Many of you have already heard about this, but I figured it’s worth mentioning anyway: Most of the older blogs by Freemasons have been bought up by the growing internet news outlet, Masonic Newswire Media. You may not have heard of them, but you’ve probably heard of their more “public face” online news site, The Past Bastard.
Sometime in the middle of 2016, when the rest of us were too busy arguing over the US elections on Facebook, The Past Bastard — or rather, their parent company — quietly began making offers to buy up those older blogs. Many of those blogs were started between 2005 and 2010, and have been long since defunct, or not updated in several years. Those sold quickly, with the authors taking the quick $100 in Google Credits being offered; the agreement being that the authors will no longer re-open those blogs to publish anything.
The more active blogs, though, have also been slowly falling to the new publishing company; instead of buying those blogs outright (not that there are many actively writing anymore), the authors will be paid by the article, which would first need to pass vetting by The Past Bastard (or rather, their Masonic Newswire Media editors).
In my opinion, very little will change. Even the more “active” blogs (for example: The Millennial Freemason, Ars Latomorum, One Minute Mason) rarely publish more than a few times a year. Other bloggers tend to post less consequential fluff pieces (such as: All Things Masonic, Freemason Information, Midnight Freemasons). My guess is that very little will change in terms of frequency or content, and that goes also for my own little blog, which I suspect was purchased only for the name recognition.
So. Those being the facts at hand, let’s get on to the juicier stuff.
Rumors on the various internet boards are suggesting that Chris Hodapp’s Freemasons for Dummies is going to sell out as well, which is a little sad because Chris is the only other “masonic news blog” of any real note; I’m concerned that we are going to be in a situation in which all the Masonic news will be controlled by a small group of media specialists who would have little competition, and who would be able to spin Masonic news their way.
The question that I haven’t heard many people asking, though, has to do with the identity of The Past Bastard, and more importantly, the Masonic Newsire Media. Personally, I had long suspected that The Past Bastard was the work of the After Lodge Podcast guys, although it has recently come to light that at least several of The Past Bastard writers are based in California. This makes sense, because in my opinion, only people from California would imagine that old blogs are worth anything. Also, who else would have the desire to build up a new media syndicate? Computer and social media guys, that’s who.
Which brings up another question: Who is behind the Masonic Newswire Media? When I first heard about it, I figured The Onion, or Gawker, or some other online news system was just buying things up without understanding what they were getting into. But the more I think about it, I’m beginning to believe that the backers are one (or maybe several) of the larger Grand Lodges in the US. Who else would have the motivation (not to mention the finances) to control Masonic news? It’s certainly not for the advertising, as Freemasons are notoriously tight-fisted, unless it comes to scotch. Or cigars. Or rings. Or bling. Or a lot of things, with the exception of their dues.
So, that leaves us with a shadowy group of Freemasons who are trying to control the media. Is it a Grand Lodge (or more likely, a cabal of Grand Lodges), hoping to acquire enough control over the craft to sway their opinions on something? The running jokes (at least, we think that they were jokes) are that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas (which took down their own website for some time), is behind the push to control the remaining Masonic bloggers to keep any public criticisms off the internet. However, that could easily apply to a number of other Grand Lodges, some of which have published some very restrictive web and social media guidelines.
Is a group of Grand Lodges, trying to subtly push an agenda? I don’t know. All I know is that at the moment, I’m happy to take my Google Credits and start filling up my Android with some tunes from one of my favorite groups.
Published by The Tao of Masonry – A Masonic Newswire Media blog
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.
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.
Most US states have a Masonic publication, like a magazine or a newsletter. A few years ago, we went from a 4 color mag (The Square & Compasses) published quarterly to a monthly newspaper (The Connecticut Freemason). It’s more timely and gives more opportunity for the various lodges to get smaller articles in. It costs as much as the old magazine, but I think it’s worth the expense, if only for the sheer amount of information that we can pass along to the brothers – especially to those who don’t have the opportunity to get out to lodge anymore.
Like the publications from other states, though, it’s generally filled with the usual array of “shake and smile” or “grip and grin” photos that are the hallmark of in-house communication organs all over the known universe. You can’t help it; most articles and photos are supplied by the lodge members themselves, and invariably the only time someone thinks of taking a picture is when the Master of a lodge happens to shake hands with the latest award recipient.
Fortunately, the latest guy
to be stuck with in charge of the newspaper is a creative sort, and between he and the other poor guy who got stuck with camera duty photo and layout expert, they’ve managed to snatch creativity from the very jaws of the mundane.
Since I only have a handful of readers in Connecticut, I thought that the rest of the Masonic world might enjoy seeing the latest cover. A number of us have had a good chuckle over it, but even so, it’s interesting to see how good graphic design doesn’t necessarily become outdated.
This link to the November CT Freemason will open a large PDF file of the entire newspaper, with the front cover prominently displayed.
Okay, enough of my disjointed ramblings about the Craft. I want to ask you – all of my 42 readers – for some help.
Our statewide publication, Connecticut Freemasons, is looking for some input. Specifically, we are looking for a few sentences or a paragraph from your partners. We would like to know what they think that you get out of Masonry. Why do they think it’s important in your life, if at all? What motivates you to go to meetings, or to serve as an officer? Has it changed you, and in what ways?
We would like to publish some of these comments in an article in the upcoming issue. You can submit these to me in the comments section, or via email (my address is in my Blogger profile). If you would prefer to remain anonymous, simply let me know.
Please note that this request goes out to all of my brother Masons, not just the ones from Connecticut. Just a few short lines would do, although we’ll certainly love to see a longer essay from an interested partner.
Just to get you started, here’s my own submission:
Linda didn’t have any particularly witty or pithy comment. However, she did say that she thought it was good for me to get out of the house once in a while and to associate with “the guys,” especially seeing that most of the brothers that I associate with tend to be honest, hard working, good natured, and good hearted young men. Since most of the officers in Friendship Lodge are under 30, she thinks that they’re a good influence for me – they keep me “thinking young.” But also, I’m a good influence for them – I must be, or we wouldn’t spend as much time hanging out at the lodge after the meetings are over. She knows that some of them will call me once in a while, and she thinks that it’s because (unlike the stereotypical Past Master) I make a point to not give advice, but to simply listen – subduing my own passions, as it were, and just being available to lend an ear or to whisper good counsel.
At my installation in 2006, I said “Back when I joined, I asked my friend Dave how much time I’d need to put into this, and he told me that I only needed to put in one or two nights a month. Dave, I think that Linda’s going to be wanting a talk with you after the installation ceremony.”
So, c’mon, brothers; talk to your wives, girlfriends, partners and ask them for a few sentences. Or if you think you could make a good guess, write it yourself. I’d like to have a few good responses by the end of this week.