Friday, November 30, 2007

Bro. Rich Graeter's new paper is chemotherapy for Freemasonry

Last night W. Bro. Richard Graeter published to the Internet his impressive Masonic paper titled Reform Freemasonry! A Vision for the Future of Freemasonry. I sat up into the late hours reading it, and found it to be a treasurechest of positive ideas that, if implemented, would pump new life into an ailing American Freemasonry.

Drawing on ideas of notable Masons before him as well as 21st century business management techniques, Bro. Rich blends together a prescription for the fraternity that could save the patient, restoring Freemasonry to its former health and glory.
Author’s Note

There is a substantial and growing body of work addressing the decline of Freemasonry in the 21st Century. The decline has been so painfully obvious for so long that the body of work analyzing its causes stretches back decades. With the advent of the Internet and online publishing, forums, and BLOGS, the growth in the conversation of this topic has become exponential. Over the years I have added my voice to this cacophony as well. My favorite target to blame for all our misfortunes was failed leadership, particularly at the grand lodge level. But I was wrong. I have come to understand that I had mistaken what was merely the symptom of the disease (failed leadership) for the disease itself.

The good news is that I believe that the disease afflicting Freemasonry is curable. But treatment will not be easy. Like a radical treatment regimen for cancer, it will be painful and may even cause the patient to become more ill over the short term. But, the patient is still strong; is possessed of a good heart and a noble sprit; and, if it can face the brutal truth with courage, it will prevail.
Bro. Rich's paper is divided into five sections that look towards the future of Freemasonry.
The first section, Voices in the Wilderness, reviews four selected publications from the current body of work that addresses the future of Freemasonry.

The second section, How to Preserve and Stimulate Freemasonry, applies the discipline of the Business Week best-selling book Built To Last, by authors Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras, to Freemasonry as an organization. Jim Collins is a student and teacher of enduring great companies — how they grow; how they attain superior performance; and, how good companies can become great companies. His books have been fixtures on the Business Week bestseller list and have been translated into 25 languages. His work has been featured in Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Harvard Business Review, and Fast Company.

The third section, Something To Believe In, explores the three building blocks that are essential for building an organization that can move the hearts and minds of its members and some of the reasons behind the failure of our grand lodge organizations from being able to accomplish this goal.

The fourth section, The Grand Hairball, adapts the sage advice of corporate gurus Dr. Oren Harari and Gordon MacKenzie to the masonic context, and presents some conclusions on one possible root cause of the disease afflicting Freemasonry, as well as proposing some chemotherapy for grand lodges that could help lead to a cure.

The concluding section, Freemasonry 3.0, closes with a radical vision for the wholesale reorganization of the body of Freemasonry should grand lodges fail to take progressive action to respond to the needs, hopes, and aspirations of today's young Freemason. Freemasons were meant to be great innovators, and it's about time that we restore this legacy.
Bro. Rich's well-researched and well-thought-out paper is destined to become a Masonic classic. I urge you to read it, think about it, discuss it, and implement some of the ideas it presents.

Author's note and Introduction reprinted with permission.

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Little girl's use of arm restored in Scottish Rite hospital

At the age of three, Emily Heinrich broke her left elbow playing in her yard.

Two surgeries failed to correct the break properly, and she was facing a life of never being able to use her left arm properly, Lubbock Online reports.

A third surgery in December, 2005 at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas was successful, and Emily, now age seven, has full use of her arm again. Had it been left untreated, her elbow would have deteriorated and left her with significant problems.

The hospital recently selected artwork by Emily as one of three designs for its 2007 annual holiday cards. Sales of the cards benefit the hospital, which provides orthopedic care for Texas children at no charge to patient families.

Emily's design is of a reindeer. She used her own hand prints as the antlers.

Her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Steve Richards, said, "I thought [her artwork] was beautiful and very well done. I think Emily is one of the nicest kids I have ever met."

You can help the hospital and other children like Emily by ordering cards in time for Christmas.

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Maine Mason convicted of embezzling $430K from fraternal groups

A 76-year old "model citizen" of Portland, Maine has been sentenced to nine months in jail for embezzling at least $430,000 from his Masonic lodge, a Masonic temple board, a Masonic learning center and another fraternal organization of which he was a member, the Boston Globe reports.

Bro. Bob Libby's lawyer says he needed the money to take care of his sick wife. The money is now spent, and the Libby's are living on a small Social Security check.

His friend since high school, Jack Gray, discovered the crime, and says Bro. Libby is a "con artist."

Libby took money repeatedly between 1999 and 2006. His wife, Charlotte, didn't become ill until 2002, three years after Bro. Libby began embezzling the funds of the fraternal groups.

Bro. Libby's daughter, teacher Susan Jodice of South Windsor, Connecticut, told reporters, "We had absolutely no idea. It just blew us away. This is not a person that is a thief. I don't condone anything that he did. Not any of it. The funny thing is, he brought me up not to condone anything like that."

The website for Deering Lodge No. 183 lists Robert W. Libby as having served as Worshipful Master in 1970.

UPDATE, Friday, November 30: I was informed today by a past master of Deering Lodge that Bob Libby was expelled from the fraternity by the Grand Lodge of Maine in May, 2007.

Image: Deering Lodge No. 183, Portland, Maine

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ancient charges in modern times

Long ago I noticed that many Christians like to pick and choose Bible verses to support pet theories about how things should be.

For example, Exodus 22:18 says "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Pure and simple: God tells us to kill witches. We don't actually kill witches anymore, but some people still use this verse to "prove" celebrating Halloween or reading Harry Potter books are sins.

Leviticus is full of instructions on how to live, with many rules about who you can have sex with, what time of the month you can have sex, what foods are permissible, how to treat your slaves, etc.

Deuteronomy 14:8 explicitly says that we are not to eat pigs. There's one most Americans — certainly most Freemasons — ignore.

The entire fifth chapter of Leviticus is dedicated to instructions on how many lambs, rams, pigeons, doves and quarts of flour you must sacrifice if you commit any of the sins enumerated elsewhere in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.

Though we say that we believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, and that violating any single rule or commandment is a sin, we don't really mean it. In fact, some brush off the strange rules of the Old Testament by saying Jesus "threw out the old law." Others just realize that certain rules are outdated, or believe that Mosaic law was only meant to provide structure to the lives of Jewish nomads three thousand years ago.

Except, of course the Ten Commandments. Oh, and Leviticus 18:22, that famous verse used to justify gay-bashing and to prove homosexuality is a sin.

Picking and choosing which rules we'll follow, which ones we'll revere as revealed truth or ultimate law and which ones we'll just pretend aren't there, is simply human nature.

We pride ourselves on being law-abiding citizens, for example, because we don't kill, steal or beat our wives, but yet we'll think nothing of driving 90 mph or running stop lights, clearly violations of the law.

We all pick and choose our "morality," and internally justify our behavior.

We do the same thing with Masonic rules and law.

In Masonry, our "old testament" is Anderson's Constitutions, also known as the Ancient Charges of a Free Mason. We pride ourselves on following them to the letter.

Don't we?

Well, when we want to. When it's convenient, or when they can be used to justify a personal or political motivation. Of course we do.

Anderson's Constitutions are often cited to prove that women, atheists and "irreligious libertines" cannot be Freemasons. And yes, it's pretty clear in the Constitutions that women can't be raised as Masons. Section III says, "The persons admitted Members of a Lodge must be good and true Men, free-born, and of mature and discreet Age, no Bondmen, no Women, no immoral or scandalous men, but of good Report."

What of atheists?

It's a little more complicated.

Section I says:
A Mason is oblig'd by his Tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient Times Masons were charg'd in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ‘tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish'd; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remain'd at a perpetual Distance.
Not so cut and dried as the bit about no women, is it? Does it say an atheist can't be a Mason, or does it say, if a man becomes a Mason and "rightly understands" Masonry's teachings, he can no longer justify in his heart and mind not believing in God?

Many good Masons have fought over Anderson's meaning. Most French Masons believe in freedom of conscience above all else, and the Grand Orient of France for most of its existence has not required a man to profess theistic beliefs before becoming a Mason. American and English Masons, on the other hand, value godliness moreso than the sanctity of the individual, and pride themselves on requiring a profession of belief in God as a prerequisite for Masonic membership.

The difference in opinion on this single point has led millions of American and British Masons to deny recognition to French Masons, to deny that they are even Masons at all.

In spite of Anderson's prohibitions against women becoming Masons, there are women Masons throughout the world. British Masons accept that fact; American Masons, for the most part, refuse to accept it, even though there are many female orders practicing Masonry right here in the Land of the Free.

People have interpreted the "laws" differently. Or perhaps ignored certain laws when they are no longer meaningful, or appropriate, for a new time and place.

Sort of like Christians who eat pork.

Another set of Masonic instructions are the Ancient Landmarks. There are many of them, and the final one says that the landmarks can never be altered or changed in any way.

The problem with this is that no one can agree on what is or is not a landmark, and how many there actually are. So much for not changing anything....

If obligations also say no women, or no atheists, can or should they be changed to allow for a new interpretation of the Constitutions?

Or should the Constitutions be followed to the letter?

If your immediate response to the latter question was yes, think again.

If you said yes, then you, most likely, just kicked yourself out of Freemasonry. In fact, you may never have actually been a Freemason, for lack of proper qualifications and credentials.

I don't mean this as an insult.

I mean it like this: If you follow the Constitutions to the letter regarding who can become a Freemason, it's highly doubtful if you — or I — qualify.

Section IV is pretty clear on the type of man who can become a Mason.
No Brother can be a Warden until he has pass'd the part of a Fellow-Craft; nor a Master until he has acted as a Warden, nor Grand Warden until he has been Master of a Lodge, nor Grand Master unless he has been a Fellow Craft before his Election, who is also to be nobly born, or a Gentleman of the best Fashion, or some eminent Scholar, or some curious Architect, or other Artist, descended of honest Parents, and who is of similar great Merit in the Opinion of the Lodges.
Are you a gentleman? Were you nobly born of honest parents? Are you a scholar, architect or artist?

Are these the requirements to become a Mason?

Or requirements to become a Grand Master?

Either way, this description give rises to the 18th century prerequisites of being a Mason, just as surely as does Section 1 in its wording about stupid atheists and irreligious libertines.

If we read into Section 1 a ban on atheists, shouldn't we also read into Section IV a requirement that a man have a certain educational level or mastery of an art or science?

I'm not saying we should, or we shouldn't.

I am simply pointing out the fuzzy areas of Masonic law and tradition, and urging us all to stop being so rigid about landmarks, charges and bans that we don't fully comprehend or that are more gray than black or white. Or that are obviously outdated, like the ban on women.

Freemasonry in the 21st century must progress, or it will surely die. We can be conscious of the past, using what we found there to help us cut our path into the future, but we must not worship the past, or blindly cling to it at all costs.

Rules are written for their time and place. Rules can and sometimes should be changed. Life is about expanding our knowledge and our perspectives, about evolving.

If you think differently, then you can't have any more barbecued pork.

Image: John Montague, 2nd Duke of Montagu presenting the Constitutions and the compasses to Philip, Duke of Wharton. Rev. Dr. John Desaguliers at the far right.

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Masonic Senator Trent Lott under the microscope

Scottish Rite poster boy W. Bro. and U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 33°, KCCH, Grand Cross, is making news this week.

On Monday, he announced he would resign from the Senate after 35 years on Capitol Hill. He was re-elected only last November.

Some political pundits
think he's leaving by December 31 to take advantage of legal loopholes that will allow him to become a lobbyist after one year, instead of waiting two years as he would have to do if he retires after Dec. 31, thanks to a new law kicking in on January 1.

Bro. Lott's brother-in-law, Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, is also in the news this week.

Attorney Scruggs, famous for winning huge lawsuits against the tobacco industry, was along with his son, two other attorneys and the Mississippi state auditor, indicted for conspiracy Wednesday in bribing county circuit judge Henry Lackey.

Scruggs' office was searched by the FBI on Tuesday.

Lackey was presiding judge in a series of suits against insurance companies over non-payment of claims resulting from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Trent Lott's home was destroyed in the hurricane, and he was party to one of the lawsuits being handled by Scruggs, reports say.

Bro. Lott became Senate Majority Whip in 1995 when fellow senator and Masonic 33° brother Bob Dole resigned to run for president.

The website Big Head DC gives us more — a lot more — news about Lott. The site has outed the conservative anti-gay rights Republican as being gay.

Gay male escort and freelance writer Benjamin Nicholas, it is alleged, has been "involved" with the 66-year old senator.

Said Nicholas on Monday: "Here's my public comment, on-the-record: Senator Lott and I have no current affiliation with one another. I’m sure he would appreciate no further scrutiny." [emphasis mine]

Big Head DC is known to sometimes mix news with satire, so your guess is as good as mine whether the allegations against Bro. Lott are true.

However, Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine, has confirmed that the magazine has been investigating Bro. Lott for several months. Flynt has offered up to a million dollars for "documented evidence of illicit sexual or intimate relations with a Congressperson, Senator or other prominent officeholder."

Bro. Lott is no stranger to controversy. In 2003, he was heavily criticized for his statement at the 100th birthday party for South Carolina Senator (and 33° Brother) Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Bro. Thurmond ran an overtly racist campaign for president in 1948 on the States' Rights Party "Dixiecrats" ticket. Lott said of Thurmond: "I want to say this about my state [Mississippi]. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years either."

Bro. Thurmond, an avowed racist for much of his life, fathered a mixed-race daughter in 1925 by his family's 16-year old black maid Carrie Butler. The Thurmond family confirmed this as fact, shortly after his death in 2003.

Bro. Lott's first political job in the 1960s was as an aide to segregationist Democratic Congressman William Colmer.

According to the Scottish Rite website, it took Bro. Lott nearly eight years to progress from Entered Apprentice to Fellowcraft. His "busy schedule of a congressional aide and freshman House member made advancement a challenge."

It then took him six days to go from Fellowcraft to Master Mason.

Amazingly he found time to get involved in Masonry, because within a few years, though busy as House Minority Whip, he was invested with the red cap of the Knight Commander of the Court of Honor (KCCH), followed soon after with the 33° Inspector General Honorary.

The Scottish Rite site concludes: "On October 3, 1997, he was elected to receive the Grand Cross, the highest honor the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, can bestow. Only a few modern political figures have attained this exalted rank."

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

'Stand By Me': A forgotten Masonic promise?

Stand By Me
Lyrics and music by Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we see
No I won't be afraid
No I won't be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

And darling, darling stand by me
Oh, now, now, stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me

If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
And the mountain should crumble to the sea
I won't cry, I won't cry
No I won't shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

And darling, darling stand by me
Oh, stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me, stand by me

Whenever you're in trouble won't you stand by me
Oh, now, now, stand by me
Oh, stand by me, stand by me, stand by me

Darling, darling stand by me
Stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me, stand by me

Video: John Lennon
Image: From the 1986 film "Stand By Me"

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Preacher offended by Hooker Street's name

Say you're the minister of a tiny Lutheran church in a small town in a state few can even recall the capital of. How do you get your name not only in the local paper, but picked up by the news networks and have it published and broadcast all over the country?

For Rev. David J. Baer of Whitewood, South Dakota, the answer came to him as if a message from God.

Complain to the town council about the name of a street, and demand the name be changed.

"Hooker Street doesn't quite lend itself to a family atmosphere and is offensive to some residents in the town of about 800 people, according to Baer," news sites across the world proclaimed today.

The street was named for Gen. Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker, a Union general during the American Civil War.

Even changing the name to "General Joseph Hooker Street" wouldn't satisfy the reverend, the article says.

The article doesn't actually go into why the word "hooker" bothers Baer so much. Hooker, of course, is another word for prostitute.

Perhaps he fears the street will become a red light district, or maybe Baer just believes the myth that Gen. Hooker is the etymological source of the slang term hooker for prostitute. dispels this story thusly:
In his Personal Memoirs Ulysses S. Grant described Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker as "a dangerous man... not subordinate to his superiors." Hooker had his faults. He may indeed have been insubordinate; he was undoubtedly an erratic leader. But "Fighting Joe" Hooker is often accused of one thing he certainly did not do: he did not give his name to prostitutes. According to a popular story, the men under Hooker's command during the Civil War were a particularly wild bunch, and would spend much of their time in brothels when on leave. For this reason, as the story goes, prostitutes came to be known as hookers. However attractive this theory may be, it cannot be true. The word hooker with the sense "prostitute" is already recorded before the Civil War. As early as 1845 it is found in North Carolina, as reported in Norman Ellsworth Eliason's Tarheel Talk; an Historical Study of the English Language in North Carolina to 1860, published in 1956. It also appears in the second edition of John Russell Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms, published in 1859, where it is defined as "a strumpet, a sailor's trull." Etymologically, it is most likely that hooker is simply "one who hooks." The term portrays a prostitute as a person who "hooks, or snares, clients."
While just 35 miles away in Rapid City, an 18-year old man is charged with brutally raping a 3-year old boy, Rev. David "Family Values" Baer is using his pulpit to demand the town protect its 800 residents from being offended by a man's last name. I think he's got his priorities a little, uh, screwed up. There are those who obviously could have used some ministerial services nearby.

What's next for Baer (whose own last name is both an anagram and a homonym — uh oh... homo!? — of "bare," which means "naked")?

Rumor has it the next windmill he tilts with will be the nearby state of Idaho, which is, as is so blatantly obvious as to offend even me, Ebonics for "I am a whore."

Image: The Red Light district in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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As above, so below: The 100th anniversary of Israel Regardie's birth

November 17, 2007 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Israel Regardie, considered one of the most significant occultists of the 20th century.

A London-born Jew, Regardie came to America at the age of 14. He became an expert in Hermetic Qabalah, and a student of theosophy, yoga and Hindu philosophy. He joined the Rosicrucians in 1926, and in 1928 returned to England to become Aleister Crowley's personal secretary, a position he held for the next four years.

Shortly thereafter he published Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites & Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order.

I have long been a student of his 1932 book The Art of True Healing: The Unlimited Power of Prayer and Visualization, wherein he describes the methods of meditation utilizing the five-chakra system known as "The Middle Pillar."

He later became a chiropractor and a teacher of psychiatry.

He died of a heart attack while dining with friends in 1985, in Sedona, Arizona.

The following essay by Dr. Regardie, found on (thanks, Jennifer!), may cast some light on his thinking regarding life and reincarnation:
In consulting the works of the ancient Kabalists and Medieval Hermetic Philosophers, we find the phrase "The Microcosm of the Macrocosm" being applied continually to man. These spiritual scientists conceived man to be a smaller world, fashioned in miniature exactly along the lines of the greater world, the Universe, the Macrocosm. They further postulated that "That which is above is like unto that which is below." Consequently the laws that are seen and known to operate in the Universe, correspondingly must work in man. Therefore, in first considering this subject of Reincarnation, let us examine the world around us and endeavor to place it on the basis of one law, observed to prevail in Cosmos — the Great Law of Periodicity. Occult Philosophy lays down the postulate of the Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane, that is, as space, periodically the playground of numberless universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing. The Absolute Universality of this Law of cycles, of flux and reflux, of ebb and flow, which physical science has recorded in all department of nature, and alterations such as those of day and night, life and death, sleeping and waking, summer and winter, are facts so common, so perfectly Universal and without exception, that it is easy to comprehend that in then we see one of the absolutely fundamental laws of the Universe, for these two are the world's eternal ways.

Our earth in the spring discards its white blanket of snow and emerges forth from its period of rest — its winter sleep. All activities are exerted to bring forth new life everywhere. Time passes. The corn and vegetation are ripened and harvested, and again the busy summer fades gradually into the silence and inactivity of the winter; again the snowy coverlet enwraps the earth, but her sleep is not forever, for she will reawaken to the song of the new spring, which will mark for her a little further progress along the pathway of time. So with the life of man. Is it conceivable that this law, so perfectly universal, so cosmic in its scope should be inoperative in the life of Man? Shall the earth wake each year from its winter sleep; shall the tree and the flower live again; shall all these examples of this great law continue to be observed and man die? It is inconceivable and impossible. It cannot be. The same law that impels wakefulness in the plant, and stirs it to new growth will wake the human being to new experiences to the distant goal of perfection. Therefore under this same Universal and therefore Spiritual Law of Periodicity, operating on and through man, he faithfully follows the similar fluctuations of being, Birth, Youth, Maturity, Decadence, and Death, to enter Birth again, to be moulded to a better purpose, perhaps, than has been possible in the old one.

"If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time, will I wait until my change comes." This appeal was uttered by the Prophet Job of the Old Dispensation, and his very cry "If a man dies, shall he live again" is indicative of the dissatisfaction of mankind, then, as well as now, with the biblical allotment of three score years and ten for the expression of consciousness. To all appearances, man flits like a firefly out of an eternal past, only to be extinguished for an eternal future, after a life of expression that in comparison, in these latter days of science, with even our materialistic concepts of space and time, is actually of shorter duration than the spark of an electrical discharge.

Nature requires millions of years to produce a grain of sand — when we review all the processes that have lead up to its present state as such. The California Redwoods are silent but eloquent symbols of nature's creative handiwork, enduring for centuries and in the estimation of some of our modern biologists for even thousands of years. And yet Man, the epitome of all the creative forces in Nature is assumed in the cold estimate of materialistic science to be merely the evolution of a speck of protoplasm, growing like an artificial laboratory culture until after reaching maturity, it is annihilated — to be seen no more for ever. In the lifetime of a single man, thousands of animals, fowl and fish, hundreds of thousands of vegetables have given their lives in the support of his existence. Thousands of animals have given their lives in the work of experimental scientists in their endeavors to improve man's physical condition. Multiply this in the case of one man by the countless myriads of individuals that have trod the surface of this earth since the dawn of the human races. What a prodigious waste of energy? What a crime against the lower kingdoms? - if 35 to 65 years is to be the average life of an individual and the only expression that he is to be permitted to have after the whole earth has given of its best to train and to equip him for constructive work. It is unthinkable to those who stop to think of it at all. There must be some compensatory condition, and since the beginning of the human kingdom, its thinking members have sought that compensation. It is found in Reincarnation.

From the Totem Pole of American Indians to the hideous effigies of Deity in Asia; from the Chinese Joss to the beautiful Altar in the Christian Cathedral, the same fact is in evidence, that from somewhere down through the remote and obscure ages, humanity has been invested with the truth — the truth that there is another life, and another opportunity beyond this present life, and those millions who have delved deepest into truth have found beyond doubt this truth of reincarnation.

Now, being forced to admit that reincarnation is a necessity in nature, and granting we admit of the existence, and immortality of the human soul, we find that this doctrine of pre-existence and rebirth is the only one yielding a logical and self satisfying explanation of the phenomena of life. This doctrine, which is an extremely simple doctrine, rooted in the assurance of the soul's indestructibility and immortality, implies a persisting and expanding intelligence, through all changes of embodiment, the latter being but a means towards the great aim and purpose of the Intelligent man within, the gaining of what the ancients called All-Knowledge. It teaches that the soul enters this life, not as a flesh creation, but after a long course of previous existences on this earth, in which it acquired its present inhering peculiarities, and that it is on the way to future transformations, now being shaped by the soul. It claims that infancy brings to this earth, not a blank scroll for the beginning of an earthly record — nor a mere cohesion of atomic forces into a brief personality that is destined by its own nature to dissolve again into the elements — but a definite immortal character that is its own, due to long experiences, acquired through self induced and self devised efforts throughout long series of incarnations.

What is the Universe for, and for what final purpose is Man, the Immortal Thinker here in evolution? Centuries ago, the Fraters Rosae Crucis stated that it is all for the experience and emancipation of the Spirit, for the growth of the soul, as well as for the purpose of raising the entire mass of manifested matter up to the stature, dignity, and position of conscious godhood. The aim for present man, and also the three kingdoms below him, in his evolution and initiation into complete knowledge, and in this Rosicrucian concept is evolution carried to its highest power, and to its logical conclusion. It makes of man a God, and gives to every part of nature the possibility of being the same one day; there is strength and nobility in it, for by this scheme, no man is so originally sinful that he can not rise above all sin and attain to the highest.

Men, in general, accept evolution as a proven law of growth, the evidence being drawn solely from observed changes in physical forms and species, but this general view considers only external evidence of the operation without any understanding of the inner and actuating cause. The word "Evolution" really means an unfolding from within outwards, and had not our scientists been so materially inclined they might long ago have arrived at a knowledge of the truth. The Rosicrucian doctrines make clear the operation of evolution and carry it to its highest point of logic by showing that the impelling force is Intelligence, which itself at the same time is evolving to greater and greater heights by means of temporary forms of expression. Thus we find that Rosicrucianism postulates a dual evolution, a physical line — that of the evolution of form - and a spiritual line, that of the evolution of Intelligence and Consciousness, and from this, we have to admit that this double line of evolution can only be carried on through reincarnation, for what happens to the spiritual element in Man after death. To dwell in a monotonous heaven — as postulated by Theology — is illogical, therefore after a period of rest, in accordance with that law of Periodicity or Rhythm — previously mentioned — the Spirit returns to earth to resume its further progress.

The object of life, then, is the gaining of all knowledge, and the acquirement of experience, the scale of which we find to be enormous. Knowledge infinite in scope and diversity lies before us, and we have much more than a mere suspicion that the extent of the field of truth is vastly greater than the narrow circle in which we are confined. We also perceive that we have high aspirations with little or no time to reach up to their measure while the great troop of passions, desires and selfish motives war with us and even among themselves. All these have to be conquered, and subdued, and as we know that one life expression is insufficient to do this, and to acquire all that we know we must acquire, we must conclude then that a series of lives has led to our present condition, and that the process of coming here again and again must go on for the purpose of affording us the opportunities needed.

Through some process of reasoning, some persons have arrived at the conclusion that reincarnation is injust because we suffer for the wrong deeds performed by another in some previous incarnation. But this is based on the incorrect notion that the person in the other life was someone else, but in every life, it is the same person. When we return to earth life, we do not take up the body of someone else, nor another's deeds, but are like an actor who plays many parts, the same actor inside, though all the costumes and lines differ in each play. Shakespeare was correct in asserting that Life is a Play, for the great life of each Ego is an Immense Drama in the Scheme of Things, and Nature is the great stage on which this drama is played, and thus each new life and each new rebirth is but another act in which we assume our part and put on another dress, but through it all, we are still the self same, Immortal Ego.

While this doctrine — coupled with its twin — Karma — may seem stern and implacable to some, they are not really so, for they are essentially optimistic, and give us a great deal of encouragement. Reincarnation gives man an opportunity to try, try again with the assurance that each sincere and earnest attempt brings its reward in time. So those who sit despairing in the dark places may take courage. Those who are perplexed and filled with doubt may know that there is a solution to all their troubles and difficulties. The mother bereft of her child; the husband or wife left desolately alone, may find consolation for they will meet again to take up the broken threats of affection and weave them into new and fairer looms of progress. Thus the heart finds complete satisfaction and the intellect more than its fullest scope in these teachings of the Ancient Fraters of the Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis.
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Grand Orient of the United States of America announced

On Sunday evening the website of the United Grand Lodge of America was updated to reflect a new status, a new focus, and a new order of amity with worldwide Freemasonry.

The UGLA is now officially the Grand Orient of the United States of America. After months of discussion, the organization is now in amity with the Grand Orient de France and through them, with George Washington Union and Freemasons across the world.

The Grand Orient de France is the largest Masonic organization in France, and was formed in 1733. It was the only Masonic Order in France until the end of the 19th century. Its members outnumber all other French grand lodges combined.

The new Grand Orient of the United States of America's website says:

The Grand Orient of the United States of America is a continuation of the Masonic traditions began by brothers such as Benjamin Franklin and the Marquis De Lafayette. Our lineage can be traced back through the Grand Orient of France to the original speculative Grand Lodge of London that was established in 1717. These traditions and ideas are at the very core of Enlightenment thinking that eventually resulted in the freedoms enjoyed by every American today.

We hold true to these beliefs:
  • That every man is endowed with certain inalienable rights
  • That peace and harmony among human beings is only possible where there exists a separation between church and state
  • That absolute freedom of conscience is an essential element in the pursuit of happiness among all peoples
  • That all human beings are created equal and that equality is fundamental to democracy and freedom
What is today the Grand Orient of the United States of America began on December 27th, 2005; several lodges declared their independence from the 'Antient' Masonic system and formed a confederation of sovereign lodges under the banner of United Grand Lodge of America. In so doing, they sought to restore Modern Free-Masonry to the American continent and return to the traditional Enlightenment and cosmopolitan ideals expressed in the original Craft. This event allowed the original streams of Masonic thought still existing in Europe to once again flow freely into lodges in America.

In November of 2007, several more lodges declared their independence from the 'Antient' Masonic system and the Council of the Order was convened to formalize our relationship with our brethren in France and throughout Europe. The Council voted unanimously to change the name of the United Grand Lodge of America to the Grand Orient of the United States of America to better and more precisely identify it with the existing currents of Modern Free-Masonry throughout the world.

The Grand Orient of the United States of America is a masculine Masonic obedience that works together with the mixed-gender obedience lodges operating under George Washington Union throughout the United States. Together, these two systems represent the most liberal and progressive form of Freemasonry in America, which is open to all people regardless of race, creed, or sex.

Our aim is the brotherhood of all humanity through a universal chain of union extending around the globe. If you are already with us in spirit then you are welcome to join with us in Masonic lodges throughout the world.
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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pope poops on modern music for mass

While the Episcopalians have taken to singing songs by U2 in their services, Pope Benedict XVI is telling Catholics they must return to medieval music in their masses.

The former Joseph Ratzinger is irritated by guitars and tambourines, the London Telegraph reports.

"It is possible to modernize holy music," the Pope said at a concert conducted by Domenico Bartolucci, the director of music at the Sistine Chapel. "But it should not happen outside the traditional path of Gregorian chants or sacred polyphonic choral music."

The pope believes that medieval music "creates the correct ambiance for perceiving God's mystery."

Catholic leaders are divided on the issue.

Cardinal Ersilio Tonini, the Archbishop of Ravenna, said, "Mass is the presence of Christ and the music adds so much more when the harmony allows the mind to transcend the concrete to the divine."

But Cardinal Carlo Furno, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, said it was "better to have guitars on the altar and rock and roll Masses than empty churches." Modern music is a "sign of the vitality of the faith."

A week before the pope's pronouncement, on the website Catholic Answers, a forum member wrote: "Hi everyone. I bought a CD called Tai Chi — Music For Relaxation as a relaxation CD. It is quite clearly New Age music. Would it be a sin to listen to this CD?"

Are people so incapable of thinking for themselves, so afraid of doing something "wrong" or "sinful" that they must resort to asking permission of strangers before they listen to a particular piece of music? (And if so, why didn't she ask before she bought it?)

The responses to her question were even more bizarre than the question itself. Here are a few of the "well-reasoned" comments she received:
  • "As long as you don't believe any of the trash they'll probably try to promote, I doubt it's wrong."

  • "So long as there are no lyrics praising a false god or ideals, I don't see how."

  • "No lyrics? I don't see a problem with the music itself. The money from the CD may be going to things you may not want to support, but I don't think the music itself is sinful/evil."

  • "New Age music is on the same level as Rock, Rap, Country, Jazz, Bluegrass, Gospel, and every other form of anticlassical music. Anticlassical music, regardless of lyrical content or lack thereof, is essentially of the flesh, not the mind.

    "The only music that is truly of the mind, that is truly human, in other words, is Classical music, on the order of Vivaldi, J.S. Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, as distinct from the anticlassical, so-called Romantic works of Wagner, Franz Liszt, and Hector Berlioz.

    "Compare any of the first paragraph's indicated musical offerings, to Bach's St. Matthew Passion or the Jesu Meine Freude. There is a species-difference between the two. The former is animalistic, the latter is humanistic.

    "In other words, New Age music, lyrical or not, is, like all anticlassical music, a vice, like tobacco smoking or drinking alcohol. The only healthy form of music, from a cognitive perspective, is Classical forms."

  • "Although I'm not sure if listening to New Age music is sinful or not I would suggest that it would be highly IMPRUDENT!

    "I used to listen to a LOT of New-Age music, everything from Enigma to Mike Oldfield, because I liked the way it made me feel! It never gave me peace but it did give me a feeling of peace. But it would never last.

    "Try to think of what is happening spiritually when you listen to music; and music does move your spirit. If you listen to Christian music where the musicians, etc. have prayed that whoever listens to their music will be moved closer to God, then anyone who listens to their music will receive grace when listening to it. You receive the 'Spirit' that the musicians intend for you to receive.

    "Same thing happens when New-Agers make music, you pick up the New-Age spirits.

    "If music helps you relax, I would suggest you find some good Christian/Catholic music. I personally like to listen to some of the Taizé music. Very peaceful."

  • "It isn't wrong in itself, but buying these CD's provides financial support for those who promote New Age and other philosophies which are dangerous things to get involved in."

  • "All music involves the flesh, but, not all is of it. Only Romantic and similar composers intend to please the ears through arbitrary sound arrangements. Classical composers compose their works around an idea — a mental construct — that the notes are indicators of. Until one understands this, one knows nothing valuable whatever of Classical music and all music is merely sensuality, all acoustical majesty merely frippery, all musical virtuosity merely egotism."
New age spirits? Animalistic? Anti-classical? Imprudent? Frippery and egotism?

Meanwhile, the Pope believes that if Latin Masses are reintroduced, more Catholics will learn the words to the Gregorian chants that he advocates.

Gregorian chants for your iPod. How 12th century!

Rock on.
It's alright, it's alright, it's alright
She moves in mysterious ways
It's alright, it's alright, it's alright
She moves in mysterious ways
It's alright, it's alright, it's alright

We move through miracle days
Spirit moves in mysterious ways
She moves with it
She moves with it
Lift my days, light up my nights

— From Mysterious Ways by U2

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

All's right with the world

"Men are disturbed not by things that happen, but by their opinions of the things that happen." — Epictetus (55-135)

On this day of turkeys, football games and public prayers, I hope you'll realize, and be thankful that — despite all the apparent turmoils of life — all is right with the world.
The year's at the spring
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hillside's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in His heaven —
All's right with the world.

— Robert Browning (1812-1889)
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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Halcyon Lodge releases letter to former Halcyon Lodge No. 498 members

W. Bro. Ken Miller, Master of Halcyon Lodge and former Master of Halcyon Lodge No. 498 (no longer extant), released this afternoon a letter addressed to the former members of the former Halcyon Lodge No. 498, explaining the details of the lodge's surrender of their charter to the Grand Lodge of Ohio.

Halcyon Lodge
2831 Franklin Blvd.
Cleveland, Ohio 44113-2916
November 21, 2007

Dear Brother __________,

We write to inform you of recent events concerning Halcyon 498. Our lodge has been at odds with the Grand Lodge of Ohio for several months on a number of important issues. Chief among those have been the Grand Lodge of Ohio's attempt to control the content of our website, its unwarranted demand that we shut down our website, its attempt to dictate whom we may or may not associate with, and most recently their attempt to coerce the lodge to reverse a transaction that has been tremendously beneficial to the lodge, the West Side Masonic Temple, and to the community.

The transaction in question is the gift of financial assets and West Side Masonic Temple Company shares in December of last year to Halcyon Charities, an Ohio
non-profit corporation that was founded by several brothers working with community leaders.

There were very good business reasons for making the gift. Before this transaction, the Lodge was losing money every year as it was forced to bear all of the building expenses on its own. Furthermore, after years of neglect by previous management the building is sorely in need of expensive repairs. It became clear to the brethren that if Halcyon 498 were to continue acting as the sole source of revenue to support the building, the lodge would slowly bleed to death over the next few years. The end result would have been the end of the Temple and the death of Halcyon 498. The brethren determined that this was an unacceptable result. Thus, the Lodge unanimously voted that it would no longer fund the West Side Masonic Temple Company.

To insure the long term preservation of the building AND the long term viability of
Halcyon 498, the lodge voted unanimously to gift its securities, including its shares
in the WSMTC, to Halcyon Charities. Halcyon Charities is not a temple company, but is instead a fully functioning public charity as defined by the Internal Revenue Code. Thus, it has the ability to pursue strategies to generate revenue through rentals and through charitable activities that will ultimately lead to tax-deductible donations. It can engage in fund raising to support its charitable programs, and to support building maintenance and operations. Further, its public charity status will position it to seek a local property tax exemption, which (if granted) will significantly improve the bottom line. It is clearly a superior business structure for the long-term viability of the temple.

Halcyon Charities has two goals: serving poor and underprivileged youth, and historic preservation of the building. Halcyon Charities seeks to establish athletic and arts programs to serve children in its neighborhood and the surrounding Cleveland area. It has already established a reputable youth boxing program that is housed in the building. Halcyon Charities is actively seeking strategic partners to establish a youth arts program utilizing the building's theatrical stages. The charity has already contributed significant value to building, including finishing the ballroom to return it to rentable condition, repairing the neglected air handling systems, repairing the roof, and building the boxing gym to house the boxing program. In short, it is doing what the brethren of the lodge hoped it would do when they voted to make the gift.

This transaction was also designed to insure the long term viability of the Lodge.
Without the burden of supporting all building expenses, the Lodge was suddenly solvent and its anticipated dues revenue exceeded its expenses. In just a few years,
the end result would have been a healthy lodge meeting in a safe and healthy building, and enjoying a much higher profile in the community in the process.

Unfortunately the Grand Lodge of Ohio lacks the vision and understanding to
appreciate what the brethren of Halcyon have done. At this year's annual meeting,
several DDGM's and high ranking officers of Grand Lodge made an unannounced visit to our Lodge. MWB Steven Krekus, in the presence of Grand Treasurer MWB Thomas H. Galyen, the current Junior Grand Warden, RWB Bradford Goebel, and all 5 current 22nd District Deputy Grand Masters, read a letter from the Grand Master demanding that Halcyon #498 reverse the transaction and put things back to the way they were — and giving the lodge only 48 hours to comply. The Grand Master stated that if the Lodge did not comply, he [would] remove the duly elected worshipful master and secretary of Halcyon Lodge #498 and assume control of the lodge. After reading the letter, brothers Krekus, Galyen and Goebel immediately left the building offering no opportunity for discussion.

It was both legally and practically impossible for the lodge to comply with this
order. Further, the Lodge determined that it was inappropriate to allow the Grand
Lodge officers to overrule valid elections and remove/replace officers without the
consent of the lodge. Given the 48 hour deadline, the lodge felt that it had to act
immediately to prevent this obvious injustice. Thus, the lodge unanimously voted
to surrender its charter, severing its relationship with Ohio Grand Lodge.

Those present at the meeting were concerned about what would happen to brothers who may want to remain Masons in good standing within the Ohio Grand Lodge system. DDGM Edgar Phelps confirmed that all brothers who had not surrendered their dues cards would remain in good standing and would be permitted to affiliate with another blue lodge. Thus, the good standing of the brethren of Halcyon Lodge #498 is unaffected by this move — your dues card is still valid and you are still a Master Mason in good standing with the Grand Lodge of Ohio. However, upon surrendering the Charter, Halcyon 498 ceased to exist.

It is regrettable that this all happened so quickly, but the unexpected and illegal
mandate by the Grand Lodge left Halcyon Lodge with little choice. We are mindful that many of you have already paid your dues for the coming year, and you will now have to affiliate with a new lodge and pay its dues, if you choose to remain a Mason within the Ohio Grand Lodge system. Thus, it is our intention to provide a full refund to all brothers who have paid their 2008 dues. At this point we will not cash any additional dues checks. If your check has not been cashed yet, you wil get your check back with your dues card. If your check has already been cashed, we will write you a refund check. We wil try to get to everyone, but if you do not receive a refund check within the next 4 weeks, please send us a letter at the address below to the attention of Mike Howard. Note that we have already paid the per diem to Grand Lodge of Ohio, so you are in good standing and should have no problems affiliating with another blue lodge.

Many former members of Halcyon 498 have turned in their dues card and formed a new lodge that is not affiliated with the Grand Lodge of Ohio. We are excited about the opportunity to continue to practice Masonry. To learn more about the new lodge, visit our website at Former members of Halcyon 498 are welcome to petition our new lodge, known as "Halcyon Lodge."

Ken Miller
Master of Halcyon Lodge
Former Master of Halcyon 498

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Grand Lodge of Alabama meets this week

Amidst, I'm sure, lots of eloquent words, much recognizing of esteemed visitors, and gold-chain rattling, the Grand Lodge of Alabama is meeting for its annual communication this week (Monday through Wednesday).

High on their list of things to vote on is a proposal to lower the minimum age to become a Mason to eighteen.

Noticeably missing from the list is any mention of recognizing Prince Hall Masons, or of rescinding the century-old rant against "negro Masons" still on the books at the Alabama grand lodge.

And I don't expect they'll be hearing any speeches similar to the one given by Bro. Alex Harris in 1999.

As a thought experiment, we've posted several imaginary sentries outside the doors to the Grand Lodge meeting. Their job is to count the number of black Freemasons who enter the meeting. Can't wait to find out the final tally.

Image: Bro. Theophilus Eugene "Bull" Connor (1897-1973), Alabama police commissioner, public service commissioner and outspoken segregationist during during the 1940s, 50s and 60s. He was reportedly a Freemason and a "very active" Shriner. It was Connor who ordered the police to have the German shepherd dogs attack protesters, and the fire department to turn their firehoses against them, in Birmingham in 1963. One disgusted fireman said later, "We're supposed to fight fires, not people."

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'No more anonymous for you!': Here we go again....

Back in September, 2006 (see "No More Anonymous for You") I tried a short-lived experiment on this blog barring anonymous comments. Today, I'm re-instituting that rule.

It's not because I want to know who you are; I don't, unless you want to share that information.

It's simply because once again "anonymous" comments are flooding the comments section of many articles, making it difficult for us all to tell which "anonymous" is which. When attempting to respond to a particular anonymous post, it's hard to separate and conceptualize which "anonymous" you're talking to.

So — please — open a Blogger or Google account. Use whatever name you want, whether it be some noble historical figure or some geeky character from Dungeons and Dragons or even your dog's name. Just give us a "face" to address our comments to. Simply responding to "anonymous" isn't like having a conversation; it's like taking turns spraying graffiti on a wall.

If you still insist on posting using the anonymous feature, at least sign it consistently with some "name" so we can tell the anonymous's apart.

A secondary consideration is this: If someone has to maintain a "persona," maybe he or she will exercise a little Masonic self-discipline and slow down with all the childish name-calling and finger-pointing that's beginning to surface again.

Your comments are most welcome here, and I appreciate you reading and responding to articles posted on The Burning Taper. However, I would like to see the quality of the discourse improve a bit. After all, no matter what you think of what's going on in Freemasonry these days, and no matter what dislike you have for someone else's viewpoint, we are (or should be) ladies and gentlemen, and should be able to interact with at least the same manners and dignity as I hope we would face-to-face.

This "rule" is voluntary at this time. When I return from Thanksgiving festivities, I'll make a decision on whether to make it mandatory by toggling the "no anonymous comments" switch.

I wish each and every one of you a happy Thanksgiving. Remember to give thanks for that which you have: Friends, family, Masonic brothers and sisters, food and water, shelter, the freedom to interact via the Internet....

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Past Grand Master of West Virginia expelled from Freemasonry

It seems that in most every online discussion about Masonry, a supporter of the Masonic status quo brings up the "fact" that Freemasonry is a "democracy," and says those who disagree with this or that can, by working within the system, effect positive change.

Apparently the brothers who met at the recent annual communication of the Grand Lodge of West Virginia did just that. In true "democratic spirit," they discussed several measures, and then voted on them.

It seems the new Grand Master, R. W. Bro. Charles Montgomery, didn't like the way the votes came out.

"I.M. Hiram" wrote in an email sent to at least a hundred West Virginia Masons back in September (reprinted on the blog Freemasons for Dummies):
...the current "old guard" Grand Lodge officers, and faction of like-minded Past Grand Masters and Jurisprudence committee whom they control said, in no uncertain terms that you, the men who overwhelmingly voted to approve these proposals "did not understand what they were voting for." Furthermore, they accused the two Masons charged with the counting of the ballots on the proposals, as having "miscounted" the ballots, and having left ballots in the ballot box, effectively speaking evil of their good name.
I.M. Hiram and his email recipients were threatened with expulsion. Apparently, the author of the blog Masonic Crusade has been, too.

The blogs Masonic Crusade and Freemasons for Dummies have now reported that Grand Master M. W. Bro. Charles Montgomery has expelled the Past Grand Master (2005-2006) of West Virginia R. W. Bro. Frank Haas along with the Deputy Grand Lecturer R. W. Bro. Richard K. Bosley. Haas was expelled during a meeting at Wellsburg Lodge No. 2. The lodge's charter was put on probation, it is reported, for failing to have brought charges against Bro. Haas.

Bro. Bosley had spoken on behalf of Bro. Haas during the meeting, and against some of the grand master's actions. He was later expelled in the parking lot after the meeting.

Democracy? What kind of democracy gives one man (who, if West Virginia's grand lodge is like Georgia's, wasn't truly "elected" but was simply "moved up the line") dictatorial powers to summarily throw out votes that represented the "will of the people" and to expel members — even former leaders — who disagree with him?

This is the kind of system we swore allegiance to? This is the type of Masonic leadership we pledged to obey?

God help us.

You can email the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of West Virginia. I'm sure your message will get through to the Grand Master.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Michigan's Euclid Lodge formed outside the Masonic 'mainstream'

The brothers who recently formed Euclid Lodge in Grand Rapids, Michigan never meant to be at the forefront of the revolution that is now underway in American Freemasonry. They just didn't feel that it was possible to accomplish what they wanted to accomplish as Freemasons while laboring under the current administrative structure.

The brothers making up Euclid Lodge have no ill will towards the Grand Lodge of Michigan, calling it "a fine organization that accomplishes its stated and apparent goals." Euclid members just didn't agree with those stated and apparent goals.

Among the points of difference these men of conscience had with the Michigan grand lodge were:
  • Freedom of conscience and the admission of atheists into Freemasonry: "The brethen of Euclid Lodge feel that a good man who is an atheist is a better candidate than a hate-filled man who is a 'believer,'" Euclid's newly elected Worshipful Master W. Bro. Brandt Smith told The Burning Taper in a recent interview. Anderson's Constitution never said an atheist could not become a Mason; it said that a man who became a Mason would not be a "stupid atheist." Does that mean that Freemasonry would teach such a man not to be an atheist, or that Freemasonry would teach him things that would lead him to no longer be stupid?

  • Women as Masons: Society has changed, and so has the place of women in our society. While Euclid's members do not initiate, pass or raise women as Masons, they do acknowledge women as Masons if they "have been regularly received into a just and perfect lodge."

  • The lack of Masonic education: As in many jurisdictions, the study of Masonry's history, symbolism and ultimate purpose is woefully ignored, with time that could be used for such enlightened discussions given over to matters these brethren considered of lesser importance, or even trivial. They instead wanted to study Freemasonry itself.

  • Initially, these brothers believed that Freemasonry had been misrepresented to them. Eventually, they discovered that hosting charitable events and general socializing were in fact the true nature and norm of most of American Freemasonry. While they agree that charity is a good thing, they found that they had little interest in hosting fundraisers, instead wanting to focus on more enlightening and esoterica matters.

  • Ritual: The brothers of Euclid wanted to explore rituals of the Craft, and not to be required to only use the Preston-Webb ritual required in Michigan. The brothers have chosen to use French Modern Rite.
W. Bro. Smith says they hope they can work together with the Grand Lodge of Michigan in the future, on matters important to all Masons, but "the philosophy of [the Grand Lodge] was just too radically different from what we came here to do. It would have been dishonest of us to continue to labor under a philosophy that we did not necessarily support."

Euclid Lodge currently has 14 active members, with five other Masons having petitioned for membership, and two candidates awaiting initiation.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bro. Jeff Peace responds to Bro. Theron Dunn's 'Masonic Malcontents?' article

"Nobody got anywhere in the world by simply being content." — Louis L'Amour

Bro. Theron Dunn recently posted to his blog a piece called Masonic Malcontents?.

Below is Bro. Jeff Peace's response to Bro. Dunn's article.

Masonic Malcontents: Another Perspective

Bro. Theron Dunn has such a wonderful way of bending both reality and the truth to meet his own needs. After reading his essay Masonic Malcontents? I felt compelled to respond with a more realistic perspective.

Let's take a look at what he says in light of reality and the facts. Theron begins by saying "These brothers seem to feel that if only freemasonry would change, lock, stock and barrel to THEIR vision, that everything would be cool beans and freemasonry would grow."

I have to question this statement in relationship to the reality unfolding in American Freemasonry. The "malcontents" have not asked for any changes. They simply quit American Freemasonry to pursue their own interests. Based on the actual events that have taken place they would appear to have little, if any, concern with the old system. The argument that they are demanding change is simply without merit.

In his second paragraph he states: "The Problem is, their 'suggestions' for change
involve throwing away pretty much everything that makes Freemasonry, well, Masonic. This includes the Grand Lodge system, the lodges, the ritual, the tenets, how we meet, who we recognize... if all their plans were implemented, we would be something else, but not freemasonry."

While many of the "malcontents" have complained about the heavy handedness of the grand lodges, nowhere have I seen them call for an overall change to Freemasonry. Since each jurisdiction has its own unique rituals, and they change these from time to time (many were drastically changed in the 1920's and the Scottish Rite just re-wrote all of its rituals), the idea that the "malcontents" are calling for changes to the rituals is ridiculous. Nowhere have they said anything about changing the "tenets," or how lodges meet. They have, however, openly complained about the use of recognition to further racism in the southern United States. I feel this is justifiable on moral grounds, and that most of the modern world would agree with the "malcontents" on this issue.
They go on constantly about Grand Lodges being "monolithic" and "unresponsive." One of these brothers even recently wrote: "Monolithic systems such as Grand Lodges are well suited for mass production operations where everything is the same, but poorly suited to address individual needs. This, I believe, is the true nature of the problem. It's not about the needs of the ego but the spirit of the human being."

The problem is, this is incorrect, a sand foundation for all proceeding arguments, and in itself an ego driven position. These few brothers, and by few I mean less than a hundred (though they are quite vocal) out of, what, 4 million plus Freemasons worldwide, seem to hold the position that they are not bound by their obligation to Freemasonry, that they do not have to work within the system to effect change.
Theron shames himself in the above paragraphs by not revealing the whole truth, and only the part he wants his reader to believe. He claims that it's just a few brothers when he has no idea how many have been alienated by the existing system. He also twists the numerical statistics to meet the needs of his straw argument. The present situation is isolated to American Masonry and not the global fraternity of four million. Therefore, we are speaking of about two million Masons. Of these two million American Masons about 98% have not set foot in a lodge in the past twenty years and have no idea what's taking place in their lodges or Grand Lodge. To claim that two million American Masons agree that the present status quo represents their views is a rhetorical fabrication. Of the forty thousand that are actively involved in the fraternity about 30% of those are unsatisfied with the present system. This represents about twelve thousand dissatisfied active Masons.
Ego is the prime cause of this problem, and others like it. In masonic ritual, we are taught that we were first PREPARED to be made a mason in our hearts, then taught to circumscribe our desires, and "wait a time with patience." A lack of patience, and an over riding ego are the prime cause of these types of actions.
Is "ego" the real driving force in these events? Yes, but not in the way Theron would have us believe. When a Grand Master issues an edict or demand is it by its very nature unquestionable. Is it unreasonable for those affected by such edicts and demands to ask for the reasons and justifications behind them? Should Freemasons, as enlightened men, blindly follow the dictates of one man without reasonable justification? Past precedence has shown that asking for reasonable justifications is met with a heavy handedness by Grand Masters that includes threats and actions of suspension, expulsion, etc. designed to compel a blind submission to his whims and desires. So whose ego is truly driving the problem: that of the common blue lodge Mason or the Grand Master?

Theron even agrees on this point when he says: "If one cannot convince the majority of the correctness of his belief, then it strikes me as the height of chutzpah, ego and hubris...." The same applies to the actions of the Grand Master in regards to lodges and individual brothers. In the case of the Grand Masters they don’t even bother to try and convince anyone of the rightness of their actions or demands. They offer no reasonable justification at all, just "do what I say or else!" Again, I have to ask where is the real source of the ego problem: the Grand Master or the common brother?
With the RARE exceptions noted above, the universal experience has been one of friendship, support, study, contemplation, charity and brotherhood.
I would have to disagree with this statement based on the statistical data. If American Freemasonry were truly dedicated to "Friendship, support, study, contemplation, charity, and brotherhood." its lodges would be filled to overflowing at each meeting. Since 98% of the brethren haven’t attended in over twenty years it follows that it must not be the Utopia Theron would have us believe.

While Theron focuses on arguments of ego and malcontents American Freemasonry
continues its downward spiral into oblivion. Perhaps men like Theron could accomplish more if they focused on solving the problems that breed malcontent such as the egos of Grand Masters and other Masonic leaders.

— Jeff Peace

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dude, where's my string theory?

Thirty-nine year old surfer dude Garrett Lisi, who holds a doctorate in theoretical physics but is not affiliated with any university, made waves among the Theoretical Physics crowd on November 6 by publishing An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything.

The theory, according to its fans, interweaves the current Standard Model — which attempts to explain three of the four fundamental forces of nature: the electromagnetic force; the strong force, which binds quarks together in atomic nuclei; and the weak force, which controls radioactive decay — with gravity, the (so far) unexplained fourth force of nature.

Lisi's theory does this, believers say, with a minimum of mathematics, explaining Everything in terms of E8, an eight-dimensional mathematical pattern with 248 points first found in 1887. The Universe, I think he's saying, is 248-dimensional.

Lisi says "I think our universe is this beautiful shape."

Lisi's theory apparently does what String Theory can't: make predictions about the nature of the Universe that can be tested. Lisi's theory may just leave String Theory in knots.

Physicists, it seems, either love Lisi's theory, or think it's "hogwash" born of "crackpot physics."

Georgia Institute of Technology physicist David Ritz Finkelstein was quoted as saying, "Some incredibly beautiful stuff falls out of Lisi's theory. This must be more than coincidence and he really is touching on something profound."

Self-described "conservative physicist" Luboš Motl (who has been called an "unpleasant troll" by writer Pozorvlak) of Pilsen, Czech Republic wrote on his blog The Reference Frame that Lisi's theory is a "huge joke" that caused him to explode in laughter.

"There is not a glimpse of physics in that paper," writes Motl, a string theory enthusiast. He tosses around words like "silly" and "kindergarten physics," and seems especially fond of calling every physicist he disagrees with a "crackpot."

"Every high school senior excited about physics should be able to see that the paper is just a long sequence of childish misunderstandings," says Motl.

Who is right? Is Lisi the next Einstein, surfing instead of working in a patent office? I don't know.

I'm just an observer, and I remain uncertain, thanks to Werner Heisenberg.

And what I do observe with interest is how the "conservative" status quo, the physics "establishment," has quickly moved to cast aspersions on the out-of-the-mainstream-but-qualified physicist Garrett Lisi. It reminds me of the online battle of words and ideas between young, "upstart" Freemasons with fresh ideas and mainstream, toe-the-line, conservative grand lodge-loving Masonic bloggers who decry innovation and a return to true education.

"You're unmasonic! Obey the Grand Lodge! Don't think for yourself!" sounds very much to me like Motl's warning against "the recent fashionable trend [of accepting] an ever broader set of passionate amateurs and undereducated, intellectually challenged loons into the physics circles."

It's always entertaining and interesting to observe when youthful brashness, optimism and new opinions smash and collide against staid, indoctrinated and firmly entrenched "leaders" who call others crackpots (or the Tin Foil Brigade) and support their worldview by dismissing dissension with "everyone knows...."

Read Lisi's An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything and decide for yourself.

Or just watch the movie.

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