Monday, September 29, 2008

Are Dummies and Idiots Wrecking Freemasonry?

The latest edition of the Scottish Rite Research Society's collected papers, Heredom (Vol. 15), arrived while I was enjoying myself in Connecticut last week, and I picked it up over the weekend to savor its contents. It includes Stephen Dafoe's detailed and very important paper on the Morgan incident and the aftermath that led to the huge changes in the fraternity that followed in the wake of Morgan's disappearance—right up to the Baltimore Convention in 1843. Stephen's is a seminal work on the subject, collecting the episode together in a way that has not been done before. I urge Masons with an interest in the history of how and why US Freemasonry developed differently from the rest of the Masonic world to read this important work.

But the first article in Heredom is by Brother Josh Gresham Gunn (right), who currently teaches at the University of Texas at Austin. Brother Gunn's paper is "The Two Rhetorics of Freemasonry," and I urge you to read it in its entirety. This is the third incarnation I have read of this paper (one on his website in bits and pieces, once in a shortened article in the Scottish Rite Journal, and now this one). In all three versions, Brother Gunn has taken issue specifically with me and a passage I wrote in Freemasons For Dummies. He is not alone in having his hackles raised by the passage. I will not attempt to paraphrase his article—again, I urge you to read it for yourself. But I do want to respond to that part of his work that references me.

The quote that Gunn and others find bothersome, offensive or otherwise irksome is this:

In your research about Freemasonry you will doubtless come across the writings of Albert Mackey, Manley Hall, Arthur Edward Waite, and Albert Pike. These men and many others have filled reams of paper with scholarly observations of Freemasonry. They eloquently linked the Craft to the ancient Mystery Schools of Egypt and elsewhere. They wrote that Masonry was directly descended from pagan rites and ancient religions. Some wrote that Masonry was the stepchild of magick, alchemy, and the shadowy mystics who dabbled in the world of the Kabala (Jewish mysticism) and in mysterious ancient writings like Hermes Trismigestes and the Key of Solomon. The works of these men were filled with fabulous tales of beliefs and cultures and cryptic theories of the deepest and earliest origins of Freemasonry.

In short, they wrote a lot of crap.

Guys like Pike and Mackey were incredible scholars and had dazzling intellectual and spiritual knowledge. Their works are both enlightening and frustrating, because they reach into obscure legends and beliefs and drag out what appears to be a lavish and alluring connection over a 3,000-year period to modern Freemasonry. Unfortunately, much of it is metaphysical wishful thinking.

Sadly, they ignored the paper trail and documented evidence that exists in England and Scotland that really tells the story. Freemasonry descended from the stonemason guilds and was taken over in the late 1600s by philosophers and men of science and learning. The Masons did not build cathedrals by using incantations to levitate stones. They did not cast spells to turn their enemies into stone gargoyles shaped as demons. They did not transmogrify base metals into gold to pay their wages. As Arthur C. Clarke has said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Geometry was not a sorcerer’s art — if it were, no one would be safe from an Advanced Placement high schooler with a calculator and a protractor.

Unfortunately, Pike, Mackey, and Hall were prolific. They wrote big, thick books that are in every Masonic library, so people who don’t understand their works to be Masonic folklore trot them out as experts, “noted” Masonic scholars, and long-dead spokesmen. The problem is that their writings are continually cited as “proof” of an occult connection to Masonry. Worse, their writings are often deliberately altered by the critics of the Craft, and Freemasons have to explain all over again to their relatives and ministers that, no, they aren’t reenacting the dismemberment of Osiris, making pagan sacrifices to Lucifer, stirring cauldrons, or worshiping goats.

They were all well read on the wide variety of world religions and cultures, and their work on the subjects of symbolism and philosophy can be fascinating. But let’s just say their version of history of modern-day Freemasonry is not accurate and leave it at that.

—Freemasons For Dummies


Albert Pike literally plagierized much of Morals & Dogma from the French mystic Eliphas Levi, who had his own peculiar theories of Masonic origins. Mackey in his later years reconsidered his more fanciful writings from his younger days. Waite, well, was Waite, who desperately wanted Freemasonry to be something it was not. Hall wrote his most extravagant works on Freemasonry when he was 27, and didn't join the fraternity until he was in his 50s.

I stand by my assertion. They wrote fascinating works that explore symbolic and philosophical topics that had never existed in the fraternity before. They wrote books that are quite fascinating. And they also wrote a lot of crap. Or at least a lot of wishful thinking.

I make it clear in the book that it is my opinion, and that no one book, no one author, is authoritative on Freemasonry. And it is my opinion is that Pike, Waite, Hall, Crowley, Mathers and others found Freemasonry was lacking the ancient, mystical aspects they had hoped for, and so added them themselves.

We had an old gag in advertising: "Where do good ideas come from? SOMEBODY ELSE!"

Freemasonry did not spring forth, fully formed, plump and swollen with its own unique symbolism, and delivered up with drinks at the Goose and Gridiron by the handsome maid Hannah. I don't discount the influences of alchemy, astrology, Rosicrucianism, gnosticism, and a raft of other isms on the formation of the Blue Lodge degrees. Everything comes from somewhere. And the period from the end of the English Civil War up to the Romantic Age (which sprouted its own very different kinds of fascinations) literally turned all accepted dogma and philosophy on its keister.

The change from operative to speculative Freemasonry was, in my mind, a very conscious effort by a group of men who sought to use it to educate a wider audience in the tenets of Enlightenment thinking. Drinking and social clubs were the rage in Britain during the period, and they popped up like crabgrass. Initiation rituals in these clubs were quite common. Men like the members of the Royal Society saw the symbolism of the building trade as an opportunity to teach the new rational methods of thought and education, painlessly, with a memorable initiation event, followed by a fine dinner. It's why I'm an oddball and think the Preston-Webb Fellow Craft Middle Chamber lecture is my favorite part of the three degrees. When it developed there was no third MM degree. There was just Apprentice and Fellow of The Craft. But the MC lecture was—and is—a crash course in the Liberal Arts, and it was created to teach unlearned men who, in most cases, had never encountered these ideas before.

Gunn argues that perhaps the reason why US Freemasonry has lost more than 50% of its membership in the post-1960s era is because of a new sense of openess and transparency that has stripped the fraternity of its aura of secrecy and mystery. Books like Freemasons For Dummies and Brent Morris' Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry, along with a nationwide attempt by Grand Lodges to say "No secrets here!" have made the Craft TOO accessible, TOO simple. And Gunn is not the first or only critic to claim that Freemasonry had some earlier, better time when it wrapped itself more thoroughly in occult mysteries.

The Dummies and Idiots books are designed to be the first ones someone picks up on a subject, not the last one. They are informal, easy to digest introductions to a topic, designed to answer the common questions, and provide enough information to hopefully spur the reader to dig deeper. Masonic historians have been dancing angels on pinheads over the origin of the fraternity for two centuries, once they started coming to the conclusion that Anderson's fairy tales might be suspicious. Reading Pike and Waite and Hall, and to a lesser extent, Mackey, requires a few years in the fraternity, experiencing both Blue Lodge and appendant body degrees, and lots of reading, along with a healthy dose of skepticism. All of that is beyond the scope of either Freemasons For Dummies or The Complete Idiots Guide To Freemasonry. While I understand the feeling of some Masons that seeing the term Dummy or Idiot in conjunction with Freemasonry gives them stomach upset, I would say that you are not the audience the books are trying to educate.

If the identical book—same text, same sidebars and cartoons—were to be published by the Grand Lodge of Your-Name-Here as the "Official Grand Lodge Masonic Education Manual" with a gray cover and official Grand Lodge seal on the cover, few would read it, secretaries wouldn't order it for candidates, and grand lodge warehouses would be stacked to the rafters with unshipped copies. It is the Dummies and Idiots brands that appeal to two generations of readers who have come to depend on the two series as introductions to subjects they want to know about quickly. Neither my book nor Brent Morris' are designed to be the be all and end all of Masonic education. But if they spur new Masons (or old ones) to study further—Masons who might otherwise have never read a book about the fraternity before—then they have done their job.

I do not believe that some “golden age” of esoteric Masonry has EVER really existed on a large scale within the Craft, and I would challenge anyone to identify it. I would argue that the Royal Society members who most probably shaped the change from operative to speculative Freemasonry certainly used the currency of Enlightenment thinking and philosophy when they fashioned the changes in ceremonies. But if you look at the earliest English and French exposures between the 1717 formation of the Grand Lodge, up through the 1750s and 60s, you don’t get the big waves of symbolic lecture material appearing until Preston comes along in the 1790s. And if Freemasonry really descended from Scottish traditions, as David Stevenson alleges, I don’t see the esoteric or gnostic evidence there either. Anderson’s Constitutions read like an updated Regius poem, even though he never saw it. Lodge hierarchy and traditions came from a provable paper trail that leads back to at least the 1300s, and it is steeped in Christian, née Catholic, antecedents. But Grand Lodge was formed to revive the Annual Feast, NOT the annual reading of papers on the ancient alchemical elements.

I don’t deny that Masonry, in particular the Scottish Rite degrees, is rife with imagery and concepts borrowed from earlier sources. I do NOT believe, however, that Blue Lodge, Craft Freemasonry in its post-1717 form is a direct descendant of the Mystery Schools, Kabbala, Alchemy, or Rosicrucianism (which sprouted at almost exactly the same time). Everything I study points me in the belief that Freemasonry is more the child of the cosmopolitan eating/drinking/reading/philosophy clubs of London that were exploding in popularity at this same period, than of some ancient “mystery” tradition.

Freemasonry did not appear out of a vacuum. I believe that the speculative gentlemen who took over the guild did exactly what our traditions say they did - they saw in the stonemasons something unique, they co-opted the allegory of cathedral building as a lesson in character building, and they draped it with myth and symbolism grabbed from a wide variety of existing sources. The explosion of other similar clubs and fraternal groups that did the same sort of thing during the same period of time points to the conclusion that modern Freemasonry was part of a larger social movement, and probably not an extension of a medieval or older mystery cult.

Did the hundreds of degrees that sprouted across France and Germany after Ramsey's Oration bring gnosticism, alchemy, astrology, Qaballah, Jewish and Christian mysticism, Martinism, and more into Freemasonry? Sure. For 150 years or more there was a mania for creating new degrees across Europe. But if a degree filled with Rosicrucian philosophy was invented in 1782 by someone who was fascinated with Rosicrucianism, that's not evolution. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Do these additional degrees bring "wise and serious truths" to Freemasonry? Of course they do. Even if they are comparatively modern creations, do they introduce ancient philosophies into the fraternity? Again, no contest. But like Pastafarianism, it's the intentional design of someone cherry picking old concepts and wrapping them in a new package. They are "ancient" in that they use ancient ideas, not that they descended in an evolutionary line traceable to an ancient source. Creating a new degree, then jumping back and shrieking, "Look! This ancient degree is descended from Egyptian Sun God worship!" isn't exactly divine revelation. It's self-aggrandizement. It may be interesting, enjoyable, and even enlightening. But you just wrote it. And claiming you found it under an old apron in a dusty box in the library where it was left by Unknown Superiors, or that some gnarled bookseller along the Seine tucked it out from under her skirts where it had been secreted away since Charlemagne... sorry, call me a skeptic.

Finally, there is little no evidence whatsoever that the loss of Masonic members today has anything to do with some loss of esoteric tradition that existed at some mythical point in the 19th or 20th century. That IS wishful thinking. The losses the fraternity is suffering from today has to do with the statistical aberration of waves of joiners between 1939 and 1952. I submit that Freemasonry has never lost large groups of its members because of some nebulous elimination of esoteric philosophy from the lodges. Lodges, by and large, have NEVER had an overwhelming concentration on the ancient “mysteries,” whatever you may conceive them to be. George Washington didn’t join a lodge to divine the secrets of the ancients, no matter what Katherine Kurtz novels may claim. Freemasonry was, as early as the 1730s, largely an organization to socialize with the movers and shakers in the community.

There have always been men within the fraternity who have sought to trace modern Freemasonry’s traditions to an earlier philosophy, religion or tradition. Men like Pike and Hall and Mackey and many others truly believed what they wrote (although Mackey in later years admitted that his more youthful writings had been self-fulfilling wishful thinking. Would that Pike had done the same in later years with what he cribbed from Levi). But modern scholarship has has blown the dust off of quaint 19th century notions about many things in the world. I find comfort and wisdom in those earlier scholars’ works. But there is much that is just plain wrong, and worse, much that is just plain made up. And it is intellectually dishonest not to call them on it, simply because we might want to believe what cannot be proved, or has been disproved.

Would Freemasonry profit by introducing more mysterious aspects, locking the doors and cultivating instead of shunning the “secret society” moniker? Possibly. This is what Traditional Observance lodges are attempting to do. But, while satisfying to their members, they remain a small curiosity within the fraternity right now. In an age that hangs on every word written about Jedi Knights, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and other legendary, mythic stories, groups, and characters, it could be that Freemasonry is pursuing exactly the wrong tactic with its new openness. Frankly, I wanted my lodge to be, well, cooler than it turned out to be in life. A little incense, guys in black robes… (Wait! Those would be Jesuits!) So, it could very well be that we need to be cultivating a more mysterious aura. Time will tell. And as the reins of the fraternity get turned over to a younger group of leaders, perhaps those changes will happen at a faster clip. The lack of the Baby Boomers who didn’t join as young men have given Masonry a bad case of hardening of the arteries. That is changing. And there should always be a place in Freemasonry for individual lodges to pursue that path, if it is the will of its members.

I don't discount the enjoyment and fascination many of my brethren derive from studying such topics. The fraternity has survived and grown because of its elastic walls that have embraced a huge array of disciplines and philosophies—there certainly haven't been 10,000 books written about the Odd Fellows or the Knights of Columbus. But personally, in the end, I tend to come down on the side of H. L. Haywood's remarks in A Bird’s Eye View of Masonic History (1921):

“Freemasons, for some reason or other, always have been, and even now remain, peculiarly susceptible to the appeal of the occult; we have had some experience in this country during recent years that prove this. No doubt a learned dustman can find particles of gold buried away in the debris of occultism and the true gold, even in small quantities, is not to be despised; but the dangers attendant upon trifling with the magical are a heavy price to pay for what little we can gain. Those who have, with worn fingers, untangled the snarl of occult symbolism, tell us that these secret cults have been teaching the doctrine of the one God, of the brotherhood of man, and of the future life of the soul; all this is good but one doesn’t need to wade through jungles of weird speculations in order to come upon the teachings that one may find in any Sunday School. It behooves the wise student to walk warily; perhaps the wisest things is to leave occultism altogether alone. Life is too short to tramp around its endless labyrinths. Moreover, there is on the surface of Freemasonry enough truth to equip any of us for all time to come.”

59 comments:

Michael said...

My brother, that is exceptionally well said. Thank you.

SBrentMorris33 said...

Three cheers. (And make that four cheers for the nice things you said about my Idiots book!) The "secrets" that the press want to know about have been in continuous publication since 1723 - passwords, signs, etc. They are not even aware of the secrets they should be asking about.

Why would soldiers risk their lives and careers to aid or bury an enemy on the battlefield - just because he was a Mason?

Why would complete strangers show up at your father-in-law's funeral - just because he was a Mason?

Why would Masons come to my mother's funeral because they recongized my name in the obituary - just because I am a Mason?

These are the secrets of Masonry that cannot be explained or published and are only known to the true initiate.

Brent
The Idiot

Magus Masonica said...

Oy vey!!

If you guys don't get it, I can't explain it.

Please, pretty please make sure that there is some kind of "knife and fork" disclaimer on the mainstream from now on. That way, those of us that want more won't waste our time. OK?
S&F,
BC

haunted said...

Thanks, Chris, for taking the time to respond. You and I will agree to disagree. I still think your dismissive tone, singled by the ill-chosen phrase "crap," says the wrong thing to both audiences.

You claim that your style was adopted for the new audience in order to encourage them to dig deeper. I'm sorry, brother, but writing off Pike et al. as producing "crap" has and will have the opposite effect.

Esotericism is, in fact, the root of Masonry. That's not my opinion. That's the ritual. That's what my essay is about--the two rhetorics.

Regardless, I hold you in high esteem, my brother. Our fraternity's very long tradition of supporting disagreement and debate inside and outside of the lodge walls---the republican ideology we hold so dear---allows you and me to have this dialogue. That is something to cherish and protect. S&F!

haunted said...

Ooop, "haunted" above is Joshua Gunn.

Magus Masonica said...

"Esotericism is ritual."


Yes, yes AMEN!!!!

Spiritual alchemy is the point!! It is too bad that the doors have been opened to let it the heard who should have been Moose or Elk. Nothing wrong with Moose or Elk but Freemasonry is so much different than another philanthropic dining club. IMHO anyway and I could be wrong.

S&F,
BC

Cerberus said...

Well said, brother.

As much as I really want there to be a direct link between the mystery schools, etc., and Freemasonry, the fact remains that, at least so far, no such link has been established.

I also agree with you about the origins of the Craft and the incorporation of esotericism into the ritual has been purposely grafted in by the early speculative Masons. I believe this makes such ideas no less worthy, but do not prove a link to ancient philosophies.

A final thought - your article brings to mind Occam's Razor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor). Your thoughts make the most sense given the facts and human nature.

S&F

Cerberus

Tom Accuosti said...

I do not believe that some “golden age” of esoteric Masonry has EVER really existed on a large scale within the Craft, and I would challenge anyone to identify it.

Bro. Chris, before I joined, I would have disagreed on this point; wanting more esoteric insights is the reason that I joined the fraternity.

Now that I'm an old-timer of seven years, I've found that my own readings have led me, if not to those same conclusions, then at least to something in the same neighborhood.

I do often wonder why the Masons managed to survive out of the hundreds of drinking/eating/conviviality clubs that were rampant in England, but I suppose that there must have been some kind of (and I use this word loosely) elitism in belonging to the club that members of royalty, scientists, and other philosophers enjoyed.

As to your estimation of the words of Pike, etc., well, certainly some of it is off the wall - a forerunner to the New Age-y studies of channeling, crystals, astrology, and the arts dependent upon them. I do, however, maintain that if such studies lead people to higher truths, or even simply to being better people, then it's all good.

As long as they don't expect me to believe it, too.

As to the loss of membership because we're too busy disclaiming our esoteric roots, I say that this is not what my admittedly anecdotal research points to. I tend to see mainly men joining who a) had a relative in the Craft (father, grandfather, uncle, etc.) or b) have a good friend or cow-orker who is a member of a particular lodge. The idea that they are joining a society with connections to esotericists may seem interesting, but I don't see this as the motivation behind most of those who join.

The people who join looking for some unbroken link to "the wisdom of the ancients" are doomed to disappointment. Personally, I no longer believe that such links exist - but I also don't believe that such links are necessary for one to improve one's own knowledge. Wisdom is all around us in various religions and philosophies. It doesn't become any more valid, any more or less wise if it comes from 2,000 years ago or 20 minutes ago.

Tom Accuosti said...

It is too bad that the doors have been opened to let it the heard who should have been Moose or Elk.

Amazing. The thing about Freemasonry is that so many people have an idea of what it should be... and they're probably all right. It's almost as if you had half a dozen blind guys touching and elephant and describing it.

Magus Masonica said...

I can say, beyond any shadow of a doubt that there is a direct link between Hermiticism and the Egyptian Rites of Freemasonry. No doubt whatsoever. Perhaps it has been beacuse what most have to experience is so edited and dumbed down that the mystical thread that binds is even more hidden?
S&F
BC

Chris Hodapp said...

Josh,

Perhaps the use of "balderdash" would have been less impolitic than "crap," but the Dummies format dissuades the use of polysyllabic vocabulary. And "crap" is certainly punchier... (LOL!)

There are no facile answers about why Freemasonry has lost its place in society, but perhaps the more notable part of the story is that it HAS survived when larger groups like the Odd Fellows have all but vanished from the Earth. It has survived because the fraternity has embraced so many different degrees, philosophies and systems, while still keeping them together as the family of Freemasonry. So many other esoteric groups have been born, grew, argued, splintered and died. But Freemasonry has made HUGE changes in itself over the last 350 or more years. The addition of new degrees and appendant bodies, readily accepted in very short time frames, attest to its elastic strengths.

Chris Hodapp said...

"magus masonicus" said:

I can say, beyond any shadow of a doubt that there is a direct link between Hermiticism and the Egyptian Rites of Freemasonry. No doubt whatsoever. Perhaps it has been beacuse what most have to experience is so edited and dumbed down that the mystical thread that binds is even more hidden?

Brad,
The "Egyptian Rites" were a later addition, created by 19th century men who wanted to dabble in Hermeticism. It is a post-Napoleonic creation that was strapped to the back of French and to a lesser extent Italian and Germanic Freemasonry. It was an innovation on the body of Freemasonry, and had zero to do with what was going on in Scotland and England after the 1640s. Quaint. Curious. Pretty to look at. Fun to read. Maybe even impressive to go through. But it wasn't Freemasonry, and it was rejected by most Masonic bodies worldwide in the 1800s as schismatic.

Men looking for hocus pokus, magicum mysteria, and other mystical diversions might be happier in the OTO.

John said...

Very well said Brother Chris,

One of my favorite books on esoteric Freemasonry is 'The Meaning of Masonry' by Wilmhurst.

This is quite an old book and, even way back when, Wilmhurst was decrying the fact that so many Masons were out of touch with the esoteric meanings inside the craft.

He especially voiced concerns about the knife and fork Masons, who joined for purely social reasons.

Of course, the great rise in popularity and membership in Masonry in the United States was purely based on a social movement.

When membership in Freemasonry declined it declined for the exact same reason that membership in the Lions Club declined.

People got televisions and, later, the Internets, and changed their priorities so dramatically that the friendly and social intercourse of any social club began to fall pretty dramatically on people's list of priorities.

For anyone who decries the loss of membership in Freemasonry I challenge them to join a Lions Club chapter, as I have done. The stories of the old timers about how 'things used to be' is no different than what you hear in any Masonic lodge.

In my view the topic of esoteric Freemasorny doesn't even *belong* in a lodge; as we are supposed to avoid the discussion of religion in that setting.

If you want to discuss philosophy and enlightenment ideas, that is all well and good. However, what most mean by 'esoteric' is tantamount to a form of religion as it makes reference to paranormal and spiritual world views that quickly move into the New Age/woo woo category. Don't try to deny it, you only have to read the writes of esoterically minded Masonic authors to see that this is so. Spiritualism and theosophy might be entertaining, but I don't see how they belong inside the lodge.

I'm all for esoterica, and if you perform a ritual and think you are manipulating the forces of the Universe, I think that is just awesome.

Let's talk about it, over a beer, outside of the lodge. But don't complain that your religious beliefs, which is what esoterica ultimately amounts to, aren't being sufficiently promoted in the lodge.

Least Worshipful Little Brother John W. Ratcliff

Chris Hodapp said...

And there are those who have attempted to substitute Freemasonry for the lack of religion or faith in their own lives.

Magus Masonica said...

Bro. Hodapp,
The Rite of the Philedelphs was created in 1722. Rite of Narbone in 1733 and the Rite of Misraim in 1777. Hardley 19th century. May I remind you that the Grand Orient of Italy has an active portion dedicated to Egyptian Rites. You are commanded to recognize them so let's not paint everything with the famous "illegit" brush.
S&F,
BC

Chris Hodapp said...

"Commanded," am I?

The Primitive Rite of Narbonne of which a Philadelphe lodge was a part, appeared in 1780, not 1733 or before as you claim. The Rite of Mizraim appeared in Italy 1805, not 1777.

But do tell: when was Masoneria Egipcia del Antiguo Primitivo Rito de Memphis Misraim established, and by whose authority? And who chartered your Temple Sobek-Ra? And were the degrees conferred on you by someone who possessed them? And is the Grand Orient of Italy likewise "commanded' to recognize the M.E.A.P.R.M.M.(L.S.M.F.T.)?

Oh, never mind. Don't bother. REALLY. It would only hijack this more serious discussion and send it down the same rabbit hole it always goes.

Tom Accuosti said...

But don't complain that your religious beliefs, which is what esoterica ultimately amounts to, aren't being sufficiently promoted in the lodge.

And along with my coming around to the idea that there was never any "Golden Age" of Freemasonry, I'm also coming around - or at least, seeing the concept - of John's contention that the Esoteric is ultimately bound to religion.

But...

I tend to see the esoteric, symbolic, and allegorical aspects as being more of a subset of religious studies in general, and not particular to any one. To me, this makes them suitable for discussion in open lodge.

Peter Yancey said...

Hello Chris,

I truly enjoyed this article and I agree completely with your observations. I am certainly no Masonic scholar and am not by any stretch of the imagination an expert on the history of Freemasonry but from what I do know, including reading such works as "Isaac Newton's Freemasonry" and Jacob's "The Origins of Freemasonry" the origins of the Craft do start during the "Enlightenment" period. It is understandable, but sad, that many get caught up in Templar nonsense and occultism. Groups like the OTO exist to meet those needs. Not Freemasonry.

The Palmetto Bug said...

Chris,

This has got to be one of the more controversial topics that I have seen on your site. Me thinks someone hit one of your nerves.

Everyone knows that Freemasonry was handed down to man directly from God and that the M.E.A.P.R.M.M is simply a rejected MM's way of trying to gain acceptance into the Fraternity. ;-)

By the way; I have never read your books or the Idiot book from Brent Morris. I'll admit that the titles turned me off just a tad. Admittedly, that may be because I have been around a day or two and those books are not targeted towards folks like me. I do have the current edition of Heredom and have just started digging into it.

haunted said...

Chris,

I hadn't planned to respond more than what I have above. A handful of emails, as well as a number of posts here, changed my mind. For the commentators, I would second readers to actually read the article before you pass judgment on the article. It's a good reason to become a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society; the dues are incredibly modest compared to almost every other research society I know.

That said, let me disavow anyone who would claim my argument or work as proof that there are ancient links to the contemporary Craft, or that there is any historical link between Masonry and the Mysteries, and so forth. I never make any such claims. Chris is correct that our brethren in the nineteenth century read a lot of ancient esoteric material INTO Masonic philosophy. To suggest this was wrong or incorrect---or to harp on the fact that Pike plagiarized his material---is to misunderstand Masonry as a dynamic esoteric tradition. In the computer lingo of our time, Masonry is something like an "open code system." There are limits to the "platform," but one is free to interpret symbolism within certain limits. And to dismiss Pike as a plagiarist is a cheap-shot: many grand, revered occultists did this (e.g., H.P. Blavatsky), and often under the premise of the objectivity of knowledge. In other words, intellectual property law twernt as forceful as it is today.

To claim the craft has an esoteric tradition does not require the tradition to be thousands of years old. Esotericism does not mean "older than dirt itself." Rather, according to the OED, the esoteric is defined this way: "Of philosophical doctrines, treatises, modes of speech, etc.: Designed for, or appropriate to, an inner circle of advanced or privileged disciples; communicated to, or intelligible by, the initiated exclusively. Hence of disciples: Belonging to the inner circle, admitted to the esoteric teaching." That's it. That Masonry is esoteric means it is "secret," "exclusive," and "speech-based" or "oral."

Chris seems to suggest I argue for a "golden age" of Masonry. Of course, in my essay I claim that Masonry seems to always have been worried about its imminent demise, that a subtle form of apocalyptic is operative in the second, or promotional, rhetoric throughout its history.

In other words, I want to resist your and your commentators folding my argument into what we might call the "historical link" bunch. The power of my argument, I hope, is not that I locate the necessity of secrecy in historical precedent, but practice. Not in pyramids or Rosslyn, but in the very utterances you and I made at the stated meeting last week. The force of my argument is not rooted in the Mysteries, but in the rumbling belly of that entering apprentice and what he hears and feels on his first degree. In other words, my defense of secrecy is made in terms of its FUCTION, which you and your commentators seem to describe as merely superfluous. Please do read the article and don't try to associate my arguments with the pop history and conspiracy crowd. In other words, lets not crate a straw man of my essay (type "straw man" into wikipedia for more detail).

To use Chris' argot, let's "cut through the crap" and address the real disagreement here: whether or not a decline in membership and prominence is a good thing. I think Masonry is a secret and elite group (historical evidence DOES bear that one out), and should remain that way. Others think the decline in membership is "bad," and that to change this decline, we must do more publicity, more outreach, more . . . watering down. Insofar as what I cherish about the Craft is precisely that there's a lot to learn, that its symbols confuse me, that it challenges my quest for control and mastery, a watered down, dumber, more idiot-friendly Masonry is not what I want. I don't want the answers handed to me. For me, becoming a Master Mason was the height of irony! Mastery is not the goal! The goal is constantly learning that I am not a master of my destiny and am called to be humble before my brethren and before certain death.

Fortunately, I know (beyond the reasonable author compensation for the labor) that the proceeds made from the books published with these highly visible, large volume, widely circulated presses are going back to the Craft and charity.

I also hope that the House of the Temple was paid a handsome sum for letting Universal Pictures shoot a film there last spring. I made a special trip to Washington DC to visit the House of the Temple---took off of work and everything. I checked and double checked the Temple website. When I showed up at the door for the touring hours, the very hours the website announced the Temple would be open, I was turned away because Universal wasn't done shooting. No apologies. Actually, the people at the door (film people, not SR people) were very rude.

My point: is publicity or profit worth the damage?

S&F,

Joshua Gunn

Robert Cairo said...

I just finished reading Bro. Gunn's essay a couple of days ago and found myself somewhat agreeing with him.

It was Bro. Morris's "Idiots" book that finally prompted me to petition my local lodge. I was interested in the opportunities for spiritual growth and becoming more active in my community.My lodge has good men that I am proud to call my brethren.

However, many of them are unaware of any deeper meaning to the ritual. My lodge had been missing its Rough and Perfect Ashlars for decades. I obtained a couple of small pieces of granite and made the ashlars. When I brought the ashlars into the lodge room and was putting the Perfect Ashlar on a stand, one of the older brothers asked what was that thing I had. When I explained the meaning of the Perfect Ashlar to him, he seemed surprised that he had forgotten (and he's a Past Master!)

Don't misunderstand me, I love my lodge but I have to agree with Bro. Gunn that many of the brethern have forgotten about the philosophical component of Freemasonry, and solely concentrate on the fellowship and charitable works.

However, attempting to link Freemasonry with the ancient Egyptians or Mayans or American Indians or ... (fill in the blank) IS a bunch of crap. If, on the other hand, the objective is to think more deeply about our obligations to the G.A.O.T.U. and our fellow man, then the esoteric aspect is worthwile.

Bro. Morris is absolutely correct: the real secrets of Freemasonry aren't published, they have to be experienced. My father-in-law died suddenly last month and he was a Mason. Men I had never met came because my father-in-law had been a Mason and business associates were openly weeping because he had been such good and upright man.

I think both Bro. Morris's "Idiots" book and Bro. Hodapp's "Dummies" book provide a sane alternative to the "Freemasons Want to Control the World!!!!" type books. Both books complement each other and make an excellent introduction to the Craft.

Chris Hodapp said...

Joshua, I agree and reiterate:

Read Brother Joshua's article in its entirety. And, frankly, all of Heredom.

Joshua said:
"I think Masonry is a secret and elite group (historical evidence DOES bear that one out), and should remain that way. Others think the decline in membership is "bad," and that to change this decline, we must do more publicity, more outreach, more . . . watering down. "

No, we must do more teaching.

There's lots of hand-wringing in this fraternity about whether we are "relevant" to society. Two generations of men do not know who or what Masons are, what we do, what we believe. Their grandfathers and fathers didn't pass that tradition along—or it was rejected outright by men who didn't want anything to do with their fathers' institutions. The Craft did not supply anything to fill the void on a widespread level, and so, for two decades, the ONLY strong voices heard in the media or the community were the anti-Masons. So our job is 10 times as difficult now as it was in 1960, because we have to tell men who and what we are, and not just keep the lights on in hopes that they will come. I do not equate publicity and outreach with "watering down." Honestly, I regard what happened in the 1940s-50s and the explosion of numbers as far more watering down than anything going on now.


Joshua said:
Insofar as what I cherish about the Craft is precisely that there's a lot to learn, that its symbols confuse me, that it challenges my quest for control and mastery, a watered down, dumber, more idiot-friendly Masonry is not what I want. I don't want the answers handed to me.

If you want a smarter, idiot-free fraternity, then Masons need to become educated. You have to start somewhere, and lodges aren't doing it on a widespread basis. The AASR-SJ's Master Craftsman Program is unique precisely because it is so unusual.

Again, Dummies/Idiots books are not the last books you're supposed to reach for, but they often are the first. Not everyone is ready for—or wants—esoteric studies. But until these two books arrived on the scene, there was literally no place a new Mason or interested non-Mason could find the history, philosophy, general structure and nomenclature of the fraternity all in one simple, truthful place they could trust. Like it or not, the public culture is slowly rediscovering Freemasonry, but they were doing it in goofy places. National Treasure is no place to learn about Freemasons. The public trusts the Dummies/Idiots books to at least be factual and non-threatening.

I want smarter Masons, too. So ask Kenny Roberts or Mike Poll or Stephen Dafoe or Mark Koltko-Rivera about the untold millions they AREN'T scooping up with a money rake by being in the Masonic publishing business. Go look up Dafoe's paper "Reading, Writing & Apathy: The Fall of Masonic Education" and then try to make the argument that throngs of Masons are starving for tougher educational material. And there are business problems, too. Non-Masons need something in the bookstore besides Duncan's Ritual, the Hiram Key, and Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus trilogy. The practical considerations of the marketplace and the book publishing business can't be ignored. While you may recoil in horror at Freemasons For Dummies, a huge segment of the population turn to the Dummies/Idiots books because they have a dozen of the books in their house already, that taught them about sewing, golf and scuba diving. That's why bookstores stock them and don't stock the catalog of Cornerstone or Anchor books. Because they sell. (Go ahead and insert a P.T. Barnum quote here if you feel the need.)

Masons need introductory material that they will actually pick up, read and finish, before they are willing to make the jump to harder material. Before 2005, there was nothing on the market like these two books. In the case of FMFD, it has sold four times what the average For Dummies book sells in a comparable time frame (a fact born out by my other two Dummies books). I'm sure Brent's book has done similar business. That screams to me that there was a vacuum of information on this fraternity that needed to be filled.

You are an educator. You know students learn in a thousand different ways. You know Freemasonry has so many branches and aspects, and that every Mason joins and stays or leaves for his own reason and interests. Not everyone likes, needs or wants Dummies and Idiots books, just as not all want Pike, Hall, or Waite. I know more than a few Masons who can't wait to have a virtual reality CGI Middle Chamber lecture.

Truth is, Claudy was the only guy who had his head on straight... < smile >


Joshua said:
I made a special trip to Washington DC to visit the House of the Temple---took off of work and everything. I checked and double checked the Temple website. When I showed up at the door for the touring hours, the very hours the website announced the Temple would be open, I was turned away because Universal wasn't done shooting. No apologies. Actually, the people at the door (film people, not SR people) were very rude.

Sounds like my attempt to tour the Grand Orient of France in Paris. You don't know what rude and closing early is until you've had "Fermé" sneered at you an hour before closing...

Stephen Dafoe said...

"Go look up Dafoe's paper "Reading, Writing & Apathy: The Fall of Masonic Education" and then try to make the argument that throngs of Masons are starving for tougher educational material."

Chris:

I got out of Masonic publishing because I found I could just as easily lose my money by flushing it directly down the toilet. Plenty of time and effort saved for other things.

In one of my rounds of book proposals, I pitched a book on Masonic philosophy to a Masonic publisher.

The reply from my sounding board contact was - and this is from a Masonic publisher - "I think a book on Masonic philosophy would be a hard sell to the board."

However, Masonic joke books and trivia seem to be just what the doctor ordered.

But is it a matter that Masonic publishing houses aren't interested in publishing relevant and important books on Freemasonry, or is it that they know Freemasons won't purchase them?

We all know the answer to that.

As I've said in an interview, soon to be published in Sigler's Working Tools, I can no longer waste my time writing books for an audience that does not read books.

I'm happy to write about Freemasonry for Heredom, The Masonic Society Journal, or Knight Templar Magazine. But when it comes to writing that puts bread on my table, Freemasonry isn't going to be part of the mix, unless it is a book that will be available to a general readership like Freemasons for Dummies.

Carl Claudy wrote plenty of books on Freemasonry, but he also wrote science fiction novels and comic books too. There was a reason for this – he needed to eat.

haunted said...

Chris,

Once again I appreciate your cheer, careful tone, and care in this discussion. Just a few more points.

First, I didn't say publicity is to be equated with "watering down," although there is a very close link. In the essay, I argue that the ideology of publicity is the larger force behind an increasing transparency. As I argue there, publicity is driven by the uncovering of secrets. Celebrity culture, for example, thrives on uncovering the secrets of the stars. That ideology permeates our culture, and I suggest in part that recent interest in Masonry has to do with this larger ideology.

This ideology of publicity creates a new demand, especially one of disclosure. The analog here is "outing." The pressures for Masonry to divest its secrets today is profound. To say publicly that "there are no secrets" to Masonry, I argue, is a reaction to this pressure. There are secrets, and then there are secrets, as Bro. Morris notes above. Regardless, I think the rhetoric of divestiture is the wrong reaction to the pressures of publicity. I don't necessarily agree silence (our longest response) is good either. I just wish more Masons were saying, "yes, we have secrets, and that's a good thing."

By "watering down," I don't mean to suggest the content popular books such as yours; I mean the informal style and dismissive tone (e.g., the "rhetoric"). Believe me, I do appreciate the approach to educating in common argot: I do it myself. I teach informally in my classroom. I use tons of popular culture examples to illustrate, for example, Aristotle's theory of emotion. I am just not convinced such casual tones and styles are appropriate for Masonic matters. And yes, that tone and style is signaled by the words "idiot" and "dummy."

Second, I'm not after a "smarter" Masonry. I worry characterizing my call in this way will make me seem arrogant. My elitism is of a brotherly, moral sort. What I mean by appreciating the challenge of Masonic ritual and symbolism has more to do with ETHICS: by confronting something I cannot understand, I am humbled. That's what I mean by the irony of the name of the third degree: a the moment I am raised to Master Mason, I realize that I don't know enough, that I don't know it all, that I am anything but a "master." So, to me, the gesture of transparency in our promotional rhetoric implicitly promises mastery; to begin at the stage of an "idiot" or "dummy" implies you can overcome such a state. But to me, Masonic opacity teaches me that I am always a dummy and idiot as a Mason---learning to accept that is a form of brotherly humility before death. I'm not saying that there are not things to learn, or that there is such a thing as Masonic education. I'm just saying that the process is NEVER FINISHED, that it is on going, that . . . well, that there is no Mastery.

Finally, I feel Dafoe's (hunger) pain. There is not a widespread readership for Masonic philosophy. My position, however, is that this is ok.

S&F,

Joshua Gunn

Stephen Dafoe said...

"Finally, I feel Dafoe's (hunger) pain."

Let me assure you, Dafoe is far from hungry, as my wasteline proves.

Wayfaring Man said...

The elephant in the room is that by and large, most Masons have a collective case of ADHD concerning Masonic scholarship. The good news, however, is that introductory books like Dummies and Idiots are very accessible and not off-putting to the average Mason.

That they additionally attract non-Masons is something we should celebrate, not decry.

audevidetace.blogspot.com

Scout32 said...

Gee, Chris.... With all these great ideas, you should consider writing a book.

A couple thoughts...
I think that every GL that holds a ODC should also give those members a copy of Dummies or Idiots. Not only will it boost sales, but they are more likely to read one of them than a Monitor.

If you remove the esoteric connections of Masonry, what will we have to talk about in the pubs after the stated meeting. Oh, wait...That would involve alcohol.

Oh, well. I'm back to my plotting to revive the Merovingian Empire and continue the Masonic Global Domination Program.
Fraternally,
Chris Kimmel
Vincennes Lodge #1

Buffalo Bill said...

My Brother,
I have waded though about a dozen books on Freemasonry since I joined the fraternity about a year ago. I really and truly believe that the ideas put forth by Pike, Macky and alike are not "crap" but interpretations by the individual that wrote the volumes. Isn't this what is encouraged by our fraternity? Each brother making his own inner journey. I submit that if after many years within the Craft, that if I should write about it, it to may contain "crap" which only I believe. Others may read it and determine that they either agree or disagree with what I have written. Again this should well be. As with any Masonic author I have read so far there is usually some hint in the acknowledgements or foreword that state that the reader may accept or reject any of the ideas contained. I would hope that the brethren will continue reading this "crap" since it will "enlighten" some and inspire others. I do agree with you about the source or decline of membership. I am the only Mason in my immediate family. I began my journey a few years ago and did some research and culminated in asking for a petition and being welcomed into the lodge and have been busily educating myself and being educated by my brethren.

S&F
BA

Chris Hodapp said...

Buffalo Bill said:
"Others may read it and determine that they either agree or disagree with what I have written. "

And that's really the point. Plenty regard what I've written as "crap" too, and that's their prerogative. And by no means do I believe that Mackey, Pike, Waite, Hall et al didn't write important works with fascinating discussions and ideas contained in them. But I believe that tackling Morals & Dogma or Lost Keys of Freemasonry as a non-Mason or a new Mason creates an image of the fraternity that is disconnected from reality, and that a Mason needs to be armed with facts before proceeding to fancy.

Tom Accuosti said...

and that a Mason needs to be armed with facts before proceeding to fancy.

Wait, you're going to start an argument over what the facts actually are!

Oh crap.

Chris Hodapp said...

Shaking head and reaching for narcotics...

2 BOWL CAIN said...

"Are Dummies and Idiots Wrecking Freemasonry?
No, too late, it already wrecked.
that is my vote to the question posed.

I find value in CC Zain's "Ancient Masonry".. Where he lays out the hidden, ancient meaning of the symbols and their import to the ancient society.
Success as a society and a "race" depended on a system of moral value that pre-dated religion's upsurge.


there are ancient, hidden meanings to our crafts symbols and rituals that pre date any building guilds metamorphosis...beauty is in the eye of the beholder....

but in no way is what Hall wrote, or Pike in "Esoterika" Crap? IMHO

Names and places have changed throughout history, "freemasonry" was the "last" name publicly labeled to what was know to some as the "Spirit of Freemasonry". The institutional form that Americans now practice is devoid of the original "Spirit"(oral law) passed down through the Ages by the Inner Court.
Crap?
Fellow Brethren always remember:"Never give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs. Otherwise, they will trample them with their feet and then turn around and attack you."
Matthew 7:6

So correct, the Fraternity is strictly a descendant from the guilds...........("these are not the droids you are looking for" says Obie One)
wow

Howard Roark said...

Did Free-Masonry evolve out of the esoteric and occult pagan rites? Sure it did, but so did modern society. Modern Chemistry evolved out of Alchemy, Astronomy from Astrology, etc. It is impossible to separate the present from the past.

Much of the symbolism used in Free-Masonry is taken from past civilizations. To deny this is to be oblivious to history.

What we now call Free-Masonry, however, is not one and the same with the societies of the past. It was a new evolution that borrowed from them, and adapted new meanings to the older symbols.

Pike and the others were right in the sense that these symbols did in fact come from the mysteries of the past, but wrong in creating a direct link to the Ancient Mysteries.

Free-Masonry was a product of its time (the early Enlightenment). What we have today is a very misguided interpretation of the original Craft that attempts to re-write history in order to serve the vanity of a few old men such as Brent Morris.

Chris Hodapp said...

As opposed to the vanity of Albert Mackey, Albert Pike.

Or Jeff Peace.

Ya know Jeff, we were having a pretty good civil dialogue here until you and your little buddy showed up. Why don't you take your attacks back to your traditional cosmopolitan lodge, where they will undoubtedly be welcomed with raucous applause.

2 BOWL CAIN said...

i did not know that defending pike and hall was not done in a civil manner?

is that how it is handled with others who have a different perspective than the one purported to Dummies and Complete Idiots within the craft?

Now I'm a little buddy who acted un civil and attacked one?

all I know is that Pike and Hall will be open for discussion within Lodge, cc zain and williamhurst, etc... Dr. jacobs and daniel beresniak... I guess were just not suited for the Dummies and Iiots curriculum for masonic education....

maybe we'll catch up one day and leave the older writers alone and move into the 21st century with the prolific writings of morris and hodapp...
they sure are more committed than Hall or Pike ever were...

The Relevant Mason said...

"I do not believe that some “golden age” of esoteric Masonry has EVER really existed on a large scale within the Craft, and I would challenge anyone to identify it."

The Golden Age is a constant Brother and is as constant as consciousness or initiation. The "Golden Age" of esoteric Masonry was in the heart of Pike, Hall, Wilmshurst, and others like them who, constantly and against the grain, kept the "secret" of Masonry alive.

It is academically acceptable and laudable to claim a completely Anglo centric modern birth for Masonry because it is academically acceptable right now. That does not always prove the matter at hand. The idea of a heliocentric universe, the atom, the neutron, etc...were all laughable at one time.

The reason that the secrets of Masonry and the origins of the Craft are difficult to ascertain is that, as much as academic researchers would like a clean quotable lineage nicely bound in book format, it flies in the face of the fact. The fact that initiation is personal and can not be completed as journey without personal meditation and reflection on the part of the neophyte.

Masonry, its philosophies, and its secrets are sometimes gained in the vertical and not the horizontal. Meditation and personal insight are part of the mystical tradition. The secrets of Masonry are simply not available to the men who search for them in book format.

I love Pike, not for the text he researched, revamped, or stole as some claim. I love Pike for his passion, for his understanding of the truth and its separation from fact. I love Pike, because he was able to define "love" for himself and knew, in spite of Masonic scholars of his time sometimes disagreeing with him, force of will and visualization can accomplish much and provide a dynamic example for those who choose to follow it.

I think what Brother Josh is saying is that the argument is difficult because most are misunderstanding the original foundation and trying to turn it into the much debated origins argument. We must define the origin of Masonry to have that argument and most are searching for a physical starting point….this, by itself, misses the point and the argument can not even take place. It is a little like trying to run a race with men starting from the same point, or so they think, then running in opposite directions.

Caritas,

Cliff Porter

Howard Roark said...

LOL Bro. TBC ;-)

Chris was just sucking up to Brent Morris looking for some bauble or award from the Scottish Rite. These guys will do anything for a bauble or a title.

Chris Hodapp said...

The relevant Mason wrote:

"I love Pike for his passion, for his understanding of the truth and its separation from fact. I love Pike, because he was able to define "love" for himself and knew, in spite of Masonic scholars of his time sometimes disagreeing with him, force of will and visualization can accomplish much and provide a dynamic example for those who choose to follow it."

Brother Cliff, I don't disagree with that.

Chris Hodapp said...

'Howard Roarke' wrote:
"Chris was just sucking up to Brent Morris looking for some bauble or award from the Scottish Rite. These guys will do anything for a bauble or a title."

As opposed to creating a grand lodge and titles of my own.

Besides, I'm a NMJ guy. I'd have to suck up to Bill McNaughton. But on the very rare occasion that I'm honored to get a bauble or a title (???), I don't go burn it in the parking lot.

Chris Hodapp said...

Sorry about the interruption.

The Relevant Mason wrote:
"The idea of a heliocentric universe, the atom, the neutron, etc...were all laughable at one time. "

Likewise, the geocentric universe, Bishop Ussher's calendar, and the Aristotelian elements are laughable now.

Isidore said...
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Isidore said...
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Isidore said...
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Tom Accuosti said...

in order to serve the vanity of a few old men such as Brent Morris.

::sighs::

Man, is it me, or does there seem to be a different "bad guy" every week?

Anyway...

The fact that initiation is personal and can not be completed as journey without personal meditation and reflection on the part of the neophyte.

Bro. Cliff, I'm trying to look at this from a process perspective: new members who expect to go through some degree ceremonies and come out the other side as newly enlightened beings are doomed to disappointment. Many of those who knock on the door do so having read snippets and scraps that seem to verify the idea that Masons have come across some kind of tangible, esoteric knowledge.

Unfortunately, we tend to toss the degrees at them without explaining much about the degrees themselves, and when they're done, they get a dues card and invited to help out at the pancake breakfast. After a couple of years of this, most of them experience the disconnect between what they've read about - indeed, the myth about ourselves that we keep alive - and the reality of cleaning up scrambled eggs and bacon grease.

Of course, we Taoists understand that it's all connected, but it's very difficult to explain to somebody who expected to be surrounded by Ben Franklins that there are lessons top be found even in the kitchen.

Or in my lodge, especially in the kitchen.

There has got to be some kind of middle area, but I can't imagine how to describe it.

Chris Hodapp said...

ISIDORE and HOWARD and TBC, et al.

Not here.
Not now.
Keep it civil.
Stay on topic.
Or play somewhere else.

The Millennial Freemason said...

Chris said:
ISIDORE and HOWARD and TBC, et al.

Not here.
Not now.
Keep it civil.
Stay on topic.
Or play somewhere else.


I think I know a place, http://burningtaper.blogspot.com/2008/03/masonic-pissing-contest-gets-corralled.html

2 BOWL CAIN said...

"Truth is not lost, yet it must be sought for and found. Reality is ever-present - dimensionless yet all-prevailing. Man - creature of attitudes and desires, and servant of impressions and opinions - cannot, with the wavering unbalance of an untutored mind, learn to know that which he himself does not possess. As man attains a quality, he discovers that quality, and recognizes about him the thing newborn within himself. Man is born with eyes, yet only after long years of sorrow does he learn to see clearl y and in harmony with the Plan. He is born with senses, but only after long experience and fruitless strivings does he bring these senses to the temple and lays them as offerings upon the altar of the great Father, who alone does all things well and with understanding. Man is, in truth, born in the sin of ignorance, but with a capacity for understanding. He has a mind capable of wisdom, a heart capable of feeling, and a hand strong for the great work in life - truing the rough ashlar into the perfect sto ne.

What more can any creature ask than the opportunity to prove the thing he is, the dream that inspires him, the vision that leads him on? We have no right to ask for wisdom. In whose name do we beg for understanding? By what authority do we demand happiness? None of these things is the birthright of any creature; yet all may have them, if they will cultivate within themselves the thing that they desire. There is no need of asking, nor does any Deity bow down to give man these things that he desires. Man i s given by Nature, a gift, and that gift is the privilege of labor. Through labor he learns all things."

more crap from Manly p Hall

Chris Hodapp said...

More cutting and pasting without an original thought from you.

The Relevant Mason said...

I hesitated to write back initially when I saw where this seemed to be going. Thanks for bringing it back around Chris…and yes, it is clear that the only thing we know for sure is that we are continually advancing our proving that we don’t know much for sure. Today’s major new discovery is labeled the dark ages tomorrow.

Brother Tom,

I think we agree. The candidate who simply goes through a degree gains little. That is what I was trying to describe. The initiation process is a continual process. The ritual must be followed with meditation and contemplation, study, prayer, etc…. or it is empty and will remain of little value. This is reflected in the number of men given the ritual that never return.

BUT, when the secrets of Masonry are coveted, as one should covet them, when the true jewel of esoteric knowledge is guarded in a man’s heart, then the beauty of the Craft is realized in the self actualization of its individual members.

Pike, Hall, and the like provide a glimpse at how fulfilling the esoteric can be, for these men, the energy poured forth in their writing, the journey, as it should be, was personal, and therefore, sometimes difficult to evaluate on academic terms alone.

Tom Accuosti said...

This is reflected in the number of men given the ritual that never return.

Or possibly in the number of men giving the ritual who seem to remain clueless.

Oh dang, did I say that out loud?

More charitably, there are a number of men - usually PMs - who give some of the wackiest explanations and interpretations of our workings to the n00bs, many of whom insist that our mythology is absolutely true.

They've picked up a few Urban, er, Masonic Legends here and there and pass them off as historical lessons. This seems to satisfy their own internal belief that the Craft is in some way descended from the Sumerians, but ultimately, I think, does a disservice to the Fraternity, and those who join believing them as literal truths.

2 BOWL CAIN said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris Hodapp said...

TBC, do it in your own house, not mine.

The Millennial Freemason said...

They've picked up a few Urban, er, Masonic Legends here and there and pass them off as historical lessons. This seems to satisfy their own internal belief that the Craft is in some way descended from the Sumerians, but ultimately, I think, does a disservice to the Fraternity, and those who join believing them as literal truths.

Tom,

Sadly, I think it is a hope for something more by some brothers. I have always been a pragmatist believing that one should take observations as they appear. Maybe we build up too much excitement and some brothers become bored or disappointed. As I have said before, candidate introduction and education is all about managing expectations, not too little but also not too much.

If a brother wants more, join Scottish and York Rite, which was created to continue the story and give those brothers that want more an opportunity.

Nick

Justa Mason said...

Chris, there's so much to go through, I'll have to read it a couple of times. But I want to address something Nick just wrote:

If a brother wants more, join Scottish and York Rite, which was created to continue the story and give those brothers that want more an opportunity.

I've joined both, and am a Grand officer in Royal Arch, but I still maintain you can find all the lessons of Freemasonry—more than you could study in a lifetime—in the three degrees.

What Masons have to do is what is instructed to them: "to make a daily advancement." That's done by study and contemplation. They're not going to get it at festivals.

Justa

The Millennial Freemason said...

I've joined both, and am a Grand officer in Royal Arch, but I still maintain you can find all the lessons of Freemasonry—more than you could study in a lifetime—in the three degrees.

What Masons have to do is what is instructed to them: "to make a daily advancement." That's done by study and contemplation. They're not going to get it at festivals.


I agree with you Justa. I, myself, have never ventured out of the Blue Lodge in my three years in Masonry. Unfortunately, I think brothers get wrapped up in trying to read something between the lines without thinking about the simple and meaningful lessons presented in the first three degrees. During my years in the Blue Lodge, I have memorized many parts of the ritual and always seem to draw something new out of it.

From what I have heard, the purpose of the Rites is to "continue" the story like a continuing education class. I am not sure who explained it but I heard that to explain the Rites relationship to the Blue Lodge is to say that a Mason is like a three foot tall board that can be 29 feet long. The Board is always that same height no matter how far you go along it.

Nick

Tom Accuosti said...

If a brother wants more, join Scottish and York Rite, which was created to continue the story and give those brothers that want more an opportunity.

Or they can study Zen. Or Taoism.

Once I realized that our ritual has been changed so much over the years, it, I lost my initiative to hurry up and join the YR/SR - not because there isn't anything to learn, but because (as Justa says) I haven't felt that I've gotten all that I can from the Blue lodge yet.

Justa Mason said...

In some cases, what you say is true, Nick:

From what I have heard, the purpose of the Rites is to "continue" the story like a continuing education class.

In some cases, the degrees have absolutely nothing to do with a plot-line of the building of King Solomon's Temple (such as a couple of the Templar orders). But they may take a specific Masonic principle and expound on it a bit. There is certainly value in the concordant bodies. I like the ceremonial of some of them. But I think almost anything you could consider Masonic in them is something which you can find, in one form or another, in the Craft Lodge degrees.

I must add I appreciate Chris's and Joshua's comments on this particular thread.

Justa

Justa Mason said...

Tom, here's a little tale as a followup to your comment:

I lost my initiative to hurry up and join the YR/SR - not because there isn't anything to learn, but because (as Justa says) I haven't felt that I've gotten all that I can from the Blue lodge yet

One of the PMs of my Mother Lodge sailed here to Canada as a new MM at age 21 in 1912 from England. I digress to say he told me he saw huge icebergs and it was a wonder his ship didn't hit one. Another ship not too many days later wasn't so lucky. She was the Titanic.

Anyway, dear old Johnny died three weeks shy of 101. He never joined anything but his Craft Lodge. He said there was all he needed in the Craft Lodge.

What I'm saying Tom is if you wait to learn all you can in Lodge, you'll never join anything else. Johnny spent almost 80 years as a Mason and never finished.

The degrees can be interesting (when well done) and you can widen your sphere of Masonic acquaintances. So there are reasons to join if that's your inclination. Just pick the right time in your life (i.e. when you have time).

I'd say something nice about the Scottish Rite but I don't have to kiss up to Brent as I've already been published in Heredom. ;)-

Justa

Tim said...

How refreshing!
I have In MY research about Freemasonry come across the writings of Albert Mackey, Manley Hall, Arthur Edward Waite, and Albert Pike.
I could not have of it and thought, "do many Freemasons believe this crap?"
I did, and still do give some credence to the book "Born in Blood" by John J. Robinson. But even then, that may be because I would like to think of Freemasonry as being something more than the Kiwanis, the Lion's Club or the men's version of the Ladies benevolent Society.
Is it?