Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Babies. Bathwater and Freemasonry

By James T. Moore

You know the routine. Lump all the negative influences in your life together, and then, without bothering to analyze them too critically, throw them all out, because you deem them "detrimental to your well-being." As many may well be.

So it is with the list of bizarre organizations and secret gatherings of like-minded individuals, sometimes called cults. Such as---and these are just a few—the Bohemian Grove, Skull and Bones, Bilderberg Group, Club of Rome, and the Illuminati. The Council of Foreign Relations, and the Tri-Lateral Commission also qualify if secrecy is the predominant criteria

Notice that one, so-called “secret” organization, was not mentioned: Freemasonry. Why was Freemasonry omitted from the list? Because of all the dark and obtuse organizations which I consider the “bath water”, I have a gnawing suspicion that Freemasonry may be the “baby” we are thoughtlessly throwing out with it.

There are good reasons for my thinking so. And if you’ll bear with me, I’ll try to explain.

Unlike, for example, Skull and Bones, an ultra-secret society in which occult traditions, secret oaths, and pagan rituals are the norm--- and in which many prominent families (including the Bushes) send their sons to Yale to become Bonesmen--- Freemasonry is neither pagan, occult, nor elitist. But it IS secret, for an honest and logical reason.

Before we discuss that reason, and the tenets of Freemasonry further, I confess an association with the Masonic Order earlier in my life, and my subsequent resignation from the organization---simply because I soon discovered that I am not an “organization” type person; a “joiner” by nature. Thus, anything further I have to say about Freemasonry is as objective and free of judgment as I can make it.

That Freemasonry has historical ties to Biblical teachings is beyond question, because it is provable. Out of the Dark Ages, both the Bible and Freemasonry emerged in England and Europe when the public weal finally had access to writings which previously could be passed along only by word of mouth.

Calling Freemasonry a “religious” organization, however, is not accurate. It can best be described as specialized physical “work” with deep spiritual overtones.

In the Middle Ages, the word mason was used to denote a builder. That is, one of the many artisans in crafts and trades connected with architectural construction; such as men who worked in stone, bricks and tiles. But there were many grades of craftsmen, and many kinds of special talents. In Gothic construction of cathedrals and other monumental architectural marvels, the work of Master Freemasons, was equal to Greek architecture, but never surpassed.

Eventually these disparate, but related, crafts organized themselves into gilds, or fraternities, each having its own rules, regulations, memberships, trained apprentices, AND a monopoly on its own kind of Masonry. This is important to know, because it is this monopoly, this professional secrecy about the “tricks of their trade” which has given Freemasonry an air of mysticism, occultism, even paganism, however inaccurate and undeserved it may be.

The understandable reticence to give away the “secrets” of their trade exists with professional artisans and craftsmen to this very day. My Uncle Bob, now deceased, was a cabinet maker whose work exemplified what true craftsmanship is all about. I have a chessboard, with squares of oak, maple, and walnut, which Uncle Bob made nearly 70 yeas ago, and it is in my office, still in beautiful condition.

Some accuse Freemasonry of being a black art or a heathen cult. A curious accusation since history shows it to be one of the most respected and honored of the ancient crafts; that Masons were honorable and lawful men, and that their craft had been practiced, honored, or established by such great men as David, Solomon, Euclid, and Pythagoras.

Oddly enough, Biblical elements came into the craft, not directly, but in a roundabout way. And not as history or theology, but as data to show that the great art of architecture had been known and practiced as far back as the prophets and kings of the Old Testament. And although occultism and mysticism flourished back then, and through the Middle Ages, Freemasonry was solely identified as the art of the builder, designer, and engineer, and had no interest in either occultism or mysticism.

Since time immemorial, Freemason philosophy is that work comes from God, for He Himself, as the Sovereign Grand Architect of the Universe, is a worker.

Pretty heady stuff, I admit, but the rationale for that statement is the great equalizer. God so made the world that plants do not grow ready to eat, clothing is not made by sheep, leather is not shoes, and houses do not build themselves.

Work, then, is universal, and a way of life. To be a worker is to be a man, and where idleness is praised, men deteriorate. It is in work that man discovers himself, reaches his stature, and becomes what God created him to be. That’s why Masons never refer to their activities as meetings, occupations, sessions or rituals; it is always referred to as Work.

Moreover each Masonic station, degree, pillar, column, and allusion are all symbolic of Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, and, to put it bluntly, are no less meaningful than Jesus on the dashboard of your car, a candle on the altar in your synagogue, or a cross on the steeple of your church.

So, before you throw out the bath water, it might be wise to make sure that the baby is no longer in it.

Kind permission to reprint “Babies. Bathwater and Freemasonry” was given by the author, James T. Moore. You may read it and many other interesting pieces by him on The American Daily at http://www.americandaily.com/

Brothers, as it says at the top of this BLOG, it’s purpose is not to change anyone’s mind, but to make you think. Judging from the comments, it has served that purpose.

I could post stories here all day long that exactly agrees with your beliefs and mine, however parroting our versions of events over and over does nothing to increase our knowledge or understanding.

It is my belief (right or wrong) that we must listen to other peoples views and thoughts, whether we agree with them or not, in order to increase our own knowledge.

Knowledge Is Power

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Freemasonry And Society

By V. Rev. Keith Jones

[Reprinted with the gracious permission of the author. This was an address presented to a choral evensong for Suffolk Masons at St. Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk.]

I am not a Freemason. I therefore speak to you with respect and gratitude from outside. I habitually answer those who are critical of Freemasons that, as a rule, we should judge every organization by the best we find in it, and not the worst.

The best defense of the Masonic tradition is the people whom I have known, loved and respected, who have been Freemasons. They number, for example, an uncle, my loved parish priest, Bishop Edmund Sara, Dean Peter Moore of St Albans, who has just died, among many others.

You cherish long and intricate pedigrees to very ancient foundations in human civilization. The real history of your movement, where it emerges as an important force in British life, strikes me is magnificently 18th century, the age of common humanity and the Rights of Man.

The sort of people who came together to found Lodges were typically middling people. Oliver Goldsmith remarked in the middle of the century that there were so many middling people, neither very grand nor very humble, while on the continent the classes were too polarized.

That some Lodges are very grand indeed does not undermine the fact. The freedom to associate, to combine for the purposes of Lodge activities and charitable purposes, was one of the symptoms of social health in 18th century Suffolk and one of the means whereby the country was maintained in peace.

The Masonic system has made people feel they belonged. It has encouraged friendship, and so overcome the curse of loneliness which stifles so much good in people. The Lodge provides, if I am not mistaken, the place where the lines of W H Auden are shown as true:

Private faces in public places are wiser and nicer Than public faces in private places Then again, the Lodges of 18th century England were godly without being sectarian.

The importance of that can hardly be exaggerated. When we consider the violence of religious quarrel in the 17th century, the century of the Civil War and the struggle of the religious sects, it is amazing that in the Masonic Lodges, dissenter and Church of England men sat down and were brothers together. What was the secret?

It was that in all classes of society, people were coming to believe in common humanity, mankind. They were moved by what people had in common rather than in what history had brought to pass. Now, the idea of human rights and human dignity have become a cliché, so that we forget what a new idea this was in 1730.

But it was in England, influenced by the writings of John Locke, that men and women first felt their liberties and civil decency were no more and no less than merely human. By our standards their world was unbelievably coarse and class-ridden, but the founding of Masonic Lodges was a means whereby they showed how moved they were by these new ideas and ideals. They insisted on good behavior.

In the By-Laws of the Lodge of Antiquity No. 2 (the old Lodge of St Paul’s), printed in 1760, there is the following rule:

If any Brother Curses, Swears or says anything Irreligious, Obscene or Ludicrous, Holds private Committees, Disputes about Religion or Politics, offers to lay Wagers, or is disguised in Liquor during the Lodge hours such offending Brother shall be immediately fined by a private Ballot for each offence … each fine not to be under one shilling nor to exceed Five Shillings.

(It also appeared in the Masonic Quarterly Magazine the official publication of the United Grand Lodge of England in Issue 19, October 2006. http://www.mqmagazine.co.uk/)

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