Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Earning the Title of Freemason

I was thinking today about the Sisters at Lodge Aletheia in Los Angeles, a lodge that I have had the pleasure of visiting more than once, and the dedication that they show to Freemasonry.

Lodge Aletheia belongs to the Women’s Grand Lodge of Belgium and has sister lodges in Washington D.C. and New York. The founders had to travel to Belgium to be initiated, passed, and raised, which in itself is an indicator of their dedication to bringing women’s Masonry to the United States.

The sisters are required to attend education meetings at 10 am, followed by a break for lunch, and the lodge opens at 2 pm and normally lasts until 5pm, followed by a common meal (in the European tradition this is known as an Agape).

How many of us would be willing to commit ourselves to what is essentially an entire Saturday for Masonic work, and this is every month?

As with those mainstream lodges that belong to the Masonic Restoration Foundation or that follow a European Lodge pattern, these are the lodges that are the future of Freemasonry in this country.

Those lodges that require commitment and hard work are the lodges that prosper and attract the highest quality candidates. Lodge Aletheia turns away more candidates than it accepts, as I can testify to personally. At one blindfold interview session I was witness to, only one of three women applying to the lodge was accepted for initiation.

If we don’t ask much of our members, we should not expect much. Being a Freemason is a privilege and an honor. It is not an entitlement. When the West Gate is opened to whoever knocks, there is no telling who we are letting in the door; Freemasonry must maintain high standards to be a beneficial and quality organization.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

International Masonic Order Delphi

I know that it is quite awhile since I have posted here, the summer has been quite busy. I recently affiliated with the International Masonic Order Delphi.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know some wonderful brothers and sisters in the Delphi Order, which is headquartered in Greece, and is growing in the United States. Originally part of Le Droit Humain in Greece, the Order serves as an umbrella of sorts for the Mixed Grand Lodge of Greece, the Mixed Grand Lodge of Romania, and the Mixed Grand Lodge of Bulgaria. The lodges in the U.S. are under the Greek Grand Lodge. The Delphi Order is a member of Clipsas as well, as is the GWU, the Women's Grand Lodge of Belgium, and many other progressive Masonic Orders.

What was once just Lodge Athena in Salt Lake City has now grown to Prometheus Lodge in Phoenix, Helios Triangle in Las Vegas, and soon to be Apollo Triangle in Austin.

These are truly exciting times for co-masonry in the United States and I know that the Delphi Order will play an important role in liberal Freemasonry's future here.

More information of the International Masonic Order Delphi can be found here:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Growth of Liberal Freemasonry

I am very pleased to observe the continued growth of Liberal, adogmatic Freemasonry in North America. While such Masonry is still quite small in comparison to the mainstream Anglo-American variety, the development of European style Masonry is cause for celebration.

In Phoenix, Arizona, Lodge Prometheus of the International Masonic Order Delphi, with headquarters in Athens, Greece, recently began offering Masonic Light in the Southwest.

Praxis Lodge, located in Boise, Idaho, formerly a lodge of the troubled GOUSA, has affiliated with the George Washington Union and recently initiated three Sisters.

And it was announced yesterday that the International Masonic Order Delphi has started a Triangle (Lodge in formation) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

These are wonderful developments, and offer an authentic Freemasonic option for people throughout the Western United States.

Congratulations to the Brothers and Sisters of Praxis Lodge, Prometheus Lodge, and Lodge Helios!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Masonic Intolerance

Thank you to my dear friend and Brother Willy Gutman for the following essay:

Masonic Intolerance: The Enemy Within

W. E. Gutman

Freemasonry is the world's oldest and largest fraternal society. It encourages men to improve themselves by embracing ethical principles and working for the welfare of humanity. In its lodges, men of diverse backgrounds labor in harmony. Guided by universal principles, Freemasonry promotes democracy. It fosters civic responsibility. It teaches tolerance and respect for the dignity of man. Its optic is holistic. The eye through which it peers is all-encompassing.

Yet, from its earliest origins, Freemasonry has faced political and religious hostility. Often unrelenting and violent, antagonism toward the Craft has focused on its advocacy of progressive concepts -- Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, with Tolerance being the overarching Masonic virtue. Its fiercest enemies also contrived to thwart the spread of key objectives: free thought, erudition, rational discourse, the pursuit of truth and the separation of church and state.

Persecution of Freemasons has always been fiercest in times of social and religious turmoil and during those great upheavals that have led men to war, epochs marked by an absence of “Light,” by a marked decline in the civilizing effect of reason and by fits of collective madness.

The Inquisition, the Vatican, Hitler and Stalin, to name a few, were rabid foes of Freemasonry. Nazis and fascists regarded Freemasonry as a tool of socialism. Communists viewed it as an elitist agent of bourgeois values. The Craft had already been dealt a mortal blow during the 1917 Bolshevik uprising. Fearful that clandestine lodges might have survived in Russia, Stalin, a dangerous sociopath, banned affiliation under penalty of death. Freemasonry disappeared or lay dormant in post-war satellite nations until the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is still discouraged or banned under totalitarian and theocratic regimes.

An anti-Masonic crusade now blazes on in America on two fronts, both inspired by intolerance. Fire-and-brimstone preachers can be heard haranguing against Freemasonry on AM and short-wave radio stations and in houses of worship across the land. Some of the enormities they level against the Craft are so deranged as to inhibit coherent dialogue.

More insidious, is a subtle profanation of Tolerance that took decades to bear fruit when American Freemasonry veered away from its European roots, when it ceased to be an instrument of enlightenment and social reform, when it turned inwardly and changed from a coalition of open-minded, socially progressive men (think the Founding Fathers) into a bastion of religious and political conservatism out of tune with the Craft’s original values and objectives.

Worse, as religious fundamentalists continue to malign and defame Freemasonry from without, a “fifth column” of Freemasons -- all “states’ rights” absolutists who view even benign governance as malignant, now labor from within the Craft to turn Freemasonry into an agent of ultra-right-wing ideology.

Dogmatism and intolerance are inimical to the Masonic ideal. Both should be regarded as depravities apt to further disfigure The Craft.

Regrettably, tolerance, the guiding principle of Freemasonry, is endowed with a troubling flaw. Like democracy, which tolerates the existence of undemocratic ideas and institutions, tolerance too can be self-defeating if it extends to dogmas and attitudes that are inherently anti-egalitarian. Victor Hugo, humanist, agnostic, social activist and "Mason without an apron" understood both reality and idealism. But his concept of idealism was neither mystical nor abstract. His reading of the stirrings that carry men to lofty heights was tangible and goal-oriented. It called for -- as his monumental works, Notre Dame de Paris, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and, more notably, Les Mis̩rables attest -- an unshakable commitment to tolerance and social justice, compassion for the poor, the voiceless, the disenfranchised, the persecuted, and he urged people to agitate against predatory economic policies, political hypocrisy, censorship and exploitation. What Hugo said is that Tolerance should not be a clearing house for intolerance Рleast of all in a lodge of Masons.

Entered, passed and raised at King Hiram #12 in Shelton, CT, W. E. Gutman is a widely published veteran journalist and author. From 1994 to 2006 he was on assignment in Central America where he covered politics, the military, human rights and other socio-economic issues. He lives in southern California’s High Desert. He is a former member of Lancaster Lodge 437 and Tehachapi Lodge 313.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Masonic Light

The term "Masonic Light" is used frequently to describe the illumination that Freemasonry imparts to its members. What is this light, how do we define it?

A Mainstream brother from Canada, John W. Alexander, in his paper entitled "Fiat Lux: Some Thoughts on Masonic Light," writes that it is a "...veritable searchlight aimed at Truth." According to Bro. Alexander, "The extent of our enlightenment is determined by our ability to recognize ignorance or error."

Recognizing error requires the ability to see things as they really are. We must perceive the truth and the reality that exists behind objects. Masonic light is intimately related to the concept of truth.

How do we attain to this light? Is it simply acquiring knowledge of Masonic history, symbols, passwords, and grips? Is it the ability of an individual to discourse on Masonic Subjects?

Obviously not, as many are quite knowledgeable about such things, yet in no way can these individuals be considered Masons. Such knowledge can be obtained through books readily available in any library, or online. No amount of knowing facts, names, dates, passwords, or other such data makes an individual a Freemason.

Masonic light illuminates the truth. Truth is not a relative word. Differences in religious, political, and philosophical beliefs are matters of personal opinion, but truth, as it is employed in our day-to-day dealings with others, requires an absolute quality.

Individuals that attempt to deceive, who lack the virtues of honesty, transparency, humility, and tolerance, are not, and never will be, Freemasons.

It is unfortunate that in the world today there are many that claim the title "Freemason" yet through their actions betray their lack of Masonic virtues. Operating under a false flag (activities designed to deceive the public in such a way that they appear as though they are being carried out by other entities), lying about their achievements, claiming lodges that do not exist, and spreading disinformation is hardly the behavior of a Freemason. Honesty and “circumscribing the passions” are concepts foreign to such people.

These “Masons” have no light to impart to anyone.

If we attempt to acquire Masonic light without a solid foundation in the Masonic Virtues of Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice, than we may as well not waste our time or energies on what would be a fool’s errand. Any attempt at building on a foundation based on the opposites of these virtues, namely, excess, weakness, recklessness, and illegality, would be an exercise in futility.

Any individual, man, or woman, that lacks integrity, should not waste time approaching the West Gate. There are many that would prefer to remain citizens of the profane world and that is as it should be; It is regrettable though that there are so many cowans about making mischief these days.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thomas Paine: Deist

There seems to be confusion in some circles as to the beliefs of the celebrated author and patriot, Thomas Paine. Curiously, he is being championed by many in the atheist community as one of their own, when in fact, Paine was never an atheist.

Thomas Paine is recognized as one of the preeminent advocates of Deism, a philosophy that, according to Wikipedia believes:

"that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that a supreme being created the universe. Further the term often implies that this supreme being does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the natural laws of the universe. Deists typically reject supernatural events such as prophecy and miracles, tending to assert that God (or "The Supreme Architect") has a plan for the universe that is not to be altered by intervention in the affairs of human life. Deists believe in the existence of God without any reliance on revealed religion, religious authority or holy books."

The following quotes from Paine demonstrate that he believed in God:

"I content myself with believing, even to positive conviction, that the power that gave me existence is able to continue it, in any form and manner He pleases, either with or without this body; and it appears more probable to me that I shall continue to exist hereafter than that I should have had existence, as I now have, before that existence began."
—The Age of Reason

"It has been my intention, for several years past, to publish my thoughts upon religion. . . . The circumstance that has now taken place in France of the total abolition of the whole national order of priesthood, and of everything appertaining to compulsive systems of religion, and compulsive articles of faith, has not only precipitated my intention, but rendered a work of this kind exceedingly necessary, lest in the general wreck of superstition, of false systems of government and false theology, we lose sight of morality, of humanity and of the theology that is true."
-The Age of Reason

"I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy."
-The Age of Reason

"Every religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad."

"Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us."

Paine denied the claims of divine revelation that the religions of his day claimed, but also stated:

"No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if he pleases."

"When we examine an extraordinary piece of machinery, an astonishing pile of architecture, a well executed statue or a highly finished painting where life and action are imitated...our ideas are naturally led to think of the extensive genius and talents of the artist. When we study the elements of geometry, we think of Euclid. When we speak of gravitation, we think of Newton. How then is it, that when we study the works of God in the creation, we stop short, and do not think of God? It is from the error of the schools in having taught those subjects as accomplishments only, and thereby separated the study of them from the Being who is the author of them. . . ."
-The Study of God, Delivered in Paris on January 16, 1797

"The evil that has resulted from the error of the schools in teaching natural philosophy as an accomplishment only has been that of generating in the pupils a species of atheism. Instead of looking through the works of the creation to the Creator himself, they stop short, and employ the knowledge they acquire to create doubts of His existence."
-The Study of God, Delivered in Paris on January 16, 1797

Thomas Paine was highly critical of organized religion as he saw it practiced in society. He especially criticized Christianity and Judaism, and rejected the Bible as being the revealed word of God. It was his criticism of organized religion that has been so attractive to atheists to the present, however, to present Paine as an advocate of atheism is disingenuous at best.

As can be seen from the above quotes, Paine was never an atheist,and made it abundantly clear that he believed in a Creator God that sustained the Universe.

Paine, through his works, contributed to the development of Enlightenment philosophy and had a profound influence on the development of democracy and religious freedom and separation of church and state in the nascent United States. He was never though, an advocate of atheism, or agnosticism.