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May 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Am I the only blogger who isn’t writing a book?

I noticed a blip in my blog stats the other day. For me, this is significant, because now that I can barely make one or two posts a month, I’m surprised when I get a traffic spike. In this case, I found I was getting hits from the Scottish Rite Journal, specifically from the book review column of the May/June 2010 online version.

Back in July of 2008, Bro. Jim Tresner, the SRJ book reviewer, was arm-twisted persuaded to take a look at some blogs written by Masons. I remember having been a bit put off by his initial attitude about Masons and blogging:

I must admit that I have not been a fan of the Internet phenomenon known as “blogs” (from web logs). For one thing, irrational as I know this is, I simply think the word itself is ugly. It does not “ring with a joyful tune upon the ear.” In fact, it sounds distinctly disrespectful. In addition, I have never been enough of a small-d-democrat to be interested in what the uninformed had to say on any topic. I grudgingly admit that everyone is entitled to have an opinion, but I am less willing to grant they have a right to publicly inflict it on others. One only needs watch the talking heads of celebrity experts on any cable news channel or listen to “talk radio” to see what I mean.

I admittedly responded out of irritation:

Recently, a columnist in a local newspaper wrote almost exactly the same thing as Bro. Tresner, adding that she had no desire to read about the dull aspects of other people’s lives, such as, e.g., what they had for breakfast, or to see pictures of their kids, or to hear about their shopping trips. It’s the height of irony that she, herself, has a regular weekly column in which she writes about exactly those topics. It’s fascinating to think that people who get paid for writing their opinions so often have such a low opinion of those who simply give theirs away.

And later, I complained:

I am, however, just a little disappointed to see that some people – and Bro. Tresner is by no means alone – still regard “Masonic blogging” as an inferior medium. I’m all the more mystified because Bro. Tresner, himself, has his own section – “Tresner’s Talks” – on The Sanctum Sanctorum, one of the latest blog/web forums to have been set up in the last year. More interestingly, I’ve seen several discussions in the Sanctum Sanctorum forum decrying certain forms of “internet Masonry.”

A web forum for Masons in which some of the participants have issues with Masons on the internet? Really?

I suspect that the big problem is that Masonry – or, more correctly, Masons – on the internet is still a new concept for the Fraternity, and most of the brothers, many of whom remember a life before television, have not adopted the working tools of the internet. That’s to be expected, of course; new technology that brings about cultural change is often viewed with concern until a large population manages to figure out what to do with it.

Yeah, a couple of years ago I used to get upset about people who dissed bloggers as not being serious writers. Of course, what I’ve since learned is that 3/4 of bloggers can barely string a few sentences together before reposting a Youtube clip. Fortunately, many of those bloggers have moved over to Facebook to play Vampire Mafia Farming Wars.

Anyway, a visit to the SRJ page showed that Bro. Tresner was not reviewing my blog (again); rather, he was reviewing (as he usually does) books. But what I found interesting is that the books had been written by fellow bloggers. So, in addition to the book from Greg Stewart I mentioned last week, here are a few more for you to pick up for your summer reading list.

Bro. Michael A. Halleran, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War
Bro. Halleran blogs as Aude Vide Taci, which is now hosted at Freemason Information.

Bro. Timothy Hogan, 32°, KCCH, The 32 Secret Paths of Solomon: A New Examination of the Qabbalah in Freemasonry
Bro. Hogan can also be found at Freemason Information, as well as at the web forum The Sanctum Sanctorum.

And as if Bro. Hogan weren’t busy enough…

Bros. Loran Frazier, W.B. Robert Herd, Timothy W. Hogan, 32° KCCH, Cliff Porter, 32°, KCCH, Greg Starr, 32°, “Frater Vel” , plus Jason Augustus Newcomb, and Brian Pivik, The New Hermetics Equinox Journal, volume four.
Bro. Porter is also pretty well known around teh intertubez.

Also reviewed in this article:
Bro. S. Brent Morris, Ph.D., 33°, Grand Cross, A Radical in the East, 2nd edition.
Bro. Morris, author of  Freemasons for Dummies A Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry, isn’t a blogger, but he drops in on us frequently.

And because he obviously has a lot of free time on his hands, Bro. Morris again teamed up with one of his cohorts:

Bros. Arturo de Hoyos, 33°, Grand Cross and S. Brent Morris, Ph.D. 33°, Grand Cross, Committed to the Flames: This History and Rituals of a Secret Masonic Rite.

I’m very pleased that Bros. Morris and de Hoyos, members of a secret cabal within our own order, have finally decided to come clean about the secret teaching of our early brethren; their book validates my own theory that operative Freemasons traveled England and parts of Western Europe, using our rituals as teaching aids to pass along the knowledge of how to destroy the zombies that occasionally terrorized the rural villages.While Morris & deHoyos don’t explicitly state this, the title of the book and the comments that Bro. Morris himself wrote at the end of the book review point to a loosening up of the heretofore tight lid on the information.

At any rate, with this latest crop of books now available, there’s plenty of Masonic reading for everyone during the summer months when most lodges take a break.

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.

Idiots in New Haven

May 28, 2009 Leave a comment
From Idiots in New Haven

I wish I could say that I was happy to have met Dr. S. Brent Morris. Well, actually, I was happy to have met Bro. Brent; he’s a bright, engaging, and for all his accomplishments, a completely unassuming gentleman. And that’s the problem: the guy has a list of accomplishments that would fill a book – in addition to the number of books that he’s written or co-authored. I mean, after listening to his bio (which ran almost as long as the  excellent paper that he presented), I began to feel insignificant, like a Masonic Zsa Zsa Gabor – merely known on the internet for being known on the internet. But within two minutes of shaking hands and introducing myself, all that was forgotten; he’s charming, as well as unassuming.

The guy is just so darn likable, is the point I’m trying to get across here.

Bro. Morris was in town (New Haven) to receive the James Royal Case Fellowship Award, presented at the Masonic Lodge of Research. The award is named for the noted Masonic historian from our state, and is given to Masons of noted accomplishment. Believe it or not, Bro. Morris had quite a few books and papers behind him before he became a famous Masonic Idiot.

There is a certain irony in that Bro. Brent presented a paper on the history of itinerant Masonic speakers of the 1700s and 1800s in the US; men who traveled from lodge to lodge, earning their living by reciting entire sections of degree work during a period when many of the higher degrees were not commonly conferred. It was an interesting bit of historical background that helps to round out our understanding of how the various appendant bodies became established.

There was some more book signing afterward, during which a number of us had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Morris  about Masonic history, dealing with the Antis, and those crazy History Channel “exposes.” No word on if some of the younger bros managed to talk him into heading out clubbing later on.

One thing that I forgot to ask him, though. How does he wear his ring?

Bro. Brent, if you’re reading – thanks for making this a great night for Connecticut Masonry.



Jesus, the stonemason

December 17, 2007 2 comments

This article is by Bro. John White, a freelance writer living in Connecticut. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him on the committee that produced the old Square & Compasses magazine, a quarterly publication which has been replaced by the Connecticut Freemason. The local newspaper, the Waterbury Republican-American often publishes Bro. White’s pieces on the Op-Ed pages. The following was published in 12/17/07 edition of that newspaper. I found it interesting, and thought that some of my regular readers might enjoy this.

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Jesus, the stonemason, born in a cave?

 

The story of Jesus is so deeply ingrained in the received knowledge of our culture that questioning any part of it may seem like heresy to some.

However, in one of his letters to the early church, St. Peter admonished members to “make every effort to supplement your faith … with knowledge” (II Peter 1:5, RSV). That should be borne in mind with regard to scholarly concerns being raised about Jesus’s birth and occupation which stem from what may be mistranslations in the Bible.

According to John Tiffany, writing in The Barnes Review (November/December 2006), some historians are saying Jesus was not born in a stable as conventionally believed, and likewise he was not a carpenter. Tiffany’s article, “New Revelations on the Life of Jesus,” draws upon various disciplines, primarily archaeology and linguistics, to present a different view of these matters. It is available on line at www.barnesreview.org/html/nov2006lead.html.

Our accepted notion that the birthplace of Jesus was a wooden structure comes from the art of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Tiffany says. The artists who created the images drew from their experience in Europe and apparently were ignorant of life in Palestine at the time of Jesus.

Europe was a woodworking culture and animals were kept in barns. In Palestine, however, the primary construction material was stone. Caves were numerous there, and people used them as living quarters. Even today, many houses in Bethlehem are built in front of caves, just as they were in Jesus’ day.

Typically, the caves were two-level spaces in which people used the upper level for living quarters and the lower level to shelter their animals, where their rising body heat would help to warm the upper level when the weather was cold.

Many linguists, Tiffany says, now believe there may have been confusion about the words for “inn” and “second level.” Consequently, translation errors were made. A European-style inn would house guests in upper rooms away from the common area on the first floor; the guests’ animals would be stabled in a barn.

But dwelling caves in the Holy Land would have mangers placed along the lower-level cave walls for the animals. So the phrase “no room at the inn” may have meant no room in the upper level of a dwelling cave where Joseph and Mary sought shelter. Instead, they may have been offered use of the lower level where livestock lived and fed from mangers.

According to this line of thinking, then, Jesus was born in a cave, not a wooden European-style stable. Two extrabiblical texts, the Gnostic Gospel of James and the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, say exactly that, Tiffany points out. As for Jesus’ profession, Tiffany says it is more likely he was a mason than a carpenter. The same goes for Joseph.

Translation errors are again said to be the source of the confusion. The Greek term tectone or tekton, which is translated as “carpenter,” actually means “artisan” and refers to a skilled craftsman whose medium might be metal, stone or wood. In the Middle East at the time of Jesus, wood was scarce but stone was plentiful. Since European building focused more on woodworking and carpentry, a cultural bias led to the choice of “carpenter” rather than “stonemason.”

Tiffany concludes by saying it’s possible Jesus was a woodworker, but the words used to describe him have a broader meaning than one particular vocation. Despite tradition, he says, a translation as “stonemason” may have more evidence to back it up.

John White is an author and freelance writer who lives in Cheshire.

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