December 16, 2016

When the young become the old

In the late 80's and 90's, there wasa group of young brothers that became members of lodges across the country. Along with their high top fades and hip hop sense of talking, they had deep and true respect for their fathers and grandfathers. They wanted to be part of an order and a legacy that was bigger than them.

These young military veteran and college-educated brothers saw a new perspective and a new way of doing things and wanted to impact the order in the best way possible.

They were met with immediate resistance. The older brothers liked their things the way it was even if it was rusty and crumbling. They chastised these brothers who wanted to do things like increase dues, increase education, set up building funds etc.

These young brothers stepped away and kept on travelling anyway. They formed think-tanks of their own with little or no mentorship. They honed their thought processes but without any input from the older ones, they were rough around the edges,  and for the ones who operated without supervision, they were out of control.

As life would have it, the old brothers became older, so did the young brothers. The young brothers now stepped into the shoes and brought in the fraternity to a modern world and made it more viable for the time. They were happy to fill in the shoes and the collars worn by the older brothers and were reveling in the shininess of their new found titles.

Then as it usually happens, new brothers showed up. The younger brothers of the present came with their new ideas of increasing the global reach of social media, increasing the use of technology, adapting the education to meet current trends etc.

Our younger brothers of the past became the older brothers they despised. They shot the younger brothers down, called them names, said they lacked the proper attention span to follow through with their ideas etc. Criticized their hairstyles, their manner of speech, their so-called experiences in education and careers etc.

Will the cycle continue?

March 11, 2016

Since everybody is on the soapbox...Story Time...

Once, in a certain PHA grand lodge in the southern region of USA, a man who was an irregular mason wanted to become a regular mason.

After 7+ years of being clandestine, he finally saw the light and there were many brothers who were happy for him and vowed to be there during his raising.

Then, his inept WM had a "problem" with the candidate: he was a Muslim. In the south, being a black Muslim is much of an anomaly compared to the east coast or mid-west. The befuddled WM did what every incompetent WM would do and seek answers from uninformed brethren read past masters. They all told him the same thing "don't"...he met a well-informed one who said go ahead...but with a 4 is to 1, he did something even worse: he talked to his deputy district grand master.

"Would he obligate to a bible?" the man asked.
"He said he may to the first 2 degrees, but he wants his third on a Koran." the WM replied
"I would not allow a Koran on an altar in my district."

So, the confused WM went back to the PM who told him to raise him and let him know the remarks of the District Deputy.

The PM was in shock, he had traveled all over the world and in his military experience seen the Koran on the altar of a few military PHA lodges that had members who were Muslims.

Since he had the Grand Master's ear, he decided to have a chat with him on the District Deputy's remarks. But instead, he was shocked on what transpired one evening in a lounge with the GM and the WM sitting with him.

"No Muslim will ever be a Mason in my jurisdiction as long as I am alive" GM said
"What?" PM replied in shock
"No Muslm. Absolutely not. Prince Hall is a Christian fraternity"
After he composed himself, the PM told him "Ok. That is fine, put it on paper."
"Well, if that is what you feel, then as Grand Master you have to put it in an edict."
"I won't..." GM replied, then turning to the WM he said " have heard what I said. If I hear that man is a mason, I will have you expelled for contumacy"

A couple of years later, the same GM slipped this opinion into a communication sent throughout the country. It was met with shock and  disgust. He retracted his statement and killed the plans he had later of declaring that jurisdiction as a Christian jurisdiction. The only hint left of that debacle is a couple of lines in his Grand Session address where he affirmed the Three Great Lights in his jurisdiction as The Holy Bible, the Square and the Compass.

No one argued with him and many in attendance including those who threw a fit agreed with him. You see, they were not angry with him for what he believed, they were angry that he was bold (read stupid) enough to put it on paper and jeopardize the reputation of the fraternity publicly as well as jeopardize the non-profit status of his Grand Lodge's foundation accounts.

As for my good friend and dear brother, he is still a Muslim, still a veteran, still a hardworking entrepreneur, still a dutiful family man, still a loyal and faithful husband. After the drama that was caused, he felt his spirit dampen. He left the fraternity and has moved on  still wishing in his heart that he was a mason.

July 31, 2015

The masonic line of ascension and why it is a stupid idea

There are several lodges I have known were to become a WM, you have to go through a line of offices to eventually become a WM. I think it is a very stupid concept for one reason: it defeats the purpose of an election.

The masonic election of officers is a process by which members of a lodge typically pick and choose the members they think are competent for certain positions within the lodge. Each elected officer has a separate duty and the WM is rather than a culmination of all the duties, is simply one who delegates. You do not need to have been in a position to be able to delegate that decision especially if the duties and responsibilities are plainly spelled out in the by-laws and constitution.

Added responsibility is one thing, and preparing people for leadership is another thing, but with both, you don't need to have someone occupy different roles within a lodge to make them competent at the job of being a WM.

I have seen many brothers who were better in their warden seats than they were in the WM seat. I have seen a few who were better suited for one Warden seat vs the other (in a lot of jurisdictions I am familar with, the only requirement to be a WM is to have sat at any Warden position for one full masonic year)

But here's the point I am getting to...the WM seat is the hottest seat in the house, right under the rising scorching sun. One has to have certain qualities that don't have to be experienced or learned by sitting in EVERY seat on the so-called line. The election is an opportunity for brothers of that lodge to pick their best members for the position that best fits them and the lodge. There should be no hurry to get to the East. It should not be a factory line.

July 22, 2014

William Wirt: the (anti-)Mason

William Wirt was a lawyer from VA and one-time Attorney General of the USA. After he resigned as AG, he was approached in 1831 by the Anti-Masonic party to run for the seat of President.

However, on his nomination, he told the convention that he would "very sincerely retire from it (nomination) with far more pleasure" than he would accept it.

He was initiated and passed to the degree of Fellowcraft but never became a Master Mason because his curiosity never led him so far (his own words). This was over 30 years before his nomination and on stating that, he also declared his slightly demeaning purview of the craft as "nothing more than a social and charitable club designed for the good feeling among its members , and for the pecuniary relief of their indigent brethren".

On being nominated, he was advised to declare his hate and dissent with the masonic organization, but he declined stating that "I did not believe that there could be anything in the institution at war with their duties as patriots men, and Christians"

He had a clear win of the nomination of Anti-Masonic party with 12 out of the 18 votes due to his charisma and his proficiency as a lawyer, reputation as an outstanding citizen and man. He went on to face Andrew Jackson (a Democrat and Mason out of TN) and Henry Clay (a Republican and Mason out of KY).

William Wirt lost the election winning only 7 electoral votes. His loss and his odds with the facade of the Anti-Masonic party effectively signaled the beginning of the ending of the party which effectively merged with the Whig Party around 1838.

July 5, 2014

Emotional Hazing

“Some people won't be happy until they've pushed you to the ground. What you have to do is have the courage to stand your ground and not give them the time of day. Hold on to your power and never give it away.”

Most Grand Lodges and indeed fraternal organizations usually have policies and make statements that state they are anti-hazing. A lot of them are particular about stomping down and restricting the scourge of physical hazing, but they usually do not bother or crack down as hard on the issue of emotional hazing.

Just like physical hazing, emotional hazing is just as distressing. I won't deny that i have not been a victim of such a treatment as a candidate. Been shouted on, constantly teased and ridiculed, humiliated to the furthest extent were just as hurtful on my experience as someone swinging a paddle on me.

What is the reason for this one asks? The two reasons that the proponents are quick to point out: Humility and Manliness.

I will tell you from my personal experience that a process of 3 months is never going to turn a proud man humble or teach anything about humility except it's a lesson the man is willing to learn himself. I've had experiences with candidates who are so meek and zen during their degree-work and when they are raised, turn into complete pompous and proud pigs. There's absolutely no humility that can be taught to a man by humiliating him.

That being said, we expect every candidate who comes into the temple to be first and foremost a man. If so, why test such manliness? If his manhood is in question, why recommend him? Why pass him through the investigation committee just to torment him during the degreework or in the ante-room? Why do we go through the lengths of such abusive methods to "prove" such manhood? Is there a way to prove such in the first place? How are we certain that the people proving the so-called manhood are truly men themselves if they are not prepared to take the same steps when the candidate/petitioner is not in a subversive state as he is in the lodge?

We have no excuse for maltreatment of our candidates in our lodges either physically, mentally or emotionally. Grand Lodges should be much stiffer on the education and enforcement of these forms of hazing.

Some members will then complain that the new masons are soft or not as tough as the "old-school", but it's been my experience that when the foolishness and foul play is put aside and freemasonry itself is being practiced in our lodges, those who talk the loudest sort of disappear. Reminds me of three guys I met during my third degree...they were pretty rough and I'm sure masons everywhere remember their fate.


In most jurisdictions, a candidate of freemasonry has to prove suitable proficiency to be moved on to the next degree. The definition of suitable in the English dictionary is:  "right or appropriate for a particular person, purpose, or situation". That applies very much to the instance of proving proficiency in lodges as conditions may vary per candidate or per jurisdiction on how to assess proficiency at that time.

That being said, as a candidate moves from degree to degree, his horizon on what freemasonry is should increase so should his perspective on the craft. It should behoove the candidate after reaching the sublime degree to go back and reflect on the teachings of previous degrees being that he no longer needs to prove any kind of proficiency to anyone anymore and he's ascended the stairs of the craft and now has the complete picture of what was going on step by step.

In most instances, this doesn't happen.

What you might find rather is a mason who abandons all he has learned in the previous degrees and just enjoys the benefit of his full membership without realising at the time that the standard by which he was tested was much lower than what is expected of him as a master mason. He is expected at this stage, to be the master of his craft, so why wouldn't it behoove him to be master what he learned as an apprentice and so on?

I recall looking at the rituals of the 1st degree as a newly initiated apprentice, then as a newly raised master mason. Year after year with each new degree class, I have looked at the degree work of the entered apprentice and have learned something that might have a new meaning to me and how I should apply it to my life.

This should be reminded to all our candidates who make it through the degrees and decide to run off or seek the other degrees freemasonry is so full of. It is important to understand the elastic of our masonic knowledge expands as much as we travel and as much as we are willing to stretch it and only remains the same size or even shrinking if we choose to do otherwise.

April 22, 2014

Lux E Tenebris (Light Out Of Darkness)

When I created this image for my now defunct lodge facebook page, I thought the quote itself was profound. However the more you think about a few wise words, the more they sink to you and deeper the meaning becomes.

It was a quote by this Grand Master in 1893 at a congress of masons in Chicago. In order to understand the real meaning of the quote, one has to understand the context by which a man who considered being a Prince Hall mason in Alabama in 1893 faced when it came to being educated.

He was determined to seek such enlightenment he had no idea of. Usually having parents and people around him who never understood the real value of education, he sought far and wide for a means and a way to educate himself so he could eventually improve himself, his family and his community as a whole.

Juxtaposed with today's society, the term educated may not necessarily mean such a man who is formally educated. Although he has the basic means to read and write, in today's society, it means a man who is willing to go above and beyond to explore and broaden his mind and his intellectual periscope. It may not neccessarily have to come from a formal education institution, it may be just be by self-study, travelling and being under the guidance and fellowship of well-read mentors.

Freemasonry offers this to all its members who seek it. It gives an opportunity for members to study the rituals and associated literature, it allows its members to "foreign lands" to explore different cultures with the knowledge that wherever that brother travels, he is safe with a fellow who wears an apron with the Square & Compass. It allows brothers sit alongside men who have gone in the same path and can teach them some things not only about freemasonry but about life as well.

 However, the issue is if our lodges and grand lodges are offering it to its members. Education in lodges and grand lodges is mostly ritualistic, if dare some be esoteric. But what how do these teachings positively improve our members who don't understand or can even apply these teachings? Where have we gone wrong in this respect?

First of all, we have to recognize and accept that in most cases, our lodges are open to all those who seek entrance to it who for the most part have clean records. We don't inquire onto their ability to be open minded and willing to educate themselves on what they are being taught and take in the lessons to be learned and have the capacity to apply it. Just come with your petition and your money and spend 3 months indulging us and you'll be a member. Whatever happens after that? What happens with the person who indeed has a capacity to learn after he goes through the degrees? Nothing.

Our lodges mostly don't have room for continuous education. While we see it set in some grand lodges as part of their operations, some members don't impart the real lessons of freemasonry during the degree process. As one proceeds through the degrees, is the candidate really understanding this enlightenment he seeks more and more of? Or is he in the dark throughout the processes and has no idea what he's seeking and even worse, goes ahead to seek more degrees that end up being fluff because of his lack of a firm foundation?

We owe it to our craft and fraternity to open the door of enlightenment to only those who have the capacity and desire not only to learn, but understand and apply whatever information we give them in the hopes of becoming better men. We owe it to them to begin the process and give them the best education we can while they are going through the degrees and understanding that proficiency is not a matter of just spitting back words, but more than that it's evidence that the brother is prepared to apply the lessons to his person and we can see such lessons making his rough ashlar a little smoother. Finally, we owe ourselves to keep being educated, to read more, to explore more than ritual and bring whatever education we can back to our fraternity to better enable our brethren (both candidates and master masons) to be worthy and support to themselves, their families and society as a whole.

Lux E Tenebris.