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I’m Apathy… An underground hip-hop artist who is a Fremason AMA!

April 3, 2014 4 comments

There’s been some interesting online discussion about the video The Grand Leveler from hip-hop artist Apathy, not just for his use of a Masonic Lodge, but because he, himself is a Mason. Some people in our fraternity enjoyed the music and his vision, while others believe it portrays Freemasonry in a bad light.

For anyone so inclined, you can jump into a discussion with Bro. Apathy that’s happening right now on Reddit:

I’m Apathy… An underground hip-hop artist who is a Fremason AMA!

 

And after you’re done, then stop by the Reddit Freemasonry group to discuss it some more.

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.


Join the Freema$on$, Make $$$!

August 29, 2013 1 comment

It seems that I joined the wrong lodge. Or perhaps the Grand Lodge has been holding out on me.

Apparently not satisfied with generously sharing the bank accounts of deposed princes (for a small fee), Nigerian Freemasons have been offering a special deal: Join now, and after your initiation ceremony, you’ll be awarded such things as:

  • A Cash Reward of USD $300,000
  • A New Sleek Dream CAR valued at USD $120,000
  • A Dream House bought in the country of your own choice
  • One Month holiday (fully paid) to your dream tourist destination.
  • One year Golf Membership package
  • A V.I.P treatment in all Airports in the World
  • A total Lifestyle change
  • Access to Bohemian Grove
  • One Month booked Appointment with Top 5 world Leaders and Top 5 Celebrities in the World.

All they need is $300 initiation fee, and in seven days, you can be driving your BMW to Oprah’s house to have lunch with the Bills (Gates and Clinton), and then you’re off to a round at Pebble Beach.

Well, not at first. They go on to say:

Once you make the Payment and after filling and submitting the Registration Form,you are then invited to the Freemason Lodge where you undergo the Initiation Ceremony.

Seven days after the Initiation Ceremony, you are then Invited to an Awarding Ceremony where you are rewarded with USD $300,000

This Money is to enable you change your Lifestyle and your standards of Living so as to match with that of the Club Members.

This is important, because Freemasons certainly can’t be seen hanging around with anyone that isn’t up to their standards. I’m sure I’m at the wrong lodge, because I have to park my Chevy pickup next to a Ford pickup, a Toyota Prius, and a few other cars that cost considerably less than $120,000.

Wait, what’s that? I missed the deadline?

DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION IS: 30thAugust, 2013.

NB: After the Expiry of the Deadline above, FREEMASON and ILLUMINATI Membership Registration will close indefinitely in the above countries.

Dang! I hate it when that happens.

For those of you who might be able to get your bank cheque off by tomorrow, you can see more information below.


Click here to view the actual website.

Freemasonry Membership Registration - Home

5th District Blue iLodge Council

March 30, 2012 Leave a comment

We have nine Masonic Districts here in Connecticut, and the “guys who have been around” tell us that they were created according to the old rail road lines that ran in those areas. Back in the pre-automobile days, the District Deputies needed to take the trains (and then what, a horse cart?) to visit the various lodges. An amusing idea, although I have my doubts as to the veracity.

Several times a year, usually in a month with 5 weeks, the senior officers and other interested members of the lodges in a district will get together in order to keep abreast of what’s happening, to ask for (or offer) support for upcoming degree work, or to spread the news about some community activity. These meetings are called Blue Lodge Councils, and most lodges find them helpful. Our district has a little competition: the lodge with the most members that show up are awarded the “Traveling Gavel,” which entitles them to nothing except bragging rights. But it’s fun.

image

Friendship Lodge No. 33 is located at the southern end of the 5th District, and last night I drove up to Canada Collinsville to sit at the Blue Lodge Council meeting held at Village Lodge No. 29. As it happens, this was the Annual Meeting, which means a changing of the guard. Traditionally, the outgoing District Deputy for the district is arm-twisted elected to the position of BLC President, and his Associate Grand Marshal  is brow-beaten politely agrees to be Vice President or perhaps  is blackmailed into fills in Treasurer/Secretary position.

Last night, the previous  Associate Grand Marshall was in attendance, but the District Deputy was fishing and gambling away on an important business trip in Las Vegas. However, a fortuitous circumstance allowed a brother from Frederick Franklin Lodge No. 14 to contact RW. Bro. Larry over Skype using his iPad. The outgoing President, wanting to make sure RW Larry didn’t escape  seeing an opportunity for efficiency, was able to install his successor by placing the iPad in the East and swearing him in.

image

We rounded out the evening by playing Masonic Jeopardy, a trivia game in which teams (in this case, the A side of the district vs the B side) answer various questions on ritual, rules, and history.

And then I had to take the train back from Canada make the long drive back home.

Categories: freemason, Freemasonry, mason

Shake ‘n’ Bake

March 24, 2012 Leave a comment

A Worshipful Master noticed there was a newly proficient Master Mason who came to diligently practice the ritual every time the lodge was open. So the WM went to question him: “Dear brother, what are your intentions in practicing the ritual? What do you want?”

The MM said: “More light!”

The WM then picked up a tile and began to rub it very vigorously. Of course, the MM noticed this and asked: “What are you doing?”

The WM said: “I’m polishing it to make it into a mirror.”

The MM asked: “How can you make a mirror by polishing a tile?”

The WM said: “You’re absolutely right, polishing a tile will not make it a mirror. How can practicing the ritual give you more light?”

The MM scratched his head: “Then what am I supposed to do?”

The WM replied: “It’s like an ass pulling a cart. If the cart does not go, should you hit the cart or should you hit the ass?”

The MM had no reply.

The WM continued: “Do you think you are practicing ritual or do you think you are practicing Masonry? If you are practicing ritual, ritual is not degrees, or opening and closing the lodge. If you are practicing Masonry, it is not a fixed form. In the midst of everything that is changing you should neither hold on nor push away. If you keep ritual in the lodge, this is dowsing the light. If you cling to the forms of Masonry, this is not attaining its essence.”

From Zen Masonry

Most lodges probably have a “move up” night, during which the officers will move up and perform the duties of the next station, usually as a way to help the newer officers prepare for the duties that they will most likely have during the next year. Once in a while, Friendship Lodge has a twist on that idea. We sometimes have a “Sideliner Night”, during which we randomly have the regular members draw a position out of a hat and fill it for the evening. We also have a “Shake-up Night”, in which the officers are randomly reassigned to different stations. It’s not really a big deal for the Senior Warden to fill in at the Junior Deacon’s chair, but it’s much more interesting when the newer, junior officers are suddenly promoted into the senior chairs. The other night, the Senior Deacon ended up in the East, and our “Associate Steward” ended up in the West, and our Junior Deacon ended up in the South.

Anyone who has watched experienced officers barely get through an opening ceremony can imagine the smiles (and groans) of the Past Masters watching such a display, but the Friendship officers usually practice several times for any degree ceremony, and so each officer certainly has seen an opening quite a few times during his membership. I happened to be sitting next to our Past District Deputy, and we joked that we’d seen worse at lodges on their regular nights.

Well, okay, maybe I wasn’t joking.

But here’s the interesting part. I was sitting there, watching the displaced officers trying to brazen their way through an Entered Apprentice opening, when I found myself ignoring what they were actually saying, and listening to what they were trying to say. Yes, most of them missed some of  the words, or substituted similar words, or switched phrases around — but that was just on the surface. When you listened closely, the words were wrong, but the ritual itself was right.

Masonic ritual is not simply a ceremony denoting the opening and closing of a lodge. Nor is it (as it seems to be practiced in some lodges) a memory competition designed to show who would make the better officer.  Our rituals, and the lectures during our degree work, are not empty passages, but lessons. Indeed, when the Worshipful Master is charged with giving instruction to the Craft, most people aren’t even aware that the ritual itself, is part of that instruction.

I have seen lodges in which Past Masters critiqued new officers, admonishing them for missing a word in an otherwise well-delivered piece. If that makes that officer concentrate upon the words, will he then begin to miss the underlying meaning, or maybe to miss the overall lesson of that particular piece? Personally, I think so. I’ve seen some officers literally close their eyes and stand , trembling with effort, to deliver a rushed, albeit word-perfect memorized lecture. I’ve seen more than one charge delivered at high rates of speed by men intent upon getting all of the words out lest they forget something and freeze up.

What is the lesson here? What values and precepts are being taught — or learned?


 

On another note, I’m happy to say that this week marks our Grand Lodge Annual Communication. I’m particularly happy about this one because it has been an excellent year for the outgoing Grand Master, MWGM Jim McWain. Bro. McWain has been a particularly good example of a Grand Master who has been able to blend vision with practicality. We wish him well in the future.

And adding to that, Friendship Lodge will see one of it’s own entering the Grand Oriental Chair: RWB Gary Arseneau will be installed on Monday afternoon. Gary has shown himself to be a dedicated and resourceful Grand Lodge officer for the last ten years, and we’re all looking forward to another excellent year. We understand that we probably won’t get to see as much of him in lodge as we would like, but the members of Friendship wish him well, and hope he gets a chance to visit, with or without his purple apron.

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