Saturday, January 26, 2013

Eleven Years of Service

Today marks the day 11-years ago that I raised my right hand to defend Constitution of this great nation and enlisted into the Idaho Army National Guard.

I enlisted at the age of 17 so my first trial was to convince my parents to sign the paperwork. I enlisted under the "Split-Option" so I went to Basic Training between my Junior and Senior year of high school then attended Advanced Individual Training (AIT) for Intelligence Analyst in 2003. I deployed in 2004 to Kirkuk, Iraq. In 2007, I attended the training needed to become an Unmanned Aircraft Operator and deployed in 2010 where I acted as Mission Coordinator/Shift Supervisor. I held that job until December 2012 when I went back to the Intelligence community.

I have had an array of experiences and gained many invaluable skills. I have also made many great friends like Ryan who I've known my entire career and two others I call the Twins who I watched come in and, now as I leave, they are emerging as leaders of the Platoon.

I am now down to my final year within the military and will not be re-enlisting due to my knee and back injuries.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Grand Priory of the Rectified Scottish Rite of the USA has been dissolved!

Here is some breaking news regarding the Rectified Scottish Rite and the Grand Encampment:


I wonder what will happen with the other Rectified Scottish Rite and what their status shall be. I hope that America can keep this organization as it is truly a spectacular organization. I am curious to see how this will affect our relations with the British Templars who were moving towards removing recognition from the Grand Encampment.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Druze and the Order of the Eastern Star

While reading, during my few days of Winter break, I decided to go back through some old articles I read and came across Worshipful Brother Cliff Porter's article on his time in the Middle East and his discussion about the Druze when something caught my attention. I am only going to highlight key portions of this faith, but I encourage anyone interested to further research this religious practice.

A monotheistic religious community, the Druze can primarily be found in Syria, but can also be found in Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan; there are some communities of expatriated Druze in Europe, North America, and Africa. This faith emerged during the 11th century from Ismailism branch of the Shia Islam and which combines aspects of the Abrahamic religions, Gnosticism, Neo-Platonism, and other philosophies.

There are a few theories as to the origin of the name Druze. Some believe it originates from Muhammad bin Ismail Nashtakin ad-Darazi, an early Islamic preacher. Ironically the Druze considers ad-Darazi a heretic for his wild exaggerations that led to his expulsion, but the name is used to identify them for historical purposes. Some hypothesize that it was Shaykh Hussayn ad-Darazi, an early convert that influenced the use of the Druze name. Others believe it derives from the word Darazo which means bliss. The Druze refers to themselves as Ahl al-Tawhid (the People of Monotheism) or al-Muwaḥḥidūn (the Unitarians).

The early Druze faith was preached by Hamza ibn Ali ibn Ahmad, a Persian Ismaili scholar. When he arrived in Egypt in 1014, he assembled a group of scholars and leaders from across the region to form this Unitarian movement. The early meetings were held in secret until 1017 when Hamza finally took the religious movement public.

The Druze are not a separate ethnic group, but rather a religious and social group who has some similarities to the predominately Muslim controlled nations they inhabit. Due to their secretive nature and some fundamental differences from the mainstream Islamic faith, they are sometimes seen as separatist.

To the Druze, God transcends the attributes that may be placed on Him by other faiths as they believe this leads to polytheism. God is incomprehensible so many of the questions concerning the "how", "when", and "where" of God are fruitless. They believe in the concept of Tajalli or theophany. Theophany taken in its literal translation means "appearance of God", but can also be defined as a "divine disclosure." From everything I have read the Druze follow the latter definition since it is less a concept of a physical incarnation (which would contradict their scriptures), but rather to the Light of God experienced by those who have reached a high enough level of spirituality.

The Druze have several books that comprise their sacred texts which are known as Kitab Al Hikma (Book of Wisdom). Some of the teachings are symbolic or allegorical and some divine. Due to these understandings the books and their teachings are divided into three layers which are the zahir (the exoteric), the batin (the esoteric), and the anagoge (the hidden of the hidden). The zahir is available to anyone who can read and hear. The batin is available to those who have the willingness to learn and study through the concept of exegesis or critical interpretation of religious texts. The anagoge is only accessible to a select few who have reached a certain level of enlightenment. Unlike other movements, the Druze do not believe that the esoteric meanings void the exoteric meanings, and actually complement one another.

Druze meet in sanctuaries called khalwa (or khalwat) which act as their prayer-houses instead of mosques. The main sanctuary is called the Khalwat al-Bayada which is located near Hasbaya (Southeastern Lebanon).

The Druze follow seven precepts that are considered to be the core of the Druze faith, which are similar to the pillars of Islam. These precepts are:
Veracity in speech and the truthfulness of the tongue.
Protection and mutual aid to the brethren in faith.
Renunciation of all forms of former worship (specifically, invalid creeds) and false belief.
Repudiation of the Devil, and all forces of evil (or despotism).
Confession of God's unity.
Acquiescence in God's acts no matter what they are.
Absolute submission and resignation to God's divine will in both secret and public.
The moral system of the Druze religion consists of seven principles:
Truthfulness
Fellowship
Abandoning false beliefs
Avoidance of confusion (evil)
Acceptance of divine unity in humanity
Acceptance of all the Lords acts
Submission to the Will of God
In the Druze faith there is a belief of reincarnation similar to that seen in the Eastern religion of Hinduism. As man is imperfect he must be reborn many times to unite with God and reach Heaven where he saved from rebirth. Good people are more fortunate in their reincarnations than bad people. Those who have the misfortune of finding themselves in Hell are tortured by the distance, separation, and deprivation from God. Keeping in common with the Eastern religions, they believe the transmigration of the soul where the soul is instantaneously reincarnated into a new life.

The Druze recognize the major Prophets such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. These major Prophets had 7 minor prophets who in turn had 12 disciples which include figures from the Abrahamic faiths as well as Greek history. Prophets are not worshiped but are considered special people who are free of sin.


Avoiding most uses of icons, the Druze use five colors to represent a metaphysical power which is called Haad. Haad translates to mean limit and by limitation they refer the limits that separate man from the animals of this Earth. The five colors of each of the five Haad are as follows:
Green for Aql or the Universal Mind which gives consciousness and is necessary to understand the truth
Red for Nafs or the Universal Soul embodies the mind and is responsible for one's character
Yellow for Kalima or the Word/Logos which is the mediator between the divine and the material and communicates the qualia (conscious experience) between humans
Blue for Sabiq or the Cause or Precedent and is the mental power of the will which manifested will lead to the Tali
White for Tali or the Future, taken with the Sabiq, one learns from the past, plan for the future, and predict what may come
These colors can be combined into vertical stripes or a five-pointed star which embodies the golden ratio, or Phi, as a symbol of temperance and moderation. The latter design reminds me of the emblem of the Order of the Eastern Star. 

The Order of the Eastern Star is one of the largest fraternal organizations under the Masonic umbrella in which both women with proper Masonic heritage and Master Masons may join. The fine degrees of this organization center 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 II 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. By this symbol we see a dualist interpretation where the star represents the descent of spirit into matter, the divine in man, or the presence of God on Earth. 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.
One reading through the history and teachings of the Druze, one can see similarities not just between the Eastern Star, but Freemasonry in general. According to Cliff Porter:
I had heard of the Druze only in passing when I learned that the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry Southern Jurisdiction and Mother Council of the World had removed the Druze from their 25th degree. Masonic scholar Rex Hutchens believed the degree should be a Sufi degree. I am assuming that is because the Sufi’s seemed a likely candidate because their rituals are so similar to Masonry and so little is known of the Druze. I am no longer certain the correct decision was made here and I shall elaborate.
I am going to continue researching such groups like this with possible influence on our great organization.

References

1. About. (n.d.). Retrieved from General Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star: http://www.easternstar.org/about_oes.html

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

3. Eastern Star. (n.d.). Retrieved from Symbolic Dictionary: http://symboldictionary.net/?p=3184

4. Mowahhidoon . (n.d.). Retrieved from Australian Druze Community: http://www.druze.org.au/religion/index.htm

5. Order of the Eastern Star. (n.d.). Retrieved from Masonic Dictionary: http://www.masonicdictionary.com/oes.html

6. Order of the Eastern Star. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_Eastern_Star

7. Order of the Eastern Star. (n.d.). Retrieved from Freemasons of New Zealand: http://www.freemasons.co.nz/cms/other-masonic-bodies/order-of-the-eastern-star/

8. Porter, C. (n.d.). The Missing Link Between Egypt and Freemasonry. Retrieved from Living Stones magazine: http://www.livingstonesmagazine.com/PDF/Cliff.pdf

9. The Druze Star. (n.d.). Retrieved from Symbolic Dictionary: http://symboldictionary.net/?p=1810

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

York Rite Resurrection Society

While rooting around the Internet I came upon the York Rite forum on Reddit website where Bro. Nick from the Millennial Freemason highlighted an article from a group out of Colorado called the York Rite Resurrection Society.

This group is based off the ideals Masonic Restoration Foundation and their ideals towards creating a stronger Fraternity that will endure for years to come.

Their Vision Statement is:
York Rite Resurrection Society is dedicated to creating an organization that is well managed by highly motivated men with vision and leadership skills, which is attractive to interested Masons of good character, is well understood, is embraced by the family, and makes a positive impact on the quality of life through the reinforcement of high moral values.
The Mission Statement is:
The York Rite is a society of Master Masons whose Mission is to improve its members by teaching, training and encouraging members to emulate in daily life the principles of Brotherly Love, Tolerance, Charity, and Truth while actively embracing the highest social, moral, and spiritual values.

York Rite improves individual character through the lessons taught in the degrees and through leadership training and relevant programs and promotes belief in a Supreme Being and brotherly love amongst all people regardless of race, color, creed or religion.

Empowering our members to enhance the communities in which they live by demonstrating their understanding of fellowship, compassion, and dedication to their God, their family and their country.

The York Rite Resurrection Society is dedicated to creating a financially sound organization which leads by example.
There are some excellent articles on this site discussing the problems facing Freemasonry today and possible solutions to this. I encourage all to read the articles and I commend the Companions and Sir Knights for their endeavors to better our Fraternity.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Rectified Scottish Rite

In August 2011, I discussed the Masonic Templary creation myth surrounding the Rite of Strict Observance. In it I made a small mention on the Rectified Scottish Rite, but didn't go into too far.  While this group in recent years has been the epicenter of some discord held against the Grand Encampment, it is still a notable and worthy group to be discussed and researched.

The Rectified Scottish Rite is one of the oldest orders in Freemasonry that has had a continuous existence from its beginning. Its origins take us back to von Hund's Rite of Strict Observance, and we also see an influence from French Freemasonry and Ordre des Chevaliers Macons Elus-Cohen de l'Univers (a precursor to Martinism). Jean-Baptiste Willermoz, the founder, was born in Lyons, France, on the 10th of July, 1730. When he was 20-years old he became a Freemason and in 1752 he was Worshipful Master of his Lodge. The following year, he founded the Lodge La Parfaite Amitié (Perfect Friendship), of which he was elected Master on the 24th of June, the Feast Day of St. John the Baptist. On November 21st, 1756, this Lodge joined up with the Mother Lodge of Lyons.

On May 4th, 1760, the Grand Lodge of France approved the formation of a Provincial Mother Lodge called the Grand Loge des Maîtres Réguliers de Lyon (Regular Grand Lodge of Masters of Lyon) and Willermoz was the Provincial Grand Master from 1762 to 1763. After serving in the East, he became the Archivist and Keeper of the Seals. In 1763, Willermoz founded the Souverain Chapitre des Chevaliers de L'Aigle Noir - Rose-Croix (Sovereign Chapter of the Knights of the "Black Eagle - Rose-Croix).

While in Paris in 1767, Willermoz met Bacon de la Chevalerie who was the Deputy Grand Master of the Ordre des Chevaliers Macons Elus-Cohen de l'Univers and in time would be initiated by De Pasqually himself.

In 1772, Willermoz learned of the existence of the Rite of Strict Observance, a German Masonic Order. The golden age of this rite was on decline, particularly over the controversial claim of the noted founder, von Hund, of "Unknown Superiors" that secretly led the group through von Hund.

With the Rite of Strict Observance on a decline as well as the Elus-Cohens (after the death of De Pasqually), and Willermoz was anxious to preserve the knowledge passed down through these bodies. With the help of others he created a system of degrees.

In the winter of 1778, at the request of Willermoz, a meeting called the Convent of Gaul was called to order to discuss the reform the Auvergne Province of the Strict Observance. This body changed its name to the Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité Sainte (Knights Beneficent of the Holy City) or commonly referred to as C.B.C.S. It was then absorbed into the “Rectified Scottish Rite” with the degrees as follows:
1° - Apprentice
2° - Fellow Craft
3° - Master
4° - Maître Ecossais (Scottish Master)
5° - Ecuyer Novice (Squire Novice)
6° - CBCS
7° - Chevalier-Profès (Professed Knight)
8° - Chevalier-Grand Profès (Grand Professed Knight)
The last two degrees were secret degree that imparted upon the candidate the doctrines of the Elus-Cohen.

In hopes to expand this reformed body, Willermoz attended a meeting of the Germanic Strict Observance famously known as the Convent of Wilhelmsbad of 1782. After heated discussions, opponents included representatives from the Bavarian Illuminati, Willermoz won the day and the CBCS reform was adopted among the members of the Order. According to A.E. Waite, Willermoz blended together the forms and doctrines of the two rites, but de-Templarized the Rite of Strict Observance and "Martinized" it, which resulted in the Rectified Scottish Rite.

Willermoz headed a committee to prepare the rituals of the revised degrees. Much of the work was done, but activity in this rite was interrupted by the eruption of the French Revolution.

In 1806 the CBCS became active again, but, due to the political unrest, it soon would pass into Switzerland with the transmission of power to the Directoire of Helvetia; it was this jurisdiction that reinvigorated the Order in France after WWII. Willermoz passed from this world on May 5th, 1824, in Lyons, France. Today the body exists in Switzerland, France, England, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Brazil and the United States. In the United States the Rectified Scottish Rite is a body surrounding much scandal within the Templar community and which is now having major effect on our recognition from our English Sir Knights.

The governing body is usually referred to a Great Priory, but may also be seen as Grand Priory. As you can see above, the first 3-degrees or Symbolic degrees are listed under this body. In the United States and Europe the power to confer the Symbolic degrees ceded to the authority of the Grand Lodges. In other countries the Great Priories works all the degrees themselves. Through the fourth degree, the lessons are centered on the inner reconstruction of the man through a deeper appreciation of his faith and the diligent practice (observance) of the Christian virtues. The Master of St. Andrew is a degree worked along with the Scottish Master or 4°. According to the Great Priory of America, "When a Master of St. Andrew has reached the level of self-spiritual realization, proving that he has worked up the Masonic initiation, he can access to the Inner Order."  The Inner Order is a chivalric order and is composed of the 5° and 6°. The former, the Novice Squire, is a preparatory and transitional degree. The latter is said to be a "quality conferred" rather than a degree when you are dubbed Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité Sainte (CBCS).

Reference

1. Condensed History of Chevaliers Bienfaisants De La Cité Sainte . (n.d.). Retrieved from Great Priory of America: http://greatprioryofamericarer.com/

2. L'Ordre de Chevalier Bienfaisant de la Cité Sainte. (n.d.). Retrieved from King Solomon's Lodge: http://www.kingsolomonslodge.org/freemasonry/cbcs.php

3. Rectified Scottish Rite. (n.d.). Retrieved from Gnostique.net: http://www.gnostique.net/initiation/RER.htm

4. Willermoz and the Scottish Rectified Rite. (n.d.). Retrieved from Martinism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martinism#Willermoz_and_the_Scottish_Rectified_Rite

Absent

Since the New Year I have been taking a Winter Intercession course at Boise State University. Even though it is only a 3-hour course, there is a lot of reading and writing attached to it and we are condensing nearly a Semester's worth of material into two and a half weeks.

I plan to have a few more posts out by the end of the week. I hope everyone is enjoying the Winter...it is rather chilly here in Idaho.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Father's Lodge

I heard this poem some years ago during a speech by a visiting Grand Master to the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Idaho. It resonated with me and has been a favorite ever since.

Father's Lodge
By Douglas Malloch

Father's lodge, I well remember,
wasn't large as lodges go,
There was trouble in December
getting to it through the snow.
But he seldom missed a meeting;
drifts or blossoms in the lane,
Still the Tyler heard his greeting,
winter ice or summer rain.

Father's lodge thought nothing of it:
mid their labors and their cares
Those old Masons learned to love it,
that fraternity of theirs.
What's a bit of stormy weather,
when a little down the road,
Men are gathering together,
helping bear each other's load?

Father's lodge had made a village:
men of father's sturdy brawn
Turned a wilderness to tillage,
seized the flag, and carried on,
Made a village, built a city,
shaped a country, formed a state,
Simple men, not wise nor witty —
humble men, and yet how great!

Father's lodge had caught the gleaming
of the great Masonic past;
Thinking, toiling, daring, dreaming,
they were builders to the last.
Quiet men, not rich nor clever,
with the tools they found at hand
Building for the great forever,
first a village then a land.

Father's lodge no temple builded,
shaped of steel and carved of stone;
Marble columns, ceilings guilded,
father's lodge has never known.
But a heritage of glory
they have left, the humble ones — 
They have left their mighty story
in the keeping of their sons.