Charlie Hebdo: A Death in My Family

BERNARD MARIS
Bernard Maris

 

MICHEL RENAUD
Michel Renaud

 

Hello Readers,

When a story hits, the 24 hours new cycle machine runs into the ground and in a blink the story vanishes into Wikipedia footnote history. When you read this, the main story will have passed. But for me the story is just beginning.

Two Brothers died on January 7th. Masonic brothers Bernard Maris and Michel Renaud were murdered by Islamist attackers. They died because they were exercising their free speech and those who wish to destroy such people had them killed in a bloody massacre.

This story is about them. It’s about two men who were part of a paper that was constantly threatened with death for doing something as simple as writing funny cartoons. It’s about two people who literally had police protection because their lives were always being threatened. And they died because they didn’t shrink back from men who ultimately took their lives.

We as Masons are taught through our ritual and through our culture that we have a bond to the fraternity and each other. Our word and our spirit are tied to it and thus to all the men around the world who share our Masonic label. When I saw this information about a week ago, it struck me and I wanted to make sure I wrote about it. As I write this, I don’t know where this blog entry will go. And that is why I’m writing about this. Two Brothers who are bonded to me through Masonry lost their lives and I’m not sure how to feel about it.

The nature of that bond is something that I meditate on. As a Mason it’s common to look to God and to wonder how one should feel. Yet I didn’t do any such thing. Instead, my first reaction was to have a feeling of admiration. Even a bit of Masonic nationalism. I admired that Masons worked at such a paper that censors for no one. I also felt pride that my brothers were there, doing things that stood for something and shaped the world.

Pride, admiration. But not sorrow. Not loss. I wonder as I write this if that makes me a terrible person. I’ll have times where I find out someone admirable is a Mason and I’ll get a rush of excitement. And excitement that clearly comes from my own internal insecurities. Why should I be excited that another Mason is admired? Why should I feel prideful that a brother did something great. I clearly didn’t do anything. I have a Masonic label like this person and we do have a bond, but Michel and Bernard were the ones who actually were going out and doing something. They were the ones with the guts. The ones without fear.

I did some cursory research of them as I wrote this. If I’m going to talk about dead brothers, it only makes sense that I actually get to know who they were. For Bernard Maris, he has his own Wiki entry and several write-ups. He was an economic writer who used a pen name and he has a long history in Charlie Hebdo (11% stakeholder since 1992!) and has done a great deal of work in academia. His anti-globalization stance is pretty French and also one that I feel some affinity towards. A professor who wrote books about economics and who also wrote for a paper that drew funny cartoons? If we met in real life, I would have enjoyed his company. For Michel Renaud, the information is tougher to find. Putting his name into Google only reveals a few light articles, all in French. Apparently was a guest editor and he traveled the world a lot. He even wrote a few books.

In any other situation, these men are just another series of people killed in the news in a world where people die all the time. Between our news, action movies and books, experiencing people dying is just a commonality. Whether it’s a faceless henchman, or a close friend, death is a part of the tapestry of the things that we consume and care about. I have become desensitized. I owe some of that to my Asperger’s, but have also cried from the death of loved ones who were close to me. I recently had my grandfather on my Dad’s side die. It was the first time I cried in a long time. Maybe half a decade.

The nature of our emotional bond to each other is a complex one. I spoke to my Grandfather a few times a year and I saw him in person every few years. He was a good man who did things the right way. He was on the level and lived by the square yet never stepped foot in a lodge. When he died, he left a lot of money to my parents. Money he saved up. Money he could have used for pleasure or personal use. But he kept his minerals and metals and when his bond with the world snapped, he passed on not just a legacy of great moral nature but he passed on his sacrifice to my Dad and my Mother. For the first time in decades, my parents were now not in debt. My Dad had tears in his eyes when he told me, debt was one of the things that hung on him like a noose. He was finally free of his bonds to the world. I can see why he cried. Because of college loans, I have my bond to the world too. I have my debt. And someday when I’m free like my Dad, maybe I’ll cry too.

When I cried at my Grandfather’s funeral, I wish I cried more. I saw his body laying there and I had a decent cry. I wish I cried more. There was something inside of me that wasn’t letting go. Something that held me back from fully letting my emotions be free. While people were talking and observing the wake, I slinked off to a side room and surfed Reddit on my cellphone. I was back to being numb, being emotionless, being away from pain. I have never thought until now why I cried for my grandfather. Maybe it was because it was the first real funeral I’ve been too since I can remember. I’ve been lucky with that.

But what was my relationship with my grandfather? Like I said, I spoke to him a few times on the phone and we really didn’t have much to talk about. He was a Missouri farmer, I’m some Boston guy doing my thing in the film industry. He didn’t watch movies, I didn’t milk cows. We spent some time together every few years, but those experiences wouldn’t be more then a day. That was my relationship with my grandfather. We were bonded by blood, but we rarely saw each other.

Those experiences I had with my grandfather are slowly becoming distant memories. But this Thursday when I got to lodge to sit on the sidelines for a 3rd degree, I’m going to again share the same experience Bernard and Michel have experienced. And when I watch a 2nd degree in three weeks, I’ll share another experience. While they are GODF Masons (we consider them irregular but they have many similarities), I share memories and experiences with them just due to the nature of the Masonic system. We both did this. We both went from darkness to light. We both found ourselves separated from the world by being Masons yet more connected then ever to it. My grandfather and I shared experiences together, we had a bond together then cuts to the core of our DNA. A bond and a shared experience that brought me to tears. But when I found out Bernard and Michel died, I felt no such feeling. I actually felt worse when the initial attack happened. What does that mean? How should I feel?

It’s common for people to feel stronger bonds with people who aren’t blood then with people who are. Many people say they felt closer to their football coach then their father, closer to a great teacher then to their mother. I would say that typically the family blood bond is the strongest bond. Yet there are many instances of people having an uncle die and they remained impassioned but a famous celebrity dies and it brings them to their knees. There are always exceptions but family is the strongest one.

Masonry mimics that family. We have brothers, we’re ALL brothers. We have a Master of the lodge, the father, that while elected leads our tribe in the ways of organization and self-improvement. When Brothers die we are all called to be there to bury the dead and to support those that the brother left behind. We are a family. My grandfather, a man who lived a simple farm life and who I barely knew, caused me to break when I experienced his death. Yet I show no sorrow for two brothers who I share experiences with often who stood in the face of darkness and were struck down because of it?

And I guess it’s really simple for me. For me, that personal bond, that shared experience between men, is where my soul breaks. If I knew Barnard and Michel, I’m sure I would be there at their funeral and I would be just as broken up as anyone else. As I write this, pangs of guilt now mix with flashes of genuine sorrow for them. If I weren’t a Mason and I wasn’t writing this blog, I may have never cared about them. I may have never had the decency to understand who they were and are.

When my grandfather died, a poem was read. I cried when I saw my grandfather’s body, and while my memory is hazy, I’m sure I cried when this poem was read to. I’ll share it with you.

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

For my grandfather and for brothers Michel and Barnard, their bond with this world has now been broken. And someday we will all meet again in that great lodge, the building made without hands, eternal in the Heavens.

Lastly, as I read that poem again just now to copy and paste it into this entry, I almost broke down. I almost had that moment of true emotion. Then I realized I was thinking about myself. About how I was reading that poem, and how I was going to tell you how I felt. And in a flash those true emotions vanished away. My memory of the funeral is hazy but now I sit here and wonder if I ever cried at all when I first heard it. And then I realized something right here and now that I couldn’t cry when I read about Michel and Bernard, because all I could think about was me.

May I be forgiven and may I someday truly mourn the death of the great men who died doing the right thing. All three of them. They deserve better then me. It’s about them.

Livingstone

 

 

 

 

Talking Politics and Religion in America

politics-religion

Hello Readers, Livingstone here.

 

I have one phrase for you.

 

America…you’re doing it wrong.

 

I’m sure you’re getting a bit defensive now. At least as much as you can be defensive while reading this sideways on your iPad in bed. But I’m here to tell you that there is something that we Masons do, that the rest of America is now doing and it’s bad. I mean dangerous to our republic bad. And that is the “no talk of politics and religion” that is creeping into all sectors of American life. And I’ll explain why it’s a false ideology and what Masonry has to do with it.

What is the old saying?

Never talk about politics and religion at work.”

or is it…

“Never talk about politics and religion at parties.”

I thought it was…

Never talk about politics and religion on social media.”

or maybe it’s…

Don’t talk about politics and religion at the dinner table!

Sorry, it’s hard to keep up. There always seems to be a new place where you can’t discuss religion and politics. But I’m sure that out there, somewhere in the mountains, far away from human civilization, there is a 2×2 ft spot where it’s ok to talk.

And this mentality is something that is now becoming engrained in our American culture. Spending time with my non-Mason friends, the talk of politics and religion is almost non-existant. And this has become the norm no matter where I go or what group of friends I hang out with. Or the jobs I work in, people just don’t actively talk about the things in these realms. And when they do, it’s based on the pre-dominant ideology of the region and even light disagreement is avoided. Or people are trying to avoid a lawsuit. Or they just want you to shut up and get back to work. Modern America in its journey for harmony and an environment to do the best work has taken a Masonic principle, bastardized it and applied it to everything. And it’s hurting us.

No talk of politics and religion. The origins of this way of thinking aren’t easily found. But this rule is an ancient part of Masonic history and one of the most important foundations for Masonic culture. Politics and religion have torn apart humanity for centuries, so Masonic lodges try to create the most harmonious atmospheres possible by banning both. And it’s a rule that doesn’t get much thought but is rigorously followed by all Masons. Which is odd because in Masonry, brothers love to argue just about anything in Masonry. But this part of mainstream Masonry is largely left alone. And they feel they have a good reason. Most Masons attribute this rule to the foundation of the modern Masonic psychological structure. That the banning of the talk of politics and religion in lodge is what makes Masonry what it is. This censored discussion environment will get us that much closer to real human harmony.

Harmony at the cost of discussing religion and politics. Think about that for a second. For me, the more I think about it, it repulses me. Constricting my ability to talk of two of the foundational elements of my identity? Bullshit. Banning people from talking politics and religion are two of the things that I’ll firmly stand against. And if push came to shove, I’d take a bullet for it. Because by banning people from talking about something, all it serves to do is to create a false harmony. A false harmony that destroys the souls of the men entrapped in it.

Now I can’t always figure out how much of an impact Masonry has on mainstream culture, but I can confidentially say that the background of banning of politics and religion comes from Masonic culture. It’s too specific in how we as Masons say it and how non-Masons use the same saying. Which is funny because I earlier said I would take a bullet over the banning of politics and religion. Yet here I am part of an institution that perpetuates the banning of arguments regarding politics and religion! I’m a hypocrite! Or, there is a deeper reasoning to why Masonry does what it does, and what it can teach us about the world around us. Well I can say that after doing some research…we’re doing it wrong.

I’ll go into the history a bit. The Masonic history over the politics and religion rule is shrouded in heresy and conjecture. What we do know is that through Anderson’s Constitutions, the banning of talking about the particular opinions of religion was legally enshrined in Masonic culture. Here is a link to the 1734 edition of Anderson’s Constitutions.

http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/history/anderson/

Some speculation for the origins of this debate is over whether it is a pragmatic Masonic creation, or part of a deeper level of thinking. The pragmatic camp will say that is was created as a response to the heavy handed approach of the English kings toward Masonry. The pragmatic camp will say that this was done to appease those in power. By banning talk of politics and religion they were sending a message to the Catholic Church and the Monarchy that they weren’t undermining them in secret. By banning politics and religion early on, it allowed them to survive. And the pragmatics would say that this rule continues now, to keep Masonry in it’s traditional origins. Origins that helped it avoid the storms and seasons of the time and exist beyond them all.

Yet the camp that considers it a deeper level of thinking will argue that because this law persists even now, there must be a deeper reasoning for it. That by Anderson enshrining it, it must have been important enough of a mentality to be designed to exist into perpetuity. The deeper thinkers will say that by banning both, Masonry forces you to focus not on your differences with your brothers but how you’re the same. That instead of taking time to talk about politics and religion, you will talk about the lessons of the tools and the ritual more. That as Masons we’re working on our minds, and to create the best possible environment for this is to censor certain thoughts or ideas for a time. What the deeper meaning crowd surmises, is that politics and religion must be banned in the constant journey to achieve to true harmony or the best work.

And if you believe that last sentence, you’re full of shit. Firstly, because politics and religion extend to all facets of human life. Here is a few examples.

This California drought is getting worse and worse

The above seems like the person talking about something that is an act of God. But it’s overtly political in itself, leading to people thinking about the government response to the drought. Or the social, humanitarian or civil implications.

These student loan bills of mine are getting worse and worse“.

A comment like the above invites a response that has no possible way of avoiding things of political nature. Religion is no different in this regard.

We ended up getting married at St. Mary’s Church

The line mentioned shows your religious opinions on a number of levels without you ever overtly discussing it. Politics and religion are extremely baked into our modern lives. To be truly adherent to a rule like this requires not talking about anything else at all except what was learned during the Masonic ritual. And we might be onto something here so put a pin in that thought. Another way to adhere to the no talk of politics and religion is to create a system that is arbitrary in nature and human controlled. Both which are fraught with issues. But yet, both are a pragmatic reality. There are times in life where there are unspoken boundaries and we have to enforce them the best we can. So maybe there is a lesson we can learn here. Let’s get into a few of those reasons.

Firstly, let’s think pragmatically again. When Masonry bans talk of politics and religion it has a low time impact because Masonic meetings only last a few hours each week. And for good reason because most Masons would lose their mind if they couldn’t talk about this stuff. Masons are some of the most politically and religiously engaged individuals in the world. When you have a fraternity that churns out George Washington, Winston ChurchillGiuseppe Garibaldi, Vivekananda and Robert Baylor…you’re society is hardwired into the talk of politics and religion of the time. So what happens is Masonry gives individuals an opportunity to escape talks of such. As a breather for people who spend all their time thinking about things like this. A timeout. Even God rested on the 7th day. Sometimes you just need a break.

Remember how I said you can’t escape talk of politics and religion? Another reason this is in place is that by banning talks of politics and religion, you turn politics and religion into a real human story. When a brother discusses a car accident his daughter got in with a drunk driver, a son who smokes too much pot, being unemployed, making a big deal…they are looking at their politics and religion at the base level. It’s not about labels anymore but about the core human moral problem. These issues stop becoming heady arguing talking points, and instead are real things about real people we know about. People we care about. And you can connect and learn in powerful ways like this.

 

The last major reason is that Masonry is an unlikely friendship generator. As it says in Anderson’s Constitutions, Masonry provides “the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remain’d at a perpetual Distance“. So by banning discussion of politics and religion, it allows men to find their commonalities. Whether you’re a pragmatic or a deeper meaning person, you know that by banning politics and religion, it creates a certain type of environment. Now the skeptics reading might be thinking of how dangerous of a mentality this could be. That any environment that suffocates issues that might bring contention for the sake of harmony is ripe to be abused for nefarious reasons. Don’t worry. I feel the same way. But Masonry addresses this so elegantly with the trowel of the Master Mason.

The Trowel

“The Trowel, made use of by operative masons to spread the cement which unites a building into a common mass, but utilized by the Free and Accepted Mason for the more noble purpose of spreading the cement of brotherly love and affection, that cement which unites us into one sacred band or society of friends, among whom no contention should ever exist, but that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who can best work and best agree.”

Masonry itself says contention not only will exist, but it even explains the rules contention should exist in! While harmony is the goal, the reality is that there will always be contention. And that contention is the foundation of being able to achieve true harmony. Not a false harmony but a real one where everyone feels that the harmony is deserved.

Let me take it back to our current incorrect way of thinking about politics and religion. I argue we live in a false harmony right now. People push to be politically correct by avoiding certain topics. People don’t want to offend others. People don’t want to be incorrect with what they know. They don’t want the spotlight to be put on them. They don’t want to look ignorant. They don’t want to look stupid.They don’t want to get fired. Lose their friends. What began as a policy that people pushed onto each other is now additionally a self-censorship policy. And this leads to terrible unintended consequences. Here’s a few.

Firstly, where do we gain understanding from? Where are the sources of knowledge that help give us the light considering we won’t be getting it from the people around us? The answer…the people in power. The John Stewarts, Bill O’Reilly’s, Rachel Maddows, Rush Limbaughs, etc. We get what we’re supposed to think from them…and then it stays there. We listen to what they say and we don’t discuss what it means with others. By self-censoring, we’ve essentially eliminated the discussion of “the people” to figure out if what we’re being told is wrong. “The people” of their own choice and of not of their own choice, are being told what to think by talking media heads, news sites, Reddit, etc. And we’re banned to question it.

You might argue back with me and say that there is a lot of internet discussion about politic matters happening all the time on the internet. Except these have removed the most important part of the equation, the human element. People feel safe talking to someone miles away, behind a keyboard, with a fake name they don’t know much about…but we’re afraid to talk about these things to our closest friends? Or we don’t care?!? This is what keeps people boxed in. This is what keeps us from organizing to push back. People are isolated in their thinking, being told what to think by people who are thousands of miles away. Yet to make change in society, you need people in your immediate community to act. Because your immediate community has the ability to change the politician who runs the community or has the ability to organize physically against the issue at hand. Instead, we now have people feeling alone in how they view things, and when people are alone they keep their opinions to themselves. Or they think these things don’t matter and they disengage. And these are the people that are actively engaged digitally! We all know that most people don’t spend their time arguing public policy or the meaning of life online. But are instead watching the next Hollywood TV show, playing video games or getting high. (I had to have an old man Livingstone moment right there…and I’m in my 20s!). But when we’re not engaging in the uncomfortable, and instead we’re taking our moral or civil cue from drinking, pot smoking, video games and TV shows/movies alone, we create a society that is ignorant and docile. Perfect for those in power. Our civic engagement in this country is collapsing because people don’t want to engage in the things that cause contention! And without contention, the powerful few grow more powerful.

And yet we as Masons learn that the most noble thing, the pinnacle of our work, is to engage in contention to find out who is right and to ultimately find the truth. Society has taken our Masonic culture of no talk of politics and religion, hammered it onto each other to make people play nice and yet has ignored the part where it says we need to be in contention! Sure, we do our best work at our job’s when we’re not getting distracted by politics and religion. Sure you won’t talk about politics or religion to that cute girl or guy you’re talking to because you hope to get laid. Sure you want to keep your mouth shut on Facebook because you don’t want to be seen as unhireable. My response to all this = Go Fuck Yourself.

If you think dodging things that cut to our core regarding belief and how the world should work will create a more pleasing space, you’re part of the problem. If you feel strongly about something but you keep it to yourself because you don’t feel totally informed, engage anyways and seek to learn.

As William Bradshaw says in Politics and Religion Do Mix,

“No two subjects are more important for one’s total well-being than religion and politics. Politics is all about one’s well-being when living in this life, and religion is all about one’s well-being in the life to come. What could possibly be more important than these two subjects??”

The only way to be true to yourself, is to engage in the things that people need to think about. It’s not enough to think about yourself, but you must think about what God put us here for. You must think about humanity as a whole, and what your place is in it. And you can only find out, by discussing it.

Livingstone

 

The r/debatereligion Files. Part 1: “A Wild Freemason Appears”

reddit_logo_banner

Hello readers, Livingstone here.

 

One of the parts of this blog that I have been working on is the testing part. As in, testing what it means to be a Mason in the “profane” world. There hasn’t been much material to discuss this in our generation, and I’m looking to start to create and idea of just what it means to be a Mason in this world. I’ve done some debating in r/christianity in the past,and now I’ve decided to do some field work in the Reddit subreddit, /r/debatereligion. What people believe, and how they believe, is absolutely something that matters to us. How theism is viewed is is directly tied to us because you must believe in God to be a part of our fraternity. Here we go.

 

Here is my kickoff thread introducing me to their subreddit. I post under the name “OfficialRedditLawyer” there, that’s how you can tell what I’m posting as.

A Wild Freemason Appears

Their experience with Freemasons is rare, I’m the first openly Freemason individual most of them have met. If you search that forum, the first time a Freemason is even mention is literally two days before I arrive. Which was news to me. It’s no secret that r/debatereligion is packed with atheists but it’s as good a place as any to get people talking from all points of view. It should be a place where people hear views, consider them and offer reasonable responses.

Or it’s secretly an anti-theist circle jerk. I report, you decide.

Here are the highlights from the thread.

Highlight #1

Screenshot 2014-07-17 08.30.37

My first post was a response to someone trying to figure out why belief in God is a requirement to join Masonry and continue to be one.

I responded.

OfficialRedditLawyer(Livingstone)

Higher Power is a term that is absolutely open to interpretation and I can see your point. There have been Pantheists that have argued their belief could mean “higher power”, and some Masons even agree. However the ritual in its approach to The Great Architect of the Universe considers God to be a force beyond us, with it being largely being treated as what you would define as “spiritual”. There are references to the life after and the term “Great Architect of the Universe” is used to reference the higher power. The GAOTU term IMO has a multipurpose use. It explains what the higher power should be regarded as during the Masonic ritual, to also being a neutral placeholder term that brothers of different beliefs can use in a shared context. When someone prays to The Great Architect of the Universe during a prayer, in my mind and heart I am praying to my specific God. And to be clear, this is my specific approach to Masonry. But it’s fairly common and considered its natural purpose by early Masonic scholars.

The belief in God serves many purposes. Some I can’t say due to my obligation I took, but some I can. But I’ll cut to the chase for the main one.

  1. Person A swears on themselves alone to keep their word to not divulge the secrets that they are about to observe.
  2. Person B, believes a higher power is watching them at all times and that they will face judgement in the afterlife, swears to keep their word to not divulge the secrets that they are about to observe.

Logically, who is more likely to keep their word regarding the secrets of Masonry?

Masonry is pragmatic in much of its design. The ancient builders of Masonry, to keep their trade secrets, know that people who believe in a higher power are more likely to keep their word on the trade secrets they are about to learn then those who do not.

There are other reasons for a required belief in Masonry as it very spiritual in nature (and secular too!) but that is IMO the primary reason.

 

Reasonable enough. I report how I interpret that this is done because who believed in a higher power were more likely to be trusted to keep Masonic trade secrets and the tradition continues.

Of course, the atheists sniffed out that strain of thinking right away.

 

NewTroski

“Logically, who is more likely to keep their word regarding the secrets of Masonry?”

This train of thought seems like you are trying to justify being prejudiced against atheists.

I think the more trustworthy person is more likely to keep their word. There are trustworthy theists and untrustworthy theists. There are trustworthy atheists and untrustworthy atheists.

I know that in the USA, atheists are considered untrustworthy and un-electable, but is there any evidence to support this position?

First sentence dedicated to claiming persecution? CHECK. 18 upvotes to my two upvotes? CHECK. Asking me to support evidence for their position when they don’t have evidence to prove me otherwise? CHECK.

I’m not saying atheists are less trustworthy. I’m just saying Masonry works in a way that makes sure the man is accountable to a force beyond him. Which most people consider God. Of course, any logical individual will understand what is going on here, and they did what anyone could have predicted.

Highlight #2

Screenshot 2014-07-16 23.47.24

So let me get this straight, they are going to use “history” as a barometer to show that belief “is teh badz0rs”? Excuse my language but get the fuck outta here! That’s like saying the history of last night at O’Reilly’s Pub shows that two guys got into a bar fight at a bar over a girl while they were drinking. So we should get rid of booze and not allow them near women anymore. History shows us that this is what happens when people drink booze and like women. He doesn’t even surmise the deeper factors that make people do the things they do, nor other environmental factors that cause people to do things. Come on!

And get this…THE POST HAS 10 UPVOTES!?! It gets worse, in the second part…

How many of those men behind the atrocities would you say believed in a higher power watching them at all times, believing they would face judgment in the afterlife? The real “problem” here seems to be that the higher power simply doesn’t matter, no?

How dense can you be? Wouldn’t lack of education, lack of personal exposure with the people opposed, poverty, sickness, terrible health, pain, etc. all be factors to make people lose their marbles? How do we know it wouldn’t have been worse without religion? Of course, it’s another atheist having am unsubstantiated belief in something because of something they think and they have no evidence to support it. I guess you can take the man out of religion, but you can’t take the religion out of man.

So I respond with a thought out and logical post explaining that if people don’t follow the belief system, the problem is with them and not the belief system. If they followed the belief system as intended and this happened, then sure. I even pointed out that the tenants of their religion are the foundational elements of a modern society. I even mention how people without belief have done terrible things. And that I’m open to debating that topic. How many upvotes did I get? None, instead I’m DOWNVOTED TO ZERO. Oh man.

Highlight #3

Screenshot 2014-07-16 23.58.30

So this guy’s first assumption is person B, the theist, can’t be trusted unless he thinks someone is watching him? So the person who is NOT being watched by a higher power is just trusting the voices in their head to be a good person and keep their word? Logic and belief ultimately with people listening to the voices in their head and making the call from there. So logically, at the end of the day both of them are listening to the voices in their head. Except one of them is God, which is watching over them and evaluating them. And the other is logic, something which has never been twisted before in human history with secular thinking. No no one has ever had illogical thoughts before in human history in secular thinking.

How many upvotes? SIX UPVOTES. My response was that these were both neutral people, and that the only difference was theism vs non-theism. I GET DOWNVOTED TO ZERO. AGAIN.

But it gets worse. troglozyte responds by saying if “they’re both equal, then they’re both equally likely to keep the secret.” 7 upvotes.

But don’t skip over that post. That post will change your life. Read it again. That post might be one of the great posts in Reddit Atheist history. Before I dive in, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and say that there could be multiple intended meanings behind it.

Meaning A: I was hoping that he misunderstood the thought experiment so I ignored what he really meant and figured he just got confused. I said they were the same, so maybe he just so happened to forget that they were different and thought that Person A and Person B were completely the same and both couldn’t get in. Which literally makes no sense. At all. Why would someone ask a question about two people who are completely the same getting in, and saying only one gets in while the other doesn’t? No one. And no one responded to the thread asking to clarify. So we go to Path B, which I’m extremely excited to speculate on.

Meaning B: Yes, for the first time in atheist Reddit history, they blew up their anti-theism argument. A non-believer and a believer both have equal actions? Wait WHAT?!? So all those countless threads, posts, blogs, and rants about how atheism is the more logical path from illogical theism were just a theory and they really do think theists and non-theists are “equally likely to keep their word”. No. No. And no. You don’t get to play the “we think different” card and then say they would do the exact same thing as a theist. No one questioned this. Seven people upvoted it. That looks like a consensus to me. So what we get from this is “Atheists are more logical then theists but would do the exact same thing as theists.” The silence against this was deafening. The consensus was that people agreed.

So I responded by being incredulous at the idea that two people who think different would have the same actions. To think that is illogical as it gets. I get downvoted three times to -2. WHAT! WHAT WHAT!?!

Fair enough, I’m building a case here.

Highlight #4

Screenshot 2014-07-17 00.18.42

Hmmmmmm. Read the whole thing. However it’s the first sentence by usurious, that says it all.

“Neither person A or B in your example are trustworthy.”

Now, this is all armchair psychology. And I’m against things like that. But atheists use it against theists and religion often, so I’m going to prove a point and use it against them.

“Neither person A or B in your example are trustworthy.”

Read into that. Think deeply about what this person means by this. It offers a real glimpse into how they think, how they view people. He’s saying that people aren’t trustworthy. And his SEVEN upvotes are proof he’s not alone. The person arguing against the reinforcement ability of belief, views people as untrustworthy. He’s saying that a person, at their base core, is untrustworthy.

Is this a symptom of secularism? That secularists, when they believe that human beings are evolved animals, that we’re arrived at our point in history today through survival of the fittest…that their foundational understanding of humans is that they are in competition with each other. That people are in a struggle with each other to be the most fit to survive. That’s why you can’t trust people, because we’re animals and deep down that is what he and the people who upvoted him believe. I don’t know…but it makes you wonder.

He could have easily said, “In this case person A and person B are equally trustworthy”. Which would have been wrong, but that’s besides the point. He said untrustworthy. And he reinforced that comment in the second sentence.

“If they are “completely the same” save B’s fear of punishment, does it not follow that the only reason either of them keep their word is grounded in fear?”

Actually, the second sentence is even worse. Fear of punishment? Where the heck did I ever say grounded in fear? So again, we are becoming illuminated to how they view people.

Highlight #5

Screenshot 2014-07-17 00.32.06

Unsubstantiated claim? CHECK. Lack of evidence. CHECK. Atheists positive post without proof. CHECK. 6 upvotes. CHECK.

I responded with: “Do you have any proof or evidence to back this up? ”

-1 vote.

Fuck me.

His response.

Evidence that professed atheists suffer social, professional, and legal consequences? Right here, friend (.pdf warning). And hereAnd here.

Evidence that theists sometimes fake belief for personal advancement? Gosh, sorry, I guess I don’t, so that never happens.”

He literally ignores the foundational question I asked! He goes right into persecution mode. Standard SJW practice. He truly believes if the tables weren’t turned, that theists wouldn’t lie about being religious to avoid punishment. I literally rolled out all the evidence of atrocities committed by State Atheism, which any sane and logical person would figure that theists would be forced to lie about their beliefs to not get killed. Nope. Downvotes again.

And before long, the atheists turned to darker, more desperate explanations.

Highlight #6

Screenshot 2014-07-17 00.41.23

If someone were to divulge the secrets of Freemasonry, they would end up with a big red dot on their forehead. Let’s quickly ignore the disgusting anti-masonic drivel being unloaded by this guy. That’s low hanging fruit but it does apply here. However, let’s focus on the hilarity of the “logical atheist” making a claim that doesn’t have a shred of evidence in history. And the best part is that NO ONE CALLED HIM OUT. I repeat, look at the thread. No one was skeptical of what xereeto said.

I respond asking for evidence, taking the high road. I could have cried anti-masonry, conspiracy, bigotry, but I at least wanted to see if he had anything that might lead him to think that way. The response was predictable.

“I don’t have any evidence to base it on, that’s just what I think would most likely happen. That’s why I said they would likely end up dead. I’m not anywhere near certain but I believe that would be what would play out.”

I’ll try and look at this positively and hope that he was trying to contrast my thought experiment in a really poorly and crass way. But he never did. He vanished. Never edited his post saying as such. Just dropped off the map. The posts you see after trying to ignorantly justify that there is somehow a parallel to a Mason getting killed for revealing a secret and my PersonAPersonB thought experiment was done by Zomb-el, a different person.

Wait hold on, there is a another paragraph.

“It’s hard to explain why I think this would be the case, I might call it common sense but that seems like an arrogant thing to say.”

Ah, there we go. For a second there, I thought he was just some teenager with bad argument skills. Nope. He really believes this shit. Mr. agnostic atheist believes a bunch of shit with no factual basis and thinks that there are people literally killing each other over Masonic secrets. You can take the man out of religion, but you can’t take the religion out of man.

The thread is a treasure trove, I could go on forever. But let’s end on a highlight from another thread. Your good friend Livingstone likes to test ideas and I had one idea that I was hoping to get more information on before I checked out for the week. (yes, I have a job)

Atheists of DebateReligion, do you want theism to go away or do you not care?

And without further ado, Highlight #7

Screenshot 2014-07-17 00.57.39

“I want Anti-Skepticism to go away – Theism is a symptom, not the core problem. If just theism disappeared overnight it would be replaced with an equivalent very quickly.”

hayshed (36 upvotes)

Tell me about it. Oh tell me about it.

Livingstone

The Brave New World of Masonry: The Internet Part 1

Digital-Revolution

Hello Readers,

Livingstone here. So recently I asked a few of my Masons on /r/freemasonry about what the internet has done for their Masonic experience. You can find the thread right here.

While there wasn’t too much os a response to what the internet means for Masonry, I would actually like to expand on the ideas brought up. And they are Brotherhood, Knowledge Gathering, and Masonic Culture.

Freemasonry is a world wide fraternity. It’s also a world wide society found in almost every country of the world. Masonic ritual even mentions how Freemasons span the globe. It is part of our psychological DNA to be connected to Masons around the world.

But pragmatically speaking, we’re not. We’re connected in our shared experience and our shared obligation and identity. But Masons by in large don’t know each other naturally as well as others think. Being secretive in nature without a central authority, it’s not a simple click of a button to be connected to any other Mason around the world. Masons in the past would many times fight in revolutions, and not know the people they were fighting with or against were Masons. The French Revolution being the most glaring example.

Ultimately, our brotherhood is limited and unique in scope, mostly dealing with the personal recognition and then connection between one brother to another. However, the internet has changed that. Websites like reddit.com/r/freemasonry, Mason Forum, MasterMason.com, MyFreemasonry, and so forth have created a new kind of brotherhood. One where space and time are now not a limit anymore between brothers. Now, brothers from all over the world are connected to each other by a few clicks of the button. At the fundamental level, this is a new era for the Fraternity.

And again I say, a new era. And again is say NEW ERA. I cannot stress this enough, this is a major turning point in the history of the Fraternity and the Masonic experience. This new experience will bring with it a whole host of opportunities and challenges. Firstly, the greatest element this brings to Masonry is the ability to now represent ourselves in a uniform way that all people, Masons and non-Masons alike, can see. Creating websites to represent our lodges allows each lodge to now represent themselves to the global human community. I’ll get into specifics, but first let me take a small detour.

In the book Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam outlines the death of the American community. Over the past 50 years, people stopped joining clubs, stopped getting involved and spent more time watching TV, playing video games, or using the internet. Now most people find themselves only part of an organization superficially to give money or to say that they are part of a group. Even though they contribute little social capital. However, there has been a growing backlash to lifestyle. People are starting to realize they feel very alone in this world and that they are missing a fulfillment that comes from physical companionship and community.

While the internet has taken the physical social community online, it has created an opportunity for people to return to that physical social community. People can now research ways to join organizations and groups of people and then go to those meetings and meet people and develop a new community.

Alright, back to Masonry. Masonry has never been an “advertise” and “come meet us” organization. Throughout it’s ancient history, men would learn about Masonry, ask questions to learn more and then they would ultimately join. This was in large part a result of people spending their entire “fun” time meeting people and cultivating their social relationships. Men would run onto other Masons, a conversation would develop, and vola! However, the collapse os the physical social community effectively butchered Masonry’s ability to be apparent. As Masons, we can’t ask people to join. And advertising Masonry is way beyond anything that most Masons would be willing to swallow.

Until some Mason got the idea to create a Lodge website. The Lodge website is perfect for Masonry. It isn’t some advertising vehicle. It’s purely informational, and Freemasons love information and learning. It’s organized, it can be an extension of the lodge’s culture and it creates a natural pipeline for curious men to come and learn more about the fraternity in person. The Internet, while butchering the physical American community, has created an opportunity for men to easily learn and return to our Masonic physical community. Here are a few lodge websites for your pleasure.

Grand Lodge of California

Masonic Lodge #42

North Hollywood Lodge #542

Sunset Masonic Lodge #369

Also, the internet has created a system where Masons all over the world can now connect to each other socially and informationally. The old days of visiting a lodge, meeting brothers and talking to them was a rich and important part of the Master Mason’s journey. To go out and meet other “builders” was a great way for you to extend your own network and to gain new perspective and new understanding about the world around you. However, it was severely limited. In California alone, there are over 300 lodges. However only a few Masons have been to all of them. And there are thousands and thousands of lodges all over the world. No Mason has visited them all and there are brothers out there that I will never be able to meet.

Until now. Now, a Mason in Malaysia and a Mason is California and a Mason in Russia can all now talk to each other through the internet, instantly. For the first time in our history, we have the ability to learn and be together on a global scale.

Masonry has been slow to the internet. Slow to dial into the worldwide community. And it isn’t that surprising. Masonry became an organization of traditionally older men who don’t use the internet. Also there isn’t any central Masonic authority to guide standards and practice for all lodges. The Grand Lodge should be this but it’s limited in scope. Also Masonry is an ancient religite (made up word, version of religion) organization…those types of groups move slower then others.

Which is why the fruits of the internet are starting to reveal themselves almost 20 years after the internet boom in the mid 90s. Lodges are starting to experience a surge of younger, more tech savvy brothers. Almost all of them discovered Masonic lodges through the internet.

And it isn’t just your normal wannabe Masons who are showing up, but men who have done a ton of research on Masonry before hand. Almost all of that research being done through the internet. And so that now goes to education. Masons have always been a very education and information hungry group. They would read books and papers written by each other all the time. However access to those books and papers was limited by physical scope. Not to limited, but you had to read a physical copy. Now, any piece of Masonic education can be published, posted to the internet, and every person around the world can then have access to it. And this does two things. Firstly, it allow for an immediacy to information. Once a new piece of information is created, there isn’t a wait to for others to read it. Secondly, you aren’t limited int he scope of perspective and can now see all different types of viewpoints of Masonry and what Masonry means.

We don’t know yet what this will ultimately do for Masonry. But I’m excited by it. This is a new frontier for Masonry and no one knows yet what it will mean. But I’ll speculate.

Masonry is still going through a transformation. And we won’t know until 10 years from now what the future of the fraternity will be. There are those who think Masonry is dying, and point to information they have to support their viewpoint. There are others who say Masonic membership is surging and point to information they have to support their viewpoint. Right now, we just don’t know. But what we do know is lodges all across the US are flipping over to the digital era as we speak. Some lodges will close down while others will flourish. But the new brand of Masonry will be digital, all encompassing in knowledge and perspective of the craft, and FAST.

I mentioned this briefly earlier but the internet has now allowed Masonry’s Brotherhood to finally be truly worldwide in nature. But I do want to downplay this part a bit. We all have communities in one way or another online. It could be video game communities, or fantasy football communities, or sports communities and so forth. While Mason bonds men together in a much deeper way, the internet mostly blunts the human presence. Sure, you don’t feel alone as much as you would do with other groups but you are still alone in your room typing away.

There is one other leadershipless community that has embraced the internet. I’m talking our friends the Jews. Judaism/Jews have embraced the worldwide Jewish community and have latched onto groups like The World Jewish Congress and the World Zionist Congress. They have created a worldwide voice for the Jewish community. Masonry, for a variety of reasons, doesn’t do that. And there is still a very strong resistance to embracing the idea of ANY advocacy and representation. I even asked this question to /r/Freemasonry and my brothers where almost entirely unified in their rejection of this.

But the internet is going to have some sort of effect on the worldwide Masonic community. To be able to create groups, forums, message boards and places of discussion to meet other brothers is going to eventually manifest itself into something. Am I being vague? What I’m saying is Masonry may very well become a test site for a worldwide leaderless community that is now very connected…and what happens with that we do not know. It might very well be the purest form of thought and progressive action in the world. No one to dictate what to think or how to think. No one speaking for us. Only ideas, put out into the world, and the best ideas or the things that make the most sense being our dominant thought process. Masonry already experiences this now. But once the worldwide Masonic community mostly gets online, eventually the acceleration will take place and where Masonry goes…we do not know.

Part 2 will be coming soon.

Livingstone

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

free and ACCEPTED

Hello Readers,

You shouldn’t care what people think about you.

You should care what people think about you.

I don’t have to validate who I am to the people around me.

I have to validate who I am to the people around me

As you can see from above, I have typed out two sets of diametrically opposed philosophical statements. And for those of you reading this, you have heard all four being used to explain how to guide your actions. And that…is impossible.

As Masons, we have an interesting element that is part of our cultural DNA. And that is the Free and Accepted moniker that comes associated with our lodges and is a part of our Masonic code. For this article, I want to focus on the ACCEPTED part. For a few reasons. Here is a link to a recent article about a Gay Mason who doesn’t feel accepted by his lodge.

FINALLY

Some choice quotes.

So let me preface this by saying that I am a MM, a gay man, and I’m in my younger 20’s. I am also in an area which is notoriously conservative. As in, NPR recently rated it as the #4 most “Bible-Minded” city in the United States.

I finally had a friend become an EA on Tuesday. It has been so hard to make friends in my lodge because of my age or my sexual orientation and I am so thrilled to have someone who I can go to lodge meetings with now! Most of my experience of Freemasonry has been solitary study… LOTS of solitary study; I’m hoping I get to expand my horizons a little now.

Congratulations to my friend, [person whose u/ I can’t remember], who will see this tomorrow!

And here is the top response.

So your lodge was open minded enough to accept you as a brother, but they don’t extend a hand in friendship? That’s a real shame.

And here is his response.

Well I wasn’t out about my sexuality to others or myself when I joined the lodge. Don’t get me wrong no one has ever turned a wayward eye in lodge, but outside of lodge… Well we all have our vices; for some the drink, for some the zealotry. They’re still good people, even though some have differing ideals.

It was a pretty standard thread to say the least. All the brothers were quick to let the Mason know that he was accepted to them, and that these brothers were not the norm for Masonry.

It’s an interesting question, acceptance. It was very important to early Masons who made sure to plaster the Free and Accepted titling to their lodges. But acceptance wasn’t the term people strove for when I was growing up. Instead, it was tolerance.  I was always told as a child that people had different beliefs and that I didn’t need to accept them, but I shouldn’t try and persecute or ostracize other either. Instead, I should learn to tolerate the other beliefs and people and learn to co-exist.

Acceptance – the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.

Tolerance – is a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.

Both these words come from a similar frame of mind but couldn’t be more different. Someone tolerating me is a starkly different experience then some accepting me. I think someone tolerating me is someone trying to hold back gagging from a stench. Someone accepting me conjures up the ideas of someone coming over and hugging me. Fundamentally, it feels as if someone who tolerates me doesn’t like me but only is cordial with me because of the laws of the land or their personal moral beliefs. While someone who accepts me is open to all my ideas and who I am, no matter what.

When I came into this blog entry, I was resistant to the idea of acceptance. I personally could never accept nazism, or racism, or communism, and so forth. I could never accept violence, or dishonesty, or ignorance. But on the other hand I most likely would never tolerate any of those things either. So let’s make it harder.

If a mother and father decide to send their kid to the army to fight a war, I would tolerate that but I wouldn’t accept that decision. If someone decides they want to spend all day smoking pot, I would tolerate that but never accept it (only in the evenings, hey!). If someone voted differently from me, I wouldn’t accept that decision but I would tolerate it.

Tolerance allows you to quickly act when something is happening that you feel is a problem. If we tolerate behavior, the second it goes over the line we can then jump in and stand against it. But if we’re all accepting of people, then it will be harder to detach and face the problem head on.

Now, I have been speaking in a broader sense here. Masonry, potentially approaches the topic of acceptance in a more minimalistic way. As in…come to Masonry and you will be accepted. Masonry, the original hippies.

But Masonry’s approach to acceptance is not unique to Masonry. In fact, acceptance is a key element of all the major Abrahamic faiths. See here.

Acceptance is fundamental to the core dogma of most Abrahamic religions, the word “Islam” can be translated as “acceptance”, “surrender” or “voluntary submission” [2][3] and Christianity is based upon the “acceptance” of Jesus of Nazareth as the “Christ” and could be compared to some Eastern religious concepts such as Buddhist mindfulness. Religions and psychological treatments often suggest the path of acceptance when a situation is both disliked and unchangeable, or when change may be possible only at great cost or risk. Acceptance may imply only a lack of outward, behavioral attempts at possible change, but the word is also used more specifically for a felt or hypothesized cognitive or emotional state.

It’s interesting that masonry takes an approach that aligns with the two major Abrahamic religions. And interestingly enough, the last sentence in the above paragraph is key. When you accept someone, that means you will not exhibit behaviors to change them.

This is very odd to see in a free-market modern society like America. We try to change each other all the time. We try to get people to buy things, wear different clothes, stand up straight, whiten their teeth, be the better you, and so on. We try to change each other all the time. That’s not very accepting.

Furthermore, we try to change people until we realize there is an aspect of them that we can’t change, and then we try to accept that aspect that can’t change.

But acceptance fits with Masonry in an odd way. I can’t go into specifics, but the Masonic lessons we learn through the ritual aren’t outwards attempts to change you in my opinion. They are phrases and imparted to us in a special way that allows me to make that remark. Masons will know the specifics, but I don’t want to focus on that as I want non-Masons and Masons to focus on the point. And the point is that Masonry doesn’t try to change you. You walk in trying to change yourself, and Masonry gives you the tools to do it.

So let’s think of acceptance in a larger sense, especially for the real world a that is where we spend most of our time. While people have behaviors that we accept/tolerate/scorn, what acceptance can mean is to tolerate the person as they are. What I mean is, Masons believe in a supreme being and this have a code they must follow when it comes to others. God loves all, and this he must accept all as well. And if we are to love God and his creations, wouldn’t it make sense to accept his creations as well if we are supposed to love them?

One of the key things we learn in Masonry is Brotherly Love. While many Masons may see that as an imperative to love their lodge brothers, I see it interpreted in a larger Biblical sense.

Hebrews 13:1 – Let brotherly love continue.

When The Bible references brothers, it means everyone. So maybe I just learned a lesson from this. Tolerance is important, but it’s only a stop gap measure. People aren’t to be tolerated, only aspects of their behavior and things they believe are to be tolerated. But who they are…is to be accepted. Mason or not.

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.

——-

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.