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Blog Aggravate

February 9, 2014 3 comments

The “Golden Age” of Masonic blogging was probably from 2005 to 2010; Facebook and Twitter became the most used social networks, and most of the existing blogs lacked for readers, which in turn discouraged many writers.

I recently went through my own archives, and over the years I have subscribed to or listed just under 200 blogs by Masons. Most are now dead or dormant, but surprisingly, there are still a number of active blogs, and once in a while I’ll run across a new one that I find enjoyable. I’ve been trying to list them on my sidebar, or add them to my RSS reader so I can keep up.

More interestingly, some intrepid bothers will take the time to sit down with a microphone and some recording software, and put together a half to one hour program of discussion. While Masonic podcasts aren’t nearly as common, they are generally an enjoyable alternative, and you can listen to them in the background as you’re working on other things, or save them to mobile device and play it in your car on that long, boring commute.

I know that some of my readers are always on the lookout for new or interesting Masonic reading, so I’ve put together a new Masonic blog aggravate aggregate; a collection of links to the more active blogs that I’ve been reading, and that other people have kindly pointed out to me. These are blogs that have all posted articles in the last year. Right now there are about 2 dozen, but hopefully that will grow. And since blogs are not the only Masonic writings available, the sidebar will have links to podcasts, web sites, essays, and other bits of interest to Masons.

Ashlar to Ashes: An aggregate for Masonic blogs and writings

This is just a little project that I put together in an afternoon, but if people find it useful, then maybe we can keep this going. If you have a favorite (or your own) blog, podcast, web board, or website that you would like added, please leave a comment here or on Ashalr to Ashes so we can check it out.

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Ancient or Modern?

January 22, 2014 3 comments

Freemasonry Today, the publication of the UGLE, has a short article from Bro. John Hamill, Director of Special Projects,  in which he asks the question “Is it time to modernize the rituals?” It’s a great topic, and one that has initiated some bickering discussion in some of the online Masonic communities, with the general consensus that this question should be answered with a resounding “Hell no!”

One might think that being a Past District Lecturer that I’d be completely against this; but I’ve given this some thought, and I think that one could make a case that modernizing the ritual might not be such a bad idea. As Bro. Hamill points out:

The English language is said to be one of the most difficult to learn, in both its written and spoken forms. Part of that difficulty is the wonderfully idiosyncratic illogicality of how we pronounce many of our words, which often has little bearing on the actual letters they contain. Another problem is that a simple word can have different meanings, or shades of meaning, depending on its context, or even where in the country it is spoken.

Our familiarity with words and phrases affects how we use them. Over time, the words develop different meanings or connotations. For example, our current Masonic usage of the word “clandestine” now means something slightly different than it did 150 years ago.  Similarly, some words fall out of favor, some are preferred for written discourse, but are rarely used in spoken conversation. For example; “inculcate.” I suspect that nobody uses this in speech because it’s just a jumble of misplaced consonants.

Bro. Hamill also writes (and many others have pointed out):

English is a living language in which the meaning of words changes over time…

If our language is “living,” does this mean that some of our words and phrases can be taken out to the back field and buried when they are dead?

I bring this up because of practical reasons. As a visitor to many lodges, both in and out of my district, I watched as officers strained to deliver their various lectures and charges. You could see their brows furrowed, perspiration on their foreheads, and the tension just radiating from their body movements as they struggled to recite passages in a dialect that was strange and unfamiliar. Their lack of familiarity with the archaic expressions, I contend, is what gave many — perhaps most — of my brothers such a difficult time. Imagine someone from, say, the US trying to memorize a passage of French or Spanish, with little working knowledge of the language. Yes, you’d recognize some words, and perhaps some would sound vaguely familiar, but how well could you actually deliver the lines — especially knowing that some of the people in the room were listening for each little mistake? I think that the typical 30 to 40 year old Mason probably hasn’t read much 1700s Brit-Lit, at least, not since high school, so the lack of familiarity with the terms and usage turns a few paragraphs of a lecture into something akin to a foreign language.

Yes, I know that part of the appeal of Freemasonry is the rich history, but I sometimes think that those of us who decry the modernization of the ritual — or of any other aspect — is really saying that he made the effort, so now he expects everyone else to do the same. This position can be declared elitist, or possibly libertarian, but to some degree, it’s simply wrong. For example, I don’t hear very many of my brothers asking to bring back the even more ancient usages, such as:

Articulus octavus.

The eghte artycul schewt zow so,
That the mayster may hyt wel do,
Zef that he have any mon of crafte,
And be not also perfyt as he auzte,
He may hym change sone anon,
And take for hym a perfytur mon.
Suche a mon, throze rechelaschepe,
Myzth do the craft schert worschepe.

 

You recognize that, don’t you? Of course you do;  it’s the 8th Article of Freemasonry from the Regius Manuscript. What, are you having a hard time with the 14th century script? Here, let’s modernize the text make it easier to read:

Eighth article.

The eighth article sheweth you so,
That the master may it well do.
If that he have any man of craft,
And he be not so perfect as he ought,
He may him change soon anon,
And take for him a more perfect man.
Such a man through rechalaschepe, (recklessness)
Might do the craft scant worship.

So much easier to understand, don’t you think? Personally, while I find it interesting from a historical aspect, I suspect that if you went back to the late 1700s, we wouldn’t find a lot of Freemasons bemoaning the dearth of 15th century style lectures.

As a counter-point, I also suspect that if you sat down with a bunch of your brothers after lodge, most of you could act out and recite entire sections of favorite movies or TV shows. Most of the brothers around my own age could probably quote passages from Monty Python and the Holy Grail that are at least equal in length and difficulty as any of our lectures, and I know for a fact that quite a few of the younger brothers at my lodge can quote and act out scene after scene from most of the Star Wars movies. What’s the difference between Monty Python and the Middle Chamber? You might argue that it’s the repetition, but I’d say that part of it is the familiarity with the language.  Yes, there’s the repetition, but think about this: Most lodges meet twice a month. A Mason who attends most meetings is going to see and hear the opening ceremony at least 20 times in a year. By the time he’s a senior officer, he could have well seen 80 to 100 opening and closing ceremonies.That is a lot of repetition, certainly much more than one would experience with most movies or TV episodes. And yet, how many times have you  seen a Master of a lodge who could barely stumble through a proper opening and closing?

In answer to his own question,  Bro. Hamill concludes his essay by saying:

Occasionally, we hear calls to modernise those ceremonies, to take out old words and phrases and replace them with modern, instantly comprehensible ones. I hope those calls are never answered. Our ceremonies contain some wonderful set pieces of English language that would be destroyed if we modernised them. Freemasonry is a learning process, and if we have to resort to a dictionary to fully comprehend what we learn, that can only enrich us.

Personally, I enjoy the works as they are. Although not a history buff, I appreciate the connection to the older days of Freemasonry, and I quite like the challenge of tackling some of the unfamiliar phrasing in order to present it as I imagine a brother of 1814 would have done.  But if “modernizing” the ritual means that more members would be able to memorize it — and more importantly, to deliver it well to the newer members — then maybe this is an idea worth examining a little more closely, before we toss it into the “we’ve never done it like that” discard bin.


The Greeks don’t want no Freaks

December 5, 2012 6 comments

Well, it’s about time that some of the Freemasons came to their senses, and we should all be thankful that Florida has the temerity to lead the way.  I’m talking, of course, about the recent edict by the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Florida who is evicting anyone from the Craft who are not right-thinking, God-fearing Freemasons.

The Masonic online discussion world has been all a-Twitter over this, so there’s no need for me to go over the details, but the essentials (from the Grand Master’s Edict page) are these:

The question has arisen if certain religious practices are compatible with Freemasonry, primarily Paganism, Wiccan and Odinism, and secondarily Agnosticism and Gnosticism.

He then natters on about some legal stuff, and writes:

I. CONCERNING GOD AND RELIGION
“A Mason is obliged, by his tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irreligious libertine.”……….

And then finishes up with the important part:

Therefore, as Grand Master, it is my Ruling and Decision that none of the above mentioned beliefs and/or practices are compatible with Freemasonry since they do not believe or practice one or more of the prerequisites to be a candidate for Masonry listed above.

Further, any member of the Craft that professes to be a member of one of the groups mentioned above shall tender his resignation or suffer himself to a Trial Commission whose final outcome will be expulsion since there is no provision to allow anything contrary to the Ancient Landmarks.

Furthermore, Freemasonry prohibits the change of any of the Ancient Landmarks, and its members admit that it is not in power of any man, or body of men, to make innovations in the body of Masonry.

It’s about time that somebody took a stand to kick out those trouble-making types who can’t commit to a real religion, and who pick some made-up theology in order to join the fraternity. My only beef is that MWGM Jorge Aladro hasn’t gone far enough.

For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to Tom Hanks, Nicholas Cage, or any of those TV specials that have come up in the last five years, the Freemasons have very few actual requirements for joining. You must be a man, of lawful age, of good character, with a belief in a Supreme Creator. Some jurisdictions change the qualifications slightly, but those are the basics. Florida, apparently, has gotten tired of non-religious posers who are trying to sneak into the fraternity by claiming to be believers in completely fictitious, made-up religions like Paganism. Personally, I can’t imagine anything good coming from allowing such trouble makers into the Craft. If a real religion isn’t good enough for those people — or as is more likely the case, those people aren’t good enough for a real religion — then they are obviously rebels who will end up causing nothing but trouble for those around them.

My only concern is that Florida is about 240 years too late. Reading through my Masonic history books, I see that quite a large number of Freemasons from that time were also posers who claimed to belong to some movement called Deism. You can tell that Deism isn’t a real religion because they don’t have any churches. But even at that, listen to what those guys believed:

From Wikipedia:

Deism holds that God does not intervene with the functioning of the natural world in any way, allowing it to run according to the laws of nature that he configured when he created all things. God is thus conceived to be wholly transcendent and never immanent. For Deists, human beings can only know God via reason and the observation of nature, but not by revelation or supernatural manifestations (such as miracles) – phenomena which Deists regard with caution if not skepticism. See the section Features of deism, following. Deism does not ascribe any specific qualities to a deity beyond non-intervention. Deism is related to naturalism because it credits the formation of life and the universe to a higher power, using only natural processes. Deism may also include a spiritual element, involving experiences of God and nature.[17]

So, let’s see: No churches, no bible or holy book, and a God that makes stuff and then wanders off to God who know where. Those guys from back in the late 1700s obviously were not members of a real religion, either. Too bad MWGM Alandro wasn’t around to kick them out of the fraternity, before they got themselves up to no good.

If you’re interested in reading more about this:

GM of Florida Expels Wiccans, Gnostics and Others

An Open Letter to the Grand Master of Florida

More Masonic Purging Florida Style

Masonic Traveling

April 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Although I haven’t had much time to write lately, it seems that another of our esteemed brethren has been hard at it. Masonic Traveler, a collection of essays and thoughts about Freemasonry by Greg Stewart, has just been released, and it looks to be an excellent read.

Masons familiar with the internet probably remember Greg from various web forums. More recently, however, he would be found on Freemason Information, a blog aggregate on which he frequently posts essays and commentary,  and on Masonic Central, the well known podcast that he runs with co-host Dean Kennedy.

Greg has always had an esoteric bent, and I expect that his book will reflect his own personal journey. I’m sure that it will make an excellent addition to your already overcrowded Masonic library.

Masons reveal Zombie Preparedness Plan

April 1, 2010 4 comments

Okay, the post title is a bit sensationalized, but we finally have proof of our theory that high-ranking Masons really have codified the methods that they have used since the Middle Ages  for killing revenants (i.e., zombies and vampires) in their secret rituals. What we have discovered is not so much a preparedness plan as a procedure manual that describes the methodology.

I’d like to say that I hacked the secret files to the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, because it sounds so dramatic, but the truth is more mundane. When I was down at the offices recently, one of the admins had left his PC on, and I noticed the passwords on a sticky note at the top of his monitor. When he stepped out for coffee, I just copied them down. Yeah, so not Kim Possible, but it worked. When I got home, I fired up my laptop and started browsing the folders. I skipped over the usual stuff on the Kennedys, the NASA/Zeta-Reticuli connection, public water flouridation, and found it hiding at the very end under Zombies.

Here is a link to a PDF file right on the Grand Lodge site that describes the ancient Masonic zombie-killing techniques.
EDIT: The higher-ups at the Grand Lodge have taken down the link, but I saved a copy which I’ve uploaded to my Google Docs. You can see or download it here: Zombie Expulsion.

Followup:

The secret lesson of Hiram and the Ruffians

Freemasons & Zombies: The Conspiracy

Freemasons reveal zombie preparedness plan

For those of you who are reading this on your phones and can’t open the PDF file, I’m reprinting the text below.

Read more…

Writer’s Ashlar

February 13, 2010 Leave a comment

It Will Pass

An Entered Apprentice was waiting to enter the lodge. He sat down with the Tiler and said, “My life is in chaos! I feel so distracted, I cannot concentrate on my questions and answers, and I’m so tired that I keep falling asleep in lodge. This is just horrible! What shall I do?”

“It will pass,” the Tiler said matter-of-factly.

At the next lodge meeting, the EA came back to the Tiler. “You were right! Everything is great now! My life is in order once again, I can focus on the questions and answers, and I’m not too tired to pay attention in lodge.”

“It will pass,” the Tiler said matter-of-factly.

From ZenMasonry

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Except for a handful of officer’s installations, I haven’t been to a lodge function, let alone a lodge meeting in two months.

It’s not that I’m upset with anybody there, or because I haven’t paid my annual dues (umm… I’m pretty sure I sent out that check), or because they don’t serve low-carb dinners. It’s because after 2 -1/2 years of a miserable economy, I’m suddenly working like crazy. Customers that pushed off orders indefinitely all seem to be calling them in. While this is a good thing indeed, at the moment we’re lacking in manpower to meet the demands. I’ve had to cut 30% of our personnel over the last couple of years, and now we’re trying to meet production schedules with the people that are left.

I’m not sure if this is a sign that business in general is coming back, or if it’s simply a temporary spike as customers replace depleted inventories; accordingly, I’m hesitant to hire more people in case I have to let them go in a few months. This means that I spend half of my days doing paperwork, and the other half working out in the shop;  I’ve been working twelve to fourteen hours a day, and by the time I get home I can barely stay awake enough to read my messages and do a little internet surfing. More than once my wife has nudged me when I’ve started to doze behind my laptop. I have a few other writing gigs, and lately I’m way behind because I’ve been falling asleep at the keyboard.

And of course, holidays, family time, school plays, music recitals, charity functions (can you believe that not every community function I do is not some Masonic thing?), home repairs, and the annual pasta dinner at the local church fill in the other gaps in my  many heures joyeuses.

My lack of personal time has also taken a toll on my blogging — I barely seem to get an article in each month. It’s not for a lack of ideas; I’ve got a dozen drafts that I get a couple of paragraphs into, and then can’t seem to finish because after a week or two I lose the train of thought behind them. I used to write a bit in the morning, but lately, instead of writing I head to my exercise room (actually, it’s the laundry room-slash-pantry) and work out for an hour. Sit mens sana in corpore sano and all that.  Actually, those of you who have been following my Tweets, Facebook, or Buzz have seen my not infrequent complaints about my exercise routines, my diet, or my (lack of) weight loss — and even at that, I can barely find enough energy to micro-blog more than a couple of times a day. I mean, how much energy and inspiration do you need to grind out 140 characters?

Anyway, you’re not here to read about my busy life. You’ve got your own busy lives, and can barely squeeze in enough time to read your favorite blogs.

Over the last few years, I’ve met people in town who say things like “Oh, my father (brother, grandfather, uncle, husband) is (was) a Mason.. But he doesn’t go anymore.” When I ask about this, it seems that many members stay active for about 10 years or so, and then wander off into other things. Yes, there are exceptions, but those that do seem to lose interest after that time rarely come back. Perhaps it’s because many of the people that they knew — the officers and other regulars — have also run through their own 10 year span; when a member goes back and doesn’t recognize anyone, he feels out of touch, and loses the motivation to come back again.

Or maybe  it’s because, having been an officer, perhaps even having been the Master, they no longer feel that they have any purpose in the lodge anymore. Yes, I know that many Past Masters seem to believe that their purpose it to make the newer officers miserable, but I suspect that such PMs are actually a minority, albeit at times a loud, vocal, annoying minority. But some Past Masters really have no role in lodge anymore; once in a while they are called upon to sit in a chair for a degree, perhaps to take part in a Past Master degree, or maybe to deliver some lecture or charge on short notice.

Don’t get me wrong; I know that there are only 24 hours in a day, and only seven days in a week. But this is the longest I’ve been too busy to make lodge meetings, and it did make me wonder why some of us simply stop going and drift away. Were they suddenly too busy with work or family issues? Did they expect that it was only temporary, and that they would soon be back in their regular seats? When did they realize that they just aren’t going back at all? Does some psychic inertia take over that makes it just too difficult to start going again?

What do you think? What makes you or your brothers wander off for long periods of time? And why do you (or they) lose the motivation to come back?

being brought to li…

December 16, 2009 1 comment

I’d heard about it over the years but never gave it much thought. Unlike some people who had friends or relatives already into it, I got into it after picking up a little bit here and there, and finally developing enough interest to really look into it.

There were a ton of books on it, and I picked up a few at the library, then perused bookstores for more current information. Eventually I turned to the internet, where I found a wealth of information. My problem then became more one of how to figure out which websites were going to be useful.

After many long hours at various websites – both pro and con – I began to get a better idea. My next step was to haunt the web forums and bulletin boards where I could see discussions, and ask questions. I had a lot of questions, but I discovered that sometimes it was difficult to get answers; at least, answers that satisfied my curiousity. It didn’t dawn on me until later that this was probably because I was still looking in from the outside; some questions can only be answered from experience.

But I did discover some things. There’s an entire culture built around it, and it seems that almost everybody else who was in it had a different idea of what it was, or what it should be. I continued to study, though, and eventually decided to get into it myself. I hadn’t planned any huge commitment, at least, not at first. But I finally figured that I simply wasn’t going to understand it any better until I gave it a shot.

The online communities were a big help, although I did discover that just like any other interest group, there were some “old timers” who had been into it from “back in the old days” and always maintained some attitude about how things were better, and how much harder they had to work, and how the new guys have it is easy, and how they had to walk to school in their bare feet in a blizzard, etc., etc. I guess their underlying message was “we were here first, and that makes us better than you.” I saw how this put off some others, but I persevered.

Interestingly, I discovered that there were many schisms and splits over the years, and even though they seem to share the same general philosophy, the various groups seem to snipe at each other, and spare no words in describing how their version is better. Even though it was obvious which group was bigger and more wide-spread, I still fail to see why there is so much animosity.

But once I made my decision, I discovered that there were many, many more people online who were only too happy to help, to give me some ideas and pointers, and to take the time to direct me toward even more information. And the neat thing is that I continue to ask questions, because once I think I’ve figured out one area, I realize how much more of it there is to understand. I have no idea how some people can take in all there is to it.

And here’s the weird thing: once I decided to get into it, I began to notice more instances of it in my daily life. Being more attuned, I discovered people who were into it, and I saw signs and expressions all over the place. I had no idea that it was so widely known, and it has turned into a game for me, seeing how many signs I can spot in unexpected areas.

I also noticed that there are peculiar signs and tokens, not to mention a huge syntax – a vocabulary that is used by those who are into it. The words are either unfamiliar, or familiar, but made strange because of the context. Figuring that out became another fun game, but worthwhile, too, as it helped me to figure out how things are put together. And of course, there are purists who insist that the usages have to be exactly a certain way, or it’s not right.

And as I use the various tools that I’ve learned about, I become more aware of the philosophy behind them, and how all of these things fit together to help me be more productive in my craft.

Yes, it took a while, but I’m into it, now. I’ve even made a point of being more open about it, both at home and at work. People ask me questions, and I try to answer them without sounding too pushy. A few of them are thinking about getting into it, themselves.

Yes, I’m very happy that I finally got into it. In fact, now I wonder what took me so long to finally get around to using Linux.

What’s that?

Linux. It’s an Open Source operating system for PCs. I installed Linux on my home PC and now I’m running it at work, too.

Yes, this is about my computer.

Why, what did you think I was writing about?

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