Sunday, May 17, 2015

‘The Masonic Society begins its eighth year’

If it’s May, it is another anniversary for The Masonic Society. This is the seventh anniversary of our launch, and what has been accomplished is kind of amazing. With ethical, thoughtful, and professional leadership, great things are possible.

Members of The Masonic Society have been receiving issue number 27 of The Journal—the quarterly periodical that just happened to have revived the Masonic publishing business in the United States. No. 27. Meaning twenty-six issues preceded it. I am reminded of now otherwise forgotten critics who said the Society’s business model was flawed, and that it wouldn’t get more than four issues to its members before folding. (They were championing something called Freemasons Press, which folded before getting four issues to its subscribers, but that’s old news too.) The Society begins its eighth year in service to the Craft. We have a fortune in the bank, so we’ll be around, publishing The Journal and hosting great Masonic events, for a long time.

Names in the news: Bro. Ken Davis of Albuquerque is our new First Vice President, following the departure from that post of Bro. Chip Borne in March. Ken was the obvious choice to fill that vacancy. A retired English professor and former chair of the English Department at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, he is an author of several books. Ken is a Past Master of Lodge Vitruvian No. 767 in Indianapolis, and is active these days in several Masonic groups in Albuquerque, including New Mexico Lodge of Research.

Ken has distinguished himself as a Director of The Masonic Society by serving as the Book Review Editor for The Journal, and was instrumental in creating and writing The Quarry Project Style Guide. (I return to the Board of Directors, taking Ken’s place. My thanks to President Jim Dillman and the other officers and Board members.)

Wanna hear something cool? That style guide has been adopted by the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (Southern Jurisdiction)’s bimonthly periodical Scottish Rite Journal; the Scottish Rite Research Society’s annual book of transactions Heredom; Grand Encampment’s monthly Knight Templar magazine; and Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research in Indianapolis.

But back to The Journal.

This issue highlights several familiar elements of Masonic ritual and symbol in ways that even longtime Freemasons could find fresh. The Four Cardinal Virtues are a subject I find vital to Freemasonry—I even used to present a popular lecture of my own devising on the topic—so I’ll start by sharing a bit of “The Masonic Relevance of the Four Cardinal Virtues” by Christian M. Christensen. Here, the full member of Texas Lodge of Research reminds us of the meanings of Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance, and Justice, and then takes us from Plato to Cicero to St. Ambrose to Thomas Aquinas and, finally, to the Jachin and Boaz exposure of 1797 for the Virtues’ arrival into Masonic tenets.

“Taking the Cardinal Virtues to heart and living them day by day requires work, just as becoming a better man is hard. Instead it is easier to continue the quest for light, blinding ourselves to the fact that the most important understandings are in front of us already. The Cardinal Virtues are cornerstone of the Craft, easily explained to us and are available for all to live by—if we are ready and willing to pick up our working tools and apply them.”

In his “We Have a Problem with the 47th Problem,” Brian C. Thomas of Washington ponders why Freemasonry prefers Euclid over Pythagoras. I remember one of the first flaws I discerned in Masonic ritual was its attribution of “Eureka!” to Pythagoras, actually exclaimed by Archimedes, which Thomas notes before guiding us through the chronology of the Pythagorean Theorem and its appearance in Masonic thought. His is a reasoned study, and what I appreciate most is Thomas’ inclusion of Benedict Spinoza in his analysis. The well read Freemason must be aware of the Dutch-born philosopher (and Jewish heretic)’s Ethics, which “mimics Euclid and systematically proves that God is the universe, the single substance in which all natural phenomena exists.”

“Such a concept of God could be universally accepted in all religions,” Thomas continues. “Spinoza is clear that we can know God without intersession of the church, and that a spark of the divine is within us to be discovered.” Read all about it on Page 18.

Patrick C. Carr, Grand Senior Warden of Arkansas, reminds his reader that two of the Great Lights of Masonry are tools for moral building. Only by learning and understanding how [the Square and Compasses] work together can we hope to begin to tame our earthly passions and begin to focus on our spiritual development in the Craft,” he advises. “Only then will we start to become true Master Masons with the ability to travel and to seek the eternal.” SMIB.

Isaiah Akin, Historian of historic Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC, presents “Gavels and Contagious Magic,” a photo spread of that most handy of working tools, the gavel. But these have illustrious origins. Gavels made of wood, stone, and ivory connected to highly notable human events. Check out these unforgettable artifacts.

And of course there are the regular features of The Journal. In the President’s Message, Jim Dillman updates us on the recent amazing developments in The Masonic Society, including a hint of things to come that take Masonic education beyond the printed word. Journal editor Michael Halleran, freshly outstalled as Grand Master of Kansas, polishes the shine of Dwight Smith. Smith, as you know from your Knights of the North reading, Laudable Pursuit, was Grand Master of Indiana in 1945. His writings were amazingly prescient for their bold foretelling of the demographic and structural ailments in American Freemasonry we see today. When the size of Masonic membership was at its unimaginable apex and the future seemed so blessed, Smith cautioned “that men judge Freemasonry by what they see walking down the street wearing Masonic emblems, and if what they see does not command their respect, then we need not expect them to seek our fellowship.”

“If we have grown so prosperous and fat and lazy,” Halleran quotes Smith, “there is nothing further to do except revel in our status symbols and create more status symbols [because] we have ceased to possess anything that is vital.” A prophet.

Yasha Berensiner’s “Masonic Collectibles” recalls eighteenth century Masonic newspapers. The good, the bad, and the inaccurate are shown in the yellowed fragile pages of long ago.

The book reviews pages share insights into half a dozen authors’ current offerings, from academic and popular approaches. “Masonic Treasures” depicts an odd ballot box of unknown origin that you have to see to believe, courtesy of Isaiah Akin.

And there is a lot more in the pages of this issue of The Journal. Membership in The Masonic Society, as boasted by many—not just me—is the best $39 you’ll spend in Freemasonry. It is a Masonic fraternity on the move. Never content to rest, TMS continues to grow because it improves the condition of the Masonic Order. Enjoy.

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