Friday, December 26, 2008

The Royal Secret

They didn’t dress very nice, always looked a little like the entire family had been dumped from a bag. They tried, their hair was combed, they were clean, but always a little haggard. Dad worked three jobs to make ends meet, but still found time to put Jimmy in soccer and to make the games. Mom worked two jobs, both under the table type stuff, and the money went a long way to making sure the car ran and the house payment was made.

When the offering plate was passed, they put money in, for those less fortunate than they. For on this Christmas Eve, they would have a nice family dinner.

Yet, in the upper middle class neighborhood brimming, the large church with a membership into the thousands, this family was “different.” Not in a good way as the Christmas Christians packing the parking lot with Toyota Highlanders and mini-vans of various types and sizes packing the pews would leave, in a church packed to the gills, the remainder of this wonderful front row empty. No one wanted to sit next to the poor family.

Prior to services begining the pastor would make a plea for involvement in the church, explaining that the new “small groups” programs would begin in January with the New Year and to please sign up early to guarantee a spot. You could hear all the programs rustle as people began checking off the groups they would participate in. A lady stood in front of the church and spoke of their bread ministry where they would bake loaves of bread and drop off a flavorful banana bread or zucchini bread to the door of every new visitor to the church with a small informational brochure in the event they decided to return.

These are “good and loving” people as the pastor would describe his parishioners later in the evening, yet the pew remained empty except for the “poor” family.

Many of the Prada bearing PTA moms would discuss how the church program handing out groceries for the poor was a huge success as they sipped Starbucks coffee in the church “café” following the service. The poor family headed home quickly to their own dinner. Dad never could stomach paying three dollars for a cup of something he could make for twenty cents. The whole practice seemed wasteful in a world where waste had become common place.

The Prada parade would head to restaurants where only half of the over portioned meals will get eaten, the rest disposed of so that their waist size doesn’t get too big when the other girls in the Pilates class will all be looking for who may have gained a pound during the holidays. The poor family will freeze leftovers and nothing will go to waste. Yet, their pew remained empty.

It would seem sometimes that we allow ourselves, in our busy lives, to believe that the ills that have befallen the world are their own fault. They have not worked hard enough, they are lazy, or they drink too much, etc. Our life, because we have been lucky and because we have worked hard, is blessed. And, since we own your blessings more than we should and because we believe ourselves separate from the remainder of the world, we are disconnected from it and do not see the unity of it all.

This disconnect can manifest in many ways. A church full of “good” people who will help the poor so long as they don’t have to sit next to them or share their god with them is only one common example. As harmless as this might seem there is a danger in it.

The Christian that can fail to share a pew is the Christian that can feel removed from their community. This is the Christian that can feel so disconnected that they look upon the affairs of the world, the wars, the sickness, and famine with glee as they hail them as signs of a depraved world and as evidence that the end is about to come. They offer praises of this debauchery as evidence of their saviors return. What if the savior wants us to love and care for our planet, what if we are connected to its oceans and soil in ways that we can never truly appreciate and the stories of this savior are ones that, when understood, call upon you, with intellect and reason, to care for the entire universe, not just a simple planet?

The Muslim that can feel separate from the Christian is the one that can bomb him without thought, can praise the radical, and destroy the peaceful adept.

The Buddhist that can detach himself completely from the world’s affairs is the one that can not share the beauty that exist in his Nirvana.

Let’s jump backwards to one of first lessons in Masonry for minute.

A network, at least to most, would describe some sort of intra or Internet, a wireless network in their house or from their cell provider. But, to the Fellow Craft it is something entirely different. It is described as one of the ornaments adorning the pillars that flanked to doorway to King Solomon’s temple. The lesson the second degree Freemason learns from this, or is supposed to learn from it is UNITY.

I’ve written before of balance and equality and some of the misunderstandings that occur in trying to grasp the concept of balance in regards to esoteric mystical philosophy and I think similar misunderstandings occur with unity, but for different reasons. Balance need not exist. It is a generative product from the creative force of the macro and microcosm. It assists us in an understanding of freewill because it exists as a product of it. In the end, it is likely the universe will balance itself, but this is difficult to comprehend while we ride the ride upon the diurnal rotation.

Unity, on the other hand, exists in spite of us. More importantly, our collective ignorance of it creates a dangerous and deadly situation for us.

Let’s use some word pictures to better illustrate the point and let’s use nature as our guide. There was a time that we, as a collective people, did not realize the connection between earth and water. We thought, as recently as the 1960’s that you could dump something into the ground or bury it underground and be fine. It took scientific discovery to realize that this could affect drinking water, plants, crops, and the people that ingested the water, the plants, and the fish from the water. We did not recognize the connection, but it existed in spite of us. We can choose not to recognize it, but it remains connected, mercury will continue to leech from the ground, to the water, to the fish, to the person.

This line of thinking is equally as dangerous in the philosophical world as well. The failure to recognize unity has resulted in death, war, and hatred.

Returning to the Christian for a moment, consider the early Christian Church since is the most common religion in the world if taken collectively even though they will not consider themselves collectively…keys to heaven, lack of unity, etc. The priest craft was often referred to as “papa” or father. The papa’s began to argue their particular supremacy and the Pope was born. The “papa” or priest craft created a system where the follower of God comes to the priest as an intermediary between them and God. The priest craft itself further divided and the positions of deacons, bishops, and cardinals grew. Now, man had quite the road to travel between himself and God.

If God is omnipotent and omnipresent it is arguable at best that we as a people, planet, or universe can even be separate from him. But, if we fail to recognize the unity of G-d and man, then it is a short step to surrendering our relationship with G-d to the intermediary. Because we fail to recognize our connection and lack of separation with G-d, orthodoxy and dogma appear to create separation. Because this is our perception, we act on it as truth.

The early Christian church, coming to believe its own dogma, divided and separated into factions and the protestant movement was born. Each protestant denomination, believing that the silliest of things can cause separation from G-d, further divided for fear that a relationship with G-d is a fragile thing. Heaven became a far off place with this line of thinking and grape juice instead of wine, Masonic affiliation, or improper dress could buy you a chariot ride to the dark place.

Further, because heaven, G-d, hell, earth, and such are all separate, we are able to commit our sins in private. We can harm and then hope for salvation. We can war against one another and destroy whole peoples because they are separate from G-d.

But if the Muslim and the Jew saw themselves as the heart and eyes of a singular body, if the Christian saw himself as this same bodies legs, would we be so quick to destroy the other? If we understood that the darkest of rooms does not separate us from G-d would we be so quick to murder, to lie, to cheat? How about this? What if the darkest of actions still does not separate you from G-d, from your neighbor, from the earth, from nature, or heaven?

This brings us to the lesson of the 32nd degree of Masonry. Equilibrium. This should not be understood as a concept that exists in singularity. Nor should it be taken to mean that there should be absolute equality in all things. Equilibrium is the result of unity recognized and balance applied.

The most frightening separation that has occurred within humanity is a belief that our consciousness is granted from outside of us, that we are separate from the faculties of reason, logic, faith, and hope. That these wonderful attributes granted by the Creator are without us and not available from within. Know thyself is a physical formula for equilibrium that is simple and profound all at once.

If one man can find himself within, and express it without, the entire universe is changed. We can choose to deny unity, to live out of balance, and to pretend that the universal equilibrium is a dream. Or, we can take responsibility for our actions and own the decisions we make. We can decide to live now instead of seeking a separate heaven while creating a hell of ignorance in the present existence.

This is the relevance of Scottish Rite Masonry.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Monday, Morality, and License Plates

It had snowed the night before and Monday loomed large as a day that was not going to be pleasant. That thought hit home, or more appropriately his arse, as he fell in the driveway in a pricey blue suit, ruining the suit, bruising his butt and ego, and causing a further delay to the day as he would now have to change before proceeding.

Limping to the car, getting in carefully this time, he plugged the key into the ignition, both in a hurry and still dreading Monday; when he was met with a dead engine. Jack Frost had robbed the batteries energy and it would now need a jump. Oh good, he thought, more time in the cold and on the icy driveway.

The car finally started, he began the slippery crawl to work. At the first opportunity a teenager, going way too fast for the conditions, was nice enough to run a stop sign, cut him off, and almost collide with him. They made eye contact, and the temptation to give the single finger salute was great. He started almost, and then remembered, and withdrew the phalange of force, the finger of revenge.

It didn’t take long before some square chinned, small brained giant of a man in an even more giant and jacked up four wheel drive that did not realize that four wheel drive did not always mean four wheel stop and slid several yards before missing our disgruntled Monday commute soldier by only inches. The middle pillar began to twitch again and the fleshy digit of animus almost shot up another time to deliver its delicate message that is consistent in every nation and the same in every city. But, dang it, he remembered and withdrew.

It was at the next lighted intersection his determination would truly be tested. A ninety year old plus women, in a Buick moving four miles an hour, managed to run the red light without even attempting a stop. The little matriarch of mayhem behind the wheel managed to turn her head, provide a toothy grin as she drive right through the intersection, release her death grip on the steering wheel with her right hand, and send up her own one finger salute.

It was almost too much. The anger exploded in him and he reached to roll down the window so that his one finger wave would be higher and so that he could scream the appropriate salutation as loud as he possibly could. Oh, the agony of it as he remembered and stopped himself.
He finally arrived at work, parked, and made it into the office. A hot cup of coffee later and he found that he felt better. He was not as angry as he should have been. It seemed that not acting on his frustration and allowing his acrimony to rule the drive, had allowed agreeability to sneak in and find refuge. He would have to remember that lesson, even when he wasn’t driving that dastardly car that kept reminding him that morning.

That car had Masonic plates on it and it had proved a strong reminder of his commitment to morality. It was amazing how just that little symbol on his license plate had pulled at his conscience and he was uncomfortable displaying behaviors that were inconsistent with Masonic teachings. He, after all, behind the wheel, displaying that plate, was going to advertise for Masonry, what would that advertisement be?

In the end, Masonry had proved powerful and relevant in his life, with a simple license plate.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Equality, Harmony, and other False God's

I had been channel surfing the other day when I came upon a gem of a show. It was called Taboo. It was aired on the National Geographic Channel or NGEO as it shows up on the T.V. Guide channel. The show covers different acts or actions that are considered quite normal in some places or communities, but generally considered unthinkable in another. This particular episode talked of the public killing of animals. The section of the show that caught my attention was a small goat having its throat cut across as its blood was spilled in sacrifice to the god Kali.

Long lines of devotees lined up behind a blood soaked shrine with all sorts of different treasures for sacrifice to Kali. Chickens, ducks, and goats seemed the most common sacrifice for the day and I caught myself wondering if Kali ever wished for a more diverse diet.

The show progressed to the annual killing of a load of pilot whales off the coast of a small island nation near Iceland and Norway likely settled by the Vikings. The whole town would drive a herd or pod of whales to the shore using their boats in unison and then slaughter the whales. The town, in turn, all gets a free share of whale meat in a place where natural resources are hard to come by.

The point of the story has nothing to do with the killing of animals publically for a god or otherwise. As I watched entranced in the story a college professor was interviewed just following the whales. Multiple interviews of people on both sides of the “issue” of the killing of animals were interviewed. This particular professor caught my attention for a twofold reason. One, because the majority of the “anti-killing” side of the argument were claiming or spoke around the issue that this act or these collect acts disturb the universal BALANCE of things. Second, this particular professor said that one of our biggest problems as a human race is that we are SPECIST. This is defined as a person who practices “speciesism,” which is defined as assigning different values or rights to beings on the basis of their species membership.

I decided to address this because it is idiotic and ignorant. It is a ridiculous premise and it scares me that a man educating our populous can so easily espouse this.

The idea is that, in this particular instance, we, as a race of humans, believe the whales as less than equal to us and this allows us to justify doing harm to the whales such as killing and eating them.

The professor said that until we can overcome this deficit and treat all animals as equals, we will suffer these wrongs to the planet.

This is where Masonry enters into the picture. It will take me a minute to get there, but let’s talk about the relevance of our philosophies in the presence of pure stupidity.

Many of the ancient mystical traditions, modern psychology, and some religions teach balance as a philosophy by which person can and should lead their lives. In the more ancient and more Gnostic traditions, this balance creates a unity with G-d, in Jungian terms it allows a glimpse at the collective conscious; all of which are laudable pursuits. The mental, spiritual, and physical benefits of a balanced life are even being recognized the staunch materialist who have difficulty refuting the medical evidence just by itself.

Regardless of the benefits, the antiquity of the teachings, and the number of groups teaching this path, it must be completely misunderstood for an idea such as speciesism to take hold.

Balanced does not mean equal. Let me type that again because it bears repeating, balanced does not mean equal.

I wish there was a way for me to express the long pause in writing, that I would have taken in a room full of college coeds and academic fundamentalist now screaming in pain and calling me everything but a person.

Let’s address the ignorance of the statement from a couple of levels because it so clearly illustrates the misunderstanding concerning a balanced life. First, we classify things as species because this is a way of recognizing DIFFERENCES. Yes, there are differences in things, people, places, and life. DIFFERENCES are not bad and recognizing that there are differences is not bad. We scientifically classed “species” so that we could quickly identify differences and similarities. Being balanced does NOT mean being the SAME.

Second, to be equal we must hold all other species to our standards or allow ourselves to degrade to theirs. So, the eagle of the air and the alligator of the swamp should be tried for their crimes of murder should they kill to eat if we believe the killing of anything is equal to the killing of a human and vice versa. Since it is clearly unrealistic to hold the beast of a field, air, or swamp to a human standard and condition, we, as recognized equals, should hold ourselves no higher than they and revert to their system as equals. We can not declare the beast an equal, allow for a violation of the law on an unequal basis because this is a distinct recognition of inequality.

Yet, it could be argued that we learn much from the natural BALANCE from observing nature. The predator is necessary for population control, the leaf necessary for soil and food for other species. All things are clearly connected, but not all things are equal.

This can be seen in simple action. The man seeking to live a balanced life does not seek an equal amount of evil to goodness, for every good deed he does not immediately seek to commit a wrong against his brother.

Today’s world stage seeks balance through equalization. There are a number of reasons for this, but some of those reasons include cowardice and laziness. To claim nothing is every truly right or wrong, to claim that morality is always relative, to claim that any definition of good, right, and god is a correct definition so as not to disparage any belief system, and to claim that equality is the same as balance are all children of the desire for harmony at the cost of Truth. It is easier not to offend than to take a stand. So, we like to convince ourselves that the truth can never be defined and that all things are equal, when in fact, they are not. The carbohydrate is not the equal to the protein in building muscle, yet both are necessary in a balanced diet. Harmony is not the equal to courage in the journey to the truth.

Courage is not absent from a Masonic journey to balance for reason. You do not stand the test of an instrument of torture for petty reasons, you do not journey from darkness to light without cause, and you do not put your trust in God without it being a necessity. The Truth is offensive to some. It always has been. It is why it has gone underground and is treated as a special treasure, an arc of our covenant.

The terrible thing about the aforementioned theories is they seem decent, likable, loving even. They are quieter than fundamentalism so they seem more socially acceptable. They do not hate so they seem passive. This isn’t so, they destroy. Courage, trust, faith, secrecy, and real balance are destroyed in their wake. Reason, logic, and philosophy are laid at the feet of false security and the god of false harmony.

Masonry remains a guidepost along this path. Real balance will always require discernment, courage, and the ability to declare something false, wrong, and maybe even destructive.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Intolerant Pope

So I am on my way to lodge and I run into the pope here. He is wearing an upside cross on his hat, a swastika that you can’t see on the flip side of the cross and, of course, the naked boy mannequin on his shoulders. He was selling holy water shots for five cents and “god bread” for ten cents.

He had signs that read, “If you are a little boy, I’m a priest,” along with the one he was holding.

I stopped and spoke with him and learned that he is an anti-Catholic protestor who believes that the Catholic Church is Satanic. He indicated that Martin Luther “got a little closer….but still missed the mark.” He is a member of the “True Christian Church” which, according to our friend can be found to a strict adherence to the Bible unlike most supposedly Christian churches.

He lectured me on the demons and devils of navigating the “supposedly Christian” church system and warned me of the many dangers that might befall me.

I thanked him and he asked me, “Who is the story for.” I told him that I write for a number of Masonic groups which met with a long…and I do mean long….pause. “Aren’t you in line with the Catholic Church?” he asked. I said, “Nope, not ‘in line’ with any church at all per se.” I went on to explain that we are not a religion as dictated by standard definition, in that we do not have a dogma, a savior mythos, or anything of the like. I went onto say that the Fraternity generally encourages men to return to that sanctuary that best increases his faith in the Creator.

His eyes grew wide as he said, “Well that sounds like it might be from the Devil.” I smiled….knowing that for him a devil was around every corner.

Our deranged pope friend illustrates how intolerance, hate, anger, and other destructive behaviors are born from fears of the unknown. When we lack information on any particular subject, when we remain ignorant of its inner teachings or workings for lack of study, we opt to fear it in many cases. The truly ignorant write about it or rail against it, whatever it is. “It” always has its heroes and detractors does it not?

The destruction of whole countries and societies at the hand of man doing G-d’s work is well documented. To further illustrate the ignorance of many orthodoxies is not my point here as anyone can grab a history book off the shelve and randomly point to a page and find man, on behalf of G-d, showing the hateful wrath of ignorance bringing no joy, no glory, no decency to a G-d whose example is likely that of love, mercy, and kindness.

Likely, the saying, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” has kissed the ears of everyone reading this. If not in the aforementioned form above, in one of its near relatives such as yin and yang, karma, pick up your cross and follow me, turn the other cheek, the meek shall inherit the earth, etc. So, what if, keeping this universal principle in mind, we ask ourselves what great effect Masons practicing Masonry might be on society as a whole. If a singular organized church can kill a billion people in its 2000 year history, what might a small group of men honoring and tolerating one another’s belief do for the same world in the same span of time? Many are quick to condemn the wrongs of religion as wrongs. The Muslim would be quick to point to the Crusades as an irreligious act, the Christian quick to point to the terrorist Jihadist as evidence of the same. The Jew might be quick to shame those who would call them the murderers of Christ. We are quick to point out the ills of another path and equally as quick to point to the righteousness of the path that our very feet fall upon.

So really, in crying foul, we do nothing to heal, to mend, and to unify the people of our blue sphere to join hands as singular beings occupying a small orb in the presence of a mighty universe. We preach forgiveness more as something others should keep in mind for us than as something we should do ourselves. Tolerance only applies when the idea we are tolerant of is not too disagreeable.

So how powerful, how astronomically phenomenal is a group of men from every race, color, and religious creed gathered around a single altar with their hands claps and smiles on their faces as their souls bask in the presence of tolerance and brotherly love? If ignorance is destructive, how constructive and perfect is tolerance and knowledge. If these same men use reason, logic, and free thought to achieve and arrive at their faith, how much many lives might be saved and made whole? A billion in 2000 years maybe?

It might seem the lessons of Masonry are simple. To do good even when no one is watching, to tolerate men of other faiths, to truly support and uplift those who might differ completely from you both politically and philosophically. But as simply as declaring one man a tool of the devil, declaring him a creation of God loved by his Creator regardless of his beliefs is equally as powerful. The lessons of Masonry have the ability to heal the world, to save lives, and stave off religious bigotry and slavery. But, the philosophies of Masonry do little good hidden as well as one of our secret treasures. This is one secret we should be willing to share in our daily decisions and actions towards one another.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Little Lodge

It was an unassuming little building. Single story, white washed wood siding in the middle of a small field off of a gravel road. None of the members remembered how their little lodge had come to be. It had changed a little through the years. The siding had been replaced once after a small fire. When it came into use, insulation and drywall were added to the interior. Some old pews were added when the old church down the road closed as most of its members had moved off to the bigger and better mega church with a rock and roll band style choir. The building had started out as a small barn, then progressed to a bunk house during the civil war, and latter it degenerated to storage. Old Man Peter was once young man Peter and had been a soldier during the war. He had also been devout Freemason. Although Old Man Peter was not prone to storytelling he did share with his grandchildren how important Masonry had been to him, and at his passing the old building on the back forty of the property was donated to his lodge Brothers as they had lost their old building to fire. The lodge had been meeting there ever since. They love their little lodge and had no idea that the little barn, bunk house, and storage garage would change lives.

Let’s call him Billy. He had always been a curious sort of boy. He couldn’t help but to listen a little harder when he heard a whisper, slow to peek through a window, and read mystery books with zeal. It was a Wednesday night when his mother had gone to Bible study. She had done that more and more after his father had gone. He enjoyed the freedom it afforded him and the key that he was allowed to where around his neck made him feel older than his 9 years. This particular Wednesday he had been staring out the back porch window as the television show did not hold his interest. He noticed a small gathering of cars far off in front of the little white building. He had noticed men there before, but the darkness of the fall night, the light peeking from under the door, the lack of windows made him wonder at what went on there. The strange symbol on the door…what was a Freemason anyway? Why did they meet at night and just what was going on in there. His mother had mentioned them only once in passing and it was warn that the devil was all a part of it and the group was definitely a cult.

It was too much to handle, so close to Halloween and all, the pull of the horrible rituals or gruesome sacrifice was too much. He put on his hooded sweatshirt to fight the chill, threw open the back door, and moved off across the field to see what he could see.
He could feel his heart beat in his neck, head, and ears. It made it hard to hear, yet his breathing seemed to echo in the night like a freight train. It seemed as if every step cracked a leaf that rippled like metal bending in an explosion. How could these noises not betray him to the gathering of wizards and evil men just inside just waiting for their next unwilling sacrifice to their demon god?

There were no windows on the little building, or if there were, they had been covered years ago. But the little exit door in the back had been cracked to let some cool in air in as the room would heat up quickly, packed tight with men, even during the cool of the October night. There was little fear of cowans or eavesdroppers and the tyler often joined the men inside the lodge instead of sitting in the foyer with the coats and canes. This was good news for Billy as he saddled up for his look at the secret rituals.

What terrible things might his single eye reveal as he pushed it against the crack in the door as it struggled to adjust to the light. It was a small room, tiled in black and white. A small altar sat at the center and Mr. Kelley from the grocery store was kneeling at it while a man in a fancy hat spoke to him.

The other men gathered around the altar and he recognized several of them. Father O’Malley from the Catholic church which had a small congregation in town, Mr. Myers who was a Deacon at the Baptist church where mom went, Mr. Franks his old English teacher, all very normal looking and several wearing smiles along with their Sunday best.

Just as he began to relax, realizing that the he was looking at something fairly innocent, the beast gripped him from behind, covered his mouth, and pulled him up from the ground in a single motion. He had relaxed for single moment and now he would die a horrible death at the hands of this secret cult.

It was not until she had dragged him several yards from the little building and into the grass at the edge of the little gravel parking lot that he realized it was mom who had absconded him and he was not destined for sacrifice although this particular situation presented a number of problems for him in and of itself.

“You stared at the face of the Devil you stupid child. We better get you home and pray for your soul.” She said little else until they returned home, he was ordered to bed, and to pray for salvation. He prayed all night.

As much as he tried to see the Devil his mother talked about in the eyes and smiles of the men around that altar, he found it hard to do so. They seemed genuine enough in the glimpse that he caught and there was nothing nefarious in the glimpse he managed that night. Something did begin to jump out at him though, except it was a devil of a different kind.

He began to notice that there were a lot of devils in his mother’s life. She was always worried about this person or thing “out to get her.” His mother would warn, “You can trust no one.” “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” Even church, the house of his mother’s fairly wrathful God, he was cautioned, “You have to be careful, a lot of the people are phonies.” It would seem that nowhere and no one was safe from suspicion or contempt.

By the time Billy was a teen his mother’s life of worry showed around her weary eyes. Heavily wrinkled and looking older than her years, she was still quick to question Billy on everything. Where was he going, what was he up to. The questions never bothered Billy much. He was a good kid and had little to hide. There was the time he snuck behind the bleachers instead of going to wrestling practice and made out with Kathy Caldwell, simply the prettiest girl he had ever seen. He didn’t get caught, he didn’t tell his mom, and truth be told, it was all worth it. What bothered him was the way his mother asked the questions. She never believed him and always asked twice. There were times he wondered why he bothered to tell the truth when she believed him to be lying anyway. But, he knew the answer. He had to be true to himself.
It was at college that things started to come into focus. People weren’t all bad, some could be trusted, and some he down right liked. He would call his mother dutifully and report on his activities. Instead of congratulating him on his wrestling wins, his 3.5 GPA, or his pledging a Fraternity she questioned him incessantly about what he was doing when he should be studying. “Nothing Mom. No Mom, I wouldn’t do that Mom.” He had learned not to share too much though with his mother. He had really messed up one time and mentioned that his roommate was a Buddhist and he had found some of the philosophy interesting in their late night conversations. Immediately, he was warned that even listening to the Buddhist was sinful, that he had never been repentant enough, and she knew she should not have sent him to the “damn liberal school.” It would be his damnation he was warned and then he was questioned about whether he prayed enough. Billy assured her he did, he just didn’t tell her that many of his prayers were for her and that she might one day find peace.

College life was great, Fraternity life was even better. Billy felt a special connection with the members of his Fraternity. When he was learning some of their signs and symbols he was informed that the founders of the Fraternity were Freemasons and some of their rituals and symbols were borrowed from this most ancient of Fraternities. Freemasons Billy thought, and then it dawned on him. These were the harbingers of evil his mother had warned him against. His thoughts traveled back to the little lodge in the field and the smile on the men’s faces and he began to wonder.

It wasn’t hard for Billy to find information on the Craft as it was called by its members. There was much of it, and for a secret society, there was much to be gleaned via the Internet and the library. He found himself drawn to it as he studied. Words such as tolerance, men of all faiths, and brotherhood found their way directly to his heart and Billy could not deny a burning desire to know more and to be apart of this Father of the Fraternities. He found a lodge, he asked, he joined…..he didn’t tell mother.

Masonry would be a very important part of Billy’s life. The idea that men could trust one another, that people would want to be an active part of their communities, and would not always search out boogie men appealed to Billy…or Bill as his business partners called him now.
When he would take his two boys to visit grandma, he would sink a little from his mother’s comments. “Keep a close eye on them two, no telling what they might get into.” It seemed that even the most beautiful and perfect thing in Bill’s life could not wring the suspicion from his mother’s heart. He loved her though, with all his heart, and he prayed for her still.

She was by no means an old woman when the news came. She was ill and she would die. She did not trust the doctor’s and believed little of what they told her, but to Bill it was clear, his mother’s time was fleeting. He spent as much time as family, work, and little ones would allow with his now frail mother. He even snuck out a time or two while he visited and attended that little lodge in the field. It was not his home lodge, but he could not help feel a special affection for the place as it had been in first glimpse into the mysteries of Masonry.

It was on return from one of those quick visits that he sat by his mother’s bed and she said, “How could you?” He was confused. She told him that she knew he was one of them and had known for years. His interest in the “dark arts” as she called them had always confused her as she raised him to be a strong Christian. Bill looked at his little, tiny, illness ridden mother and he cried. Not for her physical condition, but for her soul. “Mother, I love you so much. I have something I need to tell you. The world is a beautiful place, evidence of God’s love is everywhere. It whistles through the trees, it sits next to you, it sings on the voices of your grandchildren. You can trust people, you can love people, you can have hope, and you can practice real charity and no harm will come from it. You have spent your whole life afraid of some dark force, when that same fear is the thing you feared so much. It closed you up and made you bitter and old even when you where young. Mom, if I had one wish it would be that you could see the world the way I do. I am not here by your bed loving you because I am suspicious, I did not put up with your questioning because of guilt, I did not pretend to ignore your intolerance because I accepted it….I did all these things because they are right and I became a Mason because I wanted to be with other men like that. You spent your whole life afraid, I want to spend my life fulfilled.”

Bill was sobbing by the time he finished and his mother cried silently as he spoke. Her eyes seemed wide though, as if seeing for the first time, “I’ve wasted so much time,” she said. “Please bring me my grand babbies.” Bill ushered in the two boys who had been playing in the field and looked like they had been playing hard. His wife peaked in through the door as well. “You boys are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. You remind me so much of your Daddy when he was your age. Your Daddy was a wonderful boy. You would do well to be just like him. He is the best man your Grandma has ever known.”

She slept that night, better than she had ever slept. Her dreams carried her back and the world was bright and filled with colors she had never noticed. She regretted things, but knew that regret was of little value. Wow, had she been loved. What a wonderful little boy she had, what wonderful times they had. She would miss them.

Then there was light.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Brother I Know

A Brother I know believes that if you simply sprinkle water on the forehead that it is not a real Baptism. Just doesn't count.

A Brother I know believes that union with G-d can occur through meditation and concentration. That if you study, you can achieve the G-d state on earth.

A Brother I know believes that the Catholic Church is the truest of all Christian traditions and to truly secure your place in heaven, this is the smartest path.

A Brother I know believes that Jesus did not exist as an historical entity and is an archetypal symbol of a Jewish Gnostic tradition modeled after the Egyptian mysteries.

A Brother I know believes that G-d is all around you all the time and you can never be separated from G-d, so in effect, you are a part of G-d as is everything. There is no heaven, hell, good, sin, or separation from Deity.

A Brother I know believes that Nature is Morality, that G-d, Nature, and the Universe are all part of the same energy source called G-d.

A Brother I know never misses Christian communion and believes that Jesus died for his sins, and that during this communion, he is partaking of a blood and body sacrifice given to him through his god's last days on earth.

A Brother I know thinks Easter is more about the equinox than it is about a Saviour.

These Brethren I know gathered around an altar. They crossed their arms across their bodies in the traditional form for the Chain of Union, they joined hands, they prayed, they promised, and they marked their promise.

They retired downstairs and shared wine and food. Smiles abounded, conversation was loud and lively. They toasted one another with fervor and claimed greatness for the men around them declaring them some of the best men they have ever known.

These Brethren I know have said, "I love you," to one another and met it as much or more than any two men of the same family might claim.

These Brethren I know listened to ideas that they utterly disagreed with and smiled. They enjoyed hearing a differing opinion well stated from a man they liked and trusted.

These Brethren I know hugged one another with a full knowledge that they would vote for opposing candidates, pray to a different mental image of G-d, and would participate in varying religious rites.

These Brethren I know are Masons.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

One Stone

Einstein died yesterday. He was my little old dog. He was 18. Can’t say that I didn’t see it coming in that he was almost bald, partly blind, and completely deaf. He had been a member of the family since we first got married and it is strange without him around making his little presence known.

I shared this sadness with two Brothers from my lodge. Didn’t speak on it long, just mentioned that I was feeling a bummed as one might say. Brother Rob and I met for lunch later that day and he took to lunch, bought me a Filet Mignon, and engaged me in some great conversation. He did it without thought, without batting an eye, without anything except a desire to assist a brother and friend whom he knew was on the sad side.

Brother Walt, the other man I spoke to, stopped by my office for some other business we had to attend to, again, engaged me in some wonderful conversation and left me with a book. I am a complete bibliophile so the book was a great cheer up.

I am not naïve enough to believe that Masonry is the only place with kind and loving people that would show their friend compassion on a sad day, but the concentration is greater in many ways I do believe. When much of the world sets out to protect their assets and bicker about liability, Masons are quietly improving themselves and assisting their Brothers.
I heard spoken of Brother Manly Hall his formula for magic in this world, “Work hard, weed your garden, and take care of your home, be a friend…that’s magic.”

So, how is Masonry relevant….well it’s magic, and I thank my Brothers for the spell they cast yesterday. It was needed and well received.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I Know that I Don't Know

My son was wrapping up shower time and I had asked him to put away all the laboratory equipment that my little mad scientist brings out during bath or shower. Various jugs, bottles, and holders of different magnitudes lined up with dissimilar water levels all make up the necessities of a well planned shower.

He had a left what looked like a giant green spoon laying on the floor of the shower and I reminded him to grab it calling it a spoon. Turns out it is a little shovel that came with his beach toys. My son reprimanded me that it was in fact a shovel and not a spoon.

I responded I said, “Whatever you call it, just pick it up.” He immediately said, “I don’t call it anything. I KNOW that it is a shovel.”

That got me thinking about my journey in the Craft and what I knew before I took that journey and what I have learned upon the path. There are many things that we claim to know. When it comes to faith based issued we are generally very certain of what we “know” and might be quite unwilling to discuss other perspectives. Many Christians know that Jesus died for their sins. A number of Jews know that he didn’t. A number of Buddhists know that detachment is necessary for Nirvana and a number of Muslims know that Nirvana does not exist.

I used to know a lot when it came to faith and one of the things that Masonic light has brought me is recognition of what I don’t know. That may sound strange. The idea of being brought to light learning what they don’t know. But realizing that your perceptions are subjective is a powerful tool for the freethinker.

How many times in our everyday life would knowing ahead of time with certainty that you don’t know what you think you know would save you? It would have saved our beautiful world a war or two if we were not so certain of God’s personal thoughts and perspectives. How arrogant must you be to claim personal knowledge of the mind of God?

Learning that you don’t know everything is the relevance of Masonic light.

Let there be Light.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Friend Walt

He is an interesting guy by his own right. An artist, a mystic, and good friend. He stands out to me when compared to most as he possesses a simply unique and unnerving quality that most can never hope to achieve. He is humble.

We were lucky to have Kirk MacNulty as a special guest and speaker at a recent lodge meeting. That is not the real story though.

The night prior to the big day, I was having dinner when the ol’ cell phone went off. I saw that it was the man I mentioned above, we’ll call him Walt, and I took the call. He explained that he was having a little trouble walking and was wondering if I might be able to assist with a ride to lodge. I was going in a little early, but knew my neighbor and Brother would love to assist and put the two in contact.

The point though. I asked, in passing, what was wrong. I inquired as to whether he had bum a knee or ankle knowing that extreme weather, hot or cold, seems to make my joints angry at mother nature on any given day. “No,” said the Brother, “I had a stint put in my heart.” He said it as matter of fact as one might say, “I had a wart removed” or “I stubbed my big toe.” The Brother continued, “That’s really not the issue, I just want to make sure I get to lodge on time.”

I was taken back a bit, but after ascertaining myself that the Brother would live, I hung up the phone. I reflected a bit upon this Brother as I have come to know him. He walks with bit of a shuffle, purposeful but not rushed. He listens intently and you can tell by the look in his eyes that he is absorbing all that goes on around him. He speaks softly, but chooses his words wisely. He is empathetic, kind, and hardworking.

He knows many of the world’s great mystics and introduced me to good friend of his that, it turns out, is worshipped as a god in Sri Lanka. He worked hand in hand with Manly P. Hall for many years and counts performers and famous authors among his close friends. He seldom refuses an opportunity for learning and takes no heed of bobbles of titles.

He is humble and he is a Mason.

The deepest and most esoteric philosophies of the Craft are well known by this Brother. He would never think to “bash” someone with them, to seek titles because of it, or to harm physically or intellectually those less equipped. He works in the quarry of everyday life for self improvement and in doing so improves the universe.

Ben Franklin once said, “Alas, if I were ever to become truly humble, I know that I would be proud of it.” This Brother has achieved it without so much as a blink. A natural and wonderful part of his nature.

In a world wear titles, achievement, and esteem are valued more than morality, kindness, and humility….I thought someone, somehow should bear witness to the fact that on a small plot of land, in the Midwest, is a relevant and humble Mason, teaching, both with is words and his actions, the life of the artist, the Mason, and Mystic. My friend Walt.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

'round the Fountain

I had a Masonic speaking engagement that I attended the other day. Following my presentation, several of the men retired near an outdoor water fountain and garden area to imbibe some fine spirits and draw in on a few well rolled cigars.

The conversation drifted between current events, philosophy, esoterica, and the like. We were having quite a time of it when a man strolled up to the group and decided to take part in the conversation. He declared himself a Christian and began to speak about his spiritual journey in the Christian faith.

I was smiling and enjoying the conversation and thinking how Masonry had enriched my faith and was happy to hear the comments. Then, he went onto say that some “idiot’s” tried to convince him that the world was older that 6,000 years old and he recognized the Satanic or irreligiousness as pure scientific mumbo jumbo. He lamented that he was uncertain how people could be so stupid.

Now, mind you, the men present were men of different faiths and followings and not one person chose to engage this person in argument or negative comment. I asked question, “If the Universe is 14 billion years old, how would that change your faith?” The man responded that it would not because it is impossible for such a thing to be true because it ran counter to the Bible.

I, for one, disagree. But, that aside, I informed the man that even if scientific data proved the Universe 14 billion years old, it was likely that he could and should attend the same sanctuary, worship the same Jesus, and continue feel fulfilled by his faith. I asked him if science and religion needed to be at odds.

The conversation ended as the man left. I looked around at the men sitting near the fountain and enjoying their cigars. All of them had little smiles on their face that communicated compassion for the man.

I realized that no man at that table believed the same as the man espousing his narrow view of faith and Christ. It was likely that their beliefs, and certainly mine, would have been heretical to the man who chose to preach that day. But every man there gave him wide birth, treated him with compassion, and extended to him tolerance and a friendly ear.

While churches divide, while nations war, while people go about their day hating and searching for battles….Masons around the world and around a little fountain practice the one kind of charity…charity in spirit, that can truly save the world. That is relevance. That is Masonry.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Self Improvement and the Right Thing

“Look, if don’t want an honest answer then don’t ask me the question.” “It’s genetic, I just can’t (run, loose weight, learn math, etc. etc. etc.) “I have always had a bit of temper, it’s just who I am.” Brother Jim Tresner got me thinking about these things. These things being the obstacles to self improvement because in the end they are excuse not to expend energy in changing ourselves. We will often spend a lifetime of energy trying to change those around us. We will often lament that others “just don’t understand us.” But, truly, how often are we willing to expend the effort to radically change ourselves, to overcome a natural tendency and seek improvement. It is difficult and the excuse of “nature” is an easy one.

I was speaking to a man the other day and it hit home how important this is. He had shared with me stories of a relative in his past. The man was good, and in my friend’s estimation, dang near angelic. I am sure that death and time have purified his memories and death and time often prove a valuable forge and hone for removing impurities. But, it is fair to say that he misses this man and the impression left by a life of moral chivalry left an indelible imprint upon my friend’s psyche.

This man is not a Mason, but his mentor was. He knew I was a Mason and our conversation turned in that direction. The “what is a Mason” question popped up after telling me about his friend. I thought about it for just a bit and said, “Remember your mentor’s ability to simply do right even when it was tough?” “Sure,” he said. “Masons are all the men on the journey to achieve that same peace and comfort with morality in the face of adversity.”

I was shocked at what followed. He shared with me that parts of his life were in conflict with what he knew to be right and correct behavior and followed, “I would love to be a Mason, but I think I need to fix some things first if I am going to follow in [the mentor’s] footsteps.”
More than the fact that my friend had some moral conflicts in his life, but that his mentor’s quiet life of doing the right thing had radiated as a light he likely never imagined. This man he affected, now in his late 50’s, was going to begin of a journey of righting some wrongs and living in balance because a man and Mason who impressed him and lived by example.

Masons are those men who simply try to do right, even when it is hard. Religion might serve this purpose, in laying down moral code. But in truth, with today’s coffee bar churches preaching universal forgiveness without accountability, there is a void of moral consciousness. Masonry’s lodges and temples provide a quiet and reflective place to say, “I have my faith, but I am going to take this a step further and live my faith as action through a moral life.”

Several will read this and claim that I am preaching that faith requires good deeds and that this is against the teachings of Christ and his outpouring of grace. Yep, I am teaching that faith requires good deeds and that conflicted evangelicals claiming that it does not are deluded.
But I digress. Masonry teaches and condones right behavior. That IS something that is relevant and this world needs.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Angry at G-d

Sometimes I question. I doubt. I yell. You know it is funny, we claim to love Deity, but many people never yell at G-d and shake their fist, they never shout at him, “Why you unknowable SOB has this happened to me.” We may think it in our deepest recesses, but feel heretical in our Westernized Christian culture really laying one on G-d.

I ask you to think of the other relationships that you have had in your life. Your spouse, your children, your dearest friends; how many times have you been angry enough to yell, scream, etc.. with them. Your relationships with these members of your family reflect the depth of your passion by reflecting the depth of your emotions.

My walk along the Path has been as rocky as the next guys. Enlightenment or Masonic light does not come in a day, in an initiation, or the regular attendance at a lodge meeting. It is not about those things. It is a personal and extraordinary journey with G-d if you let it be. But, in beginning this journey, one of the first steps, in my estimation, is establishing a personal and real relationship with Deity. Stop naming him, labeling him, and assigning him human attributes and then praying to a figure that truly does not enter into your day, outside of an impersonal prayer made with no expectation that it might be fulfilled. Hope in an outcome is the foolish man’s faith. Hope, as a system of faith based on intuition and a closeness to Deity is an aspect of the Truth.

So my message for today, something I took from Masonry. Love G-d enough to yell at him, love him enough to be impassioned about him.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Leg Up

“Masonry is just a bunch of good ol’ boys trying to give each other a leg up.” Then I punched him in the nose. No, I didn’t, but I thought it raised a couple of interesting points.

In our world the greats seem gone and Harry Potter rues the day as the big seller. It has become a societal condition that we look no further than our daily grind. As a society our churches turn away the homeless as smelly, we work 60 hour weeks, by houses that we promptly build fences around and purchase alarms for, our children are to precious to allow them to play in the yard for fear they will be victimized, we barely find time for family and friends. We, as a society, fear giving someone a leg up, even those who desperately need one.

We have come to view it as a weakness even. How sad.

Then there is the Fraternity. We gladly greet one another with a hug. We have a list of phone numbers of perfect strangers that we call Brother that we have met in e-Masonry and care for. We care for our Masonic community, we care for their families, and we care the communities we live in. We have active lives, but tend to enjoy many friendships and have a strong sense of family. And yes, we would gladly give a man a leg up, whether he was a Mason or not. Why? Because it is the right thing to do.

Giving, helping, assisting, warning, are all laudable pursuits for the man who is fulfilled spiritually and therefore does not covet the goods of a world that will never make him rich.

So break out a pen or simply print the page, as I am on record as a good ol’ boy who is proud to say he would give a man, lady, or even the needy pet….a leg up…two legs if I have it.

The Fraternity is not for everyone and it is certainly not for those who might suspect it of dark conspiracies. But our communities benefit from us everyday and every second we live in them.

--The Legged Up Relevant Mason