Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lodge New Isis - Orient of Los Angeles

I hope that everyone is enjoying their Holiday Season. As the New Year approaches, I am filled with gratitude for all that the past year has brought, and I look forward to many positive developments in the year ahead.

Many of you are aware that last summer I demitted from lodge Intrepid. Without going into great detail, or mentioning any names, Intrepid left the GOUSA over a dispute relating to constitutional issues that arose in that obedience.

When the individuals involved left the GOUSA, they also demitted from Lodge New Isis of the George Washington Union. As a result of this, many members of New Isis who had been close to these persons left the lodge as well and joined Intrepid, of which I was lodge secretary at the time.

Very few of these individuals bothered to formally demit from the GWU as is required by Masonic protocol. Over the following months it became apparent to me that practicing Freemasonry was not the main priority of the leadership, so after much reflection, I demitted and affiliated with the remaining members of New Isis so that I could concentrate on practicing Freemasonry and grow in Masonic light.

Since then, in an effort to gain legitimacy as a jurisdiction, Intrepid claims to have founded a "New Isis" lodge in San Francisco. The claim has also been made that the real Lodge New Isis "left" the GWU, which is nonsense, most of the previous members having never formally left the lodge in the first place.

One member of Intrepid recently relocated to San Francisco. I am not aware in the history of Freemasonry that a one man lodge can exist as a "duly constituted" lodge of Freemasons. I suppose that by claiming multiple lodge membership several people can claim to have several lodges, even when done at a distance.

Such claims are at best disingenuous, at worst, dishonest. I strongly believe in not airing disputes in public, but as a member of Lodge New Isis of the George Washington Union, a duly constituted lodge of an obedience chartered by the Grand Orient of France more than three decades ago, I am offended by the name of my lodge being purloined and used politically for purposes of deceiving others, both inside, and outside, the Masonic community.

That being said, Lodge New Isis is in the process of repairing the damage caused by the exodus of some of its previous members, and has a bright future as part of the Mainstream Liberal Masonic community in Los Angeles. Our Worshipful Master has been working very hard with members of other Liberal lodges in Los Angeles and we foresee growth, and serious Masonic work being accomplished in 2010.

I will be visiting Lodge Aletheia of the Women's Grand Lodge of Belgium again soon, as well as Loge Art et Lumiere of the Grand Orient of France in March. I cannot thank these brothers and sisters enough for all the support that they have given us at Lodge New Isis. That is what Freemasonry is all about.

Setbacks such as Lodge New Isis has gone through recently, are a great opportunity for us as Masons to engage in real work and polish our ashlars. It is a challenge, but one that I know we, as Freemasons, are up to.

I am hoping to attend the next annual Convent of the George Washington Union, as I was unable to attend the most recent, which was held in Montreal, Canada. New officers for the obedience were elected and many projects are in the works, including a greater effort to make our presence felt in the wider community.

This New Year will be one of sacrifice, hard work, and patience, but we will also experience the enjoyment of the rewards that come with such effort.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Seasons Greetings

I want to wish all of my readers a very joyous holiday season. Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Masonic Apron

The item that is most readily recognized by society as the emblem of a Freemason is, without a doubt, the apron. While the most obvious origin of the apron is from the working attire of the Operative Stone Masons, over time much symbolism has become attached to it.

The earliest aprons were, understandably, based on those of the operative masons, and, in common with many other trades, were long enough to cover the workers front down to the knees. It was normally made of linen, though leather aprons were used as well, particularly in trades which necessitated greater protection for the wearer.

Our aprons are descended from those with bibs. It is the remnant of this protective part of the apron from which the flaps of our aprons derived.

Initially, the bib, or flap, was either worn up and buttoned to the coat, or was allowed to hang down. Often, it was even cut off by the early Freemasons and dispensed with. As the apron evolved in the 18th Century, the flap became a decorative aspect, and often was cut in a semi-circular shape. The lower part of the apron would be cut in a similar fashion.

Freemasons began to decorate their aprons with the symbols of the Craft and overtime these decorations became more and more elaborate

Today, the aprons used by Freemasons are more standardized, in part due to the mass manufacturing techniques that are employed.

Additionally, as the Grand Lodges became more organized, they began to require a degree of standardization regarding the aprons employed by their members.

Today’s aprons are smaller, and simpler than those used by our operative and speculative predecessors. They distinguish the Freemason, and to the initiate conveys great symbolic meaning. I treasure my apron as it identifies me as a Mason to my brothers and sisters, and also serves to remind me of the great responsibility that comes with ownership of it.

In the Scottish Rite first degree we are told that the apron symbolizes work. I understand this to mean the work that all Freemasons are required to engage in, to work on ourselves. This work that the apron symbolizes never ceases. Unless asleep, we are always engaged in the labor which we have voluntarily sought out and taken upon ourselves.

Many Masonic writers have attributed its white color to the concept of purity. As the apron was traditionally made from a lambskin, this has also been used to symbolize innocence. Lambs, like small children, have often been used to portray that state where one has not yet been stained by exposure to the darker side of life.

White is also the color of virginity in many cultures. The newly initiated Mason is a virgin to the work of the lodge. Despite the lifetime of work ahead in the shaping and polishing of the individual’s Ashlar, the Mason’s apron remains unsullied and white, symbolizing the purity of his, or her intentions.

The triangular flap has been equated to the Delta which is a central symbol in the lodge. The delta, or triangle, has been called the perfect geometric shape, and the three sides also bring to mind the symbolism of the number three and the use of three dots in the shape of a triangle in Masonic correspondence.

The square shape of the apron can be considered to represent the finished, or “perfect Ashlar” the completion of which is the Magnum Opus of Freemasonry. One author has also attributed the Four Cardinal Virtues to the four sides of the apron, namely, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice.

A square can also suggest Solidity. A solid foundation is essential to erecting any building. Our entire symbolism involves the building trade. Our working tools are those of the Operative Stone Masons. We as Speculative Masons labor together in lodge to build the Great Temple of Freemasonry. Without the solidity of a firm foundation are labors will be in vain.

As a symbol of being prepared for work, all Masons must be attired with the apron to be present in lodge. This relates to the gloves that are required as well. As warriors require their swords and shields to be capable of performing their duties, so must Freemasons be garbed in their aprons and gloves to able to begin their labors in the Temple.

We shape and polish our Rough Ashlars, so that we may participate in the great work of Freemasonry, which is the Progress of Humanity to the Glory of the Great Architect of the Universe.