Sunday, September 27, 2009
Many in the Masonic community are drawn to the myth that Freemasonry is derived from the religious order of the middle-ages known as the Knights Templar, also know as the Poor Soldiers of Christ.
I can see the appeal that such a myth has for many, but Freemasonry is not the Society of Creative Anachronism. The leap from the symbolism of working-class stone masons, to being knights in shining armor is a big one.
I suppose though that the leap from wearing a commodore's uniform of the 1800's with a sword, and a funny hat is not that much of a leap to wearing a fez with a Sphinx on it. After all, it was the age of Gilbert and Sullivan. Not Freemasonry though.
The Order of the Templars existed from 1129, to 1307, approximately. Historical Freemasonry began with the foundation of the Grand Lodge of London in 1717. This was more than 400 years after the order was suppressed.
While wide-spread, and very wealthy, the influence on the average European peasant at the time must have been minimal, after all, the majority of the population could not even read, and there were no books available anyway.
While stone masons did build their fortresses, masons also built every other stone building at the time, including those for monarchs, the church, and the other religious orders, such as the Hospitallers, and the non-military monastic orders.
While brave in battle, the Templars also engaged in suicidal tactics at times, reminiscent of the Japanese banzai attacks in World War II. A strong sense of honor, but little common sense.
While wanting a connection to the Templars can be appealing to some, it has no basis in reality. Numerous Masonic scholars have written on the subject, and Freemasonry has no more relation to the Knights Templars than to the Priory of Sion, the Ancient Egyptians, or the original builders of Solomon's Temple.
Any serious student of history knows that Freemasonry evolved from the stone masons guilds, and took form in the latter half of the 17th, and early part of the 18th century. The documentation exists. The rest is, unfortunately, wishful fantasy.
Friday, September 25, 2009
I had posted awhile back on another site about the Swedish Rite, which is practiced in Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, and Norway. Let me say that I have nothing against the Scandinavians, and I am sure that there are many outstanding brothers in those jurisdictions.
I do have issue though with the fact that the Swedish Rite is only open to Christians. I see this as contrary to the traditional practice of Freemasonry. Even in the US, and England, which are bastions of conservatism regarding Masonic practice, no man can be denied Masonic membership on the basis of his religion.
By any standard, this is a violation of one of the Landmarks of Freemasonry. What if the Grand Lodge of Israel were to announce that only members of the Jewish faith could join? What if the Grand Lodge of Italy were to announce that membership was only available to Roman Catholics?
What if the Grand Lodge of Mississippi were to state that only White men could join..................?
When the Grand Orient of France decided that whether or not a man believed in God was a matter of personal conscience, and should not be asked as a condition of membership, the United Grand Lodge of England, acting "shocked" at such an offense, cut off all recognition.
Their supporters, in lock step, fell into line and denounced the Grand Orient as well. Any complaints about those Grand Lodges that discriminated on the basis of religion, or race? None.
Throughout the world, the UGLE has set up puppet Grand Lodges where there have been Grand Lodges, and Grand Orients for centuries, something that the U.S. Grand Lodges would consider to be a violation of Territorial Exclusivity.
Somehow, when the UGLE does it, it is alright. Since the United Grand Lodge of England decides who is a "real" Mason, and who is not, that apparently, gives them the right to establish lodges wherever they wish, regardless how long other Grand Lodges have existed there.
My point here is that the U.S. Grand Lodges, the largest and wealthiest of the Grand Lodges in the world, should stop kowtowing to the UGLE. Freemason's Hall in London is not the Vatican. The Grand Master of the UGLE is not the Pope.
It is hypocrisy to recognize jurisdictions that are restricted to a particular religion, or race, while severing relations with the Grand Orient of France, not to mention the Grand Lodge of France, which is "regular" in every sense of the word.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I was thinking today how, even in many of the adogmatic jurisdictions of Freemasonry, there is still reference to the Grand Architect of the Universe. I know that many of my Brothers, and Sisters are atheists or agnostics and may find the term undesirable.
I understand their concerns, though I happen to like opening and closing the lodge "to the glory of the Great Architect of the Universe and the progress of Humanity, in the name of Universal Freemasonry".
My religious beliefs are a mixture of Deism, Taoism, and Stoicism that sometimes borders on the agnostic side. I do not believe however that the universe came into being out of nothing by sheer chance. I do believe in a higher reality, though I would never anthropomorphize that reality by attributing human qualities to "it".
I am not arguing here for the existence of God, that is up to each man, and woman, to decide for themselves. I am just grateful that the reference to TGAOTU is still optional in Liberal, Grand Orient Freemasonry. Banning the use of the term, if a majority of a lodge's membership desire it, would be just as bad as forcing a lodge to use it, as is done in the "regular" jurisdictions.
By the way, I do like the fact that we use a blank book instead of the Bible. I would actually prefer though to use Anderson's Constitutions, or the Constitution of the particular jurisdiction. A blank book, despite what it symbolizes, is still blank. Why have it on the Altar at all? Just my opinion.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I just returned home from attending a meeting of Lodge Aletheia of the Women's Grand Lodge of Belgium. The meeting lasted about five hours, running a little over due to the business at hand. I visited as a guest with my WM from Lodge New Isis.
I never cease to be impressed by the standard of work and dedication that the Sisters of Lodge Aletheia display. The Sisters of Aletheia treat masonry as work, not a chance to get together with friends and socialize. The Chain of Union was a moving experience.
It has been a long day, 10:30 masonic education meeting, followed by lunch and lodge from 2:00 until 7:00. I am grateful to the Sisters for their warm welcome and masonic fellowship.
My only regret is that I was unable to stay for the agape afterwards. I would have enjoyed spending more time with the Sisters, but it was necessary to head back to San Diego.