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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.

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Masons reveal Zombie Preparedness Plan

April 1, 2010 4 comments

Okay, the post title is a bit sensationalized, but we finally have proof of our theory that high-ranking Masons really have codified the methods that they have used since the Middle Ages  for killing revenants (i.e., zombies and vampires) in their secret rituals. What we have discovered is not so much a preparedness plan as a procedure manual that describes the methodology.

I’d like to say that I hacked the secret files to the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, because it sounds so dramatic, but the truth is more mundane. When I was down at the offices recently, one of the admins had left his PC on, and I noticed the passwords on a sticky note at the top of his monitor. When he stepped out for coffee, I just copied them down. Yeah, so not Kim Possible, but it worked. When I got home, I fired up my laptop and started browsing the folders. I skipped over the usual stuff on the Kennedys, the NASA/Zeta-Reticuli connection, public water flouridation, and found it hiding at the very end under Zombies.

Here is a link to a PDF file right on the Grand Lodge site that describes the ancient Masonic zombie-killing techniques.
EDIT: The higher-ups at the Grand Lodge have taken down the link, but I saved a copy which I’ve uploaded to my Google Docs. You can see or download it here: Zombie Expulsion.

Followup:

The secret lesson of Hiram and the Ruffians

Freemasons & Zombies: The Conspiracy

Freemasons reveal zombie preparedness plan

For those of you who are reading this on your phones and can’t open the PDF file, I’m reprinting the text below.

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Freemasons & Zombies: The Conspiracy

March 24, 2010 6 comments

A funny, yet eerie thing happens when you wander into the world of secret conspiracies; like  wandering the Cretan Labyrinth, it’s easy to lose sight of both your original starting point and your ultimate goal.

Our theory that early operative Freemasons became familiar with “revenants” (creatures that in folklore later became zombies and vampires), and codified the means of how to destroy them in certain ceremonies has been met with the expected amount of derision and skepticism. I think that many people simply fail to understand that Freemasons, being employed by the Catholic Church to work on their buildings, had a need to keep their activities on the downlow so as not to be accused of trafficking with the demonic by the less educated and more superstitious population.

We expected this when I volunteered to be the one to publish the ideas.

None of us believe that the revenants are supernatural creatures; those ideas didn’t come about until the Gothic period, when — ironically enough  — people began to be frightened by the idea of technology. No, we think that the historic records of the time will show that people were falling to an as-yet unnamed disease that caused the appearance of death, after which the victims became mindless eating machines (insert jokes about teen-aged boys here). Poor knowledge of medicine and other social factors contributed to the occasional outbreaks in the rural and wooded districts. Unfortunately, when people started moving to the cities in the early 1700s,  so did the outbreaks.

Initially, we theorized that high-level Masons were (although in league with the national and state governments) still keeping this quiet, so as not to alarm the general public, who have shown themselves to be more educated, but not really much less superstitious than they were in the Middle Ages. Naturally, this has met with a lot of skepticism from both Masons and non-Masons alike.

We expected this, too.

But what we did not expect was to be presented with an alternate theory: That the high-level Freemasons have been trying to educate the public by allowing them access to these rituals and ceremonies. Indeed, for the last several years, virtually every newspaper article, news show, or cable TV special has begun with “The once secretive Freemasons have begun to open their doors,” or “The secret mysteries of the Freemasons are being unveiled,” or “Freemasons, that once-secret society, have now begun to…”

The alternate theory, which we have found to be very compelling,  is that various Grand Lodges have been pressured by these higher-level Masons to show off a little, and to encourage non-Masons to look at our secret ceremonies, ostensibly to show that they are simply arcane rituals, but actually, so that the viewing public will understand what to do should there be a wide-spread outbreak of this unknown disease. Indeed, just the fact that we have come so far into the public eye in only a few short years suggests that the higher-level Masons may even expect that a wide-spread infection is about to happen.  Our rituals have been discussed in print by hundreds of authors, and in the last few years have been featured on the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, and several other cable TV specials. A generation ago — even ten years ago — this would have been unthinkable. Now we’re practically giddy when we think about it.

Ultimately, I expect that we’ll discover that our original conception was closer to the mark. But the idea remains: is it possible that an unknown disease — perhaps a new “superflu” is about to bring us culturally back to the Middle Ages?

Followup:

The secret lesson of Hiram and the Ruffians

Freemasons & Zombies: The Conspiracy

Freemasons reveal zombie preparedness plan

The secret lesson of Hiram and the Ruffians

March 19, 2010 6 comments

 

One of the great things about the internet is how people with seemingly nothing in common can exchange ideas without ever actually meeting in person. Such is the case when I recently began exchanging emails with an amateur historian, an epidemiologist, and a professor of sociology. At first, it seemed that our only common bond was that we all share an interest in Freemasonry; however over time it developed that we all had some questions about our gentle Craft that have never been satisfactorily answered. As we began discussing the dilemma, we also found that we were able to integrate our various fields of knowledge in order to work through the problem. In doing so, we believe that we have managed to solve one of the most puzzling  issues in the early history of the fraternity.

We now have some serious evidence pointing to the origins of what is commonly known as The Hiramic Legend in the Master Mason degree.

Some brief background: Early Freemasonry had only two degrees, the Entered Apprentice, and Fellowcraft (i.e., Fellow of the Craft). This situation was extant before the 1717 formation of the Grand Lodge of England, and continued for some years afterward. Yet, sometime in the mid-1700s, records show that various lodges seemed to have begun performing some variation of this legend. The origins of the drama are unknown, but is often attributed to being some kind of morality play. The drawback of this theory is that the legend draws on the Biblical story of Hiram Abiff; in the Old Testament, Hiram is a relatively minor character. More confusing is the rather obvious paradox in which the Masonic legend deviates so drastically from the actual Old Testament story: in the OT, Hiram Abiff comes to help King Solomon build his famed Temple, and when finished, goes home to his family with some considerable payment. In the Masonic drama, however, Hiram is shown to be struck down before the completion of the Temple by three Fellowcrafts, who then attempt to hide his body in a makeshift grave out in the dessert. This is the most extreme departure from Biblical scripture recorded in any of the dozens of Masonic ceremonies, and it stands to reason that there is a purpose for this. By taking what we know about Masonic history from that era, and placing it within the context of the social and cultural aspects of the time,  we believe that we have discovered that purpose.

To understand the social context, we need to consider that the early 1700s was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution; prior to this period, most people lived an agrarian-based lifestyle. However, as more factories were built in and around the cities, larger populations were drawn into the urban areas, and by the mid-1700s, larger numbers of people left the farming communities to see work in the factories. Not surprisingly, the population explosion led to issues of public hygiene: the spread of disease, the disposal of wastes, and the proper internment of the growing number of the deceased.

Although we can trace Freemasonry back to the late 1400s and early 1500s, it wasn’t until the early to mid 1700s that we see the rise of organized networks of Masons, via the formation of Grand Lodges. There are no records as to why several London lodges decided to formalize their arrangement, but it wasn’t long before other lodges joined the network — and it was a network, as the lodges we more able to freely exchange information, including the variations of their rituals and ceremonies. It is significant to note that during this period, There were still only the two degrees in Masonry;  “Master” Masons were those who were literally Masters of their lodges. Likewise, the degree ceremonies were relatively simple and the basic ceremonies were essentially the same in each lodge, although many lodges had their own particular set of “lectures” for the candidates.

At some point in the early to mid 1700s, we see records of lodges adding a type of morality play to the degree ceremonies. The main character varies in some of the earliest versions, but by the third quarter of the 1700s, that character was solidified as Hiram Abiff, and the stories became more consistent. Interestingly, they all contain similar elements: A character is beset by three assailants, and is then murdered; each assailant using a different weapon and attacking a different part of the character’s body. In many variations, the Hiramic legend specifies that Hiram is struck across the throat, in the chest, and in the head. The assailants (often referred to as the “Ruffians” in North America) strike with tools commonly associated with Masons: A square, a rule  (sometimes called the 24 inch gauge), and a mallet or setting maul.

While Masons often assume that the assailants use those particular tools as a way to tie in to the tradition working tools in the various degrees, as we unearthed more information about the underlying social context, it became obvious that this line of reasoning has it backwards; that is, the legend itself is an instructional play that uses these tools as a way to reinforce knowledge to which only a few were at one time privy.  And while we can not yet account for the reasoning behind using the character Hiram Abiff (except that he is a relatively minor character in the OT, and the change of storyline would be easily forgotten), we believe that the traditional lessons taught by this drama — about his integrity and bravery in the face of death — intentionally overshadow the real lessons that needed to be passed down to the new generations of Masons living in the crowded cities and urban areas. In this light, it is the Ruffians themselves who are the teachers and exemplars.

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