Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tall Cedars of Lebanon

Officially named the Tall Cedars of Lebanon of North America is an obscure appendant body of Freemasonry devoted to fostering friendship and fellowship among Freemasons; The motto of this organization is "Fun, Frolic, & Fellowship." This group is open to Masters Masons in good standing and Masons will see the name originates from the legend of King Solomon's Temple who used cedars from Lebanon in the erection of that building. There are around 13,000 members and 102 Forests, but most of this is situated primarily on the East Coast.

From the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry by Albert Mackey, "The grove of trees known as the Cedars of Lebanon consists of about four hundred trees, standing quite alone in a depression of the mountain with no trees near, about six thousand four hundred feet above the sea, and three thousand below the summit." The Cedar tree is very symbolic. It is seen as a symbol of eternity due to the longevity of the tree's life. From the Bible, we learn that the Ark of Covenant was made of Cedar. In Freemasonry, the Cedars of Lebanon make several appearances throughout the various degrees. The ritual of the Tall Cedars is said to be taken from I Kings, II Chronicles, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

Members are known as "Cedars" and the basic organizational unit is known as "Forests" which is presided over by a Grand Tall Cedar. The members are distinguished by the pyramid-shaped hat they wear. Like the Shriners, Forests include a number of units and clubs such as Clowns, Band, Bowling Leagues, RV club, Golfers, Antique Car Units, Camping Club, etc. The international governing body is known as the "Supreme Forest" which is presided over by the "Supreme Tall Cedar" and is headquartered in Harrisburg, PA. In addition, there are two additional degrees conferred known as the "Royal Court" and the "Sidonian."

The history of this group goes back to around 1843 when it was a standalone degree and not a formal organization. This "Tall Cedar degree" was known in those days as "The Ancient and Honorable Rite of Humility" which is said to have included some roughhousing and hazing. The few records that exist show that the degree continued through the actions of Dr. Corson and Dr. Stevens who conferred the degree throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In 1887, Dr. Stevens conferred this degree upon Frank Bowen and Orlando Bowen, who were a part of the group that formed the Tall Cedars of Lebanon of the USA. Often this degree was conferred at large gatherings of Master Masons.

The Tall Cedars of Lebanon of the USA were founded on March 18th, 1902, in Trenton, NJ, by 15-members. The decision to formalize this group was due to the desire to stabilize and preserve what they saw as a worthwhile ceremony. In 1972, the name changed to the Tall Cedars of Lebanon of North America when the organization spread to Canada.

Like most appendant bodies in Freemasonry, there is a designated charity for this organization. The Tall Cedars support research into Muscular Dystrophy and other neuromuscular diseases. It is estimated that the Tall Cedars have raised over $14-million for Muscular Dystrophy research. Each year, the Supreme Forest presents a check at the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon.


1. Bullen, J. E. (n.d.). Whence Came We? Retrieved from Tall Cedars of Lebanon:

2. Hodapp, C. (2009, September 07). Tall Cedars of Lebanon. Retrieved from Freemasons for Dummies:

3. Tall Cedars of Lebanon. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

4. Tall Cedars of Lebanon. (n.d.). Retrieved from Masonic Dictionary:

5. Tall Cedars of Lebanon. (n.d.). Retrieved from Freemason Information:

6. Tall Cedars of Lebanon of North America. (n.d.). Retrieved from Phoenix Masonry:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Banquet Night

By Rudyard Kipling

"ONCE in so often," King Solomon said, 
Watching his quarrymen drill the stone, 
"We will club our garlic and wine and bread 
And banquet together beneath my Throne, 
And all the Brethren shall come to that mess 
As Fellow-Craftsmen-no more and no less."

"Send a swift shallop to Hiram of Tyre, 
Felling and floating our beautiful trees, 
Say that the Brethren and I desire 
Talk with our Brethren who use the seas. 
And we shall be happy to meet them at mess 
As Fellow-Craftsmen-no more and no less." 

"Carry this message to Hiram Abif- 
Excellent master of forge and mine :- 
I and the Brethren would like it if 
He and the Brethren will come to dine 
(Garments from Bozrah or morning-dress) 
As Fellow-Craftsmen-no more and no less."

"God gave the Hyssop and Cedar their place- 
Also the Bramble, the Fig and the Thorn- 
But that is no reason to black a man's face 
Because he is not what he hasn't been born. 
And, as touching the Temple, I hold and profess 
We are Fellow-Craftsmen-no more and no less."

So it was ordered and so it was done, 
And the hewers of wood and the Masons of Mark, 
With foc'sle hands of Sidon run 
And Navy Lords from the Royal Ark, 
Came and sat down and were merry at mess 
As Fellow-Craftsmen-no more and no less.

The Quarries are hotter than Hiram's forge, 
No one is safe from the dog-whip's reach. 
It's mostly snowing up Lebanon gorge, 
And it's always blowing off Joppa beach; 

But once in so often, the messenger brings 
Solomon's mandate : "Forget these things! 
Brother to Beggars and Fellow to Kings, 
Companion of Princes-forget these things! 
Fellow-Craftsmen, forget these things!"

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

RIP Bro. Ron Berto

I was informed this morning that yesterday a good friend and Brother Ronald G. Berto passed away from a heart attack. He was 68. He was a Navy Veteran, an avid tuba player, a devout Christian, an active Mason, a friend, and a mentor.

Ronald G. Beto was initiated, passed, and raised in 1993 into Oriental Lodge No.60 in Boise, ID. He was a Past Master of Oriental Lodge No.60 (2000) and Idaho Lodge of Research No.1965 (2003), and current Treasurer for both. He served as District Deputy Grand Master for the Grand Lodge AF&AM of Idaho from 2002 to 2004. He also served the Grand Lodge as a member of the Executive Council Board of the Masonic Prepaid Life. He was a Past High Priest, Past Illustrious Master, Past Eminent Commander, and current Secretary/Recorder of the Boise York Rite bodies. He was also a Past Grand High Priest (2012-2013), Past Most Illustrious Grand Master (2014-2015), and Past Right Eminent Grand Commander (2015-2016). He was a Past President of the Order of High Priesthood of Idaho, Past Thrice Illustrious Master of the Order of the Silver Trowel of Idaho, Past Preceptor of the Idaho Chapter of the Knights Preceptor, Past Prior of Idaho Priory No.13 of the Knights of the York Cross of Honor, Past Governor of Tri-Valley College No.178 and Past Grand Governor of Idaho of the York Rite Sovereign College of North America, member of Clontarf Council No.69 of the Order of Knights Masons, Treasurer of Intermountain Chapel No.27 of the Commemorative Order of St. Thomas of Acon, and Past Sovereign of St. Charles Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine.

He leaves behind a loving wife, many friends and family, and a puppy named Louie. He was never the easiest person to get along with, but you could never question his heart and he was always willing to extend a helping hand. I will miss you Brother.

My Take on the Georgia Guidestones

Sitting atop the highest hilltop in Elbert County, Georgia, stands a structure referred to as the Georgia Guidestones or the American Stonehenge. While it is known that it was unveiled on March 22, 1980, the exact origin, who the architect and financiers were, of this structure is shrouded in mystery and became a point of interest for conspiracy theorists. I came to learn about this monument from debates with conspiracy theorists who posit that Freemasonry is tied to this structure and the principles it espouses.

The Georgia Guidestones is composed of six granite stones where four slabs surround a pillar on the top of which is a capstone that connects the pillar to the four surrounding slabs. On each of the four granite slabs are inscribed a set of 10 guidelines in eight modern languages: English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian. On the capstone atop the pillar is inscribed a shorter message in four ancient languages: Babylonian, Classical Greek, Sanskrit, and Egyptian hieroglyphs. These stones are astronomically aligned. The four stones are oriented to mark the limits of the 18.6-year lunar declination cycle. The center pillar has a hole drilled into it so one can observe the North Star. There are also slots carved into this pillar that align with the position of the sun during the solstices and equinoxes. The center pillar also allows the sun's ray to pass through the capstone at midday and shines upon the pillar indicating the day of the year. Set in the ground west of these stones, is a stone tablet that provides some historical notes and the purpose of the stones.

In the summer of 1979, a man under the pseudonym of R. C. Christian approached the Elberton Granite Finishing about building the Guidestones. The company thought that Mr. Christian was crazy and gave him a quote several times higher than they would have normally given, but Mr. Christian accepted the quote. Mr. Christian served as a point of contact for a group of financiers who wished to remain anonymous. The land was purchased from a farmer and later transferred ownership to Elbert County by Mr. Christian. The granite used for this project was taken from the Pyramid Quarries located 3-miles west of Elberton, GA.

The principles of the Guidestones surround four major fields: domestic and international governance, population and reproduction control, man's relationship with nature, and spirituality. The 10 guidelines inscribed in the eight languages are as follows:
1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason. 
5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
10. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.
The message inscribed in the four ancient languages on the capstone is as follows:
Let these be guidestones to an age of reason
The Guidestones have been vandalized several times, often by those who oppose the "new world order". Conspiracy theorist Mark Dice has demanded that this monument be destroyed as it was supposedly built by a "Luciferian secret society" whose goals are said to be global domination. Some have suggested that the Guidestones were designed and financed by the Rosicrucians as R.C. Christian, the pseudonym of the man who commissioned the project sounds similar to Christian Rosenkreutz, the legendary founder of the Rosicrucianism. Some recently have argued that the mysterious R.C. Christian was Herbert Hinie Kersten, a doctor from Fort Dodge, IA, and supposedly an outspoken racist/eugenicist. 

1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature

2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity

Being the first two of these guidelines, these are also the most criticized of the 10. It is assumed that the authors of these guidelines wished to kill off a massive amount of the global population. While I don't agree with reducing the global population to such a number, I'd like to play devil's advocate for a moment. Taken alone the first guideline seems very sinister, but when you apply the second guideline to the first, one could argue the authors simply meant that with responsible reproduction, that the global population would reduce itself over time.

Those who argue about the dangers of overpopulation state that global population is connected to many problems we are facing and will face in the future: environmental degradation and pollution, depletion of finite natural resources, arable lands, access to water, food scarcity and malnutrition, immigration, epidemiology, poverty, elevated crime rates, and so on.

3. Unite humanity with a living new language

I don't agree with this guide, but 1) I'm not a linguistic specialist and I find the diversity of languages (over 6,000 spoken in the world) to be a strength, and 2) maybe I'm not looking at the "big picture." While it can be a point of division, the diversity of languages, or multilingualism, is an indicator of the unique history, culture, and geopolitics of that region. Languages define personal identities, but are also part of a shared inheritance. Multilingualism provides a tool for economic and technological innovation.

4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason

This Guide is something I try to follow often as it is a lesson of not only Freemasonry, but a lesson cultivated by the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. In Freemasonry, we are taught to circumscribe our desires and keep our passions within due bounds towards all mankind. A means of accomplishing this is through reason. The reason is "the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic." Reason means to think and understand properly without bias, superstition, or narrow-mindedness. A rational thinking mind is open to change, to debates on an idea.

5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts

As an American, this is a principle important to the founding of my country. Within the Declaration of Independence, there are several examples pertinent to this Guideline as to why the colonists separated from Great Britain:

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 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 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 protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury: 
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
Laws must be fair and just because as Thomas Jefferson put it "If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so." The courts must uphold the laws and be blind to biases and prejudices. To render unto every man without distinction. The separation of powers is a keystone of democracy. Separation constrains powers and increases legitimacy, but each branch of government must maintain that legitimacy to ensure peace and harmony. To be stable, a democratic government must be deemed legitimate by the people, whom it governs and from whom it derives its powers; the people must view it as the best, the most appropriate form of government for their society. Indeed, because it rests on the consent of the governed, democracy depends on popular legitimacy much more than any other form of government. The courts are particularly susceptible to legitimacy than other branches as they are the weakest of the branches since courts do not have the power of the purse nor the sword which means they do not have any efficacious means of ensuring that their decisions are complied with or enforced. Courts are not inherently endowed with legitimacy, but gain it over time and this is done when Judges act impartial and that their decisions are grounded in laws, not partisan politics.

6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court

Looking at this guide from the perspective of someone who has studied international relations, this guide fits nicely in with the liberal theory of international relations; clarification, liberalism in international relations is not used in the same context as liberal in domestic American politics. Liberalism is one of the main schools of thought in international relations theory; other theories are realism, constructivism, Marxism, and smaller sub-theories. Liberals believe that proper international institutions can increase interdependence and cooperation thereby minimizing conflict and warfare. 

When conflicts do arise, most interventions fail. Stephen Gents in Going in When It Counts: Military Intervention and the Outcome of Civil Conflicts explains that a nation is motivated to intervene when they have the best chance of producing a favorable outcome for themselves. Most types of intervention are military or economic. With the formation of a world court, this would change the dynamics of intervention and conflict resolution. Some of the greatest problems plaguing the success of military interventions are the "picking and choosing" strategy of nations and the appearance of bias or neutrality. If a nation appears to favor one side rather than seeking the cessation of violence, then the intervention and peace talks would fail. The formation of a world court would need to be based on existing outside the purview of any nation to be the model of an independent party. A world court would also need a mechanism to enforce its rulings. If a world court makes rulings, but the states don't fear any retribution or reprisal for not obeying precedence set then such a world court would be superfluous.

7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials

This guide seems too Utopian and pie in the sky for me. Of course, our world would be better served if the petty laws and useless officials were avoided. We have scholars like Tacitus who lived around two millennia ago who said, "The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws." Then we can jump to a Founding Father and Fourth President of the United States, James Madison, who stated, "It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws are so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood."

While we dream of a leader who is brave, heroic, intelligent, just, wise, and all of the other positive attributes we seek in leaders, the reality of the matter is that many leaders are anything but. Our world today is plagued with apathy, indifference, selfishness, avarice, and many other vices. The world and the people of any given nation have often become the victim of less than virtuous men. Those who are truly fit to lead are seldom popular and instead, we see the rise of the demagogue. 

8. Balance personal rights with social duties

Personal rights refer to liberties that an individual enjoys without the worry of interference from other individuals or the government. Social duties refer to the obligations to the community and include cooperation as well as participation. In a free society, there is tension between personal rights and social duty as for every person's right there is a corresponding duty. And one's social duties may enhance personal rights, and vice versa, particularly in the exercising of both.

As each individual is just one piece in a much larger community, he/she has a duty to contribute to the welfare and posterity of that community. However, social duty is a voluntary action and without personal rights, the social duty cannot be performed if an individual is suppressed. This is seen when citizens have used their rights to fight against social injustices and which have resulted in the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, public education, community hospitals, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the environmental movement, and the gay rights movement.

As a Mason, we are Charged, in the Entered Apprentice degree, to relieve the distresses of our neighbor and soothe his afflictions. Masons are also charged as a citizen to be exemplary in the discharge of our civil duties. It would take a book to discuss Freemasonry and its interaction with personal rights and social duties, but, for now, it is sufficient to say that there are numerous examples where Freemasons have supported personal rights and contributed to the social duties of their community.

9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite

These ideals and principles are prized not only within Freemasonry, but also within many faiths and cultures around the world. Freemasons are taught that Truth is a divine attribute and the foundation of every virtue. From the Book of Ezra, we see a famous story where Zerubbabel took part in a discussion about what was the strongest thing in the world--wine, kings, women, or truth. Zerubbabel came out the victor by demonstrating that the truth was the mightiest of all. Truth is seeing things as they really are and ascribing to them their appropriate valuations. God is the creator, source, determiner, governor, arbiter, standard, and final judge of all truth.

Beauty is a characteristic of an animal, idea, object, person, or place that is aesthetically pleasing to someone. Beauty is subjective and is in the eye of the beholder. In Freemasonry, Beauty is represented by the Corinthian column, the most beautiful of the orders of architecture, and by the Junior Warden, who represents Hiram Abiff and symbolizes the meridian sun. But since Beauty is so subjective, Freemasonry uses the term not to describe physical beauty, but beauty in the spiritual and philosophical sense.

Love, that intense feeling of deep affection and attraction, is a fearsome force of nature that, as Huey Lewis sings, can "Make a one man weep, make another man sing." Love is about giving, about sacrifice, and is selfless. From 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV): 
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
God created love and from John 3:16 (KJV):
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Even from the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, commanded us to "love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another (John 13:34)."

Religion seeks harmony with the Infinite, it is literally defined as "to reconnect," to be bonded with the Infinite. There have been many great and wise teachers whose message was to seek harmony with nature and with the divine.

10. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

We are commanded by Almighty God to keep and care for the planet. Mankind has been given dominion over the earth, but that doesn't mean we are to exploit that which God has given us. Today, environmental concerns are a major point of division in American politics. Political parties fight about the source of environmental and climate changes presently occurring. My personal feelings are that the climate changes naturally, but that man has not necessarily helped that out. Without sounding like the antagonist from Inferno, overpopulation is becoming a major and contentious issue that our planet will have to face, sooner or later. While the Good Book speaks of being fruitful and populate the planet, there comes a tipping point when the population becomes unsustainable. In our world of technological advancement, we have the ability to retake the mantle as responsible stewards of this planet.

Ultimately the Georgia Guidestones serve as a map to some kind of utopian global society, but the idea of a perfect world has always been a driving force for mankind. While we should strive and progress, I think that a perfect world is out of reach as man is an imperfect creature.