Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Brethren

A Brother:
He is strong in the face of adversity, but in a quiet and reasoned way.  He is loved by all that know him for the most part.  I say for the most part, because he is so loved that those who don’t care for him wouldn’t dare voice there opinion any more because it would just simply be too unpopular.  I had walked down the stairs one day to quit Masonry.  He spoke gently to me, this is his way.  He doesn’t charge hills the way I tend to do.  He is more subtle, but often more effective.  With a quiet, but deep voice, he said those things I needed to hear along the way and he give me a voice.  He recognized what I needed and without fan fair, without need for thanks or adoration, he provided it.
A Brother:
He is filled with desire and, in some ways, ambition.  Not for himself so much as for the Craft.  He wants to be a part of something that changes the universe, not for himself, but for the Universe.  And if he knows this...then it is enough.  He would punch you as soon as look at you in certain circumstances.  He has as much love as he does anger.  In this we are similar, but it seldom best him, unlike me.  He has let me vent, he has agreed and disagreed with me.  He has held me up, and he has knocked me down.  He has been gentle, and firm.  He is a leader in ever sense.  He probably considers me a peer, but I consider him a mentor.  
A Brother:
Forceful change drives him nuts.  He considers me a bit of a grenade, but has loved some of the explosions when he someone has pulled by my pin.  He is loving as the day is long.  Patient as all get out.  When he loves you, he loves you.  When he can’t stand you, it shows on his face, in his jaw, and in every part of him once you know how to read him.  He sat with me on the couch one day and guided my Masonic journey in many ways.  In some regards I believe I have disappointed him, in other ways, I have excelled beyond his expectations.      He doesn’t realize how much I love and respect him.
A Brother:
Is not quiet when he should be, and quiet at others when he shouldn’t.  His heart is one of the largest I have had witness of.  His depth of intellect astonishes me.  He grasp of situations is staggering, his grasp of others sometimes not so much.  He loves, hurts, and practices Masonry in a well so deep I have not grasped it yet.  He has given so much in friendship and conversation I can never repay.  I trust him utterly, but sometimes he makes me wince.  You should return Brother.  
A Brother:
Looks like a dang convict.  He is smarter, faster, and harder working than any man I have ever met.  His heart is bigger and better than mine.  I am not certain there is a dishonest bone in his body.  He is better than me.  Yet, he trust me as a friend, peer, and sometimes mentor.  He is bourbon, not Scotch.  He is a metaphysical soldier of sorts.  An old soul in some ways, new in others.  I will get out of his way.  I should.  I love him.
A Brother:
Has done more for my personal life than I can ever repay.  He will be a Masonic Great.  He will be Grand Master someday I am of little doubt.  He would utterly deny this.  For him Masonry is real, constant, and lived with every breath.  We sat on my porch or in his basement and his real and gentle wisdom guided me when I was supposed to guide him.  I would participate in discussions with world changers, and his wisdom I would repeat.  He probably changed the world.  I trust him more than I trust myself.  He is goodness in a way that speaks to his many lives.  He is a suburban Gandhi of sorts.  I miss our talks.  
A Brother:
Has a voice like thunder.  His presence is dang near Deific.  He is a true leader.  He gives voice and platform to so many who need it, happy and contented to see the philosophy of Masonry in the lives of men who need men like him to give them a voice.  He feels Masonry in his veins and does good as a constant.  He gives little concern to gossip and simply does good like a stone against the waves.  He doesn’t even realize the power of his labor in this world.  He looks a little like Santa.  
A Brother:
Is so much younger in person than I imagined him.  Smart in a scary way.  Magical almost.  He has changed the world.  He knows it, he enjoys the labor of it and will continue to labor to the end of his time here and will actually prepare for his next life I am certain.  I hope we meet again.
A Brother:
“Looks like he was dumped out of a bag” is what he said about himself.  Its not true, but he is unassuming in some ways.  He is a wizard.  Not in the Harry Potter goofy way.  In the celestial wonderful way.  His mind is something I can’t completely comprehend.  He loves art in all its forms and cries when he thinks of the complete beauty of the world and the people in it.  He is my dad, the one assigned by God, not the one given at birth.  He keeps me honest and says things to me that speak to my soul.  It is almost as if the world wasn’t ready for him, but Masonry was.  He kept the esoteric tradition alive when others would have it die.
A Brother:
Understood rites of passage in a way my immature mind cannot yet wrap around.  Someday I’ll get it, he has forced me to study.  He is mature, eloquent, and distinguished.  He has changed Masonry for the better.  People love him, fear him, and kiss up to him a bit.  He will labor in the quarry everyday of his life and I wonder if the world will understand the great contributions he has made.  I do.
I could go on, probably forever.
I write these few descriptions down because I wanted to answer a question and provide a little something of an epiphany I had.
First, the question.  Why am I a Mason?  Because of them.  I didn’t know why I was a Mason in the beginning.  God made me a Mason so that I could be exposed to these men.
Second.  I realize that as I grow in Masonry, there is little that is me.  
I am my Brethren.  
They each touch me in such a wonderful and powerful way, that the old ego driven me has been molded and changed by these extraordinary men I am humbled to call Brother.
Thank you Brother.  You changed me, you made me, you continue to raise me.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Masonic Response to Stupid Atheism

This article was originally written and published in Living Stones Magazine.  I have had a number of Brothers ask me about the magazine and what my articles are about and what the other articles are all about.  I received permission from the editor to share this article written and published in this months issue.  I highly recommend the magazine which you can subscribe to at 

A Masonic Response to Stupid Atheism

A belief in Deity is required to be a Freemason, and is considered one of the Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry.  Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723 provide that a Mason was once encouraged to simply blend to the religion of his land, similar in exactitude to the teachings of the Druze, but changed here by Anderson influenced by Enlightenment Europeans to read:
“A Mason is obliged by his Tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient times Masons were charged in every country to be of the religion of that country or nation, whatever it was, yet it is now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves: that is, to be Good men and True, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denomination or Persuasion they may be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the Centre of Union and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance.”
The explanation given new candidates for a need in the generic belief in Deity and the exclusion of these “stupid Atheist” often the statement that the oath of an atheist is not binding
, since the oath itself is taken upon a Bible or other Volume of Sacred Law depending the faith of the particular candidate or the standard Masonic practices for the man taking the oath. 
I will contend the following:
1.  The assertion that the oath of an atheist is not binding is preposterous and the reason for the exclusion of atheist is important, but their oath not being binding is not the reason.  
2.  The symbols of Masonry point to an ancient truth and provide a better explanation for the reason atheist are excluded from the Craft
3.  The reason for the exclusion gives us a hint to origins of Masonic Philosophy.
We only need to examine a list of famous atheist who were in every way more wonderful than a list of believers to make the historical argument that an atheist will keep his word.  
One of my favorite atheist Andrew Carnegie, the famous builder of the largest  steel empire in the United States of America.  He was also one of the world’s most giving philanthropist.  He list writers such as famous Freemason Robert Burns as his heros, respected religious freedom, and even supported his wife in her Presbyterian beliefs by attending church with her.  By almost every standard, a man with whom Masonry would find itself at home; less his atheism.  
Carnegie went so far as to declare a belief,  “an Infinite and Eternal Energy from which all things proceed.”As       Masons we might be tempted to declare for Carnegie a faith.   Yet, it is unfair to classify a man’s faith for him and Carnegie himself made a declaration concerning his faith saying, “I don’t believe in God. My god is patriotism. Teach a man to be a good citizen and you have solved the problem of life.”
It would be difficult to argue that Carnegie was not a man of his word, philanthropic, or intelligent.  Nor is Carnegie an isolated incident in the history of atheism.  
The list of decent and good atheist is as long as the list of terrible and seemingly irreligious men of God, who, at first appearances would be very welcomed to the Craft given the limited face value requirements for admission into this valuable Fraternity.
As to point one as well, we should be able that the converse of the argument is true.  If the oath of an atheist is not binding, then the oath of a believer should be.  Nonetheless, we find a list of horrible men who are Christians, Jews, Muslims, and believers of every kind who violate their oaths.  We find list of foresworn Freemasons easy to find, even recently with the violent acts of Anders Behring Breivik.

We might be tempted to claim that none of these oath-breakers “truly” believed or were “truly” Freemasons.  The word “truly” being thrown around as the excuse of the morally self-righteous.  The fact is list of perfect men filling the ranks of Freemasonry, if extant, is short; more likely it has never existed.  
It would stand to reason that if the oath of a believer is easily breakable as provable by history, and if the oath of an atheist is easily keepable as provable by history, there might be another reason for the exclusion of atheist, or the reason for their exclusion must be superfluous.  
It is my contention that there is little in Masonic ritual or ancient customs that is superfluous and, that when the seemingly absurd is found within the ranks of our ancient teachings a great truth is often hidden within.  The absurd is ofttimes a road marker for hidden wisdom upon the path of Freemasonry.  The monitorial portion of the degrees of the Scottish Rite and our most Illustrious Brother Albert Pike would agree stating ofttimes that the symbol and rituals of the Craft intentionally conceal the true meaning of a thing and are designed to do just that.  Initiation, being a degreed system or graduated system reveals the truth in stages.  Likewise, the real secrets of Masonry seem more internal than external.  The most esoteric teachings of the Craft become so, it would seem, because of their ineffable nature.
This ineffability of the nature of our secrets gives way to the first hint of the authentic nature of the exclusion of atheist.  What would initially appear a Christian innovation or intolerant invention becomes an important safety mechanism that should adhered to in every instance for the spiritual safety of the practitioner as well for the preservation of the reputation of the institution.  
When Masonry is relegated to coronations, collars, and back slapping there is little room for an argument of great spiritual sagacity for the prohibition of atheist.  When Masonic meetings are little more than minutes and self-aggrandizing minutia the genuine reason for excluding atheist seems more of a personal preference that our devolution into a “look how great I am club.”  The state of our Fraternity and our participation in its less than humble or giving activities is a matter of personal embarrassment when witnessed by non-believers.  For the non-believer, it would be better that they were kept in the dark as to our personal needs of over elevation for little accomplished, as we would like to keep the public image of a humble souled philanthropist with a devote faith in God.  Better to be a working tool of the Divine in the eyes of the damned than a hypocrite with human failings and little humility.
But, if Masonry is more than a dressed up fish-fry or a dressed down Star and Garter, then we must answer the difficult question of what Masonry “is.”  This is no small task within the confines of a Masonic culture in which it is more popular to declare Masonry undefinable, because to define it takes work and labor.  It is much easier, albeit intellectually dishonest, to declare Masonry all things to all men so that we need not study and work to come up with a definition and, therefore, application in our daily lives.  Also, to define the Craft beyond a good old boys club carries the risk of upsetting the good old boys.  Masonry is relegated to a two hour block of time in a lodge room, instead of a philosophy of such depth and greatness it changes lives and simultaneously the world.
For the sake of this paper, we will define the “IS” of Masonry through the language of Masonry; it symbols.
The 47th Problem of Euclide is a common symbol within several of the Masonic rites whose first appearance within Masonic ritual dates back to at least the 17th century. 
We read in General Ahiman Rezon of 1868 by Daniel Sickels
 the following description of the symbol and its place in Masonry:
This was an invention of our ancient friend and brother, the great Pythagoras, who, in his travels through Asia, Africa, and Europe, was initiated into the several orders of priesthood. and raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. This wise philosopher enriched his mind abundantly in a general knowledge of things and more especially in Geometry, or Masonry. On this subject he drew out many problems and theorems; and, among the most distinguished, he erected this, which, in the joy of his heart, he called EUREKA, in the Grecian language signifying I have found it; and upon the discovery of which he is said to have sacrificed a hecatomb. It teaches Masons to be general lovers of the arts and sciences.”
This description is common it or some version similar or nearing it can be found within most of the lectures of the third degree in the United States of America, Emulation Ritual, and within several Scottish Lodges.
By 1723 the 47th Problem of Euclid was so entrenched in Speculative Masonry, that it was made part of Anderson’s Constitutions.  Much attention has been given this “Pythagorean Theorem,” and Bromwell goes so far as to provide the triangle is the only important symbol, the squares being only for illustrative purposes.  Bromwell was mistaken.
The illusion is multi-fold.  The cube is the symbol of man.  Metatron’s Cube, the cube as a platonic solid, and many of the great mystical traditions provide the cube as both the basic building material of matter and a geometric representation of man.  The true building block of the inner and outer temple, the real and spiritual architecture of the universe.

We see see Pharaoh seated upon a cube as an allusion to this very fact.  Hindu gods are depicted as standing upon a cube as a symbol of the Divine over man.  It is not uncommon to see the cube tied directly to this idea both in religion and in architecture.  As noted by Tiffany Whitmire in her article on the topic relates the following:
 “2. The Hindus

Before the Hindus erect any type of building, large or small, for religious purposes they first perform a simple geometric construction on the ground. This means that they construct a square from establishing due East and West. It is from this square that they lay out the entire building. The geometric construction is associated by prayers and religious observances.
3. The Christians

The cross is used as the major emblem for the Christian religion. In geometrical terms the cross, elaborated in the Medieval period, is the form of an unfolded cube. It was also associated with kingship. Many of the Gothic chuches were built by proportions derived from the geometry inherent in the cube or the double-cube. Many Christian churches are still built in this form today.
4. The Ancient Egyptians

The ancient Egyptians used regular polygons in their construction, but discovered that these polygons could be increased while keeping the ratio of their sides by the addition of a strictly constructed area. This was named the "gnomon" by the Greeks. The god Osiris was given the recognition for the concept of the ratio-retaining expansion of a rectangular area. Egyptians also used the square as a symbol of kingship.”
So it is unlikely the square or cube as used to illustrate the 47th Problem of Euclide means nothing.  It is unnecessary to draw more than a line to illustrate the triangle and the more common way of illustrating the theorem is circle, not a series of squares.  So again, it is unlikely the square or cube mean nothing.  Further, whenever the number three appears in Masonry, it is intentional.  We must give some attention to the fact that it is three squares or cubes that define the triangle in illustrative measure.
The metaphysical nature of Pythagoras and his disciples is in little question.  Therefore, it is highly unlikely that any symbols used or created by Pythagoras or his followers had no spiritual value or connotation.  To the contrary, Pythagoras was revered more the metaphysical nature of his work, than the purely geometric nature of it.  In ancient times it is likely the stiffly drawn lines in our present day culture were not as defined.
We find ourselves as Masons faced with the obvious conclusions.  First, that Masonry is philosophical, is special and is designed to impart a truth.  Masonry reveres Pythagoras and this theorem for the same reasons Plato and Aristotle did, he was a spiritual leader and teacher.  A philosopher of the greatest kind that would give birth to a new metaphysical culture.
Since we have nothing written from the hand of Pythagoras himself, we must examine what is known about him and of him in order to form some level of conclusion.  In this regard, deduction of the symbols becomes the surest way to decipher their meaning.
Breaking Down the Symbol
1.  The cube since the most ancient of periods has been associated with man and the material. 
2.  The cube appears three times as part of the common Masonic symbol of the 47th Problem of Euclid.  
3.  Man persuades (and lies) in threes.
4.  The triangle is a symbol of the Divine in many cultures.

5.  The right triangle has been used in ancient architecture and building for thousands of years and is associated, likewise with the Divine.
The 47th Problem of Euclid is a roadmap for the Divine and, in turn, gives us a clue to the origins of our own Masonic philosophies.  
The three squares or cubes relate to the tripartite nature of man.  The fact that they illustrate the symbol of the Divine provides the message that man, the universe, and the nature of things can be understood by looking and discovering within man, that all truth and all things Divine can be discovered within man himself.  The search is in Masonry is an internal and not an external one.
Eureka, the term ascribed to Pythagoras in Masonic lore upon discover of this ancient truth stems from the Greek “heureka” and means, I have found it.”  Masonry could be hard to define for some, but it must be a search for light if our rituals contain any truth at all, as the candidate repeatedly declares his thirst for light and repeatedly is said to receive it.  Light is knowledge and I have failed to provide an endnote on this, for any man a Mason who declares that the light referred to in the degrees is other than this, we are so far apart in our agreement on the issue, and they so far outside of a realistic understanding of degrees, there is nothing I can write for him to bring to said light.  Go linger in the darkness, this article is not for you.
The light of Masonry is a Divine Light, and that light is now illustrated to exist within the tripartite nature of man as illustrated by our symbols.
Eureka!  I also declare, for we have found it and it is within us!
The journey of Masonry is a Gnostic one.  It is an Enlightenment Era invention predicated on the ancient mystery schools that declare, “I warn you, whoever you are.  Oh, you who wish to probe the arcanes of nature, if you do not find within yourself that which you seek, neither shall you be able to find it outside.  If you ignore the excellencies of your own house, how do you intend to find other excellencies?  In you is hidden the treasure of treasures. Oh, man, know thyself and thou shall know the Universe and the Gods!”
The Enlightenment had ushered in an Era of Reason, so much so, that it threatened to dislodge the spiritual from its rightful place in the balanced life of a man.  The pendulum was beginning to swing so violently away from the Age of Superstition, that even dreams were disregarded as irrational and intellectuals were made to feel less so for having had them.
Masonry served and serves as a mystical tradition that inculcates balance and instructs the candidate that the Divine is within.  This approach could be identified as Hermetic or relating to the teaching of Hermes, who is sometimes associated with Hiram.

This is partially mistaken and does not take into the account the distinctly Christian flavor of the Enlightenment in Europe or the overtly Christian references purposely removed from Masonic ritual during the unification of the modern and antient grand lodges in England.  It was at this time that the Craft was purposely demystified to some degree in hopes of making it more appear more overtly universal.

The belief that the degrees were less than universal at the time comes from the misunderstanding of the mystical or Gnostic Christian references as literal.  When taken in the Gnostic manner in which they were intended, the true beauty of the ritual can be understood.
The Swedish Rite of Freemasonry is a perfect example of how a purely Gnostic tradition contains direct Christian references that in no way require a belief in a literal Christ and, in some regards, are harmed by such a literal approach to their interpretation.  In many ways, it is quite sad that this beautiful tradition has been closed Christians alone.  
Hiram himself is purposely modeled after Jesus in the Gnostic sense.  This being the only logical conclusion when all the other aspects of the Craft are Judaic in nature.  The messianic portion must be Christian in flair.  This, in turn, is Gnostic.
Gnosticism is nothing more Christianized Hermeticism.  Freemasonry is the Enlightenment Era mysticism with Christian overtones, resulting in its Gnostic message in lieu of the pagan Hermetic one.  The Gnostic message, heretical as it was in Enlightenment Era Europe, was still more acceptable in nature than the pre-Christian Hermetic one.
The frightening truth of this message is that it is distinctly not in keeping with the current evangelical message of Christian fundamentalist which have rightly identified Masonry as an enemy.  Masonry seeks to provide a path to the Divine within, and removes all pretense and ceremony the church would have you believe is necessary for salvation.
Masonic salvation comes in the form of a moral and just life, and exist for the candidate in the here and now; Masonry is not a religion, because the existence of of organized worship is superstitious in comparison to Gnosticism.  
Within Gnosticism, God is within you and all around you all the time and the false perception of the fall of man, or the absence of the presence of God is a false one.  So just as the triangle of Pythagoras is within the squares, so to God dwells within.  Yet, he can be seen throughout everything everywhere.  One might say the wisdom of God can be traced through the whole of nature and His glory firmly established by simply experiencing nature and life.
Which brings us to our “stupid atheist.”  
If the point of the journey is to find the Divine nature of man, then the atheist can not complete this journey; for at the end of it, he must slump exhausted and have no faith to rely on.  
The man who begins the journey, the profane, is said to be in denial of his true Divine nature.  If the end of the journey is designed to reveal this truth, what good would the journey do for man whose label requires him to deny this.
The word stupid derives from the Latin stupidus and means confounded.  Confounded derives from the same origins as damned, or damaged.
  This is an apt description of what happens or could happen to a man exposed to the truth for which he is ill prepared.
Within the mystical traditions there is a belief that those ill prepared to confront their Divine nature, or confront it before they are initiated will be driven mad, or produce the opposite effect of wisdom.
Our very own Masonic first Grand Master, King Solomon himself, was said to be driven to madness.  This comes after using the high truth of the nature of things to build his Temple.  Harnessing the wisdom of demons, he grows arrogant, and is subsequently driven mad.  
The exclusion of atheist is a safety mechanism built in to a Gnostic tradition.  The atheist, living an out of balance life, much like the fundamentalist on the other end of the scale, is deemed “not ready” to confront his nature, much more than he is deemed unfit.

1 Albert G. Mackey, A Textbook of Masonic Jurisprudence, (New York: Macoy, 1858)
2 Reverend James Anderson D.D., Constitutions of Freemasonry 1723, (Whitefish: Kessinger, 2004)
3 Rabie Jarmakani. Personal Interview. 4 July 2011.
4 John Marshall, John Locke, Toleration and early Enlightenment Culture, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)
5 H.L. Haywood, The Newly-Made Mason:  What He and Every Mason Should Know About Masonry, (Chicago: The Masonic History Company, 1948)
6 David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie, (New York: Penguin, 2007)
7 David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie, (New York: Penguin, 2007)
8 Andrew Carnegie, The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie and The Gospel of Wealth, (Seattle:  Createspace, 2010)
9 Chris Hodapp, “More on the Norway Killer’s Masonic and Templar Connections,” Freemasonry for Dummies, 28 July 2011.
10 Daniel Sickels, General Ahiman Rezon, (New York:  Masonic Publishing and Manufacturing Company, 1868)
11 Reverend James Anderson D.D., Constitutions of Freemasonry 1723, (Whitefish:  Kessinger, 2004)
12 Henry P.H. Bromwell, Restorations of Masonic Geometry and Symbolry, (Denver:  Henry P.H. Bromwell Masonic Publishing Company, 1905)
13 Stephen Skinner, Sacred Geometry:  Deciphering the Code, (New York:  Sterling, 2009)
14 Tiffany Whitmire, “Sacred Geometry,”  Sweet Briar College, September 1998 .
15 Huffman, Carl, "Pythagoras", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL =
16 Cliff Porter, The Secret Psychology of Freemasonry, (Colorado:  Starr Publishing, 2011)
17 “A Study in Graphic Symbolism,” The Shrine of Wisdom, Volume 30 (Surrey, England:  Fintry Trust, 1926)
18 Douglas Harper, “Eureka,”  Online Etymology Dictionary,
19 William J. Broad, The Oracle:  Ancient Delphi and the Science Behind Its Lost Secrets, (New York:  Penguin, 2007)
20 John Gascoigne, Science, Philosophy and Religion in the Age of Enlightenment, (London:  Ashgate Variorum Publishing, 2010)
21 Manly P. Hall, The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, (Los Angeles:  Hall Publishing, 1924) 
22 Julian Rees, “Through Ritual To Enlightenment,” Pietre-Stones:  Review of Freemasonry, 20 March 2003,
23 Douglas Harper, “Damn,”  Online Etymology Dictionary,
24 F. F. Fleck, Wissenschaftliche Reise durch das südliche Deutschland, Italien, Sicilien und Frankreick,(Leipzig, 1837)

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Journey Through Lebanon and Turkey

Lebanon has turned out to be more extraordinary in every aspect than I could have imagined.
We were met at the gate by security, who said in a Arabic meets Aramaic accent, "Timothy Hogan and Mr. Porter." We said a collective, "Yes?" and looked at one another with equal curiosity. Ushered to the Diplomatic Line at the passport stand and ushered into Lebanon with great speed we met Brothers Peter and Rabi with their driver and were underway on the adventurous highways of Beirut before we really understood what that means. Lanes are only a suggestion in Beirut and for Peter's driver...they are not taken as recommended.
Lebanon is a contradiction as plain and beautiful as humanity. Lush trees and countryside, next to rocky hills stripped bare of cedar from the push of human destiny. Rich next to poor, old and new, bombed and remodeled all huddled together under the canopy of a sky that has shined on these cities which have bustled in similar fashion with similar people for millennia. 
Byblos, or Giblum (stone squarer) is the longest and most continuously occupied city in the planet. Home to one of our passwords and the center of the "The Book"...literally taken from the city that would change history...over and over and over again.
Taken to lodge we met native Arabic speakers, English speakers, French speakers, and I am sure something else speakers....truly and international lodge whose charter is from the Grand Lodge of New York...America helping was nice to be reminded of America's potential to bring men together as Tim and I began our presentations on 4th of July. 
Several Brothers would wish us a happy Independence Day. And happy, thus far it had been. 
We had begun the day in search of ancient ruins. We found them and they did not disappoint. Once again the symbols of our philosophies poured out in stone, but this stone as old as 10,000 years. Symbols of the Entered Apprentice due guard, the six pointed star, the five pointed star, network, lilies, and pomegranates. The desire to unite and to understand ones self clearly a part of the most ancient of mystical initiatic traditions.
Standing in the old Baptismal pools of Jupiter more than 4,500 years dry...but a BAPTISMAL POOL none the less.
A mosaic coming to us from a thousand years before Christ of a Shepard hold ing a crook and grapes and wreathed in garland that look a lot like thorns...a familiar look to Christians...but much older than the story of our Christ.
Dinner with men from several Continents would follow a day of temples, lodges and fellowship. The food was a feast and was enjoyed with Lion's Milk, Mezzo and friends. Tim and I shared a Hookah of light mint and lounged in couches in an open air restaurant where the waiters wore tuxedo type jackets and the guest lounged for hours dressed in everything from formal dress, the gowns of a Sheik, to jeans.
More lodge visits would follow in the wonderful mix of Masonry called Lebanon.  Grand Lodges from all over the world meeting in Lebanon and I was able to hear the opening of lodges in the constitutions of Scotland, England, and America.  
The second lodge visit was much different than the first.  The building bigger.  The Brothers dressed mostly in tuxedos, and a visit from the Grand Master.  There was a little more tension in the air for me.  
Lodge opened and Tim and I were received to the East and then the Grand Master took the Gavel and presided over lodge.
Tim would open and I could tell from the outside that there were some Brothers who didn’t appreciate alchemy as a topic.  The majority of these brothers were Christian and in Lebanon this is both a religious and political statement and they took it with seriousness.
“I read the Bible” one Brother said in broken but understandable English, and if the Bible says the flood is the flood, then it is about faith and not alchemy.  The Bible, faith, this is what it means.”
It was fitting that the next discussion would be about perceptions and words.
The question was posed, “If one man reads the Bible and finds love of God, proof of the Divine, and an outpouring of desire to know God by his Brothers that came before him, what do we call it?”  
No takers, the question to charged with emotion for a place where the last war is still heavily evidenced in bombed out buildings and unpatched bullet holes.
We continued, “If one man calls it faith and another calls it alchemy, are they really talking about different things?  Or are these expressions from the same God?”  
The same man who challenged Tim came to me later and kissed me (common in Lebanon), hugged me, and called me friends.  Later he sat with me at dinner and we learned much from another.  
Bridges and tears I thought.  Religion, faith, hope, love, and Freemasonry; building bridges over rivers of tears.  Where once was misunderstanding and argument, was complete Brotherhood and tolerance.  Freemasonry, powerful medicine.  Its good to be an architect and builder in a world of destroyers.  We have hard work, but glorious labor in front us my Brothers.
The Druze.
We met many during out trip and heard one say, “Freemasonry is the religion of the Druze” and he laughed.  The Druze, a secret society that requires lineage to be accepted.  Stricter than Masonry, you must be born into it.  You have grips, hollow columns, reverence of Pythagoras, reverence of Hebraic mystical traditions, circumabulation, etc.  It is so similar to Masonry that one its own members calls Freemasonry the religion of the Druze!  It is interesting that the Druze degree was removed by the Scottish Rite for the Sufi degree because it was determined Pike was mistaken.  I wonder if someone didn’t jump the gun.  Because the Druze themselves would claim him correct.  This I heard from the mouth of Druze, not from the mouth of experts who claim to know them.
Dinner in Byblos is worth noting.  A vibrant and undying city.  We sat in an open air restaurant with a view of an Ottoman ruins and at a giant tray of deep friend fish, heads and all with a light sesame and dill sauce.  The meal itself would look scary, but tasted out of this world.
Christians, Druze, Muslims, Gnostics and an Agnostic man of science  sat around this table of fish frozen in death throws by boiling oil, there little eyes creeping me out just a bit as the discussion grew deeper.
Strange to have such a diverse conversation, running from transmigration of souls to radical Islam in the shadow of a war ruin, in a country torn by war, but utterly alive.  They use an old bomb shelter as a dance club now, but flags of Hezbollah fly in castles of old as a reminder that the threat has not left.
It almost seems surreal that a people as open, loving, and desirous of simply enjoying life could turn to war.  Wars that seems driven by those who are far away.  It is almost as if the powers of outside nations ravage the beauty of a people that is so deep the country has been a lighthouse and a flashpoint for millennia.
The Club.
Open only two days and a large line to get in, it was too behold.  Built as a coliseum, but couches, tables, and chairs taking the place of bleachers.  A three story stage lighting set up surround a 360 degree bar that must of had a 25 meter diameter it seemed, the music booming from rock concert level speakers draped three stories above.
We walked right in.  Things go like this with Peter around.  He, being one of our host.  It would seem that we could go nowhere where smiles, hugs, and kisses did not meet this man.  
Wives, friends, Brothers, cousins, sisters, all passed by, sat with us for a minute, and headed off again.  The booming music, the lighted tunnel to get in, the friendly but charged atmosphere inside seemed to highlight the dichotomy that is Lebanon.  Farmland to cities, ruins to nightclubs, and the most deadly traffic I have ever closed my eyes and prayed in, to the most loving people on earth.  Lebanon.  Lighthouse and flashpoint for another million years I would guess.
My return.  It was wonderful to see old friends.  The hotel was an old Ottoman prison, now a 5 star.  The air condition broke in my room and the mattress seemed extra hard.  I laughed thinking maybe the spirits had gleaned my employment and thought “finally” we have one of the “them.”  
The schedule would be the one for which we had kept in Lebanon and the one for which I had grown accustomed in Istanbul.  Go, go, go and sleep little.  We averaged three hours a night I believe and it seems the current of powerful energy that runs deep in this ancient place charges you completely until you leave it, then slump exhausted and trying to recoup and reclaim your lost hours of sleep.  
Mr. Oktar would say on air that Islam would be the religion of the whole world and would talk of the end times.
I smiled to myself knowing how this would be received in a very different Western culture that is my home.  
It is important to understand words.  Islam means to give oneself completely and utterly over to God.  In the Gospel of Mark we read, “But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
So it is that the idea of submission to God is also a Christian ideal, but the fear that the terrorist and Islamic fundamentalist have driven into the minds of the American psyche will cause a visceral reaction.  This is normal and proper I imagine, but the idealist in me still hopes for a world where Christians, Jews, Muslims, and all of God’s children can embrace with the same love and respect for one another that is found Masonic lodges around the world.  
Lodges, microcosms of hope.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Mason that Religion Denied

He was a Jew.  
She was a divorced Catholic.  
He converted for her, but in early 1920’s, enough was enough.  She was excommunicated from the church, denied heaven, and he was never considered for membership.
They raised a son together, both loved God, neither remained religious.  It had crushed them.
Their son would join the service to fight in the Pacific Theatre on a destroyer.  He had never left California before and his parents did quite well.  Wide eyed and mouth a gape .  
The friendships he formed in the Navy would last forever.  He loved the Navy except…..
It had been a difficult tour this time.  The fighting had grown severe and there were many nights he wondered if he would return to the shores of the country, that in combat, he had grown to love so desperately that he could describe it words without getting an unmanly lump in his throat.  
There were nights he couldn’t imagine life not on the ship.  Drinking torpedo juice with his companions and nodding in accent as they recounted many a fictional night with beautiful women that likely never existed.  He was young in spirit and had not “been” with a woman yet, but under the haze of torpedo juice and highly charged stories...he sure wish he had.
Life was a little terrifying, a little surreal, and a lot exciting.
The strike seemed deafening and the idea of running topside to engage the enemy fighters with what know seemed like a small machine gun was nowhere near as simple as an idea as it once seemed.  But, he did it.
On the deck it was worse then what he had imagined.  It was not just planes, it was ships and his entire fleet was under attack.
What seemed like days later, they had won this one.  It was the worst battle he had ever seen or would ever see...and they had sunk an enemy ship.  What seemed like hundreds of enemy troops littered the ocean, bobbing on the waves.  
Hours passed as they watched men drown or get eaten.  It was as if the sharks, of which he had actually seen only two, knew there had been a catastrophe and sent an alert to their friends.  They died in numbers, but they died slowly, and he watched.
He asked why they didn’t pick them up, but was told that it was not possible.  He saw that they tried their best to turn away their enemies ships and die with as much dignity as the agonizing death they faced would allow.
He admired them.
He hated God.
Then he stopped believing all together.
He was an Atheist, or he wanted to be.  He desperately wanted to be.
The bomb dropped and the war ended.  The bomb did little to convince him he should believe.
But there had been good times, great times in those years.  He had met the woman of his dreams in a sleepy little farm town in New Jersey.  She was firey he would say of her, she spoke her mind a little too much, did everything a “boy could do” and tried like heck to make sure she did it better.  He loved her.  Not in the way he loved anyone or anything else.  He knew immediately that he needed her, that he would be hers in every way for the rest of his life.
They traveled the world together.  They dusted the oceans in a rickety sea plane and toured crevasses in the wilderness of Alaska.  They had two beautiful children, one boy and one girl of course.  They had a brand new home built in a little valley outside of San Francisco for their growing family for the exorbitant sum of $7,000.  They built a large swimming pool for the kids and the house became the neighborhood summer fun center.  He crashed go-carts with his little girl and raised his son to help run the company his father had brought him into after the war.  They were the first company in California to carry the squeegee. 
Life was perfect, but he missed God.  It seemed that for the hardships he had witnessed there was beauty at every turn.  For ever tear he had shed, their had been many smiles.  Who could look upon his children, his wonderful bride, his life filled with joy and doubt the existence of God.
His mother died without a church funeral.  The church would never forgive her.  
So he would never forgive the church.
Papa died and had a Masonic funeral.  Papa had been his first line signer.  Brought into Masonry, the son of an ex-Jew and excommunicated Catholic who couldn’t trust religion, but loved God nonetheless.  Convinced he had seen hell, couldn’t understand how to find heaven, he decided to pray.  
This is what God said:
“I love you.”
He said, “I love you too.”
He died laughing one afternoon on the couch in the middle of a giant laugh enjoying conversation with is bride of over 50 years in the house they built after the war.
His friends from the Navy who still survived attended the service, it was standing room only.  
His daughter’s paster conducted a service.  The son of a divorced excommunicated Catholic and her Jewish husband never fit in a house God.  
He had read many holy books and found one verse striking.  He knew it by heart and shared it often.  It was read at his funeral as his favorite blues music wafted in the background.  The parting words of a heretic:
 The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows. 

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
He was a Mason.  
He was my grandfather.
Religion never loved him, but God always had.
***I write this as the Bishop of Canterbury recently renewed objections to Masonry.  I write this for every person persecuted for their political, philosophical or religions opinion.  I write this for the Masons that religion has hated.  I write this for the children that God has loved.  The whole of his creation.***
This article was written for Living Stones Magazine.  For monthly articles by the Relevant Mason please visit