What is Freemasonry? The Result of the Human System

4975206_f260The zeitgeist of January/February 2014 will be looked back years from now as the dawning of something big for the fraternity, or another wheel spinning exercise performed by Masons of all eras. Within the past week, three major blogs have dived into discussing “what Freemasonry is”. Obviously a conversation that is not new to the Fraternity. But considering all the people jumping in to talk about it, it’s clear that right now in this period of time the question is very meaningful to a lot of people. Firstly I’ll link to the blogs in question in order they were written.

 

 

1. What is Freemasonry (Tim Bryce)

2. What is Freemasonry – A Response to Tim Bryce (Greg Stewart)

3. What is Freemasonry – A Response to Tim Bryce and Greg Stewart (BeeHive)

In Masonry we learn things come in threes. Well we’re getting a forth here so tough shit.

I’m going to make this easy and I’ll state my thesis of what Freemasonry is, and then explain.

“Freemasonry is the result of the human system”

What? Not a Fraternity? Or Club? Or Community? I argue that Masonry is less of a designed creation, but the result of a designed system.

To describe Freemasonry as a result is not something any of the authors did in their writings. Sure they mentioned reasons for why Masonry may have come to be but I think they missed the larger and deeper reason for why it came together. I’m going to get very philosophical here so put your pants on and buckle up.

Humanity and how we operate is a system. A code. A computer program. If we are to believe in the Great Architect of the Universe, then we must admit that we were created at one point. And if we were created we were designed/coded to be a certain way. After that, our opinions differ. Yet to admit that there is a higher Architect at play means that there was a design just based off how we interpret an Architect to work.

Early on in history during the ancient Egyptian times, they saw the thousands of elements around them and tried to justify each as being the result of God. Ra, the God of Sun. Res, the God of the pregnant women. Anuket, God of the river Nile. Hathor, Goddess of Love. Nut, Goddess of Sky and Stars. You can catch them all right here. Also, are you catching my drift?

This system of creating multiple Gods, one for every element also manifested itself in Greek Mythology. Hades, God of Death. Helious, God of Sun. Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty. Again, you catch my drift.

And you will find this Elemental God structure manifested in many ancient religions. The major reason being is that early humans used them as ways to explain how things worked the way they did. They didn’t know anything about how the earth and orbits and such, so when the sun vanished they assumed the sun God was going to sleep. Yet women were still getting pregnant, people were still falling in love…AHA! There must be multiple Gods and they’re still awake. This way of creating Gods to explain various things, specifically the unknown was a major reason for the predominance of elemental God based religions.

However, the singular supreme being religion was manifesting itself concurrently in Egypt during this time. Archeological evidence of Judaism is sparse for it’s early history but it is estimated to have manifested into a people nation between the 10th and 4th century BC.

Judaism was interesting in that not only did it have only one God, but because of the lack of a central authority after the end of the Temple Era, it became an interpretive religion. As in the prophets stopped and there wasn’t any central authority or successor to define what the rules and laws meant. So in this absence individual Jews and sects were left to interpret for themselves what many of the elements in their prophetic history meant. Concurrently in Asia, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism had formed or were forming. And each had complex and individual interpretations of the supernatural and spiritual world.

However the singularity of the one God became the dominant idealogical element in world events and the singular “messenger” became one as well. Buddha founded Buddhism, Jesus founded the Christian belief system, Mohammed founded Islam, Joseph Smith founded Mormonism, Bab for Baha’i, L. Ron Hubbard for Scientology…you get it. The one person or being was the creator of specific systems of morality that became well known in many parts of the world today.

Now I know what you’re wondering. We just took a long trip talking about religion, where the hell am I going? Again, stay buckled in.

While the singular figure was a major element in the creation of various spiritual systems, the spiritual systems all very much were designed around an “equalism” ideology. As in they all preached, in some form or another, the equal nature of human beings in relation to each other. Let me get back to this in a moment.

Because singularity was also the dominant element of rulers in this time. Critics of religion will say that religion was a tool used by powerful leaders to brainwash people into “worshiping the powerful individual” while also sedating them into their suffering by embracing the “we’re equal” bullshit and also telling people that it will be all better when they die.” Not a bad argument. Except the very moment religion was founded it spelled an eventual doom for the king/dictator/emperor. Because if we were truly all equal, then those below the people in power would seek to enforce this and eventually “equalize” those in power by tearing them down.

To give this context, lets look at the founding of America. It is well known that when the founders of America created the line “all men are created equal” man of them were well aware that slavery existed in America and that women were treated very unequally. They knew that eventually the time bomb would go off, so to speak. People would eventually tear down the systems of inequality to make the country more equal as our constitution intended.

Those kings on the ancient world embraced religion because either they believed they were appointed to their power by God, that religion was useful to control people, or the few truly did believe in their faith system. But the creation of “equalism” set into motion the eventual destruction of the king and dictator. As over time people understood the totality of their belief systems, they realized society would never be truly equal until the government and power structure reflected it as such.

Here is an example. Religion was a major driving force in the American Revolution, the first shot at the elimination of the ruler who ruled inequality, not chosen by the rest of the equal population. Reference 1 Reference 2 Reference 3.

However the American Revolution wasn’t just a simple event, but filled with deeper changes going on within it. And that is that many of the architects of the American revolution were Freemasons. Freemasons made us only a few percentage points of the population, yet they become the charging force in the overthrow of the British Empire in America. How did such a small group of people become so influential in the revolution? And furthermore, from South America, to Africa, to The Middle East, to Europe, to parts of Asia, Freemasons were leaders and the engineers of the destruction of the Kings and Emperors who ruled over their people. No group of people have been responsible for the toppling of more governments then Freemason men have. These men saw the structure of society in an enlightened way, and sought to smash the inequality and injustices of the world.

So who are these people? These Freemasons? Let’s take a turn back to my conversation on religion.

At a certain point many educated people all over the world started to realize the world was FILLED with different religions. Sure they knew it from experience, but some men started to come to terms with the fact that their individual religion was a minority in the world, as was every other spiritual system. To first realize, in a deeper sense must have been a traumatic one. To be faced with the reality that your God and messenger/savior might not be correct, could shake a person to their core. This why is why so many religions went toe to toe against each other in violence. In the minds of many ancient leaders their religion was the right one, they would obviously win in combat and eventually their religion would reign supreme.

Well that didn’t happen. Islam busted into Europe through Spain but was eventually beaten back. Christians muscled back into the Middle East during the Crusades but were kicked out and never got back in. Jews were pushed out wherever they went, in a constant state of disruption. Hinduism remained isolated on the Indian subcontinent and Buddhism became massive in size but was eventually encircled by European imperialism. No one “won”.

We don’t know when these “enlightened” figured first met each other, but what we do know is the legend of Masonry extends back into pre-Christian times. And even then, there were multiple religions and belief systems. And for whatever reason, the mast majority of these belief systems combined the messages of “love for other humans”, “equality”, and “understanding the supreme being”. Which so happen to be the three major Masonic beliefs of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. But these enlightened figures didn’t look to fight each other. Instead, they realized if they actually followed their beliefs, then they SHOULDN’T be fighting. They also realized that the interpretation of their religion were being heavily influenced by the state and which ever dictator ran the state. What they realized was that their belief system was more open to interpretation and different thoughts then they originally realized. And what they soon realized that with the right interpretation, there was an alignment in each of their beliefs, enough so where they could be join together in that alignment. These men become Freemasons. So several elements of this order of men were created to help it run. They ran their system as close to equality as possible by creating a Republic-Democracy, one man one vote. They made secrecy a central tenant for philosophical and pragmatic reasons (people unafraid of the unknown would become attracted to Masonry, also secrecy allowed them to stay alive). They allowed men of all races as God did not see people in race, and so on and so forth.

Now what those Masons actually were in early design is open to interpretation, but they manifested the identity of builders. It made sense. Stone Masons were men who built powerful structures that stood the test of time. But these Freemasons weren’t talking secular structures, but structures that were the foundation of our faith systems and our relationship with God. Freemasons saw that they were building ideas. This choice of identifying with builders became a powerful one. It sent the message to men who were Masons that while they were perfecting their mind, through their shared faith beliefs, they were builders. And around them they saw the world tearing itself apart over economics, power, religion, nationality, race, etc. All things, that violated their shared religious belief. And something happened to these men. Here’s my opinion. They so deeply felt the spirit of God that they believed they had a special mission. Their mission was the build a society that could mirror what their Masonic society had become. If it could work in their lodge, why couldn’t it work on the national level?

Fast forward 50 years (or 6000 years depending on your Masonic belief) and  American Freemason men were tearing down the dictatorial British empire controlled by King George. The system was bullshit. His religious interpretations were designed to perpetuate his power. The system was unequal.  The Freemasons had become stacked with powerful freethinking men who decided now was the time and they flattened the British. And then over the next 200 years Freemasons all of the world popped up out of nowhere and tore down their respective national regimes to create governments more reflective of their Masonic ethos.

Yet something interesting happened. When the Freemason men tore down their governments and create democracies, they ended up in positions of power and influence all through their new nations. But there wasn’t a conspiracy or a planned system. It became something that started to “naturally” happen. If we have men who are free thinking, they naturally will be on the cutting edge of exploration, science, military, arts, etc. And with a support network like they have, they will be able to be put into positions to put their ideas into action. However, the people still in power weren’t happy with this. They were threatened. Freemasons, after revealing themselves, suffered horrendous persecution all over the world. For the kings and rulers still in power, murder, torture, banishment, imprisonment, and eviction were the name of the game. And from the perspective of the people, they saw this small group of people constantly ending up in power. And the masses whole heartedly took part in the elimination of Masonry. The anti-Masonic party in the USA wasn’t just a few men, but a huge swath of Americans who saw Masons as the new monarchy and sought to destroy them. The people who had lived in national enslavement had now turned to crush those that freed them.

Reminder, I’m not giving a history here. When some asks “What is Freemasonry”, my response is “Everything that comes with being a Mason”.

Yet there were large population sectors that idolized and looked up to the Masons. They wanted Masons in power because they trusted them more then anyone else, and they wished to work to a more open society with those Masons. The same way we look fondly to Harvard students or people who work in a charitable non-profit, people looked at Masons the same way. These people also became angered at the violence and persecution of Masonry and sought to protect them like any other citizen. Masonry essentially created three groups. Those that hated Masonry, those that didn’t even know what it was, and those that favored Masons.

What was the most frustrating thing about Freemasonry for it’s enemies, was that is was a very nebulous target. It was an organization of people in power, but so were many other organizations. They weren’t racist because they brought in men of all races.  Yet the Masons had men who were racist too, which had it’s supporters and detractors. They weren’t against any religion, because they had men of many different religions. Yet they had many members who were very much proponents of their own respective religion. They weren’t of one nation, as they had brothers connected across the globe. Yet they weren’t looking for one form of government, as they had a rule where they were to remain loyal to their respective country. It was a combined yet uniquely individual experience. Masons where accused of perpetuating their own power, yet they constantly pushed for policies that would LESSEN the power of individual rulers and increase the power of the people at large.

Masons were a target people would swing at and never hit. Which is why they never ended up on the wrong side of history, because Masonry was in all spectrums of thought. And yet they were able to somehow get so many men on the right side of history. This became especially enraging for detractors of Masonry, for some people wish to see the world burn, and they never had a good excuse to burn Masonry. Jews experienced this as well in many regards. In free societies Jews became a small group of people, with a full spectrum of belief and identity, that achieved incredible positions of power while also suffering from inexcusable and worldwide hatred. It’s not a unique phenomenon. Masonry inadvertently became a way to expose evil, because there was never a good reason to hate Masonry. Thus, those that hated Masonry had their hate not come from logic, but from a darker place within them.

Alright, so that went for a while. So what is Masonry you ask? Masonry is the result of the human system. And I say this because there wasn’t any singular Masonic creator like there was for almost every modern faith system like we’ve seen. Masonry was built by many forces, by things from around the world that manifested together to create Freemasonry. It’s the result of a human system that has been smashing into itself since the beginning of time. No one human created Masonry, but humanity did. To call it just a Fraternity, or a Club, or a Community ignores the world around Masonry. Masonry is a system, part of a larger human system, and we’re all a part of it.\

Livingstone

Bringing back the Masonic holidays!

Top Pic

Hello Readers,

I have survived that last blog entry about Triple Package so far but some Mormons just showed up at my front door, to silence me most likely.

So we as Free and Accepted Masons often find ourselves looking for more culture, or more of a Masonic lifestyle. One complaint I hear by new brothers is that they want more “Masonry”, as in they want to have a larger Masonic identity. Masonic education is one way to to do, but for this blog entry I want to focus on other ways of enhancing the Masonic community. One way is the facilitation of the brotherhood aspect which is a great way to create “more Masonry”. Brotherhood is also important  to cultivate the brotherly love and exchange of ideas that the Fraternity is known for.

Researching this topic, one thing I found is that great cultures have many holidays. But he holidays are not just days to celebrate, but days to relax, reflect, grow, improve and gain new perspectives. So what I will be doing is looking at the Masonic holiday landscape and then creating my own Masonic holiday calendar, in hopes that your lodge considers them for you own benefit.

Masonic Holidays by Greg Stewart

Here is the best list I could find after doing some google-sleuthing. Now what I will do is go through, make notes, put some thoughts in and I’ll also propose some additional holidays. Because more drinking/meditative discussion, that’s why!

January

Franklin-Benjamin-LOC-headJanuary 17, 1706 – Ben Franklin born.  Statesman, Diplomat, Past Grand Master, Inventor.

When I first wrote this blog entry, I crossed him off! Now, I put him back in because he represents the power of invention and what it means to Masonry. This is a good holiday to get warm, do some reading, and talk with you brothers on things that we could invent to help out the world. Part brainstorming, part drinking/smoking up. A good mind expansive holiday to get the innovative juices flowing.

January 12th, 1886 – Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 Consecrated in London.

Dump it. While it is the premier research lodge in England, it just doesn’t have the juice to have a coherent holiday designed around it)

mozartADDJanuary 27th, 1756 – Mozart’s birthday.

Mozart was the equivalent of a nuclear strike on music during his time and his work with The Magic Flute sets him in a special place in Masonry. I see this holiday filled with great music from Mozart, fine dance, relaxation, a glass of wine, and a good discussion on Music, which is one of our 7 arts. Also something to consider is his death in poverty and obscurity, yet his legend lives on. A good lesson to think about for Masonic discussion.

February

George WashingtonFebruary 22, 1732 – George Washington born, first President of the United States.

Slam dunk choice. The first man in the modern era to take control of a country and then to voluntarily give his power up. Is the first Mason to found a new nation. And it’s a nation that brings together many Masonic ideals. Also I poked around looking for other dates for February because it is such a down and cold month but nothing. Unless you count rigging the Super Bowl as a Masonic holiday. Sorry gang but even Masonry can’t make February any good.

March

Prince HallMarch 6, 1775 – Prince Hall, founding father of Prince Hall Freemasonry, was made a Master Mason in Irish Constitution Military Lodge No. 441

This is a good one. And one that should be celebrated more often. A good way to do this would be to take up some PHA cultural elements and join together with the local PHA lodge.

Albert MackeyMarch 12, 1807 – Albert Gallatin Mackey – d. June 20, 1881 – Masonic Author, notably of the Masonic Dictionary.

Mackey is a very important scholar and figure in Masonry and his viewpoints have gotten a lot of attention. However the holiday opens to door to think about his books and Masonic education in the larger sense.

March 18, 1919 – Order of DeMolay founded in Kansas City, Missouri, later to become DeMolay International.

DeMolay is fading and Masonry and youth organizations doesn’t fit the Fraternity. We’re an adult craft, a major reason for that is so all Masons can spend their lives as non-Masons first, to enlighten their experience into the craft.

Maundy Thursday – Feast Day that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles.  Dates move between March 19th and April 22nd with the Easter holiday.  Celebration is held on the Thursday before Easter.

While I love celebrating ANY Christian holidays, lets leave this one to Christianity and separate it from Masonry. Masonry doesn’t support any one specific religion or the other.

April

April 6, 1922 – International Order of the Rainbow for Girls founded in McAlester, Oklahoma.

Same as DeMolay for me.

antimasonryApril 20, 1884 – Pope Leo XIII published an encyclical, Humanum Genus against Freemasonry based upon the hoax by Leo Taxil.

Absolutely and 100% we celebrate this. This is a good day for solum reflection. Spend your time thinking about what it means to be oppressed as Masons, but also what oppression means for others in the world. A good time to talk about injustices and how to stand against them.

May

May 31, 1801 – Ordo ab Chao, Founding of the The Supreme Council, Ancient and AcceptedScottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, USA

For Freemasons, this day doesn’t apply to the vast majority of us. But for Scottish Rite Masons, it’s a huge deal. They can celebrate it.

????????????????????????ADDMay 14th – Mother Theresa takes her solum vows to dedicate herself to Christianity, which calls for a life of charity and relief.

Four things. Almost all of our holidays involve Masons, men, birthdays, and none involve charity so far. This holiday accomplished all four. There are many people in the world who do great things who aren’t Masons. There are many great women who have walked this earth and have made profound marks on it. Also it isn’t birth that makes you a great person. And lastly, it’s that vow, the call the relief and charity that is the most important of all. May 14th is when Mother Theresa made her final vows to her new life of the relief of others. Make this a holiday where the lodge goes out and helps people. And then on your own time, go out and help someone you know that is in need.

patrickhenry_smADDMay 29th – Patrick Henry was born. The man that proclaimed, “give me liberty or give me death.”

This is an important holiday because Patrick Henry isn’t as well known, yet his words were an important part of the structure of the American Revolution. This is an important lesson to us Masons. Every man counts. We regularly focus on the top of the pyramid, so to speak, but we fail to realize that life SHOULDN’T be like a pyramid, but a mass that builds to something great. And every brick, and every person who builds it up, matters. So use this holiday as an excuse to have a paper that focuses on lesser known Masons but Masons who were important in their own right to whatever they were a part of. And also highlight the work of lesser appreciated brothers in the lodge.

June

saint-john-the-apostle-01June 24th 20th/21st  – Saint John the Baptist Day / Summer Solstice

The calendar I got this from was wrong, which disturbs me. Somewhere out there, are lodges who are celebrating St. John’s Day on the 21st, and boy are they in for a surprise…

This is a huge huge day for Masonry. Not only is it St. John the Baptist Day part of the Masonic structure, but it is also the first day Masonry revealed itself to the world by forming the Grand Lodge of England. So this is a great for summer day drinking, esoteric and religious discussion and history discussion.

June 24th, 1717 – Founding of the United Grand Lodge of England.

July

What!? No holiday in July. I know lodges like to shut down for July, but we California Masons shut down for nobody! So here is my Masonic holiday addition. Here are a few to consider.

Masonic Civil War SoldiersADD – July 1st – Civil war soldiers meet in peace

So as the story goes here, Freemasons on the Blues (North) and the Greys (South) fought the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, and then right after met at a local lodge peacefully. This is a good holiday to find a Mason you have had difficulty with in the past and for you to get together with him and some other Masons to bond and enjoy harmony.

Simon_BolivarADD – July 24th – Birthday of Simon Bolivar, the biggest revolutionary in history

Now we’re talking. This sounds like a swash buckling, no holds barred, rocking good time. Brother Bolivar essentially overthrew all the governments in South America, and kicked ass everywhere. This holiday calls for the entire lodge to get together, get in some hard drinking, and storm the streets. Now, what you plan to “overthrow” is up to you, but this sounds like a bang-up good time.

August

August 5th, 1813 – Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite founded. August 7, 1742 – William Preston born – d. April 1, 1818.  Author of the revised Masonic Ritual.

Both holidays aren’t getting the juices flowing for me. So how about this. Instead of trying to find some holiday to put in, lets leave August alone. Consider it an off month for refreshment and repose.

September

morgan_exposureSeptember 11, 1826, the beginning of the Morgan Affair and the rise of the Anti Masonic Party.

So 9/11 is also the same date as the Morgan Affair which almost destroyed American Masonry? Consider this a day of reflection about what America means in the world, and what it means to be a Mason in America. For the good and the bad.

September 26, 1872 – founding of the Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.

Feast of Tishiri – 15th day of the 7th month – though the date moves with the Jewish Calendar (7th Month of the Jewish calendar somewhere between September and October).

Let the Shriners have this one alone. And the Jewish people can have their holiday as well. Sure, you as a Mason can join these events but don’t make them Blue Lodge Masonic.

October

October 18, 1911 – Corner Stone laid in the Construction of the Scottish Rite SJ house of the Temple in Washington. October 20, 1920 – The Order of Job’s Daughters, founded in Omaha, Nebraska. October 30, 1771 – Thomas Smith Webb,  d. July 6, 1819 author of Freemason’s Monitor or Illustrations of Masonry, the foundational text of the York Rite American system of Freemasonry and the Founding Father of the York or American Rite.

I don’t like any of these. Except for Webb, which I am going to modify to look like such.

Thomas WebbADD – October 30, 1771 – Thomas Smith Webb,  d. July 6, 1819 author of Freemason’s Monitor, the foundational text of the American system of Freemasonry.

This is a good day to talk about the ritual. Anything about it, your ritual work, and what the ritual itself means to you. This is a good time to make a lodge NOT in your lodge building, but maybe in a house or other place. Get back to those old Masonic house (or forest!) roots.

 

November

November 6, 1876 – Order of the Eastern Star first General Grand Chapter formed in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Mark TwainNovember 30, 1835, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain,  – d.April 21, 1910.  Author, humorist lecturer, and father of American literature.

Now this is something I can get behind. Consider it a Masonic book club day. 14 days in advance, you choose a Masonic story, everyone reads it and then they get together to talk about what it meant to them. Or maybe a brother can write a short story.

 

December

December 29, 1809 – Albert Pike, author of Morals and Dogma born,  d. April 2, 1891 (aged 81).

Sorry Scottish Rite brothers, but I can’t make this a holiday. Reason being is that there is trouble in this. Pike is a controversial figure in Masonry, especially some of his thoughts on who the “light bearer” is. To make his birth an official holiday is almost an endorsement of his interpretation and ideals as a Mason. So you can celebrate it if you like, but I don’t think making it an official lodge holiday is in the best interests of Masonry.

St John the EvangelistDecember 27th 21st/22nd – Saint John the Evangelist Day / Winter Solstice.

Not the exact Winter Solstice Day, but close enough. A great holiday to talk about the message of St. John, his symbolism, what he meant, his writings, and what he means to Masonry. I had a great time with my Brothers talking about him and his holiday combines a richness in esoteric discussion with good fraternal brotherhood.

So here is now our new updated calendar, all cleaned up, commentary removed but the holiday purpose left in.

NEW CALENDAR

January

January 17 – Ben Franklin Day.  Inventor, Statesman, Diplomat.

This is a good holiday to get warm, do some reading, and talk with you brothers about the power of invention and to discuss things that we could invent to help out the world. Part brainstorming, part drinking/smoking up. A good mind expansive holiday to get the innovative juices flowing.

January 27th – Mozart’s Day.

I see this holiday filled with great music from Mozart, fine dance, relaxation, a glass of wine, and a good discussion on Music, which is one of our 7 arts. Also his death in poverty and obscurity, yet his legend lives on, are good notes for Masonic discussion.

February

February 22, 1732 – George Washington Day, first President of the United States.

A holiday to discuss what it means to be in power but to make sure the people and God are the ones in control. Talk about how your respective nation has Masonic and un-Masonic ideals. A potentially rousing and energized holiday, with a good trip to the bar and an informal presentation.

March

March 6, 1775 – Prince Hall Day, founding father of Prince Hall Freemasonry, was made a Master Mason.

A good way to celebrate this holiday would be to take up some PHA cultural elements and join together with the local PHA lodge. Also use this holiday as an excuse to find a brother who you feel is very different from you and get together with him.

March 12 – Albert  Mackey Day, Masonic Author, notably of the Masonic Dictionary.

Have this be a Masonic education focused holiday. Talk about some educational topics and have a paper ready on the Masonic dictionary with good discussion. Brandy and cigars go well with this one.

April

April 20 – Taxil Hoax and Humanum Genus.

This is a good day for solum reflection and to think about what it means to be oppressed as Masons, but also what oppression means for others in the world. A good time to talk about injustices and how to stand against them. A quiet and thoughtful holiday filled with reflection. A good day to try and do something ritualized to understand what it is like to suffer.

May

May 14th – Mother Theresa’s Final Vows

There are many people in the world who do great things who aren’t Masons. There are many great women who have walked this earth and have made profound marks on it. Also it isn’t birth that makes you a great person. And lastly, it’s that vow, the call the relief and charity that is the most important of all. May 14th is when Mother Theresa made her final vows to her new life. Make this a holiday where the lodge goes out and helps people. And then on your own time, go out and help someone you know that is in need.

May 29th – Patrick Henry Day

This is an important holiday because Patrick Henry isn’t as well known, yet his words were an important part of the structure of the American Revolution. This is an important lesson to us Masons. Every man counts. We regularly focus on the top of the pyramid, so to speak, but we fail to realize that life SHOULDN’T be like a pyramid, but a mass that builds to something great. And every brick, and every person who builds it up, matters. So use this holiday as an excuse to have a paper that focuses on lesser known Masons but Masons who were important in their own right to whatever they were a part of. And also highlight the work of lesser appreciated brothers.

June

June 24th  – Saint John the Baptist Day / Summer Solstice

This is a huge huge day for Masonry. Not only is it St. John the Baptist Day, but it is also the first day Masonry revealed itself to the world by forming the Grand Lodge of England. So this is a great for summer day drinking, esoteric and religious discussion, history discussion, and what the Fraternity means to you.

July

July 1st – Civil Peace Day

Civil War soldiers fought each other and then on the next day they met in lodge. This is a good holiday to find a Mason you have had difficulty with in the past and for you to get together with him to get together and enjoy harmony.

July 24th – Birthday of Simon Bolivar, the biggest revolutionary in history

This is a swash buckling, no holds barred, rocking good time holiday. Brother Bolivar essentially overthrew all the governments in South America, and kicked ass everywhere. This holiday calls for the entire lodge to get together, get in some hard drinking, and storm the streets. Now, what you plan to “overthrow” is up to you.

August

Month off.

September

September 11, The beginning of the Morgan Affair and the rise of the Anti Masonic Party.

Consider this a day of reflection about what America means in the world, and what it means to be a Mason in America. For the good and the bad.

October

October 30 – Thomas Webb Day.

This is a good day to talk about the ritual, as Thomas Webb was one of the men that founded the American ritual. Have the holiday focus on the ritual, your ritual work and what the ritual itself means to you. This is a good time to make a lodge NOT in your lodge building, but maybe in a house or other place. Get back to those old Masonic house roots.

November

November 30,  Mark Twain Day

Consider it a Masonic book club day. 10 days in advance, you choose a Masonic story, everyone reads it and then they get together to talk about what it meant to them. Or maybe a brother can write a short story.

December

December 27th – Saint John the Evangelist Day / Winter Solstice.

A great holiday to talk about the message of St. John, his symbolism, what he meant, his writings, and what he means to Masonry. I had a great time with my Brothers talking about him and his holiday combines a richness in esoteric discussion with good fraternal brotherhood.

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Hopefully you find this useful for your lodge, and as  great way to bring brothers together, strengthen education, and to better the world around us.

December 27th: St. John the Evangelist Day

Hello Readers,

If you’re Christian, then you are aware of St. John the Evangelist. Well, not everyone anyways. My history with St. John growing up was hearing the name John everywhere in The Bible but never being able to make heads or tales to who John the Evangelist really was. It was all very confusing and frankly considering how important Jesus was to me, I largely didn’t care for anyone else.

That is until I became a Mason. For non-Masons, we have two figures that are celebrated in Masonry and they are the Holy Saints John. Those saints are John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. And they both have holidays that coordinate with the winter and summer solstice, June 24th for John the Baptist and December 27th for John the Evangelist.

But for this entry with December 27th fast approaching we’ll focus on John the Evangelist and the celebration of him.

The Holy Saints John

From Freemason-Freemasonry.com

Certainly Saint John the Evangelist is important to us as Masons as well.  It is fitting that while we have a relatively concrete biography of St. John the Baptist, whose theology and teachings were straightforward and rigid, the story of the Evangelist is more difficult to relate and requires more study much like his teachings.  Saint John the Evangelist is likely the amalgamation of several New Testament Johns, including John the Disciple of Christ, John the Epistle writer and  John the Divine of Patmos, the author of the Book of Revelation.  There are many striking reasons why Freemasons would choose the Evangelist as Patron.  Chiefly, the writings of this John (or group of Johns) read almost like Masonic ritual.

St. John’s Day was created early on in Christian history when the Catholic Church expanded and absorbed pagan religions and holidays. For many of these pre-Christian belief systems, the sun and the moon were key to their understand of the world. Also that duality of death and rebirth of the sun was extremely important. For early Catholicism, this became so important to them as well that they placed John the Evangelist’s day of recognition and celebration in accordance with the winter solstice. It’s interesting that John the Evangelist’s day came on the time of the year most most shrouded in darkness, surrounded by cold and snow.

As time went on, his day remained on December 27th and became less of winter solstice day and more of a day of it’s own, solidified on the 27th. Early Masons became attracted to it because of it’s proximity to the new year and thus became a key point in the Masonic calendar.

saints_john

Firstly, let’s look at a few reasons why John the Evangelist took such a prominent role in Masonry.

One argument would state his defining reason for us is to be a marker for the winter solstice and New Year. The winter and the world in the darkness have a deep symbolic meaning to Masons. For the world is at it’s darkest when St. John arrives. Maybe he is here to bring the light back or maybe he is here to represent the total darkness. Another thing to mention is that Europe in late December is a cold and dead world. Nature has left and the life around us is gone. The significance of this in relation to John should not be lost to us. John is associated with death and darkness. And yet when the holiday ends, the world begins it’s journey back to light and life. That transition is a key element of St. John the Evangelist’s Day.

Then there is another argument as to why he is highlighted in Masonry. The Masonry we know cares deeply about the symbolic significance and to just tie a man to a date in time ignores the the actual man himself and what he meant. John was also the only disciple to not die a martyr but instead lived to an old age. He was also the one that Jesus held to his breast during the last supper. Also John laid next to the cross while Jesus was crucified. John was considered the most loyal and trusted of Jesus’s disciples and the one closest to Jesus. They were so close that Jesus entrusted the protection of his mother Mary to him.

John however, is also one of the most complex of the disciples of Jesus. John the Evangelist wasn’t just 1 man, but potentially 3 men. The three men being John the Evangelist, John the Apostle, and John of Patmos are all believed to be the same person and this tradition is generally held among all Christians. To know that a man could potentially encompass three different figures shows that John the Evangelist isn’t just a man, but potentially a figure that has grown beyond his physical history into something greater and more profound. John also was the person to have received Revelation, the final chapter in the history of the earthly world, the end of history as we know it and even potentially the end of darkness forever.

John is also considered to be the most Masonic of disciples. For example, the Gospel of St. John the Evangelist begins like this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  The same was with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life; and the life was the light of men.  And the light shineth in darkness; and darkness comprehended it not. 

Let’s stay with this phrasing for a while. For those of you who have read this blog, this description of the creator is jarring, thought provoking, and meditative. Statements like this are right up Masonry’s ally. It’s rich in contextual wording and phrases open for complex interpretation.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. 

What could this sentence alone mean? In the beginning there was the Word? The Word started it all. The Word was with God, as in God and the Word are uniquely tied together. How are they tied together is by saying the Word was with God. It’s something out of a deep esoteric playbook. You can take it in it’s more traditional terminology by saying that God was in the beginning and was the Word. Or you could turn around and look at it literally. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. As in the Word of God created God. It’s not a controversial thing to say if you take it in the direction that without the Word, there is no God. Any religion person will get that. But what is also interesting is this idea that these words created God. That God is the result of the creation of the Word. I myself am someone who firmly believes in the transcendent and immanent God of Christianity, I don’t believe the Word existed before God. But I do like to think and meditate deeply about what the disciples of Jesus stated. And the next sentance clarifies the first as such.

The same was with God.

This generally clarifies the last sentence of In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Replace Word with God in the last sentence and it comes out to In the beginning was God, and God was with the Word and God was the Word. It’s an interesting prose system but it’s meaning is crystal clear. God and the word are one and the same. They are WITH each other. What we can also learn here is the hyper importance of context. The first sentence almost made it seem like the Word created God, in this it feels more like God created the word. We must remember this in life, that words and their context matter very deeply. About going back to the very first sentence, the design of the sentence to flow back and forth for what is attributed to what still allows for us to see that the Word was in the beginning…but God along with it.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

This sentence is easy to read and to understand until after “anything made”. Yet if you look closely and assess again you can see that it really means that nothing didn’t come from God. Everything is from him. However our final two sentences are the most Masonic.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 

This first sentence in the context of the sentences before is complex and I even dare say potentially controversial. There was life in God. And the life was the light of men. In Masonry light is a powerful symbolic element that is routinely used in various ways of instruction and thinking. Light in our case generally means knowledge. You could almost read the first sentence as, God was alive through the knowledge of men. That men brought God to life. Again, controversial but something that can be interpreted from this. Or you could read it as, in God was life, and the knowledge of men made God feel alive. That more men know the more alive God becomes. To further complicate this the Bible uses light in a very specific way in Genesis.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

Light is the first thing created by God in the creation of the world. By giving light, God gave us the world and our identity in reality. Light, darkness. Night and day. Possibly further evidence that the creation of men brought life to God.

And the light shineth in darkness; and darkness comprehended it not. 

If we use our first interpretation, that the knowledge of God created him, then this verse becomes complex. You could almost read it as, the knowledge of God can shine into the dark, the unknown. And the unknown can not comprehend it. Yet the way the sentence is designed, it acts almost like darkness is alive. That darkness has the power of comprehension. You could almost even associate Satan with darkness. The unknown. Or you could say that people who live in a state of darkness will not know knowledge. They may not know true knowledge without God. Something to think about.

Back to St. John the Evangelist. It is things like that statement I just dissected, things like the esoteric nature of the Book of Revelations, that make St. John the Evangelist stick out. Looking at Revelations, any sample verse will make you scratch your head if you take it literally, but serve to make you think and observe if you take it figuratively.

Here are three verses from Chapter 8 in Revelations.

[1] And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
[2] And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.
[3] And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.

You could spend days just trying to think through this specific section and what it means. And the entire book is filled with figures and symbols. No wonder Masons hold John the Evangelist in such high regard.

Going back to John the figure, his influence on Biblical cannon and even Masonry is never fully realized. And we can learn some things about how he lived his life. For one, his long age served Jesus and Christianity extremely well. His length of life allowed him to contribute not only gospels but epistles and even the end times. John’s survival allowed him to bring the word of God and Jesus to the world in a far more diverse and effective way than if he had died like everyone else connected to Jesus. Another thing about the man, is he stood next to Jesus through his entire life and was loyal to him and what he represented. John’s loyalty made him special. It’s a loyalty that we as Masons and non-Masons could learn from. And also John created the church along with Peter. A lesson for us being, that we may be followers our entire lives but one day we may have to be part of building something great and profound.

We are now about a week away from December 27th. For many members of the Fraternity, St. John’s Day is a lost day, a day where it’s meaning and significance are not fully realized and the depth of what he meant is unclear. John the Evangelist was a man who lived a long, deep, and influential life. The things he said and his recordings of Jesus had a profound impact on the world and served to create the structure of a great belief system, Christianity. Christians view Jesus as perfect in moral design. We can learn from this. We as Masons know that if we steadfastly stick to those of great and perfect design, man and God, then we will influence the world as profoundly as John the Evangelist did.

Livingstone

Nelson Mandela, A Freemason, and the End of Apartheid

Nelson Mandela

Hello readers,

So I have your attention. The title of this blog is 100% true. This may be news to you but it’s actually even news to many of us Masons. We do a terrible job telling each other who is a Mason and who isn’t.

Over in Redditland, a thread was created by the poster Defjamblaster.

Reddit Nelson Mandela Freemason

Just letting Brothers know that he too, was allegedly one of us (i’ll research this). He was allegedly made on sight in North Carolina at a time when there were no Prince Hall Lodges in South Africa. They later went on to charter Mandela Lodge # 843 under the PHGL of NC. As far as I know, he did not go further than the Blue house. The details of his being made are scant below, but it appears to have been done by Grand Master William Parker Jr. of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of North Carolina.

Edit 1: i’ve added “allegedly” to the statement until we get some better info.

Update 1: I’ve left messages for 2 of the 3 grand lodge historians for the MWPHGLONC. Will report any updates received.

Update 2: just spoke with the assistant Grand Historian. He confirmed that Mandela was made on site as listed above, with this added info: ” it occurred june 28, 1990 in Georgia. his wife was made a member of OES as well.” Mandela was receiving a gift from the MWPHGLO Georgia in his hotel suite, and the GM of NC was present as well. He says that this info appears in the grand lodge proceedings of that year. He also said that the Grand Junior Warden of NC issued a statement that makes reference to his membership. He will be forwarding that to me. He also indicated that he thinks the lodge in South Africa has since dissolved.

Update 3: statement added as jpg. http://i.imgur.com/2BfAMN9.jpg

Update 4: photo of Mandela Lodge # 843 info from NC proceedingshttp://i.imgur.com/VYcr260.jpg

Above are two pictures to show proof that he was indeed initiated, passed, and raised as a Master Mason.

So the question I now ask, what does this mean for you. For me, I’m honored to have Nelson Mandela as part of our Fraternity. He was someone who took power in South Africa and instead of immediately turning around and crushing the Whites, he did the best he could to run South Africa peacefully. The pressure for him to turn around and punish the former apartheid regime must have been great. But he took the high road.

However, there is some interesting history about this and I want to talk about what it means to us. Here are a few quick links to get your started.

Nelson Mandela Biography Article

Nelson Mandela Wikipedia Article

So from what we have from the North Carolina Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Nelson Mandela was made a “Mason On Sight” in 1990. Because of the documentation we have from the Grand Lodge, we have to assume this is all true. North Carolina PHA has never claimed anyone else falsely and Masonry is known to take terrific records of who passed the west entrance.

In 1990, Nelson Mandela had been in prison for 27 years. When F.W. de Klerk became president, he immediately released Nelson Mandela on February 11th 1990. Now being in prison for 27 years is no small feat. I don’t think any of us can really imagine the magnitude of the suffering and abuse Mandela dealt with while in prison. I’m sure when he became free, there were a million things he wanted to do, resting for a long time being one of them.

So when it came to light that a mere four months later he came to the US and became a Mason…it raises a few eyebrows for me. I’m not raising an eyebrow of whether it happened or not, not at all as the documentation is there. What I’m intrigued about is Nelson Mandela himself and why in the world he would do this. He must had had a thousand things on his mind, apartheid was still in full swing in South Africa and the street battles/protests were still raging. The world was looking to Mandela to take the reigns. His life was in full throttle. He had no free time.

When people wonder what it takes to be made a “Mason on Sight”, it’s no small feat. The ceremony, proficiency, and work take an entire day. Usually 10 hours of ritual work and other things are involved to make it official. For someone in his position, to spend 10 hours anywhere is almost impossible unless something was extremely important to him. Obviously it was important to the South Carolina PHA Masons. Having Mandela as one of them is something to be proud of. But for Mandela to choose to be one of us…that’s something to meditate over.

But what we do know are the timelines. Let’s take a look at them to see if we can gather any clues from them.

Negotiations to end Apartheid

Informal negotiations began on May 4th 1990, and suspension of the ANC armed struggle occurred on August 6th 1990. Official negotiations to end apartheid begin on December 20th 1991.

This period of history was one of the most sensitive for South African national politics. Many of us remember how close the Israeli/Palestinian peace negotiations came and then how quickly they collapsed. To be able to pull this off without falling back into violence and bloodshed takes a super human effort, coordination and trust among all the parties competing for power and attention. Yet Mandela found a way to fit in becoming a Freemason.

My first speculation was that Mandela was using Freemasonry to help allay the fears of other leaders. By becoming a Mason, he was now “one of them”. Also Masonry makes it very natural to meet other leaders in a non-hostile environment. Also in Mandela’s case by being a Mason it shows his psychological mentality was of the moderation that Masonry espouses. Mandela did have a terrorist and Communist history. For some, the perception of Mandela as this peaceful dove who wanted to end the struggle and nothing more seemed like a false narrative created for the media. Considering the suffering he faced, it would be hard for anyone to believe he didn’t want vengeance. Becoming a Freemason can do wonders to change that perception of you.

Now I did speculate that Mandela became a Mason to be able to use it as a way to quietly talk to other leaders. Looking at the people involved, the information on other Masonic leaders is scarce. Of the world players, we do know US President Ronald Reagan was also a “Mason on Sight” but his was more of the unofficial variety and the rituals he went through didn’t fully fulfill the typical Mason on Sight requirements. But he stopped being a president in 1988. George Bush Sr. was Skull and Bones and while the Bonesmen do have some Masonic DNA elements, they aren’t Masonic in origin or affiliation. Bill Clinton’s father was a Freemason and he was a Demolay (Youth Freemason) as a kid. Margaret Thatcher was a women so it’s highly unlikely she was a Freemason, but GODF Masonry does have a foothold in England so there is a slight chance she was a member. As for South African politicians, not much is known for SA Masonic leaders, if any of them were. Botha Pik is listed as a Freemason on a few Masonic websites. Also the founder of the South African nation Piet Retief is one of us as well. Now it’s common for people affiliating with Masonry to never have their Masonic affiliation know. The World Wide web doesn’t find out everything, especially because of Masonry’s long history before the internet. And while Masons have a long record of proudly trumpeting famous Masons, many Masons keep their Masonic identity religiously guarded as to not interfere with their personal lives. Another reason is that many Masons choose not to be remembered as Masons. For Masons, how you choose to be known is just as important as whether to join or not.

So looking through this, it still isn’t clear to how or why he decided to become a Mason. Becoming a Mason is not always a plus as anti-Masonry among the ignorant and disturbed is high. Considering the various factional elements in the Black population of South Africa, becoming a Freemason would have made him a target for those who wanted to take control.  Mandela never really advertised his affiliation, possibly because of the reasons stated above. I could speculate that Mandela became a Freemason for a reason other Masons join, to be part of something special. But Mandela was already a part of something special heading the ANC and was doing miraculous things for human rights and equality. Or maybe he wanted to become a Mason because he wanted to build a society and country in a constructive way as many past Masonic revolutionaries and leaders have done. But he could have done that without becoming a Mason. Why he became a Mason is similar to Masonry’s ancient history, we’ll never know what caused it to be.

So what does this mean to you? Nelson Mandela chose to become a Mason but not to have it as part of his public identity. We remember him for his great accomplishments, his dedication to South Africa, and his super human ability to remain resolute in the face of incomprehensible suffering and anguish.  So while I have told you that he is indeed a Freemason, he chose not to be remembered as one. Fair enough. He’s a Freemason, but he should be remembered the way he wanted to be remembered. As a man of peace and nothing more.

Livingstone

WWII Concentration Camp Masonry

Hello Readers,

Livingstone here.

I would like you to read this article below written by the Waterloo Masons about Masonic activities while as prisoners in concentration camps during The Holocaust.

http://www.waterloodistrictmasons.com/2011/04/27/wwii-stalag-masons/

It’s a tremendous piece of work and a fine bit of reading. And I have learned about my history in a new and profound way and I hope you are enlightened with it as well.

Livingstone