Saturday, May 03, 2008

We all shine on: Bro. Fred Milliken, aka Squire Bentley

This is our 19th installment of "This Is Who I Am," our never-ending series of essays by and about readers of The Burning Taper.

My name is Frederic L. Milliken, a/k/a Squire Bentley. More about that pseudonym later. Yes I am a Freemason, but that is only one of my many interests even though it is the most compelling. I am also a history buff and a political junkie, and a dabbler in economics. I guess that follows having a BA in Government & History with a minor in Economics.

I was born in the town of Lexington, Massachusetts, the birthplace of the American Revolution. The battles of Lexington & Concord, the midnight ride of Paul Revere and the shot heard ‘round the world was something that influenced me from an early age. Growing up as a boy I became a member of Battle Green DeMolay which met at Simon W. Robinson Lodge, AF & AM beside the Lexington Green, eventually becoming Master Councilor. My first church was also bordering the Green as was the famous Buckman Tavern where my mother took a weekend job as a tourist guide explaining the Lexington battle. Years later I would return to Simon W. Robinson Lodge with the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team.

I also have a powerful interest in religion and all things spiritual. My religious journey looks like the stock market, up and down. I was raised a Unitarian (before the Universalists horned in), in college I joined the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. In just a few years I was a confirmed atheist and an Objectivist, a disciple of Ayn Rand. After twenty years as a non believer, I reversed myself again and joined a new church start up In the Presbyterian Church, PCUSA. I became a part time Presbyterian lay preacher. After ten years as a Presbyterian I converted to Catholicism where I am today. I am a frequent Lector at two churches.

Many say that you can tell a lot about a person by what he reads. I am an avid reader. In spirituality I love the Conversations With God series by Neale Donald Walsch. Dr. Walter Dyer is another favorite. 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper was an interesting recent read. In Economics, as a devotee of Hayek, Von Mises, Hazlitt and Milton Friedman, the latest read was Applied Economics by Thomas Sowell. A recent history read was Pearl Harbor by Newt Gingrich. My political reading has been recently The Connection by Stephen F. Hayes and I am just starting War and Decision by Douglas J. Feith. I also just completed Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver. I'm trying to learn how to write good fiction. My goal (and dream) is to write a salable murder mystery. Oh, for light reading I devour murder mysteries, most especially courtroom drama. I have a complete collection of Earle Stanley Gardner at the house. In Masonry my latest reads are The Knights Templar Revealed and Founding Fathers, Secret Societies.

Besides these interests I am a bicyclist doing ten miles every other day and I am a devotee of Contract Bridge when I can find a partner. I love music, my favorites being bluegrass and jazz. There is nobody better than Alison Krauss and Dianna Krall.

I decided early on in my Masonic career that I was going to do great things with large numbers; that I was going to rejoice, celebrate and enjoy being a Mason. I was raised in Plymouth Lodge in historic Plymouth, MA where the Pilgrims landed in 1989, Master in 1994. Soon after I affiliated with Paul Revere Lodge in Brockton, MA, Master in 1999 & 2000. I immediately joined the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team which performed the second and third sections of the Third Degree in colonial dress and afterwards the Team's Historian added a patriotic message about the flag and the sacrifice of colonial Masons. The Historian had each of us rise and introduce the Revolutionary War Mason we represent, as we each take a name of a Colonial Mason who fought for this country. When I joined all the famous names were taken so researching on my own I took the name of William Munroe, a Sergeant in the Lexington Minutemen. Brother Munroe was station on the Lexington Green on the night of April 18, 1775 on an all night watch for any British. He welcomed Paul Revere into town early the next morning with the news, "The British are coming." Later he was to petition Grand Lodge for a charter for Lexington's first Lodge and he its first Master. In 1791 he was received in the East of Grand Lodge with his petition by Most Worshipful Paul Revere. For the Colonial Degree Team I performed the charge and my favorite was one we call in New England, though it has many other names, "The Canadian Charge."

I took the Paul Degree Team to Lexington, MA where we participated in a Communication of three Lodges at the same time. After the performance we retired for a Tri Table Lodge with over 100 Masons present. We celebrated the Craft with great gusto that night. We made another trip to Connecticut with a similar crowd in attendance. But the best trip was our performance in Bloomington, Indiana in 2001 where we were billeted at the state DeMolay chateau and driven around in a luxury mini bus by a Past Grand Master. We celebrated afterwards there also at an Irish Pub. I have been on many other trips with the Colonial Degree Team and found each and every one to be a night of inspiration.

Celebration became the defining word of my two years in the East at Paul Revere Lodge. We participated in a District outdoor degree and I held a Masonic Roast a la Dean Martin style for a beloved Past Master who was the Don Rickles of our District. I also held special awards banquets for three other Past Masters, one being for our Colonial Degree founder and Historian in an authentic Colonial Tavern, all of us participating with our wives in colonial costume.

But the greatest joy and inspiration came when I was asked to join the "Fellowship Players," a Masonic drama club. At that time we were performing the Carl Claudy play A Rose Upon The Altar and I took the part of Squire Bentley — hence the pseudonym. We had been given dispensation from the Grand Master to perform the play before the general public after removing all Masonic modes of recognition from the performance. I performed in many moving renditions of this emotional and inspiring play. Two I remember quite well. One was for a Council of The Knights of Columbus and their wives and the other was before visiting Masons from England and their wives.

After stepping out of the East for the second time I thought my celebrating days were over, but I went on to becoming a moderator on the Lodgeroom.com Forum and then a featured regular writer for Stephen Dafoe's magazines The Fourth Part of a Circle and Masonic Magazine. That led to an invitation from the Yellowhead Masonic District of Alberta, Canada for a speaking tour. They flew me and my wife up for an all expenses paid week in Alberta where I addressed Lodges with two papers I had written for the occasion, World Peace Through Brotherhood and Native American Rituals and the Influence of Freemasonry (can be read on www.phoenixmasonry.org). One presentation was before a large group of Brothers at a restaurant in Edmonton where we also took part in a special Festive Board. It was a great week and we got to tour the area and its beautiful scenery. I had never been to the Rocky Mountains before.

I was just getting comfortable in my Pastmastership when all of a sudden we upped and moved to Texas. I spent a year in the Grand Lodge of Texas before transferring to Prince Hall Texas. They say if you have nothing good to say shut up, so that is what I will do on that score. But I was surprised that after a year in Prince Hall the Grand Master contacted me and asked me to address a Grand Lodge Session. I did so but the most rewarding part for me personally of that Grand Session was the charge I gave to a mass Grand Lodge raising of 81 Fellowcrafts to the sublime degree of Master Mason. I gave the Canadian charge with over 400 delegates also present and not one had ever heard that charge done before. Wow, did I have people's attention!

And so I go on celebrating. I write two blogs. The political blog is called The Northeast Corner and the Masonic blog is The Beehive. My latest project has come about from reading Deepak Chopra and Larry Dossey's book Space, Time and Medicine. I seek to reconcile science and religion by showing how Quantum Physics and religion come together. And along with that I am researching Sacred Geometry and showing how that intersects with Freemasonry. Finally I hope to show how all four are melded together. A most interesting book I have just started in this quest is The Self-Aware Universe by Amit Goswami. It looks like this will be a project of many years.

I have been a big critic of Mainstream Masonry, feeling that American Mainstream Masonry needs to come together and operate more on common ground. I am not talking about a National Grand Lodge or adding another layer of bureaucracy. But I do think the basic cornerstones of our fraternity — who we are and what we stand for — should be very similar, while at the same time allowing much diversification of ritual and practice. We need not express our Masonry in the same manner but the building blocks and principles should be similar. I also lament the dumbing down of Masonry and its being turned into a Service Club.

I believe that I have a unique point of view in life, a perspective gained from living in many different communities or worlds so as to speak and getting to know and understand how these different styles and beliefs think and feel. I am a blue collar worker in the Dallas Transit System but I am equally comfortable in the more intellectual world. I have been a Protestant, an atheist and a Catholic. I have practiced Northern formal Masonry, Southern redneck Masonry and Prince Hall Masonry.

I want very much to say that life is short and that great, joyous moments are food for the soul. But you have to seek them out. So do great things with your Masonry and be all you can be.

— Bro. Fred Milliken

To submit your own "This is Who I Am" essay, read this.

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6 comments:

  1. Bro. Milliken,

    Great story, I hope to be able to share mine in a year or so...

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  2. The Prince Halls in Cleveland Ohio are top notch students of Masonry and really practice its tenets.

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  3. Thank you Squire for sharing your story. I have always enjoyed reading the Beehive. Your articles are informative and often enlightening, especially regarding Prince Hall Masonry.

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  4. Every man has a right to fulfill his own will without being afraid that it may interfere with that of others;
    for if he is in his proper place, it is the fault of others if they interfere with him.

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  5. "I am a star going upon my course, I have the courage to make a decision and to take a stand."

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  6. I had the distict pleasure of being one of the 81 Fellowcrafts who recieved our charge from Bro. Milliken before being raised. It was a great honor. He's a great asset to the craft. I look forward to seeing him again and hearing him speak. If I'm lucky I may even be able to sit and have an interesting conversation with him over coffe one day.

    Picture from Grand Session 2008:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/livestone/2634940661/

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