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Freemasons Sell Christmas Membership Packs

November 26, 2012 6 comments

Just in time for the post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping season, too.

From The Telegraph (UK) comes the headline:

Freemasons sell Christmas membership packs for £80

Its ‘secret’ handshakes and elaborate rituals have long been a mystery to outsiders, but the world of freemasonry is opening up by selling membership Gift Packs for people to give their loved ones for Christmas.

The Masonic Christmas Gift Pack costs £80 and includes a tour of the local Masonic Lodge, an invitation to meetings with masons, and – subject to approval by the local Lodge – a year’s membership to the group.

The British Federation of Co-Freemasonry described the pack, which is available until the end of December, as “truly a life-changing gift”.

Link to the rest of the article.

Since I know that some brothers will be scandalized by the very idea, let me take a responsible opposing viewpoint on this.

Ignoring that this particular article is about Co-Masons in England (which we already know are not recognized by “mainstream” UGLE-recognized orders), maybe “holiday gift-packages” are just one more membership drive idea that we’ve been leading up to for the last few years.

Wait, “membership drive”? Freemasons don’t have membership drives; that’s almost as bad as recruiting… which we also don’t do.

However…

In the US, there are already wide-spread and well-financed public relation campaigns to “raise awareness” about the fraternity. This includes things like the MasoniChip and various state-sponsored Child ID programs, advertising on radio, billboards, and producing very nice tie-in videos featuring Ben Franklin, Uncle George, etc., and sponsoring state-wide “open house” visiting hours, during which the lodge building is open to the public, with brothers on hand to act as tour guides.

We already have bumper stickers (and billboards) with “2B1, Ask1,” and various other slogans. We have taken very opportunity to reach out to the public, whether it’s through popular books (the Dummies and Idiot’s Guides are still popular selling items ), movies (From Hell, National Treasure, DaVinci Code), and television (History Channel, etc., specials on “Secrets of the Freemasons Exposed!”)

In many areas, the buildings are old, not well-maintained, and the membership can’t afford to renovate them. Once a month it seems that Chris Hodapp is bemoaning some beautiful old temple that is being sold or torn down because they can’t survive on the 38 active members that still show up. Shriners (who are now airing commercials looking for support for their excellent childrens hospitals) have long dropped the requirement that members need to be either a Knight Templar or a 32º Scottish Rite Mason, and are now open to Master Masons – and sometimes on the internet there surfaces rumors that they would like to open their doors to non-Masons.

We’ve seen 1-day degrees (“Mister to Master” or “Blue Lightning” festivals), and most of the Craft are exhorted to keep a few petitions with them in their car or briefcase so they always have one on hand to pass along.

So, a year’s gift membership to be a Freemason? I’ve had gift memberships to book clubs, wine clubs, record clubs, baked good clubs, and jelly of the month clubs. In light of what I’ve spelled out above (and other things that I might have missed), someone needs to explain just what’s so bad about a gift membership to one of the best “clubs” in the world.


Addendum:
The Millennial Freemason has another take on this, if you don’t like mine.

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Clandestine Conspiracy Talks

May 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Coming on the heels of a great Masonic Central podcast with Chris Hodapp about conspiracy theories and secret societies, here’s an interesting article from Fox News about a clandestine meeting among a group of people who are known for their money and financial empires.

World’s Richest Moguls Met in New York for Secret Charity Meeting

What do Oprah, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, George Soros and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have in common? It’s a secret, but I am sure you can guess.

Money.

These and a handful of other mega-moguls coordinated their busy schedules to gather for a top-secret meeting in the Big Apple to talk greenbacks — not protecting them, but spending them, according to IrishCentral.com.

It was all for a good cause, but details of the mysterious May 5 meeting are vague. What is known is that each billionaire got to speak for approximately 15 minutes on the global economic crisis and how best to support philanthropic causes, IrishCentral reports.

Others in attendance also included David Rockefeller Jr., chairman of Rockefeller Financial Services; Ted Turner, founder of CNN; and John Morgridge, former CEO of Cisco, and his wife.


Do you suppose that anyone will accuse Oprah or Bill Gates about being Freemasons or Illuminati?

Connecticut and Rhode Island to merge Grand Lodges

April 1, 2009 Leave a comment

News item: Connecticut and Rhode Island to merge Grand Lodges

Special to The Hartford Times
Dateline: Farmington, CT.

Citing a budget shortfall due to a lack of membership and the bad economy, and the resultant inability to fund various programs, the Freemasons of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, and those of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, jointly announced at the Grand Lodge of Connecticut’s Annual Communication their intention to merge into a single entity: The Grand Lodge of Southern New England, A.F. & A.M.

“It seemed a perfect opportunity,” said William Rogers, spokesperson for the former Grand Lodge of Rhode Island. “Attrition from old age, death, and retirement have reduced our numbers to a quarter of what they were back in the 1950s. Likewise, mergers and lodge closings have reduced our lodges to about two dozen. It’s becoming an administrative nightmare.”

“He’s not kidding,” said Thomas Ludlow, the Grand Master’s representative from Connecticut. “We have fewer lodges and fewer brothers, but we somehow have a growing number of officers and district officers. In business parlance, you might say that our workforce is shrinking, while middle management has become bloated. So, we’ve decided to merge our Grand Lodges and make some long-overdue staffing cuts.”

Ludlow went on to describe the cutbacks: “The first positions to be eliminated will be the District Grand Lecturers and Assistant Grand Lecturers,” he explained, “We’ve outsourced ritual instruction to college students who are making Youtube videos, which we will then embed on the Grand Lodge website. Anyone who wants instruction can just watch the videos.”

Rogers agreed. “You’ll be able to download those videos to an iPod or Zune, your iPhone, or a netbook,” he explained, “and then you can watch as much instruction as you can handle during your free moments. In traffic, in the bathroom, on plane trips – it’s perfect. There won’t be any excuse for people not to be more improved in their ritual workings.”

Other Grand Lodge dignitaries will also be downsized, said Rogers. “Do you know we’ve managed to acquire more District Deputies and Associate Grand Marshals than we have lodges? These guys are tripping over each other, and we can’t find anything more for them to do. It’s time to start consolidating our resources.”

“Same thing with all these Grand Line officers,” agreed Ludlow. “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a couple of Grands or Past Grands. There’s way too many of them nowadays, and we figure that nine or ten guys should be able to cover the two state area more than adequately.” When questioned about how well the two states could be covered by so few Grand Officers, he responded. “Hell, lodges in those big square states out west sometimes don’t see a Grand Officer for years; our lodges have gotten spoiled around here. We simply can’t afford to have District Deputies showing up at every other meeting anymore.”

Both spokespersons noted that rumors about spinning off one of the districts into New York were merely persistent, but unfounded rumors. “Those rumors pop up every few years, usually right after we raise our Grand Lodge dues,” explained Ludlow.

Noting the progressive nature of the plan, interviewers asked about whether other states would follow suit.

“Massachusetts has taken notice, and we’ve already begun talks to include them on the merger, but they’re funny up there. News in Boston doesn’t reach the Berkshires for years, if ever,” explained Ludlow. “Besides, we don’t want to wait too long on this – our two states have been ready to merge for a couple of years now. But when Massachusetts is ready to merge, we’ll already have the infrastructures in place for them. The way we see it, it’s not a question of ‘if‘, but of ‘when‘.”

Do any other states have an interest?

“New Hampshire and Vermont are going to be discussing the topic at their next Annual Meetings,” said Rogers. “We sent some snowmobile and dogsled messengers up to Maine in December, and we’re hoping to hear back from them by spring, when they get the power lines back up.”

Both Grand Lodges will close for July and August, during which time they will be packing and moving. No word yet on the location of the new Grand Lodge building, but speculation is that it will be one of the old University of Connecticut agricultural buildings. “I can’t confirm this,” said Ludlow,” but it’s definitely one of the possibilities. Obviously we’d like someplace centrally located. Since most of the people living west of the river think that UConn is in Rhode Island anyway, it seems like a good spot.”

“Yes, it’s perfect,” quipped Rogers, “it’s equally inconvenient for everybody.”

When Bloggers Collide

April 9, 2008 Leave a comment

It was really only five years ago that I was the new guy, the young Mason attending Grand Lodge – or more correctly, the reunion and hospitality suites the night before Grand Lodge session. I’d taken the afternoon off from work and we’d spent the time prepping tons of food and drink for the wandering brothers. Several of the older, more experienced brothers took me around to visit some of the other rooms and introduce me to the brothers from other districts; I met a lot of nice people during the first year, and remembered most of them over the next several years. Grand Lodge is sometimes like the get-togethers you have at weddings and funerals: it’s the one time a year you might have to catch up on news and gossip. And I don’t know when it happened, but I’m no longer a new Mason. Last night Sunday night, it was my turn to be the older guy and take one of the new brothers around, and to explain how and why things work.

Yesterday Sunday evening, while most of the lodge parties were just getting underway, I met up with several other of the Connecticut Freemason bloggers. This was the end result of six months of emails and phone calls which began “Hey, we should all get together for dinner some night and talk about blogging.” After half a dozen missed opportunities, we managed to agree to meet the night before GL at the restaurant in the hotel. Fueled by the vapors of distilled grain, I had several hours of conversation with 3M of Northeastern Corner, the esteemed Traveling Man of Movable Jewel, and the Very Worshipful Charles Tirrell of Masonic Renaissance. We were missing MF (Metaphysical Freemason), whose father-in-law had to be taken to the hospital that morning. The pressures of work, family, geography, and of course our Masonly duties made scheduling one night a much more difficult task than you would have thought.

I’ve spent a little bit of time in and after meetings with both VW Brother Charles and with MJ, but this was the first time we’d been able to hang out without any particular agenda. And none of us have been able to spend much time with 3M, mainly because his district is down in New York (well, it seems that way anyhow). A pleasant and thoughtful young man, 3M was only raised a couple of years ago, making him the newbie. Nobody else from his lodge was able to make the trip up.

VW Charles brought up some officers from his own lodge, also younger Masons, and we spent a pleasant couple of hours having drinks and sandwiches, and just getting to know a little about each other. All of us being Connecticut Masons, we had the opportunity to discuss not just blogging and internet Masonry, but also topics concerning local, district and state events. Table conversation ranged from praising (and poking) other well-known bloggers and some of the recent topics, internet Masonry and how it can be better utilized to the benefit of the Craft (we’re in favor of more of it), District Blue Lodge Council meetings (some people find them to be a waste of time), the state of ritual (to some degree), and some of the items up for discussion at Grand Lodge (oh yeah, there’s a session).

After a dinner of sandwiches and frits (the French word for “fries,” I was informed), we retired upstairs to VW Charles’ room, where 3M treated us to some finely crafted hand-rolled cigars, which we enjoyed out on the balcony – smoking being prohibited in the hotel rooms. While enjoying the aroma, not to mention the invigorating New England air, we continued our discussions. The non-blogging junior officers lost interest, and retired to the warmth of the room, where they kept themselves occupied with a Wii, iPods, laptops, and various other electronic gear.

As Charles mentioned in his own post on this subject, we found it surprising that with Connecticut being such a small state, the four of us had managed to develop notably differing ideas and opinions about Freemasonry. This wasn’t so obvious when discussing our ideas for how to improve the quality of meetings and Masonic education, but was more noticeable when we discussed our positions on those states which have yet to fully recognize the Prince Hall jurisdictions, and how our UGLE-related fraternity intersects with orders that have long since split off: La Droit Humain, Grand Orientes, and Co-Masonry. Fortunately, real Masons manage to subdue their passions when discussing such potentially divisive subjects, and we soon veered off those topics to discuss the proposed legislation and some of the rumors that had been making the rounds. We also traded stories about some of the lodges that we’ve seen that are doing it wrong (and some that are doing it right), and kicked around some of our own ideas for what could make for better lodges.

Charles is a very progressive-minded brother who has a number of great ideas for lodges on his own site, including utilizing Pay Pal or similar services to collect dues money. We also thought that the dreaded dues increases would hurt less if we allowed the members to pay in monthly or quarterly installments; we noted that most dues are, um, due right around the holidays – just when people are already ticked about paying bills. Perhaps a subscription service might be a better way to go for some of the brethren. We also discussed having some of the brothers “pay” in service, rather than in coinage; some brothers could agree to a certain number of hours doing maintenance, cleaning, repairs, etc., in exchange for some abatement on dues. We also – and I hope he doesn’t mind my mentioning it here – tossed around the idea of recording video interviews with notable brothers; not necessarily the oldest or famous, but brothers with an interesting perspective on the fraternity. Any Connecticut brothers with video editing experience who are interested in lending some help might want to contact VW Bro Charles.

Eventually we had to go home – at least, some of us did. TM wandered off to his car, and I took 3M for a tour around the hotel to meet the members of Friendship Lodge. A couple of brothers were at the room, and others appeared as we were having a drink. I left 3M in the fraternal care of our SW Eric, who promised to look after him, and I left for home around midnight. Since 3M was staying overnight, I was reasonably certain that he wouldn’t get into much trouble. I later found that natural supposition to be erroneous, but that’s a topic for another article.

The four of us got together out of curiosity – indeed, we’ve been trying to find some way to get together for months, but just haven’t been able to get our schedules together. When we decided to meet, it was because we thought that we had two things in common: Freemasonry, and a desire to share our experiences and perspectives via this medium. There are five of us who blog about the Craft, not counting the few people who mention Freemasonry on their MySpace and LiveJournal pages. While it doesn’t sound like very many, it does, in fact, make up a significant portion of the Craft-bloggers extant on the internet; more impressive when you consider the size of our state. In an age in which internet communication is becoming more utilized by new and potential members, I’m glad that such a great group of brothers has been able to spread some light through this new medium, and I’m sure that all of us look forward to doing this in the future.

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Die, heretic scum! Redux

December 11, 2007 1 comment

Several brothers have now asked me pointedly why I haven’t written anything about the recent split of Halcyon Lodge from the Grand Lodge of Ohio. First of all, I haven’t written anything in almost over a month; even some of my online friends have noticed that I’ve hardly even left any comments lately. This is because I’m getting into the year-end crush at work, and also the year-end rush in Connecticut Freemasonry. In the last month I’ve been to (or have been in) four degrees, three rehearsals, two Grand Lodge meetings, one District meeting, and several regular and special meetings at several different lodges. Somewhere in there I managed to make some family time, get a Christmas tree, do some household projects, do the single parent thing while my wife was on a business trip, and I’m sure I frittered away some spare moments as well; which means that just about every time I sat down to write something, I ended up reading the backlog of messages and then – more than once – dozing off at the keyboard.

The other reason I haven’t written anything about Halcyon, (and now, Euclid and, um, the other one, wherever it is) or the American “Grand Orient” thingie though, is because while the subject has generated enormous quantities of heat in several venues, there has been disproportionately very little light. And frankly, when I step back from the subject matter a little bit, there isn’t much worth writing about.

No, really.

A small group of Freemasons worked very hard at revitalizing an older lodge. During the course of this, they ran into some Grand Lodge regulations that they believed complicated their designs. Unable to work out an amicable compromise with their Grand Lodge, they chose to turn in their charter and go it alone.

Yeah, yeah, I’ve read all about the other stuff. Allegations of financial chicanery, hot-headedness, stubborn Grand Lodge officers, politics, breaking of obligations, revolution against the established order, and disturbing the peace and littering.

Big, fat, hairy deal.

The first Grand Lodge was formed in 1717, and within twenty years lodges began splitting off, which means that it took less than a generation for lodges to develop issues with their overseeing Grand Lodge. Even a quick perusal of the literature shows that schisms in Freemasonry are surprisingly common; and although that latter half of the 20th century has been fairly quiet in that respect in the US and UK, splits and schisms in other countries have made recognition of various Grand Lodges throughout the world a mish-mash. However, it’s interesting to note that even Paul Bessel’s slightly out-of-date website on the various Grand Lodges operating within the US shows well over 200 non-mainstream (i.e., not AF&AM or Prince Hall) Grand Lodges extant. This averages to roughly six unrecognized jurisdictions per state in the US.

The point is that schisms within Freemasonry, and indeed, within almost any organization are fairly typical. To me, though, the more interesting aspect is not the schism itself, but the reaction to the split. In reading the responses on the several blogs and websites that have been carrying such discussions, I’m reminded of the old Emo Phillips joke. I posted this back in August, but under the circumstances, it bears repeating:

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. I immediately ran over and said “Stop! Don’t do it!”
“Why shouldn’t I?” he said.
I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!”
“Like what?”
“Well … are you religious or atheist?”
“Religious.”
“Me too! Are you Christian or Jewish?”
“Christian.”
“Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?”
“Protestant.”
“Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”
“Baptist.”
“Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?”
“Baptist Church of God.”
“Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?”
“Reformed Baptist Church of God.”
“Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?”
“Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!”
To which I said, “Then die, heretic scum!” and pushed him off.

The thing that makes this joke so funny is that we all recognize that some perversity of human nature makes us less tolerant of a group that is almost like us than, than we are of some group that is very different. But we also recognize that any group that splits off from us becomes a them; this implies some kind of rejection of us; we get defensive and wonder – demand – that they explain themselves in order to make things more consistent with our own world view. This is difficult enough, but we then add to this volatile mix that they have their own reasons for splitting off, and have probably endured a long time – years, maybe decades – in harboring frustration. In order to justify splitting off, they develop a psychological or sociological rationale, which often takes to form of blaming us for actions or situations which they believe to be unfair. The result is generally a situation in which the groups, despite being very close on many other issues, harbor some animosity toward the other for some narrow range of wants or desires.

Certainly a number of my brethren have been reading the web boards and the several blogs – notably Burning Taper – and wondering why there is so much arguing. And frankly, I’ve long since stopped reading the threads on Burning Taper because I’m embarrassed, even mortified by the displays of vitriol from all sides. Personally, I’m of the mind that if you belong to an organization in which you don’t like the management, then make an attempt at trying to change things. If it doesn’t work, and if you can see that it’s going to cause some hard feelings, then get out and go to Plan B while everyone still has the opportunity to make things work.

But I also understand that we hate for people to split off from whatever groups we belong to because that implies that they weren’t happy; people who aren’t satisfied tend to break away out of anger, and others in the original group tend to see it as a rejection of established ways. This prompts the question “What was wrong with the established way?” and from that, any answer is bound to cause some kind of defensive reaction. Perhaps a Martian, unschooled in human nature, might wonder why such splits can’t be amicable affairs, but I think that most of us can well imagine that once we start to develop the “us vs them” mindset, then it’s only a matter of time before the rioting starts.

At some point, one has to take a step back and ask “Is there any evidence that would convince me that the other side is correct?” If the answer is “No,” then chances are that the people of the opposite opinion feel the same way, and the argument is at a stalemate. Go home. Sit down with a book and have a quiet scotch by the fire. Rebuild that old PC in the corner of the basement that you were going to give to your niece. Clean out the garage. Do something constructive… or not. But stop wasting your breath – or your bandwidth – once you understand that nothing is going to change, be it the situation or your mind.

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