Sunday, June 23, 2013

Only In Freemasonry

     I was invited to speak at a Cuban lodge, the Sons of Liberty Lodge in New Jersey by two brothers, one named Moises (Moses) and the other Mohammed.  Upon arrival at the lodge one speaker was Swedish with an English accent, one English with a thicker accent still and myself.  Some members were vehemently anti-socialist having fled the socialist dictatorship of Fidel Castro or having family members trapped by the same government.  One honored guest was an active and public member of the International Socialist Party.  

I spoke with law enforcement, psychiatrist, mathematicians, engineers, technicians, carpenters and computer workers that evening as the festivities had ended and I was given the opportunity for some one on one time with many attendees.

The following day I shared lunch with a Muslim brother, a Deist brother and an ordained Gnostic brother.  

I reflected upon my travels.  I have sat at a table with one of the Isamic worlds greatest anti-Masons, having drafted more than 18 anti-Masonic books, and whose fringe and rouge followers had burst into a Grand Lodge building with machine guns, killed several Masons who were present.  I later embraced him as a friend, he called me Brother (and meant it).  He was no longer an anti-Mason and I was no longer afraid. 

I reflected upon the lodge in which I had the privilege to sit and listened to men open in perfect Arabic only to break stride to say in accented, but perfect English, “God save the Queen!”  

I remembered back to a meeting I attended where Muslims, Druze, Jews and Christians joined hands around the altar of Freemasonry under the same banners and symbols hanging within the lodge that drove their counterparts to war with one another just outside the door.

I smiled as I recalled a dinner in Byblos.  A royal from Nigeria and business tycoon from Syria argued Christianity, faith, and Freemasonry over a bottle of Lebanese wine for the Nigerian and soda for Muslim.  Both smiling, laughing, disagreeing and strategizing their next intellectual move in this game of Socratic discourse.

I witnessed a man of 20 years sit side by side with a man of 80 years and share a wonderful and purposeful conversation.  Not seated together by chance, but by choice.  Friends with six decades between them.

I watched as a Marine, members of the Army’s elite 10th Special Forces Group, and two retired military pilots listen to a foreigner from a different continent stand on American soil and describe patriotism as evil and a force that drives humans apart and divides them upon artificial lines.  They embraced later, purchased his books even, and enjoyed fellowship although they disagreed. 

I feel completely safe in declaring that these things occur in no other place in the world save for Freemasonry.  It is Freemasonry alone that allows for this level of tolerance, universality and discourse.  It is Freemasonry alone that acts as a mighty translator allowing men to speak a singular language that transcends the angry rhetoric of politics and religion.  It is Freemasonry alone that grants these men permission to love another more than hate.  It was Freemasonry alone that shields from the fear of difference and provides a common mosaic ground upon which to meet.

It is not enough to describe the Craft as simply neutral.   Neutrality seems infantile in the presence of the tolerance gifted from one Mason to another.  Smiles replace snarls and men embrace under an umbrella like no other in the world.  

We are quick as a Craft to heed the rants of the anti-Masons that there is no conspiracy to dominate the world.  Why?  Shouldn’t there be?  Shouldn’t we work hard within our communities, our churches and our schools to bring about the kind of universal respect, love and acceptance that can be found within the Craft?  The secrets of Freemasonry should remain as such, but should we not labor in every aspect of our lives to allow the light of Freemasonry to shine in every darkened little corner filled with the virus of fundamentalism.  Shouldn’t we labor that every speech given filled with hate for another man because of philosophical, religious or political opinion be met with tears from a human race so filled with sadness at the man’s lonely ranting that they hope; like we do, everyone might someday know their peace?

There is not a single religion in the world that has acted as the unifying force of Freemasonry.  There is no religion in the world that has shared the lack of violence in its history as Freemasonry.  There is no political party more successful than bringing democratic change to a country than Freemasonry.  Yet, the Craft is still filled with frightened leaders content to maintain the status quo, captain a sinking ship, and fight the freewill of its members instead of trying to enrich themselves and those around them.  We have the freakish fear of religion found in Florida wherein in men have been banned for their faith.  We have the schisms caused by outside pseudo-Masonic bodies who would rather have felons in their ranks rather than lose a single member.  We have petitions prostituted on the Internet and disguised membership drives rife throughout the country.  Why?  Because we fear allowing the Craft to be the wonderful unifying force that it is, and we try to dress it as a one size fits all philanthropic or social organization.  

Freemasons should be Freemasons, nothing else.  When Masons are allowed to practice Masonry it changes the world!

This originally appeared in a Masonic monthly print magazine called Living Stones.  It is run completely independent of any grand lodge and lead the way in independent print monthly magazines in America.  I thank Brother Rob Herd for doing the mag and giving me a voice.

Monday, December 10, 2012

South Carolina Informs Shrine No Expelled Masons!

I am a strong believer in Blue Lodge Masonry being a priority for Masons and was disappointed to see that the Shrine took a stance that seemed in violation of their agreement with Freemasonry as a Fraternity, if not in letter in spirit for certain.

That being said I think this letter from the Grand Master of South Carolina is a big deal.  Kudos to him for supporting the idea that if the Shrine wants a relationship with Masonry it should be supportive of the Grand Lodges in the jurisdictions it operates in.

Monday, December 3, 2012

An Open Letter to the Grand Master of Florida

December 3, 2012

Jorge L. Aladro
Grand Master
Grand Lodge of Florida
283 Deer Run Road 
Palm Bay, FL 32909-1182

Dear Most Worshipful Brother Jorge L. Aladro, Grand Master of Masons of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Florida and To All My Brethren in Freemasonry,

I provide this as both an open letter to all Freemasons and a plea to Most Worshipful Brother Jorge L. Aladro, the Grand Master of Masons in Florida.  

On November 28, 2012, Brother Aladro took the step of banning Paganism, Wiccan and Odinism, Agnosticism and Gnosticism.

He provided in a written decision, “...any member of the Craft that professes to be a member of one of the groups mentioned above shall tender his resignation or suffer himself to a Trial Commission whose final outcome will be expulsion…”

Brother Jorge, you have declared here that a man is not even provided a fair trial.  He is tried and then punished.  This is not Masonic.

Most Worshipful Brother Jorge, you are a Knight Commander of the Court of Honor and I likewise share this distinction with you.  As one who has been honored for his work in the quarries of Masonry I must remind you of your several obligations.  

You have solemnly vowed, “[I] will never countenance persecutions, or the reviling of 
others on account of their political, philosophical, or religious opinions.”  You have likewise promised to be “tolerant and of charitable opinion toward all Brethren.”

You have vowed, “I furthermore promise and vow, that I will, even at the peril of my life, help every true Brother if he be persecuted for his religion...."

In justification you have decreed that these faiths are not in keeping with the Landmarks of Masonry.  Ironically, the quotes you provide illustrate the tolerance of Masonry and not the intolerance of your personal decree.  

You quote as justification of your prejudice (your quotes are in red for ease of understanding), “A belief in the existence of one ever living and true God.

I ask you as a Mason to take notice that this quote does not declare the God of Abraham, Christ the Savior, or of the other names assigned by man to Deity.  It specifically provides that a man simply need a belief in God.  It is strongly worded because of what it does not say.  It is sad that any man could read such a tolerant statement and provide such a bigoted response.  We must have the courage as Freemasons to honor the spirit of this Landmark.

You provided “A belief in the immortality of the human soul and a resurrection thereof to a Future Life.

I would argue strongly that this is not a Landmark, but even so a short study of history will provide that you have not listed a single faith in your list that does not ascribe to this belief.  All of the religions you listed profess a belief in a soul.  Paganism is a broad term, but we first hear of the idea of a savior, salvation of the soul, and an afterlife in the so called pagan religions long before Christ was ever known.  This is historical fact, and not philosophical truth, that even the most Christian of archeologist and religious scholars would agree with.

Agnosticism is not a religion, but simply a belief that man is not sure and provides he cannot know for certain.  It is a broad philosophy and there are certainly agnostics who believe in God and an afterlife, but simply do not profess to know the specifics and are courageous enough in their faith to say, “I am sure of only one truth and the rest I give to God.”

A fellow Mason once said, “Knowledge is the most genuine and real of human treasures; for it is Light, as Ignorance is Darkness.”  I beg of you in the Masonic sense Brother to educate yourself so that we can cast a light upon this intolerant darkness you have created.

You provided, “The Volume of the Sacred Law, open upon the altar, is an indispensable furnishing of every regular Lodge while at labor.

Which provides the most glaring example of the spirit of our Landmarks.  The Volume of Sacred law is not given a name here so that the holy book or writings of any faith might be recognized as equally valuable.

Remember these words Brother Jorge, which I am certain you have heard and obligated yourself to, “You must first understand, my Brother, that Freemasonry does not encroach upon the just privileges of religion. The Fraternity does not claim to provide salvation of the soul or entrance into Heaven. It affirms that God exists, that there is benefit in prayer, and that man owes it to himself to return to that Sanctuary which best increases his faith in our Creator—that Omnipotent Being in whom you professed belief prior to joining a Masonic Lodge.” 

You finish by declaring wholesale that devoted Brethren and men who love God with all their hearts are somehow Atheist or libertines, the latter a word I am guessing by your choice you are wholly unfamiliar with its meaning and usage at the time it was first referred to in regards to Masonry.  You provide, “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.

My dear Brother Jorge, no title, throne, or position that man can attain brings with it an unquestionable knowingness.  There is not assimilated gnosis that occurs with the gavel of Grand Master.  So in that regard I ask you to pray and meditate upon your decision.  It is un-Masonic.  Worse it shows a certain ignorance of the faiths mentioned and cast a negative light upon the Fraternity, which you were charged in your Entered Apprentice degree never to do.  

I ask you Brother Jorge to immediately reverse your decision.  I ask you to pick up a book and read about the faiths you have ridiculed with your decision.  I ask you to ask for forgiveness from the Brethren you have harmed with your foul decree and say to them that even in power there is error.  Level yourself with them and asked their pardon.

So that you might some resources to begin your quest, I have provided them at the end of the list letter as a post script.  I do not pretend Brother Jorge that I am enlightened.  I am human and full of failure.  But, in my failures I have found strength, because with each of them Christ grows within me because he, in his infinite wisdom, has planted a lesson.  

I ask that you allow this situation to become as God would want it to be, a chance at growth, wisdom, and reflection.


R∴W∴B Cliff Porter


My Brother, please keep in mind describing any religious belief is precarious.  Just as no Christian closes his eyes and imagines God in exactly the same way, so too, no one man can speak for any of the faiths you have struck out against.  In general terms, however, in the Wiccan faith we find:

A belief in a Supreme Being.  God is all and within all; all are one God.

Incarnation of God on earth in the form of spiritual energies

A creative God who created the Universe and is one with it.

A belief in an afterlife either through reincarnation or much like the Judaism, a kind of less defined knowing that there is something but it being less defined than the Christian heaven with a mansion and so on.

A salvation that teaches humans can attain spiritual balance and harmony with each other and nature. “Ethical choices are influenced by a belief that one is rewarded or punished within this or after this lifetime for one's choices and an ethical code to do no harm.”

For further research into Wicca I recommend and Modern Wicca: A History From Gerald Gardner to the Present by Michael Howard.

As far as Paganism goes, that is a broad term.  The term pagan was created by the Christian church to demean all other faiths outside of Christianity and imply that the practitioners were poor and uneducated.  

However, I recommend the study of the Egyptian pantheon as it is one of the most famous of the now pagan faiths.  You will be surprised to find a belief in God, a belief in a Father, Mother, and Son trinity.  Within the trinity the father or son are killed, they raise again, and rule over both the earth and the afterlife.  There are some who believe the lord’s prayer of the Christian faith were taken from a collection of text that exist on both papyri and on pyramid walls now referred to collectively as “The Egyptian Book of the Dead.”  You may access this online or by reading my favorite translation “The Egyptian Book of the Dead” translated and edited by Wallace Budge.

I think you would benefit as well from reading Samuel Angus’ definitive collegiate work called, “The Mystery Religions” wherein you will be shocked at the origins of Christian practice and worship.  In the same vein, but less textbook and more edgy is Timothy Freke’s and Peter Gandy’s, “The Jesus Mysteries.”  

In regard to Gnosticism.  

Gnosticism is the oldest provable form of Christianity if you use the dating of known Christian text.  I believe there is no greater explanation than that of the source and many of these text can be read at

If, however, you prefer a good book, then I recommend Gnosticism & Early Christianity by Robert M. Grant, The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity by David Brakke, and The Psyche in Antiquity:  Gnosticism and Early Christianity by Edward F. Edinger and Deborah A. Wesley 

I do not profess to know much of Odinism or Astarte, but I do know that Odin is viewed in much the same way as Christ.  The allegorical savior of the world against the evil nemesis and trickster named Loki.  It shares many similarities with a faith in Christ and pre-dates the Christian religion.  I would not be so quick to judge it.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Obligations and Charges, Jesters and the Shrine

In the upcoming issue of Living Stones Magazine in my monthly article I will tackle a discussion of the Royal Order of Jesters or Jesters for short.  This group is an invitational body of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.  Now, they will claim they are not "part of the Shrine."  They just happen to be made up of Shriners.  The Shrine will likewise claim that they are not Masonic, they just, likewise, happen to be made up of nothing but Freemasons.

A pin issued by the Jesters depicting a naked Jester with a giant erect penis so large it is forced to rest upon his feet.  The Jesters claim mirth is king, but we are left to wonder whether or not their kind of mirth is Masonic

It is my contention that as Freemasons our obligations never rest. for the upcoming issue which is available in hardcopy subscription or electronic only.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Ashlar You Sought/Thought

I sat and watched a man hold his little girl the other day.  He was sitting next to his beautiful wife and he as fulfilled, happy, and enriched.  He was also tired.  Tired in the way that only a new dad can be.  
I sat with that same Brother years ago when he said that he would never marry, never have children and never share his life to that degree with anyone.
I sat with that same Brother through his proficiencies and we have become great friends.  
I had asked him once, “what changed so much?”  He gave me a one word response at first, and at the time, it was enough because I understood exactly what he meant.  He said, “Masonry.”  
Many men come to Masonry for many different reasons.  This Brother felt spiritual, but not religious.  He wanted  something more, was not sure what, but felt that maybe he could find some like minded men among the confines of the lodge.  He did, but he found much more than he bargained.  
When we allow Masonry to work, it works wonders.  Like any working tool of the Great Architect, how it is used and how we change are often a surprise to us.  All find what is needed, if they allow for it, but what was needed is not often what was wanted.
Sometime later that Brother would tell me, “Masonry taught me that I can give myself to others, that I can, give others what they need because I realize the importance of that need to them and worry much less of its effects on me.  God has blessed me, I can do for others without losing myself.”  He remains a rock of integrity with a truly giving heart and disposition.  He is a changed man, but the ashlar he sought was not in anyway the ashlar he got.
I sought to be a member of my Grandfather’s lodge, to feel closer to him.
When I joined I was a fundamentalist Lutheran who was pretty sure most people outside of the LCMS were going to hell.  I wanted something my Grandfather had.  I was certain it could only enriched my Lutheran faith.
For me, Masonry allowed me to meet, to know and to love men of varied faiths.  Heaven become a lot larger and hell a lot smaller.   I was eventually forbidden membership in the church of my youth.  Not something I sought or ever imagined.
But I am a better man for it.  God’s love has become a bigger part of my life, than God’s wrath.  I have noticed that when my God loves, I can likewise love.  I remember that when my God hated, I likewise hated.
I hear often from men, “How do you find the time?”  They are speaking in reference to my activities within Freemasonry and balancing this with family, work, church, etc.  
You must meditate to find the time to meditate.  You must practice Freemasonry to find Freemasonry in your life.
I want to live in a world where integrity is prized more than wealth.  Where “how” to help is a bigger question than “if” you are going to help.
I know of few places that integrity and a handshake mean trust, love and hope like they do within the Masonic lodge and I would love to live in a world where it did.
That my Brothers is the Relevance of Masonry in a world of war, upheaval and distrust.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Obligation Negotiable?

I was surfing the Internet a bit on my favorite Masonic haunts and came across a discussion that shocked me a bit.  The question posed had do with whether or not it was okay to violate your Masonic obligation for the “good of Freemasonry.”
A man by the name of Oliver Cromwell said once, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”  In other words, don’t believe so strongly in your own infallibility as to become righteous in your indignation.  
There is a certain danger in believing our own rhetoric.  For the Freemason, it is essentially necessary to love the Craft, hold it dear and want to develop it as it helps to develop us.  I was once told by a realtor that they are always excited to hear a couple start talking about all the things they would change about a house they are walking through, because it means on a subconscious level, they have already made it their own.  So it would stand to reason that we would want to give to Freemasonry our builders mark upon its stone.  But, at what price?
Masonry is a phenomenally wonderful system.  We may gripe and complain about some of the things that can drive us a little nutty, but Masonry has always found and provided a system by which it can progress, change and grow.  This does not mean there will not be obstacles.  There are always obstacles to those things worth achieving.  The ignorant will be ignorant, the cruel will be cruel and the envious will be envious and the vindictive will remain as such.  Nonetheless, there is the vote.  
We can legislate change, motivate our Brethren, and renew broken spirits to change a tide.  We can elect qualified Grand Lodge officers, we can create programs so popular and so fulfilling that even our enemies are uncomfortable standing against them.  Every Mason can tell a story about a bad Grand Lodge officer, but few seem to tell stories about how they spent the time and effort to draft a change to their Masonic code or constitutions, visited lodges to speak with Brothers, explain their plan and garner support--and find victory on the day of the vote.  
Men will call for Masonic funerals to bring change, but don’t realize they age, entrench and embitter all the while.
There have been a number of offshoot groups to break away from the system to make a stand and they wither to a footnote.  Amazing that groups of men made up of people who could not get along with a still bigger group never manages to stay organize.
I have seen men working to bring education and philosophy to their lodges accused of everything from witchcraft and forming new religions to the intentional destruction of the Craft.  Yet, I have seen these men persevere and not pervert their integrity by lowering to the level of the accuser.
To shape the stone that is Masonry is our duty and our calling as Masters of the Craft; we shape it as it shapes us.
The way to fix Masonry has never been, nor will it ever be to act un-Masonic.  We can not improve Masonry by violating the very foundations of our initiation and shared experience.  When we convince ourselves that the ends justify the means we have convinced ourselves that Masonic philosophy can not actually improve the very institution that houses it.
Never convince that your obligation is negotiable or expendable.  When we leave this life for that Celestial Lodge we can take little with us, I would like to believe that of the few things we might be able to take, our integrity should be one of them.