Templar Times

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Friday, July 18, 2014

American Academy of Ophthalmology to Develop Knights Templar Eye Foundation Pediatric Ophthalmology Education Center

The American Academy of Ophthalmology is partnering up with the Knights Templar Eye Foundation (KTEF) to create an online resource dedicated to children's eye care. Made possible by grants from the KTEF, this center will provide ophthalmologists around the world with the latest information for treating children's eye diseases and disorders. 

According to Freemason Information:
An estimated 19 million children worldwide under the age of 15 are visually impaired, 1.4 million of whom are blind. Many cases of childhood blindness could be avoided with interventions using existing knowledge.
This center will provide information on-demand which could make the difference for the vision of a patient. Resources will include diagnostic and treatment guides, video guides on demonstrations and approaches, peer advice on cases and challenges, latest developments and standards, and guidance for pediatric practice management. This center is expected to launch in 2015. The executive editor will be Faruk Örge, M.D., Director of the Center for Pediatric Ophthalmology at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland and Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs at the University Hospitals Eye Institute, Case Medical Center. The Deputy Executive Editor will be K. David Epley, M.D., a past President of the American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.


The Knights Templar Eye Foundation was incorporated in 1956, is sponsored by the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States of America, and ran by a Board of Trustees. The original mission of the KTEF was "to provide assistance to those who face loss of sight due to the need for surgical treatment without regard to race, color, creed, age, sex or national origin provided they are unable to pay or receive adequate assistance from current government agencies or similar sources and to provide funds for research in curing diseases of the eye." The mission has changed and on December 31, 2010, the Board of Trustees adopted a new mission statement "to improve vision through research, education, and supporting access to care." Grants from the KTEF have helped develop new, nonsurgical, treatments for strabismus (crossed eyes) and ophthalmologists have told us that our efforts in funding pediatric ophthalmology research have been the primary reason that there are fewer and fewer surgeries for strabismus. The KTEF annually announces its call for research grant applications. The KTEF invites eligible investigators to submit applications for pediatric ophthalmology research grants for the award period which normally runs from July 1 to June 30. From the applications received, the Scientific Advisory Committee recommends to the Trustees which requests should be funded. Since its inception, the KTEF has expended over $140 million on research, patient care, and education. Research grants totaling in excess of $23 million have been awarded to researchers working in the fields of pediatric ophthalmology and ophthalmic genetics.

Read more here: http://freemasoninformation.com/2014/07/american-academy-of-ophthalmology-to-develop-knights-templar-eye-foundation-pediatric-ophthalmology-education-center/

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

I hope everyone enjoys this 4th of July! In remembrance of our Founding Fathers and what they fought against here is the Declaration of Independence:
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. 
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance. 
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences: 
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Society of Blue Friars

Another Masonic body I ran into while at Masonic Week is the Society of Blue Friars (SBF). The SBF was established in 1932 by J. Raymond Shute II and whose purpose is to recognize Masonic authors. It is a small body, only inviting one new member each year (unless the membership drops below 20-members. The title of the members is "Friar", often designated by the initials "B.F." The word "Friar" comes from Old French "frere" meaning "brother". It is also significant to note that it was the Monks in the Middle Ages who wrote most of the books in those days.

This body is known as a Consistory and has no dues or fixed rituals, and only has 3 officers: the Grand Abbot, the Deputy Grand Abbot, and the Secretary General. The Grand Abbot serves as long as he likes and he is the one who appoints the Deputy Grand Abbot (often will be the Grand Abbot's successor) and Secretary-General. The Grand Abbot also has final say in who is selected as the new Friar each year and has the only authority to change the Regulations of the society. Abbot comes from the Greek word "abbas" meaning "father". Like the use of Friar, the term "Abbot" dates back to the monastic orders started in the Middle Ages and who was in charge of an monastery. The current officers are:
S. Brent Morris, Grand Abbot
Arturo de Hoyos, Deputy Grand Abbot
Richard E. Fletcher, Secretary-General
They meet once a year in a meeting that is open to all Masonic Brethren. This annual meeting takes place at Masonic Week which takes place in or around Washington DC each year (usually February). It is at this meeting that the new Friar is proclaimed and who is expected to deliver a research paper as proof of their knowledge. There have been a 100-members since its inception, the last being Alton Roundtree.

This group seems to be an elite group of Masonic researchers and writers. They have had as members many famous writers and historians such as Ray V. Denslow, Harold V.B.Voorhis, Arthur E. Waite, S. Brent Morris, Rex R. Hutchens, Arturo de Hoyos, and Pierre G. "Pete" Normand, Jr.

References

1. Abbot. (n.d.). Retrieved from Online Etymology Dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=abbot 

2. Bessel, P. M., & McLeod, W. (n.d.). Society of Blue Friars. Retrieved from Paul M. Bessel's Homepage: bessel.org/sbf.htm 

3. Friar. (n.d.). Retrieved from Online Etymology Dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=friar 



4. Information. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Society of Blue Friars: http://www.societyofbluefriars.org/information.html 

5. Morris, S. D. (2006). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry. New York: Penguin Publisher. 

6. Regulations. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Society of Blue Friars: http://www.societyofbluefriars.org/regulations.html 

7. Society of Blue Friars. (2009, February 17). Retrieved from The Magpie Mason: http://themagpiemason.blogspot.com/2009/02/society-of-blue-friars.html

Monday, June 23, 2014

Rosslyn Chapel

Located on a hill above the Roslin Glen rests a stone puzzle, a medieval stone book of esoteric knowledge, known as Rosslyn Chapel. This building has always been a mystery and in recent years has been used in such works like "The DaVinci Code" which perpetuates theories that tie the Knights Templar and Freemasonry together. While there are many impressive structures of antiquity in Scotland, I consider Rosslyn Chapel to the finest example of architecture in the region. This building is unique though because so much of its surface is carved in some kind of carving and gives incite to the life and how religion played a part during the Middle Ages, something that seems obvious, but also lost on so many today. In traversing the chapel one can see the story of Adam & Eve, their expulsion from Eden, Isaac's sacrifice, the Birth of Christ, the Conception, the Birth of Christ, the Resurrection and Ascension, and several more.

Its official name is the Collegiate Chapel of Saint Matthew and was constructed by the Sinclair family; you will see the use of Sainteclaire, Saintclair, or Saint Clair when talking about the Sinclair family. The building was commenced on St. Matthew's Day, September 21st, 1446, by William Sinclair, 3rd Prince of Orkney and 1st Earl of Caithness, but some argue that 1446 was only the year that its construction was sanctioned by the Holy See in Rome while the ground wasn't broken until September 1456. The Sinclair family was a noble family was descended from Norman knights from the commune of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte in northern France. William wished to build this college to celebrate the Divine Office throughout the day and night, spread spiritual and intellectual knowledge, and celebrate Holy Mass of the departed. In 1450, the chapel was dedicated as the "Collegiate Chapel of St. Matthew." An endowment was established in perpetuity to pay for the maintenance upkeep, the pay for the priests, and their parochial duties. In 1484 William died and was buried in the chapel. The original plans for the chapel have never been found so it is not known whether or not that the chapel, in its current status, was the intention of William Sinclair.

After the Reformation of the 16th century, Catholic worship in the chapel ceased although the Sinclair family continued to be Catholics until the early 1700s; during the Reformation the altars of the Chapel were destroyed. Rosslyn Chapel was closed to public worship until 1861, but was a place of worship according to the rites of Scottish Episcopal Church.

The style of Rosslyn Chapel is Gothic by its use of flying buttresses, pointed arches, and ribbed vaults. This style of architecture originated in France around the 12th century and was primarily used with churches and cathedrals, but was seen in the building of castles, palaces, town halls, guild halls, and universities. This style allowed the buildings of the time to be built higher and draw the viewer's eye up to the Heavens. Like other religious buildings Rosslyn Chapel was supposed to be built in the shape of a Latin cross or cruciform, but was never completed. The foundations of a nave and transepts, neither one built, stretching out 90-feet and were thought to be abandoned after the death of William Sinclair. The chapel is 40-feet 8-inches high, 34-feet 8-inches wide, and 68-feet long.

The chapel is supported by 14 pillars that form an arcade of twelve pointed arches on three sides of the nave. The 3 pillars on the east side of the chapel are named, from north to south: Master Pillar, Journeyman Pillar, and the Apprentice Pillar. This wasn't always the names given to them, originally they were said to be called the Earl's Pillar, the Shekinah, and the Prince's Pillar. On the three pillars standing between the east aisle and the east chapel is a choir of thirteen angels with musical instruments, representing the host of God. Along with these famous pillars, you will also see a crypt and a multitude of carvings including Magical or Musical Cubes, Green Men, Ears of Corn, Seven Deadly Sins, Dance of Death, Knight on Horseback, and several more.

One of the most famous and beautiful pieces of architecture is today known as the Apprentice Pillar. The story behind the name of this pillar has some variations, but often goes as follows:
The Master was given a model by the patron, but the Master needed to go to Rome to see the original pillar that was said to have inspired the model's design. While he is gone his Apprentice has a dream where he sees the pillar's design. He constructs the pillar and when the Master returns sees that the Apprentice and has done his work whereupon he flies into a rage and kills the Apprentice by striking him upon the head with a mallet. As a reminder of this legend, the Master's face is carved in the corner opposite the pillar and is forced to gaze upon the Apprentice's Pillar for all time.
On the main beam resting across the top of the column there is found an inscription "Forte est vinum fortior est rex fortiores sunt mulieres super omnia vincit veritas" that translates into "Wine is strong, a king is stronger, women are stronger still, but truth conquers all" which comes from 1 Esdras 3 & 4. The legend of this pillar has correlation with the Hiramic legend found in the ceremonies of the Symbolic or Blue Lodge. Some have hypothesized that with the Norman roots of the Sinclair family and the carvings around the top and base, that the Apprentice Pillar represents a root of the Yggdrasil tree, a cosmic tree that unites the worlds within Norse mythology.


Around the Chapel are found 213 cubes, or boxes, that protrude from pillars and arches with a variety of patterns of lines and dots etched into them. Some have endeavored to find meaning in them. There is a geometric pattern by those who study cymatics, or the study of visible sound and vibration, but no interpretation has been found yet. The father-and-son team of Thomas and Stuart Mitchell produced a tune which Stuart calls the Rosslyn Motet.


Another feature of the Chapel is the existence of "Green Men." The Green Men are carvings of human faces with greenery all around them, often growing out of their mouths. These are seen as pre-Christian in origin and symbolize the power of nature, fertility, and rebirth. There are more than 110 Green Men scattered all around the Chapel. Some believe that the vines sprouting from the mouth could symbolize the connection between nature and the human race.


One carving that has sparked theories of pre-Columbian visits to America by the Sinclair family is the appearance of ears of corn. Corn or maize was unknown in Europe at the time the Chapel was constructed and would not be cultivated there for centuries. Some scholars though state that these carvings are not corn but rather stylized depictions of wheat and/or lilies.


On the south aisle, there is a pair of lintels that represent the Seven Heavenly Virtues and the Seven Deadly Sins. Each depicts moral lessons which were often used throughout Middle Ages to teach good conduct among the faithful. One anomaly one will find is that Greed is depicted among the virtues and Charity is shown among the Sins.


The Angel holding the heart is thought to represent Robert I or more commonly known as Robert the Bruce, who was King of Scots from 1306 until his death in 1329, and who is known for his leadership in the Wars for Scottish Independence. Sir Henry Sinclair and his brother William fought on the side of Robert in the famous Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. At Robert's death, two of Henry's sons were chosen to escort his heart to Jerusalem. The sons died in their attempts, but the heart is likely to represent the strong bond between the two families.


As a representation of the continual presence and power of death, there are carvings of people from all walks of life accompanied by a skeleton, by Death. This is meant to demonstrate the common doom of man, that no matter our station in life, we all will shed this mortal shell and succumb to the inevitable triumph of death.


Some believe that this knight represents William "the Seemly" Sinclair who was the first of his family to move to Scotland. William, according to legend, escorted Queen Margaret to Scotland. Queen Margaret was from Hungary and she would marry the first king of Scotland. For being the Queen's escort he was given barony of Rosslyn.


Hanging from the middle of the Lady Chapel is a carving of an 8-pointed star. The outer edge of this carving has a figure that depicts a part of the story of the birth of Christ: Virgin and child, the manger, the 3 Magi, and the 3 shepherds. A Lady Chapel is a smaller chapel inside a cathedral or church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.


There are many carvings of angels with musical instruments in the Lady Chapel, but one of them is playing a set of bagpipes. The history of the bagpipes goes back for centuries, but mention of them being in the British Isles doesn't occur until the end of the 14th century with the publication of The Canterbury Tales and specifically in Scotland around the mid-1400's so this carving could be one of the earliest depictions of them. These angels are playing music to celebrate the birth of Christ.


The ceiling is composed of 5 sections on which flowers such as daisies, lilies, roses, simple flower designs, and astrological bodies are depicted. These flower designs further continue to show a theme of nature that permeates the entire structure. The use of lilies and roses is also used to represent Christ and the Virgin Mary. Also on the roof can be found the carvings of stars, but among the stars there is a sun, a moon, and an image of Christ with his hand raised in blessing.

Repairs to Rosslyn Chapel are sparse and dots its history. It was in the late 1990's that it was recognized that the chapel was in serious need of repair. Rosslyn Chapel has existed over 550-years, a tribute to the skill of the stonemasons, but all of these years it has been exposed to Scottish weather which has left the interior damp which has led to a deterioration of the impressive work. In 1995 the Chapel Trust was formed who started an extensive conservation program whose works included the roof, the stone, the carvings, the stained glass windows, and the organ. In 1997, a steel canopy was erected to prevent further rain damage to the church and also give it a chance to dry out properly; this was taken down in 2011, when the major stonework repairs were completed. Along with the needed works, the Trust was able to have new lighting and heating installed along with a visitor center constructed. The costs to complete the restoration were around £13-million.

Some interesting things caught my eye while reading about the restoration program. The first is that during renovations of the rooftop pinnacle a beehive was found in a hidden chamber. The hive has been abandoned and sent to a local bee keeper for identification. The second is that three human skeletons were also found under a stone slab in the central aisle while work was done to install a new heating system. Some believe that locals who wanted to bury their relatives on consecrated laid these bodies under the slab during the Reformation when the chapel was abandoned.

Made famous by The DaVinci Code, the Rosslyn Chapel is tied to the Knights Templar. The Chapel was built around 150-years after the dissolution of the Templar Order, but many point to the carvings of two men astride a horse, an image tied to the Knights Templar, as evidence of Templar influence. There is a variety of Templar continuation myths, several of them concern the Templars hiding away in Scotland during the suppression of their order. There is little concrete evidence to support such a theory and in 2006 Robert Cooper, Curator of the Museum and Library of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, wrote the Rosslyn Hoax which dispels many of the myths concerning the Rosslyn Chapel, Freemasonry, and Knights Templar. Adding to the mystery of Rosslyn Chapel is the presence of a massive underground vault, or crypt, that was sealed off in 1690. This vault was accessible by a staircase in the rear of the chapel and was used as a burial place for many generations of Sinclairs. There are theories that the crypt contains the Holy Grail, the head of Christ, Holy Scrolls, the One True Cross, the Templar treasures, and the original crown jewels of Scotland.

This chapel is an amazing piece of impressive architecture. Although it is only theory, it has many aspects that appear to be Masonic, but this may be more due to our connection to operative Masonry as well as the influence of Biblical verses on both, the chapel and Freemasonry.

References

1. Blaskin, S. (2006, March 13). Episode 19 - Rosslyn Chapel. The Digital Freemason Podcast. 

2. Millar, A. H. (n.d.). Carvings. Retrieved from Electric Scotland: http://www.electricscotland.com/history/castles/04Carvings.pdf

3. Recent Work at Rosslyn Chapel. (2011, December 04). Retrieved from AOC Archaeology Group: http://www.aocarchaeology.com/news/recent-work-at-rosslyn-chapel

4. Researching. (n.d.). Retrieved from Rosslyn Chapel: http://www.rosslynchapel.org.uk/ 

5. Rosslyn Chapel. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosslyn_Chapel 

6. Sigler, C. (2006, March). Rosslyn Chapel. The Working Tools, 24-29. 

7. Sigler, C. (2007, August). Scotland - Rosslyn Chapel. The Working Tools magazine, 27-29.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The 2014 Grand Chapter of Idaho, Order of the Eastern Star

The Order of the Eastern Star (OES) is one of the largest fraternal organizations in the Masonic family in which both women with proper Masonic heritage and Master Masons may join. The degrees of this organization centers on the lives of the five Biblical heroines: Adah (Jephthah's daughter, from Judges), Ruth (the widow Mahlon), Esther (the wife of the Persian King Ahasuerus or Xerxes I), Martha (sister of Lazarus from the Gospel of John), and Electa (the "elected lady" mentioned in Second John). Each of these famous women represents one of the five principles of the Order: Fidelity, Constancy, Loyalty, Faith, and Love.


The emblem of this order is a five pointed star which is said to represent the Star of Bethlehem. Each point of the star represents one of the heroines mentioned above and is also emblematically represented by a specific symbol: Adah is represented by the blue point of the star and symbolizes the virtue of Fidelity. She is represented by the sword and veil. The yellow point of the star is the seat of Ruth who is symbolized by a sheaf of barley and represents the virtue Constancy and devotion to that which is righteous. The virtue of Loyalty is exemplified in the story of Esther who stands upon the white point of the star and is symbolized by the crown and scepter. The broken column symbolizes the mortality of man and the perseverance in trials as told in the story of Martha at the green point of the star. The elected lady or commonly known as Electa is placed upon the red point of the star which color is commonly used to represent martyrs as she stood by her faith in the face of persecution and is symbolized by the chalice.

The governance falls under the jurisdiction of the General Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. Then under them are Grand Chapters and Chapters. From April 2013 to April 2014, I served my Chapter as Worthy Patron who serves as an adviser to the Worthy Matron, the presiding officer.

Last Saturday started the annual session Grand Chapter of Idaho, OES. Saturday was primarily for committee meetings, ritual competition (I took 2nd in the Signet Lecture), and membership banquet. The next day was dedicated to the memorial service, tribute to the Golden Stars (50+ year members), and to the Youth organizations. In the evening was the informal opening where I had the honor of carrying the POW/MIA flag during the procession. Monday morning was the start of the formal opening of Grand Chapter and I was asked to serve as Assistant Grand Sentinel which meant that I acted as Grand Sentinel in his absence, assist in proving the Grand Chapter, and guarding the doors into the room.

With Tuesday came the installation of the newly elected and appointed Grand Officers. It was an amazing installation ceremony and I got to see so many old friends that I haven't seen in a while. I'd like to congratulate Jan Brown, Worthy Grand Matron, and Dwain Valez, Worthy Grand Patron, on being chosen to lead the Grand Chapter for the next year. I had the pleasure with Art Shoemaker, Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master and Secretary for Tri-Valley College #178, to present Jane Bahr, who was my Worthy Matron, with the York Rite Sovereign College of North America's Diamond Award in recognition for outstanding and faithful service to Freemasonry.


I have been a member for 4.5-years and I have enjoyed the time. I always have a fun time with the Sisters and Brothers within the Order of the Eastern Star.

Friday, June 6, 2014

70th Anniversary of D-Day

Today marks the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. The landings on the Normandy beaches was a part Operation Overlord, the operational code name for invading France. This was the largest seaborne invasion in history. This invasion was a major contribution to the liberation of France from Nazi control and the overall victory of the Allied forces in WWII. This operation took a great effort to pull off, training of millions of troops, gathering of supplies, and months of deception to fool the Germans as to when the date and location of the main Allied landings would occur. The weather was not ideal for the operation, but they could not stall any further for fear of being pushed back several weeks. Eisenhower chose Normandy as the location for invasion as it was the longest distance from England to France and he wanted to deceive the Germans. The 50-mile stretch of beach was divided into 5-sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beach (as seen below).

Prior to departure, following message was handed out to the troops:
Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!
You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!
Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."
General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Supreme Allied Commander

While 6:30am is the date commemorated on this day because it was the time when troops first started hitting the beaches, but operations began at midnight with thousands of airborne troops beginning to land further inland. The Allied forces diverted the attention of the Germans to fake paratrooper drop zones near Marigny, France, by using straw-filled and inflatable rubber dummy parachutists which weakened the defenses in the actual drop zones. They were fitted with explosive devices fused to detonate near the ground which gave the illusion of gunfire. Paratroopers begin to cut phone lines and knock down telephone poles. It should be noted that the weather caused many troubles for those landing and some lost their lives during the jump. At 1:00am landing crafts began to be lowered into the water, but it wouldn't be until 02:45am that men would load into them. According to Eric Broadhead, from the Durham Light Infantry heading for Gold Beach, sea sickness was a problem:
"The landing craft was rolling in every possible direction; the sea-sickness pills had failed. Lying still only made one feel worse."
By 03:09am German radar detects the Allied fleet and ordered shore batteries to prepare for invasion. Around a quarter to 4:00am, German E-boats (fast attack craft) depart to intercept the Allied fleet. At 04:30am the first P47s take off and at the same time the French town of St. Mère-Eglise was liberated by American paratroopers. This town was an important achievement because all the roads that came from Utah beach went through this town. At sunrise, around 05:20am, Allied bombers began to drop the first of their bombs on German targets and dropped so much munitions that the pilots could feel the concussion of their own bombs.


At 05:30am naval bombardment operations began, hitting the shore before Allied forces arrived, and receiving fire from German shore batteries. By 06:20am, Allied landing craft approach the beach. H-Hour, 06:30am, Allied forces start landing on the Omaha and Utah beaches. The German opposition was strong at Omaha beach and the Allied troops suffered heavy losses. The amount of dead bodies clogged the entry to the beaches that some leaders thought of abandoning further landings at beaches like Omaha. Out at sea, the USS Corry (a destroyer) was sunk due to heavy gunfire and mine damage.

Around 07:00am Army Rangers began their assault on Point-du-Hoc while the 70th Tank Battalion began to land at Utah beach. At 07:25am was H-Hour for Sword beach where the British 3rd Division began to land their troops. At 07:35am, British Engineering forces followed by infantry landed at Gold beach. Around this same time, Canadians started to land on Juno beach. The successes on the beach were aided by the amphibious tanks that were able to make it ashore.
"The German machine gunners in the dunes were stupefied to see a tank emerge from the sea. Some ran away or just stared, mouths wide open."

Sgt Leo Gariepy
At 08:30am, landing crafts began to launch armored assets onto Omaha beach. By 09:00am take over the Point-du-Hoc and held it for the rest of the day. For the next few hours troops continue to land at Omaha and Utah beaches and aided by gunfire from naval vessels. By the early afternoon Omaha beach was secured by Allied forces. Mid-afternoon the Panzer division was released by order from Hitler. In the early evening forces of the 3rd Canadian Division, North Nova Scotia Highlanders reach 5-kim inland; 1st Hussar tanks cross the Caen-Bayeux railway, 15-km inland; and Canadian Scottish link up with the 50th Division at Creully. By 7:00pm, General Charles L. Huebner, Commander of the 1st Infantry Division set up is command post on Omaha beach.

They key leaders in this monumental operation were Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and overall commander of forces going to France; General Bernard Montgomery who was in charge of all troops landing on the beach; the American troops landing on the beach were lead by General Omar Bradley and the British were lead by General Thomas Dempsey; Air Marshall Trafford Leigh was given supervision over all Allied Air Forces; and Bertram Ramsay, who was a British Admiral that was put in charge of Allied naval forces.

The Allies failed to achieve all of their goals on the first day, but gained a foothold onto mainland Europe that would expand over the coming months.


References

1. D-Day. (2011, February 7). Retrieved from National Museum of the US Air Force: http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=1512

2. D-Day Fact Sheet. (n.d.). Retrieved from Quizlet: http://quizlet.com/20229103/d-day-fact-sheet-flash-cards/

3. D-Day Invasion Dummy. (2009, September 17). Retrieved from National Museum of the US Air Force: http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=15559

4. D-Day Timeline. (n.d.). Retrieved June 3, 2014, from Military.com: http://www.military.com/Content/MoreContent1/?file=dday_timeline

5. June 6th 1944 Timeline. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2014, from History Learning Site: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/june_6th_1944_timeline.htm 

6. Normandy Landings. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normandy_landings

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Papal Bulls & the Templars

There are many important dates in the history the Middle Ages, but some notable ones were the issuance of the Papal Bulls and, in this instance, those issued for and against the medieval Knights Templar. A Papal Bull is a formal proclamation or order issued by the Pope and the use of "bull" is derived from the lead seal or "bulla" that is appended to the end of the order to authenticate it. Originally a Papal Bull was used for normal communications, but would evolve and used for formal and important occasions.

The Knights Templar is said to have formed in 1118, but it did not have Papal recognition for another 2-decades. Initially the knights were received and formed by the permission of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem. In 1128, by the efforts of Bernard of Clairvaux the Council of Troyes convened and the Catholic Church officially recognized the Knights Templar. Following the Council of Troyes, three Papal Bulls were issued which further endorsed the Templars and defined them.

Omne Datum Optimum, Latin for "Every Good Gift," was a Papal Bull issued by Pope Innocent II in 1139 which endorsed the Knights Templar. It allowed the Templars to keep their spoils of war, placing donations directly under papal protection, and exempting them from paying tithing. This proclamation added a priest class to the hierarchy as well as making the members of order answerable to the Grand Master.

Milites Templi, Latin for "Soldiers of the Temple," was issued by Pope Celestine II in 1144 gave ecclesiastical protection of the Knights Templar and further endorsed them by advocating that the faithful donate to the cause of the Templars. This along with the Templars annual collections and with the next Papal Bull laid the base for the Orders famous wealth.

Militia Dei, Latin for "Soldiers of God," was issued by Pope Eugene III in 1145. This was somewhat controversial as it allowed the Templar priests to take tithes, build their own churches, collect property taxes from their tenants, and bury their dead in their own cemeteries. Some speculate that this gave the Order's priests to take confession, but others believe this is a false assumption as no language exists within this Papal Bull that allows for such liberties.

On Friday, the 13th of October, 1307, the Templar suppression began by the French King with support by the Holy See. The French King had the Templars charged with heresy and many other trumped-up charges, most of which were identical to the charges which had previously been leveled by Phillip's agents against Pope Boniface VIII. The first papal bull dealing with the fall and dismantling of the Templars wouldn't come for another month and would begin with Pastoralis Praeeminentiae, but would include 9 others.

Pastoralis Praeeminentiae, Latin for "Pastoral Preeminence," was issued by Pope Clement V on 22 November 1307. This bull was sent to all Christian monarchs and ordered the arrest of all Knights Templar and the seizure of all their properties. In spite of this request not all monarchs complied immediately; some did not believe the accusations and required more force by the Church for the arrests, confiscation, and investigation to occur in places like England.

Faciens Misercordiam, Latin for "Granting forgiveness," was issued by Pope Clement V on August 12, 1308. This bull called for the creation of an Ecumenical Council as a part of the trials against the Knight Templars, the creation of commissions who ran investigations into the charges leveled against the Templars, and established formal structures for the confiscation of Templar property and possessions. This council was asked to be held in 1310, but would not be held until 1311, and is important because it vested the fate of the Templars with the Papacy and not any of the monarchs.

Regnans in Coelis, Latin for "Reigning in Heaven," was the 15th Ecumenical Council which was held in Vienne located in Southern France. They met between 1311 and 1312, and its principle purpose was to formally withdraw the papal support given to Knights Templar as well as dealing with the massive properties that they had accumulated over the centuries. The Templars were allowed to have representatives at this council; the Grand Master was requested to attend, but was imprisoned in Paris by the French king. Those attending the Council were 20 cardinals, 4 patriarchs, around 100 archbishops and bishops, plus several abbots and priors.

Vox in Excelso, Latin for "A Voice from on High," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1312. This bull formally dissolved and removed all Papal support from the Templar Order, but did not wholly condemn the Templars which goes along with his actions of secretly absolving the Templar Order with the Chinon Parchment.

Ad Providam, Latin for "To Provide," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1312. With the Templars disbanded and their property confiscated the Church needed to either take it over or bequeath it to another chivalric order. With this bull, Clement chose the latter and handed over all assets of the Knights Templar to the Knights Hospitallier. This bull shows that the Templars were suppressed quickly due to the appearance of guilt and quick suppression by the French crown rather than for judicious reasons.

Considerantes Dudum, Latin for "Considering Time," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1312. This bull repeats the reasons for suppression of the Templar and outlines the disposition for members of the Knights Templar by decreeing that those Templars who have been legally acquitted, or will be acquitted in the future, shall be supplied with the goods that had belonged to the Templar Order. It also stated that any fugitive member should appear in person within a year or face excommunication and be condemned as heretics.

Nuper in Concilio, Latin for "Recently in Council," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1312. When the Templars were first suppressed, Pastoralis Praeeminentiae ordered that the Templar property should be confiscated and this bull was the order of the Papacy to turn that property over to the Hospitalliers. This bull also continued to give some property back to the Templars who were acquitted.

Licet Dudum, Latin for "Granted Lately," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1312 at the Council at Vienne. This bull set up the system for the disposition of the confiscated Templar property permanently. This also settled some disputes that had arisen between the French episcopate and the Holy See.

Dudum in Generali Concilio, Latin for "A While Ago in General Council," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1312 at the Council at Vienne. This bull further dealt with the distribution of the acquired Templar property to the Hospitallier Order with any exceptions under the authority and supervision of the Pope. This set up further regulations and appellate systems for the disbursement of Templar property.

Licet Pridem, Latin for "Formerly Lawful," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1313 at the Council at Vienne. This was the last bull issued by Clement V and surrounded further considerations as to the question of the Templars' property.

The last few of these bulls were due to issues that the Pope was having with some of his clergy in France along with the French king who was attempting to take over the former Templar lands, particularly since the Templars owned most of Southern France. It is quite interesting to see that it took only 3 Papal bulls for the Templars to thrive and rise to such mythological heights while it took 10 total to fully dismantle it; though I could argue that it took really only 3 to take it down with 7 more being administrative measures. With the Chinon parchment we see that the Pope absolved the Templars, but continued to dismantle and suppress the Templars because of pressure from the French king since the papacy at that time resided in Avignon rather than Rome, Clement V was a childhood friend of the king, and the previous pope had been assassinated by the French king. Here we stand today; 700-years after the death of the last Templar Grand Master, and the medieval Knights Templar still mystify us and capture our imaginations.

References

1. Ad Providam. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_providam

2. Avignon Papacy. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avignon_Papacy

3. Butler, A. (2010, March 31). The Council of Troyes. Retrieved from Templar History: http://blog.templarhistory.com/2010/03/the-council-of-troyes/

4. Council of Vienne. (n.d.). Retrieved from Papal Encyclicals Online: http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Councils/ecum15.htm

5. Faciens misericordiam. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faciens_misericordiam

6. FAQ: Origin of the Knights Templar. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Encampment of Knights Templar: http://www.knightstemplar.org/faq.html#origin

7. History. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani: Priory of Bulgaria: http://tmpl.revolta.com/history.php?lang=eng

8. Knights Templar History. (n.d.). Retrieved from Lords and Ladies: http://www.lordsandladies.org/knights-templar-history.htm

9. List of Papal Bulls. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_papal_bulls 

10. Milites Templi. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milites_Templi 

11. Militia Dei. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militia_Dei 

12. Omne Datum Optimum. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omne_Datum_Optimum 

13. Order of the Temple. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Medieval Combat Society: http://www.themcs.org/history/Knights%20Templar/knights%20templar.htm 

14. Pastoralis praeminenti. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pastoralis_praeminenti%C3%A6 

15. Pope Clement V – 1264 – 1314. (2010, March 31). Retrieved from Templar History: http://blog.templarhistory.com/2010/03/pope-clement-v-1264-1314/ 

16. Regnans in Coelis. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regnans_in_coelis 
17. The Holy See and the Order. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Preceptory Chapel: http://www.webpages.free-online.co.uk/portcull/chphosee.htm 


18. Vox in Excelso. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vox_in_excelso

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Masonic Reformation

Freemasonry as we know it today has gone through several transitional periods. In the 16th century Freemasonry transitioned from operative to speculative, in the 17th and 18th centuries it began to spread to the far edges of the globe, in the 18th and 19th centuries we saw the establishment of centralized governing bodies start, the 19th century has been called the "Age of Progress" and demonstrated the resiliency of Freemasonry, and in the early to mid-20th century Freemasonry saw a significant increase in its membership. With the onset of the "Summers of Love" and the counter-culture revolution of the 1960s Freemasonry entered into a new transitional period where young men were rejecting the lifestyle of their parents, but whether because of indolence, ignorance, or inability the leaders and members, both, did not react properly and soon a generational gap formed; since 1960, Freemasonry has lost more members than it has brought in with a steady increase in its loss until 2001 from which point the amount we have lost each year has started to decrease (see chart). With the Millennium Freemasonry has, I believe, entered a new transitional period, one I will refer to as the Millennial Era which has started a reformation.

Figures are the percentage of incrase or decrease in a given year, from 1924-2012

During this era the Masonic fraternity is seeing an increase in the number of younger men joining and the decline in the membership rate is starting to slow. This may be due to the fact that the WWII generation death rates are slowing; with fewer and fewer of them alive, there are fewer to die. It could be due to the fact that the "Millennials" are rejecting the beliefs of the counterculture revolution and putting interest into civic organizations like Freemasonry. Another variable could technology, specifically the prolific amount of writing that is found on the Internet about us (both good and bad) as well as glimpses of the fraternity in pop culture with films like "National Treasure."

While I have great love for my Lodge and the Fraternity, some of the practices and policies that are used I am not a fan of. One such is the "cheapening" of Freemasonry. Indicative of most Lodges throughout the United States is the low dues. Several years ago at a District Communication, the Senior Grand Warden had a list of all Lodges in the state that listed the dues and initiation fees when the Lodges was established, the current dues and initiation fees, and what they would be if they had followed inflation. The Brethren were then divided into two groups: those younger than 65-years of age and those 65 and older. Each group was asked if they were willing to significantly raise dues or not. The younger group was far more willing while the older group was not. Another way we've cheapened the experience is by making it far too easy for one to attain the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. I believe this is a result of the "factory era" of the mid-20th century. Freemasonry, as seen in the chart shown above, grew dramatically starting in the 40s and kept growing until the height of membership in American Masonry being in 1959 with 4,103,161 members. Lodges during this time turned from, in my opinion, centers of enlightenment to factories, more concerned with running through initiates, reading minutes, and paying bills. Lodges were overburdened with petitioners (seems weird that I would complain about such a thing), and Brethren seemed more concerned with one becoming a Master Mason so he could join appendant/concordant bodies rather than gaining a strong understanding from the very beginning. This lack of education and ease of progression allowed Masons to often just walk away as it was something easily given to them and they didn't have to work hard for it. When one has to work hard and put an effort into progressing through the degrees they will keep coming back and stay active within the Lodge because it was a special achievement, not an instant gratification. Just in my area alone, not taking into accounts I hear from all over the US, I have seen far too many young men walk away because Freemasonry did not live up to their expectations or meet the developmental needs. When other young Masons ask about my experiences and the issues they see, I tell them to "be the change you want to see. Don't just walk away." In my travels I have met Brothers who are doing just that and trying to raise the bar of Freemasonry. In 2011, I had the pleasure of meeting Brothers Cliff Porter, author of "A Traditional Observance Lodge," and Kyle Ferguson, from the Philosophical Freemason blog, while attending the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge. It was here that I that I first heard about the Masonic Restoration Foundation (MRF). From the MRF website, their statement of purpose reads:
Since 2001, the MRF has been conducting research on the problems affecting American Masonry, identifying successful practices and offering realistic solutions aimed at reversing negative trends.
The MRF seeks to put out, through publications and symposiums, research to assist Lodges in cultivating "time-tested cultural and fraternal Masonic practices" that are seen as successful and practical. These successful policies have been collected and Lodges that practice them are often referred to as "Traditional Observance Lodges." The MRF does not charter or establish these Lodges; Lodges that style themselves "Traditional Observance Lodges" are still under the auspices of their respective Grand Lodge and must operate in accordance to the Rules and Regulations of that jurisdiction.

Many Masons are ignorant as to what Traditional Observance Lodges are. According to the MRF and the Brothers of Traditional Observance Lodges, these Lodges seek to "incorporate higher dues, festive boards, a strict dress code and higher standards of ritual." They are characterized by their solemn and dignified approach to the performance of the Masonic rituals, and demanding the best out of their members in the pursuit that Masonic talking point "making good men better." Some differences one would see is the use of a Chamber of Reflection prior to the Entered Apprentice degree, forming a "Chain of Union" at the end of each meeting, requiring more time between degree progression, requiring candidates to present some kind of research paper to the Lodge, require the strictest silence during the rituals so as not to distract from the solemnity of the ritual, and holding a festive board (or Agape) following the closing of a Lodge. The Chamber of Reflection is a room is filled with symbols and implements to allow the aspirant to reflect and meditate on his mortality and the changes he seeks by going through the initiatic experience of Freemasonry, and in some jurisdictions, he answers certain questions. What is included in a chamber may differ between jurisdictions and with the various rites. The Chain of Union is formed at the closing of a Lodge where the Brethren go on the Level taking hands, often after crossing the right arm over the left. This act reminds me of the principle tenet, Relief, where we are taught that Masons are linked together by an indissoluble chain of sincere affection. The word 'Agape' means 'love' in ancient Greek. In the Masonic context, Agape refers to one of our tenets, Brotherly Love, and the Brethren coming together for this meal is a reminder of that tenet.

With the onset of the Millennial Era, Freemasonry is coming to a crossroads: we can either: reform and restore the prestigious nature of Freemasonry or we can continue to live in decline and inactivity. Many Masons seem okay with complacency and stagnation, and taking Freemasonry on course towards destruction; often the slogan "that's how things have 'always' been done" is touted by those unwilling to change course. Sadly, in attempt to slow the shrinking membership, Grand Lodges have lowered the standards and made mediocrity the new standard which has done very little to increase help or turn the tide. In learning about the MRF and the Traditional Observance Lodge, I have found that many Masons find it and its practices controversial, and that the changes are only "superficial." Some have even charged that the practices are in violation of not just the rules and regulations of the numerous Grand Lodges, but the rituals themselves. Some have sadly let their passions and prejudices get the better of them which led them to fabricate information against them or trying to pass of the faiths and/or religious beliefs of individual Brothers as the characteristic and practices of the Traditional Observance Lodge system. From my observation, some of the pieces of propaganda passed around appear to be un-Masonic and not very Brotherly. From my experience these practices exclusive from the tenets and Landmarks of Freemasonry, but take us back to a time before the factory setting to a place when education, development, and improvement were the concerns of the Lodge rather than filling the records book with faceless names and absent dues payers.

Lodges should not be discouraged by such banter, but rather should look at practices such as the Traditional Observance Lodge and find what works in their Lodge. Brothers need to seek change and reform the practices that have brought Masonry to a declining membership, in applicants and attendance. Masonry needs to reform and go back to time that made Freemasonry famous and immortalized. Freemasonry is not a mere social or dinner club, but an ancient institution dedicated to transforming ourselves from the Rough to the Perfect Ashlar. Brother Andrew Hammer said it best with Freemasonry being "an institution that calls men to their highest level of social being, in a state of dignity and decorum, which could serve as a place for serious, mindful discourse on the lessons and meaning of life, and search for the better development of oneself." For my critics and "stay the course" Masons, I'd suggest reading this article, "Why You Shouldn't Become a Freemason."

What I would suggest to my Brethren is some simple concepts. 1) Worry more about quality than quantity (I'd rather have a Lodge of 20 Masons who were all active than a Lodge of hundreds where no one attended Lodge) and know who you are bringing in (it takes more than a quick "investigative committee and a month to get to know someone). 2) Don't be afraid to raise your dues and fees. I found it funny that my dues for Kappa Sigma (my college fraternity) were five times higher than my Lodge dues are now. 3) Learn, not just memorize, your ritualistic work. The applicant has paid his fees and the Lodge has seen him fit to go through the degrees of Masonry and the Lodge owes it to him to give him the best experience possible. This also includes learning how to properly present the ritual so as to leave them in a state of awe and wonder. 4) Don't be satisfied with the status quo. Just because the Grand Lodge establishes the basic premise of progression and proficiency doesn't mean the Lodge cannot go beyond to ensure that the candidates gain the most knowledge that can be gained in a given degree. 5) Have some kind of educational presentation at Lodge meetings and promote an environment that cultivates learning. It is important to know and understand the history, rituals, symbols, famous figures, and ceremonies of our Order. Without the availability to this knowledge we would fail to have a proper education and so much would fall into the fog of history and obscurity. 6) Dress in the proper attire for Lodge. Nothing 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. 7) Be social by having a festive board or Table Lodge where Brothers can assemble and further build the bonds of friendship and brotherhood. 8) Realize that habits of the Lodge you are familiar with are not necessarily traditions. I hate hearing "that's how we've always done it." I heard that so many times that I decided to read the old minutes of my Lodge and I quickly learned that no, that's now how we've always done it. 9) Don't be in such a hurry. By this 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.

The generational gap created by the counterculture revolution of the 1960s combined with the "Factory mode" Lodges were set into in the mid-20th century has created poor Lodge practices and policies which has resulted into declining membership and, as Bro M.D. Jardine wrote in 1996, the emergence of "Robot Masonry" which sees ritual as the end rather than the means. Lodges can either stay the course and crash into the rocks or they can change course safely reforming Freemasonry to an institution that isn't just another social club like the Lions or Kiwanis. We "Millennials" have a great opportunity to take change and lead the change. We have already seen this with the establishment of the MRF and the perpetuation of the Traditional Observance system, but not every Lodge is the same nor should it be. Every Lodge is different and there is no "cookie cutter" answer or solution to what will cause a Lodge to prosper. Traditional Observance may work for some Lodges, but it won't work for all. Nor should Lodges attempt to be Lodges of the past or some "golden age" long forgotten because it is folly and every age of Masonry has had its challenges.

References

1. Chornenky, D. V. (2011, February). The Traditional Observance Lodge. Retrieved from The Masonic Restoration Foundation: http://traditionalobservance.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/DVC_-_The_Traditional_Observance_Lodge.pdf

2. Da Costa Jr., H. L. (1999, October 16). The Chamber of Reflectio. Retrieved from Grand Lodge of British-Columbia and Yukon: http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/texts/gmd1999/pondering.html

3. Dunn, T. (2007, October 22). Chain Of Union. Retrieved from A Beacon of Masonic Light: http://beaconofmasoniclight.blogspot.com/2007/10/chain-of-union.html

4. Hammer, A. (2011). Eight Steps to Excellence: The Observant Lodge. Retrieved from Observing the Craft: http://observingthecraft.com/EightSteps.pdf

5. Statement of Purpose. (2011, February). Retrieved from The Masonic Restoration Foundation: http://traditionalobservance.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/MRF_Brochure.pdf

6. What is a 'traditional observance' lodge? (2007, May 03). Retrieved from The Burning Taper: http://burningtaper.blogspot.com/2007/05/what-is-traditional-observance-lodge.html

Note: this article is the opinion of the author and not the opinion of any Lodge, Grand Lodge, or any body found within the Masonic family.