Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Uncivil Unrest

January 23, 2017 7 comments

II. Of the CIVIL MAGISTRATES supreme and subordinate.

A Mason is a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concern’d in Plots and Conspiracies against the Peace and Welfare of the Nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior Magistrates; for as Masonry hath been always injured by War, Bloodshed, and Confusion, so ancient Kings and Princes have been much dispos’d to encourage the Craftsmen, because of their Peaceableness and Loyalty, whereby they practically answer’d the Cavils of their Adversaries, and promoted the Honour of the Fraternity, who ever flourish’d in Times of Peace. So that if a Brother should be a Rebel against the State he is not to be countenanc’d in his Rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy Man; and, if convicted of no other Crime though the loyal Brotherhood must and ought to disown his Rebellion, and give no Umbrage or Ground of political Jealousy to the Government for the time being; they cannot expel him from the Lodge, and his Relation to it remains indefeasible.

Freemasons in the US, at least, those not living in caves, can’t help but be aware that the recent US Presidential elections (and the equally important, although lesser discussed senatorial and representative elections) has been the most hotly contested race – and the most surprising upset –  probably since Ronald Reagan.

For reasons which I’m not inclined to discuss here, the election upset was so unexpected that the concern and complaints about it have gone on long after election day, and even after our new President was installed… err, inaugurated. Indeed, Facebook and Twitter seem to be talking about little else lately; even posts about bacon seem to be less frequent.

There is a time-honored tradition of not discussing religion or politics inside a Masonic lodge. Ostensibly to help maintain the harmony of the membership, some Freemasons mistakenly interpret this as neither subject is to be discussed at all, or as that neither subject should be discussed in any Masonic forum (either an online forum or a group at the local pub). Historically, however, it is probably the case that early lodges, not wishing to be seen as a society that might harbor traitors to the Crown or the Church, banned such discussions to avoid the appearance of impropriety. The tradition was strong enough in the early 1700s, however, to motivate Anderson to include it in his Constitutions.

I’m not surprised to see Freemasons on both sides of the election disagreement (4 sides of you include the Libertarian and Green party candidates), and frankly, given the nature of the contest, I’m not surprised to see many of them speaking out so vocally online. I am, however, a little disappointed to see some of them attacking each other, instead of limiting their arguments to attacking the candidates or their positions, characteristics, and perceived shortcomings.

While I’m all for keeping religious and political discussion out of the lodge meetings themselves (although it might liven up a few lodges after listening to the drone of the minutes), I’d argue that to keep Masons from talking about those topics with each other would be unnatural. Can you imagine the discussions that must have taken place around taverns and dinner tables in mid-1700s America? It’s conceivable that the American Revolution might not have taken place if the men – the Freemasons – of that time had interpreted the tradition the same way that so many of us do now.

Yet, despite my assertion that political discussion after the meeting (or online) is part of human nature, I’m still disappointed in how I see many of my fellow Masons going about it. Recent brain scan MRI studies have shown that political and religious thinking show up in the same areas as self-identification, meaning that our political philosophies are an intrinsic part of who we are as a person. Attacking and insulting each other is certainly not going to change anyone’s mind; if anything, human nature will just make that person dig in and more self-protective.

To be sure, some people can keep it light. Others have learned how to discuss seriously, but without rancor. It’s possible, really. But if your own argument is reduced to calling someone — whether a friend or a complete stranger — an insulting name, then maybe it’s time that you re-examine your own beliefs.  Or better yet, turn off your phone or computer and go get some fresh air.

Masons, not Gay-sons!

October 31, 2015 11 comments


WBC hates gay Masons

Dateline: Atlanta, GA — Westboro Baptist Church members are coming to the support of the GL of GA over their controversial decision to make both homosexuality and fornication Masonic offenses. As reported on Chris Hodapp’s blog,:

The Grand Lodge of Georgia met yesterday (Oct 27) and the voting members upheld Grand Master Douglas McDonald’s edict outlawing homosexuality, and throwing in fornication for good measure. After several impassioned speeches on the floor against the measure, it passed with a very close vote that probably should have been counted individually, but wasn’t.

Today being Halloween, a seance was held to summon the ghost of church founder Fred Phelps, who directed the WBC to give their support to the GL of GA, which has come under fire from Freemasons around the US and other areas for their decision to pass this ruling during their recent GL session.

The seance was short-lived, and reportedly ended with the ghost of Phelps complaining about the lack of air conditioning.



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:

“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

This article has no meaning

March 18, 2008 Leave a comment

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur because of all the family visiting, people to transport to and from airports, phone calls, and the assorted arrangements that one makes when a family member dies.

I visited my grandmother at the hospice section of the hospital where she had been checked in. She was tired, but alert; we joked about the advances in hospital technology since she had been a nurse in the 1940s. She offered me a cookie, and after an hour or so decided that she wanted to take a nap. Less than a week later she was moved to a nursing home. My wife and I drove out to visit, but she was sleeping. I stayed away for the next few days, having come down with one of those flus that’s been making the rounds. Three days later, she passed away.

She was 95 years old. She died peacefully in her sleep, in a warm room surrounded by trashy romance novels, jigsaw puzzles, and loving family members. We should all be so fortunate.

But that’s not what I’m writing about.

The funeral was almost a week later. In any group of people in which I am present, you’d come out pretty well if you had bet on me to be the one person who wasn’t following the directions. I pulled into the visitor’s parking at the funeral home, which means that I never signed in for the automobile procession, had my name logged in, etc. As it happens, this allowed me to be the first to leave the funeral home and head for the church, several blocks away. I took a turn, drove halfway down the block and something out of the corner of my eye made me slam on the brakes.

If you were the soccer mom in the minivan behind me, I’m really sorry about that.

bookeye.jpgI had happened to catch sight of the familiar square and compasses on a sign as I drove down the street; I was surprised because I hadn’t known that there was a lodge in this town. Just a few weeks earlier I had been at a lodge in the next town, in a huge, old building. This lodge, just across the river, was a complete contrast. A small, unassuming building in a residential neighborhood, with the S&C prominently displayed. I’ll have to stop in sometime.

But that’s not what I’m writing about, either.

I pulled into a side parking lot of the church, and waited in the cold for the hearse to show up. After the family had gathered, we opened the back of the car and brought the casket out to trolley and wheeled it through the outer doors of the church and waited while the other family members filed past the casket and into the pews. We then wheeled the casket up toward the sanctuary.

It has been some years since I’ve been to a Roman Catholic service, probably since before I joined the fraternity. The church was done in the architecture more common after the 1960s – open and airy, almost giving the impression that the services were taking place outdoors. But it was the imagery on the crucifix – an ornate cross carried by one of the assistants – that caught my eye.

The crucifixes that I remember seeing when I was younger tended to be thin strips of wood, supporting a small sculpture of the crucified Jesus. This version was made of wide sections, with Jesus painted in the typical crucified manner: arms outstretched, head hanging down, blood on his side.

mas-skull2.jpgBut that’s not what caught my eye. I had never seen – or at least, had never noticed – imagery around a crucifix. This one had at the bottom (under the picture of the cross itself) a skull atop what appeared to be a small pile of bones. While Connecticut Masonry does not use the skull and coffin in the ritual, it’s certainly familiar to any Mason who has seen pictures from other jurisdictions.


sd-staff.gifLooking up, I saw on the left side of the cross-piece a stylized picture of a crescent moon. This was matched on the opposite side by a stylized picture of the sun, complete with a number of radiant streamers. Both of these pictures would have been immediately recognizable to any Mason in Connecticut who has ever carried a Deacon’s staff. The likeness was unmistakable.


But there’s more.

triangle.gifAt the very top of the cross was a large equilateral triangle. Inside the triangle was a dove, poised head downward. The wings, however, were partially outstretched and bisected the upper sides of the triangle, passing, or perhaps, breaking through the sides. The wings angled upward in such a way that if you had drawn a line from wingtip to the head and up to the other wingtip, you would have an angle approximating 90º.large10272lg.jpg

Just to make sure I wasn’t imagining things, at some point in the service I leaned over to my 12 year old daughter. “Check out the symbols around the cross by the casket,” I whispered.

It took her about three seconds. “That’s a Mason thing, isn’t it?” she whispered back.

Okay, so it wasn’t just my imagination – the setup had vaguely Masonic undertones.

tria-conjuncta-in-uno-1811-large02.gifAs I listened to the priest describe the significance of the white shroud, the flowers, and the various other items around the area, my mind drifted off to wonder how our two organizations managed to develop the symbols that they did, and why we had similar – though not necessarily identical – explanations for them. It led me to wonder if the semiotics – the underlying symbology itself – wasn’t based on some deeper or older meanings, meanings of which we may be currently unaware. Or perhaps, meaninngs which have passed the threshold of awareness because they are such a basic part of our cultural memes.

But that’s not really what I’m writing about.

img_0087.jpgDriving from the church to the cemetery, we passed a well-known local landmark; a statue of one of our Revolutionary War heroes mounted on a horse with one foot raised. I reflected on the folklore which suggests that one foot raised means that the subject was wounded in battle, while two legs off the ground meant that he was killed in battle.

The service at the cemetery was very brief, perhaps owing to the raw, damp weather and the forecast of snow. Several of the family members tossed rose petals into the grave.

My sister rode with me on the way back home, and we passed another well-known local statue of a famous area resident who had lived until a ripe, old age in a nearby city. He was on a horse with both legs off the ground.

But that’s not what I’m writing about.

toasteroven_panasonic.jpgMy sister stayed with us overnight in order to better catch an early flight out. Although we had eaten in the afternoon, we decided to have a little snack. She put some bread into our new Italian-designed toaster-broiler-convection oven. She spent some minutes fumbling with the buttons, until I showed her the combination that would work: the one that looked like a stylized sliced section of a loaf and the other one that had wavy lines, presumably to represent heat. Very easy to follow, if you know what you’re looking for.

Sis doesn’t get out to Connecticut all that often, so we spent some time chatting, trying to catch up with each other’s lives. She’s less active with her church than she used to be, but has been spending a lot of time building up her side business as a photographer. I, of course, have been working a lot and when I’m not with my family, I’m usually doing something in my capacity as the District Grand Lecturer, which I explained was the guy in the area that tried to help the lodges in my area maintain the integrity of our ancient ceremonies that we have performed since time immemorial. I went on to explain that each ceremony has specific significance to it and teaches certain lessons in morality and natural philosophy. I also explained that while most states are similar in ritual, other countries have ceremonies and forms that are virtually unrecognizable to us – although, of course, we’re all still brothers… and in some cases, even sisters.

At that point I had to stop explaining so we could get some pizza.

But that’s not what I’m trying to write about.

The next day I dropped her off at the airport. On the way, I noticed the sign for the local Machinists and Aerospaceiam_gear_run1.gif Workers Union. There’s something familiar about it, isn’t there?

Anyway, I continued on my way to work, put in a full day, and then headed down to lodge right from the office. Just as I was pulling into the parking lot, a light blinked on in the dashboard of my new truck. I’d never seen this light before, and had no idea what it meant. I parked the car and opened up the manual in the glove box to see if I could figure out what it was, but I couldn’t find it.

I hope it wasn’t anything important.dashlight.jpg

A Christmas Tall Story

December 20, 2007 4 comments

Do you suppose that the Archbishop of Canterbury reads my blog?

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that just days after I published an interesting article from Bro. John White of Connecticut about an alternate perspective on the birth of Jesus, that Dr. Rowan Williams voiced his own opinion on the matter.

From the Dec. 20, 2007 Times of London:

It’s all a Christmas tall story

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, dismissed the Christmas story of the Three Wise Men yesterday as nothing but “legend”.

There was scant evidence for the Magi, and none at all that there were three of them, or that they were kings, he said. All the evidence that existed was in Matthew’s Gospel. The Archbishop said: “Matthew’s Gospel doesn’t tell us there were three of them, doesn’t tell us they were kings, doesn’t tell us where they came from. It says they are astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire, that’s all we’re really told.” Anything else was legend. “It works quite well as legend,” the Archbishop said.

Further, there was no evidence that there were any oxen or asses in the stable. The chances of any snow falling around the stable in Bethlehem were “very unlikely”. And as for the star rising and then standing still: the Archbishop pointed out that stars just don’t behave like that.

Although he believed in it himself, he advised that new Christians need not fear that they had to leap over the “hurdle” of belief in the Virgin Birth before they could be “signed up”. For good measure, he added, Jesus was probably not born in December at all. “Christmas was when it was because it fitted well with the winter festival.”

He said the Christmas cards that show the Virgin Mary cradling baby Jesus, with the shepherds on one side and the Three Wise Men on the other, were guilty of “conflation”.

But in spite of his scepticism about aspects of the Christmas story, as told in infant nativity plays up and down the land, he denied that believing in God was equivalent to believing in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy.

“The thing is, belief in Santa does not generate a moral code, it does not generate art, it does not generate imagination. Belief in God is a bit bigger than that,” the Archbishop said.

Dr Williams was speaking live on BBC Radio Five to the presenter Simon Mayo when Ricky Gervais, star of The Office and a fellow guest, challenged him about the intellectual credibility of the Christian faith.

He said he was committed to belief in the Virgin Birth “as part of what I have inherited”. But belief in the Virgin Birth should not be a “hurdle” over which new Christians had to jump before they were accepted.

He hinted that decades ago he was not “too fussed” with the literal truth of the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. But as time went on, he developed a “deeper sense” of what the Virgin Birth was all about. And he went on to do a literary-critical analysis of the traditional Christmas card that features, as often as not, a Virgin Mary cradling a baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, with shepherds on one side, the Three Wise Men on the other and oxen and asses all around. Sometimes the stable is depicted with snow falling all around, and often with a bright star rising in the East.

Most of it, the Archbishop said, could not have happened like that.

One of the few things that almost everyone agreed on was that Jesus’s mother’s name was Mary. That is in all the four Gospels. It was also pretty clear that Jesus’s father was called Joseph.

Dr Williams was not saying anything that is not taught as a matter of course in even the most conservative theological colleges. His supporters would argue that it is a sign of a true man of faith that he can hold on to an orthodox faith while permitting honest intellectual scrutiny of fundamental biblical texts.

The Archbishop admitted that the Church’s present difficulties, with the dispute over sexuality taking the Anglican Communion to the brink of schism, were off-putting to outsiders. “They don’t want to know about the inside politics of the Church, they want to know if God’s real, if they can be forgiven, what sort of lifestyles matter more and they want to know, I suppose, if their prayers are heard.”

Dr Williams’s views are strictly in line with orthodox Christian teaching. The Archbishop is sticking to what the Bible actually says.

A special baby is the integral part of this tale

The essential part of the Christmas story is the baby. God came to us in human form, as part of creation and absolutely integral to it. That is the heart and essence of it. This is why the last reading at the service of Nine Lessons and Carols held in churches throughout Britain at this time of year is the first few verses of John’s Gospel, about the incarnation of the “Word”. This culminates in that spine-chillingly wonderful declaration: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” Without that, Christmas would be a rather vague festival.

In carols we sing about a baby, sweet and mild, one that “no crying makes”. This is wishful thinking, along with other parts of the story.

But some of it cannot be challenged, such as Mary, or in Greek, “Theotokos”, literally “God-bearer”. Her willingness to be part of God’s plan is central.

There seems little doubt that Jesus was born in a stable. The Bible says “outside the house”, and this was probably because the house was full. If it was a stable, there could have been animals at the birth of Jesus. We are also told that there were witnesses from the fields, shepherds taken by surprise by the news from the angels, rushing down from the hillsides, wondering in awe and then going back to their sheep, transformed by the coming of the baby.

The Wise Men were witnesses of the opposite kind. They were careful, calculating, educated men who think that they begin to discern God’s imminent arrival and who blunder their way across the region until they find what they think they’ve been seeking. They, too, go back transformed.

These are the really important bits of the story.

— The Rev John Jennings is a Church of England clergyman and adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury


I want to call your attention to that little bit partway into the article:

“He hinted that decades ago he was not “too fussed” with the literal truth of the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. But as time went on, he developed a “deeper sense” of what the Virgin Birth was all about.”

Sometimes I think that many of my brothers are so concerned with the history and origin of Masonry – Knights Templar, Druids, Medieval Stonemasons, Hebrews, Egyptians, Sumarians – that they overlook the more important, and to me, deeper meanings of our own tenets: the pursuit and development of the self through truth and honesty, perseverance, and personal integrity.

Likewise, I have a few brothers who are constantly looking for Masonic symbols in everything ranging from Buckyballs to crop circles in some effort to help them unlock the mysteries of the Universe. While such pursuits are certainly worthwhile – and indeed, I’ve done my own share of reading on those subjects – I’m now, perhaps a factor of age, maturity, or even intellectual laziness, much less concerned with finding such literal (or even metaphoric) truths, and more concerned with concentrating on smoothing out my own ashlar.

It seems that every day we see news about some fundamentalist sect which tries to push their literalist views on those around them. In such times, it’s refreshing to see that someone – especially someone in a position of authority – encouraging those around them to read more deeply in order to come to a better, more personal understanding of the real meanings behind the mythology.

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