Thursday, September 30, 2010

Masonic Calendars

Many Masons are curious as to the different dates used in Freemasonry. This year craft lodges date the year, 2010 as 6010, while Knights Templar refer to the same year as 892. The following explanation should provide further light into these peculiar Masonic customs.

Craft Freemasonry = Anno Lucis

Graphic courtesy of Stephen McKim
Craft Masonry's calendar commences with the creation of the world and uses the term Anno Lucius (A.L.) - "In the year of Light." To arrive at this date they add 4000 to the common time, as the Earth was believed in conventional theology to have began in 4000 BC . Therefore the year 2010 becomes 6010.

Craft Freemasonry = Anno Inventionis

Graphic Courtesy Of Stephen McKim
Royal Arch Masons date time from the year the second temple was commended by Zerubbabel. Anno Inventionis (A.I.) ,which means "In the year of Discovery," is the terminology used by Chapters. This adds 530 to the common time, therefore the year 2010 becomes 2540.

Cryptic Freemasonry = Anno Depositionis

Graphic Courtesy Of Stephen McKim
Royal and Select Masters or Cryptic Masons date from the year in which the Temple of Solomon was completed. It is called Anno Depositionis (A.D.), which means "In the year of the Deposit" and adds 1000 to the common time. Therefore the year 2010 becomes 3010.

Templar Freemasonry = Anno Ordinis

Graphic Courtesy Of Stephen McKim
Knights Templar start their calendar with the formation of the order in 1118 AD. Anno Ordinis (A.O.), which means "In the year of the Order" is the terminology used. This deducts 1,118 from the common time; therefore the year 2010 becomes 892.

Scottish Rite = Anno Mundi

Graphic Courtesy Of Stephen McKim
The Scottish Rite date the same as Craft Masons, except for the use of the Jewish Chronology. Anno Mundi (A.M.), which means "In the year of the World" is their calendar terminology and adds 3760 to the common time. Therefore the year 2010 becomes 5770. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Scottish Rite History


     The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, as we know it today, had its origins on the continent of Europe. Its immediate predecessor, known as The Order of the Royal Secret, consisted of 25 Degrees under the Constitutions of 1762. Masonic tradition maintains that Lodges of this Rite, transmitted from Bordeaux in France through the West Indies to the American mainland, were established at New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1763; at Albany, New York, in 1767; at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1781–82; and at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1783.
     The Grand Constitutions of 1786 provided for an extension of the Rite to thirty-three Degrees, governed in each country under a Supreme Council of the Thirty-third and Last Degree. Its provisions were cited in a Manifesto at Charleston that confirmed the first Supreme Council ever opened under these Grand Constitutions, on May 31, 1801, "by Brothers John Mitchell and Frederick Dalcho." All regular and recognized Supreme Councils and their Subordinate Bodies today are descended directly or collaterally from this Mother Supreme Council of the World.

The Name

     In announcing its establishment to the Masonic world in that Manifesto, dated December 4, 1802, the name was given as The Supreme Council of the Thirty-third Degree for the United States of America. The word Scotch appeared in connection with one of the early Supreme Council Degrees, and Scotish (sic) was included in the name of one of the detached Degrees conferred by The Supreme Council.
     The name Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite first appeared in an 1804 agreement between the Supreme Council of France and the Grand Orient of France. Beginning with the administration of Grand Commander Albert Pike in 1859, it came into general use in the Southern Jurisdiction and elsewhere. Many Scottish Masons fled to France during political upheavals in the 17th and 18th centuries, at a time when the Degrees of the Rite were evolving in French Freemasonry. This has caused some to think mistakenly that the Rite originated in Scotland. Actually, however, a Supreme Council for Scotland was not established until 1846.

Southern Jurisdiction

     The Grand Constitutions of 1786, in the earliest known text in the possession of John Mitchell and Frederick Dalcho, provided for two Supreme Councils in the United States. The Supreme Council at Charleston sent one of its Active Members to New York and authorized him to establish in 1813 a Supreme Council for the Northern Jurisdiction of the United States of America. With this accomplished, The Supreme Council at Charleston in 1827 ceded to the Northern Supreme Council the 15 states north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi Rivers. The Southern Supreme Council retained jurisdiction over all other states and territories (at home and abroad) of the United States.

International Character of the Scottish Rite

     The Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction recognizes in its fraternal relations 40 Supreme Councils and four National Grand Lodges practicing the Rites that include the Scottish Rite, in different countries throughout the world. Each regular Supreme Council has declared its general adherence to those Grand Constitutions of 1762 and 1786, but each, being a sovereign Masonic Body, has made variations in its Statutes to meet its own particular needs. This is especially true as to the number of members composing a Supreme Council. Some have retained the original limitations of nine Active Members. In our Jurisdiction the number of Active Members is limited to 33. In other Jurisdictions larger or smaller limitations have been set. To maintain the spirit of international unity, the Mother Supreme Council participates in overseas conferences with other Supreme Councils.

Information from:
Mother Supreme Council of the World
Supreme Council
1733 Sixteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009-3103.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dont's for Worshipful Masters - Canadian Craftsman, March 1891

  • Don't be a parrot.
  • Don't be a part of a man, but a whole one.
  • Don't be a fool and get the "big head."
  • Don't be slovenly in dress, speech or manners.
  • Don't be lazy and always behind time.
  • Don't go to sleep if you expect your lodge to be wide awake.
  • Don't sacrifice the interest of your lodge to create a boom for yourself.
  • Don't let your life give the lie to the principles you are expected to teach.
  • Don't permit your subordinate officers to be careless and indifferent.
  • Don't work on bad material. Better to surrender your charter.
  • Don't do your work in a half-hearted manner, but get its truths into your soul.
  • Don't imagine the office to be one of honor only. It is one of trust as well.
  • Don't imagine yourself the king bee, when you are the servant.
  • Don't think yourself a lord, there may be some members of your lodge just as smart as you think that you are.
  • Don't forget that the standing of the lodge in your community is measured by your own standing.
  • Don't forget that the eye of the initiate will make an inventory of you, and judge the order accordingly.
  • Don't forget to consult the dictionary for the pronunciation of words.
  • Don't drag in the dispatch of business or work.
  • Don't pose as an oracle on Masonic law until you have looked, at least once, into the Digest [Constitutions].
  • Don't forget to be courteous, affable and brotherly to visitors and members.
  • Don't permit delinquents to remain on the roll, and thus make a showing of a large membership.
  • Don't lose sight of the fact that quality makes a lodge and not quantity.
  • Don't try to "show off," dignity and good sense are the graces of a Master.
  • Don't belittle or impugn your predecessors in order to make yourself the shining light in the history of your lodge.
  • Don't forget to be always "on guard" for any duty that is to the interest of your lodge.
  • Don't forget that the lodge expects once and awhile, a few symptoms that there are some brains under the hat.
  • Don't forget to study every condition and aid to make your work efficacious.
  • Don't stand on one leg, neither saw the air, neither chew tobacco, neither lean on the altar, not any shiftless or lazy position in giving the lectures, but stand on both feet, erect, dignified, and speak the speech with force.
  • Don't forget to keep awake, wide awake, awake always, awake a real, Argus-eyed Master.

Monday, September 27, 2010


 Colour is a fundamental element of masonic symbolism. It appears in the descriptions of aprons, sashes and other items of regalia, in the furnishings and wall-hangings of the lodge room for each degree or ceremony, in the robes worn in certain degrees, and in many other masonic accoutrements. The colours specified in each case appear to have no rational justification. As A.E. Waite wrote: "There is no recognized scheme or science of colors in Masonry. Here and there in our rituals we find an 'explanation' for the use of a certain colour, but this usually turns out to be merely a peg on which to hang a homiletic lecture about it, having little if any connection with the origins of its use."
This paper seeks to find some rationale behind the selection of colours as masonic symbols, restricting our examination to the Craft degrees, and those of the Ancient and Accepted (Scottish) Rite, with occasional reference to the Royal Arch.
It was early recognized that colours have a strong influence on the mind and therefore can be employed for certain moral or aesthetic ends, through symbolical, allegorical and mystical allusions. Newton wrote of 'the sensual and moral effects of colour,' where sensual must be understood as 'transmitted by the senses.' Goethe, too, wrote extensively on colour (over 2,000 pages!).
Masonic Blue
Blue, then, is the Craft colour par excellence, used in aprons, collars, and elsewhere. Let us quote Bro. Chetwode Crawley. "The ordinary prosaic enquirer will see in the selection of blue as the distinctive colour of Freemasonry only the natural sequence of the legend of King Solomon's Temple. For the Jews had been Divinely commanded to wear a 'riband of blue' (Numbers 15:38).' A modern translation of that verse in Numbers is: 'You are to take tassels on the comers of your garments with a blue cord on each tassel.' The biblical text, then, refers to blue cords to be incorporated in the tassels worn by pious Jews, while Bro. Chetwode Crawley is speaking of blue ribbons which somehow became the embellishments of aprons, sashes and collars.
Another suggested source of the colour mentioned by Bro. Chetwode Crawley could be its association with St. Mary, mother of Jesus, 'so prominent a figure in the pre-Reformation invocations of the Old Charges, drawing in her train the red ensign of St. George of Cappadocia, her steward and our Patron Saint.'
Blue and red, the heraldic azure and gules are sometimes associated with the chevron of the Arms of the Masons' Company.
The Masonic Symbolism of Colours
a) White
White, the original colour of the masonic apron, was always considered an emblem of purity and innocence, exemplified in images such as the white lily or fallen snow.
Plato asserts that white is par excellence the colour of the gods. In the Bible, Daniel sees God as a very old man, dressed in robes white as snow (Daniel 7:9). In the New Testament Jesus is transfigured on Mount Tabor before Peter, James and John, when his clothes became 'dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them' (Mark 9:3). Officiating priests of many religions wore and still wear white garments. In ancient Jerusalem both the priests and the Levites who performed the Temple rites assumed white clothing.
Among Romans, the unblemished character of a person aspiring to public office was indicated by a toga whitened with chalk. This is the origin of the word 'candidate,' from candidatus 'dressed in white.' Verdicts at trials were decided by small stones (calculi) thrown into an urn: white to absolve, black to condemn.
White signifies beginnings, virtualities, the white page facing the writer, 'the space where the possible may become reality.' White is therefore understandably the colour of initiation. It is a symbol of perfection, as represented by the swan in the legend of Lohengrin. In this aspect it is related to light or sky blue, which in Hebrew is tchelet and may be connected semantically with tichla (perfection, completeness) and tachlit (completeness, purpose). (See also the observations on the symbolism of blue.) Among the Celts the sacred colours of white, blue and green were understood to stand for light, truth and hope. Druids were robed in white.
White is also connected with the idea of death and resurrection. Shrouds are white; spirits are represented as wearing white veils. White, rather than black, is sometimes the colour of mourning, among the ancient kings of France, for instance, and in Japan. White, finally, can signify joy. Leukos (Greek) means both white and cheerful; as does candidus in Latin. The Romans marked festive days with lime and unlucky days with charcoal.
b) Blue
Blue is the colour of the canopy of heaven: azure, cerulean or sky blue. 'Universally, it denotes immortality, eternity, chastity, fidelity; pale blue, in particular, represents prudence and goodness.' In the Royal Arch, the Third Principal is told that it is an emblem of beneficence and charity.
In biblical times, blue was closely related to purple. Generations of scholars have puzzled over the correct meaning of tchelet (light blue) and argaman (purple), usually mentioned together, without reaching satisfactory conclusions. Only recently has the problem been finally solved in the course of far-reaching research into the dyestuffs and dyeing methods used by the ancient Phoenicians and Hebrews. Both colours, it turns out, were produced with dyeing materials extracted from murex, a shellfish abundant on the coast of Lebanon. The tchelet was obtained from a short-variety (murex trunculus); the argaman came from two kinds: the singlespined murex brandaris and, to a lesser extent, the Red-mouth (thais haemastoma).
Some historians have concluded that, in the Middle Ages in Europe, blue was low in popular esteem. The favourite colour was then red because the dyers could achieve strong shades of it which brought to mind the prestigious purple of the ancient world. Towards the end of that period, blue gradually became recognized as a princely colour, the 'Royal Blue' which displaced red at court, red then being used by the lower classes and so regarded as vulgar. Blue and gold (or yellow) then became the colours of choice for shields, banners and livery.
It may not be by chance, therefore, that the Master was said to be clothed in 'yellow jacket and blue breeches,' in the famous metaphor first used in an exposure, 'The Mystery of FreeMasonry,' which appeared in The Daily Journal in 1730. The traditional explanations of the phrase relate it to the compasses, the arms of gold, gilt or brass and the points of steel or iron. (Steel can certainly appear blue; iron can not!)
Blue was used royally in France noticeably as the background to the fleur-de-lys. It became associated with terms of prestige such as blue blood, cordon bleu (originally the sash of the Order of the Holy Spirit), blue riband (of the Atlantic) and blue chip.
c) Purple
Purple is a symbol of imperial royalty and richness but can also relate to penitence and the solemnity of Lent and Advent in the seasons of the Christian church.
Although described (in the Royal Arch, for instance) as 'an emblem of union, being composed of blue and crimson,' I believe this to be a somewhat contrived explanation. But an interesting fact, which appears to have escaped most writers on this subject, is that in the Cabbala, the Hebrew word for purple, argaman, is a mnemonic, representing the initials of the names of the five principal angels in Jewish esoterism.
d) Red
Red or crimson, the colour of fire and heat, is traditionally associated with war and the military. In Rome the paludamentum, the robe worm by generals, was red. The colour of blood is naturally connected with the idea of sacrifice, struggle and heroism. It also signifies charity, devotion, abnegation--perhaps recalling the pelican that feeds its progeny with its own blood.
In Hebrew, the name of the first man, Adam, is akin to red, blood and earth. This connection with earth may explain, perhaps, the connection of red with the passions, carnal love, the cosmetics used by women to attract their lovers. It is the colour of youth. Generally, it represents expansive force and vitality. It is the emblem of faith and fortitude and, in the Royal Arch, of fervency and zeal. It has also a darker side, connected with the flames of hell, the appearance of demons, the apoplectic face of rage.
Scarlet was the distinctive colour of the Order of the Golden Fleece, established in 1429 by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy (1419-67). Not only was the mantle scarlet, but also the robe and a special hat--the chaperon--with hanging streamers. 
e) Green
Green has been directly associated with the ideas of resurrection and immortality...The acacia (the masonic evergreen) has been suggested as a symbol of a moral life or rebirth, and also of immortality. To the ancient Egyptians, green was the symbol of hope.
The Grand Lodge of Scotland has adopted green as its emblematic colour, and, in varying shades, it is incorporated in the dress and furnishings of degrees and Orders beyond the Craft in English, Irish and Scottish Freemasonry.
f) Yellow
Yellow is rarely seen in lodge, except perhaps on the Continent. It is an ambivalent colour, representing both the best and the worst, the colour of brass and honey, but also the colour of sulphur and cowardice. Yellow is the perfection of the Golden Age, the priceless quality of the Golden Fleece and the golden apples of the Hesperides. It is also the colour of the patch imposed on the Jews as a badge of infamy. In the sixteenth century, the door of a traitor's home was painted yellow. A 'jaundiced view' expresses hostility, but the most memorable symbolism of yellow is that it reminds us of the sun and of gold.
g) Black
The three fundamental colours found in all civilizations, down to the Middle Ages in Europe, are white, red and black. These, too, may be regarded as the principal colours of Freemasonry: the white of the Craft degrees, the red of the Royal Arch and of certain of the degrees of the Ancient and Accepted (Scottish) Rite, and the black of some of its others, and of the Knights of Malta. The other colours of the rainbow find limited uses; they serve only to frame or line the white lambskin upon which so many aprons are based, or for sashes and other items of regalia.
Traditionally, black is the colour of darkness, death, the underworld although it was not introduced for mourning until about the middle of the fourteenth century, such use becoming habitual only in the sixteenth. The 'black humour' of melancholy (atara hilis) the black crow of ill omen, the black mass, black market, 'black days': all refer to negative aspects. The Black Stone at Mecca is believed by Muslims to have been at one time white; the sins of man caused the transformation.
Black has also a positive aspect, that of gravity and sobriety; the Reformation in Europe frowned upon colourful clothing. Formal dress for day and evening wear continues to be black. It is associated with the outlaw and the banners of pirates and anarchists, but also with rebirth and transformation.
In the French and Scottish Rites, the lodge in the third degree is decorated in black and is strewn with white or silver tears, representing the sorrow caused by the death of Hiram Abif.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Master's Wages by W Bro W. Sinclair Mactavish

It is rewarding to know that we as Freemasons can answer the question as to what induced us to become Master Masons, and one answer, of course, is to receive Master's Wages.
Our Operative Brethren received their Master's Wages in coin of the realm. Speculatives content themselves with intangible wages, and occasionally some are hard pressed to explain to the wondering initiate just what, in this practical age, a "Master's Wages" really are.
The wages of a Master may be classified under two heads: first, those inalienable rights which every Freemason enjoys as a result of payment of fees, initiation and the payment of annual dues to his Lodge; second, those more precious privileges which are his if he will but stretch out his hand to take.
The first right of which any initiate is conscious is that of passing the Tyler and attending his Lodge, instead of being conducted through the West Gate as a preliminary step to initiation. For a time this right of mingling with his new brethren is so engrossing that he looks no further for his Master's Wages.
Later he learns that he has also the right of visitation in other Lodges, even though it is a "right" hedged about with restrictions. He must be in good standing to exercise it.
Generally this right of visiting other Lodges is a very real part of what may be termed his concrete Master's Wages, and many are the Freemasons who find in it a cure for loneliness in strange places; who think of the opportunity to find a welcome and friends, where otherwise they would be alone, as wages of substantial character.
The opportunities to see and hear the beautiful ceremonies of Freemasonry, to take from them again and again a new thought, are wages not to be lightly received. For him with the open ears and the inquiring mind, the degrees lead to a new world, since familiarity with ritual provides the key by which he may read an endless stream of books about Freemasonry.
"Master's Wages" are paid in acquaintance. Unless a newly made Master Mason is so shy and retiring that he seeks the farthest corner of his Lodge-room, there to sit shrinking into himself, inevitably he will become acquainted with many men of many minds, always an interesting addition to the joy of life. What he does with his acquaintances is another story, but at least wages are there, waiting for him. No honest man becomes a Freemason thinking to ask the Craft for relief. Yet the consciousness that poor is the Lodge and sodden the hearts of the brethren thereof from which relief will not be forthcoming if the need is bitter, is wages from which much comfort may be taken.
Freemasonry is not, per Se, a relief organisation It does not exist merely for the purpose of dispensing charity. Nor has it great funds with which to work its gentle ministrations to the poor.
Fees are modest; dues often are too small, rather than too large. Yet, for the Brother down and out, who has no fuel for the fire, no food for his hungry children, whom sudden disaster threatens, the strong arm of the fraternity stretches forth to push back the danger. The cold are warmed, the hungry fed, the naked clothed, the jobless given work, the discouraged heartened. "Master's Wages" surely far greater than the effort put forth to earn them.
Freemasonry is strong in defence of the helpless. The widow and the orphan need ask but once to receive her bounty. All Brethren hope to support their own, provide for their loved ones, but misfortune comes to the just and the unjust alike. To be one of a world-wide Brotherhood on which widow and child may call is of untold comfort, "Master's Wages" more precious than coin of gold.
Finally, it is the right of Mason's burial. At home or abroad a Freemason, known to desire it, is followed to his last home by sorrowing Brethren who lay him away under the apron of the Craft and the sprig of Acacia of immortal hope. This, too, is "Wages of a Master".
"Pay the Craft their Wages, if any be due." 
To some the practical wages mentioned are the important payments for a Freemason's work. To others, the more tangible but none the less beloved opportunities to give, rather than to get, are the "Master's Wages" which count the most.
Great among these is the Craft's opportunity for service. The world is full of chances to do for others, and no man need apply to a Masonic Lodge only because he wants a chance to "do unto others as he would that others do unto him". But Freemasonry offers peculiar opportunities to unusual talents which are not always found in the profane world.
There is always something to do in a Lodge. There are always committees to be served and committee work is usually thankless work. He who cannot find his payment in his satisfaction of a task well done will receive no "Master's Wages" for his labours on Lodge committees.
There are Brethren to be taught. Learning all the "work" is a man's task, not to be accomplished in a hurry. Yet it is worth the doing, and in instructing officers and candidates many a Mason has found a quiet joy which is "Master's Wages" pressed down and running over.
Service leads to the possibility of appointment or election to the line of officers. There is little use to speak of the "Master's Wages" this opportunity pays, because only those who have occupied the Oriental Chair know what they are. The outer evidence of the experience may be told, but the inner spiritual experience is untellable because the words have not been invented. But Past Masters know! To them is issued a special coinage of "Master's Wages" which only a Worshipful Master may earn. Ask any of them if they were not well paid for the labour.
If practical "Master's Wages" are acquaintance in Lodge, the enjoyment of fellowship, merged into friendship, is the same payment in a larger form, Difficult to describe, the sense of being one of a group, the solidarity of the circle which is the Lodge, provides a satisfaction and pleasure impossible to describe as it is clearly to be felt. It is interesting to meet many men of many walks of life; it is heart-warming continually to meet the same group, always with the same feeling of equality. High and low, rich and poor, merchant and farmer, banker and fisherman, doctor and ditch-digger, meet on the level, and find it happy - "Master's Wages", value untranslatable into money.
Finally - and best - is the making of many friends. Thousands of Brethren count their nearest and dearest friends on the rolls of the Lodge they love and serve. The Mystic Tie makes for friendship. It attracts man to man and often draws together "those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance". The teachings of brotherly love, relief and truth; of temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice; the inculcation of patriotism and love of country, we everyday experience in a Masonic Lodge. When men speak freely those thoughts which, in the world without, they keep silent, friendships are formed. Count gain for work well done in what coin seems most valuable; the dearest of the intangibles which come to any Master Mason are those Masonic friendships of which there are no greater "Master's Wages".

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dan Brown's letter to the AASR

Dan Brown, author of the novel The Lost Symbol, was asked to address the 2009 Biennial Session of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction in Washington DC, October 4-6, 2009, but because of his schedule, he could not be there. Here is the letter he wrote to the Southern Jurisdiction.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Proper Instructions By W Bro Alphonse Cerza

The Worshipful Master is constantly being reminded by the ritual that he has a solemn duty to set the Craft to work and give them proper instruction. The two key words “work” and “instruction” naturally go together. In recent years, unfortunately, the word “work” has been applied only to the ritualistic work of the Craft. In its broadest sense it really means all types of Masonic work.

The aim of Freemasonry is to teach men to live uprightly, do good in the community, and by their work to set a good example. Since the word “mason” implies work and Freemasonry glorifies the dignity of work, we can reasonably assume that the Craft should devote its attention to the kind of work which will help fulfill this aim.

There is no question that the Masonic ritual is the foundation of the Craft. In it we find the message that Freemasonry has for the candidate, its philosophy, and its moral teachings. If one knows these lessons fully and completely, he is indeed a wise man. Too many of us are concerned more with perfection of the words rather than securing a full understanding of the spirit and the meaning of the ritual.

Let us not make the mistake of believing that the ceremony of initiation makes a man a Mason. True, this ceremony is vital and necessary, but unless the lessons of the ceremony and the spirit of the ritual is understood it is nothing. For example, for hundreds of years in the ancient world there were a number of associations that we now call the Ancient Mysteries. These organizations had a
number of things in common. One element stands out above all others: the belief that the ceremony of the Mystery purified the candidate. This basic belief more than any other factor brought these organizations to an end. Let us learn one lesson from this page of history "The ceremonies of the three degrees are of no value unless they are understood by the candidate and are grafted into everyday life."

An informed and enlightened membership is a better and more successful one. This is not idle talk. Brother William H. Knutt, in 1952, at the Mid-West Conference on Masonic Education, gave a report in which it was clearly shown that when the great depression of the thirties came along, the jurisdictions in which the Craft had been offering educational programs lost the least number of members.

The Craft should be put to WORK. That there be perfection in the ritual, that members receive instruction in the ceremonies of the Craft, and that our degree work be retained is of vital importance. No fault can be found with the ritualistic work for it is the foundation of our Order. Fault should be found with the view that we stop our efforts with the conferring of the degrees. We are amiss in our duty to the Craft when we do not properly prepare our candidates and then abandon the newly made Mason to his own devices. Lodges that devote their entire time to conferring degrees will soon find that quantity is not a substitute for quality. The quality of the membership is determined not only by the careful screening of applicants for the degrees but also in making the new member Mason in fact. This can be done by putting the new Mason to work.

What his work shall be must be determined by the Worshipful Master. While the new member is receiving his degrees someone should try to ascertain his likes, his dislikes, his hobbies, his aptitudes, and his inclinations. If he has a fondness for ritualistic work, by all means put him to work in that field. If he likes to read introduce him to Masonic literature. If he likes to speak why not encourage him to become a Masonic speaker? All this effort will help make this member a better Mason for he will be doing what he likes. And the Craft will profit thereby.

One method of discovering the talents of a member is a questionnaire. Each member is asked to answer certain questions so that the lodge may have information on his hobbies, whether he plays a musical instrument, likes to sing, is interested in amateur theatricals or has other interests. Thus the aptitudes, the likes, the inclinations of the members are ascertained. A resourceful Worshipful Master, by the use of the cards, can put practically every member to work at some time or other on a project to his liking.

The matter of giving the Craft "proper instruction" can take many forms. Each method should be used to make sure that the Craft does receive proper instruction.

Investigation Committee. Masonic instruction can start with the investigation committee. The applicant for the degrees can be told about our Masonic homes, about our Masonic charitable activities, and he should be given a booklet explaining the fundamental principles of the Craft.

Candidate Booklet. Many Grand Lodges have prepared a series of booklets for the use of the lodges while the candidate is taking the degrees. These booklets can serve a useful purpose if they are placed in the hands of the candidates and meetings are held to discuss the material; in this manner it can be ascertained if the new member is reading the booklets. It will also give him an opportunity to ask questions that have arisen in his mind.

Posting the Candidate. The member who posts the candidate performs a most important function. He can render a real service if he will also discuss with the candidate the booklet he is supposed to be reading at that particular time.

Discussion Groups. Discussion groups may be organized on the District level. They should be established primarily for the candidates, but all members should be encouraged to take part. The group could meet at different lodges in the district in accordance with a prearranged schedule. This would also help to encourage more attendance by members and will bring the lodges in the District closer together.

Speakers. A list of speakers should be developed in each District so that they may be available for the lodges in the District as occasions arise. It may be discovered that there is among the members a real student who can from time to time make some valuable contributions to Masonic thinking.

Book Clubs. Where there is a group of Masons that like to read, one inexpensive way to read Masonic books is to have each member of the group buy a book and then exchange books. In this way each member, for the price of one book, will have the opportunity to read as many books as there are members in the group.

Study Clubs. If we can have successful ritualistic clubs, why can't we have successful Masonic study clubs? That the ritualistic clubs have done much to perfect the ritualistic work of many members is well known. The same could be done with groups that are desirous of studying Masonic literature, history, and other subjects.

Research Lodges. There are a number of research lodges in the United States. The name is somewhat misleading. These lodges are really Masonic literary societies. Their main purpose is to study the history of the Craft and to issue reports on various phases of Freemasonry. (A listing of U.S. Research Lodges is available from M.S.A.)

Undoubtedly, there are many ways of setting the Craft to work and giving them proper instruction. Only a few of these are discussed here.

The ancient ceremonies of the Craft should not be set aside. The basic laws of the Craft should not be changed. The times, however, call for a re-evaluation of the procedures of the Craft in fulfilling its part of the life of the community. What we need is more well informed Masons. This can be done by proper instruction and by putting every member to work at a task that pleases him.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Apron of White Leather

The apron of white leather, made of lamb skin, is a distinguishing badge worn by every member of the Masonic Order, and without which no brother can be admitted within the portals of a Lodge, nor allowed to take part in any Masonic procession of solemnity. The Apprentice is invested with it on his reception into the Order, and it is worn by those who have attained the higher degrees, and by all those who fill the most dignified offices. An apron is worn by operative masons to preserve their garments from stain; and thus, in speculative Masonry, the apron reminds us that we must keep ourselves from moral defilement; or in the figurative language of the Holy Scripture, must keep our garments white and keep ourselves unspotted from the world. White is a color which has always been considered as emblematic of purity and joy. The apron is made of lambskin because the lamb has in all ages been recognized as the emblem of innocence, and was therefore chosen by God Himself to be offered to Him in sacrifice, as a type of great propitiatory sacrifice, the Lamb of God - the Lamb without blemish and without spot, that taketh away the sin of the world. The Mason's apron is, therefore, not only a symbol ever reminding him of the duty of maintaining to the utmost possible degree Purity of heart and Purity of life, and of ever seeking greater perfection in both, but also of propitiation for sin, and the pardon ready to be granted to every one who seeks it in the way appointed. It thus inspires him to work with hope, and that hope further encourages to further endeavors after those attainments which will make him a good man and a good Mason, exercising an influence for good amongst all around him - in the Lodge, in his own family, and it all the relations of life.
Fitly is the newly admitted Apprentice enjoined, in the charge addressed to him after his investiture with the apron, that he is never to put on that badge if at variance with any brother who may be in the Lodge. This rule not only secures that the Lodge shall not be disturbed by unseemly strife, but tends to keep brethren from quarreling, and to make them anxious for reconciliation when differences do arise, thus promoting that brotherly love which is the great duty of Freemasons continually to cherish and display. The Mason's lambskin apron always tells him that his mind should be filled with good thoughts and his heart with good feelings, with sentiments of piety and benevolence. It is an honorable Badge, which many of the greatest men have delighted to wear, and it ought to be the earnest desire of every Mason that he should never disgrace it, but on the contrary may every day become more worthy of it.
"The Color Blue"
Blue is the symbol of truth and universality, and we have seen how it was therefore much used by Divine command, and in the vestments of the Jewish priests. It is the color appropriate to the First Three Degrees, or Ancient Craft Masonry, and the curtains, cushions, etc. of a Lodge are therefore blue. This color naturally suggests the thoughts of the blue sky and the blue sea; of their vast extent, their profound depths, those of the sky being absolutely without limit; of their changelessness throughout the lapse of ages, though clouds may sometimes for a while obscure the sky, and the storms agitate the surface of the sea. There is much to engage the mind and much to affect the heart in the thought of the perfect stillness of the ocean depths, to which the power of the most fearful storms never reaches; and of the ever unbroken repose of the illimitable space beyond the clouds, where the orbs of heaven always shine in pure and serene majesty. Such thoughts carry away the mind from the world and its vicissitudes and cares to the better country. Nor is this all. The color that symbolizes truth and universality teaches us to maintain truth in our relations to God Himself and to our fellow man, and it teaches us that our charity ought to be extended to the entire human race. Truth in our relation to God is, in other words, sincerity and earnestness in religion, implying a continual cultivation of its graces, and a constant endeavor to discharge all its duties. Truth, in relation to our fellow-men, implies nor only the avoidance of all falsehood in speech, but of all that savors of deceit in our conduct, uprightness in all our dealings, a perfect and unimpeachable honesty, such that our own conscience may have nothing of which to accuse us, even in transactions the true character of which only God and ourselves can discern.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Cable Tow

The cabletow, is purely Masonic in its meaning and use. As far back as we can go in the history of initiation in several parts of the world, we find the cabletow, or something like it, used very much as it is used in a Masonic Lodge today. No matter what the origin and form of the word may be, - whether from the Hebrew “Khabel,” or the Dutch “cable,” both meaning a rope - the fact is the same. If we were to take a good look at the Cabletow used in our Lodge we will notice that it is a three stranded rope (made of soft material, so as not to injure,) the three strands make it stronger for its use. The cable consists of individual fibers, worked together to form strands. These strands are laid together to make up ropes and the ropes to form a cable. As separate entities, the fibers have little strength. However, when organized into a cable, as we have shown, their strength is immense. So it is with Freemasonry. A Masonic Cable is made from individuals who form a Lodge. Lodges organize into Regions. Regions unite in a Grand Lodge. And as three ropes entwined produce the strong cable, so too does Virtue, Morality and Brotherly Love give strength to Masonry. Further, a cable gains its strength from three equal ropes, laid together.

Each rope is as important to the whole as the other. So it is with the three degrees of Freemasonry. As a strong cable is made of three ropes entwined, the strength of a Lodge comes from the Three Great Lights, the Three Lesser Lights, the three principal officers and the three pillars denoting Wisdom, Strength and Beauty.

We are first introduced to the cabletow as a restraint and control applied to the candidate prior to an obligation, however, that would only have been so in the 1°. Control, obedience, direction or guidance - these are the three meanings of the cabletow, as it is interpreted by the best insight of the Craft. It controls us, shapes us through its human touch and its moral nobility. By the same method, by the same power it wins obedience and gives guidance and direction to our lives. At the Altar we take vows to follow and obey its high principles and ideals; and Masonic vows are not empty obligations - they are vows in which a man pledges his life and his sacred honor. In speculative Masonry it is symbolic of our obligations and teaches restraint, self discipline, prudence, temperance, etc.

If a lodge is a symbol of the world, and initiation is our birth into the world of Masonry, the cabletow is not unlike the cord which unites a child to its mother at birth; and so it is usually interpreted. Just as the physical cord, when cut, is replaced by a tie of love and obligation between mother and child, so, in one of the most impressive moments of initiation, the cabletow is removed, because the brother, by his oath at the Altar of Obligation, is bound by a tie stronger than any physical cable.

The cabletow is the sign of the pledge of the life of a man. As in his oath he agrees symbolically to forfeit his life if his vow is violated, so, positively, he pledges his life to the service of the Craft. He agrees to go to the aid of a Brother, using all his power on his behalf, “if within the length of his cabletow,” which means, if within the reach of his power. How strange that any one should fail to see symbolical meaning in the cabletow.

The old writers define the length of a cabletow, which they sometimes call a “cables length,” variously. For each Mason the cabletow reaches as far as his moral principles go and his material conditions will allow. Of that distance each must be his own judge, and indeed each does pass judgment upon himself accordingly, by his own acts in aid of others.

The cabletow is part of the preparation of every Freemason in the world and in every ritual it carries a connotation of submission, of humility, of servitude. The length of my cabletow can be regarded as a symbol of the binding covenant I have made. And part of this covenant is a pledge to assist others and in this respect, the length of my cabletow depends on my ability and willingness to fulfill my obligations and I must decide that length for myself. Measurement of service can never be subject to any externally imposed limitation for who else can decide the length of my spiritual ties? How long is my Cabletow? It's as long as I want it to be!

According to ancient laws of Freemasonry every brother must attend if he be within the length of his cabletow. Old writers define the length of a cable as three miles, others five to fifty miles. Three miles was generally recognized as a reasonable walking distance. The Master Mason promises to obey all signs and summons sent to him if with in the length of 'my cabletow'.

When we take the full sentence the word 'My' in this phrase is very important. It is personal, it represents the individual. So the length of each of our cable-tows can vary according to each of our own personal commitments - sickness of self or family, work obligations, transport problems. The compilers of our ritual were men who saw that it was only by attendance of our Lodge that we as Master Masons can be instructed in the spiritual and symbolical teaching of our Craft, a fuller realization of the Fatherhood of God and the universal Brotherhood of man, a greater understanding of the principles of Brotherly love, relief and truth. By emulating the virtues displayed in the Five Points of Fellowship we will find that although our duties and obligations have increased, that which was once a tie has now no longer length or distance lost in the satisfying reward of love, peace and harmony in fraternal nearness and fellowship.

First, let’s examine the physical cabletow. When we speak of the cabletow in terms of physical distance many of us make the error of assuming a reasonable distance and tend to judge others based upon our perception. As an example, let us assume that a Brother who lives less than a block from Lodge but does not attend and as a result some Brethren criticize him for not honoring his obligation as Lodge is obviously within the length of his cable-tow. More over, before criticizing a Brother for not crossing the street to attend Lodge, we must recognize that our cabletow must be even shorter than his since we have not crossed the street to ascertain his condition.

Now, let us examine an even less understood area -- our mental cabletow. By mental cabletow, it is referring to the distance we will travel intellectually or philosophically to meet and accommodate another Brother. It is this measure that will ultimately define our success in both Masonry and life as it is only by stretching our thinking beyond its normal limits that we learn, grow, and evolve. Like our physical cabletow, our mental cabletow is greatly foreshortened by prejudice (pre-judgment), judgment, egotism, and other common traits that require the constant and consistent application of the working tools.

The Cable Tow as a symbol is very old, and its symbolism can be found in many initiations and in many religions throughout the world. The Parsee wears a threefold cord wrapped and tied three times about his body, but not passing over the shoulder as the Twice Born (Hindus) wears it. There are two theories about the meaning (symbolism) of the Parsee’s threefold three times and tied about the body: One is the first circle expresses a belief in one God, the second a belief in one Prophet (Zoroaster) and the third is that the world is round. Another explanation of the three fold cord is Good Thought, Good Speech, and Good Work, in that order. In the Hindu Samskaras the Upanayana was the most important Samskara of great significance since only after undergoing the Upanayana, the initiation ceremony, a boy is admitted into the Aryan society. Initiation is mainly meant to enable a person, to acquire the means by which he can develop his inner personality to the full extent and to the right direction. The Upanayana is the first step on this long journey towards the goal of self-realization. This sacred ceremony included the Yajnopavita - the Sacred Thread. The Yajnopavita hanging from the left shoulder and passing under the right arm, constantly reminds a man that he is a bonded for an indefinite period and that he can free himself of this bondage made up of three gunas by discharging his duties to his ancestors, to the Gurus, and ultimately to the Gods. The yajnopavita consists of three cords and each cord is formed by twisting three threads into one. “A three times three symbolizing trinity(Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) in unity in spiritual things: The three strands represent three conquests over speech, mind, and the senses respectively: The threads in the strands represent respectively three qualities; darkness(tamas), passion(rajas), goodness(sattva); three attributes: Perception, analogy, inference; and three objects: The knower, the known, and knowledge.”In another form this thread when tied by a female to her brother or even sent to an unknown male binds that male to come to her help in time of her dire need.

The above article is derived from the contributions of Douglas Messimer; Grand Lodge of British Columbia Bulletin - December 1976; Worshipful Brother W.A. Rattray, The Ashlars. The United Grand Lodge of Queensland; Right Worshipful Lonnie Lee Godfrey; Abridged item by Brother David Thomas Lang in The Virginia Masonic Herald, Summer 2007; PM, LEO Tuckahoe Lodge 347 4-08; Marry Mcgee, and many other sites.
Special Thanks to RWBro Dr. S. P. Sharma PM Lodge Kohinoor #139

Friday, September 17, 2010

Learning& Memorizing Ritual - By W Bro. Mark Waks

Ritualist's Corner

One of the problems that most often plagues Masonry is poor ritual. By this, I don't just mean getting the words wrong -- I mean ritual that is drab and uninspiring, which fails to actually *teach* a candidate. Ritual is often mediocre, and it doesn't have to be; anyone can do ritual well, provided he knows a little about acting.

It isn't hard, actually; it's mostly a matter of knowing how to do it, plus a lot of practice. This article is intended to impart some guidelines on how to do Good Ritual. It doesn't demand a lot of time, or any particular talent, just a little drive to do well. Read it and play with it. With some practice, you should be able to use these techniques to good effect in your Lodge. The course is specifically aimed at dealing with the longer speeches, but much of it is also relevant to shorter pieces; I commend it to junior officers.

This is adapted from a lecture that I worked up for my own lodge; having done that, I figured I should try to spread these tips around for the common weal of the Craft. (Caveat: I do assume that you have some kind of cypher book, with encoded ritual. If your jurisdiction doesn't use this, you'll have to adapt these lessons.)

1: Figure out the Words

The first step of learning any ritual is to know what you're saying! This should be obvious, but is often overlooked, because brethren are afraid to admit that they don't already know the right words. Don't be afraid to admit your own limits -- I've never met *anyone* who gets every single word right every time.

Start out by listening to someone say the speech, preferably several times. (You should be doing this the entire previous year, listening to your predecessor.) Listen carefully, and make sure you understand what's being said; ask questions if you don't. (After Lodge, of course.)

Next, go through your cypher or code book carefully, and see how much you can read. Mark words that you can't figure out, or that you're unsure of -- this is the point to catch any mistakes you may be making. Then call or get together with a Ritualist or a reliable Past Master, and talk through it, reading out of the book slowly. Have him correct any mistakes, and fill in the words you don't know. Take notes (preferably somewhere other than in the book), because you will forget the corrections as soon as you're on your own.

2: Understand the Speech

This step gets overlooked even more often than the previous one. Read through the ritual a couple of times, and make sure you really grasp it. Don't just know the words -- know what it's talking about. Find out who the characters being talked about are. Again, ask questions.

Now, start trying to understand the speech structurally. Any ritual is made up of components, separate pieces that are linked together. For example, a section may be talking about symbols, with three paragraphs per symbol: concrete meaning, abstract meaning, and purpose. Figure out what these pieces are -- you'll use them later.

The next step is especially useful for long speeches -- visualize the speech. Any speech can be thought of in terms of movements, places, rooms, stuff like that. Words are hard to remember in order; places are easy. The canonical example is the Middle Chamber Lecture, which walks through King Solomon's Temple. That's no accident -- that path is easily visualized, and makes a good example of how to learn ritual, which is probably why it is the first major speech an officer learns. This is why we use symbols in the first place: because they are easy to learn and internalize. Use them.

3a: Small-Scale Memorization

This is never anyone's favorite part; anyone can do it, but no-one finds it simple. It's considerably easier if you do it right, though.

Start out by reading the speech over and over. Don't move on to the next step until you can read it from the cypher quickly, without breaks or hesitation. Read it *out loud*, when you get the chance. This step is particularly important, and skipped more often than any other. Don't skip it -- this is how you get your brain and mouth trained to the words. It may sound silly, but it really matters -- the mental pathways used to talk are distinct from those used to read.

Now, start trying to learn sentences. Just sentences. Read the first word or two of the sentence, then try to fill in the remainder from memory. Don't fret if you can't do it immediately; it will probably take at least 5 or 10 times through before you're getting most of the sentences. You'll find some that are hard -- hammer those ones over and over (but don't totally neglect the rest while you do so). Again, get to the point where you're doing reasonably well on this, before going on to the next step.

3b: Large-Scale Memorization

Once you've got most of the sentences, try to move on to paragraphs. Again, some will be easy and some hard. Try to understand exactly why this sentence follows that one -- in most cases, the ritual does make sense. An individual paragraph is almost always trying to express a single coherent thought, in pieces; figure out what that thought is, and why all the pieces are necessary. Keep at this until you're able to get most paragraphs by glancing at the first word or two, or by thinking, "Okay, this is the description of truth," or something like that.

Finally, start putting it all together. This is where the structural analysis in Step 2 gets important. You visualized the speech, and figured out how it hooks together; use that visualization to connect the paragraphs. Make sure you have some clue why each paragraph follows the one before. In almost every case, the next paragraph is either a) continuing this thought, or b) moving on to a related thought. In both cases, you can make memorization much easier by understanding why it flows like that. Convince yourself that this paragraph obviously has to follow that one, and you'll never forget the order.

4: Smoothing It Out

You're now at the point where you've got pretty much all the sentences down, and most of the paragraphs, and you're able to get through the whole thing only looking at the book a few times. Now, start *saying* it.

When you're driving in the car; when you're alone at home; pretty much any time you have some privacy, try saying it all out loud, at full voice. Trust me, it sounds very different when you actually say it aloud. You'll find that you stumble more, and in different places. Some words turn out to be more difficult to pronounce than you expected. Try it a few times.

Start out by trying to do this frequently -- once, even twice every day. It'll be hard at first (and it's a real pain to pull out the cypher book while you're driving), but it'll gradually get easier. When you're starting to feel comfortable, slow down, but don't stop. Practice it every couple of days, then every week. Don't slow down below once a week. If you feel up to it, see if you can speed up your recitation. (But do not ever speed-talk the ritual in open Lodge -- that's for memorization and rehearsal only.)

5a: Mindset

Last part. You're now at the point where you pretty much have the ritual memorized. Now, the trick is learning how to perform it well. Very nearly everyone has some amount of stage fright; us acting types often have it even worse than most. The trick to overcoming it is control of the nerves.

Now that you're comfortable reciting the ritual, observe how you do it. By now, you're not thinking about it so much; your mouth is doing almost all the work, with the conscious mind simply making a few connections between paragraphs. That is the right state to be in. Think about how that feels, and learn it.

Before you go in to "perform", do some basic acting exercises. Take a few deep breaths; concentrate on not thinking. I think the ideal is a little light meditation, but it takes a fair bit of practice to be able to drop into that state on demand; for now, just worry about being calm. Being calm is far more important than anything else. If you're calm, you're unlikely to screw up too badly; if you're tense, you're far more likely to. Some people like to exercise the body a bit, to relax the mind; you should do what works for you.

5b: Acting

Now the final nuance, which separates merely competent ritual from the really good stuff. Now that you're able to let your mouth do all the talking, start listening to yourself. Think about the ritual again, but don't think about the words, think about what it means. What are the important bits? Emphasize those. How could you use your body or hands to illustrate a point? Try talking *to* the person in front of you, not just *at* them -- look them in the eye and make them get the point. You are teaching important lessons here; try to capture a little of the emotional intensity of that importance.

Think of your "performance" as a melding of two parts. Your mouth is providing the words, your mind and heart the emotion. Again, nothing beats practice. This is what rehearsal should really be for -- taking a dummy candidate in hand, and learning how to really get the point across. Don't fret if you find that you need to change "modes" now and then -- here and there you will need to think about the words briefly, when you change paragraphs or hit a hard sentence. That won't throw you, though, so long as you keep track of what you're saying; you've already figured out why each part leads into the next, and that will guide you when you stumble.


Don't expect to get all this down instantly; it takes most people a few years to really get good at it. Just try to advance yourself bit by bit. Learn the transitions and pieces first -- if you have that, you can get through the ritual. Next time, work on memorizing more thoroughly. The time after that, work on getting it really smooth. After a while, you can build up to the point where you have the luxury to act. And at that point, you will find that you start doing the kind of ritual that Masonry is meant to have -- both moving and interesting, enough so that the candidate (who is, remember, the whole point) actually *learns* what you're saying, and what it actually means. And if you really do it well, you'll find that you come to understand the meaning of the ritual a good deal better yourself...

By Wor. Mark Waks
Master, Hammatt Ocean Lodge - Saugus, MA

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Some Famous Freemason Magician's

In the world of professional stage magic, few names resonate with such acclaim as Harry Keller, Howard Thurston, Harry Houdini, Charles Carter, and Harry Blackstone, Sr. In addition to being brothers in the fraternity of American magicians, each was also an active Freemason. Nearly amazing as the magic acts these great illusionists are famous for is the fact that all of the great magicians made time in their busy lives for Freemasonry: Despite the extensive travel entailed in their careers and all the allurements to the vices of the world, each recognized the value of the Masonic brotherhood.

Masonic Bro. Harry Keller (1849-1922) was the founder of what has been described as the Royal Dynasty of American Magicians. Keller began the tradition of passing the mantle of "Greatest American Magician" to a successor, his Masonic Brother, Howard Thuston. The lineage of the Keller dynasty has over the years passed from Bro. Thurston to Masonic Bro. Dante (Harry Jansen, 1883-1955), to Lee Grable (1919 - present, especially famous for floating and revolving his wife in mid-air as she plays the piano - a variation of Levitation made famous by Bro. Keller), and to the current successor, Lance Burton. However, much of what we know of Keller is learned from his friend Bro. Harry Houdini who was a frequent guest at Keller's Los Angeles estate and interviewed the great magician to document the history of their craft: Long after Kellar had retired and just a few years before his death, Houdini cajoled his friend on stage for a mammoth show to benefit the families of the men who died when the troop transport Antilles was sunk by a German U-boat. Houdini arranged for Kellar to be carried off in triumph after his final public performance, as six thousand spectators sang Bro. Robert Burns poem "Auld Lang Syne."
An amusing anecdote related to Bro. Keller's Masonic membership was when he was shipwrecked in the Bay of Biscay and his Blue Lodge diploma went to the bottom of the sea. It was later recovered by divers who brought up baggage from the sunken steamer. Bro. Keller later remarked it had been viewed by Grand Master Neptune and returned.

Bro. Howard Thurston (1869-1936) was initiated in Manitou Lodge No. 106, New York City, on July 22, 1907. He received the 32° in New York City on July 10, 1910, and later became a Noble of New York's Mecca Shrine Temple (Mecca is the first and oldest Shrine Temple, having been established in 1871 by actor Bro. William J. "Billy" Florence, Bro. Dr. Walter M. Fleming, and others). During Thurston's stage show, he was known to say, "pronounce the magic word ‘Hiram Abif’ and the rooster and the duck will change places." Through this patter, he prepared his audience to be amazed and, also let his Masonic Brothers know that a fellow Freemason was on the stage.
Bro. Thurston said of Freemasonry: "I sometimes think that the traveling Masons have more opportunities of being both proud and glad of the social distinction designated by the Square and Compasses than those who remain home most of the time. This is certainly true of a public entertainer, and especially of a magician.... What a wonderful thing for a stranger to be able to meet the best men of the community as a brother and a friend!"

Bro. Keller and Thurston's contemporary, Bro. Harry Houdini (born Erich Weiss, 1874-1926) passed his own secrets only to his biological brother Theodore Weiss who performed under the name, Hardeen. The brothers began their magic act playing lodge banquets, beer halls, dime museums and any other bookings they could obtain. By 1919, Bro. Houdini's fame as an escape artist had spread world wide. One illusion he never attempted was the bullet catch, of which his friend, Bro. Harry Keller warned Houdini that there were too many things that could go wrong and requested that he not do the stunt: Houdini had announced that would try the stunt after well known headlining magician Chung Ling Soo (also a Bro. Mason whose real name was William Ellsworth Robinson) had been killed performing it, but assented to Bro. Keller's sage advice.
Harry Houdini was initiated in St. Cecile Lodge No. 568, N.Y., July 17, 1923, Passed July 31, and Raised August 21. In 1924 he entered the Consistory. Houdini gave back to the Masonic fraternity of which he was so proud, including giving a benefit performance for the Valley of New York which filled the 4,000 seat Scottish Rite Cathedral and raised thousands of dollars. In October 1926, just weeks prior to his untimely death on that Halloween, he became a Shriner in Mecca Temple. 
Last rites for Bro. Houdini were held November 4, 1926 at the Elks Clubhouse in New York. Services were conducted by Rabbi Tintner who joined in the Elks "Hour of Remembrance," a tribute was delivered by Rabbi Bernard Drachman and eulogies by Loney Haskell of the Jewish Theatrical Guild and Henry Chesterfield of the National Vaudeville Artists, followed by a service by the Society of American Magicians, and concluded, as by tradition of the fraternity, with Masonic Rites.

Another contemporary was illusionist Charles Carter (1874-1936), who hailed from San Francisco: He started his career as a magic journalist and prominent lawyer. Because of stiff competition in America, he chose to concentrate his magic career abroad, where he achieved great fame. His magnificent home in San Francisco is presently used as a foreign embassy headquarters.
Famed magician and Bro. Mason, Maurice Raymond, himself an escape artist, had a long running professional fued with Bro. Houdini. The Great Raymond proved his devotion to the Masonic fraternity when, on retirement, he toured the United States lecturing at Masonic Temples about his life in Magic: A favorite anecdote was performing in Ecuador, where he used two authentic shrunken heads as props.

Other great Masonic Magicians included: John Henry Anderson (1814-1874, who like Bro. Chung Ling Soo was famous for the bullet catch), Alexander Herrmann (1844-1896), Frederick Eugene Powell (1856-1938), Chung Ling Soo (born, William Ellsworth Robinson, 1861-1918), Dante (August Harry Jansen, 1883-1955, who appeared with his Masonic Bro. Oliver Hardy in Laurel and Hardy's films A-Haunting We Will Go and Bunco Squad), and Okito (born Theo Bamberg, 1875-1963). 

The tradition of Mason Magicians represented by these great vaudeville era illusionists has been perpetuated by the "Invisible Lodge" founded in 1953 by Bro. Brewerton H. Clarke who performed under the stage name Sir Felix Korim (1905-1986). The "Invisible Lodge" was not actually a Lodge, but rather a club for Masonic Magicians which convenes its sessions at major Magic Conventions. The club follows its own ritual, which encompasses elements from both Masonry and the world of illusion: The preferred time for the Invisible Lodge's sessions has been midnight. Members of the Invisible Lodge have included, Blackstone (born Henri Bouton, 1885-1965), Okito (born Theo Bamberg, 1875-1963), Ballantine (born Meyer Kessler who, as an actor played Lester Gruber on McHale's Navy with his  fellow Mason, Bro. Ernest Borgnine), and Jack Gwynne (1895-1969).

Article reproduced from Mill Valley Lodge #356
Mill Valley, CA, USA

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How Freemasonry came to India

In 1717 A.D. when an era of comparative peace and harmony dawned on the European scene, the United Grand Lodge of England and Scotland took shape at a meeting of the local Lodges of London, to elect a Grand Master. A United constitution was drawn up and recognized by all the Lodges. A democratic tradition in the election of the Worshipful Master of a Lodge was prescribed. The Worshipful Master was authorized to appoint his team of officers. It is therefore of interest that within 12 years of the constitution of the Grand Lodge of England, constituted for the purpose of exercising supervision over the lodges in London, and its neighboring areas, a petition was sent by a few Brethren in India to constitute a Provincial Grand Lodge in Calcutta. The Petition having been granted, a Provincial Grand Master was appointed to supervise Masonic activity in India and the Far East in 1728 A.D.

Full details regarding how the First Lodge was constituted in India, are preserved in the Minutes of the Grand Lodge in London. First a petition was presented on December 28, 1728 and at the end of the minutes of that meeting, the text of the "Deputation" from the Grand Master: "to Impower and Authorize our well beloved Brother Pomfret...that he do, in our place and stead, constitute a regular Lodge, in due form at Fort William in Bengal in the East Indies...." This was signed and sealed "the 6th day of February 1728/9 and in the year of Masonry 5732 (which shows that Grand Lodge used Usher's Chronology in dating the Masonic era - as the Grand Lodge of Scotland still do). The Lodge at Fort William -- that is, Calcutta -- appears in the Engraved List of 1730, as No. 72. It was to meet at Fort William in Calcutta. The coat of Arms was adopted from the East India Company a golden lion, supporting between the forepaws a regal crown. In 1729, Captain Ralph Farwinter was appointed "Provisional Grand Master for East India in Bengal" and also James Dawson as "Provincial Grand Master" for East Indies.

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Madras was formed in 1752 and The Provincial Grand Lodge of Bombay was created in 1758. Although it appeared in the Roll of Grand Lodge there is no record of how it came into being.

The first Indian Mason was Omdat-ul-Omrah, Nawab Carnatic initiated in 1775. The doors to Hindu Masonry was flung wide-open might one say, by the unstoppable determination of one Mr. P.C. Dutt of Calcutta to become a member of the craft. After much opposition from the Provincial Grand Master (Hugh Sanderman) and nine years after he was roposed for initiation Mr.Dutt became Bro. Dutt in Anchor and Hope, No. 234, in 1872. Twenty-three years later, he was Deputy District Grand Master. 

It was towards the end of October 1959 that the Most W. Grand Masters of England, Ireland and the Immediate Past Grand Master Mason of Scotland met in London to discuss the future of Freemasonry in India. The three Grand Masters considered that "an independent Grand Lodge of India is desirable and that its establishment should be gradually but actively pursued."

A representative Steering Committee was set up consisting exclusively of Indian Brethren in proportion to the number of Lodges under each of the three Constitutions, with R.W.Bro Lt.Gen. Sir Harold Williams, K.B.E., C.B., as Chairman, with the aim of establishing an independent Grand Lodge of India on the best possible foundations. The Steering Committee met at important centers of Masonic activities in the North, East, South and West of India and its report was unanimously signed early October 1960. On December 1, the three Grand Masters issued "Notes on the proposed Grand Lodge of India for the information and guidance of Lodges in India." Therein they reiterated their declared attitude towards an independent Grand Lodge of India, but left it to Lodges in India to decide whether to opt for or against joining such a body, adding that if the Brethren in India decided in favor of an independent Grand Lodge, they would accept the decision and establish with it the closest fraternal relations and that Lodges not wishing to participate would continue to enjoy the existing rights under their respective Grand Lodges.

Out of a total of 277 individual Lodges in India (excluding Pakistan, Ceylon and Aden, which were excluded for the poll) 145 opted for the new Grand Lodge of India. This represented a little over 52 per cent.


The Grand Lodge of India was officially constituted at ten minutes to six o'clock on Friday the 24th November 1961 in the Ashoka Hotel, New Delhi. There were three delegations from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, Ireland and England in that order. After the three delegations were received and greeted, the Grand Master Mason of Scotland proceeded with the Consecration. Thereafter, The Deputy Grand Master of Ireland officially constituted the new Grand Lodge saying "in the name of the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland and by the command of their Grand Master, I constitute and form you, my good Brethren into the Sovereign Grand Lodge of India, you are empowered henceforth to exercise all the rights and privileges of a Grand Lodge according to the ancient usages and landmarks of the Craft. May the Grand Architect of the Universe prosper, direct and counsel you in all your proceedings."

After the Consecration and Constitution, the Deputy Grand Master of England assumed the Throne and installed Major General Dr. Sir Syed Raza Ali Khan, G.C.I.E., D.Litt., LL.D., His Highness The Nawab of Rampur, as the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of India. The Aprons, Collars, Gauntlets etc. for the new Lodge were provided jointly by the three parent Grand Lodges.

In addition to the three parent Grand Lodges, the M.W. Grand Master of the Grand Lodges of the State of Israel, the M.W. Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Alberta (Canada) and about 1,491 Brethren from all over India were present at this historic event. 
This article was forwarded by RW Bro Dr. S. P. Sharma PM
Lodge Kohinoor #139