Saturday, April 26, 2008

World conference of Masonic grand lodges to be held

From a press release from Grand Lodge of Free And Accepted Masons of the District of Columbia:
April 25, 2008 — For the first time ever, the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the District of Columbia will play host to a historic and grand event, the 9th World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges, at the Renaissance Washington DC Hotel, May 7th, 2008 through May 10th, 2008.

This conference will bring together international Masonic leaders comprised of high-level officials in government, business and civic service. Specifically, large delegations from Africa, Latin America and Europe are expected to be in attendance. Masonic leaders will discuss how the Society of Freemasonry can utilize its position to promote universal understanding, enlightened ideas, and goodwill globally.

Members of the press are invited to cover keynote speakers, banquets, the World War II Memorial wreath-laying and Masonic award ceremonies. Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) is to be honored at a reception on Thursday, May 8th in the Cannon Caucus Room on Capitol Hill for his lifetime dedication to civil rights. Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) will be honored during the May 10th banquet with Freemasonry's Medal of Freedom for his commitment to preserving freedom and liberty across the globe. A number of educational scholarships will also be presented at the May 10th closing banquet, with college scholarships being awarded to 15 D.C. public high school graduating seniors as well as two current American University students.

On May 10th, at 11:00 a.m., a public wreath laying ceremony will be held at the National World War II Memorial to recognize all Freemasons killed during World War II.

As the world's oldest and largest fraternal society with more than half of its membership in the United States, Freemasonry has a rich history of involvement in the founding of America and her development for over two centuries. The 9th World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges will be the largest international public gathering of Freemasons in Washington D.C. since the laying of the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol building by President and Freemason George Washington on September 18, 1793.

For more information about all events please contact 202-686-1811. Media must RSVP due to security.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

We all shine on: Bro. Greg Stewart, AKA Masonic Traveler

Here it is, the 18th installment of "We All Shine On," The Burning Taper's never-ending series of essays from online Freemasons and other readers of this blog. Today's is from Bro. Greg Stewart, also known as Masonic Traveler. Thanks for writing, Bro. Greg!

The title of this makes me think of the Moby song, "We are all made of Stars."

People they come together
People they fall apart
No one can stop us now
'Cause we are all made of stars

My name is Greg Stewart. I go by the moniker of Masonic Traveler. I post when I can to my blog of the same name at I also edit and own a website called

As you can probably guess, I am a Freemason. I fall by habitation under the Grand Lodge of California, where I live with my wife Diane and my two sons. I have been a Freemason now for 11 years, with varying degrees of activity and participation. When I became a Mason, I did not know anything of what the organization was about. I had a good friend who was one, and after a lot of conversations on the subject with him at work, I asked him that fateful question that we all come to: "...How do you join?"

For the record, I should probably state my affiliations and memberships. I am a 3rd degree Master Mason, raised at Burbank Lodge, No. 406. Today, I am an active member of Hollywood Masonic Lodge No. 355 in Tarzana, California. In that lodge I play several roles including its Communications Chairmen, Masonic Formation Officer, and Symbolism/Education instructor. Monthly I host in our lodge library a symbolism class that talks about and tries to put shape to the myriad of symbolic images and allegories that Masonry immerses us into. Doing this has given me a tremendous opportunity to think about and try to correlate them into a practical way to what their meanings are, but suffice it to say that I am still learning new ways to look at and interpret them.

I also am a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Freemason in the Valley of Pasadena, in the Orient of California, and play a part in the 27th degree as the Prince of Mercy. Also, this year, I am the last in the line of the Consistory as the Captain of the Guard. Sadly, I don’t make many Rite meetings as they meet on Fridays, and with two adolescent boys, it's better time spent with them.

I have petitioned the York, but keep getting waylaid in my taking of the degrees. Most likely I will have that under my belt soon though. In some ways it feels like I'm collecting merit badges like the Boy Scouts, but I am genuinely interested in the varying allegories that that the different traditions have to teach.

Some other bits that would fit into this long bio is that I have memberships in "other" secret societies that are similar in tone to Freemasonry, I flirt with the idea of looking into the OTO, I have belonged to 5 brands of Christianity, schooled under one, baptized under another, and at this juncture find myself with more in common with United Unitarians than any other. The irony in all of this is that when I take the little social networking quizzes, invariably, I come out as a "Neo Pagan." Go figure. Lately I've found some resonance with Hinduism and have just been creeping into the pages of Theosophy.

My thoughts on Masonry are many, the most profound I think is that I see Freemasonry as a religion. I've argued with many on the net about it and will likely continue to. The position is a fair one in that I see Freemasonry as the practice of carrying forward a set of proscribed ritual that is meant to convey a particular message. Make special note here that this does NOT mean it is a faith, as each man (or woman) who comes to the fraternity should already have that part of himself taken care of. Simply, what we do we have done for centuries, and for that same period of time its been done in the near same way and for the same reason, which is fundamentally the definition of what religion means. But this is topic for another time and place....

Outside of freemasonry, and something I seem to cycle back into every few years is art. My background is in fine and digital art, as I went to college for it, and I have drawn and painted for most of my life. Embedded in this article are some of my visual creations for various projects or times. My passion was pastel on paper in which I have created some of my most visceral work. But, like moods, mine at the present has shifted from this as most of my attention is focused on Masonry. Still pulling from my artistry, I have applied my digital skills to assemble two Masonic Tracing Boards Presently I am working on the third.... If you want to see more of the art I've made, I have a website as a portfolio piece at

Needless to say masonry is a big part of my being, maybe because it is something I treat as a religion that I see it as such. I want to see Masonry restored to its former incarnation, in that I would love to see lodge rooms filled with men (and maybe one day women) who all have a passionate interest in community, specifically as it applies to brotherly love, relief, and truth. It's this part of me that has just recently started looking at ways to help some of the local charities here where I live, and that's the project in the wings.

Philosophically, I defer to Moby...

Growing in numbers
Growing in speed
Can't fight the future
Can't fight what I see

People they come together
People they fall apart
No one can stop us now
'Cause we are all made of stars

Efforts of lovers
Left in my mind
I sing in the reaches
We'll see what we find

People they come together
People they fall apart
No one can stop us now
'Cause we are all made of stars

Thanks for this opportunity to shine!

Greg Stewart
Masonic Traveler

Image 1: Bro. Greg Stewart
Image 2: A street painting, chalk on pavement, shown at Absolut Chalk Fest 2005 titled "Birds." Winner of event for "Most Colorful"
Image 3: Pastel on paper, framed, titled "Hell"
Image 4: Digital composite titled "Mary"

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

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Florida to produce Christian license plates?

It seems like lots of controversy, religious and political, comes out of the state of Florida. Two years ago we found a pizza maven building a Christian city.

Now the Florida legislature is debating whether to produce a Christian-themed auto license plate similar to ones they and other states produce that let drivers show support for colleges, ecological endeavors, and other "worthwhile purposes."

The proposed license tag will contain the words "I Believe" and show a stained glass window and a Christian cross.

If approved, it will be the first religious-themed license plate any state has produced, reports.

Even some Christians are opposed to the idea, including state representative Kelly Skidmore, a practicing Roman Catholic. I suspect her opposition isn't because she supports the "separation of church and state" so much as she doesn't want to offer the same privilege to other religions.

She told reporters, "It's not a road I want to go down. I don't want to see the Star of David next. I don't want to see a Torah next. None of that stuff is appropriate to me."

The group asking for the plate is the Orlando-based Faith in Teaching, Inc., a non-profit group supporting "faith-based" school activities. On the group's website you can sign up to show your support for the idea.

Rep. Edward Bullard, the bill's sponsor, says he does not support other religious groups being given the opportunity to have similar plates, and says he would oppose any bill promoting equal opportunity.

Image: The tag proposed by Faith in Teaching, Inc.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We all shine on: Timothy Bonney

This is our 17th installment in the series "This is Who I Am." The series is made up of short essays from Burning Taper readers telling us about themselves.

Over the past several weeks the Widows Son and I have had some private conversations about our agreements and past disagreements on issues related to the Craft. While we differ on views at times related to the Craft, its future, and how it should be changed we do agree, I believe, in a couple of very important areas. Whatever we may disagree about, as Masons we are brothers and our commitment to Masonry should out way our differences. And, second, that the Craft is in an ever changing society and needs to find ways to grow and improve itself. Brotherhood isn’t based on agreement but on respect. That is why I accepted WS’s invitation to be a part of his “We Shine On” series.

I’ve been part of the Craft for seven years having been raised to the sublime degree on December 10, 2000. I was made a Mason in Phoenix Lodge No. 62 F&AM under the Grand Lodge of Indiana. In 2004 I moved to Iowa and joined Daylight Lodge No. 660 A.F.&A.M. where I am a Past Master and now Chaplain.

For me, Masonry has been a journey that began early in my life noticing the activity of men in my family who were Masons. If genealogical research proves to be true, I am likely at least a fifth generation Freemason.

I began to do serious study of the Masonic fraternity while serving as a Pastor of a Southern Baptist congregation in the 1990s during the anti-masonic controversy in that denomination. During that time I read every piece of Masonic literature, both pro and con, that I could get my hands on. And, as I read through the volumes of material it became clear to me that the Masons were telling the truth about the origins, activities, and principles of the fraternity and anti-Masons primarily were twisting facts to suit their own often self-serving aims.

Several years later as pastor of another congregation, now American Baptist, I petitioned for admission into the Masonic fraternity. The signers of my petition were all members of my congregation.

As a Mason I have found that Freemasonry compliments my values, my faith, and my interests in helping my fellow human beings. In the short time I’ve been a Mason I have found opportunities to join both Scottish Rite and York Rite as well as several other Masonic research and fellowship organizations. I have benefited more than I can say from my fraternal relationships. I have made friends all over the world through Masonic internet discussion. I have developed friendships with men of many faith and national backgrounds that I might never have met had I not become a Mason. I have had opportunities to learn, grow, and study.

Are all things rosy in the Masonic fraternity? Of course not! The fraternity needs to deal with the demographic and societal change that is causing the Craft to lose membership. We need to balance new ideas with our very ancient and honorable philosophy. We need to make tough decisions about what to change, what must never change, and how we can make Freemasonry beneficial for future generation.

The Internet has been both a boon and a detriment to the Craft. It has allowed us to share in the widest communication possible with Masons all over the world. But, it has also led to huge misunderstandings between brethren and led to rifts that need not have been there. Masons have a lot to learn, myself included, on the best way to communicate our values in this new medium.

Thank you, Brother WS, for encouraging me to share.

Sincerely and Fraternally,

Timothy Bonney, PM
Past Master - Daylight Lodge No. 660 A.F.&A.M.
Dual Member - Acanthus Lodge No. 632 A.F.&A.M.

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

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Experimental theologists near finding the God particle

Imagine Margaret Thatcher in her prime as Prime Minister wandering through a Conservative cocktail party, attracting hangers-on keen to hear her every utterance and be seen with someone so powerful.

That's how the winning entry in the 1990s's contest "describe the boson theory on a single side of paper" explained how matter gets its mass, the Times Online reports.

In 1964 Professor Peter Higgs proposed a solution to a big question in physics: How does matter have mass? His model says the universe is permeated with an invisible field of particles called bosons, that consist of nothing but mass. As other particles move through the boson field, bosons stick to some of the particles, giving them mass. Other particles, like photons, do not pick up these boson hangers-on, and thus, have no mass.

Higgs, now 78 years old, thinks the reality of bosons — long called "the God particle" — will be proven when a new atom-smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland, goes online later this year.

The boson, it is theorized, exists only at super-high energy levels, such as those present immediately after the Big Bang. The new LHC will get close to those levels, firing protons that will traverse the 17-mile long particle accelerator 11,245 times a second before smashing into each other at 0.999997828 times the speed of light.

That's even faster than Margaret Thatcher could work a room.

Image: Oops. That was boson, not bison, right?

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Royal Order of Scotland can't pay its rent

America isn't the only place where Freemasonry has lost its "influence."

The provincial lodge of the Royal Order of Scotland is currently in last-minute negotiations with its Merchant City (a central district of Glasgow) landlord to keep its meeting place at the Trades Hall on Glassford Street, The Herald recently reported. Five Masonic lodges that previously also met there have already moved out of the building, which was built by stonemasons in 1791 and has provided meeting space for Masons and other union, guild and fraternal groups since 1824.

The Royal Order of Scotland is unable to pay the rent.

The Masonic organization dates back to at least 1741, and proclaims the King of Scots as its hereditary grand master. An empty chair is maintained at each meeting, awaiting the king's return.

Membership in the Royal Order of Scotland is by invitation only, and requires belief in Trinitarian Christianity. Most of the provincial grand lodges require that a candidate have been a Master Mason for at least five years, and to have shown outstanding service (e.g., held offices) to Freemasonry and/or the Church. Most lodges require as a prerequisite membership in the York or Scottish Rite as well as in at least one other Christian order, according to Wikipedia.

One member joked that Masonry certainly doesn't rule the world. "We don't even have influence over the place where we hold our meetings," he said.

Another unnamed Royal Order brother told a reporter that rising rents were an indication of "masonophobia."

Image: Breast star of a member of the Royal Order of Scotland

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Senate honors American dead in Iraq, Afghanistan

I stand with the United States Senate in their Resolution today "honor[ing] the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have lost their lives in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and honors their families and loved ones."

On paper, the Senate Resolution goes on for 264 pages. Each of the names of 4,009 servicemen and servicewomen who have died in Iraq and the 487 who have died in Afghanistan is listed.

There should not be a Number 4,010.

Bring them home. Now.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Moon-Shriner busted in SC temple parking lot

Rumor has it that "you can get anything you want" in the parking lot of the Omar Shrine Temple on Patriots Point Road in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

A pair of undercover cops scored two jars of "apple pie" on March 15 after receiving a tip there were illegal alcohol sales going on at an outdoor party at the Temple, the Charleston Post and Courier reported on March 26.

Apple Pie is the name 73-year old Bro. C.A. Gatlin, a longtime Shriner serving as master of ceremonies for the annual St. Patrick's Day Hillbilly Clan No. 82 celebration, calls his concoction of grain alcohol boiled with apple cider, apple juice, brown sugar and cinnamon sticks, police said.

Bro. Gatlin and his 55-year old girlfriend were arrested and have been charged with illegal sales of a legal liquor. Three more jars of the brown liquid were seized by police from a cooler at the party, and 58 more jars were found in the couple's home.

Bro. Verle Bohrn, Recorder for the Omar Temple, said Bro. Gatlin had been a Shriner for at least 30 years. He said the Apple Pie sales likely won't affect Bro. Gatlin's status, though "he might get a slap on the wrist a little bit, but that's about it."

Police also arrested five people in the parking lot for marijuana possession after seeing them smoking the illicit weed. One of the arrestees was also in possession of illegal mushrooms.

Bro. Bohrn was quick to point out that the potheads weren't members of the Shrine, saying — of course — that the Omar Shrine Temple doesn't condone that type of behavior.

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