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
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.
The Grand Lodge of Tennessee, the other major player in the situation currently unfolding in US Freemasonry, issued their response to the suspension of fraternal relations by the Grand Lodges of California, and of Washington DC.
It might be cynical thinking on my part that instead of posting these as they come, I should have a page that has the list and we could keep adding to it.
Freemasons that have been online in the last few weeks have been discussing the news item that the Grand Lodge of Tennessee expelled two active members of the fraternity for the presumed violation of the Masonic Code, which prohibits, in part, homosexual behavior.
I would like to take the opportunity to mention that I’m very disappointed at the open displays of intolerance and outright prejudice.
No, I’m not talking about Tennessee, or Georgia, or the other Grand Lodges which have made similar noises. I’m talking about the comments that I’ve been seeing all over social media from other members of the fraternity who do not support the decision.
Look, brothers, I get it. Perhaps you have worked through your own prejudices about different things, or perhaps you grew up without understanding how people can have those ideas. And you understand that Freemasonry is one of the few social institutions that allows men from various classes and cultures to meet together without the concern for titles, labels, or other forms of prejudice, and you are angry that some Grand Lodges (or at least, their officers) do not seem to interpret the purpose of the society in the way that you do.
But many of you are simply lashing out, and your righteous indignation is not helping your cause. Over the last couple of weeks, I have seen some of you use terms like “hayseeds,” “morons,” “bigoted,” “idiots,” and sadly, much worse. I’ve seen accusations that the members of those states have forgotten — or never knew — their Masonic duties. I’ve seen many of you suggest that those Grand Lodges are not worthy of recognition, that all enlightened Grand Lodges should immediately rescind any agreements of amity with them. And I’ve seen some of you suggest things much more crude.
Is this how Freemasons should act toward anyone, especially each other?
Most of us have a charge in our obligations to “whisper good counsel” to an errant brother, to help to set him aright “in the most tender manner.” The idea behind this is that taking somebody aside to talk to them is generally more helpful than screaming epithets from a distance. It’s not just Freemasonry, it’s a factor of human nature. You can not teach people tolerance and respect by failing to display it in your own behavior.
The Grand Lodges of other jurisdictions have already been discussing the situation, and some, as you know, have released statements regarding their position. Instead of continuing to insult (because that’s what you are doing) your brothers in other states, it would be more useful to turn your energies toward letting your own Grand Lodge know what you think. And please, let’s treat our fellow Masons in Tennessee, Georgia, and elsewhere with respect and consideration. You may not agree with their opinion, but ranting at them on the internet is not the best way to demonstrate what tolerance should be about.
After all, when was the last time you changed your mind on some issue because somebody called you an idiot?
This evening, the news began to spread around the Masonic internet haunts about the message from M. David Perry, Grand Master of Masons in California. I received several from brothers who were proud, excited, and who wanted to make sure the message went out.
From the GM of CA today
You might have read about recent events in some US states including Georgia and Tennessee where Masonic grand lodges have adopted new rules or have enforced existing rules that discipline Masons because of their sexual orientation. Such rules and actions do not coincide with the principles of Freemasonry as practiced by the Grand Lodge of California and do not support what we understand as the great aim of our fraternity.
Freemasonry is a universal system which uses the tools and techniques of the old stonemasons’ guilds to illustrate simple moral and ethical principles. To this it adds a philosophical and spiritual framework for personal improvement. Freemasonry encourages its members to be better by improving their relationships with others, by practicing a life of tolerance, compassion, honesty, and the pursuit of justice. Freemasonry instructs its members to uphold and respect the laws of their government and not to undermine those laws. It attempts to make the world a better place by making its members better citizens of the communities in which they live.
Freemasonry may be found worldwide, in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Freemasonry works through local lodges. In California and elsewhere, some lodges are comprised of men only, some of women only and some of both men and women. Each lodge typically operates under a grand lodge, and there are a number of these grand lodges operating in California. Each grand lodge is independent and operates under its own set of rules as its members may decide.
With more than 50,000 members statewide, those lodges under the Grand Lodge of California are open to men of good character and faith, regardless of their race, color, religious beliefs, political views, economic station, sexual orientation, physical ability, citizenship or national origin. Our lodges currently work in English, Spanish, French, and Armenian.
Through this universal brotherhood, California Masons learn to be better husbands, better fathers, better friends, and better citizens. By appreciating our differences, we learn to focus on what unites us. Thus, the discussion of religion, politics, and business is not permitted in our lodges. In this way we live up to the centuries-old aim of our fraternity – to unite men of every country, sect, and opinion and cause true friendship among those who otherwise would have remained at a distance.
It has been a week now since the news of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee and their expulsion of two seemingly well liked and active brothers who were accepted by the members of their lodge, but who were not accepted by other members of the fraternity in the state.
The discussions have continued on Facebook groups and other Web forums since then, with the overwhelming majority of Freemasons sympathetic toward Brothers Clark and Henderson; and ranging from irate to incredulous at the Grand Lodge of Tennessee.
Unfortunately, the opinions of the several thousands of Freemasons will probably have little impact, since most of the support for the brothers has been from members who aren’t from Tennessee. This may have something to do with the recent directive in Tennessee that forbids members from discussing the matter in public; indeed, rumors have circulated that the GL officers have noted some of the brothers who have spoken out on social media. So far, reports that those members have been disciplined have gone unsubstantiated.
Fortunately, however, it seems that the conversations have not gone unnoticed elsewhere. California is the first to release a public statement to the effect that the Grand Lodge does not condone or support the discriminatory actions of several other states. Hopefully others will follow shortly, before the Grand Lodge of Tennessee convenes at the end of March.
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Edit: Chris Hodapp has posted the text from the Grand Lodge of Utah, and the Grand Lodge of DC, both of which came out several days ago.
I started 2015 with every intention of getting at least one post a month up, and I actually did pretty well, only faltering in the last two months of the year. But I averaged more than one a month, so I’ll call that a win.
Last year was an interesting one for me. I completed my York Rite degrees, and even though I haven’t written much about them (okay, almost nothing, really), I can’t stress enough how they were worth waiting for, and that any Craft Masons who have an interest in the history or ritual of Freemasonry should definitely look to their local Chapter for the next leg of their journey.
Writing about that reminds me that I really haven’t been active in any of those bodies lately, owing in part to some work commitments, and to some more recent and unanticipated family commitments. I suspect that one of the reasons we see so many retired guys in the Craft, and more in the York Rite is because it’s difficult for younger guys to make the time to get involved in all the different aspects.
Freemasonry in Connecticut is beginning to settle down from the last few fractured years, after a major turnover in our Grand Line. The bigger lesson in all this has not gone unnoticed by Grand Lodges in other jurisdictions: progressive Grand Lines may be the easy way to go, but they are only as progressive as the will of the Craft allows.
We had some interesting things in Freemasonry, too, at least, in the online world. Facebook alone had several hundred conversations on which way you should wear your ring, and the topic shows no sign of slowing. Also popular on social media were discussions about Masonic bling, with the designs of our working tools becoming more stylized and less traditional looking — a trend that some people aren’t completely happy with.
And speaking of online Masonry, I’m glad to see that our Grand Lodge has thought to get a virtual lodge started; it won’t be the first, but hopefully this will be a trend that will become more common, and will be one more way for brothers to connect, who would otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.
Many of the brothers in the online community — most of them tending to the younger side of our membership demographic — were disappointed by the actions of the Grand Lodges of both Tennessee and Georgia. Tennessee, which had on their books a prohibition against homosexuality, saw proceedings against a member — a Past Master with a good record — after he posted photographs of him and his (male) spouse after a wedding ceremony. Georgia, not to be outdone, saw the outgoing Grand Master send out an edict which made both homosexual activity and “fornication” offenses subject to Masonic discipline. The real outrage (again, online) happened after the Grand Lodge of Georgia had their annual communication and passed that edict into Masonic law.
The last year also saw some nice activity on some blogs and podcasts. Whence Came You, The Masonic Roundtable, and The After Lodge Podcast were particular standouts for group podcasting, and show no signs of slowing down. On the written side, I’m glad to see that The Millennial Freemason and The Midnight Freemason still turning out thoughtful pieces, and have been joined by a new Mason on the block, Fresh from the quarry.
Naturally, I have these and other fine resources listed at Ashlars to Ashes. Go visit some of them.
Before I wrap this up, I should note another new blog that appeared at the end of the year: The Past Bastard, an Onion-ish site for humorous pieces and satire. Well, I certainly hope they are satire, although after reviewing some of the activities of real Masons from the last few years, I’m beginning to think that the line is becoming very thin, indeed.
Since everybody else is all gaga about some kind of proposed TV series about Freemasons that’s been going around lately, I figured I’d try my own hand at marketing a Freemason-themed movie based on the idea of a script from a book I haven’t written, for which I got the idea by lurking at fanfic groups.
Here’s the pitch:
A new Mason looks to the Worshipful Master of his lodge for some guidance, and ends up being asked to become a Steward – which compels him to spend his time cleaning and cooking, after which he is slowly coerced into memorizing lectures. Before he’s even aware of what’s happening, he is seduced into taking committee positions, running picnics, and planning lodge events, while the Master and other lodge members become more and more demanding of his time and energy.
The story continues following him over the next several years as he makes his way through the officer’s line and eventually becomes the Master of the lodge – during which time he mentors a new Mason by asking him to take on some simple duties…
I’m going to pitch this book idea, so I don’t want any of you people stealing this, okay? I’m going to call it:
Fifty Shades of Freemasonry.
I’m hoping to get enough donations so after I finally write the book, and then script, and then get the movie deal, we can shoot on location at such exotic places as Podunk, Connecticut.