Thursday, May 31, 2007

Brother Eugenius Philalethes sendeth greeting

Robert Samber (1682-1745) was an English freemason, author and prolific translator.

He is perhaps best known for his 1729 translations from the French of Charles Perrault's Histories and Tales of Long Ago, with Morals, which later became known as Tales of Mother Goose, though Mother Goose does not appear in the book. Rather, the book is a compilation of fairy tales and fables we know today as "Sleeping Beauty," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Cinderella," "Puss in Boots," and other "children's" stories. Artwork of an old crone, or witch, appeared on the frontispiece of the book, and became known as Mother Goose. (The rhymes we today call Mother Goose rhymes were of later English derivation, and then attributed to the now well-known Mother Goose.)

The wife-killing Turk called "Bluebeard" also made his English debut in this book translated by Samber, in a story titled "Blue Beard, or the Effects of Female Curiosity." The character of Bluebeard later appears in the works of Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackaray.

Samber also translated In Praise of Drunkenness, by Albert-Henri de Sallengre. The translator (Samber) is referenced in the book as a "man of honour (a Freemason)." The subtitle of the book was "Wherein is authentically, and most evidently proved, the necessity of frequently getting drunk; and, that the practice of getting drunk is most ancient, primitive, and catholic."

In Praise of Drunkenness contains several hints at Masonic rituals then in use in England.

Samber wrote several volumes of "dramatic" and "narrative" poetry in his native English. He also translated scholarly treatises, including his 1718 English translation about the making of eunuchs to provide singers for operas, Eunuchism Display’d, of Charles Ancillon’s 1707 Traité des Eunuchs.

Under his pen name Eugenius Philalethes, Jun. [the original Eugenius Philalethes was the pseudonym of alchemist Thomas Vaughan (1622-1666), who is believed to have been the head of the Rosicrucian Order], he wrote the 1721 Treatise on the Plague, where he gives instructions for preventing the plague. He tells what apparel to wear, how to protect one's home, and gives instructions on diet, antidotes and medicine. Treatise on the Plague was dedicated to the Duke of Montague, who was then Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of London. The vocabulary of the book strongly hints that Samber was well-versed in hermetic teachings.

In 1721, Roger Greaves paid him to translate La Motte's fables as One Hundred New Court Fables.

In 1724 Samber translated Venus in the Cloister: or, The Nun in Her Smock, written by either Jean Barrin or Francois de Chavigny de la Bretonniere, under the pen name L'Abbe du Prat, for printer Edmund Curll. The book described the translator as "a man of honour." In 1725, Edmund Curll was prosecuted for publishing the book, which was considered pornographic, but not before Samber translated Chinese Tales: Or, The Wonderful Adventures of the Mandarine Fum-Hoam for him.

Lest you think Robert Samber was universally considered a "man of honor," I offer this passage from J. M. Blom's modern-day scholarly paper called "A German Jesuit and His Anglican Readers: The Case of Jeremiah Drexelius," in which Samber's one-paragraph mention plays little part except perhaps as way to pad out Blom's otherwise dry survey of the history of British publishing:
"He [Samber] went to the English College Rome in 1705, but left there a year later to enter upon a very chequered life as hack writer, renegade Freemason, renegade Catholic and pornographer. He exploited his masonic connections in order to make money by first courting the favour of his wealthier brethren and by later ridiculing them. He made use of his Catholic background and education in a variety of ways; his translation of Roma Illustrata testifies to his knowledge of Rome and of Catholic art; his adaptation of Drexel to his knowledge of Catholic devotional stuff and its attraction among English non-Catholics; and his translation of Venus in the Cloister to his shrewd eye for the contemporary interest in smutty stories about the secrets of the convent. It is a nice irony that his role in Edmund Curll's publication of the latter book is Samber's only literary activity that has been noticed in the 20th century."
The Courtier Written in Italian, by Count Castiglione, was translated into English by Samber in 1724.

Bro. David Stevenson, in his excellent paper on James Anderson, the author of Anderson's Constitutions, tells of a time when Samber was present at, and later wrote about, a Grand Lodge dinner in 1722. The Grand Lodge had tried to avoid political schism by installing officers of both supporters loyal to England and those loyal to the exiled James III. Political discussions were banned, but the band tried to "stage a coup." Bro. Stevenson writes:
In 1722-23 Grand Lodge Freemasonry avoided political schism by accepting the need for a degree of political diversity among masons in appointments to office — even though politics could not be discussed. But though harmony was maintained, if the satirical account of the 1722 feast at which [the Duke of] Wharton [a Tory] became Grand Master is to be believed, political tensions did surface. It was a good dinner, Robert Samber (who was present) allows, though how "demolishing huge Walls of Venison Pastry" "after a very disedifying Manner" contributed to "building up a Spiritual House" he did not know. Politics and religion were not discussed, as the masons seemed to be following the advice of "that Author" (a reference to Anderson, whose Constitutions had been published by the time Samber wrote). But at one point the band had begun to play "Let the King enjoy his own again," a popular Jacobite (and thus seditious) tune. The Tories were getting cheeky — talking politics might be banned, but music could make a political point. The band was "immediately reprimanded by a Person of great Gravity and Science," which surely means Desaguliers. After that, Hanoverian decorum was restored — and indeed emphasized. The bottle went merrily about and toasts were made to king, royal family, and the established "Churches" (thus carefully maintaining a British dimension by recognizing that England and Scotland had different establishments). Other toasts were drunk to prosperity to Old England "under the present Administration," and "Love, Liberty, and Science," an interesting trio.
Of prime interest to us is Robert Samber's dedicatory preface to his translation of the 1715 book Long Livers, by Frenchman De Longeville Harcouet, published in England in 1722. Samber wrote the preface under his pseudonym Eugenius Philalethes, Jun. His wording indicates again his intimate knowledge of hermetic teachings, and gives indication that these teachings were a part of Masonic instruction of the time.

Samber says Freemasonry belongs to "an uninterrupted Tradition" and that individual freemasons are "living stones built [into] a spiritual house," "a chosen Generation, a royal Priesthood" as well as "imprisoned... exiled Children" and "Sons of Science..." who are illuminated with the sublimest Mysteries and profoundest secrets."

For your further illumination, here is Bro. Samber's complete dedicatory preface to Long Livers:

To the
Grand Master, Masters, Wardens and Brethren
Of the
Most Ancient and Most Honourable Fraternity of the Free
Great Britain and Ireland,
Brother Eugenius Philalethes
Sendeth Greeting.

Men, Brethren,

I address myself to you after this Manner, because it is the true Language of the Brotherhood, and which the primitive Christian Brethren, as well as those who were from the Beginning, made use of, as we learn from the holy Scriptures, and an uninterrupted Tradition.

I present you with the following Sheets, as belonging more properly to you than any else. By what I here say, those of you who are not worthy to look behind the Veil, may find not disagreeable or unprofitable Entertainment: and those who are so happy as to have greater Light, will discover under these Shadows somewhat truly great and noble, and worthy the serious Attention of a Genius the most elevated and sublime: The Spiritual Celestial Cube, the only true, solid and the immoveable Basis and Foundation of all Knowledge, Peace and Happiness.

I therefore, my dearest, Brethren, greet you most heartily, and am glad of this Opportunity to rejoice with you, inasmuch as it hath pleased the Almighty, One Eternal, Unalterable God, to send out his Light, and his Truth, and his vivifying Spirit, whereby the Brotherhood begins to revive again in this our Isle, and Princes seek to be of this sacred Society, which has been from the beginning, and always shall be; the Gates of Hell shall never prevail against it, but it shall continue while the Sun and Moon endureth, and till the general Consummation of all Things; for since God, my dearest Brethren, is of us, who can be against us?

This being so, I shall speak to you a few Words on this important Subject; and perhaps I am the first that ever spoke to you after this manner. I shall, as briefly as I can, present you with a true and faithful Mirrour, a Mirrour which will not, which cannot flatter (Flattery be eternally banish’d the Brotherhood), wherein you may see, or rather be remembered, what you are: and then you need not be told very much how you ought to act. And in this I shall use that Liberty and Freedom, which is our essential Difference, richly distinguishes us from all others, and is indeed the very Soul and Spirit of the Brotherhood.

The Style I shall make use of is most catholick, primitive and Christian; it is what is extracted from the sacred Scriptures. Remember that you are the Salt of the Earth, the Light of the World, and the Fire of the Universe. Ye are living Stones, built up a spiritual House, who believe and rely on the chief Lapis Angularis, which the refractory and disobedient Builders disallowed, ye are called from Darkness to Light, you are a chosen Generation, a royal Priesthood.

This makes you, my dear Brethren, fit Companions for the greatest Kings; and no wonder, since the King of Kings hath condescended to make you so to himself, compared to whom the mightiest and most haughty Princes of the Earth are but as Worms, and that not so much as we are all Sons of the same Eternal Father, by whom all Things were made; but inasmuch as we do the Will of his and our Father which is in Heaven.

You see now your high Dignity; you see what you are; act accordingly, and show yourselves (what you are) MEN, and walk worthy the high Profession to which you are called. But while I say this, do not imagine I set up for a Rabbi, Master, or Instructor, who am one of the least of you, a mere Novice, a Catechumen, and know nothing. However, do not despise my Mite, which I throw into your Treasury, since ‘tis all I have: others may do more in Quantity, but not in Proportion.

Remember then what the great End we all aim at is: Is it not to be happy here and hereafter? For they both depend on each other. The Seeds of that eternal Peace and Tranquility and everlasting Repose must be sown in this Life; and he that would glorify and enjoy the Soverign Good then, must learn to do it now, and from contemplating the Creature gradually ascend to adore the Creator.

But alas! My Brethren, what are we and our little Globe below, to that stupendous Celestial Masonry above! Where the Almighty Architect has stretched out the Heavens as a Curtain, which he has richly embroidered with Stars, and with his immortal Compasses, as from a Punctum, circumscribed the mighty ALL: is himself the Centre of all Things, yet knows no Circumference? who lets down his golden Balance, and weighs all Things according to eternal incorruptible Justice, and where Actions of the best of Men are frequently found too light; who has created infinite Worlds, for what we know, above us; and those vast Luminaries within our Ken, to which he has given Laws, and allotted them their peculiar Influences, Intelligences and Daemons. If to do all this, and believe only in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and of all Things visible and invisible, the most grand, essential, the prime, eternal, everlasting, fundamental Article of the most holy, catholick, universal, and Christian Faith (of which we are) makes one an Atheist; such, my dearest Brethren, are we all, and we glory in it. Let the Infidel and Pagan World say what they will, we shall have the Suffrage of all Christians, under whatever other Denomination distinguished, who cannot be so inconsistent with themselves, as to take Umbrage at those who believe the prime Article of their (that is our) holy Faith.

O thou Eternal One! Thou Immortal Unitt! thou Incomprehensible Monas! Never let us swerve from these everlasting Truths. Send out they Light and thy Truth, that they may lead and bring us to thy holy Hill and thy Tabernacle. We are imprisoned, who shall deliver us from the Body of this Death? We are exiled Children from our Country, when shall we return?

Here thou hast placed us as Novices and Probationers; when shall we be professed among those blessed Denizens of the Celestial Jerusalem, not built with Hands, and be reinstated in our Innocence? Here we wander in the dark gloomy Vale of Tears and the Shadow of Death, where we remember nothing, and who dares say What dost thou? Here hast thou placed us for Reasons best known to thy Almighty Justice, and thy inscrutable Counsels, into which the curious Pryer is struck blind by the radiant Majesty of thy Glories, thou inaccessible Light! thou eternal Power! Wisdom! Love!

It is the same thing in relation to the Religion we profess, which is the best that ever was, or will, or can be; for it is the Law of Nature, which is the Law of God, for God is Nature. It is to love God above all Things, and our Neighbour as ourself; this is the true, primitive, catholick, and universal Religion, agreed to be so in all Times and Ages, and confirmed by our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, who tells us, that on these hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Avoid all Companions whose ridiculing of Religion is thought witty, and more especially when the wretched discourse is turned upon the adorable Majesty of the most Holy Trinity, which is an eternal Doctrine believed by Wise Men in all Ages. The ancient Philosophers, who had no revealed Religion, no other Light but the Light of Nature, taught and believed this most sacred Truth, as I could show in a proper place as clear as the Sun. The Platonics, for example, to instance no more, acknowledge in the Godhead three Persons; the first they called the Father of the Universe, or of all Things; the second the Son and first Mind; that is, according to Plotinus and Philo, the Divine Intellect, flowing from God the Father, as Light from Light, or the Word that is spoken from the Speaker: Hence he was called the... Verbum, or Word, Light of Light, and the Splendour of god the father; and the third they called the Spirit or Anima Mundi, which Dove-like sate brooding on the Face of the Waters, and which is celestial, amatorial, genial Heat, hatchet the Universe.

And now, my Brethren, you of the higher Class, permit me a few Words, since you are but few; and these few Words I shall speak to you in Riddles, because to you it is given to know those Mysteries which are hidden from the Unworthy.

Have you not seen then, my dearest Brethren, that stupendous Bath, filled with the most limpid Water, than which no Pure can be purer, of such admirable Mechanism that makes even the greatest Philosopher gaze with Wonder and Astonishment, and is the Subject of the eternal Contemplation of the wisest Men? Its Form is a Quadrate, sublimely placed on six others, blazing all with celestial Jewels, each angularly supported with four Lions. Here repose our Mighty King and Queen (I speak foolishly, I am not worthy to be of you), the King shining in his glorious Apparel of transparent, incorruptible Gold, beset with living Sapphires; he is fair and ruddy, and feeds amongst the Lillies; his Eyes, two Carbuncles the most brilliant, darting prolifick, never-dying Fires: and his large-flowing Hair, blacker than the deepest Black, or Plumage of the long-lived Crow; his Royal Consort vested in Tissue of immortal Silver, watered with Emeralds, Pearls, and Coral. O mystical Union! O admirable Commerce!

Cast now your Eyes to the Basis of this celestial Structure, and you will discover just before it a large Bason of Porphyrian Marble, receiving from the Mouth of a Lion’s Head, to which two Bodies displayed on each side of it are conjoined, a greenish Fountain of liquid Jasper. Ponder this well, and consider. Haunt no more the Woods and Forests; (I speak as a Fool) haunt no more the fleet Hart; let the flying Eagle fly unobserved; busy yourselves no longer with the dancing Ideot, swollen Toads, and his own Tail-devouring Dragon; leave these as Elements to your Tyrones.

The object of your Wishes and Desires (some of you may perhaps have obtained it, I speak as a Fool) is that admirable thing which hath a Substance neither too firy, nor altogether earthy, nor simply watery; neither a Quality the most acute, or most obtuse, but of a middle Nature, and light to the Touch, and in some manner soft, at least not hard; not having Asperity, but even in some sort sweet to the Taste, odorous to the Smell, grateful to the Sight, agreeable and delectable to the Hearing, and pleasant to the Thought; in short, that One only Thing, besides which there is no other, and yet everywhere possible to be found, the blessed and most sacred Subject of the Square of wise Men, that is — I had almost blabbed it out, and been sacrilegiously perjured. I shall therefore speak of it with a Circumlocution yet more dark and obscure, that none but the Sons of Science, and those illuminated with the Sublime Mysteries and profound Secrets of Masonry may understand — It is then, what brings you, my dearest Brethren, to the pellucid diaphanous Palace of the true disinterested Lovers of Wisdom, that transparent Pyramid of pure Salt, more sparkling and radiant than the finest orient Ruby, in the Centre of which reposes inaccessible Light epitomized, that incorruptible celestial Fire, blazing like burning Crystal, and brighter than the Sun in his full Meridian Glories, which is that immortal, eternal, never-dying PRYOPUS, the King of Gemms, whence proceeds every thing that is great, and wise, and happy.

These Things are deeply hidden from the common View, and covered with Pavilions of thickest Darkness, that what is Sacred may not be given to Dogs, or your Pearls cast before Swine, lest they trample them under Foot, and turn again and rent you.

Eugenius Philalethes, Jun.

March 1st, 1721

Image: Artwork from the book Lumin de Lumine, presumed written by the original Eugenius Philalethes

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Readers respond: What is Freemasonry?

A couple of days ago I asked "What is Freemasonry?"

I've gotten some interesting responses. My thanks to all who participated in this survey. I hope I didn't leave any one out....

Masonry is maintaining honor by holding to a promise and an obligation.

Masonry is setting particulars aside and accepting all men as brothers who hold to the same promises and obligations. Masonry is offering aid and assistance to people in need, especially to brothers and the families of brothers. Masonry is a set of rituals that encourage the social bonds of brothers and maintain the authenticity of the brotherhood from one generation to the next.

Masonry does not require agreement on a given form or kind of masonry, or a given religion, or politics or race or creed.

— Bro. Geo

A system of instructions and symbols used to imprint ethical principles on an open mind.

A Northern Virginia Fellowcraft

Freemasonry began as a labor union, but turned into a fraternal order when its leaders sought to expand their political clout by admitting members of royalty, government officials, and other men of influence.

In the 1700s and 1800s, leading Masons purchased all sorts of "degrees" and "rites" from con artists who simply made them up as they went along. Eventually, those "rites" evolved into the modern day Scottish and York Rites, Mystic Shrine, Royal Order of Scotland, Allied Masonic Degrees, etc., all of which are really just refined BS.

Modern Masonry is populated primarily by 3 different personality types: (1) its "leaders," who are often little more than schoolyard bullies with few skills and abilities; (2) its "workers," who thanklessly devote their lives to learning and teaching rituals, conferring degrees, and perpetuating the organization; and (3) its "silent majority," who seldom (if ever) attend lodge because they're ashamed that the "secrets" allegedly revealed to them, have entirely escaped their grasp.

Today, Masonry is a cult-like subculture that serves no practical purpose. Those interested in charity, religion, philosophy, or architecture, are best advised to devote their efforts to those subjects specifically. Those who devote their lives to Masonry, gain nothing of real value in return, thereby explaining the institution's present decline. If Masonry actually offered anything of value in today's world, it'd be thriving just like colleges and universities are, but it's really just a grand waste of time.

Good Morning Brother,

Below is my personal definition. I have attached a presentation from some research that I have done.

I am a PM of a Scottish Lodge in South Korea (Han Yang 1048), my Mother Lodge is Nipissing 420 in North Bay, Ontario Canada and I currently reside in Toronto where I am looking for a Lodge worth joining.

Please feel free to post the information or presentation.

S & F, Bro. Kristopher Stevens

Freemasonry is a system for creating Champions

Freemasonry is a system owned by Masons and operated by Masons which attracts and transforms individuals through lifelong reflection, learning and improvement into Champions of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth ensuring a holistic, progressive, cosmopolitan way of life.

The Essence of Freemasonry

Brotherly Love – It is a “Mythical” initiatic tradition to unite all those of honour, virtue, truth and honesty in a fraternal union of diversity for the betterment of humanity.

Relief – It is an organization where Masons and Lodges apply the best humanity and the fraternity has identified and developed, solving problems, righting wrongs and
alleviating burdens of distress while ensuring a holistic, progressive, cosmopolitan way of life.

Truth – It is a life long process of reflection, learning and improvement to identify, acknowledge and address contradictions internally (spiritually, psychologically and physically), in our various communities (ie. Families, fraternities, professions, etc.) and in our relationship with the larger eco-system of which we are all a part.

Christopher Garlington, Kelvyn-Park Willing Lodge 1075

Like a lot of men my age, I knew my grandfather and older uncles were Masons. They wore the rings and occasionally addressed each other as "Brother." In my late teens, I asked my uncle about Masonry and he gave me a brief explanation that left me intrigued. However, as I moved out of the state and into my post high-school years, I let Masonry slide way back into the recesses of my pursuits and forgot about it.

As I grew into manhood, got married, and had kids, my life filled up with a long list of demands on my time and my attention. At the same time, my friends and family began to disappear to the far flung edges of the country -- New York, Nevada, California, and Washington. They couldn't get further away from me. I found myself without that posse I'd grown up with, Then I moved to a new city and found myself as isolated as ever.

Then I remembered Masonry. I contacted a lodge and soon found myself welcomed into a group of men who, like me and like the friends I'd missed for so long, were interested in being better people, in living by a stated code of conduct, in holding themselves and each other to that higher code, and in developing a life of learning and discovery.

These guys all seemed to live vibrant and interesting lives; they told jokes and laughed yet they were equally sober and ardent. Most of all, they were clearly engaged with their lives body, mind, and spirit. I joined because so many men in my family had this same bright engagement with life and I wanted to find out where it came from.

This vibrancy, I believe, comes from the core values of Freemasonry as delivered in the ceremonies via the charges: in each degree we are charged to live by a strict code. It is delivered (one hopes) with vigor and passion at the height of a dramatic ceremony that engages your mind and spirit so that you are open, vulnerable, so that it engraves itself (psychologists would say that it entrains you) on your mind. You find yourself returning to this charge in your life, in your profession, and in your home. That is Freemasonry, the charge, the expectation from a diverse group of sober, highly intelligent, engaged men of your community, to behave according to the strict precepts of this fraternity -- and finding yourself happily doing so.

Masonry is a repository of symbolism and lore from the Western Esoteric Tradition, to which it can function as a gateway. Masonry is also a social club for ignorant old men. Masonry is different things to different men, each receiving as much Light as he is capable of receiving.

I am a regular Mason in Birmingham, Alabama.

Freemasonry is a mens fraternity that operates as a charitable organization and as an amatuer theatre group. The comaraderie which is felt while performing these dramatic plays creates a powerful bond that is often quite satisfying. The lessons in Freemasonry are tolerance, brotherly love, charity and encourages its members to industry, scientific inquiry, and reverence for deity. It is almost entirely harmless to the world at large and almost always improves the individual man who participates.


Bro. Myles Makortoff
Langley Lodge #184
Grand Lodge of BC & Y - Canada

australia, 3rd degree.

freemasonry is the poetry we use to celebrate and help expand upon the lessons we can learn in life until The Great Leveler Of Us All decides our time is up for us.

crow zampano . . .

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Attorneys duke it out in Shrine vs. Scottish Rite real estate squabble

Follow the money, if you can.

The Arabia Shrine Temple in Houston, Texas, gave an 80-year land lease to the Scottish Rite Benevolent Association in 1985. The Benevolent Association erected a lavish new building on the property, adjacent to the Shrine's building, at 7575 Brompton Road.

Together the two buildings make up the Houston area "Masonic Center."

Many blue lodges, Order of the Eastern Star, York Rite, Scottish Rite and other appendent bodies pay rent to the Benevolent Association to use the Scottish Rite Temple as their home base.

Unnamed investors want to buy the entire parcel and buildings, and the Shriners are eager to sell.

The Scottish Rite committee members aren't happy with the Shrine's buy-out offer. The Shrine has threatened to sue the Scottish Rite if they don't accept the settlement offer. The Scottish Riters have countered with their own attorneys.

Source: Houston Scottish Rite Bulletin

Image: The Masonic Center in Houston, Texas

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Teach your children

I know some of you don't like it when I talk about Christianity. If you're one of them, here's a choice of exit links for you: the Southern Baptist Convention's website, or the Roman Catholics' Vatican website. Pick your poison.

No, seriously. If Christianity is your sacred cow, stop reading now. I'm about to throw a little leftover Memorial Day hamburger on the grill.

It becomes more and more obvious to me that there must be something inherently wrong with a belief-system that generates this kind of madness and mayhem.

First case in point: A 19-year old man in the Texas Bible-belt microwaved his infant daughter. His wife, who is standing by him, said "the devil made him do it" to keep him from becoming a preacher.

Second case in point: Jack Chick. This guy has to be one of the nuttiest Christians ever. A hate-filled "loving" Christian, he's been producing sicko Christian tracts for what seems like forever, bashing every faith and belief other than his own warped view of Christianity. Michael at Full in Bull was discussing his tracts, and said that when he was in college he and his friends voted "The Last Generation" as the most ridiculous Jack Chick tract of all. I haven't read (and won't) all of Chick's tracts, but I remember laughing at them even as a kid. The theme that runs through Chick's pamphlets is fear. Fear and love are opposites; you can't use fear to send someone running into the loving arms of Jesus.

Point the third: Several weeks ago I wrote about a Mason-basher I'd discovered on the MySpace knock-off site I set up an account there, and poked around through the weeds. It didn't take long to find the rantings of a 15-year-old girl aglow with Christian compassion. In the bulletin section, where everyone was sure to see it, was her breathless exhortation: "Please!!!! Everyone!!! YOU MUST SEE THIS VIDEO!!!" On her page was embedded the warped little movie you'll find at the bottom of this post, titled "Letter from Hell."

Her webspace indicated she'd been "born again" at the age of six, which means she has been inculcated — brainwashed if you will — into an evangelical form of the world's largest cult for nine years. Is this the kind of thing an otherwise intelligent youngster should have on her mind? Worrying that she will be responsible for someone else going to hell if she doesn't proselytize on a daily basis? I can't even imagine the nightmares this woman-child must have, and the neuroses she'll carry into adulthood.

Sunday an old friend contacted me, wanting to ask my advice on a personal matter. We hadn't spoken in a long time. She is a woman I dated briefly several years ago. We didn't go the romantic route, but became friends. As divorced people are apt to do, we talked a lot about our marriages.

Saturday night her oldest daughter, age 21, broke up with her longtime boyfriend. Her daughter is a sweet, decent, happy, deeply spiritual but not conventionally religious, outgoing young college student who is active in liberal causes. Her boyfriend of seven years ( ! ) had been a rowdy, alcohol-and-drug-abusing going-nowhere punk.

When her daughter got home Saturday night, she had a daughter-to-mother cry, and told her mom things she hadn't heard before.

About a year ago, she was told Saturday night, the boyfriend had "date-raped" her daughter. After that, he used the excuse that since they'd already had sex, they should continue. The daughter said she went along with it, but found it "messy" at best, saying it "did nothing for her."

It gets worse.

Somewhere along the way this otherwise rational young women had picked up this self-judgmental belief system: That she is ruined, and can never marry anyone else because she's had sex. She can't "give herself" to another man as a "pure woman." She's also disgusted by the idea of ever having sex with a man who has been with another woman.

It's not about disease, or safe sex, or any reason remotely rational. It's a warped idea about self-worth, and not an idea, I'm guessing, she came up with without some external stimulus.

My friend was bewildered at her daughter's attitude, because it is not something the daughter learned from the mother. Her other two, younger daughters, do not share the same attitude, either.

While talking to my friend, I remembered our long-ago discussions about her ex-husband. He had considered himself to be deeply religious. He carried a Bible with him everywhere he went. I hate to admit this, but he was also a Freemason. (I do not know him, and his lodge is at least 150 miles away from me.) Whenever anyone asked about Masonry, he said he'd be killed if he spoke even a word about it. He was also a heavy drinker, and would tell you all about Masonry when he drank.

He strongly believed women should not experience sexual pleasure, that it was all for the man, and that women should be punished if they felt desire or responded to desire.

He was a sometime violent and very controlling man, she said.

My meager contribution to the conversation was to simply ask if her ex-husband, the father of the daughter, could have been the source of the daughter's skewed self image, and whether her seven-year attraction to her equally controlling, "screwed-up" boyfriend could have been an attempt to use him as a replacement father-figure.

My friend, who had put her ex-husband out of mind for years (he seldom sees his children) was shocked, not that I had asked, but that I was probably right.

Needless to say, her reaction opened up issues better left unmentioned here.

My point is this: There is something about religion that makes some people crazy. It's not just Christians; it's readily apparent in Islam, too. The zealotry and the better-that-thou attitudes taught by religions set up in followers the psychological need to convert others to their way of thinking, by physical force or mental intimidation, or both, if necessary. It creates an us-versus-them mentality, where the "us" are more righteous than the "heathens" who don't follow the same religious belief system. Often religious people even squabble with their own kind, who happen to believe only slightly differently; Protestants vs. Catholics, for example, or consider the hatred between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

Religions have set themselves up as moral authorities which push its adherents to want to be judge and jury on private matters, like sex, or alcohol consumption, or the subjugation of women, or how many times you pray and what compass direction you bow towards. And religions have fostered beliefs in some odd, superstitious things, too, like Hell and Satan and that dead people can get up and walk out of their graves.

Just as Masons congregate on this blog and elsewhere to discuss the changes needed in Freemasonry, and debate what is the real point of Freemasonry and how best to get back to it, so too should Christians discuss and get back to — soon, I hope — the whole point of Christianity.

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second to love your neighbor. He didn't say anything about judging them, or killing them, or treating your wife badly, or making your kids a bit crazy with bizarre attitudes about sex or fears of Hell.

I'm pretty sure Jesus wouldn't approve of his followers microwaving babies, either.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Reader survey: What is Freemasonry?

The article below this one, "We never had any mystic secrets," along with a thread on a private Masonic e-list I'm on, has led to an idea I hope you'll help out with.

Please privately tell me your definition of Freemasonry in 25-200 (or so) words. Please do not use in any way, shape or form the phrase "Freemasonry is a peculiar [or beautiful] system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols."

I ask that you send it privately instead of simply posting a comment so that no one is influenced by anyone else's response. Once a suitable time has passed, I'll put all the responses together in an article here on the Taper.

Your identity will not be disclosed unless you specifically give your permission. Please identify your locale, and whether or not you are a Mason.

Please send your responses by email.


— W.S.

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'We never had any mystic secrets'

Taking advantage of the renewed interest in Freemasonry that Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and upcoming The Solomon Key has inspired, members of Masonic lodges around the world are giving interviews to wide-eyed reporters.

I've read dozens of them.

Without fail the interviews stress the many Masonic good works and charitable acts. Works of kindness and charity are all well and good, but is that all there is to Freemasonry?

Most interviewees say the same thing: "We're not a secret society; we're a society with secrets."

Yesterday I read yet another one of these articles, this one from Ontario, Canada, titled "Masons shed mysterious side." It quoted not just a lodge member or Worshipful Master of a lodge — it featured the "authority" of Ontario's Grand Master M. W. Bro. Gary Atkinson.

The title of the article is rather misleading. Apparently there is no mysterious side of Freemasonry to be shed.

Bro. Atkinson laughed in response to a question, and said, "We have never had any mystic secrets."

Is he misinformed, or am I? If he's right, what's with all the "hidden arts, parts and points of the hidden mysteries of Freemasonry" I swore not to reveal? Is there no mystical secret we're supposed to seek through Freemasonry?

The article calls Freemasonry "a men's social club....," adding that "the Masons also bill themselves as a group through which men can grow as people."

Is that all we are? A Lion's Club with aprons instead of yellow vests?

This dumbing down of Freemasonry to increase membership and "improve the public's perception" of Freemasonry is going to backfire, just as surely as did the Scottish Rite's attempt to attract members by sponsoring a NASCAR team earlier this year.

Men aren't going to swarm towards Masonry so they can be charitable. They aren't going to give up their leisure time to attend lodge meetings and learn the rituals just so they can drop a few dollars in the penny box to feel good about themselves.

The men attracted today to Freemasonry are being driven by a sense of adventure, a desire for something deep and meaningful in their lives, not to sponsor Little League teams or be a part of a "men's social club."

What will they find when they join? How long will they stay around for W. Bro. Atkinson's "receptions and workshops for members, informing them about programs the Masons are involved with"? Today's seeker isn't seeking gold chains and meaningless titles and award plaques.

Image: "The Charity," an oil painting on canvas by Bartolomeo Schedoni, 1611, from the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Rudyard Kipling: Poet, author, Freemason

I was looking at some new (to me) non-Masonic blogs tonight and found The Bull in Full, where a recent post mentioned a band that had put Bro. Rudyard Kipling's poem The Palace to music. The fact that Bro. Kipling was a Freemason was mentioned in the post.

That reminded me that the very first lecture I gave in my lodge after I was officially appointed Director of Masonic Education when the new Worshipful Master took over was about Rudyard Kipling.

Here's the text of the first Masonic talk I gave that year:
I’d like to thank W. M. Steve for appointing me to be the lodge's Director of Masonic Education. I’ll do my best to share interesting Masonic information with you.

There have been many famous Masons, not just in the U.S. but in England and elsewhere. For the rest of the year, I’d like to present short talks to you on some of my favorite ones.

Tonight let’s take a look at Joseph Rudyard Kipling. You may remember reading some of his books when you were in junior high school, like Gunga Din, Kim and Captains Courageous, or perhaps you’ve watched Disney’s The Jungle Book with your children or grandchildren. Kipling wrote The Jungle Book about his adventures in India.

Kipling was a British citizen, born in Bombay, India in 1865. His father was principal of an art school in India. He returned to England when he was five years old. When he graduated from college at the age of 17, he returned to India, and began writing for the Civil and Military Gazette.

It is recorded that "...after the paper had been put to bed in the sultry Indian midnight, he would find his way into the old walled city to sense the mystic atmosphere of that colourful land and its ancient people, and to exercise a talent for absorbing background and for storing in his memory impressions and incidents which provided material for a half-century of literary production. In the bazaars, from all sorts and conditions of natives, from police officers, and from service people, he gathered copy that was to be the basis of many poems and stories."

Another biographer says that "One of the channels by which he penetrated the underworld was Freemasonry — he was fascinated by the mysterious bond that over-came class rules. Freemasonry was a cult that transcended caste and sects. It was the only ground in a caste ridden country on which adherents of different religions could meet on the level."

In 1892, he married an American, Caroline Starr Balestier, who introduced him to several notable American authors. He received an honorary degree from Oxford University in 1907 along with one of his contemporaries, Brother Mark Twain. Also in 1907, Kipling became the first British writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. He and his American wife lived in her family estate in Vermont from 1892 until 1896, when they returned to England. The home in Vermont has been preserved as a historical landmark.

Rudyard Kipling was made a Mason at Hope and Perseverance Lodge No. 782 at Lahore Punjab, India on April 5, 1886. His work required special dispensation, because he was only twenty years, two months old at the time. The same evening that he was raised, he was elected secretary of his Lodge so that he recorded his own initiation in the minutes of his Lodge.

A few months later, he delivered a lecture in his lodge on the "Origin of the Craft First Degree."

He advanced in the Mark Degree in Fidelity Mark Lodge on April 12, 1887 and was elevated in Mt. Ararat Mark Mariners Lodge at Lahore on the same day. He attended an Installation meeting of Independence with Philanthropy Lodge No. 391 at Allahabad, Bengal on December 22, 1887. On March 4, 1889, he demitted from his Craft Lodge and resigned from his other Lodges three months later on June 30, 1889.

Returning to England, he was offered an honorary membership with Author's Lodge No. 3456 sometime after its founding in 1910 and with Motherland Lodge No. 3861, London, in 1918. There is no record of him attending either of these Lodges. He was a Founding Member of Builders of the Silent Cities Lodge No. 12, retaining his membership until his death. In 1905, Canongate-Kilwinning Lodge No. 2, Edinburgh, Scotland chose him as poet laureate as they had a previous Brother, Robert Burns. The Philalethes Research Society in North America also lists him as an honorary member although there is no record of any attendance, correspondence or submission of research papers. The Philalethes Society honored Kipling for his Masonic stories Kim and The Man Who Would Be King. Kipling joined the Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle in May, 1918, remaining a member until his death in 1936. Although he paid his dues promptly, there is no record of his attending a meeting. On November 17, 1924 he is recorded as attending Rosemary Lodge No. 2851 E.C., giving his Lodge as Motherland No. 3861.

In his autobiography, Kipling wrote, "In 1885, I was made a Freemason by dispensation (being under age) in The Lodge of Hope and Perseverance 782 E.C. because the Lodge hoped for a good Secretary. They did not get him, but I helped, and got Father to advise me in decorating the bare walls of the Masonic Hall with hangings after the prescription of King Solomon's Temple. Here I met Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, members of the Araya and Brahmo Samaj, and a Jewish Tyler, who was a priest and butcher to his little community in the city. So yet another world was opened to me which I needed."

In 1925, he wrote in the London Times, "I was Secretary for some years of Hope and Perseverance Lodge No. 782, E.C. Lahore which included Brethren of at least four creeds. I was entered by a member of Bramo Somaj, a Hindu; passed by a Mohammedan, and raised by an Englishman. Our Tyler was an Indian Jew. We met, of course, on the level, and the only difference anyone would notice was that at our banquets, some of the Brethren, who were debarred by caste from eating food not ceremonially prepared, sat over empty plates."

Even during the years when Kipling was not active in Masonry, his peppered his writings with Masonic symbolism and references. The short story The Man Who Would Be King, made into a movie with Sean Connery and Brother Michael Caine in 1975, was perhaps Kipling's best known work relating to Freemasonry. Sir George MacMunn wrote that "Kipling uses Masonry in much the same way he uses the Holy Writ, for the beauty of the story, for the force of the reference, and for the dignity, beauty, and assertiveness of the phrase. There is one more effect that familiarity denies us which is present in the Masonic allusion and that is the almost uncanny hint of something unveiled."

Rudyard Kipling left us with many Masonic and non-Masonic stories and poems, but none is as famous as his poem "If," with which I will close:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired of waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal with lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out-tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And — which is more — you'll be a Man, my son!
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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Synopsis of Prof. Andrew Prescott's 'History of British Freemasonry: 1425-2000'

Recently a good brother from Alabama sent me a copy of a very interesting document titled "A History of British Freemasonry: 1425-2000."

The document is the text of Prof. Andrew Prescott's farewell speech to the Centre for Research into Freemasonry, given on February 20, 2006.

What makes Bro. Prescott's history interesting is that he didn't rely on the Internet for his research. No conspiracy theories or Templar fantasies colored his studies. He is a library hound. He searched through old dusty books and documents in England's old dusty libraries.

What he found is truly enlightening.

Unwilling to create a typical history, arbitrarily dividing it into decades or centuries as many historians would do, or merely pointing out Masonic highlights that occurred, say, in 1717, 1751, and 1813, Bro. Prescott has, by referring to particular dates of particular documents, pinpointed Masonic history in a whole new way.

He has divided Masonic history into 10 periods: 1425-1583; 1583-1717; 1717-1736/7; 1737-1763; 1763-1797-8; 1798-1834; 1834-1855-6; 1856-1874; 1874-1967; and 1967 to the present day.

We see in Bro. Prescott's history that there is indeed nothing new under the sun. Early Masonry was rife with corruption, conflict between educated thinking men and lower-class working men, and religious fervor butting its head against atheistic or naturalist philosophies. Grand Lodges came into being, fought amongst themselves and with each other, split away. In some cases, they made peace with each other. In other cases, they still to this day refuse to recognize each other.

The first known use of the word freemason occurred as a man's name, Nicholas le Freemason, and he was a mason. In 1325 he was accused of helping prisoners escape from Newgate jail in London.

Religious fraternities existed in the 1300's. Their primary function was to pay the Church for prayers for their members. Various craftsmen would favor and join particular groups. After the Black Plague of 1349 that killed between 1/3 and 2/3 of Europe's population, and over 75 million worldwide, skilled artisans and craftsmen were in high demand, and the fraternal groups became active in trade negotiations and regulation. Elite people became involved, and class tensions increased. The term freemason came to be used by more prosperous stonemasons and builders who became contractors, while the less-skilled workers used the term mason.


The government, which was basically the Church, struggled to keep wages low. In 1425 a law was passed forbidding masons from holding assemblies to demand higher wages. From this event, two myths of Masonry sprung. The craftsmen began making up legends that they had been given ancient charters allowing them to hold their assemblies. They also reacted against the increasing stratification of their trade by developing legends which sought to demonstrate that all masons were brethren of equal status. These legends were written into the Regius and the Cooke manuscripts. It is probably from this event that the well-known phrase about "working for and receiving a Master's wage" comes from.

The Regius and Cooke manuscripts tell of a charter given to masons by a non-existent Prince Edwin, Bro. Prescott says. The legends were created just after the 1425 law, in an attempt to protect stonemasons from the effects of recent labor legislation.

The legend was amplified in 1552, placing Prince Edwin in York, just as a strike of building workers was taking place in York. The leaders of the strikers were imprisoned.


In 1583, William Schaw was appointed Master of Works to King James VI of Scotland. Two days later, a new manuscript had been written, containing copies of the legends first recorded in the Regius and Cooke manuscripts. This document became known as Grand Lodge Manuscript 1, or the Old Charges.

Schaw reorganized Scottish stonemasons, and by 1599 had produced two sets of statutes that ordered the establishment of separate lodges based on locale, which would answer only to the General Warden. Regular meetings were scheduled, and minutes were required to be kept. There are hints that Schaw also sought to interest members of these lodges in the new esoteric and philosophical developments, such as the "art of memory."

Soon, men who were not working stonemasons were attracted to these lodges, including Sir Robert Moray, who became interested in the legends and symbolism of the stonemasons.

In England, too, non-stonemasons became interested in the meetings of stonemasons, including the scientists Elias Ashmole and Randle Holme. There is some speculation that the working stonemasons purposefully recruited men of weath, knowledge and stature, as these were the people paying their salaries. By this time, there were legends dating back to Biblical times giving the impression that it was a God-given right to be paid a fair wage.

As these early Masonic lodges became more elite, inner groups sprang up, including one called the Acception, a part of the London Company of Freemasons, of which Ashmole was a member. Eventually, the London Company of Freemasons became impoverished as they focused less on stonemasonry, and a backlash occurred. In an attempt to create more business, the elite fell out of favor, and the junior members gained more authority. The name of the group was changed to the London Company of Masons.


The creation of the Grand Lodge in 1717 was a direct result of the crisis within the London Company of Masons. Though it was later claimed that the Grand Lodge was a revival, it was most likely the members of the Acception, now out of favor, who set it up.

The next 20 years in England were contentious at best. The new Grand Lodge demanded that other lodges be subordinate to it, that they must obey the Grand Lodge's rules, and that new lodges must obtain warrants to come into existence.

Chaos ensued. Even members of the new Grand Lodge didn't necessarily obey the new rules. William Stuckley authorized a new lodge in Grantham without official approval of the Grand Lodge.

The new Grand Lodge, being made up of thinkers, not craftsmen, focused on social, cultural, political, scientific and aesthetic matters. Even the Gothic architecture long commonplace in England was disregarded. Vitruvian architecture was favored.

These were the "Moderns."

Grand Lodge Freemasonry was a metropolitan, elitist yet inclusive Freemasonry. Jews and Huguenots were members. William Hogarth, the painter famous for his Masonic works of art, was a member in 1730, but had quit in disillusionment by 1736. Other towns, especially York, which considered itself the birthplace of Freemasonry, grew tired of the London Grand Lodge's prideful attitude. Scotland and Ireland, fed up with the London Grand Lodge, formed their own Grand Lodges.


Tension between the London Grand Lodge and other Masons came to a head when the Moderns initiated Frederick Lewis, the Prince of Wales, in 1737. This was the same year that Lewis moved politically against his father, King George II. The Prince's supporters were ostracized by the royal court. The Masonic initiation of Lewis was a politically charged act. Immediately thereafter, a new edition of the Book of Constitutions appeared, describing the initiation of the Prince, further inflaming the king's loyal subjects.

Prof. Prescott says that "Freemasonry cannot be explained by Freemasonry"; it must be viewed in its historical context.

A group known as the Scald Miserable Masons began to stage mock parades timed to interfere with the pompous and solemn parades of the members of the London Grand Lodge. In 1741, they clashed, with some amount of violence. By 1747, the London Grand Lodge was no longer able to safely form a parade or procession.

During this time, Freemasonry had spread to America and other parts of the growing British empire, as well as to France. Benjamin Franklin had published an American edition of the Book of Constitutions in 1734, and in 1749 the London Grand Lodge warranted him as the Grand Master of Philadelphia. French and English Masonry experienced culture clash. The Pope began issuing bulls against Freemasonry in 1738. British Freemasonry became very anti-Catholic, in part because of the popularity of a book telling of a Mason who had suffered at the hands of the Portuguese Inquisition.

It was from this politically and culturally charged era that the Antients sprang. The Antients (Ancients) Grand Lodge was established in 1751 as an upstart competitor to the London Grand Lodge, driven by the Scald Miserable Masons and other lower-class loyalists to the king.


1763 marked an increased attempt by the London Grand Lodge, now calling itself the Premier Grand Lodge, to remake itself into the leading power behind Freemasonry worldwide. It also marked the end of the Seven Years War, which had greatly increased Britain's role on the world stage.

The Premier Grand Lodge sought to "enhance the respectability and prestige of their form of Freemasonry," according to Prof. Prescott. William Preston, Master of one of the four lodges that had originally formed the London Grand Lodge, worked to diminish the social aspects of the Grand Lodge and stress the spiritual and philosophical benefits of Freemasonry, making it into a "highly respectable and elevated form of social activity." Thomas Dunkerley, another member of the Premier Grand Lodge, actively campaigned in the provinces to increase the spiritual and philosophical content of Freemasonry, and was responsible for the creation of additional Masonic orders including the Royal Arch and Mark Masonry.

Their efforts didn't always bear fruit. The Lodge of Nine Muses was composed of luminary and fashionable artists, architects and musicians, while nearby lodges also subordinate to the Premier Grand Lodge were made up of gardeners and tradesmen.


The Premier Grand Lodge continued to push to keep their social prestige high, but were dealt a serious blow by the popularity of books purporting that Freemasonry had been covertly involved in the French revolution, supporting Jacobian interference. Lodges began to split over political issues. Spies were reporting to the British government what was discussed in Masonic lodges. One lodge was accused of an assassination plot against the king. The lodges protested, and proclaimed their loyalty to the Crown; some even changed their names to emphasize their loyalty.

Irish lodges used their meetings to plot the Irish rebellion of 1797. The government contemplated a law forbidding the meeting of all secret societies, and after a long debate in Parliament, the law passed. The Masons, though, had negotiated an exemption for themselves, fueling squabbles with other fraternal groups, such as the Odd Fellows, who were forbidden to meet in secret by the new law.

The government tried to ban meals after meetings of Antient lodges, wanting to keep men from "too much loose talk."

Both the Antients and the Moderns were under scrutiny not only by the British government, but by foreign Grand Lodges as well. The Grand Lodge of Sweden complained, for example, that English lodges too readily accepted low-class sailors, who then returned to their home countries, asking for lodge membership where they were not wanted.

With dual purposes in mind, the Duke of Sussex began negotiations to bring the Antients and the Moderns together into one grand lodge. He wanted to control the groups' loyalty and minimize sedition, and he wanted Freemasonry to become an organization "fit for the empire" by unifying Masonic practice and ritual.

He hoped that after unifying the Antients and Moderns, he could bring the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland into the union as well.

The Antients and Moderns merged into the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813.

The Duke's motivations were lofty. He believed he was performing a "greater service for mankind as a whole." He was fascinated by the remnants of solar worship embodied in Freemasonry, and he "dreamed of using Freemasonry to give a new religion to the world which he felt would be a boon to civilization."

Sussex was against freed slaves becoming Masons. He also was unsympathetic to industrial concerns. These attitudes led to chaos in Masonic lodges in the Caribbean, and, in the new industrial towns in northwest England, many lodges seceded from the Grand Lodge.


Relations between the Grand Lodge and other fraternal organizations continued to deteriorate. In 1834, the group called the Tolpuddle Martyrs were arrested and tried under the Unlawful Societies Act. The Grand Lodge gloated over this, noting that Freemasonry was exempt. Members of the Grand Lodge had different ideas on the direction Freemasonry should take in society. Sussex wanted to create his new religion that superseded Christianity. Dr. Robert Crucefix, a devout Christian, wanted Freemasonry to take more direct social action, and promoted a plan to create a home for elderly, poor Freemasons.

Along with clergyman George Oliver and Richard Carlisle, Crucefix wrote numerous articles for the Freemason's Quarterly Review, developing a Christian theology of Freemasonry. Their campaign was successful, and this Christianized Freemasonry was influential until the end of the 19th century. The idea of Masonic charity had entered the picture.

Crucefix wanted to create a Masonry for the respectable middle class. While he promoted the charitable aspects of Masonry, he also purposely created among the brethren a fear that low-lifes were using their Masonic membership to live off the goodheartedness of their brothers.

While Crucefix was successful in infusing Christianity into Freemasonry, he wasn't very successful at attracting the respectable middle classes, and Masonry remained divided between the elite and the lower-class.


Crucefix and Sussex clashed many times, and their differences are still apparent today in Freemasonry.

The skirmishes between those of differing opinions were fought mostly with words printed in magazines. Canadian Masons rebelled against the Grand Lodge of England and formed their own grand lodge.

As the newer industrial cities grew, the local elite demanded greater access to social and political power. The Lodge of Progress was formed in Birmingham. They built their own Masonic hall (many lodges still met in taverns at this time), forbade alcohol at Masonic meals, and stressed virtues of charity, temperance and respectability. Other lodges in industrial towns followed suit.

This is the time when, finally, Crucefix's hope for a membership of the respectable middle class came into being.

Opulent lodge halls began to be built, usually near the centers of government, standing next to public buildings.

In India, British Masons and native Indian Masons began to build separate lodges, based on their religious differences. Christianity and "decency" were stressed in the new lodges being formed.


By the 1870s, the Victorian era was in full swing. It wasn't just Freemasons who became more reserved and "proper"; it was British society as a whole. Lodges became respectable, and again Masons began to parade through the streets. An industry of providing expensive Masonic jewels and regalia sprang up. Magazines circulated promoting the pompous side of Freemasonry, writing about Masonic personalities and events, much as our magazines do today. The awards-mentality of Freemasonry had come into being.

Society had become prosperous and stable.

Fewer and fewer lodges met in taverns. Having your own lodge building was dignified and impressive. Lodges became even more class-divided, with men of different professions joining separate lodges. Lodges became a place for men to meet after their day's work; many lodges became "gentlemen's clubs." The London School Board petitioned for its own lodge simply so they could have a nice place to relax after work.

Religion in lodges became even more important as the buildings themselves became more church-like. The chaplain's role in lodge meetings increased, and attending lodge became almost like attending church.

This increased religiosity wasn't universal, and in France lodges became increasingly less religious and more secular and even atheistic. Tensions between the Grand Lodges of England and France came to a head when the Grand Orient of France rescinded the requirement of belief in a supreme being as a requirement for Masonic initiation.

In America, the religious overtones in Freemasonry were not as pronounced until much later, in the mid-20th century, about the time that in England the religious aspects of Freemasonry, left over from the Victorian period, began to fade.

With the societal changes, beginning after World War II and speeding up exponentially in the 1960s, the British became more secular and less religious, and so did British Freemasonry. Americans in general became more secular, too, but American lodges went the opposite way. Lodge membership in America had increased dramatically during those changing 20 years, and then plummeted quickly as the new generation of the 1960s refused to embrace tradition. This left American Freemasonry populated with older, more conservative and more religious men, and the changing tide of society did not wash over the Masonic lodge as it did in England. The 1960s generation of free-thinkers didn't enter the Masonic world, and thus their influence, so pervasive in the rest of American culture, didn't modify Freemasonry to any great degree.

— W.S.

Image: A page from the Cooke Manuscript

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United Grand Lodge of England actively recruits on college campuses

The United Grand Lodge of England has officially lowered the minimum age to become a Freemason from 21 to 18, and has begun an active campaign to recruit members from the student body and staff of Great Britain's universities, the Sunday Telegraph said today.

Seven lodges across the country have each targeted a university in their respective cities to "promote and encourage freemasonry among undergraduates and other university members." If successful, the project will be expanded.

"Young members pay half dues and the dining fee is also reduced," one Mason told a reporter. "A few members of staff have been initiated already."

"It's good for undergraduates to join because we have members from all walks of life — doctors, policemen, magistrates, clerks," said a Mason from the Lodge of St. Peter in Exeter.

Image: Freemason's Hall in London, home of the United Grand Lodge of England

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Living With War: Memorial Day 2007

On Memorial Day last year, I posted this article showing the number of American deaths in the Iraq War.

Here's an update as of Memorial Day 2007:

Since war began (3/19/03): 3455
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 3316
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 2994
Since Handover (6/29/04): 2596
Since Election (1/31/05): 2018


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Saturday, May 26, 2007

'National Treasure: Book of Secrets' trailer released

Click here for the just-released trailer for National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

The film is scheduled for release on December 21, 2007.

So what do we do next, shortsheet the Pope's bed?

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Widow's Son goes back to his lodge

Back on May 13, I wrote about my "conversion on the road to Damascus" that happened earlier that day, when my anger towards Bro. Grady Bozeman and the events he and others set up against me in my lodge just lifted, vanished, disappeared.

It's been nearly two weeks, and not once have I had even a moment of anger towards or about anything. Not a single time have I felt that once-common emotion. Not towards traffic. Not towards people who can't figure out self-checkouts at the grocery store. Not towards jealous drama queens (I'm single). Not towards my ex-wife (I'm divorced). Not towards the neighbor's three dogs that bark all night. Not about the news. And certainly not towards anyone from my lodge.

It's as if I've been "enlightened."

But as the Zen proverb goes: "Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water."

Life goes on.

(I notice that only two readers here who participated in the "Who are you?" poll said they were members of my lodge. I was one of them, since I clicked on it when I installed it to test it. I know who the other one was. So I guess it's safe to assume — LOL! — that no one else from my lodge reads this blog, so nothing I say here could possibly hurt anyone's feelings.

No, seriously — I know several of my lodge brothers follow the Taper; I wonder why they won't admit it.)

In my May 13 post, I said I would be going back to my lodge. And I did, last Tuesday evening.

I put on my happy face and pretended it was again 2003, when I absolutely loved going to lodge meetings. Even then I knew I was different from many of my lodge brothers, that I was more interested in esoterica and Masonic history and Masonic education than many of them. I also knew how much alike, as humans, we all were. I enjoyed the feeling of brotherhood and camaraderie.

I arrived about 10 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start. Only one brother, a Past Master of the lodge, was in the anteroom. He was tying on his apron, so I tied on my own. I greeted him warmly, but we didn't shake hands. He said "hello" and quickly went into the lodgeroom.

I walked into the lodgeroom, where perhaps 25-30 brothers were either milling around or already seated. I greeted each of those already seated in the southwest end of the lodge with a big smile and handshake. Many were new faces to me. Two of my elderly brothers-friends beamed when they saw me. It was a good feeling.

At the end of the row, just west of the Junior Warden's chair, was a Past Master, one of the three involved in what I termed "The Masonic Ambush" back in early 2005. I smiled at him and greeted him by name, prefacing it with "Brother."

In what I can only describe as a sighing, exasperated, eye-rolling slump he reluctantly shook my hand and said "hey" (or "hi" or "hello," I can't remember).

Bypassing the empty Junior Warden's station, I approached the second and third members of the ambush squad. I smiled and greeted them. The first acted very pleased to see me. The second had a look of outright hatred or disgust when he saw me, and didn't speak. I shook his hand anyway.

Before I could move further down the line, the first of the two Past Masters said to me, "What's this about you putting stuff on the Internet? Didn't you put something there recently?"

I assumed he'd heard about my article where I said I didn't like Bro. Bozeman and that he didn't like me. "I write something online nearly every day," I replied.

"You shouldn't. You shouldn't be talking about Masonry. It's bad! It's bad! It's bad for Masonry."

"I happen to think it's good for Freemasonry."

"You shouldn't be talking about Masonry to the public. It's bad!"

He then recited, "I will not speak ill of a brother Master Mason...."

"I only write things that are true. That's not speaking ill of...."

"Yes, it is," he blurted.

"How many ill things have you said about me in the past 18 months, Bro. _____?" I asked.

He froze. For two or three seconds he didn't respond.

Then he said, "Two wrongs don't make a right."

About that time, the Worshipful Master banged his opening gavel, so I sat back and smiled.

I was glad to be back.

I was very impressed with the dignity and authority of this year's Worshipful Master. I had served on his investigating committee, and he had followed me through the chairs. He was Senior Deacon when I was Junior Warden. I was proud of him.

I didn't know any of the floor officers.

I had served as Master during the EA degree for the man acting as Junior Warden. It was good to see how he had progressed.

It was a nice homecoming feeling for me.

The meeting itself was typical, but I did have to smile to myself a couple of times.

There were several new brothers there, both newly raised and newly dimitted from other jurisdictions. Two newly dimitted brothers stood, in turn, to voice their concerns over the lack of communication from the lodge about lodge events, deaths, etc. They suggested the lodge create a newsletter. After a bit of discussion, which I didn't participate in, no one agreed with the idea. I felt for them.

Another newly dimitted member, a Past Master from another Masonic district, stood in support of them, offering his assistance. As he closed his comments he said, "And I think we need a website."

Silence. Stone cold silence.

The last time either of those ideas were actually enacted, I was the one who did them. If you don't know how that turned out, read "The Masonic Ambush" and "A Day in the Life of a Junior Warden."

Sure, I could have stood up to offer assistance to the brothers on both of those ideas, but I figured, why push it tonight? Peace and harmony, you know.

The year 2007 is the 150th anniversary of our lodge. Back in early 2005 a committee of three men was formed to coordinate events, design souvenir coins, create publications, etc. Bro. Bozeman was one member. I was another. After Bro. Bozeman threatened to press his bogus charges against me, I, of course, was never notified of committee meetings.

The third member of the committee stood to make a motion that the year 2007 be dedicated to Bro. Bozeman's memory. There was one nay vote.

Someone else moved that one of the lodge's three scholarships be named in Bro. Bozeman's honor. Again, there was one nay vote.

Lest anyone suggest here that I shouldn't be talking about what happened in a lodge meeting, I remind you that lodge minutes are kept of things "proper to be written," and that what I've told you here is also in the minutes. The only Masonic secrets are rituals, grips and signs, and you couldn't get those out of me with all the tea in China.

("It's bad! It's bad! You shouldn't be talking about Masonry to the public. It's bad!")

The meeting moved to its close. Before he ended it, the Worshipful Master read a short anecdote about the value of friendship and appreciation of life. It was the first "lecture" or "education" I'd ever seen a Worshipful Master give in my lodge. I was duly impressed by what he read and that he read it at all.

The meeting adjourned, and I was eager to meet and speak with the new brothers I did not know.

But like the Freemasons in the movie Magnolia say, "We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."

Past Master ____ wasn't through with me yet.

He picked right up where he'd left off when the meeting started. More about posting things on the Internet.

"If you have something to say to me, come to me," he said.

"Aren't you the guy who banged his chair against the table and stomped out of a special summoned meeting called by the Worshipful Master to discuss your and _____ and _____'s attempt to go around the plans of the elected officers of this lodge, when someone you didn't agree with rose to speak?," I asked, in so many words.

Wide-eyed, he looked at me as if he didn't remember any of it.

And so it goes.

I did manage to talk with a few of the new brothers after the meeting. Speaking with them gave me new hope for the future of my lodge.

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Scottish Rite Mason Maj. Gen. Mark Bowen resigns over 'improper relationship' with a female officer in his command

The commanding general of the Alabama National Guard, Maj. Gen. Mark Bowen, resigned Thursday, one day after the Army released a report that Bowen had an improper relationship with a female officer in his command, the Army Times reported on Thursday.

A news release from Gov. Bob Riley said he had accepted Gen. Bowen’s resignation. The governor's statement did not mention the report from the Army Inspector General’s office.

"General Bowen has served the state over six different decades in the National Guard and has done a good job. I respect his decision to leave at this time," Gov. Riley said.

Both Gov. Riley, whom we've written about before, and Gen. Bowen are Freemasons. They are lodge brothers in Ashland Lodge No. 356 in Ashland (Clay County), Alabama as well as the Scottish Rite Valley of Montgomery.

The governor said Wednesday that Bro. Bowen told him earlier that he planned to retire. Bro. Riley said he would not ask Bro. Bowen to step down immediately because of the report.

The Army’s report said that Bro. Bowen had a relationship with the female officer. He had visited her home, had more than 700 phone calls with her over five months last year, and had given her financial assistance.

The report concluded that there was no evidence that Bro. Bowen and the woman had a sexual relationship, "although there was evidence of physical contact between MG Bowen and [the woman] when he hugged and kissed her."

The report said she “received preferential treatment because of her relationship with MG Bowen.” The woman's name was redacted in the report.

She received a promotion when she was ranked 24th among 39 officers eligible. The report also said that at one point Bro. Bowen gave her a new job and failed to consider 13 other applicants for the position.

The report indicated there was evidence that Bro. Bowen kissed the woman on her lips in his office during the summer of 2006 and hugged her at an Army physical fitness test in May 2006. The phone calls and e-mails between Bowen and the woman were called "inappropriate because they were personal in nature."

The report said there were 10 witnesses who indicated that Bro. Bowen and the woman maintained a close personal relationship that was known throughout the Alabama National Guard.

“Evidence indicated the perceptions had a negative effect on the [command] and morale in the [Alabama National Guard],” the report said.

The woman, the report says, was uncomfortable with "the vast amount of calls she received from him" but continued the relationship until Bowen "got physical with her."

Bro. Bowen retired in 2003, but returned to duty when Bro. Riley asked him to serve as adjutant general, a Cabinet position. This Google cache (look about 75% of the way down the page) identifies Bro. Bowen as a "pharmacist and farmer."

Image: Gen. Mark Bowen, from his official Alabama webpage

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