Monday, July 27, 2015

The Ancient City of Acre

The city of Acre plays an important part in the history of crusades and particularly in the history of the Commemorative Order of St. Thomas of Acon as it was in Acre where the order was founded. Acre is unique as it has existed since the time of the Phoenicians; has been influenced by the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Bahai religions; and many of its ancient structures have been preserved over time.

Acre is located on the northern section of Haifa Bay in Israel and is one the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world. Acre sits in an important location as it was an important trade port connecting the Levant to the maritime trade that occurred in the Mediterranean.

Acre is thought to have been founded some time during the early Bronze Age (circa 3000 B.C.). There is an early reference to a city named Aak, which appeared on a list of cities paying tribute to Thutmose III. The name "Acre" used was derived by the Greeks from the root word "ake" meaning healing, which goes back to the Greek mythological story of Heracles finding healing herbs there for his wounds. The original city was fortified by a high earthen wall where access was through brick gateways. It is also thought to have been referred to as Akko or Akka which city is found in Judges 1:31 and refers to a city where Israelites could not drive out Canaanites; the Jewish historian Josephus referred to the city as Akre. The city would eventually become a part of the territory belong to the tribe of Asher, one of the 12 tribes of Israel, and ruled by a provincial governor under King Solomon, though some argue that it remained an independent city. As it was on the northern edge of the Israeli kingdom and being a seaport town, Acre was exposed to other cultures and in the 8th century BC, took part in a revolt, along with Tyre and Sidon, against Shalmaneser V, an Assyrian king.

After Acre was conquered by Alexander the Great, the city was renamed 'Antiochia Ptolemais', named after Ptolemy II Philadelphus, King of Ptolemaic Egypt (a Hellenistic kingdom that existed after the death of Alexander the Great and ended with the death of Cleopatra VII).

Around 153 BC, Alexander I Balas, son of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, contesting with Demetrius I Soter over the crown of the Syrian Kingdom of the Seleucidae, took over Acre, or Antiochia Ptolemais. 

The city was captured by Alexander Jannaeus (King of Judea), Cleopatra VII (Queen of Egypt), and Tigranes II (King of Armenia) in the 1st Century BC. For Alexander Jannaeus this was a strategic move as the Seleucid Empire was too weak to intervene and prevent the takeover.

During the control of Judea under the Roman Empire (starting around 48 BC), Acre was a staging point for legions to quell the Jewish rebellion (sometimes referred to as the Great Revolt). After the Roman Empire was split into two halves, Acre was administered by the Eastern Roman Empire (what would become the Byzantine Empire). The Byzantines would control it until 614 AD when the Persians took control of it for a short period.

In August of 636 AD, the Byzantines were defeated by the Islamic Army led by Khalid ibn al-Walid, a general of Abu Bakr, and is considered one of Khalid's greatest military victories. Following the battle, Acre fell under the rule of the Rashidun Caliphate. The Rashidun Caliphate ruled from 632 to 661 until it was replaced by the Umayyad Caliphate and them by the Abbasids. Through the caliphates, Acre was revived as it was used as one of the main ports and naval bases, and due to this importance the caliphates strengthened the fortifications.

The city would remain in the hands of Muslims until 1104 when, after 4-years of siege, Acre was finally captured by the armies commanded by King Baldwin I of the newly established Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Crusaders needed Acre for their chief port for both supplies and new troops required for maintaining their holdings and further conquest in the Holy Land. Acre also gave them access to the trade that had made the city so prosperous and was matched only in size by the city of Jerusalem. Acre made Jerusalem, and the crusader kingdom, very wealthy providing more than all the revenues of the King of England. Acre symbolized the exchange of western and eastern cultures better than any other city during the Crusades.

In 1187, Acre fell into the hands of the Ayyubid Sultan, Saladin, after his victory against the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin. This was not the only city lost to the Crusaders as a result of the Battle of Hattin; several other cities of great importance were lost such as Jerusalem. In 1189 Acre was besieged by the Crusaders, but it would take two years before they would capture the city from the Muslims.

The Siege of Acre was the start of the Third Crusade and lasted nearly 2-years. Guy de Lusignan, King of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, led the Crusading army to besiege the port city. After the Battle of Hattin, many of the strategic holdings such as Acre and Tyre were captured by Saladin's forces. This news shocked Europe and a call for a Third Crusade occurred. King Guy had been released after his capture at Hattin and with the refusal of Conrad to let him enter Tyre, headed towards Acre to capture the city and establish a new base of operations for his kingdom; his authority was tied solely to his wife and many rejected his claim as ruler of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Unable to take the city by surprise the Crusaders set up camp around the city and wait for reinforcements, this came in the form of Danish, French, German, Italians, and English. Upon hearing this news, Saladin moved his army towards Acre where the first battle occurred on September 15, 1189, and the Muslim forces were repelled, but small battles and skirmishes over the next several months. The Crusader force was in a precarious position as it had a Muslim garrison within Acre on one side and Saladin's forces located east of the city in a semicircle formation.

The Siege of Acre was plagued with stalemates and neither side could obtain a large enough victory to secure the complete defeat of their enemy. The Crusaders attempted to destroy the walls using siege machines, but when they attempt to breach the walls, Saladin would attack from the rear causing them to stop the infiltration of Acre and repel the Islamic forces which would give the garrison within Acre and opportunity to repair the damage. On July 4, 1191, city had taken enough damage that it offered terms of surrender to King Richard, but he rejected the conditions. A week later, after a final battle, the Crusaders accepted the terms of surrender offered by the Muslims holding the city of Acre.

It was during the Siege of Acre that William, the Chaplain to the Dean of St. Pauls, arrived in the Holy Land and came to see the devastation of the siege and all the dead Crusader bodies that were not buried. With some assistance, he began to bury the dead Crusaders and help with the wounded. His movement gained traction and popularity so William formed an order with Acre being incorporated to its name as a memorial of its founding location. He started out by raising monies needed to ransom captives of the Muslim forces. Being successful at fundraising, William then proceeded to build a church and churchyard dedicated to St. Thomas `a Becket whereupon the order became known as "Commemorative Order of St. Thomas of Acon" (Acon being the anglicized version of Acre). This order was truly unique as it was the only order composed of Englishmen. This order, out of necessity, would become militarized and fight alongside the other military orders found in Acre.

Once captured in 1191, Acre served as the de facto capital of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem as Jerusalem was still under the control of Saladin's forces as well as the headquarters of the military orders such as the Knights Templar, Knights Hospitallier, and German Teutonic Knights. The city expanded with new neighborhoods, palaces, churches, and public buildings which required new defenses built in the form of a double city wall.

Acre would remain in control of the Crusaders until 1291 when the Mamluk Sultan Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil captured the city in a bloody siege and razed the city so it could not be used against him or his successors in the future. Acre was the last stronghold of the Crusaders on the Levantine mainland and many, such as the Knights Templar, fled to islands such as Cyprus.

The Mamluks had been capturing small portions of what remained of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, but when the Tripoli fell, the leaders in Acre started to prepare and fortify Acre in hopes of keeping it and repelling the Mamluk army headings its way. The Mamluk army was strengthened by troops from Damascus, Hama, Tripoli, and al-Kark which arrived at Acre on April 5, 1291. Over the next 2-weeks the Mamluks launched barrages against the towers and walls of Acre and engaged in small skirmishes with the Crusading forces. On May 5, Acre attempted to settle the matter with a plea for mercy, but this failed. On May 8, the towers began to cave in from the immense damage dealt to them by the Mamluks. The days following were seen with attacks into the city, but a complete victory wasn't accomplished until the 18th of May, and by that time many rulers were able to escape. Not everyone was willing to surrender to the Mamluks; the Knights Templar held out until May 28 when their fortress finally collapsed killing them and most of the attacking Mamluks. The Fall of Acre signaled the end of the Crusader control of the Holy Land.

While much of the city was in ruin, it was still used as a port, even during the Mamluk era which lasted until 1517 AD when Acre was taken over by the Ottomans. Under the Ottomans it seems Acre was neglected as it fell into disuse and decay. By the end of the 17th century, there were just a few buildings, some cottages, some religious sites, and a few French merchants.

Tribal leaders or sheikhs were able to take it over. At the end of the 18th century Acre was revived and made the seat of power under the rule of Dhaher al-Omar, sometimes known as Zahir al-Umar al-Zaydani, whose domain included Galilee, Tiberias (near the Hills of Hattin), Arraba, Nazareth, and Deir Hanna. It was during this sheikhdom that Acre's fortifications were rebuilt. Such were the fortifications that not even Napoleon was able to capture the city in 1799, but was destroyed by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt in 1831. During the Egyptian-Ottoman War, naval forces from England, Turkey, and Austria shelled Acre causing Ibrahim Pasha to flee the city. After this war, Acre served as the capital of the northern region of the Land of Israel in the Ottoman Empire.

During the British Mandate of Palestine after World War I, Acre was reconstructed. In the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan, Acre was originally designated to be a part of a future Arab state, but was besieged and captured by the Israeli's during the 1948 War. The port of Acre fell into disuse as it was supplanted by the port of Haifa, located along the south side of the Bay of Haifa (opposite of Acre).

Today Acre is a city with a mixed demography with Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Acre is considered the holiest city for the Bahá'í Faith, a monotheistic religion emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind and was founded in Persia during the 19th century. Throughout its history, this city has been under Phoenician, Assyrian, Roman, Byzantine, Hellenistic, Persian, Islamic, Crusader, British, and Israeli control. Even with its destruction, Acre has many well preserved remains which show off its unique history and the styles of architecture seen in the urban life of Acre throughout the years; recent excavations have uncovered Hellenistic and Roman cemeteries as well as a temple dedicated to Antiochus VII Euergetes (sometimes referred to as Sidetes), a ruler of the Seleucid Empire. In 2002, the oldest part of the city of Acre was declared a world cultural preservation site by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and serves as a major tourist attraction. Acre, today, serves much of Western Galilee in trade and administration matters.


1. History. n.d. 

2. Czech, Kenneth P. Third Crusade: Siege of Acre. August 2001. 

3. Hickman, Kennedy. Crusades: Siege of Acre. n.d.

4. Acre, Israel. n.d.,_Israel. 

5. Acre: History & Overview. 2008. 

6. Alexander Jannaeus. n.d. 

7. Bahai Faith. n.d. 

8. Lendering, Jona. Alexander I Balas. n.d. 

9. Old City of Acre. n.d. 

10. Siege of Acre (1189-91). n.d.–91). 

11. Siege of Acre (1291). n.d. 

12. Sites - Israel: Akko or Acre. n.d. 

13. Snell, Melissa. Acre, City of. n.d. 

14. The British Mandate Period. n.d.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Fellow-Crafts Song

By Brother Cales Delafate, Esq.


HAIL Masonry! thou Craft divine! 
Glory of Earth, from Heav’n reveal’d; 
Which dost with Jewels precious shine, 
From all but Masons Eyes conceal’d.


Thy Praises due who can rehearse 
In nervous Prose, or flowing Verse?


As Men from Brutes distinguish’d are, 
A Mason other Men excels;
For what’s in Knowledge choice and rare 
But in his Breast securely dwells?


His silent Breast and faithful Heart 
Preserve the Secrets of the Art.


From scorching Heat, and piercing Cold; 
From Beasts, whose Roar the Forest rends; 
From the Assaults of Warriours bold 
The Masons Art Mankind defends.


Be to this Art due Honour paid, 
From which Mankind receives such Aid.


Ensigns of State, that feed our Pride, 
Distinctions troublesome, and vain! 
By Masons true are laid aside: 
Art’s free-born Sons such Toys disdain;


Ennobled by the Name they bear, 
Distinguished by the Badge they wear.


Sweet Fellowship, from Envy free: 
Friendly Converse of Brotherhood; 
The Lodge’s lasting Cement be! 
Which has for Ages firmly stood.


A Lodge, then built, for Ages past 
Has lasted, and will ever last.


Then in our Songs be Justice done
To those who have enrich’d the Art, 
From Jabal down to Burlington, 
And let each Brother bear a Part.


Let noble Masons Healths go round; 
Their Praise in lofty Lodge resound.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

134th Annual Homecoming of Silver City

Yesterday I carpooled up with my Lodge Secretary and several others to the historic mining town of Silver City, "the queen of ghost towns". While it is only 72-miles to that town it is located deep within the Owyhee Mountains and is one of the few mining towns that didn't get commercialized or burn down. Going to Silver City is like taking a step back in time and it isn't just the view that will make you breathless, the town sits at over 6,100-ft elevation.

The Lodge in Silver City was built in 1864, but Silver City Lodge #13 wasn't founded until 1881 after Owyhee Lodge #5 and War Eagle Lodge #6 decided consolidate and form a new Lodge; Owyhee Lodge #5 and War Eagle Lodge #6 were two of the founding Lodges of the Grand Lodge AF&AM of Idaho. In the winter months Silver City Lodge meets in the small town of Homedale, ID, because the roads are closed due to the snow fall and lack of resources in the area. At the Annual Homecoming they perform a 3rd degree ceremony. If Silver City doesn't have a candidate, another Lodge can bring a candidate and that Lodge confers the 1st section then afterward the Grand Lodge is invited to preside over the Raising and then closes the Lodge. At this meeting there were more than 15 Lodges represented from multiple states, some of the Brothers were the candidate's father and brother.

This meeting is an interesting one as the Lodge building has no electricity which means no A/C. Normally it is a heatwave in the Lodge room and requires us to have all the windows open and lots of water to keep everyone hydrated. This year wasn't too bad as it has been raining and storming the last couple of days so it kept the temperature down, and Mother Nature provided some acoustics during the degree with some thunder and rain.

Today was filled with a Grand Lodge Planning Meeting in the morning and the Idaho Masonic Family Association in the afternoon. Now it's time to catch up with homework and get some sleep.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Pike Statue in DC

Located at 3rd and D Streets NW near Judiciary Square of Washington DC is a statue dedicated to Brother Albert Pike. Congress authorized, through a Joint Resolution, the placement of this statue on April 9, 1898. The Supreme Council of Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, led the movement behind the erection of the statue, which they wanted to dedicate to the memory of his service to the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.

The statue sits at 11-ft tall, is composed of bronze, and was sculpted by Gaetano Trentaove. Pike is presented in civilian dress as a Masonic leader, not as a General for the Confederate Army; this statue was not intended to commemorate Pike's short military career with the Confederacy, but to honor him for his service to the Scottish Rite and Freemasonry in general. In his left hand is holds a copy of his book, "Morals & Dogma." The statue sits atop a granite platform at the bottom of which sits a Greek goddess holding the banner of the Scottish Rite. Carved around the platform are the words: Author, Poet, Scholar, Soldier, Philanthropist, Philosopher, Jurist, and Orator. On the front of the platform bears the words "Vixit Laborum Ejus Super Stites Sunt Fructus" which means "He has lived. The fruits of his labors live after him."

The statue has drawn calls for its removal because of his position in the Confederate Army (not realizing there are Confederate statues maintained by the US government all over the US) and the asinine theory that Pike was a founder and officer of the Ku Klux Klan. Dr. Walter Lee Brown, an expert on Pike, has stated that there are no primary sources that support the accusations that Pike was ever involved with the Ku Klux Klan. Even from a Congressional investigation no reference to Pike ever came up when looking at the activities of the Ku Klux Klan during the Reconstruction Era. As the statue sits on Federal land, the National Park Service maintains the statue. On September 20, 1978, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; 
what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.

Albert Pike was born on December 29, 1809 in Boston, MA, the son of Ben and Sarah Pike. His childhood and early academics were spent in Newburyport and Framingham until his he was 15-years old. In 1825 he applied and was accepted into Harvard, but never attended due to the tuition fees. Instead of finding another college, he chose to educate himself and eventually became a schoolteacher in the region. Such were his determination that he learned to read Sanskrit, Hebrew, Greek, Latin and French.

In 1831, Pike left New England and headed West, eventually making it to Taos, NM; after having walked 500-miles after losing his horse. After Taos, he traveled to Llano Estacado before going to Fort Smith, AR.

In Arkansas he started teaching again and wrote for a newspaper called the "Little Rock Arkansas Advocate." His articles became so popular that he was asked to join the staff and eventually would become its sole owner. In 1834, he married Mary Ann Hamilton who gave birth to 11 children. 

While in Arkansas he again took to the path of self-education and began to study law. He was admitted to the bar in 1837 and sold the newspaper. In 1859, Harvard wished to give him an Honorary PhD, but he declined it. In 1861, at the start of the Civil War, Pike was appointed as Commissioner of Native American Tribes; Pike had a relationship with Native Americans, having successfully counseled on behalf of the Choctaw Nation to the Supreme Court of the USA. The Confederates saw it important to have a strong relationship with the Native Americans and Pike was given power to oversee treaties with the Cherokee, Comanche, Osage, Quapaw, Senecas, and Shawnee nations. Pike believed that the South should stay with the North, but if they were forced into submission and treated as inferior then he believed the South had the right to secession. He would eventually resign from his position as an officer in the Confederate Army. With the defeat of the Confederacy, rebel officers such as Pike were indicted for treason, but Pike was given a pardon by President Andrew Jackson, a Mason himself.

His Masonic career started in 1850 when he petitioned Western Star Lodge #2 where he was initiated and passed in July 1850, and Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason on November 4, 1850. He demitted from Western Star Lodge in 1852 to become a charter member of Magnolia Lodge #60. He would affiliate with other Lodges over the years in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Washington DC. He received the degrees and orders of the York Rite from 1850 to 1853 in Arkansas, and the Scottish Rite degrees in 1853 in South Carolina. In 1858, Albert Mackey would invite Pike to join the Supreme Council and would become the Sovereign Grand Commander the following year. He would hold this position for 32-years. In 1870 the Supreme Council, and Pike, moved from Charleston to Washington DC. He is most well-known for his reform in the rituals of the Scottish Rite and publication of "Morals & Dogma." Being beggared by the Civil War, Pike borrowed monies from the Supreme Council until they voted, in 1879, to place in the budget an annual income of $1,200 for the remainder of his life. Pike is remembered as an influential Scottish Rite Mason, but is far too often misrepresented, particularly by anti-Masons who use him as a whipping boy for their aggression against Freemasonry.

Albert Pike died on April 2, 1891, in Washington DC and was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery. Pike was disinterred and reburied at the House of the Temple, the headquarters of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction for the USA. Pike was a man larger than life. He was a prolific writer and has left his mark on this world. He was an imposing figure standing over 6-ft tall and 300-pounds; he was the Merlin of his age with his waist length hair.


1. Albert Pike - Hero or Scoundrel? n.d. 

2. Albert Pike. n.d. 

3. Albert Pike. n.d. 

4. Albert Pike Statue in Washington D.C. n.d.

5. Browne, Allen. Albert Pike. February 5, 2011. 

6. PIKE, Brigadier General Albert: Memorial at the Municipal Center in Washington, D.C. n.d. 

7. Pike's Statue. n.d. 

8. Who is Albert Pike? n.d.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Fourth of July!!

Happy Independence Day!!!

Enjoy this narration of the Declaration of Independence!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Kappa Sigma Bio: Edmund Law Rogers

Next on the list of Kappa Sigma biographies is Edmund Law Rogers, one of the Five Friends and Brothers of Kappa Sigma. He was born on July 1, 1850, in Baltimore, MD. The Rogers family was a prominent family in Maryland and the family estate, known as Druid Hill, is one of the largest city parks in North America. He attended school at James Kinner Academy in Baltimore with another founder of Kappa Sigma, Frank Courtney Nicodemus.

He began his collegiate career at the University of Virginia in 1869 and on December 10th assisted in the founding of Kappa Sigma in America. He was known for his love of the arts as an artist and an actor. He left an indelible mark upon the fraternity by designing the Star & Crescent, the badge of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity.

Within the Zeta Chapter, the chapter at the University of Virginia, he would become the 2nd Grand Master (the President) of the Chapter, succeeding George Miles Arnold.

He would start a career in acting, going under the pseudonym, Leslie Edmunds. He was very popular actor and starred in such productions like "The Octoroon," a play inspired by the book "The Quadroon" and which focused on the denial of liberty, identity, and dignity of the slave.

Edmund Law Rogers died on December 19, 1893, at the age of 43, and was buried on Druid Hill in the Buchanan and Rogers burial ground.


1. 5 Friends and Brothers. n.d.

2. Edmund Law Rogers, Jr. n.d.,_Jr. 

3. History. n.d.

4. The Five Founders. n.d.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

St. John the Baptist’s Day

By John Kebles

Twice in her season of decay 
The fallen Church hath felt Elijah’s eye 
Dart from the wild its piercing ray: 
Not keener burns, in the chill morning sky, 
The herald star, 
Whose torch afar 
Shadows and boding night-birds fly. 

Methinks we need him once again, 
That favour’d seer—but where shall he be found? 
By Cherith’s side we seek in vain, 
In vain on Carmel’s green and lonely mound: 
Angels no more 
From Sinai soar, 
On his celestial errands bound. 

But wafted to her glorious place 
By harmless fire, among the ethereal thrones, 
His spirit with a dear embrace 
Thee the loved harbinger of Jesus owns, 
Well pleased to view 
Her likeness true, 
And trace, in thine, her own deep tones. 

Deathless himself, he joys with thee 
To commune how a faithful martyr dies, 
And in the blest could envy be, 
He would behold thy wounds with envious eyes, 
Star of our morn, 
Who yet unborn 
Didst guide our hope where Christ should rise. 

Now resting from your jealous care 
For sinners, such as Eden cannot know, 
Ye pour for us your mingled prayer, 
No anxious fear to damp Affection’s glow. 
Love draws a cloud 
From you to shroud 
Rebellion’s mystery here below. 

And since we see, and not afar, 
The twilight of the great and dreadful day, 
Why linger, till Elijah’s car pray, 
Stoop from the clouds? Why sleep ye? rise and 
Ye heralds seal’d 
In camp or field 
Your Saviour’s banner to display. 

Where is the lore the Baptist taught, 
The soul unswerving and the fearless tongue? 
The much-enduring wisdom, sought 
By lonely prayer the haunted rocks among? 
Who counts it gain 
His light should wane, 
So the whole world to Jesus throng? 

Thou Spirit who the Church didst lend 
Her eagle wings, to shelter in the wild, 
We pray thee, ere the Judge descend, 
With flames like these, all bright and undefiled, 
Her watchfires light, 
To guide aright 
Our weary souls, by earth beguiled. 

So glorious let Thy Pastors shine, 
That by their speaking lives the world may learn 
First filial duty, then divine, 
That sons to parents, all to Thee may turn ; 
And ready prove 
In fires of love, 
At sight of Thee, for aye to burn.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

9-years later...

Well another year has come by and today marks the 9th year since I was Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason in Oriental Lodge #60, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Idaho. It's been an amazing journey through Freemasonry and I've enjoyed every minute of it.

It has been a good year of Masonry for me. I finished off the rest of my term as Master of my Lodge on a high note and handed the reigns over to my Senior Warden who has done a good job as Worshipful Master so far. 2015 has been quiet in regards to Freemasonry for me as I was in DC for 4-months working for the US Senate although I did play the part of sojourner once in a while and visited my East Coast Brothers, and I am grateful for their hospitality. I also advanced in the officer line of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Idaho, Grand Council of Cryptic Masons of Idaho, Idaho Priory #13 of the Knights of the York Cross of Honor, and Tri-Valley #178 of the York Rite College. I was also appointed as the Grand Representative to Delaware for the Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star in Idaho I look forward to the next year and some of the upcoming masonic events.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Traditional Observance Lodges and Best Practices

While working in the DC I lived with the Senior Warden of a Traditional Observance Lodge. Traditional Observance Lodges can be a controversial issue for some and many have written in defense of and opposition to their concepts. While most Masons are neutral to the subject, there seem to be some who vehemently oppose it for poor and/or false reasons. I am here to defend the concept against ignorance, but at the same time my goal is to point out that best practices is not inherent to any style of Lodge, Traditional Observance or other. I'd also like to make it clear that these are my views, not the views of any Masonic body that I am a member or officer of.

In reading some of the writings of those who oppose Traditional Observance Lodges one would think that those style Lodges have thrown aside the ritual of Craft Masonry as well as the Ancient Landmarks, and have adopted some clandestine policies in an attempt to be a pseudo-religion. Within a week of living on the East Coast I had the pleasure of attending a Traditional Observance Lodge, and most of the arguments against Traditional Observance Lodges were proven as false. Looking back on my experiences and seeing this opposition, I've seen some demonizing Traditional Observance Lodges using propaganda and illogical arguments reminiscent of anti-Masons and conspiracy theorists that claim Freemasonry is evil, corrupt, elitist, and a religion.

When I attended the Traditional Observance Lodge they were initiating a new member as an Entered Apprentice. Like visiting any Lodge it was interesting to see some of the differences from Idaho work. The ritual work was done very well; the officers knew their parts and the side-liners kept silent in respect to the ritual work being done. Once finished they closed the Lodge and we adjourned to the dining room where they held a Festive Board. The food and brotherhood was great: general chit-chat among the Brothers, several toasts, and singing some songs from Anderson's Constitution. In weeks to come, my roommate hosted an educational night for the Lodge where Entered Apprentices came and learned more about the first degree of Freemasonry, not just the catechism required by their Grand Lodge; nothing outlandish, but looking back at lectures written by William Preston and other celebrated Brothers as well as going over the Tracing Board for that degree. In talking with the Junior Warden, I learned quite a bit about what actually goes on in Traditional Observance Lodges versus what others say it is. The goal is simply to return to the practices of early Freemasonry that made Freemasonry great. They are trying to improve the initiatic experience for the candidate by looking back on the history of Freemasonry and using the practices and traditions that are successful.

In "Masonic Reformation" I discuss the "Factory Era" of Freemasonry where Lodges were far more interested in initiating for the sake of initiating, often to get to some of the concordant or appendant orders, while education and understanding of the symbolism fell by the way side. Dues didn't increase with time (and inflation) and for some Freemasonry became nothing more than a fork and knife club. As the years have gone by Freemasonry has decreased and many have speculated on what to do, but few Lodges were doing anything about it. From my observation Traditional Observance Lodges did what many talked about doing. They found something that worked for them. In talking with my roommate and the Junior Warden as well as attending Lodge I saw nothing that contradicted our ritual or the Ancient Landmarks of the Craft. If anything they've attempted to ensure that they make a good first impression on the candidate while ensuring the solemnity of the ritual is upheld. Now, this is not to say some Lodges may exaggerate the adoption of elements that some see as clandestine (even though some of the same elements can be found in groups like the York Rite), but Traditional Observance Lodge is not a unified Lodge system, the Masonic Restoration Foundation isn't the centralized authority over Traditional Observance Lodges; each Tradtional Observance Lodge still reports and is beholden to their Grand Lodge. Each Traditional Observance Lodge finds elements that works for them and adopts them.

I think some of the opinions held against Traditional Observance is held simply because of pride. Some believe that Traditional Observance Lodges are not operating within what they see as acceptable while not realizing most Traditional Observance Lodges are adopting practices used in the early days by our forefathers and which were erroneously thrown away during the Factory Era. The phrase "that's how we've always done it" is a phrase often mocked by many Masons, particularly younger ones, today and for good reason. For too long many Masons have attempted to label recent "customs" of the Lodge as "tradition" or permanent policy. One need only look at Lodge records and see that that isn't "how we've always done it.". These same Brothers would rather keep the current course and further steer the ship of Masonry through superfluous icebergs. Now having said all this, I will agree with one thing said by one anti-Traditional Observance individual: we don't need Traditional Observance Lodges or the MRF to improve Freemasonry. These emerged though out of a need and due to failing policies. Had more Lodges not adopted failing policies and kept actual traditions therefore keeping Freemasonry from straying from its path, the "Traditional Observance Lodge" wouldn't need to exist. Instead of condemning the Traditional Observance movement for attempting to improve Freemasonry, for both for the Lodge and the member, we should be looking at our own Lodges and analyzing the practices. Are the practices of your Lodge allowing for growth, for education, for mentoring, and for self-improvement? We say that Freemasonry is the greatest Fraternity in all the world, but yet so many treat it like it was nothing more than a chapter of Kiwanis or Rotary; I'm not saying anything is wrong with either group, but they are not Freemasonry and vice versa.

I'm not saying that Lodges need to mirror exactly what Traditional Observance Lodges do, but rather should look at practices that reform Freemasonry and go back to time that made Freemasonry famous and immortalized. There are some practices that are symptoms of a healthy Lodge such as:
Quality over Quantity: So many "stay the course" Masons are proud that their Lodge has a large number of members, but when asked how many attend meetings it usually very minimal. What good is having a large membership number if none of them come to meetings? Dues and money can't confer the degree in place of a person. During the "Factory Era" we gloried in our large numbers because it allowed dues to be kept at an unreasonably low level and now with declining membership so many still refuse to raise dues for a variety of excuses. In my opinion, it is better to have a Lodge of 20 Masons who were all active than a Lodge of hundreds where no one attends Lodge.
Communication: A Lodge who keeps in close contact with a Mason is one who will see that Mason more likely to attend Lodge. If a Mason doesn't know what events are coming up they won't attend. Communication is a source of information, promotes motivation, helps in socializing, and assists in the governance, planning, and implementation of Lodge operations, goals, and plans. This isn't just the job for the Master or Wardens, but should be a job delegated to several Brothers to ensure Brothers are called, and should include a newsletter or email from the Lodge's Secretary.
Understanding not Just Memorization: Too many think that just because a Mason can repeat the words of the ritual that they have an understanding. Such thought is false. Education needs to be a focus for the Lodge, whether during a formal meeting, hosting a visiting lecturer, or having education nights at someone's house. If we cannot understand our history, the ritual, and the symbols we will continue to fail our members. Simply hoping a new Master Mason tossed aside to learn and study on his own while focusing on speedily initiating the next new candidate is bad practice and led to what Freemasonry is now, a shadow of what it once was. Without such focus, we would fail to have a proper education and so much would fall into the fog of history and obscurity.
Proper AttireNothing bugs me more than when members, and even officers, show up looking like it's just another day sitting around the house. The attire of the Brethren should never detract from the dignity and decorum of the institution. Some Lodges may feel the need to wear tuxedos to show respect to the solemnity and reverence to the ceremonies, rituals, customs, and traditions of Freemasonry. A tuxedo isn't going to work with every Lodge, but as Masons we should attempt have a standard for dress attire and wear at least our "Sunday Best."
Slow Down: Don't be in such a hurry to rush a candidate through the degrees. This isn't just a result of the Factory Era, but also from some events like the Morgan Affair. Lodges should allow candidates to take their time progressing from degree to the next. We need to ensure that a newly initiated Brother sets a proper base to his education and knowledge of the mysteries of Freemasonry; every good structure needs a strong foundation.
Be Active: This means not just in the Lodge. One characteristic seen with all healthy Lodges is that they are active, both in and out of Lodge. This could take the form of community events, brotherhood nights, trips, tours, and so on, and which includes involving the family not just Masons.
Every Lodge is unique, it has its own personality and characteristics. This is why I say that each Lodge needs to find the best practices that works for them. It's very apparent the "way we've always done it" isn't working as demonstrated by so many Lodges showing poor results in attendance and retention. Staying the course with a cheapened and rushed version of Freemasonry does not and will not work. Change is needed because if we keep with the same poor policies then we'll just get the same poor results we've been seeing in the last several decades and to think otherwise is the very definition of insanity.

To call Brothers "clandestine" or "elitist" simply because what their Lodge is different from yours is illogical and not very Brotherly; no one should hasten to label someone simply because someone took pride in their experience and sought to share it. Instead of infighting and petty politics about who is right or who is wrong, we should be united and celebrating as Brothers, we should be finding what works and what is sustainable.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The 143rd Annual Assembly of the United Grand Imperial Council

For the last couple of days I've been at the 143rd Annual Assembly of the United Grand Imperial Council of the Red Cross of Constantine and Appendant Orders for the United States of America, Mexico and the Philippines. Officially known as the Masonic and Military Order of the Red Cross of Constantine and the Orders of the Holy Sepulchre and St. John the Evangelist, this order's purpose is to commemorate the first elevation of Christianity from the position of a despised and proscribed heresy to that of a legally recognized and honored religion, to cultivate the social virtues, appeal to the intellectual and moral qualities, preserve as far as possible the customs of the fraternity and bring about good fellowship and understanding between all branches of Masonry.

I'd like to thank William Miller, the 2014-2015 Most Illustrious Grand Sovereign who along with the Grand Assembly Chairman appointed me as one of the member of the Hospitality Committee for this Annual Assembly. I had an amazing time seeing many old friends and meeting new ones from all over the world who came to this meeting. This meeting included tours into Seattle and out to Blake Island (see pictures below).

I'd like to also congratulate Bill on a great meeting and year. Congratulations to Robert S. Finley who was elected and installed to serve as the Most Illustrious Grand Sovereign for the next year.

Now it's time to hit the road for an 8-hour trip back home.