Monday, March 09, 2009

Eyes wide shut: A kinder, gentler Burning Taper?

I once wrote that the flame of The Burning Taper may flicker and burn less bright for a while, but that it would never be extinguished.

And that's true.

But as you may have noticed, The Taper ain't what it used to be. Once (or so I choose to believe) it was the most-read Masonic-related blog in the world. Up to 14,000 unique visitors dropped by each month. I was sometimes writing two or three posts a day, often stirring up controversy or shining a light on the darker side of Freemasonry.

I enjoyed it immensely.

So what happened? Burnout? Apathy?


Like the survivors on the television series Lost, who for a while were having their lives changed over and over by shifts in time, my life changed, in a couple of ways.

For most of the time I've published The Burning Taper, I had a nice, cushy job with an ample salary. Much of my work I could do with a few keystrokes on my computer. Writing articles for The Taper just came naturally, mixed in between button-pushing for work.

The recession hit the company I was working for early, late last summer, and along with several co-workers across the country, my employment contract was not renewed. I had to find new work, and join the majority of workers who actually get up and leave their house each morning.

So, obviously, my mind and my time were taken up with things non-Masonic and non-Burning Taper-related.

My intention over the past three and a half years in publishing The Burning Taper has never been to "destroy" Freemasonry, as some have suggested. What I have been doing is exploring and investigating Masonry, to discover what it "really" is, from my own perspective. From the first day I spoke to my investigating committee, it has never seemed like what I expected it to be, or what it is billed to be, or even what those men on the investigation committee assured me that it truly was.

I've discovered Freemasonry is a "whole 'nuther animal."

It isn't a giant conspiracy to control the world as the fundie Christian wackos would have us believe, though, as I quickly found out, there are conspiracies and cabals galore in Masonry, even in my own lodge.

Neither has it appeared to really be "dedicated to the holy Saints John, erected to God..." as we're told. Religious hypocrisy abounds, as I also soon discovered, again in my own lodge.

Don't get me wrong. I still love Freemasonry — the concept, anyway — and over the years I have come to know, love and trust many Masons who, like me, see in Masonry a real brotherhood based on compassion and mutual respect for our fellow human.

But by and large, especially here in the South, I've met or heard about way too many Masons who use their supposed "power" to try to control (and sometimes wreck) others' lives, or who use Masonry as a "cover" for their shenanigans, racism, and intolerance.

Even worse than that, though, are the Masons who remain in denial about the wrongs they see done in the name of Freemasonry, and the many sheep who blindly follow their "leaders" because they think their "obligations" are to men, not God.

A certain set of events last autumn is what directly led to me posting less regularly to The Taper, and to my having much less interest in Masonry in general.

I interviewed two Masons — one by email, and the other face-to-face in a three-hour conversation. One was a former member of the Royal Order of Jesters; the other was still an active member of the Jesters. One of the men is a fourth-generation Mason; his grandfather was Grand Master of his state's grand lodge. I saw an official printed "program" for a recent national Jester meeting. On that program I saw that a recent Grand Master from my own state was a Jester, and I recognized the names of other "high-ranking" Masons from Georgia.

Everything you're heard or read about the Jesters is true, according to my sources. The Jesters meet regularly, in four-star hotels all across the country, for what can best be called "sex parties."

My two sources told similar stories. They both said the actions of former judge Ronald Tills and his Masonic Jester pals in New York state, who have pleaded guilty to transporting prostitutes across state lines to attend Jester parties, are typical of Jesters, and are not simply "isolated incidents" of a "few bad apples."

I have no reason to doubt them.

Upon advice of several brothers whose counsel I value and trust, I never published these interviews, and won't, because neither source wanted his identity revealed. And without "verification," who would believe them?

Would these interviews put The Taper on the front page of The New York Times? I doubt it. Corruption, law-breaking and "perversion" don't attract headlines like they once did, unless the subject is mega-famous. People still love Michael Vick and Michael Phelps and Michael Jackson. Why would they care that a bunch of wrinkled old Freemasons like to get naked and jack off while watching a hooker go down on the new guy?

Would most rank-and-file blue lodge Masons even believe my sources? I doubt it.

I'm not disgusted that this kind of activity goes on. Whatever consenting adults do behind closed doors is okay with me.

But I am disgusted that it goes on under the umbrella of Freemasonry.

That's the last I intend to say about the Jesters, and hopefully the last "negative" thing I write about Freemasonry. If you want to know more about the Jesters, search this blog. There have been several articles about them in the past year or so.

When I begin posting regularly again to The Burning Taper, I intend to focus on positive, uplifting ideas about how we can heal and improve ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The Taper won't be about Freemasonry per se, but it will, I hope, encourage true Masonic tenets and ideals. Life is much too short to focus on the negative, as I have for the past few years, and now that I've taken both your consciousness and mine to the lowest of the low in the "family" of Freemasonry by discussing the Jesters' whoring around, the only place we can go is Up.

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  1. Brother,

    As a 'rank-and file' Freemason and not a member of the Jesters (now or ever), I believe you and your sources. Would that it were not true, yet it seems likely to be so. It is not a Freemasonry that pleases me, yet leaving brothers to their consciences ought to lead them to more positive (and legal) actions. Important to note that some caught engaged in illegal activities have been removed from Masonry or removed themselves.

    I agree about the 'what goes on behind closed doors between consenting adults' et. al. I look forward to a more positive era in all observances and a positive Burning Taper.

    In the past I have admittedly taken part in some negative conversations here. While I come here only rarely now, working on solutions to our woes and our rifts is something I applaud wholeheartedly. I hope there is help for this nation and for your personal trials.

  2. Brother,

    I felt for you as I read this post. If it wasn't for the baby in my arms I would probably pick up the phone and call. I appreciate where you are going and understand your frustrations.

    Keep in touch and keep blogging. Onward and upward Bro... I look forward to the new spin.

  3. > When I begin posting regularly again to The Burning Taper, I intend to focus on positive, uplifting ideas about how we can heal and improve ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The Taper won't be about Freemasonry per se, but it will, I hope, encourage true Masonic tenets and ideals. Life is much too short to focus on the negative, as I have for the past few years, and now that I've taken both your consciousness and mine to the lowest of the low in the "family" of Freemasonry, the only place we can go is Up.

    Bro., I want you to know I was moved deeply by your post.

    For those of us who have "eyes to see", and "ears to hear", the crushing din of stupid, hurtful, and negative behaviour from our fellow humans can often seem deafening in this world we live in. And how much worse is the suffering and regret when it is ourselves in whom we see these qualities? Perhaps it has always been this way...

    What is truly rare, and I think *so* important in this day and age, is developing the ability to maintain awareness of all those human lacks, frailties and failures, and yet in the midst of it, to *consciously* decide to focus on and encourage the positive qualities that each person, including ourselves, has to offer. It seems to me that this is part of what you've pledged to do. Truthfully, with the exception of the odd saint amongst us, we are each of us these incredibly mixed-bags of qualities and characteristics. Each of us, in our own way, seeks to smooth our own rough ashlar over time, and grow the qualities that we know deep down to be best for ourselves and our fellow humans.

    As far as I can tell, we should not seek to deny our faults, or those of others, but rather to nourish ourselves and others by learning from our past mistakes. In the end we do, each of us, seek the Perfect Ashlar, and whether or not it is even achievable as an ideal, still it seems clear it is vital that we seek it out with all our strength and due effort.

    I applaud your efforts to take the 'high road', and wish you all the success in the world.


  4. A very moving post Brother,

    There has been too much negativity in the past from all sides. You have motivated me to try harder to concentrate on the positive, and to aspire to be a better Mason. I look forward to your future posts.

    Thank you.

  5. Thank you brother. These other gentlemen have said many of the same things that rolled around in my head while reading your post. I appreciate your honesty and "rough justice," if you may. Sometime the truth is tough, but let's face it, we brethren are the only people who can make or break our names. This fraternity has taken centuries to generate, but can be emulsified in just a few days. Again, I thank you, and keep blogging. May our four cardinal virtues remain enscribed in our minds to guide us on the right path.

  6. It should be noted that the Jesters are a tiny fraction of the Shriners, which are a minority of Freemasons. As a mason who is not a Shriner, it irks me when my fraternity is judged for what the Jesters do. Most profanes don't even know that Shriners are masons, and have never heard of the Jesters.

    Brother, I feel for you on the job front. I am unemployed right now, and actively looking for work. There is a strong masonic presence on LinkedIn, and brothers there have given me a few strong leads. The WM of my lodge has been very supportive of me during my unemployment, and the Craft was set up to help brothers with their misfortunes.

    I have always enjoyed your blog, and hope that you continue to show your spirit, and keep your integrity.

  7. Its interesting that this post should arrive at just this time....I have been seriously wondering why I continue in Freemasonry. Through corporate downsize I found myself better integrated into the fabric of my community - not a bad thing but I came into the craft with a desire to be true to my obligation and I found many within the craft behaving in ways that made a mockery of the degrees. I am thoroughly aware that the label of Mason, or Buddhist, or American or Vietnamese is nothing more than a word that we use to describe ourselves to one another. I am also aware that many of us are doing the best that we can with what we know. But divisiveness, hateful words and the bull in a china shop attitude has no place in Masonry. But I a a vehicle of edification, exhortation, and of comfort......But I often wonder, why bother?1

  8. Bro,

    Never once did I feel that we were traversing the lowest of the low, merely the flip side of a status quo polly-anna attitude of the reality of Freemasonry in a very REAL world.

    I am glad to see you back even if for a brief visit, as I've missed your work.

    As to the other point in your post, the evidence will present itself in due course.

  9. This is a very meaninful post. it is difficult to deal with these profane mindsets and actions over, and over, and over.

    You have shown a tough resolve. This is a much needed time of reflection.


  10. My noble friend,

    Sorry to be away for so long myself. The Great Recession (some would say the New Depression) hit some areas of the country earlier than others. Over the last ten months, I have moved 2,000 miles, lost a parent, and am now facing the adventure / challenge / trial of pulling my life together again. It's good to be back, though.

    The challenge posed by your post is the challenge faced by anyone past a certain level of involvement in any organization with high ideals (Freemasonry, many religious organizations, some would say the United States of America ...): what do I do when I find out that there is a big discrepancy between the ideals and the real?

    I think that your tack--focus on those ideals--is a way to change the organization, and the world, for the better. You didn't state that as your objective, but so I think it is.

    Be well, my friend.


  11. Bro. WS,

    As is too often the case when catching up on my backlog of news feeds, I didn't really read this post back in March. I skimmed without really digesting the content and import, and so it's only now that I'm adding my voice to everyone else's in saying that I am moved by your words, and sorry that your Masonic journey thus far has taken the twists and turns that it has.

    Hypocrisy in all its forms is dreadfully discouraging to anyone who was attracted to the idea of Freemasonry as a bastion of tolerance and enlightenment in an increasingly complex and alienating society. I've been a Master Mason for a little over a year, and for the most part have found more inspiration than discouragement through Brothers I have been fortunate enough to meet both on and offline.

    Let me offer my thanks for giving me an an encouraging nudge towards the untyled door a couple of years ago when I first became interested in the Craft, and also my hopes that you won't give up on Freemasonry completely (regardless of whether or not you continue to write about it.)

  12. Hi, thanks for the article. I attended a benefit last night in Westchester County, NY for human trafficking. One of the speakers was a victim. She is now 60. She spoke of an organized group that would hold parties where she and other girls were raped. This went on from when she was about 5 years old until she was 15, when she was no longer 'virginal' enough for the group. She said they were men who had been in WWI. At the end she said they were part of a secret Masonic group. The details she gave of this abuse, while she was a young child, is too horrific to mention here, but suffice it to say that it goes far beyond 'mere' adult prostitutes for a little sex. Later, another speaker talked about the 'Jesters' in Buffalo, and in Brazil. After doing a little research, it appears that these two seemingly separate incidents, in both both time and place, are actually connected. This is something that needs to be stopped, as it involves the most heinous crimes possible-the rape of children.


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