Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Small Town Freemasonry — Part One: A Bucket of Rattlesnakes

It seems like every week or so I discover another new Masonic blog or website. Internet-savvy Masons in general seem to me to be more enlightened, more interested in esoterica and in restoring Freemasonry to that which it once was, than do our elder non-Internet-using brothers. More than just an age difference, I think it reflects a different attitude towards Life.

Our elder brethren came of age during the World War II-Korean War era, in a world that still (at least superficially) resembled a Norman Rockwell painting. Even today, in smaller towns, especially in the South, Life still plods along like it's Mayberry, R.F.D., and "traditional" values haven't changed so much. The older lodge members were already fathers or about to become fathers when the tradition-changing 1960s came along. Clinging to their roots, they held fast and became even more neo-phobic — afraid of change — shunning ideas like sexual and racial equality, free thought in spiritual and religious matters, etc.

During the sixty years since WWII, Freemasonry has seen a great rise, and then an even more dramatic drop, in interest and in membership. Since the 1960's membership has fallen, especially in urban areas, leaving smaller, more rural lodges making up a greater percentage of the Masonic population.

I guess it was inevitable that these smaller lodges took on the personality of the small towns they were in, reflecting the political and religious views of their members. Cliques took over; good ol' boy networks of Past Masters began running lodges from behind the scenes, leaving current officers "in charge" in name only until they'd bent their own personalities into the "group think" mentality of the older brethren. The beautiful, scripted prayers to the Great Architect of the Universe, intended to be recited or read during lodge meetings, were replaced by chaplains who were ordained ministers praying loud and long to Jesus, despite the admonition against religious sectarianism in the Lodge Room.

With suburban sprawl, highways led "city boys" to the country. The Information Superhighway had opened the educated professionals' minds to seek the ancient and historical lessons and secrets of Freemasonry. It was inevitable that Culture Clash would eventually arrive behind the Tyled Door.

Most of the newcomers to Freemasonry didn't stay around long. Some continue to keep paying their dues — because they still want to belong — but they seldom darken the doors of their lodges anymore. They quickly discovered that the old men in their local lodges didn't have any esoteric secrets to share. Sure, there were always men in the lodge who knew the catechisms well enough to teach them to the newcomers, but few of the teachers could explain the meanings of the rituals. Many couldn't even pronounce some of the words correctly.

Some hardy souls who became Masons stuck it out. They felt that sense of camaraderie, that sense of brotherhood, that sense they had become part of something special. They felt something greater than themselves, something mystic, even though what they were seeing with their eyes didn't match. Inwardly, they felt a mystical tie with, if not all the brethren, at least with someone in the lodge. Perhaps it was the man who signed their petition, perhaps the man who acted as Worshipful Master and raised them, or perhaps they felt this sense of brotherhood with the man who coached them through their catechisms.

Outwardly, though, the new Mason probably saw this: Men 20 to 30 years their senior, most of whom reminded them more of their grandfathers than their fathers, whose religious and ultra-conservative political views were, to the new Mason, anachronistic, old-fashioned... and... in spite of the rules the new Mason had been handed, openly touted in the Lodge.

While there were successful older men in the lodge, their rural upbringing and their WWII/Korean War era military service had offered most of the older, locally-born lodge members little in the way of higher education... another cause of Culture Clash with the newly-arrived, city-bred, educated, esoterica-seeking new Mason.

At this point in your reading, I must interject to say this: I'm talking here about my experience. I am the younger, city-bred, college-educated, Internet-savvy, esoterica-seeking newer Mason that moved to a small town in north Georgia and then became a Freemason after meeting a generous, kind, and compassionate (and unusual for the area, college-educated) local-born Mason who "adopted" my entire family as his own, and through his upright manner, led me to want to become a Mason, too.

I loved (and still love) Masonry. When I joined, I jumped right into the lodge, and have held all the floor offices up to and including Junior Warden, and have acted as both Senior Warden and Worshipful Master on several occasions. I was one of those
guys who was there "every time the doors were open." I even earned an honorary membership at another lodge, I was so active.

I was respectful of the obvious differences between myself and the more rural brethren, and for quite some time sublimated my personality for sake of "peace and harmony" and for the "good of the Order."

A member of our lodge — another "outsider," an 80-year-old native Canadian medical doctor who had transfered his membership to the lodge from the metro Atlanta area a few years earlier — and I became fast friends. Brother Bob was our lodge's Director of Masonic Education. He had traveled the world extensively, and during his travels he always tried to visit lodges in other countries.

He would bring back stories and photos and Masonic coins and trinkets and often have a show-and-tell during his talks in lodge meetings.

One day Bob asked me to come to his house. When I arrived, he confided in me that he was dying, that he'd been given less than six months to live. He asked me not to tell anyone, because "people treat you differently when they know you're dying." As a medical doctor, I'm sure he'd seen that phenomenon many times with his patients.

Bob had no sons, only daughters. As an educated man, he had collected many books, magazines, and articles about Freemasonry over his Masonic career, and he wanted me to have them all. That day we filled the trunk and backseat of my car with a library's worth of Masonic literature. I was honored he had chosen to give his materials to me.

Worshipful Brother Bob died three months later. I still miss him. The lodge named me as his successor, the new Director of Masonic Education.

Not having traveled and visited lodges around the world like Bob had, I focused my lectures on Masonic history, Masonic etiquette and Masonic values.

The first thing I learned was that old men have very short attention spans. The second thing I learned was that most of them didn't care a hoot about Masonic history, Masonic etiquette, or Masonic values. "Greet, eat and meet" were the three watchwords, unless there was degree work to be done. Undaunted, I continued studying about Freemasonry and then, true to my "job" as Director of Masonic Education, I prepared lectures to educate my brethren.

One of my best lectures ever was given at an open meeting attended by over a hundred members and visitors, including all of the Grand Lodge officers, at our flagpole dedication ceremony. I received a rousing ovation after delivering a talk on how the Pledge of Allegiance came into being, and several requests for copies of my talk.

The Worshipful Master at the time, however, began to find reasons to not let me speak. "We're going too long," he said nearly every other meeting, though what we "went long" on was usually bill-reading and other non-Masonic time-wasters and overly-long recitals of who was sick with what disease, and how they were related to someone, followed by yet another long prayer for each sick person by name. (Did I mention, the lodge meetings more and more came to resemble a Wednesday night Baptist prayer meeting?) Occasionally, the WM would ask me what my topic was to be, and then tell me that it was too "controversial" and that I would upset the "peace and harmony" of the lodge. I soon realized that if I wanted to continue to speak, I had better stick to safe topics like short biographies of famous Masons.

Privately, I consulted with that particular WM and with a Past Master about something that bugged me more and more each time it happened — the long, drawn-out prayers addressed to and spoken in the name of Jesus, sometimes led by a kneeling brother who would actually weep or cry out as he prayed. I saw more than one newly raised Mason not come back after an ordained minister called down Jesus upon the lodge as the candidate was being Raised.

When I pointed out, in private, that the rules of Freemasonry and of the Grand Lodge of Georgia said that we should not be saying sectarian prayers, the WM told me, "It's the spirit of the law we should uphold, not the letter." The Past Master (who was about my age) whom I consulted privately — one of the most "guilty" of this particular breach of Masonic etiquette — simply told me, "You're right, Brother, but I'm not gonna change. That's the way I pray." Others later accused me of trying to control how a person prays.

I don't care how a person prays privately or if they pray at all. But in a Lodge, I think we should act like Masons and follow the rules and traditions of Masonry.

After failing to gain any ground with the WM and the PM, I brought it up in open lodge. I didn't do it blatantly, but calmly and in the guise of a lecture about Grand Lodge rules and how following them is what defines us as Georgia Masons. I later wrote about my experience that night, in an article I called "The Christianization of Freemasonry," and posted it on an Internet Masonic forum where I found that most Masons agreed with me and were aghast at what happened. The article was eventually seen by my local lodge brothers, and has now become known as the "Bucket of Rattlesnakes" article.

Here's the short essay I called "The Christianization of Freemasonry."
Our lodge routinely invokes Jesus in every prayer uttered. No one in the lodge has even memorized the prayer to GAOTU (who?, they would say) in our Manual that is to be used in opening and in ritual work. EA's and FC's and MM's are prayed over by red-faced ministers and lay-ministers who pray for souls to be won to "the Lord" and the ill to be healed. I'm embarassed for the new members, but most of them seem to think that's the way it's supposed to be. I try to ignore it, thinking "it is what it is" and try to do my part in raising the consciousness of my brethren, but I'm probably just spinning my wheels paying off Karmic debt or something.

As part of a lecture in lodge several months ago, I was elaborating on the principles of the Grand Lodge of Georgia, and how as Georgia Masons we are "defined" in a way by those rules we had sworn to uphold. It was a pretty cut-and-dried talk, not one of my best, just sorta going over some basics...

...until I read paragraph #5: "It [Freemasonry] is religious in that it teaches monotheism; the Volume of the Sacred Law is open upon its altars whenever a Lodge is in session; reverence for God is ever present in its ceremonial, and to its brethren are constantly addressed lessons of morality; yet it is not sectarian or theological." I simply added this comment:

"Brethren, that means, technically, that we should not be closing our prayers 'in Jesus's name', but rather simply direct our prayers to God."

You would have thought I'd asked everyone to disrobe, kill a virgin and sing Sympathy for the Devil or something! You've never seen a bunch of bored old fish-fry Masons come to life so quickly!

I lost the floor immediately in a torrent of unhappy and unpleasant comments, most of which came from Past Masters who you'd think that, if they didn't know better about the context, at least would know better about the decorum of jumping down my throat.
  • "You ain't puttin' no other book on that altar!"
  • "We can pray any way WE want!"
  • You're talking about idols! They worship idols!"
  • "I don't see no Jews or Muslims in here! We ain't gotta worry about that!"
  • [my favorite] "I thought you had to be a Christian to be a Mason!"
The exclamation points were there, in their voices. I was amazed at how ruffled their feathers were. I was more than amazed — I was astounded.

And though I certainly didn't mean to cause such an uproar, I guess deep down I actually enjoyed it. It was the most exciting Blue Lodge meeting I had ever been to. Finally, people were at least paying attention and having an opinion.

One good Brother (a Christian, but one who didn't agree with the Mountain Baptist reactionaries) stood to talk on the point, and was basically told to sit down.

"We could go on about this all night, but I'm not gonna stand for it!," one PM stated, flailing his arms in the air.

Afterwards, one young Mason — who agreed with me in theory but not in practice — who grew up here in the mountains, going to the same Mountain Baptist churches the upset elder Brethren did, spoke with me after the meeting, saying, "You didn't just open up a can of worms... you knocked over a bucket of rattlesnakes."
Not content just to have rocks thrown at me (figuratively) for pointing out a Masonic truism, it was my fate to learn yet more about small town Freemasonry.

About the same time that I gave the "rattlesnake lecture," I was instructed by the lodge, in my capacity as Junior Warden, to draw up Masonic charges against a member of our lodge who had pleaded guilty in state court to having sex with a 16-year-old.

Little did I realize that doing my Masonic duty and filing those Masonic charges as instructed with our lodge's Secretary would lead to my being cursed and physically threatened at the Lodge by the Accused after he pleaded guilty to the Masonic charges, and later to having charges of unMasonic conduct threatened against me by a Grand Lodge member for following Masonic Code by publicizing the child-exploiter's state and Masonic convictions.

More to come....


— Widow's Son

Go to Small Town Freemasonry — Part Two: The Masonic Ambush
Small Town Freemasonry — Part Three: A Day in the Life of a Junior Warden


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31 comments:

  1. I appreciate your writing about this. I grew up in a North Georgia town, and worked for part of my teen years in a small office that was part of the small town Masonic Lodge. My impressions of masons came from those years, listening to the men act just like all other older GA men I knew -- calling black men "boy", asking me when I was going to get married and settle down, and invoking Jesus constantly.

    Recently, I began exploring co-masonry and the online masonic groups, like the LJ community where I found a link to this post. I *want* masonry -- comasonry, at least -- to live up to the writings and positive descriptions. And yet, and yet, as I sit and watch the LJ masons talk, I still see attitudes and assumptions that bother me. I confess, I read the writings of masons online, and I think, "This man is identifying himself as a mason. How is he representing himself and masonry?" and sometimes -- many times -- I am disappointed.

    Oh well, I've gone on too long, but again, I deeply appreciate your thoughtful writings on this subject, as it's one I frequently ponder

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  2. What a fascinating post.

    I was raised in a small town Lodge in Massachusetts. The Master was a Jew (who'd converted) and the JW was a Southern Baptist. The Chaplain was an ordained minister.

    I have yet, 18 years later, to hear Jesus' name mentioned in any prayer in Franklin Lodge. I love my brothers in the Lodge, and they are a great group of guys.

    Our biggest problem is that I'm now in the "older" group (we ARE bringing in younger guys, though!) - and I'm 45. The second oldest attendee is in his mid 50's. We have ONE past master in his 70's who attends every meeting, and that's it. We're not quite sure why, but that is what happens.

    Anyway, I will be bookmarking your blog and reading it from now on. Should you find yourself in Grafton, MA on the first Thursday of the month, feel free to visit Franklin Lodge. Directions and our notice are at www.franklinlodge.org.

    Wor Ross,
    Secretary
    Franklin Lodge AF&AM,
    Grafton, MA

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  3. I thank you both for your comments, and thank you, Brother Ross, for your kind invitation to visit Franklin Lodge.

    Trinsf: Sometimes Masons slip up and do something unMasonic, and for that we should be forgiven. God knows I fail more than I would like to admit to uphold the tenets of Freemasonry. I wear my Masonic ring with the emblems readable to me, not away from me, so that I'm constantly reminded that I am a Freemason and that I should live as one.

    Often, I think that we've failed to guard the West Gate; that is, we've let people who shouldn't be Masons join the Fraternity.

    But perhaps I'm not the one to speak, as I know that some of my lodge brothers probably today wish they had blackballed me when I joined; I put Truth above Peace and Harmony, and stepped on a few toes. (You have so far read here only a tiny fraction of the story I shall eventually tell.)

    My point, though, is that people who have no morals, no manners, low intelligence, and little brotherly love in their hearts have filled our lodges for social reasons or because Daddy was a Mason, for business reasons, or to chase titles, while decent, honorable, and intelligent men have avoided the Fraternity because of how they've seen Masons acting.


    —Widow's Son

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  4. Amen Brother Widow's Son!!!!
    Great article.......

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  5. All these renegades are jews trying to destroy masonry in georgia. Brothers you gotta wakeup fast or these people will take away prayer in lodge.

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  6. Funny, I thought King Solomon, Hiram, King of Tyre, and Hiram Abif were all Jewish themselves...

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  7. Hiram, King of Tyre, was, I believe, Phoenician, from the land north of Israel. The Hebrews/Jews were not skilled in the art of building, which is why the King of Tyre and his workers came to help build the Temple for Solomon.

    I hope the anonymous post about Jews and taking prayer out of lodges was someone's idea of being funny.

    But then, you never know... Jesus was obviously a Jew, but try telling that to some Baptists!

    —WS

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  8. Dear Brother WS,
    I am also a young Mason, twenty-five years old to be precise and I must say that I agree with you on most of the points in your "Rattlesnakes" article. However, I would like to fraternally offer some of my own opinions for your consideration and the consideration of the Brethren. First, you equate coming from a rural background with being uneducated. I come from a background more rural than most, however, I lived abroad for six years and was fortunate enough to interact with Brethren from many foreign lodges. Those backwoods WWII "good old boys" that you are talking about accomplished feats in their time that I doubt this generation will ever match. The Brethren of that generation are the men who inspired me to seek acceptance into the Fraternity. As for the Christianization of Masonry that you are so apalled by, I am proud that the work in my home state (Alabama)draws so heavily on Christian tradition. After all, it is not merely the Torah that is laid open on our altar. I worked extensively in Lodges in another state that opened and closed the Lodge with monitorial, repetious prayers and relied less on Christian traditon. That was the will of the Lodge and the Brethren were some of the best Masons that I have ever known. If the members of a Lodge find the idea of the GAOTU too abstract, or if any of the Brethren don't want to invoke the name of Christ, then that is their personal preference, dissent silently and So Mote It BE. I would like to applaud your efforts to educate the members of your lodge on Masonic History. I have encountered very few Masons who even have an opinion other that that which comes out of the Monitor. I happen prescribe to the Robinson theory on our descent from the Templars from France through Scotland but I find very few of the Brethren who show any interest in discussing it. A very good friend of mine entered the Lodge but left it disappointed because he felt the Brethren were just going through the motions and I sadly have to agree with him. I have seen candidates have to sit through their first nights in the Lodge listening to the Secretary read proposed changes to Grand Lodge Masonic code for three hours. Needless to say, some of these men never saw any need to venture past EA in search of more light. I would encourage you to keep teaching, keep learning, and leave your political views outside the tyled door even if others do not. Our Fraternity needs good men who do not leave the lodge when their feelings get hurt.

    Fraternally,
    Auburn Univesity Mason

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  9. My Auburn Brother,

    Thank you for your comments.

    Indeeed you are correct in saying that the WWII-Korean War generation accomplished great feats. I never said otherwise. The man who inspired me to become a Mason is now 74 years old; I have due respect for age and wisdom.

    My point was that people from that generation (and from rural America), generally speaking, have a different mindset and a different belief system in many ways than those who came after them. They are less tolerant of change. The fought against the changes of the 1960s.

    It was their children's generation, the Baby Boomers, who grew up expecting and thriving on change.

    In rural areas, that change, and the acceptance of that change, came more slowly, in part because the community was more clannish, and in part because generally, the community was less educated and less exposed to new ideas.

    I wasn't "appalled" by Christianity, I was amazed at the unChristian AND unMasonic acts of certain men in my lodge. That a Past Master would blurt out in a lodge "I thought you had to be a Christian to be a Mason!" shows not only disrespect for the decorum of Freemasonry but also a great lack of understanding of the nature of Freemasonry.

    I must strongly disagree with you when you say those who "don't want to invoke the name of Christ" should silently dissent. It is — by Masonic law and tradition — those who DO wish to invoke Christ who are to be silent. Pray in your mind to Jesus if you wish; Masons are taught to invoke the aid of Almighty God.

    The Grand Lodge of Georgia's Book of Masonic Etiquette (pp 49-50) says in no uncertain words:

    "Freemasonry is a fraternity. It is not a religion. Its member are presumed to be religious and it operates on the highest and best moral principles taught by all the great religions. But direct or even indirect reference to one's religious preference in a prayer, though inadvertently often done, or the display of a particular religious flag in the confines of a Masonic Lodge, are breaches of good manners and the spirit of Freemasonry, if not of the law itself.

    "It would be immaterial if all present at the Lodge meeting were all of the same religion and sect, yet this would seem rare and unlikely.... These things are pointed out that we may avoid the violation, in spirit as well as in fact, of one of the most important tenets of Freemasonry.... Our practice seems to show that we are fully aware of the injunction with reference to politics; many do not appreciate fully how our inadvertences in prayer strike some other of our brethren....

    "For Masons in Lodge to indulge in or practice any form of religious sectarianism is to risk the destruction of the Craft as surely as would be the rule against the discussion of partisan politics in Lodge or participation in partisan politics by the Lodge itself."

    My Brother, it does not matter if everyone in the Lodge is a Christian — it is improper in a Masonic Lodge to discuss matters of sectarian religion.

    In my discussions with Masons from around the U.S., I've been told that to believe otherwise is pretty much a southern thing. Lodges in the rural south — where you and I are — have developed their own ideas about what Masonry is and is about, and over time their non-Masonic traditions have come to be accepted as "proper." The "church-ification" of the lodgeroom has come about because these rural Masons are also rural church-goers who hold day-long prayer services in their churches, who have twice-a-day for a week revival meetings, who have three-hour funeral services with two preachers who both give altar calls. People who practice their religion THAT intensely naturally try to do it everywhere they congregate, including the lodge.

    Fraternally,


    Widow's Son

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  10. Brother WS,
    The rural religious practices that you describe are very intriguing in as much as they are, from a rural sociological point of view, one end of a broad spectrum. I have witnessed the three hour funerals complete with altar calls, and the twice-a-day for a week prayer meetings, but very rarely. As I said, I grew up in a very rural environment in Alabama but the practices you describe were not commonplace. I have found that in our part of the country, the Wesleyan Doctrine is predominant among church-going Brethren. In fact, my Freemason Great-Great Grandfather was a travelling minister in the faith founded by Wesley, the man who raised me and taught me the catechism was also a Methodist minister. The SD during my MM degree was the same. The minister in my home church is a Brother Mason. Also, Auburn University, which began as a Wesleyan college, was originally Alabama Masonic College founded by Brethren of that particular denomination. I only point out these facts because the Brethren that I have encountered in our area appear to subscribe to Wesleyan practices which greatly complement Masonic teachings and not snake handling and poison swallowing (which still exist in pockets in the Appalachin Foothills around us). Also, I would venture to say that the Alabama ritual is a distinctly Christian ritual. I have not witnessed Georgia's but most of my Masonic work has been in Texas which I have heard is similar to Georgia's as they descended from the same strain and are not particularly Christian in content. Something that may surprise you is that the highest concentration of Masons that I have encountered in my travels is in the Phillipine Islands. Many of these Lodges carried over to Japan where the majority of the members are Filipino and Roman Catholic. The K of C meet in the same Lodges and many of the Brethren are dual members. I wholeheartedly agree with you that the Lodge is not a forum for worship. Many people ask me what the religious beliefs of Masons are and I respond by telling them that the Lodge is not a place of worship and does not offer a plan of salvation, however, most Masons that they will encounter in the United States are mainstream Protestants. One other point that I must agree with you on is the lack of Esoteric knowledge in our Lodges. Brethren not only don't know but don't care where our Craft actually descended from. Our great and honorable order was more than a travelling quarrymen's union. The practice of leaving sectarian and political commentary outside the tyled door is one that should be kept by all the Brethren but a Lodge is more than a building, it is a group of Masons duly assembled. Whereever a Lodge may be found, either in Cochin, India or Sand Mountain, Alabma it will inevitably take on the character of its members and as long as they work within the guidelines of the Grand Lodge and the spirit of the Craft, harmony will prevail.
    Off the subject, but have you ever researched the Orangemen Lodges of Scotland?

    Fraternally,
    AU Mason

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  11. The brethren up north are finding WAY too much rekigion in Masinry here. Most of the elder gaurd are Commandery and 33rd's. One gets steepred in religion when in those groups, it is hard for them to break it off for blue lodge. The young guys need to have their own lodges and frredom to experiment with meetings and gain as much masonic education as possoible.

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  12. Dear Brother WS,
    As you did not post a response to my last comment, I assume that you either have not read it or find it among the uneducated ramblings (education in progress) that you must encounter on a daily basis. I just finished reading your essay on the "Sixteen Crucified Saviors" and though it is not new material to me (I have read over some of Blavatsky and Pike's work along with other Theosophs)I found it interesting that you would make reference to "High ranking Freemasons" in much the same way that conspiracy theory sites do. David Icke is a conspiracy theorist that frequently appears on the History Channel and he constantly invokes the "High ranking Freemasons" conspiracy as an answer to every paranoid question. He is also an historical dunce. In reading your other posts, I don't believe that you are as ill informed as Mr. Icke or any of the other conspiracy theorists who go around with copies of Catcher In the Rye in their trench coats. So why would you, as an obviously well informed Brother, make such a careless reference? I understand Pike's comments on the "Outer Portico of the Temple" etc, etc. but I do not believe that it was in reference to the Astrotheological beliefs you wrote so eloquently about. I offer these comments with warm, fraternal regards in hope of a sincere response. Once again, off the subject but I asked about the Orangemen Lodges, which I mistakenly said were in Scotland, where they very well may be found, but I believe they are located predominantly in Ireland.

    Fraternally,
    Auburn University Mason

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  13. Brother AU,

    The "sixteen saviors" article was not written by me. The article, which we called "Let there be light," begins like this:

    The following excerpt from an article titled "Spiritual and Astrotheological Motifs Related to Light" is reproduced with permission from the February 13, 2006 issue of the Kentroversy Papers blog. On the Kentroversy site it's printed in purplish text, which I find difficult to read; therefore we're reposting it here. We don't necessarily agree with all of its conclusions, but we find it most enlightening and quite fascinating.

    Please note that articles that are not written by us but that are published here will usually be indented using the blockquote feature. Indention/blockquote is used to indicate a long passage being quoted.

    In the future I will try to remember to add an additional disclaimer at the end of a long quoted article to remind the reader when he or she is done that it was not written by us. Thanks for the suggestion.

    As this should now make clear, I did not use the phrase "high-ranking Masons."

    If I ever DO use that phrase, be assured that I would be using it in a jesting or sarcastic manner. There is but one "rank" of Freemason — that of third-degree Master Mason.

    — WS

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  14. Brother AU,

    I assure you, the week-long twice-a-day revivals and the three-hour funerals with two preachers both giving altar calls are commonplace and typical in the area of my lodge.

    I have attended many funerals of lodge brothers' loved ones and of deceased brethren. Coming from a 1,0000-member big-city church background, I was amazed to find out how they did things in my adopted small town. The preachers roll their voices, break into tears, slam Bibles repeatedly onto their pulpits, and pray frantically for ten to fifteen minutes at a time. I once timed a preacher — he preached nearly 30 minutes before even mentioning that we were at a funeral or mentioning the deceased. Sincere or theatrics, I don't know. At first I found it entertaining.

    Once just before a lodge meeting, I overheard two brethren talking. One was telling the other that ol' so-and-so had just died. The other brother didn't respond with "What did he die of?" or "How's his family?" or any other reply I would have expected. Instead, his response was: "Who's preaching?"

    One local preacher who gets a lot of gigs at funerals has a habit of wandering around the church while he's talking, laying his hand upon people's heads. I stood in the back of the church at funerals after I saw that!

    Eventually I decided that I would not go to any more Mountain Baptist funerals of relatives of my brethren, but only funerals of brethren themselves. I couldn't spare that much time out of my day.

    Last summer I was driving past a small lake near my house on a Sunday morning around 10 a.m. There were probably 150 cars parked along the shore. I saw a man walking along towards the lake. I stopped and said, "Hello." As he turned around, I recognized him as a lodge member. "Brother ____," I said. "What is going on here?" He looked at me as if I were stupid to ask, and said, "Baptizing!"

    The first summer I was a Mason, I was shocked to hear the Worshipful Master announce that he wouldn't be at the next meeting because his church was having a revival. Then other brothers blurted out (after the first person stands and is recognized, everyone else just sits and speaks their mind) the dates of their churches' revivals. Some brethren even asked the other lodge members to remember their revivals in their prayers! The lodge nearly goes dark in July and early August, so many members are off on their twice-a-day revival-in'.

    I'm not judging here. I'm just pointing out my ongoing Culture Shock experiences. What people do in the name of their religion is fine by me — I'm quite libertarian in many of my views — as long as it's not inside a Lodgeroom. When in lodge assembled, we should follow the rule of Freemasonry.

    —WS

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  15. Dear Bro. WS,
    I appreciate your response and I would like to apologize for not closely examining the article mentioned in my last post. I found your response once again interesting and not only because just like Henry James, the varieties of religious experiences interest me. The funny part is that I experienced the laying on of hands, speaking in tongues, and charismatic preaching for the first time, not in Alabama or Georgia but in Yokosuka, Japan. I was invited to several church services just as you have described when I lived in Japan. I have never witnessed anything of that magnitude here in the South, though I do not doubt that it is commonplace. For some people heaven is more than an idea, it is a destination.

    Fraternally,
    AU Mason

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  16. Found you through a Live Journal post on Esoteric Masons...


    Fascinating post.

    I fear that I am walking into the same experience as I have just petitioned a lodge in a college town in West Virginia. Everyone I met seemed extremely nice, but I was told by an inactive member that they are a pretty "boring old bunch". No matter to me, I'm a non-sectarian Christian who regularly practices Zen meditation, so "boredom" is subjective. And, I like "old people", I like being around all that experience and wisdom. But none the less, with age comes "neo phobia" as you put it.

    Are there any "younger" esoterica minded lodges out there?

    GC
    0 Degree Un-Entered Petitionate

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  17. Dear Mr. GC,
    A Lodge is made up of people and the only way to change a Lodge is to become active, become visible, and let it be known that you are proud to be a Mason. This will attract new members and give new life to the Lodge. The older brethren won't mind because they want to see the Fraternity live on. I think you will find, except in a few rare cases, that our senior Brethren are quite willing to let the young, newly made Masons take the reins. Most of the officers in Lodges have been at it for so long that they welcome a chance to sit back, relax, and just watch from the sidelines. Remember to always be respectful, willing to learn, and don't be afraid to speak out and you will avoid getting bored. If you have a bad experience in a Lodge remember that it is not Masonry that has fallen short, but human nature. One more thing, congratulations on making it to the outer door. You are about to begin a journey that will benefit you in all your future endeavors.

    Sincerely,
    Auburn University Mason

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  18. I've been reading some of the commentary by "Masons" about religion in the lodge. Freemasonry is not a religion but the oldest fraternity in the world. There are two topics which should never be discussed in a lodge and those are religion and politics, for these bring on more arguments than any thing on earth. Freemasonry does teach tolerance for one anothers beliefs and that includes religion. Since every Lodge is opened with prayer whomever says that prayer should be allowed to pray however his religion dictates. If a Jewish Mason is praying then all should allow him the right to practice his religion his way and pray accordingly. The same goes for Baptist, Methodist, Muslim, Hindu or whatever. The point is that Masons should tolerate and try to understand each others personal beliefs. Masons should be spreading the cement of Brotherly love and affection, that cement which unites us as one common band or society of brothers among whom "no" contention should ever exist, but that noble contention or rather emulation of who can best work and best agree.

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  19. Brother,

    I enjoyed reading your account here. I was pondering what I would do if I was in a Lodge and a prayer was uttered to Jesus, which according to my personal religion (which happens to be Christian, even) is IDOLATRY, were I to do it. I would be forced to not participate in the prayer. And, I believe I would feel spiritually threatened and be required to retreat in some way. If it were my own Lodge, I would advance to the altar, salute the Worshipful Master and either retire or perhaps recite the proper prayer out of the manual and return to my seat.

    The problem with prayer given in the manner described is that it identifies a God doctrinally and forces brethren's minds to center upon this person, when it should be invoking a generic name, God, Great Architect of the Universe, or Supreme Grand Master, I do not care what name is used, as long as the Mason may be left to think of his own conception of God during the prayer.

    Question: Can a Satanist join Masonry? Yes, as far as I'm concerned. Does he believe in a Supreme Being? Yes, he would say so. So he should be allowed in. When praying, will he think of this being? Sure. Does it NEED to be the same being I'm thinking of as the GAOTU? No; Although usually it is desirable to me to be in unity with my Brethren, so I think of the God of Israel and Allah as different names for the same being. But Masonry should never require you to do anything contrary to your duty to God, and therefore I reserve the right to mentally separate out those beings that I consider inappropriate receptors of prayer and not engage with them spiritually. For me, this includes Jesus and Satan.

    I am fortunate to live in a place where our Lodge brethren try diligently to observe the rules of Masonry, where this type of thing would be a very unique and rare offense.

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  20. I enjoyed this blog very much. I am an EA in a Lodge in Manhattan. Our lodge resembles the UN in miniture. Members from all of the major religions. I was impressed by the sense of brotherhood that existed amongst the brethen in our lodge. A brotherhood that is with out boundaries, united in Masonry.

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  21. As a PM from a Lodge in Wales, we allow, nay encourage all men who have a belief in a 'Supreme Being' to join if otherwise qualified. I sit at Lodge and join at prayer with Jews, Muslims etc.If in these dark days we cannot accept as brethren that GAOTU can be concieved in many ways, but is still the all powerful, all seeing ruler, then brethren there is little hope for this sorry world of ours.

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  22. I personaly feel that the downfall of FreeMasonry will come at the end unless Brothers stick together and bridge the gap for a Lodge that is failing. I personally have had the experience of haveing brothers promise that they will do this; then they won't extend the effort to get off their lazy asses and help. Maybe they don't give a dam; but if this is true then maybe they should'nt be involved in the first place. Personaly I try to support three Lodges.
    Another thing that gripes my ass is the ignorant belife that FreeMasonry is some how tied to the Bible; do yourself a favor read your history -IT Is Not!!!!!- 1.Freemasonry is much older that the Bible!
    2.Jesus has no ties to FreeMasonry!
    3.FreeMasonry orignated from Egypt; not the Bible!
    4.I belive that FreeMasonry is the true path to Enlightment.-Not Christianty-
    5. Read the Gnostic Scrolls.Jesus was a prophet;not the savior of the world. While we are at it Jesus was not a Mason he not only robed FreeMasonry but gave up the secret of freemasonry; he used it to pilfer mankind for his own reasons.

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  23. I am relatively newly raised in a Montgomery, Alabama lodge, so I haven’t had the chance to see much yet.

    But it’s funny. One of the main reasons I am so drawn to the fraternity is the lack of religious zealotry. I would have thought they wouldn’t darken a lodge’s doorsteps. I know I am being simpleminded in saying this but I have found that most of the overly religious zealots are entirely too condescending, one of man’s truly greatest sins, to consider joining freemasonry. There are a few really religious persons in my lodge, but religion rarely comes up and I haven’t heard anyone pushing salvation yet.

    If… No. When I finally meet an overly pious brother, I plan to be totally respectful and as open to him as I can, but I demand the same in return. As for God in the Lodge, it is my understanding that one of the main reasons why you have to believe in a god to become a mason is because a godless person has nothing to truly bind himself to his oaths. This isn’t the only reason, by far, but I think it is one of the main.

    Auburn University Mason,
    I found a great dictionary of Masonic terms called “Lexicon of Freemasonry” by Albert G. Mackey, 33. It is very insightful and has helped me immensely in understanding the meaning of the catechisms and rituals. Its cover is purple and it is in the cheep books section of Barns and Nobles in Montgomery for around $7.00. If you are still around the area, I would suggest you pick up a copy before they are gone. Six copies left last I checked. Mackey also wrote a great Masonic encyclopedia you might could find on eBay.



    Newly Raised

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  24. Newly Raised,
    Thank you very much. I will check that out.

    AU Mason

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  25. According to John 1:1->, Jesus is the "architect" of the universe and the Maker of everything therein.
    No Christian should be ashamed of his Lord and Savior.
    Many of my ancestors were Masons.
    My King, Jesus, commanded me not to make oaths. His evangelist, James, emphasized the same. This is enough to keep me out of the Lodge.

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  26. I am a master mason. I study esoterica. I'm opened minded about cultures and religion, and consider myself well educated in the humanities. I also belong to one of those small town "lodges". Group think can be a bad thing. Most of the brothers in my lodge do have "traditional" values.....so what. I gotta tell you, brother, you sound like an elitist in a bad way. I wish I could train every "small town brother" on how to write blogs complaining about urban elitists, everything is relative, patchouli, liberal Internet Freemasons. But why bother it's 'merica, we can do what we want.

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  27. Until the 1800s and for more than a thousand years prior the majority of Operative Freestone Masons were Trinitarian Christians and always gave their Prayers in the Name of the Holy Father Holy Son Holy Ghost, and thus latter Speculative Freemasons did the same, and within the American South known as the Bible Belt Southern Freemasons still in their Masonic Lodges and even in Grand Lodge give their Prayers in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ. This is in line with the established Ancient Landmarks of Masonry.

    In the 1800s the United Grand of England unlawfully disregarded the Ancient Landmark of the Christian Holy Trinity as being the ONLY - GAOTU, many other
    Grand Lodges followed their unmasonic example requiring only a belief in a Supreme Being for membership, and so if a man calls his out house a Supreme Being, and called it his god he would qualify for membership by Masonic Grand Lodge Jurisdictions having such a ridicules standard as only requiring a belief in a Supreme Being.

    The Grande Lodge of Sweden still requires its members to be Trinitarian Christians in accordance to the established Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry.

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    1. Brother,

      It is obvious that you are not well read on the history of the Craft. Before making such statements on the established Landmarks of the Craft you need to do some research.One only needs to read as far as the first Charge in Anderson's 1723 Constitution as published in it's original form by Franklin in 1734 titled "Concerning God and Religion" to understand your erroneous thinking and statements. It would be true, however,to state that American Masonry in the early 19th century did move away from Anderson's 1st Charge, in that it started to reflect the communities that it found it's self. This was added to by Thomas Smith's Webb's work who added many Christian references that were not in Anderson's, nor Pritchard's or Preston's.And so it is to Webb's invention that Christianity entered the Lodge along with the influence of their respective communities. It is certainly not an Ancient Landmark and has no place in Masonry.

      I think a PGM of Massachusetts, the Reverend Dr. Thomas Sherrard Roy put it best in his work "who dares to be a Mason"....For God can not be monopolized...when any one group claims to have the only one true religion it creates the impression it knows everything about God, which is of course ridiculous".

      In Masonry all men meet as equals, no mans ideas or philosophies are greater than another. This the founding Fathers of this country well understood as did the founders of the Premier Grand Lodge in 1717.

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  28. i commend your words. I am from a small town lodge. and i feel alone sometimes. it pains me to see this happen. we must steer the lodge back to its true course. for ourselves, for those that have gone before us, and those that will enter the lodge for their first time.
    Magna est veritas, et pravalabit

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  29. In reference to the Rattlesnake Lecture: My Dean of Instruction teaches: "If you do what I say do then I am right and you are wrong. If we do what YOU say do, then you are right and I am wrong. But if we do what the book says do then everybody is right and nobody is wrong.”

    Now your "Book" of authority in your Grand Lodge, the Principles of the Grand Lodge of Georgia as duly quoted by you is what you are to do: Principles of the Grand Lodge of Georgia paragraph #5: "It [Freemasonry] is religious in that it teaches monotheism; the Volume of the Sacred Law is open upon its altars whenever a Lodge is in session; reverence for God is ever present in its ceremonial, and to its brethren are constantly addressed lessons of morality; yet it is not sectarian or theological."

    It is as plain as anything can be. As to WHY it is that you all won't follow the dicta of your own Grand Lodge as set forth in h its publication for that purpose is beyond me.

    What kind of Mason are they who will not follow the dicta of their Grand Lodge! If you hold fast to this Jesus Christ thing, in defiance of your Grand Lodge’s teaching and instruction I’ve just one question for you: what kind of Masons are you ?

    LRA

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