Monday, September 29, 2008

A flawed system: Why there is so much disunity, disharmony and discord in Freemasonry

This is the eighth in our series of essays from guest bloggers on the topic "Masonic harmony, unity and discord." This one is by Bro. Fred Milliken, also known as Squire Bentley. Bro. Milliken is the publisher of the Masonic blog "The Beehive." My thanks go out to Bro. Fred and to all who are participating in this project.

A Flawed System: Why There is So Much Disunity, Disharmony & Discord in Freemasonry
by Bro. Fred Milliken

Freemasonry grew up with the birth of our nation, thus the Masonry in each state was considered sovereign as were the states. After the US gained its independence a loose association of states was formed under The Articles of Confederation. When this proved to be unworkable a more serious commitment to Federalization was put in place under the US Constitution.

The point is Freemasonry never changed and grew with the country and its civil government; never realized the mistakes made when too many decision makers afford no accountability. American Freemasonry stayed locked in the mode and style of 1776 thereby never allowing an American Masonic Identity. There was and there is no such thing as American Freemasonry, there is only Californian Masonry, New York Masonry, Texas Masonry etc.

In parts of the world in civil government there are artificial countries, with artificial boundaries and no sense of national pride. Whether it be Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq or various African nations, the artificial boundaries hold a loose collection of Tribes. These countries are said to have a Tribal System. Tribal equals trouble.

Next year the USA will have a new President, either Obama or McCain. Whoever it may be I know that that person will speak for the entire country even though they lack total dictatorial power. My President will be a Unifier, attempting at all times to bring the country together.

American Freemasonry has a Tribal Mentality which leads to constant friction, dissension and outright war. American Freemasonry has no Unifier, rather it practices Separatism. This is one reason we have so much disharmony and discord.

If you like the present system of 51 Feudal Barons lording themselves over 51 fiefdoms then you pay the price of increased disharmony and discord. And you automatically empower and refuse to condemn a Masonic jurisdiction such as West Virginia which has not yet entered the 20th century never mind the 21st.

As each fiefdom goes its separate way, some jurisdictions have admitted a large number of agenda driven people, those with an ax to grind, and when they have sufficient numbers they have changed Freemasonry.

For instance in some states conservative Christian evangelicals have overtaken some Grand Lodges and written into their state Masonic code a Christianization of their state's Freemasonry. Freemasonry had previously gradually evolved into being religiously neutral and it still is in many American jurisdictions. Prayers to Jesus, extra Bible readings in Lodge, no Holy Book permitted on the altar but the Bible, District Christian Church services, Bible presentations upon raising, no gambling permitted, no alcohol on Lodge property are just some examples of the way some Masons have codified their own personal moral and religious beliefs into the Constitutions and by-laws of their Grand Lodge. The Freemasonry in Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee looks a great deal different from the Freemasonry in Massachusetts, New York, Illinois and California.

Some of these same Masons have used the outmoded system of balloting to exclude men of diversity and to allow to enter others that do not reflect the values of Freemasonry. This amounts to ethnic cleansing or purifying the Lodge. Those welcome are Christians, politically conservative, White Supremists, Protestants, Republicans, the KKK and the Militia. Those blackballed and excluded are Blacks, the politically liberal, Jews, those in the peace movement or civil rights movement, Democrats, Muslims and anybody with a funny accent.

Some of us do not seem to be able to celebrate diversity. In Lodges in India you can find at the same time Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Sikhs, Christians, Jews, Jains, and Buddhists all sitting side by side. There are five Volumes of the Sacred Law on the altar: The Bhagvad Gita for the Hindus, The Qur'an for the Muslims, The Avesta for the Parsis or Zoroaastrians, The Bible for the Christians and Jews and The Granth Sahib for the Sikhs. If this does not cover the field a candidate may bring his own book of Faith. You will also find many different skin colors and political allegiances.

If you travel to Canada and experience their Freemasonry you won't find these deep seated divisions and animosities. Neither will you find them in the British Isles. Perhaps it is the nature of our contentious American society where Americans tend to be hysterical and mean spirited that dooms us to a Freemasonry of constant bickering, disharmony and discord.

As Masons we have been taught to be tolerant and accepting. This is one of the traits for which a Mason is well known. But we have carried tolerance too far. Those who have subverted Freemasonry for ulterior motives and their own ends want us to tolerate intolerance. How do you fight evil if you are required to tolerate it?

Other divisive and disharmonious behavior comes from a traditionalist attitude I sometimes refer to as "legalistic Masonry." These Masons, often entrenched in seats of Grand Lodge power, refuse to allow the change or reform of Freemasonry one iota, not even one word in one sentence. And they tell you that trying to change Freemasonry is a violation of a Mason’s Obligation. The reformers do not seek a change in the ritual or message of Freemasonry but rather the procedures and processes that back the practice of the Craft. This dedication to "legalistic Freemasonry" can be seen in those who insist on maintaining the Right of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction from Prince Hall inclusion. Their adherence to the strict letter of the law puts policy above people, separation above unity and reminds one of the cackles of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The disharmony and discord of American Freemasonry is far larger than the so called harmony of the Lodge. It is rooted in the policy and governance of Grand Lodge where the Grand Master and Grand Lodge Officers set the tone for Freemasonry in that jurisdiction. The Lodge is not alive but rather an inanimate concept. It cannot feel, laugh, cry or do anything that human beings can do. The harmony of the Lodge is an invalid concept and is often used to exclude, as in "We have to blackball this Black Man for the harmony of the Lodge" or "This Jewish applicant will just not fit here at this Lodge where we all are Christian. He must be rejected for the harmony of the Lodge."

The tone of Grand Lodges and their desire to control Masonic thought, their poor handling of the computer revolution and Internet Freemasonry, and their suspensions and expulsions without a Masonic trial have dumped onto Internet Freemasonry, its Forums and Blogs, bitter expelled past Masons who feel that they have been dealt an injustice and are out for revenge. If Grand Lodges were not so controlling and arbitrary in their use of power, were not so political and so thin skinned perhaps Freemasonry in the USA would be a little more subdued and harmonious.

So what is to be done? I offer three suggestions which are not the sum and total of what might be accomplished but merely a start into a more harmonious American Freemasonry and bringing Masons together.

1. A National Constitution and Masonic Bill of Rights

It's too late for a National Grand Lodge. It would never fly today even if it were a good idea which it probably is not. There needs to be a semblance of sameness and order throughout the 51 jurisdictions which comprise American Freemasonry. This has nothing to do with changing or standardizing the ritual of Freemasonry or dictating the practice of the Craft or removing the sovereignty of state Grand Lodges. It has to do with fairness, of creating a sound base or foundation that exists everywhere so that each jurisdiction can go on from there to implement the practice of Freemasonry as it sees fit. It has to do with the processes and procedures of Freemasonry, the definition of Freemasonry, who can and cannot be admitted into Freemasonry, what ethical code can we all agree upon and having the same Landmarks. It also has to do with the rights of individual Brethren and protecting them from abuse and misuse of power. If we can do this we can eliminate a lot of the disharmony.

2. Masonic Legislature

Freemasonry grew up in the time of Monarchies and the Divine Right of Kings. Times and attitudes have changed into a way of life that is more participatory by the average citizen. Freemasonry needs to reflect that change and allow for the say of each individual Brother. A Masonic legislature which could make or change policy by a democratic vote would perhaps lessen those who go running off to start their own version of Freemasonry because they have been locked out or arbitrarily squashed. A true will of the majority goes a lot further in gaining support than the arbitrary desires of the Masonic Pope sitting in the Grand East. Lest anyone think that this would strip the Grand Master of all power and stature it could be set up so that a Grand Master could veto anything the Legislature passes unless this body has voted on a course to be taken by 75% or more of those convened. A change of this nature would be up to the individual choice of each state Grand Lodge and not be imposed upon them.

3. Ballot Reform

I devoted a whole blog to this subject. The present unanimous secret ballot permits prejudice and revenge and no good reason to reject an applicant and thwart the will of the majority. Its use keeps out Blacks, Jews & Hippies and just about anybody you don’t like.

But it also lets in some undesirables like the KKK. One member gets in unnoticed and he brings in scores of others always keeping their other life from discovery. Black balls that should be dropped are not.

There is a case to be made for a secret ballot. What you definitely do not want is a raising of hands in open Lodge. There is also a strong case to be made that it is terribly unfair and unjust to reject a good man for no good reason or because of prejudice.

The so called phony harmony of the Lodge is not justification for a unanimous secret ballot. In essence one is putting pseudo harmony ahead of Civil Rights and human rights. This is not the way a person joins the United States and becomes a citizen. The election of a President or of a Worshipful Master does not have to be unanimous.

I would offer that the decision of admittance to the Lodge be made in a semi secret ballot of the three members of the Investigating committee who will have taken training in Investigative technique and who sit as a permanent committee of the Lodge for a duration of office as determined by the Lodge. If any member of the Lodge has an objection to an applicant they are to bring that objection to this committee who will investigate it. Rejection will then come for a solid reason and not "I don’t want a Black man in my Lodge." The Three so constituted will offer no comment on their decisions. The implementation of this change would be a choice left up to each individual Grand Lodge.

It is not only within American Mainstream Freemasonry that there is disunity, disharmony and discord. Relationships with other Obediences are governed by Grand Lodge rules and regulations and in many cases they not only prohibit Masonic Communication but also Masonic discourse. This is why disharmony is not just a local Lodge problem. It goes all the way to the top where a Grand Master feels that he can tell you who you can talk to and who you cannot. Orders from on high often ask a Mason to shun other Obediences. When you do that you can't expect not to get some flak back.

Perhaps a case can be made for Unrecognized, Irregular, Clandestine knock offs many coalescing around the cult of an individual. But for those practicing Regular Masonry excepting the violation of sex, there really is no good reason to be spiteful. If Women's Masonry, Co-Masonry, and other Regular Clandestines, which in some areas includes Prince Hall, would sit down together, break bread together, sponsor some charitable events together, do some social functions together, and rent the same building for meetings, even though none of the different Obediences ever sat in Lodge together, there would be more peace, harmony and accord. In many parts of Europe the different Obediences of Freemasonry do not trash each other but seek ways of accommodation thereby avoiding the tension and conflict and ill feeling that fortressed American Freemasonry has. Much of this anti social behavior is aided and abetted by Grand Lodges.

I have some of my writings on a wonderful website run by a Co-Mason. When some Brothers of an Internet Masonic Forum I belong to found this out they called me a traitor and said that not only would they never visit that site again and never read any of my writings therein but that they would also boycott any postings I made on the Forum. To them I was guilty of aiding the enemy and giving him publicity.

We need an ecumenical spirit among the different Regular Obediences of American Freemasonry. If we had an ecumenical spirit there would be less disharmony and discord. It's up to the Grand Lodges to pave the way in setting the TONE of American Freemasonry.

Quite frankly I am dismayed by those Brothers who say that they don't come to these places anymore because of all the squabbling and bickering. Some of the loud noise is being made by those of us who seek a change of heart from those who are responsible for much of the disharmony that exists. Working to make the future an improved, quieter, more unified and harmonious Masonic experience, today sometimes requires some robust jousting.

But these Brothers would rather trade rights and justice for phony harmony right now. Why can't you just zip your lip and go along to get along they say? Then there would be peace and harmony. Yup, and injustice too. Go along with racism in Freemasonry, go along with expulsions without a Masonic trial, go along with no Masonic discourse with other Obediences, go along with rigged elections and shunning those that do it another way. My reply is why don’t you come along? Come along and help solve the root causes of disharmony and discord.

— Bro. Frederic Milliken

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Friday, September 26, 2008

The Blitz Spirit

This is the seventh in our series of essays written by Masonic bloggers on the topic "Masonic harmony, unity and discord." Bro. Ben Rowe's article here gives us an international outlook on Freemasonry. Bro. Ben is a young Master Mason from Middlesex, England, near London. He is the publisher of The Chequered Carpet, formerly titled Middlesex Fire. My thanks go out to Bro. Ben and all who are participating in this writing project.

The Blitz Spirit
by Bro. Ben Rowe

Ah, that title got your attention, didn't it?

I don't know what Widow's Son wrote about me in the little blurb above this piece, whatever it was though, I'm certain that the ruder it is, the more accurate you would find it to be should you meet me in person. For those of you that have not yet come across my (criminally neglected) little blog, The Chequered Carpet (previously Middlesex Fire), my name is Ben Rowe, and I am a 22-year old Master Mason in England. I am a member of three lodges: Gooch (1238, Middlesex, Mother Lodge); Windsor Forest (6581, Berkshire); and Old Haileyburian (3912, London). My family has a bit of a history in and around Freemasonry, and I was initiated on my 21st birthday.

When Widow's Son first wrote to me about getting involved in this project about Masonic Harmony, Unity and Discord, I had absolutely no idea what I could write about. I've been thinking a lot more over the last couple of days, and I've got a rough idea of what I'd like to get into a little later on in this piece — but first I wanted to talk briefly about the announcement from North Carolina, coupled with my experiences at Berkshire Provincial Grand Lodge on Tuesday night.

I was absolutely delighted to see that North Carolina decided to formally recognise Prince Hall Freemasonry. Being from a very long way away, I have nothing further to add than that.

In England, all lodges are under the United Grand Lodge of England. England is then divided along the ancient county lines to form our Masonic provinces. These provinces are not Grand Lodges in the way that every State in the U.S. has its own Grand Lodge, but we do have a certain level of autonomy (almost a federal system, actually) and each Province has its own Provincial Grand Lodge (PGL) that administers each of the lodges and Masonic centres in its province, co-ordinates various province-wide charitable appeals, and awards provincial honours and awards (for example: Provincial Grand Sword Bearer, or Provincial Senior Grand Deacon, etc.) that are given to those brothers whom the Provincial Executive decides have contributed a great deal to the Province over the last little while. Of course, we all know that honours and promotions are not the be all and end all of Freemasonry — we are all brothers, all on the level, and all equally deserving of each other's kind regard. That doesn't stop the whole hulla-balloo being a lot of fun to watch.

On Tuesday I went along to the Annual Meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge, where all of the new honours were handed out. It's always a wonderful event, with many brothers from all over the country in attendance. On top of us rabble from Berkshire, we had in attendance Provincial Grand Masters and their deputies and assistants from at least ten other provinces — lots of chains and big impressive aprons to rattle!

The reason I mention this, in conjunction with the news from North Carolina? Of more than 500 brothers in the temple, and 420 or so that sat down to dine in the Festive Board afterwards, there was only one — just ONE — non-white brother in attendance. That fact really shocked me. Here I found a real example of 'unity,' in the most literal sense of the term!

Now, as I said, we have only one (regular) Grand Lodge in England — we don't have a divide between our Grand Lodge, and a Prince Hall equivalent; UGLE is for brethren of all races colours and creeds — so why do we have so few brethren from (that wonderfully obtuse term) ethnic minorities? Now, those that aren't particular fans of Freemasonry would say that we're all elitist white men, that we're all racists, that people not "like us" are not made to feel welcome — only the latter of those points is only partly true, and it's only so very slightly true that it's not really worth mentioning.

You see, I've never seen any extrovert racism in a Masonic lodge, or dinner, or from any brother mason in any situation. No brother has ever said that they "don't want black men in their lodge," no black, Asian or "whatever" brother has ever been told that they're not welcome — regardless of someone's colour every visiting brother I have ever come across has always been welcomed with open arms, and has been treated as just that: a brother. So why do I say that the "not made to feel welcome" is partly (however minorly) true?

The thing is, we're not getting the message of what we're about out to everyone. Many black people see the points of those that don't particularly like Masonry that I mentioned earlier — and believe it, because we're not doing enough to show them why those anti-masons are wrong. People of all colours are welcome, in my lodges, in my provinces and in my country — we're just not letting them know that. That's not entirely our fault, though. As we're told expressly not to go out recruiting, and as we're told that potential members should come to us first, there's no 100% successful way of getting that message out. Many provinces, such as Berkshire, are now having Open Days (as I mentioned in a blog post last year) where we open up one of our temples and let anyone off the street come in, have a look around, have a cup of tea and a chat and ask as many questions as they want. These are wonderfully attended by anti-masons looking for proof of our "crimes" — most leave with a positive view on us.

At other times our Provincial Grand Master has been on the radio to discuss what Freemasonry is about, and to take calls on a phone in, that sort of thing. Nothing hugely out there, but it's all slowly getting the message out that we won't kill everyone's babies, and kidnap everyone's wives and girlfriends. With regard to the "ethnic statistics" I mentioned earlier, then, I can only conclude that it's just a symptom of the past — and certainly not an indicator of our future. On the whole, those attending PGL are wardens and above in their lodges — people that have been in the Craft for 10 years or more (I was only in attendance as my step-dad was getting one of those honours I mentioned, and because I weasel my way into anything I can). The roles of Steward, Inner Guard and Junior Deacon in the lodges I visit are increasingly swelled by non-white brethren, a fact I observe with much joy. In ten years time, we'll see a very different situation at Provincial Grand Lodge, and all lodges through out the province, and throughout the country.

My initial thoughts aside I then began to think a little bit more, about wht harmony and unity is, how they can be achieved, and whether or not we're actually missing out on these grand and possibly undefinable benefits. Bro Widow's son asked me to do this to provide "an international perspective" — a service I'm very happy to provide, but without being sure whether I'm the best man for the job! I started thinking about Masonic discord in England, or internationally. I can honestly say that with the odd very minor exception of someone not happy with their officer's role, by experience of Freemasonry in England, and in my lodges, is very different to the experiences I hear about on the web. Are my experiences that different to the average America? Well, I spoke to a few of my American friends that I met through various forums and networking sites such as Facebook, and came to the conclusion that: no, things weren't that different to the ordinary mason, in the ordinary lodge, in the ordinary town. So what is different? Well, I re-read the sentence that I just typed, and noted something very important: the Internet.

We're all, online, given a monitor and a keyboard behind which we can hide — speaking to chaps thousands of miles away it's very easy to forget that they, too, are in front of a monitor and keyboard — in fact, it's very easy to forget, at times, that they too are human beings with wants hopes and fears. The Internet is a great "leveller" — the only problem is that, at times, it reduces us all to a lower level, instead of elevating us all to a higher one. The Internet can be a very combative place — so every problem and disagreement we come across is immediately amplified (I've been very guilty at times of wading in unnecessarily) and every tongue-in-cheek remark is liable to be misinterpreted, and mulled over for days. So what can we do?

Immediately my mind was drawn back to my now finished (thank the Lord) law degree, and more specifically my studies of criminology. Criminology, for the purposes of my course, was the study of the criminal mind, along with a philosophical discussion of the criminal law, on top of debates about freedoms, duties, the justifications for punishment — basically everything upto and around, but not including, the criminal law. One of my first lectures was the classical justification for punishment. In this we are told that punishment is used for many reasons, to reform offenders, as a deterrent, to incapacitate offenders — along with many others.

The one that jumped into my mind on this occasion was the facility that punishment provides as a form of denunciation, and to provide society-wide cohesion. Effectively, by providing society with a negative yard-stick, by denunciating certain people and actions as "bad" we are reinforcing good behaviour. But, not only are we doing that, but, if you think about it, everyone wants to be thought of as good. Deep down we all want to "fit in." Deep down, we all need a "bad guy": someone to aim our collective rage at, someone to be made an example of. We love films where the good guys win — we feel like we are on their side — their victories become our victories, their lows are our lows, their highs are our highs. By having a shared negative, by having a collective struggle, society is brought together — "harmony" and "unity" are created.

So, back to my title — the "Blitz Spirit." During the 2nd World War, London was bombed to buggery, but the people got together, and London became a united city. The legendary blitz spirit was born — we had a common enemy, and we would fight them, and we would win. After the bombings of the 7th July, that spirit arose again, but only for a very short while before people carried on with their lives and their petty arguments again. Everyone needs a villain.

In Freemasonry we have no enemy — there is no collective bad guy, there's nothing nasty that we, as a group, aim at. Instead, we all have positive goals and aspirations to aim towards — a lodge raising a certain sum of money together for a certain project, that sort of thing. Ten Pounds would say that if your lodge has ever had a disagreement with your grand master, for a month or two your lodge has never been closer — everyone has a collective negative target, that sort of thing. When everyone's just ticking along nicely, with past masters just rotating through the chairs (as we are seeing far too often in England) small bickering and arguments break out, over absolutely nothing — and the next thing you know, someone has resigned from the lodge. It's a great shame.

But more than that though, the "struggle" of Freemasonry is not an external struggle — it is an internal struggle with oneself struggling against his inner demons — to control his passions, to lead a better, more moral life. When we are only fighting ourselves, it is very easy to get wrapped up in that struggle — and so become disjointed from our brothers (who all have their own private battles).

When those private battles project themselves onto the Internet, as I said earlier, because of differences in custom, of understanding, of all sorts, it's very easy to see why everything suddenly can blow up in the way it does. I suppose I'm quite lucky in that the readership of The Chequered Carpet is still very small, and so I don't see the blogwars that we so often see on The Burning Taper — but I feel immensely privileged to have somewhere like the BT that I can come and see the views of my brethren from across the pond, and all over the world.

I would crave one thing though — one thing that could never, ever, be attained — there will be arguments online. Lots of them. There will be disagreements. Lots of them. People will fly off the handle and (at times) become parodies of themselves. As I'm sure my other brothers in this project have said, people are very different online to who they are in person. That is no fault of that person — it's a fault of the Internet. By putting a screen name up, or whatever, or just seeing someone's whole personality as words on a screen, we immediately dehumanise them. And we become angry at the things they say, because we don't understand them, and (at times) we reply with certain levels of bile and vitriol. No one, hopefully, is blaming us or judging us when we do this — but I know we'd all love it if we could stop. We just can't.

So, here's my plea: when you read something that you disagree with, feel free to let the red mist descend, and post some glib comment in return — be angry at the internet persona, disagree with and ridicule the nickname — but try your best to remember that behind that nickname lies a real person. A real, breathing person. Do not dislike that person — you have never met them. To steal a quote you often hear on very bad reality TV shows: "Don't hate the player, hate the game."

— Bro. Ben Rowe

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Massachusetts Grand Lodge's 275th anniversary draws to a close

The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts is finishing up its year-long celebration of its 275th anniversary.

W. Bro. Henry Pierce is a Mason from Amicable Lodge in Cambridge, Mass. He sent these photos to share with you some of the things that have been going on in Massachusetts this year.

The Grand Lodge sponsored "Masonic Night" at a Brockton Rox minor league baseball game. Ben Franklin bobble-heads were given out to the first 1,000 fans through the gate.

There are also photos here of various pieces of literature circulated during the year, of a 275th anniversary paper apron used during the Grand Lodge Annual Communication, and a collection of pins from both the grand lodge and one given by visiting brethren from Brazil.

Click on the images for larger views.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Freemasonry: One journey, many paths

I present to you the sixth in a series of essays written by Masonic bloggers on the topic of Masonic harmony, unity and discord. This one is by Bro. Silence Dogood, publisher of The Middle Chamber. My thanks go out to Bro. Dogood and to all those who are participating.

One Journey, Many Paths
by Bro. Silence Dogood

There have been few Masons that I have had such a fundamental disagreement with as the late Brother Theron Dunn. Brother Dunn epitomized much of what I couldn't stand in mainstream Masonry: he was an ardent supporter of anything his Grand Lodge did and didn't see any need for improvement in the organization. I found his articles smug and condescending and I regularly checked his blog so that I could quickly post a scathing rebuttal to anything that he wrote. But nothing irritated me more than the day he posted a comment on my blog in reference to my invitation for guest articles of any viewpoint, when he actually doubted my willingness to post an article in disagreement with my own views.

So I asked him to write a guest editorial for The Chamber. "Take that," I thought.

Brother Dunn did produce an article and when I read it, I was very surprised. It was a well written analysis with which I actually agreed. Later, when I invited my readers to chat with me via Yahoo! Messenger, Brother Dunn was one of the first Brothers to take me up on my offer.

We had a nice conversation for about a half hour. We discussed Masonry, politics, our careers, and some of our future goals. We had to end the conversation when he received a phone call from his wife and we said good bye. When I logged off, I thought to myself "I really like this guy." Little did I know that it would be the last time I chatted with him. Brother Dunn became ill and passed away before we had another chance to talk. My heart felt great sadness for the loss of a Brother that I never knew. However, I found consolation in the fact that when we had last communicated, we met upon the level and parted upon the square as Brothers.

That is true Masonic harmony.

There seems to be a misconception, among some, that Masons cannot have differing opinions. There is a sense in many Masonic assemblies that there is only one correct way to do things and only one consensus that may be developed. However, dissent is at the very heart of Masonic ideals. In the lecture of the Entered Apprentice degree, we are taught that "Masonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion." This is what makes Masonry so special. Unlike other organizations, Masonry accepts men of all political, religious, and philosophical convictions and unites them as Brothers. Masonry accentuates the concept of one journey, many paths. It promotes the journey towards enlightenment, while accepting that many paths may lead to that ultimate goal.

Unfortunately, too many Masonic assemblies no longer function by this concept. Masonry has become an organization where groupthink and yes-men are rewarded and those who think outside of the box are ignored. The Brothers who bring fresh ideas into lodge have not been allowed to bring there ideas to fruition and soon lost interest and stopped darkening our doors. Of course, this has always occurred due to the noble desire to not offend our older Brethren who have run the organization their way for many years. The last thing that we want to do is make these Brothers feel obsolete or that we don't appreciate their procedures, but the truth is that society is evolving and Masonry must continue to evolve with it.

Would it hurt to listen to the minority with a dissenting opinion? Would the fraternity cease to exist if we honestly tried something new? The answer is a simple "No." If we heed the advice of men with new ideas and implement them into the lodge we can at least observe what affect they have. We can learn from everyone's opinion, whether their idea is successful or not. As Masons, we are supposed to seek light and one of the best ways to do that is listen to the opinions of all of our Brethren.

So where does this leave the Masons who frequent the Masonic Blogosphere? The e-Masons that are able to make any comments they choose while hiding behind a false moniker. As Masons, we should be able to read the opinions of others without getting our feathers ruffled. We can have our disagreements, but they should be discussed with intelligence and courtesy. Name calling and the degrading tinkling contests which occasionally break out on the internet are unbecoming of the fraternity and do nothing to further Masonry.

The internet is an outlet for those with ideas to communicate them to other Masons. It is a forum for those concerned with the state of affairs in their lodge to vent their frustrations. It is also a place for those excited about the current events in their lodge to proclaim their pride in the fraternity. Who are we to degrade a Brother for communicating any of these things to us through the Blogosphere? Many of us are just looking for an attentive ear and an instructive tongue. Perhaps much could be gained from considering a Brother's motivation for his comments before denouncing his opinion. Perhaps we could benefit from a little more tolerance.

Regardless of our differences, Masons should always meet upon the level, act by the plumb, and part upon the square. Whether it is in lodge, on the street, or on the internet, we can all benefit from a little more brotherly love for one another. In my case with Brother Theron Dunn, I don't know how I would have felt had we never leveled with one another. We must always remember that we are all Brothers, regardless of opinion.

Masonry is one journey with many paths.

— Bro. Silence Dogood

Image: The late Bro. Theron Dunn

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Drunk driver charged with battery on police officer for farting

As if West Virginia hasn't already embarrassed itself with the friction that has developed between Masonic factions, with brother suing brother, today the state is in the headlines over an "offended" South Charleston police officer who has charged a drunk driver he was fingerprinting with the crime of battery, for "passing gas on" him.

Yep. Farting is now considered battery.

n. the actual intentional striking of someone, with intent to harm, or in a "rude and insolent manner" even if the injury is slight. Negligent or careless unintentional contact is not battery no matter how great the harm. Battery is a crime and also the basis for a lawsuit as a civil wrong if there is damage. It is often coupled with "assault" (which does not require actual touching) in "assault and battery."
Image: Jose Cruz, the alleged Farting Terrorist
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What's this $#!+ about Masonic harmony?

This is the fifth in a series of guest essays by Masonic bloggers. This one is from Bro. John Ratcliff, publisher of the self-titled John Ratcliff's Blog.

My thanks go out to Bro. John and to all who are participating in this project.

— W.S.

What's this $#!+ about Masonic Harmony?
by Bro. John Ratcliff

I was asked by "The Widow's Son" to write a guest editorial on the topic of, so called, "Masonic harmony." I don't really mean to go off on a rant, but I have to be frank when I say that this seriously pisses me off!! I mean, the absolute nerve of this guy! It just blows me away! He doesn't even use his real name! "The Widow's Son" might as well call himself "The Masonic Shit Disturber" if you ask me. And, what kind of "Brother" is this guy anyway? Brother, my ass. I have never seen him in any lodge I've ever been in. He lives in one of those jurisdictions that conducts bizarre rituals and would hardly be considered "regular" by anyone I have ever associated with.

What really gets my goat about this "request" (and it really came more in the form of a demand) is that I haven't had time to write a blog post on my own website in ages but this joker thinks I have nothing better to do then compose prose for his backwater blog. It just steams me to have to deal with this outrageous individual. He is demanding, self centered, and absolutely nothing but trouble.

Nevertheless, this evening, it just so happens that I have a little bit of free time on my fingers so I've decided to go ahead and respond. I suppose it doesn't ultimately matter which soapbox I stand on to voice my opinion on this topic, so I will shout from the high hills and low vales of The Burning Taper in a pathetic attempt to reveal the real truth about Masonic harmony.

And what is the truth about Masonic harmony? The truth is that every Freemason I know, every Freemason I have ever met, and every Freemason I have interacted with has been so harmonious that being in their presence has been like a soothing balm on a troubled soul.

In point of fact, when in the presence of the author of The Burning Taper I felt a bond of harmony which quickly seemed like it would become a true and abiding friendship. Now how did the bastard accomplish this feat? It must have been some sort of trick.

Well, it turns out that it was a trick. The trick was that we actually met and spoke upon the level. The trick is, in fact the trick which has been foisted upon all of us, is the complete artificiality of Internet communication.

I don't know what it is about our psychology that makes us behave like teenage chimpanzees tossing shit at each other when we "converse" online but, the fact of the matter is that this is exactly what we do. The "art of writing" has devolved into the "art of ranting" and the "art of personal attack" when transformed from pen and ink to instant electronic communication.

Sure, there is a problem of Masonic harmony, but I believe that problem is restricted, and shaped, primarily by the medium of online communication. Is there really such major discord in your local lodge? I doubt that very seriously or you wouldn't bother to show up. I attend a ridiculous number of lodge meetings every year, and when you add in Installations, Rainbow Girl meetings, DeMolay meetings, and special events, I probably average more than a couple of meetings each week the entire year round.

Would I be so involved and engaged if the experience was full of discord? Of course not, who would? The primary reason I attend meetings which, to be frank, might best be described as boring and repetitive, is due to the fact that participating in a shared ritual is highly harmonious and ridiculously relaxing. I have experienced no arguments, or raised voices, nor political or religious debate, in all of the years I have attended a vast number of Masonic events.

I strongly suspect the same is true for the vast majority of the members of the Masonic fraternity across all jurisdictions, as I simply cannot imagine why anyone would attend a meeting if it were otherwise.

In my opinion there is no real problem of Masonic harmony within the lodge itself. And, while I am sure there are specific lodges which do suffer from discord (I have heard stories) I am also sure that those lodges cease to exist fairly quickly (the conclusion of most of those stories I have heard).

A functioning lodge is almost by definition a harmonious one. Unfortunately, the collection of Internet gathering places for Freemasons from jurisdictions far and wide most certainly does not function as any sort of "lodge." They instead operate as dysfunctional vehicles for destructive dialectic; subject to the common scourge of flames, trolls, and virulent exchanges which seemingly infect all Internet discourse.

The opening paragraph of this editorial made intentional use of the techniques of "rant" and "flame" to make a point. In the past, I myself have taken issue with our humble host. On occasion I have taken "The Widow's Son" to task for focusing on negative stories about the Fraternity without a corresponding balance towards the positive. One might imagine heated and emotional exchanges as fevered fingers stroking keyboards with a pounding pace try to win the dialectic struggle. And, while this could have been the outcome, instead, quite something else happened instead.

On a cross country trip from Saint Louis, Missouri to Cape Canaveral, Florida, I drove a few hours out of my way to meet with the author of this blog. In perfect Masonic harmony we met and shared our lives, our stories, and our Masonic experiences building a bond of friendship that can only be constructed through direct personal contact.

And, rest assured, Internet communications is quite impersonal indeed. Recently, on my own blog, I have made a series of posts about an odd young man who lives in Thailand and hosts a virulent anti-Masonic conspiracy website. During this process some exchanges have occurred which were anything but harmonious in their tone and little education or understanding resulted from it. Nevertheless, I am quite confident that were we to meet, over a couple of beers or just relaxing with tea in the living room, we would probably have an incredibly entertaining and enlightening exchange filled with good humor and warm thoughts. How could we not, we share far too many interests in common to do otherwise.

Not that long ago I was a guest on a podcast for a Masonic themed conspiracy radio show and that interview was entirely harmonious from beginning to end as basic etiquette took the place of the rants and raves of online verbiage. As an experiment, on the same day, I called into a conspiracy talk show where the host was ranting about some of the most outlandish topics imaginable yet still, while introducing myself as a Freemason, we had a pleasant, polite, and often humorous exchange.

The simple fact of the matter is that Internet communications, especially in the form of blog comments and message forums, is so low, so foul, so full of discord, that those engaging in it should make a great effort to divorce themselves from it emotionally. Instead retain a good sense of humor and try to remember that "arguing" on the Internet carries about as much weight and seriousness as an episode of H.R. Puff'n Stuff.

The next time you are tempted into an unharmonious online argument with a Masonic brother, maybe you should instead try to call him on the telephone and carry on a civilized conversation where the basic rules of etiquette should help shape the tone? Better yet, try to meet in person at a bar or restaurant for lunch.

Now, to be fair, I must admit that I myself quite often abuse Internet communications with great abandon, glee, and self-driven purpose. As a form of entertainment I rant, rave, and argue for my own juvenile amusement. That said, I am fully aware at all times that I am engaging in a childish pursuit and, if I ever find myself taking any of it too seriously, I send myself my own personal cease and desist order.

Perhaps this topic of Masonic harmony would best be served in another forum. Maybe we can get some of those Internet brethren involved in these high octane exchanges to participate in a forum that requires a modicum of civilized and even mediated discourse. I strongly suspect that the entire tone of the conversation would change rather dramatically and, quite possibly, some real exchanges of shared understanding on disparate points of view might take place.

Or, maybe you are all just a bunch of stinking idiots.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Enlightened harmony and discord

This is the fourth in a series of guest essays by well-known Masonic bloggers. This one is by Bro. Tom Accuosti of the Tao of Masonry. My thanks to each of you who is participating.

Enlightened Harmony and Discord
by Bro. Tom Accuosti

I'm one of those people that used to be a rarity in our Craft, but are becoming more numerous. I did not join the fraternity because an older, respected relative was a member. I do not have any long family tree of Masons, nor was I surrounded by them when I was a child. Indeed, all I remember when I was younger was driving by the lodge in the center of Waterbury, Conn, seeing the symbols on the front, and asking about them several times. Neither my parents nor grandparents could tell me anything about them. I didn't think about the Freemasons until I was in my late teens and would run across references to them in various books on the occult and esoteric. When I was in my 20s in the late 1970s, Freemasonry was at one of its low points with regard to new members and public activity, and again, my only awareness of them was due to books and articles on esoterica, occult, and in my new discovery of conspiracy theories.

By the time I was out of school, my impression of the Masons was mixed: They were kindly, older men who were usually well-respected in the community... but who were also on the lower rungs of the various mystic circles having to do with alchemy and esoteric spirituality. In my mind, one became a Mason, then eventually one went on to become a Rosicrucian, join the OTO, and perhaps go on to dabble in the Kabbalic traditions and some alchemical mysteries. This view was further bolstered by my having read Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum when I was in my 30s. My view of the Fraternity, in fact, didn't change until I joined in 2001. I had expected to find lodges full of men who were interested in intellectual discussions about philosophy, science, human nature, religion, and politics over a quiet cigar and a few fingers of single malt.

Right. But I'll leave that discussion for another time.

When I think about my previous conception of the Craft, I don't, as so many of we Americans tend to do, think about the Founding Fathers and the Revolutionary War. I think further back, to the early days of the Enlightenment period in which men were first learning about Natural Philosophy, and were busily making discoveries in chemistry, biology, physics, medicine, mechanics, and other natural sciences. I think about the men who, sometimes at risk to their lives and fortunes, traded and published this information, making it available for others, and hoping that they, themselves, would receive more materials and information with which to improve their own minds. Anonymously published treatises and public lectures all contributed to the growth of general scientific knowledge, and there is no doubt that society benefited by this. Hundreds, nay, thousands of men, many unknown to each other - many not even speaking a common language — were able, over the course of two centuries, to work together in order raise the level of society from a primarily agrarian culture to the Industrial Revolution.

That, my brothers, is harmony.

Did men disagree with each other? Of course they did — the history books on science are full of stories about how certain groups split off over seemingly small differences. One can read hundreds of stories about men who disagreed on topics ranging from the construction of molecules, to the nature of electric current, to the methods of determining geological ages, to the proper reconstruction of dinosaur bones. Some of these disagreements became bitter feuds, and if one wants to read some sad commentary on human nature, one need only read the biographies of some of these great thinkers who refused to change their own theories and beliefs, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

This, my brothers, is discord.

But amazingly, the little bit of discord did not derail the entire Enlightenment movement, nor did the discord cause society in general to abandon their principles and applications. In fact, society in general never even noticed many of the arguments and disagreements that took place between the learned men of the age; they were too busy reaping the benefits of better medicine and machinery.

If there is any lesson at all to be learned from this, it is that few people care about the petty squabbles, except the few people who happen to be embroiled in them. Those of us (and I'm including myself in this group) who dwell on the disagreements should once in a while remember to take a step back in order to place our disagreements in perspective.

— Bro. Tom Accuosti

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Monday, September 22, 2008

We're still living in the Crazy Years

I won't even pretend to understand (or care, for that matter) what this woman's real issue with Freemasonry is, but it's a hoot to read.

In a single email reprinted on a blog where she rants about the Masonic conspiracy against her, she invokes the late conspiracy nut William Cooper, Catholic priests, her "mafia lawyer," Hitler, the Thule Society, George Washington, the Rockefellers, the Illuminati, the IRS, the NSA, P2, ritual murder initiations, the U.N. flag, Shriner fezzes, 9/11, the Magna Carta, the Bohemian Grove, the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Islamic purge of Christians in 80 A.D., native Americans, and... then closes with a list of Bible verses.


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Are we Solomonic?

This is the third in a series of guest editorials by Masonic bloggers on the topic "Masonic Harmony, Unity and Discord." My thanks go out to Bro. Greg Stewart for this essay, and to all who are participating in this project.

Are we Solomonic?
By Greg Stewart, aka Masonic Traveler

What is Masonic Harmony?

In the tradition of Freemasonry, each of us undergoes a trial of initiation. In most modern traditions, that initiation illustrates the damage wrought at the blatant exhibition of unrestrained and unregulated passion. We witness first hand the results, which include reproach, shame, and death under the ever-watching eye of the Great Architect of the Universe. But the aspect of the initiation, ritual, and trials do not lead us to the wisdom of Solomon. We are not to be made perfect, nor capable of proclaiming our ability to be flawless. Rather, we are encouraged to find the means to bring us closer to that state, just as the man of whom we are said to be in emulation of. Still, as men, our passion can become unbridled, which reorients how we are perceived consequently effecting how our work is adjudged. Is this a fair means to assess by, or a result of the way in which the work was created?

No matter our position in seeking the divine, we in fact are not diefic. But, to seek that spark of our spirit, there must exist a degree of peace to quell the noise of our existence and harmonize with our surroundings. And, as above so too it follows below, if in a state of disharmony within our community there can be no means to connect with that divine resonance together as a community.

It is said that Solomon had that peace, and that Master Hiram practiced it, then so too is it incumbent for us, who are on this same philosophical path, to seek it.

Harmony, however, is difficult to achieve and necessitates a strong will to actualize. At times the interest of justice can seem to be ignored, while at others prudence may be forgotten. Even temperance is forsaken as a way to measure our tone. Further, we lack fortitude to weather the storms instead lashing out and asserting our individual will. To be harmonious requires discipline, which comes from dedicating ones self to the study of Masonry.

The act of being a Master Mason is not a rank title or privilege but a Solomonic-like mantle of self-discipline that necessitates our balance in polar opinion. In that balance we can achieve that harmonious state, and in that state can we then come closer to that divine perfection. The house of the great Architect requires that, and so too does the fraternity of its builders. And no matter the name of the order of builders, without harmony NO house of the adytum can be erected, let alone lived in. Not even by the Great Architect Himself.

So then, what is Masonic harmony? It is the peaceful construction of the Holy of Holies, not the admonition of how it should be built.

— Bro. Greg Stewart, aka Masonic Traveler

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Christian mag hidden under counter by Southern Baptist Convention stores for featuring cover-girl pastors

It's been a while since I have commented on the Southern Baptist Convention, but today's a good day to do so, it being Sunday and all.

In 2006, you may recall, the Southern Baptist Convention tried to bring back Alcohol Prohibition to the nation with a resolution calling for their membership to actively seek the enactment of legislation to ban alcohol manufacture, sales and consumption in America.

Today's story about the antics of the SBC cracked me up. I mean, LOL and LMAO and ROFL don't begin to describe how funny I found this article about trying to hide an "offensive" magazine because of its cover story.

Lifeway Christian Bookstores, owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, pulled this month's issue of Gospel Today magazine from their racks and hid it behind the counter because its cover featured the photos of five female Baptist pastors!

Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, which runs the stores for the Southern Baptist Convention, said, "It is contrary to what we believe."

The Southern Baptist Convention officially doesn't support women being pastors. Each member church retains autonomy, though, and a few churches — apparently five, including Decatur (Ga.) First Baptist — have ordained women to be their ministers.

The press is playing up the "pornographic" angle of hiding a magazine under the counter because it had women on its cover. It's hysterical, the lengths the Bizarro Baptist Cult will go to maintain and enforce their insane view of God, the Bible, and the world.

Inside the denomination — and Christianity in general — is a divide that makes Masonic discord and disagreements pale in comparison.

And Southern Baptists aren't even the most extreme of these extremists in a Cult Gone Wild. The fundamentalist arm of Christianity is truly wacko.

The website Jesus Christology gives kudos to Lifeway Christian Bookstores for pulling the Gospel Today magazine (a staple of Christendom for 20 years), but in the same sentence attacks Lifeway for carrying the "heresies not only of Rick Warren, but also oneness pentecostal prosperity doctrine word of faith T.D. Jakes." In the same paragraph, this nutball religious website also trashes Gov. Sarah Palin for not decrying homosexuality.

There's the countless wacko Christians who hate Freemasonry, though they know nothing about it. Here's a recent hatchet job on Masonry from In Jesus, where once again Albert Pike is quoted out of context, and a fictitious "33rd degree high-ranking Mason" tells the world that "Masonry claims to provide salvation without Jesus." It's fresh — posted in the past couple of days — yet it contains nothing new under the Sun. Just more of the same ol' anti-Masonic blather in the name of Jay-zus.

And then there's Rev. Fred Phelps and the "God Hates Fags" Christians of Westboro Baptist Church whom I referred to as "sick bastards" back in a 2007 article. My opinion hasn't changed.

Sorry... didn't mean to get on a roll against the entire Christ Cult. It's just too funny, the Southern Baptist bookstores banning a Christian magazine for "promoting" female pastors. Which of the Ten Commandments was it that said, "Be intolerant of your brothers and sisters in Christ who interpret the Bible differently"?

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Guest editorial -- The Ballot: Protector of Harmony

On Friday, I invited several Masonic bloggers to submit a guest editorial or essay on the topic of Masonic harmony, unity and discord. This is the second post in this series. This one is by South Carolina Freemason "The Palmetto Bug," who publishes The Masonic Line blog. My thanks goes out to him and to all the bloggers who participate in this series.

— W.S.

The Ballot: The Protector of Harmony
by The Palmetto Bug

In response to Widow's Son invitation for a guest essay I have agreed to wade into somewhat hostile territory in the hopes that his suggested exchange will at least provide a break from some of the petty sniping that has infiltrated our little Masonic oriented piece of the Internet.

Widow's Son posed the topic for the essays: Masonic harmony, unity, and discord. I'm going to stick with the harmony aspect of his suggestion since the absence of harmony automatically destroys unity and creates discord.

Whose harmony are we talking about? I submit that you must start at the Lodge level when discussing this word. Therefore, I'm talking about the Lodge's harmony. If harmony does not exist at the Lodge level then it cannot exist at the district level, the Grand Lodge level, or across Grand Jurisdictional lines.

Without harmony, all else will suffer or be nonexistent. Masonic education, charity, wholesome fellowship, and trust between Brothers will all become secondary and unimportant. The Senior Warden's comments during the opening and closing — at least in the ritual of most jurisdictions — allude to the importance of having harmony in the Lodge. Based on the Senior Warden's words, one could almost say that harmony should be the number one tenet of the Fraternity.

Now, we all know that one cannot make all of the people happy all of the time. With that said, what is a Lodge's greatest tool in preserving harmony? I say it is the ballot. The ballot is the tool, when used properly, that the Lodge employs to preserve its harmony. Please notice that I did not say "spread" harmony. The Fraternity is not currently in the business of spreading harmony. Though the spreading of harmony sounds like a laudable endeavor, it is an utopian ideal that is impossible to implement at this point. A Lodge is only in the business of preserving it own harmony. Attempts at the spreading of harmony would involve allowing just about anyone into the Fraternity and that would actually pose a risk to the existing harmony of a Lodge.

I'll close now by including a portion of a previously published piece of mine. The following was also used in as a Masonic education oral paper that I delivered to my Lodge. Hopefully this will help to illustrate the importance of the ballot and its impact on the harmony of a Lodge.
What is the "will of the Lodge?" More importantly, what is the Lodge?

The Lodge is all of its members... collectively and individually. The Three Musketeers would recognize what I am saying here. "Unus, pro omnibus, omnes pro uno (One for all, all for one)."

This relates directly to the process of electing new members to the Lodge. The creators of the secret, unanimous ballot knew what they were doing and they had it right when they created the system. They knew what some seem to have forgotten, which is that the Lodge is more important than the petitioner. The harmony of the Lodge is more important than the petitioner. Remember, the petitioner is not yet a Brother. He is not yet of the Lodge and he is just a profane who is seeking light. That may sound harsh, but it is the naked truth.

Now, let me speak on the reason the ballot must be unanimous, or nearly unanimous in certain Jurisdictions. The Lodge decides who becomes a member. Not a majority of the Lodge... but THE Lodge (I wish I could emphasize that even more). Remember the phrase, "All for one, one for all." The creators of the ballot system knew that the task of deciding on whether or not to admit new members was so important, and had such far-reaching implications, that it could not be left to the few or even to a majority. All of the members have to decide. The Lodge has to decide. Majority rule, though currently the best system for society, creates conflict. Unanimous rule, though utopian at this time for general society, creates harmony.

I'll now examine why the ballot is secret. Too easy. Why is your vote for the next President secret? See, even the profane have figured this one out. A voter or a balloter must have complete freedom to go with his conscience. Requiring him to divulge his vote or ballot and/or provide a reason for his decision can influence his action and, thereby, remove some of the freedom that a secret vote or ballot guarantees.

Are good men sometimes denied membership? Of course. It happens. You have to keep in mind, though, that the harmony of the Lodge trumps any perceived "rights" of the petitioner. Masonically speaking, the petitioner has no rights.
— The Palmetto Bug

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Bro. David Barrett, Civil War historian, passes away

A brother Georgia Freemason died on Friday.

I never met him. I'd never even heard of him. I'm sorry I didn't know him. It sounds like he was an interesting man.

Bro. David Barrett, 69, was well-known by thousands of metro Atlanta school children as "Soldier Man."

Called a "walking Civil War history lesson," Bro. Barrett spoke at elementary and middle schools throughout the area, and taught at the Gwinnett History Museum's Civil War Camp.

"He was interested in teaching them about the common life of the soldier," said his wife, Brenda Barrett. "He portrayed both sides. Lots of times he would do a Confederate soldier, then switch right over and do federal."

Bro. Barrett was a retired plumber. He was a member of Clarkston Masonic Lodge No. 492.

For the past 25 years, he had taken part in numerous Civil War re-enactments.

And now, just as we all will one day become, he is one of The Passersby on the road home.

Image: Bro. David Barrett

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Text of NC resolution recognizing Prince Hall

The text of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina's resolution recognizing North Carolina Prince Hall Masons was posted Friday on I'm re-posting it below.

The first comment in response to the posting was by South Carolina blogger Palmetto Bug, who posted the exact same words on the Mastermasons forum as he did here on The Taper in response to the news of Prince Hall recognition:

"The train wreck continues."

Here's the wording of the resolution, as reported by a NC brother on the forum:
Resolution of Mutual Recognition of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina and Its Jurisdictions, Inc. by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina

WHEREAS, The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina (hereinafter The Grand Lodge) desires to insure a continuing harmonious relationship between it and the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina and its Jurisdictions, Inc. (hereinafter The Prince Hall Grand Lodge); to provide for the successful coexistence of both Grand Lodges and to promote Masonry in general among all peoples; AND

WHEREAS, The Grand Lodge, for all the reasons set out in Brother James G. Martin’s statement to The Grand Lodge dated September 29, 2001, believes that it is altogether right and proper and in the best interests of Masonry everywhere and particularly in North Carolina that these two Grand Lodges exercising Masonic jurisdiction in this state mutually recognize each other while each retains its own autonomy and jurisdiction hereafter as heretofore; AND

WHEREAS, The Grand Lodge is satisfied that The Prince Hall Grand Lodge meets all Masonic requirements for recognition; AND

WHEREAS, The Grand Lodge desires to remain autonomous within its jurisdiction and to operate hereafter as heretofore with its own Grand Master and other Grand Lodge Officers, Constitution, By-Laws, Ritual, Rules and Regulations, and to retain its absolute and supreme sovereignty over its own Subordinate Lodges and Membership; AND

WHEREAS, The Grand Lodge is advised that The Prince Hall Grand Lodge entertains the same desires and possesses the same satisfaction with regard to recognition by it of The Grand Lodge and desires that both Grand Lodges mutually recognize each other as duly constituted Masonic Grand Lodges; AND

WHEREAS, The Grand Lodge is advised that The Prince Hall Grand Lodge at its Annual Communication in 2004 passed a resolution extending fraternal recognition to The Grand Lodge in the same manner and on the same terms as the present resolution,


1. It hereby extends fraternal recognition to The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina and Its Jurisdictions, Inc., as a duly constituted Masonic Grand Lodge;

2. It will remain autonomous within its jurisdiction and will operate hereafter as heretofore with its own Grand Master and other Grand Lodge Officers, Constitution, ByLaws, Ritual, Rules and Regulations and will retain its absolute and supreme sovereignty over its own Subordinate Lodges and Membership.
The front page of the website of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina proudly tells the world that "The mission of Freemasonry in North Carolina is to raise the moral, social, intellectual, and spiritual conscience of society by teaching the ancient and enduring philosophical tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth, which are expressed outwardly through service to God, family, country, and self under the Fatherhood of God within the Brotherhood of Man."

Congratulations and kudos, North Carolina Grand Lodge. It looks like you're finally practicing the brotherly love that you've been preaching.

Well, except for those 328 North Carolina Masons who voted against the resolution and then stomped out in a mass Exodus when they lost the vote.

Update, Sunday, Sept. 21: Here's a link to a story in Sunday's News-Observer about the Masonic recognition between mainstream and Prince Hall Masons, which includes a bit about the friendship that has developed between the Grand Master of the Prince Hall Masons and a Past Grand Master of the white Masonic group.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

'If Masonry were perfect, what would we have left to do?'

Earlier this week I was talking on the phone with my friend and brother Don Tansey, publisher of the excellent Masonic blog Movable Jewel. We were discussing the current state of the comments section of The Burning Taper, where a "non-civil war" continues to rage between Masons from different jurisdictions, arguing about what I, at least, generally consider petty differences, but what they seem to think of as massive walls and gulfs between them.

I asked Bro. Don to write a guest editorial about the meaning of harmony within Freemasonry, using as a springboard the extreme non-harmony we've seen in the comments section of several articles on The Taper lately. Bro. Don's non-participation in commenting on various Taper articles has been noticed, and his often wise input has been missed. He told me that while he has continued to read the articles, he did not want to be caught up in the negativity of the comments section in recent months.

After receiving Bro. Don's excellent editorial below, I asked several other Masonic bloggers if they would also submit editorials of their own, with the suggested topic of "Masonic harmony, unity and discord."

This begins a series of guest editorials from Masonic bloggers, posted here in the order they are sent to me.

My thanks to my Masonic blogging brothers for their input and assistance, and for their continued contributions to Freemasonry with their own blogs.

— W.S.

If Masonry were Perfect, What Would We have Left to Do?
by Bro. Don Tansey

The following editorial does not reflect the official position of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of the State of Connecticut or any other Masonic body. They are the opinions of an individual Brother.

When the Widow's Son suggested that I write a guest editorial about not reading or participating here for The Burning Taper, I agreed with some trepidation. After all, with the recent activity here, I believed I would be placing myself "in the line of fire," as it were.

Before going further, let me dispense with a few formalities first. For those who would discount my opinions because I usually use the nom de guerre "Traveling Man" I will give my real name and Lodge affiliation. My name is Don Tansey and my Mother Lodge is St. John's Lodge #2 A.F.& A.M. in the Grand Jurisdiction of Connecticut. I am also a Research Member and the Senior Warden of The Philosophic Lodge of Research and a member of the Grand Lodge Committee For Masonic Education in the same jurisdiction.

I generally post under a pseudonym because I value my privacy. If anyone wishes to question why I place such a high value on my privacy, may I suggest doing a Google search on Rebecca Schaffer.

Upon reflection, I decided to write this piece because I really don't read much of this blog anymore. There has been more heat than light here recently, and while the articles published provide information I would have difficulty unearthing myself due to time and current familial constraints, the comments on these articles have left me cold.

Let me also state for the record that I refuse to be drawn into the various arguments that have occurred here. I prefer to take my cue from Marcus Aurelius:
From my tutor: not to be a Green or a Blue partisan at the races, or a supporter of the lightly armed or heavily armed gladiators at the Circus; endurance and frugality; to do one's own work and not be a busybody: not to welcome slanderous gossip.(1)
As for being a busybody, remember, I was invited to write this.

Some here have taken umbrage at the number of articles which highlight the misdeeds of Masons. They believe that this casts the Fraternity in a negative light.

There are others who cite these same misdeeds as evidence that the Fraternity as a whole, in all Grand Jurisdictions of the United States is, down to the very last Brother, corrupt and morally bankrupt.

To members of both of these groups, allow me to employ the words of Carl Claudy, (through the mouth of the Old Tiler):
"Yes, Masonry failed to make an impression on these men to suit you, even as Masonry has failed to make an impression on you to suit me!" snapped the Old Tiler. "That last remark you made was an unadulterated scandal! Does Masonry teach you to talk scandal? But never mind that! Let me dig a few weeds out of the scrubby, ill-tended, and unwatered garden you miscall your mind and see if we can't get it ready to grow one straight thought!

"I know Jones. He is a member of the city club, the country club, Dr. Parkin's church, and a luncheon club. Neither church nor luncheon club teach deception or foster lies. Both instruct in morality, one by precept, the other by practice. By what right do you blame Masonry for Jones' failure to tell the truth, any more than the church or the luncheon club? Is Jones' mother to blame because she didn't teach her boy never to tell a lie? How about his Sunday School teacher and his wife? Are they to blame? If not, why is Masonry to blame?

"Roberts has been accused of forgery. I don't know whether he is guilty or not. Williamson seems to have had some real justification for feeling enmity toward his doctor, although nothing justifies murder, of course. Burton may be a sinner or sinned against... I don't know. As for Larson, it will take more than your whispers of scandal to make me believe ill of a brother until I know something.

"But let us suppose Roberts a forger, Williamson a murderer, Burton a Don Juan. All these men grew up, went to school, got out in the world, joined clubs, societies, orders, became Masons, members of a church.... Why pick on Masonry as the failure when these men go wrong? Is it just? If the church of God can't keep a man straight how can Masonry be expected to?

"It is rankly unjust to blame Christ for the failures of those who profess to follow Him. Was it Christ's fault that Peter denied Him and Judas betrayed Him? Was it the fault of the religion they professed? Or was it the fault of the man, the character, the up-bringing, the times?

"Men fail, and fall, and rise and try again... or fall and stay in the mud. To those who rise Masonry has a helping hand to extend. To those who fail and stay fallen, she has charity. Not hers the fault that humanity is frail. She holds the torch; if they close their eyes to its radiance and refuse to see the narrow path that the torch illumines, will you blame the torch?

"Masonry does not fail men. Men fail Masonry. Masonry has the teachings, the thought, the ennobling influence, the example to set, the vision to show those who have eyes to see. If they close their hearts to the ennobling influence, will not profit by the example and shut their eyes to the vision, is that the fault of Masonry?

"You, my brother, have just talked scandal without proof; a whispered slander against the good name of a Mason. Has Masonry failed with you that it has not taught you tolerance, brotherly love, reticence, charity of thought? Or is the failure in you as it may be within these men you mention?"(2)
I submit to the readership of this blog that it is Masons who have failed, not Masonry. I further submit to the readership of this blog that Freemasonry is a human construct. As good, as venerable as it is — by the its very nature as a human construct it is imperfect and that to expect perfection from it flies in the face of reason. If Masonry were perfect, what work would there be for us to do?

I can envision the rebuttals already: "This blog publishes allegations! That contradicts what you wrote!"

Well, does this blog make those allegations or does it report the fact that allegations have been made? For any allegations that have been made, are there proven facts that refute them? If there are, by all means respond.

"But {insert name here} did/wrote/said {insert bone of contention here}!"

I would reply that if this is the case and you are completely consumed by the matter; you have allowed someone to fashion a prison cell for you that you have cheerfully entered, locked, and discarded the key for. Such a person, Mason or not, could hardly claim to be "free."

To quote another of my favorite works: "'Well, you asked for it,' I said. 'If your happiness depends upon what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem.'"(3)

I imagine the reply to that would be, "But {insert name} did {insert action} to a Brother in {insert jurisdiction} and that can't be allowed to stand!" In such a case there are methods available to redress wrongs. There are also ways to employ those methods that do not depend on vitriol, bitterness, or ad hominem attacks disguised as biting sarcasm.

I can anticipate the reply that "I tried all the methods available to me and I still did not get justice! What about that?! WHAT ABOUT ME?!!!" I would say that there exist methods to seek justice that do not rely on base language and ad hominem attack. Public opinion can be courted in such a way as to win support and right a wrong. I have always believed that Truth armed with the dedication to see it made known can right almost any wrong.

I cannot imagine the high minded individuals we so often cite as role models resorting to long diatribes filled with invective that so often characterize the exchanges here. When I turn to the public utterances and writings of Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and many others, I find examples of the English language used to stir emotion, motivate action, incite thought and cause one to stop and reflect. By and large I find little in the way of ad hominem attack or vulgarity. They stand in very sharp contrast to the material I find here.

I understand that as Masons, we are taught to control our passions — not eliminate them. But, I believe that impassioned debate should be characterized by both emotion and reason. I see no need for the level of debate to deteriorate into personal attack. Is it really to much to ask members of a supposedly civilized society to make the case for their point of view employing logic, a degree of passion that does not exceed the boundaries of polite society, and an adherence to fact?

Perhaps it is. I fully expect my words to be picked apart. It is characteristic of the times. In both the public and private arena there is the total commitment to being right. Not only to be right for one's self and maintain one's internal consistency; but to be right for all. I expect that debate over the issues that affect Freemasonry to be contested here and elsewhere as they have been. In short, I believe I will be either ignored or disparaged because so many are so firmly committed to being right. But, I can dream and hope that the dialogue in the on-line Masonic community will elevate itself to a higher plane. A level of discussion and debate that those characters in history that we admire would be proud to claim as originating from a Brother Mason, even if they wouldn't agree with it.

Recent postings here, for the most part, do not give me much cause for hope. If they continue as they have then I like so many storied aficionados of Playboy have said, will,"only read it for the articles."


(1) The Meditations , Marcus Aurelius, Translated by G.M.A. Grube, Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis IN, p.3

(2) Old Tiler Talks, Carl H. Claudy

(3) Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, Richard Bach, Dell, p.96

— Bro. Don Tansey

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