of Freemasons with regard to the correct disposition of the wearing of one’s Masonic ring, and,

Whereas the Grand Lodge of Connecticut has forced upon their members an unnatural and specious decision with regard to the aforementioned,

Be it known that the Grand Lodge of California now holds the Grand Lodge of Connecticut to be in violation of the Ancient Landmarks of the Fraternity, and is now an unrecognized body, and will remain as such until they and their regulations comply with the Landmarks and customs of our order.

Knowing the Grand Lodge of California to be a fairly liberal and progressive minded group, many West Coast Freemasons have expressed surprise that the Grand Lodge has taken such a hard line stance on what is essentially an unenforceable decision that would probably have been rescinded in a year or two. However, others have noted that the Grand Lodge has taken up social justice causes in the past; for example, California no longer uses the term “clandestine” to describe unrecognized lodges or Grand Lodges.

Worse, rumors about the potential dropping of recognition made for tense moments at the Conference of Grand Masters of North America (COGNMA) in February, as many officers from different states quietly aligned, siding with either Connecticut or California.

It is written someplace that “Freemasonry is a progressive science,” but the term was not meant to be used in the modern, political connotation, and it’s unfortunate to see such schisms in our midst. However, we should also keep in mind that much of what we take for granted now were once considered changes, alterations, and deviations from ancient craft masonry.

While no other Grand Lodges have (at this time) indicated that they intend to follow California, traveling men headed to Connecticut should just be aware that some brothers may be paying closer attention to your ring.

In the meanwhile, I’m hopeful that this will blow over, like so many other Freemason fads, and that we can get back to discussing important issues, such as whether it’s better to wear one’s apron under or over one’s jacket.

Categories: Freemasonry, Rings

Grand Lodges need to respond to potential new threat

April 1, 2018 Leave a comment

Most of you are probably aware that the social media world has been rocked by the news that Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Google have been secretly recording our voices and using that information to sell to digital marketers who then buy advertising from those large online companies. Ever notice how you’re talking to your coworker about a particular product, and the next day you start seeing ads for that product on Facebook? It’s not a coincidence.

And have you ever thought about why Google gives away Gmail, or why Microsoft gives away Hotmail or Outlook mail? It’s to scan your emails and to sell advertising. Those of us who are familiar with the process have taken this kind of marketing for granted, and it’s just something that runs in the background. However, recently Freemasons around the US, UK, and Canada have noticed a disturbing development: Over the last year or so, many newer officers have been been seeing ads for architectural tools and building products popping up on Facebook and Google feeds. While some found it amusing at first, discussions about this have led us to believe that smartphones have been listening in while officers have been rehearsing their lines; the repetition seems to have indicated to the marketing companies that the officers have an interest in buying trowels, bags of cement, floor tile, or decorative columns.

Word filtered up to some of the more progressive Grand Lodges, and most of them are already in the process of writing up regulations that will affect many of those who are reading this.

In the near — very near — future, you can expect your Grand Lodge to ask you to turn off not only your smartphone (i.e., iPhone or Android), but also your Amazon Echo, or your Google Assistant, or your Apple Siri assistant while rehearsing your lines. Yes, those innocuous little devices all over your household that let you set timers, play music, and switch on your lights work by setting aside a small amount of memory to record your voice. The concern among Grand Lodges right now is that Alexa or Siri has been quietly collecting the ritual from various jurisdictions, and that hackers are already compiling what they have into a digital volume or ebook that they will be able to sell — a modern version of Duncan’s Ritual, if you will.

If you have these devices from Amazon, Apple, or Google, then you need to be aware that you essentially have electronic cowans and eavesdroppers right in your kitchens, offices, and bedrooms. Yes, we all know the joke that the wife or children of a typical Mason knows the work because they keep hearing the guy talking to himself (usually in the bathroom). But this is different: Alexa or Siri is actually recording what you are saying. and Google can match up what you are saying with some of the works that are already all over the internet. In fact, if you are using Google Assistant on your Android phone, it could probably even correct or prompt you as you’re rehearsing.

And if you are in a jurisdiction in which the Grand Officers still use their old flip phones, and aren’t aware of the 21st century technology, I urge you to contact them as soon as possible, and make them understand that this will be an issue in the coming years. If Facebook and Google executives admit to putting tape over their laptop cameras, shouldn’t we be as diligent in tyling our own doors?

 

 

 

 

Claims Adjustment

June 16, 2017 2 comments

Anyone who has been paying to US political news for the last year or so knows that 2016 was a particularly divisive national election year, and that 2017 has been pretty much one “crisis” after another, as Republicans battle Democrats, and Trump supporters battle “Never Trump” activists.

I’ll admit to having done a bit of troll baiting over the last year, mainly because, well, I’m a 15 year old teenager trapped in a grown man’s body. Despite that, however, my Facebook friends list has stayed fairly steady. I’ve been blocked or unfriended by a few family and friends, but for the most part, the people that I’ve gotten to know – online and off – as fellow Freemasons have managed to keep their conversations level; they have been all over the political spectrum, but our disagreements have not been enough to have them drop me as a friend, nor I them.

Until this week.

The shooting of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise earlier this week should have elicited sympathy, if not outrage. At the very least, one would have thought that the more enlightened people would have abided by the rule “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” That’s why I was not just surprised, but saddened at the comments of one of my friends who wrote, in essence, that Scalise deserved what he had gotten, that it was re-payment for his being a Tea Party supporter, and then added something about karma and female dogs.

The comment was not part of a conversation in which I was involved; I just blocked and later, deleted him from my friend list.

Oh sure, we’ve all had our moments of righteous anger. I can think of any number of times that I’ve read about some thug holding up a store, getting shot in the process, and thinking “Oh, good, maybe that’ll teach him a lesson.” But Scalise was not a thug; in fact, I had no idea who the guy was until I’d read the news, which indicates to me that he probably wasn’t an especially bad person. I’m guessing that for a lot of other people this was also the case.

“Okay, Tom,” you’re saying to yourself about now, “if I wanted to read about politics, I’d be on Facebook. How is this related to Freemasonry?”

Some US states have a piece at the closing of lodge (sometimes called the Closing Charge), that is sadly absent in Connecticut (and apparently elsewhere), but which I’ve run across, and I think it’s a moving bit of ceremony. A typical version runs like this:

Brethren: You are now to quit this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue, to mix again with the world. Amidst its concerns and employments, forget not the duties you have heard so frequently inculcated and forcibly recommended in this Lodge. Be diligent, prudent, temperate, discreet. Remember that around this altar you have promised to befriend and relieve every worthy Brother who shall need your assistance. Remember that you have promised to remind him, in the most tender manner, of his failings, and aid his reformation. These generous principles are to extend further. Every human being has a claim upon your kind offices. Do good unto all. Recommend it more especially to the household of the faithful. Finally, Brethren, be ye all of one mind; live in peace; and may the God of love and peace delight to dwell with and bless you.

I don’t know what made that pop into my head at some point yesterday, but there’s a part in there that I believe gets overlooked far too often:

These generous principles are to extend further. Every human being has a claim upon your kind offices. Do good unto all. Recommend it more especially to the household of the faithful.

That is, we have an obligation to be tolerant, if not downright charitable to everyone, regardless of political outlook. Maybe some of us need to be reminded of that not just in and around our lodge, but also whenever we log into our social media.

I, for one, welcome our new Masonic Media overlords.

April 1, 2017 2 comments

Many of you have already heard about this, but I figured it’s worth mentioning anyway: Most of the older blogs by Freemasons have been bought up by the growing internet news outlet, Masonic Newswire Media. You may not have heard of them, but you’ve probably heard of their more “public face” online news site, The Past Bastard.

Sometime in the middle of 2016, when the rest of us were too busy arguing over the US elections on Facebook, The Past Bastard — or rather, their parent company — quietly began making offers to buy up those older blogs. Many of those blogs were started between 2005 and 2010, and have been long since defunct, or not updated in several years. Those sold quickly, with the authors taking the quick $100 in Google Credits being offered; the agreement being that the authors will no longer re-open those blogs to publish anything.

The more active blogs, though, have also been slowly falling to the new publishing company; instead of buying those blogs outright (not that there are many actively writing anymore), the authors will be paid by the article, which would first need to pass vetting by The Past Bastard (or rather, their Masonic Newswire Media editors).

What does this mean for you, the readers?

In my opinion, very little will change. Even the more “active” blogs (for example: The Millennial FreemasonArs LatomorumOne Minute Mason) rarely publish more than a few times a year. Other bloggers tend to post less consequential fluff pieces (such as: All Things Masonic, Freemason Information, Midnight Freemasons). My guess is that very little will change in terms of frequency or content, and that goes also for my own little blog, which I suspect was purchased only for the name recognition.

So. Those being the facts at hand, let’s get on to the juicier stuff.

Rumors on the various internet boards are suggesting that Chris Hodapp’s Freemasons for Dummies is going to sell out as well, which is a little sad because Chris is the only other “masonic news blog” of any real note; I’m concerned that we are going to be in a situation in which all the Masonic news will be controlled by a small group of media specialists who would have little competition, and who would be able to spin Masonic news their way.

The question that I haven’t heard many people asking, though, has to do with the identity of The Past Bastard, and more importantly, the Masonic Newsire Media. Personally, I had long suspected that The Past Bastard was the work of the After Lodge Podcast guys, although it has recently come to light that at least several of  The Past Bastard writers are based in California. This makes sense, because in my opinion, only people from California would imagine that old blogs are worth anything. Also, who else would have the desire to build up a new media syndicate? Computer and social media guys, that’s who.

Which  brings up another question: Who is behind the Masonic Newswire Media? When I first heard about it, I figured The Onion, or Gawker, or some other online news system was just buying things up without understanding what they were getting into. But the more I think about it, I’m beginning to believe that the backers are one (or maybe several) of the larger Grand Lodges in the US. Who else would have the motivation (not to mention the finances) to control Masonic news? It’s certainly not for the advertising, as Freemasons are notoriously tight-fisted, unless it comes to scotch. Or cigars. Or rings. Or bling. Or a lot of things, with the exception of their dues.

So, that leaves us with a shadowy group of Freemasons who are trying to control the media. Is it a Grand Lodge (or more likely, a cabal of Grand Lodges), hoping to acquire enough control over the craft to sway their opinions on something? The running jokes (at least, we think that they were jokes) are that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas (which took down their own website for some time), is behind the push to control the remaining Masonic bloggers to keep any public criticisms off the internet. However, that could easily apply to a number of other Grand Lodges, some of which have published some very restrictive web and social media guidelines.

Is a group of Grand Lodges, trying to subtly push an agenda? I don’t know. All I know is that at the moment, I’m happy to take my Google Credits and start filling up my Android with some tunes from one of my favorite groups.


Published by The Tao of Masonry – A Masonic Newswire Media blog

 

Uncivil Unrest

January 23, 2017 7 comments

II. Of the CIVIL MAGISTRATES supreme and subordinate.

A Mason is a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concern’d in Plots and Conspiracies against the Peace and Welfare of the Nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior Magistrates; for as Masonry hath been always injured by War, Bloodshed, and Confusion, so ancient Kings and Princes have been much dispos’d to encourage the Craftsmen, because of their Peaceableness and Loyalty, whereby they practically answer’d the Cavils of their Adversaries, and promoted the Honour of the Fraternity, who ever flourish’d in Times of Peace. So that if a Brother should be a Rebel against the State he is not to be countenanc’d in his Rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy Man; and, if convicted of no other Crime though the loyal Brotherhood must and ought to disown his Rebellion, and give no Umbrage or Ground of political Jealousy to the Government for the time being; they cannot expel him from the Lodge, and his Relation to it remains indefeasible.


Freemasons in the US, at least, those not living in caves, can’t help but be aware that the recent US Presidential elections (and the equally important, although lesser discussed senatorial and representative elections) has been the most hotly contested race – and the most surprising upset –  probably since Ronald Reagan.

For reasons which I’m not inclined to discuss here, the election upset was so unexpected that the concern and complaints about it have gone on long after election day, and even after our new President was installed… err, inaugurated. Indeed, Facebook and Twitter seem to be talking about little else lately; even posts about bacon seem to be less frequent.

There is a time-honored tradition of not discussing religion or politics inside a Masonic lodge. Ostensibly to help maintain the harmony of the membership, some Freemasons mistakenly interpret this as neither subject is to be discussed at all, or as that neither subject should be discussed in any Masonic forum (either an online forum or a group at the local pub). Historically, however, it is probably the case that early lodges, not wishing to be seen as a society that might harbor traitors to the Crown or the Church, banned such discussions to avoid the appearance of impropriety. The tradition was strong enough in the early 1700s, however, to motivate Anderson to include it in his Constitutions.

I’m not surprised to see Freemasons on both sides of the election disagreement (4 sides of you include the Libertarian and Green party candidates), and frankly, given the nature of the contest, I’m not surprised to see many of them speaking out so vocally online. I am, however, a little disappointed to see some of them attacking each other, instead of limiting their arguments to attacking the candidates or their positions, characteristics, and perceived shortcomings.

While I’m all for keeping religious and political discussion out of the lodge meetings themselves (although it might liven up a few lodges after listening to the drone of the minutes), I’d argue that to keep Masons from talking about those topics with each other would be unnatural. Can you imagine the discussions that must have taken place around taverns and dinner tables in mid-1700s America? It’s conceivable that the American Revolution might not have taken place if the men – the Freemasons – of that time had interpreted the tradition the same way that so many of us do now.

Yet, despite my assertion that political discussion after the meeting (or online) is part of human nature, I’m still disappointed in how I see many of my fellow Masons going about it. Recent brain scan MRI studies have shown that political and religious thinking show up in the same areas as self-identification, meaning that our political philosophies are an intrinsic part of who we are as a person. Attacking and insulting each other is certainly not going to change anyone’s mind; if anything, human nature will just make that person dig in and more self-protective.

To be sure, some people can keep it light. Others have learned how to discuss seriously, but without rancor. It’s possible, really. But if your own argument is reduced to calling someone — whether a friend or a complete stranger — an insulting name, then maybe it’s time that you re-examine your own beliefs.  Or better yet, turn off your phone or computer and go get some fresh air.

Darkness Falls

June 24, 2016 2 comments

This being St. John’s Day, I thought it appropriate to mention a few things.

First, this is typically the time that lodges in the Northeast US “go dark” for the summer. Now, there’s some disagreement on whether the expression “to go dark” should be used in this case, since the lodges will reopen for business in a few months. Some old-timers associate the expression to mean that a lodge turns in their charter and closes for good. If the lodge still has a charter and officers, then there’s some “light” available, and the lodge can not be totally dark. That said, I’ve noticed that the expression is so widely used, that even if it may be wrong, it’s not going to make a difference because everybody will be using it anyhow. You know, similar to the expression “I could care less;” it’s obviously wrong, but the usage is so widespread that nobody even thinks about it anymore.

Irregardless*, many of my friends in other parts of the US and UK have asked why we close at all during the summer. I’ve been told (although without any substantiating evidence) that it was the farmers needed the time off to tend their fields. Now, I grew up in rural parts of Connecticut, and while I claim no experience or expertise in this subject, I’m beginning to question if indeed, the farmers actually needed this time. As I drive past fields and pastures, I don’t see very much activity going on in July and August. In fact, the few local farm stores I pass are either closed or selling produce that obviously didn’t come from their fields. Do the crops need tending? Of course they do, but is there anything more labor intensive that happens during the hot months?For that matter, a quick perusal of the area Grange chapters seems to show that they are open during the summer. You’d think that if the professional farmers could manage to till the weeds (or whatever it is that they do) and get to a monthly Grange meeting, then the suburban Freemasons could manage a night off.

Hopefully some more agriculturally educated brothers can enlighten us.

It’s interesting to note that historians are also not in agreement on when the longer summer vacation for schoolchildren started. Again, while we are told that it was to help with the farming, historians of the Colonial period in the US tell us otherwise. tmtlampoonsvacation2

My own theory on this is that most lodges in the Northeast US were formed after the Industrial Revolution, and in the days before air conditioning and wine coolers, most of the members simply didn’t want to bother scheduling meetings when the children were out of school. Family trips, beach days, and other vacation days simply made it too difficult to get all of the members at a meeting; better to just not have them for a couple of months, and pick things up in September.

Something else of note is that this marks the week that The Tao of Masonry web log was first published in 2006. Initially started as a way to track events and keep people informed during my year as Master of Friendship Lodge No. 33, I turned it into a public sideshow for my ego collection of my thoughts on Freemasonry. The early to mid-2000s was probably the Golden Age of blogging, and I’ve listed several hundred blogs by Masons either on the blogroll or on my RSS feeds. While blogging is still a thing (as evidenced by the number of excellent bloggers listed on the Ashlars to Ashes aggregate), it’s also a little sad that most of those blogs from the early years have “gone dark” themselves. I think that  the Dummy Chris Hodapp, and Millennial Nick Johnson may be the only other Golden Age bloggers still regularly writing.

Since it’s my 10th bloggiversary year, I’m including some links to a couple of old posts from that time. And enjoy your summer, whether it’s light or dark.

Not a dry eye in the house.

Masonspotting: You’re doing it wrong.

WWHD?

But what was Plan A?

Cui Bono?

Who’s in charge, anyway?

 

* Irregardless. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.

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