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A bit crypto

November 12, 2014 8 comments

I’ve always believed that a large part of why Freemasons have the long history of secret passwords, etc., was because we (as a group) tend to be charitable, and when approached by people asking for some kind of charity, especially as Freemasons, we give what we can. Naturally, we give to other causes, but when you think that you are giving to a particular group – any group – you like to know that your gift, be it time or money, isn’t being diverted to other uses.

With that in mind, I’d like to mention something that has come up in the online Masonic world: GCoin.

First, I will freely admit that I don’t know enough about cryptocurrency to even hazard a bad explanation, so if you’re interested enough to research on your own, then by all means, start with Wiki and go on from there. Disclosure: I have some Dogecoin amounting to about 33 cents, and I haven’t done anything with it yet.

Earlier this year, someone posted to the Reddit subgroup /r/freemasonry, announcing an alternative to Bitcoin, calling it GCoin. He announced it as having been developed by Masons, and for the purpose of making charitable giving easier. Naturally, we joked that it was hard enough to get a lot of our brothers to use Facebook or email, so good luck in trying to explain how it was supposed to work.  Unfortunately, requests for more specific information from them was vague, when it was forthcoming at all.  More to the point, the person refused to give any actual proof that he was a Mason, or that other Masons were actually involved in the development.  We eventually forgot about it, as new cryptocurrencies are being introduced all the time.

This week, the same user posted another announcement that it was going to be officially released.  That recalled the original discussion threads, and again, the user was just as vague with the details. He claimed that anyone, not just Masons could use GCoin, and that coin users could vote for small percentages to go for various charities. Unfortunately, he again failed to specify which charities, or how the voting worked. For that matter, it appears that even if some Masons decide to allow some percentage of the interest to go to a charity, they might be outvoted by other users.

Again, I don’t know enough about cryptocurrency to understand how it works, or what differentiates this from others, such as Bitcoin or Dogecoin.  Since the link between GCoin and Freemasonry is so tenuous, however, I think that anyone – Freemasons or not – should approach this with caution.

That said, maybe it would be an interesting project for some of our brothers to develop a cryptocurrency (MasoniCoin, perhaps?) specifically for Masonic purposes.

 

 

 

Connecticut Casual

March 22, 2014 6 comments

If you had to make a Venn diagram of the categories “Rap Videos,” “Connecticut,” and “Freemasons,” you’d probably think that the intersection would be 0.

You’d think.

Reel Wold Productions presents: Apathy – “The Grand Leveler”

With special thanks to the officers and brethren of Coastal Lodge No. 57 in Stonington, CT & Bro. Jim Johnson.

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.

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

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