Saturday, October 30, 2010

Was Abraham Lincoln a Mason?

From Abraham Lincoln was not a Freemason. He did apply for membership in Tyrian Lodge, Springfield, Ill., shortly after his nomination for the presidency in 1860 but withdrew the application because he felt that his applying for membership at that time might be construed as a political ruse to obtain votes. He advised the lodge that he would resubmit his application again when he returned from the presidency.

Lincoln never returned. On the death of the president, Tyrian Lodge adopted, on April 17, 1865, a resolution to say "that the decision of President Lincoln to postpone his application for the honours of Freemasonry, lest his motives be misconstrued, is the highest degree honorable to his memory."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Albert Pike's ESOTERIKA

Albert Pike spent the latter part of his life immersing himself deeply in the study of the symbolism of the Blue Degrees. The result of that study was what could arguably be considered his third Magnum Opus: the book Esoterika: Symbolism of the Blue Degrees of Freemasonry (the other two being his first rewrite of the Scottish Rite rituals and, of course, Morals and Dogma). Pike never intended Esoterika to be published and only two manuscript volumes were produced, one of which rests in the archives of the Supreme Council and the other with the Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076 in London. In 2005 the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction authorized the publication of Esoterika and it is now available not only to Scottish Rite Masons, but to all Masons.

Restoration Books of Logan, UT has announced a limited edition of 100 copies of Esoterika hand-bound in navy blue morocco goatskin with traditional hand-marbled endpapers. The binding was designed to reproduce that of the original bound copy in the archives of the Supreme Council. Arturo De Hoyos, Grand Archivist of the Scottish Rite, will sign each copy.

With only 100 copies being produced they are sure to go fast. I reserved my copy yesterday.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

You didn't learn this in history class...

Freemasons are justifiably proud of the role the fraternity played in the founding of the United States. If you'd like to read an unusual theory of the earliest European explorers to North America that involves the Templars and Freemasons roughly 400 years before the Founding Fathers penned the Declaration of Independence, I highly recommend this book by Scott Wolter.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Was Thomas Jefferson a Mason?

Was Thomas Jefferson a Mason? I know this topic has been dealt with in Masonic and non-Masonic texts alike, but I have to confess I've not read much on the subject. But in perusing a letter Jefferson wrote in 1800 to Benjamin Rush, I was struck by this passage: "... for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." The context in which Jefferson wrote this was an argument against the establishment of an "official" form of Christianity for the nascent United States. But any Freemason can't help but be struck by how peculiarly Masonic those words are—especially if you are a Scottish Rite Mason. And the Scottish Rite owes much to French masonry and Jefferson spent a great deal of time in France.

The full text of Jefferson's letter can be found here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Freemasonry and the Political Arena

I've just finished the second section of the Scottish Rite Master Craftsman Program, which covers the 4th through the 14th degrees, also known as the "Ineffable Degrees." As I studied and pondered these degrees of the Lodge of Perfection I was struck by the political lessons taught in many of them. Often times we think of Masonry as a “safe zone,” free from discussions about the two most divisive topics known to man, namely, politics and religion. To some extent this conception of Masonry is accurate. For the most part you don't hear too many discussions in the Lodge about religion or politics. But as the lessons of the degrees of the Scottish Rite amply illustrate, Masonry is neither areligious or apolitical.

The fundamental tenets taught in most of the 4th through 14th degrees are loaded with essential political truths. Thus, the question I have to ask myself is readily apparent: As a Freemason, how should I seek to implement those truths in my daily life? Perhaps in the same way that I manifest the moral lessons of the Craft, i.e., not in that I openly proclaim that I act a certain way because I'm a Mason, but in the sense that my moral compass is grounded in the lessons of Masonry and therefore I am duty bound to act a certain way. Thus, when it comes to politics, I don't openly proclaim my political beliefs as “Masonic,” but rather I seek to influence the political arena in whatever way I can to move it toward the great political truths taught in Freemasonry. Is this not what the Founding Fathers of the United States who were Freemasons did? They did not seek to establish a “Masonic party” to rally the citizenry around the controversial political philosophy that they learned in their lodges, and which helped shape the nascent Federal government. No, they simply took the fundamental political truths in which they were grounded by virtue of being Freemasons and fashioned a system of government based on those truths. I as a Freemason today, in whatever way I may interact with the political process—be it at the ballot box or by serving in some elected or appointed office—must do the same if I am to be true to my obligation as a Freemason. My vote (or my work in a political office) must always be true to the fundamental political truths taught in the Lodge of Perfection: An enlightened citizenry; an independent judiciary; an economic order based on capital and labor; an upper house of legislation; a lower house of legislation; trial by jury; a chief executive; and a constitution or fundamental law. So mote it be.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Motto of Freemasonry

In 1858 Albert Pike gave an address at the annual meeting of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana. In it he offered the following as the timeless motto of Freemasonry:

Devotion to the interests of the People; detestation of Tyranny; sacred regard for the rights of Free Thought, Free Speech, and Free Conscience; implacable hostility to Intolerance, bigotry, Arrogance and Usurpation; respect and regard for labor, which makes human nature noble; and scorn and contempt for all monopolies that minister to insolent and pampered luxury.
If you are a Mason, is this the motto of your local lodge? Do you manifest the tenets of this motto in your daily life? Food for thought.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Scottish Rite Master Craftsman Program

The Scottish Rite Master Craftsman program is a correspondence course of advanced study for members of the Scottish Rite. It covers the history of the Scottish Rite as well as the history, lessons, and esoterica of the Degrees of the Scottish Rite. For more information, click here.

I actually signed up for the program shortly after joining the Scottish Rite. Unfortunately, all that was delivered to me was the main textbook, the Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor and Guide. I finally got around to ordering the program kit again a couple of weeks ago, and this time the first exam was included with a new second edition of the Monitor and Guide. Since I'd already combed through much of the Monitor and Guide, I took the first exam yesterday and it's off in the mail today back to the House of the Temple to be graded.

I would encourage all Scottish Rite Masons to check out the Master Craftsman program. It's an enjoyable and affordable way to expand your knowledge in Masonry.