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

 

 

 

 

The Prison of Knowledge

Hello Readers,

So it’s been a while since we last spoke as I’ve been busy with work but here I return.

I’ve avoided this blog now because I’ve had nothing important to say. In a society with a billion voices, knowing when to speak and when not to a major part of what keeps society free of superfluous knowledge and ideas. We only have so much to process. To just spam out any half-baked idea because you feel like it is not only not constructive, it contributes to the larger problem of information overload we are experiencing in the Information Age.

This actually serves as a good segway into today’s topic, and that is the Prison of Knowledge. This may seem like a strange thought, as we have always been taught that knowledge sets you free. Here are a few familiar quotes.

“Knowledge is freedom and ignorance is slavery”

– Miles Davis

“Knowledge is Power”

– Francis Bacon

I’m sure we’ve seen quotes likes this a number of times in our lives, especially in the Western World. And for many of us that have experienced this way of thinking, we have set ourselves on a journey to accumulate knowledge to free ourselves and give us the power we need.

But I’m going to play the other side of the coin here. I agree that we must be constant seekers of knowledge and information, but I feel that knowledge is destructive as well. Knowledge can make us feel like a prisoner. I’ll give an example.

Let’s discuss height. I choose height because it’s a generally neutral piece of information and not politically loaded. I’ve also chosen height because it cannot be changed. You’ll understand why this is important shortly.

So let me inform you of a few things.

Height Discrimination

“Surveys have uncovered that less than 3% of CEOs were below 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) in height. Ninety percent of CEOs are of above average height.”

“Tall people get paid more money: A 2004 study by Timothy Judge at the University of Florida found that for every inch of height, a tall worker can expect to earn an extra $789 per year. That means two equally skilled coworkers would have a pay differential of nearly $5,000 per year, simply because of a 6-inch height differential, according to the study.”

And now onto relationships/sex

Researchers quizzed 700 men and women about their ideal partner height, as well as what would be the minimum and maximum acceptable. A second part of the study asked 50,000 men and women how satisfied they were with their own height. The most satisfying height for a man is 6ft 3in; for a woman, it’s 5ft 9in.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/genders-cant-see-eye-to-eye-over-height-8498247.html

Another

“A recent study showed that women prefer to marry men who are 8 inches (!) taller than they are.”

And the final whopper,

“The likelihood that a man under 5-foot-9 is contacted by a Manhattan or Bronx woman online is a scant 1.2 percent, with Brooklyn coming in with a paltry 2.4 percent response rate, according to a study conducted by the dating site AYI.com, which analyzed 50,000 interactions over two months.”

http://nypost.com/2013/12/08/short-men-dont-stack-up-with-nyc-women/

 

And the average height of men in America? 5’10. That’s right. There are numerous other people out there just as talented as you but make an extra 1k a year for each inch of height on you. That can make or break your life. Also for almost half of the ENTIRE male population, they aren’t desirable to women and aren’t considered appropriate relationship/sexual material. And 90% of men aren’t the “ideal” height of women. And you have to understand the average numbers count the US as a whole, and don’t take into account how the younger generation is on average much taller then the national average. 6’0 for white Europeans used to be distinctly tall and now is just a shade under average.

I brought this up because height is a factor that we cannot change, and thus it’s a locked fact, the same way that the world is round and the New York Jets will lose every year.

I’m 5’11 naturally, 6’0 with shoes on. When I read this height information about a year ago, it was crippling for me to read. 8 INCH HEIGHT DIFFERENCE!? I couldn’t rant to social media because I would have gotten the “Napoleon Complex” schtick thrown at me. Even thought I’m above average height at 6’0. (See, I’m rounding up now) There aren’t any groups for this so you don’t really have anyone to talk to. Society doesn’t address this issue. And this isn’t some social construct thing that would show that it’s some cultural fad. Instead many of the studies I’ve pointed to say that there is a basis in human evolutionary psychology that cause women to want to be comforted by taller men. I remember binge reading these articles, and the next day I was walking through Los Angeles and for the first time in my life, I felt an intimidation towards taller men, which leads to feelings of insecurity, which lead to feeling of anger. I’ve never felt this way before! My would view and way I view things was now thrown out of whack because of this new piece of knowledge. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Knowledge hadn’t set me free or given me power, it now imprisoned me. And I’m average height for an American male and I’m at the 6’0 mark that makes me desirable to most women!!! How do the half of men in this country who are shorter then me feel about this? How must they feel when exposed to this bit of information?

And this height discussion is a symbolic station of knowledge of a society that is filled with stations of knowledge that can cripple us.

We don’t live in a Democratic-Republic. By definition, we live in a Civil Oligarchy or Plutocracy. United States is a Civil Oligarchy

Princton Study shows America to be an Oligarchy

Understanding and Overcoming America’s Plutocracy

Or look at the construct of White Privilege and it’s effects on minorities in the US.

Or how African-Americans are only 13% of the US population but are responsible for the majority of the murder in the US.

Or how 1-5 women are raped in their lifetime.

Or how 10%-25% of Americans are on anti-depressents.

Or how over 30% of this country is Obese.

10% of this country is addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Or how the average household credit card debt is $15,191 and average student loan debt is $33,607.

Fucking terrifying, right? I could go on and on here. Woooooo knowledge yaaaaaayyyyy!

And these things I’m telling you here are often modified or not provided in context. The media in America, owned by our corporate Oligarchs, cover news stories involving the above not to help people better understand the world but to maximize profit potential. And the people who work at these media organizations have been molded in their political views over time by their drive to get more clicks and make the business grow. So that they become an echo chamber and their hiring practices are inadvertently designed to hire people who think like them. Thus creating a self-sustaining feedback loop. Add in extremist positions being taken to stand out to get more ad friendly clicks and soon the company as a whole gradually shifts more and more to extremism. The knowledge here is slanted, divisive, toxic and designed for conflict.

You would think that people would ignore the media and discuss this issue amongst themselves. But as I spoke about earlier in another blog entry, people are afraid to talk politics/religion with each other. And many times people in this country have become so radicalized, that just introducing either the white privilege argument or black crime argument will get you socially nuked. Social media, at first freeing, is now a prison with the extremist inmates running the asylum. Anyone who disagrees will get singled out and dogged until people are afraid to be associated with the person who disagreed. This is bad for your social life, mental health, and job prospects. So people end up being forced to stay silent. Which means people will take this information and bury it inside themselves where it will fester and eat them alive. I think you’re starting to see the reasoning for this blog post today.

Now for me, writing a blog where my name isn’t attached is a really helpful way to unload this pain inside of me. No personal blowback. Even if i was posting with my real name, I’m aware that my small blog is barely noticeable larger national discussion. This knowledge should also be crippling to me. However, I have solutions for all of this and I’ll explain how Masonry works within it.

Masonry is a knowledge based society, and yet Masonry is also a God centric society. And they must exist together for the Masonic journey to even work.

Belief in God is a requirement to be a Mason, and while this might seem like a relic of the past, I would argue that it is the foundation of how we approach knowledge.

Going back, we know is that the world is fucked up. And what we also know is that The Great Architect exists, watches over us and we should look to him for aid in all of our endeavors. This is all brought together by the Volume of Sacred Law (VSL) being one of the three lights of Masonry. My VSL is the Christian Bible.

Masonry acknowledges the foundational importance of a codified theistic moral system because of how important morality is in our journey processing knowledge. For many, knowing just how unequal the world is would be something that would make even the most sane of minds lose all grasp of reality. However, anchoring onto God helps us in a few aspects and I’ll play the other side of the coin first to clarify what this means.

Other Side of the Coin: An non-theist might say we should hate God for making the world unequal. 

Actually, look at it this way. God is watching over us and loves us. Every VSL has this same consistent theme to it. God loves us. We can then surmise that a God who loves us does not want to see us fail, but to succeed.

Other Side of the Coin: Again we might ask ourselves, why is the system shitty in the first place? Why would God do this to us?

Well because it’s our fault. In the Christian religion Adam and Eve break their relationship with God by eating from the Tree of Knowledge and are cast out of Eden. However we realize something here, we have free will. God said not to do this. But we exercised our free will anyways and did it. We have a choice, the ability to choose the life we want to live. We have the power.

Other Side of the Coin: You might be pissed at God for throwing us out of paradise.

But if your boss tells you not to sleep on the job and you sleep on the jog, you’ll get fucking fired. If your wife tells you not to cheat on her and you cheat on her, she’ll divorce you. God and the humans had a deal, and the humans broke it. That’s life.

Other Side of the Coin: Now since it’s our fault, we might wear this knowledge like a weight on our backs.

Nope, my VSL says otherwise. Because Jesus died, we are forgiven. BOOM! We’re free! Alright, now that we’re free, what do we do? Well Biblically it says that we must now go out and right the wrongs of this world. Help those in need. Spread the good word. Spread the good word? I’m going to put on my Mason hat here and say we’re not talking in just the purely evangelizing sense. Actually I’m talking about going out to people and telling them that there is a better way all types of ways. Proselytizing isn’t just the domain of religion, it’s the domain of all ideas. It’s our mission to go out and spread knowledge to each other to make the world a better place. It’s our mission to hit the streets, Facebook, parties and whatever to inform each other of better ways of doing things. The world is fucked…but we’re gonna spread ideas to make the world whole again.

God also gives us another life. For many people, they are born crippled, weak, and helpless. Many are forced to live in a would with an inequality that they cannot fix. This understanding should be maddening, but knowing that there is a coming eternal life that puts things in context. The idea that I can’t fix the wrongs of my life might make me feel helpless, but knowing that death leads to  an eternal perfection in Heaven is freeing. I’m not a prisoner of the system anymore. I’m just here temporarily. We’re gonna be ok.

Now the concept of the afterlife ties into this third part. And that is how people will be able to eventually escape death and also how they deal with the moral teachings of their respective religions. The two major criticisms of religion are A: Religion is the opiate of the people. And B: That religion radicalizes people. The anti-religious will frequently throw these statements at the religious, oblivious to the ironic contradictory nature of them. But I think we can all agree that religion does both. And there are legitimate criticisms to be made here. But there is also glorious opportunity.

Religion can be used to keep people from being a state of conflict with each other. Sacrifice, universal unconditional love, and driven charity are all things that make for a more structured, improved and harmonious society. And yet when it comes time to unify and push people to fight against what is wrong, religion is a wonderful force to push people to fight harder and be more unified to break injustice. The Declaration of Independence was founded on the belief that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. And that religious zeal was what drove the American Patriots through brick walls to defeat the most powerful empire in the world, the British Empire. We as Masons know the power of God to heal our wounds, do the impossible and to unite us together in all the different stations of life to create a more perfect world.

Masonry doesn’t just have you believe in God, join and call it a day. Masonry also teaches moral lesses that the ancient builders of history used to create structures that stood the test of time. To do that, Masonry needed to create a psychological system designed to bring those builders together to become the best builders they could be.

As I discussed before, Masonry is a knowledge based society. The search for Truth is a core part of our system. But Masonry doesn’t work on Truth alone. There are two others.

Relief: Charity for others and mutual aid of fellow Masons

Brotherly Love: Love for each other and all of mankind.

Masonry recognizes that Truth alone not the only way to approach things, but it exists in the context of Relief and Brotherly Love. Now what does that specifically mean? Because Masonry works in an interpretive system, we are all called to understand Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth in our own ways. Again, this is why the VSL is a key part of the system because that is where a great deal of the interpretations are clarified for the individual Mason.

Truth is actually different then knowledge. You have a piece of knowledge, but what does it mean in the larger context? Knowledge itself is many times taken without context or misunderstood entirely! Truth is bringing all the knowledge together and understanding it in it’s fullest context. Looking at all that knowledge that I provided above about problems in America, you would think the US is about to take a trip to catastrophe. But the Truth is we’ve always been dealing with bullshit. We had The Civil War, WWII, Genocide, Slavery, Anti-Catholicism, major wealth inequality, race wars, women’s rights battles, etc. We’ve always had shit and many times it’s been far worse then what we’ve dealt with now. But I argue this conflict we have between each other will never truly end. The Truth is life is never going to be equal.

Height is more favorable, right? Well men on average will always be taller then women, and there will be a whole host of psychological, sociological, economic, sexual, political and moral ripple effects from this. There are some inequalities you can’t change. We will always have inequality, whether we like it or not.

Relief tells us it’s our duty to fix this. Now I said you can’t chance certain things, but we can damn well try! God can do the impossible and maybe we can do the impossible here too. I believe that God has given us a way to create a society of salvation, so let’s try and get it to become that way. Truth gets us the appropriate understanding of the knowledge we have, and relief is the action that we take after attaining Truth. We have a duty to take action. We have a duty to help those in distress. Whether part of our Masonic family, or the world at large. We help those who suffer in large ways and in their own small ways.

And lastly, Brotherly Love. It’s not just Love alone, it’s Brotherly Love. For if someone is to just Love, they may end up interpreting it into just loving themselves or loving materialism and the like. NO! It’s an external Love that revolves around humans. It’s not just Love for our fellow Brother Masons, but Love for our world family. You might think that only family blood or Masonry is what makes someone a Brother. NO! God tells us that we are part of a worldwide family and everyone is a Brother, man or woman. This Brotherly Love is a key third part because Truth and Relief alone aren’t enough. Adolf Hitler, seeing the Truth that Communism was toppling governments and wanting the Relieve the suffering of the German people, took action by exterminating the Communists. NO! If you love your world family, you would never even think for a second to do this. If you Love people, that Love will help guide you as you search for the Truth and put your Relief into action.

In conclusion, for many people in America they live in a prison of knowledge, all too aware of the soul crushing flaws within the system. So remember this, God loves you, will be there to protect you and will eventually join you in salvation in the next life. You will be ok. So while we’re here on earth, continue to learn, continue to take action to fix the problems of society and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Your actions may seem small, but each brick within a structure seems small as well. But after you stack enough bricks, soon you will create something great! Take this knowledge and go out and build a better self and a better society.

Livingstone

The Chamber of Reflection

Hello Readers,

This article is from a paper I wrote for my lodge back when I was a Fellowcraft. Much of this material has been taken word for work from this article, but the opinions are obviously mine.

I am here to talk to you about the Chamber of Reflection. A brief summery of what it is, what it means, and why it may benefit a lodge of Free and Accepted Masons.

In the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, the French Rite, and related jurisdictions, including Co-Masonry, the Chamber of Reflection is a small darkened room adjoining the Lodge room. It is a somber place of meditation and reflection for candidates for initiation into Freemasonry, and is sometimes used in higher degrees.

Chamber_of_Reflection_symbolsAlthough the impact of the chamber’s furniture must of necessity be personal, the symbolism relates to hermetic and alchemical correspondences. The chamber itself is symbolic of a cave, introducing the candidate to the alchemical element of earth. Also it reaches deep into the human subconscious, as early humans found refuge in caves. I argue it dives even deeper still when the darkness represents the womb and the brother is about to experience light for the first time. The skull (often with crossed bones) is an obvious symbol of mortality, and coupled with the hourglass, points to the brevity of mortal existence. Bread and water indicate simplicity. The rooster symbolizes the alchemical principle of mercury, which partnered with the salt and sulfur, symbolize faith, hope and charity. Vitriol (sulfuric acid) is interpreted as “visita interiora terrae, rectificandoque, invenies occultum lapidem”, or “visit the interior of the earth, and purifying it, you will find the hidden stone.” This is interpreted as “look within”.

Function

Before the ceremony of initiation, the candidate is placed for a time in the Chamber of Reflection, in order to meditate and consider how Freemasonry is about to change his life. He is given a series of questions to answer. Typically, he is asked his duties to God, his fellow men, and himself. In some lodges he is also asked to make a will. At the end of this time, he is led to the Temple for initiation.

Thoughts

Now should ask ourselves the most important question a Mason can ask, and that is why.

1. The first is the impact it can cause on the brother. In a world where our minds are filled with information, 30 minutes divested of all minerals and metals (a.k.a. no cell phones) in a room with little information offers a Mason an experience they may not have had for a long time.

2. The 2nd is the lesson taught about  recording ones experiences as they travel on their journey. By writing down thoughts and opinions before the initiation of a degree, they will have a vivid historical artifact that will allow the brother to remember who he used to be before. This is a reminder of the how our thoughts and views of our internal emotional history can change within us. Which is why a written record is so important, as while the mind will be influenced by our memory biases, the written account will provide a solid stone imprint of what our thoughts used to be.

3. The 3rd is while the symbols in the ritual aren’t replicated from the degrees, they offer a glimpse of symbolism that is not based around a degree and highlight the change one is about to make, and how their time in the world is finite.

4. The 4th should be the least important for us, in that it costs us nothing. To put a man in a room with symbolic items, and given a brief lecture and then letting him write his thoughts in peace for 30 minutes does not cost the lodge anything. It even buys us time to set up for the degree!

Conclusion

While the symbols on the Chamber of Reflection are foreign to us as American Masons, the idea of a Chamber of Reflection is one of merit. The ability for a brother to have time to contemplate whom he is in silence and solitude while recording his journey offers an experience that will only enrich the candidate and further illuminate their experience of the ceremony. I argue that we should implement this for use before all 3rd degrees, so the brother may take the time to prepare in his heart for the finality of the journey ahead.

Livingstone

St. John the Evangelist Day Report

“I just can’t understand why we have the holy St. Johns!”

Hello readers,

I heard this said by Brother Ricky a number of times throughout the evening. Ricky’s a Masonic Brother who attending my St. John the Evangelist gathering. I had decided our lodge could use a couple personal get together to get in some Masonic discussion and this turned out to be a killer event. Except for us wondering why the Saint’s John were part of Masonry.

The evening was slated to start off at 8pm. I was quickly finishing up shopping and showing when at 7:45 I got a phone call from Brother Mitch that he had arrived. I threw on my nice shirt, and ran outside to bring him in. He had booze with him, good sign, and his wife with him, not a good sign. But she was just going to drop him off so I was immediately relieved.

Us three sat around for 20 minutes, talking while we hoped others brothers would be showing up. When you list 8pm for a Masonic gathering, apparently that could mean show up whenever. Mitch thought he might be late. Apparently everyone else was afraid of being early.

Soon our other brothers were pouring in, Mitch’s wife left and we started to get settled in. I have invited a specific list of Masonic brothers to this because I wanted good Masonic discussion that didn’t turn into one big drinking fest that turned into non-Masonic topics. 10 was a good number, probably could have been shaved to 8.

Now many of you reading this are brothers, are are well aware that some of your brothers hail from different countries and have different customs and approaches to things. We have one brother, Brother Andy, who is a really great person, and always makes sure to invite people to do things with him. Well he brought another Masonic brother who was an Entered Apprentice. For me, it was a bunch in the gut because I was expecting some high level Masonic discussion. But Masonry changes how you approach things, especially when you are dealing with people that are your Masonic brothers. Brother Henry as I’ll put it isn’t from America and neither is Brother Andy. But as frustrated as I was, I looked at this moment as a moment to share this experience with all my Masonic brothers.

So by 9pm, we had a packed room.

Now Masonry and the system of Masonry inadvertently and sometimes intentionally teaches you some Masonic lessons. The first is setting structure. Here was my structure for the discussion as follows.

Structure: We will treat people on the level and by the square. A.k.a treat people equally and no one person is greater then another.

Now Masonry has given me something new to consider. In Masonry, there are rules for your obligation. But masonry also teaches you moral concepts and codes…yet these AREN’T considered rules. In the ritual, you are taught things that are elements of Masonry such as the three jewels of Masonry, the Three Great Lights, and many other things. But these objects are presented to you, or you are told they are a part of Masonry. But not rules.

So quick tangent, let’s talk about what this means to us and how it can be useful.

Rules are important to keep people structured and in line. They are obvious and clear dictations of what you can do.

Yet it’s also the human instinct to reject rules. To not be held to them as rules can become oppressive and obsolete. Masonry is crafty in this regard by not giving certain moral elements the rules treatments and instead “presenting” them to you. This does two things. It makes the rules you do dictate much more powerful and and distinct and more likely for people to follow. Also too many rules and people will reject them all.

So for these next things, I told people that these are not rules but things to consider for the discussion.

1: For the first hour we will focus the discussion of St. John the Evangelist only, then after that the conversation can go any way it wants to from there.

2. Be open minded. We are Masons so our minds should be ready and prepared to receive new light.

3. Be prepared for the controversial. It wouldn’t be Masonry without some controversial thoughts and idea.

So once I laid those down, the rules and “considerations”, I went to work.

Now I knew our meeting would need to have a few things. Here is the list of items for a GREAT Masonic gathering.

Bourbon

Absinthe

Cigars

Brandy

Chips and Dip

We broke out the booze and everyone hit the Bourbon first.

I gave a short speech about St. John the Evangelist, mostly from my blog entry two weeks ago, and then we dived into discussion.

The discussion kicked off quick with Brother Ricky going right to the top quote, saying it a few times. The second he did this, everyone dived in. At my lodge, we have the best membership energy levels that we have had in 30 years. The core of the lodge is filled with men under the age of 50, and the gathering I had didn’t have a brother 40 or above.

Now our night had some great discussion, some of which I can’t tell you but some of it I can’t remember. But I can tell you this. We drank burned Absinthe. We got my Absinthe spoon, poured the Absinthe over it, lit it on fire, poured the water in, and drank it. All I can say is it made me a whole new man. I cannot stress enough the importance and power of good Absinthe. It brings you to a wonderful place.

We stepped outside for cigars twice, especially because we had two brothers that need to smoke cigarettes. I also can’t say enough how good it was to talk outside about lodge events and things we could do to improve the lodge and help Masonry grow.

Overall, it was a fine evening and a great night of Masonry. Masonry  starts with a good ritual, good brotherhood, and good education.

Livingstone

 

Masonology 2.0.

Hello Readers,

So as many of you can see, Masonology is now in a much different form then we last remembered. It’s new, improved and better then ever. In my opinion anyways. As a Mason, we are always looking to sharpen our rough ashlar…a.k.a. clean up and fix our crap. The first generation of Masonology was content rich, but as easy on the eyes as a padded cell. But this version, still evolving I might add, will help to create a visual pallet that reflects the nature of this blog and it’s content. It also will serve to make the blog more organized and easier to navigate. I want this to be you’re iPad best friend.

So let me know what you think. Let me know if there are things I need to improve on, and I hope you enjoy the reading.

Livingstone

WWII Concentration Camp Masonry

Hello Readers,

Livingstone here.

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

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

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

Livingstone