Friday, June 08, 2007

Three books

Well, it seems that Bro. Tom Accuosti over at The Tao of Masonry has tagged me into the "Little Known Favorites" meme that is going around the Masonic blogging community right now. I am actually a bit surprised and pleased to be considered "cool" (for lack of a better word) enough to be included, as life often prevents me from posting as often as I would like. Between five kids, the Army, and a second job, I have precious little time to blog. That being said, however, this type of thing is right up my alley. Reading is one of my favorite activities, and I am developing quite an impressive library. Of course, sometimes it seems that I collect more books than I can read, and even though I have a big enough backlog to furnish me with a couple of years good reading, I still continue to accumulate more books. Without any further ado, here is my list:
Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle- This may or may not be "lesser" known outside of the philosophical world, but before I took political philosophy classes, I had never heard of it. This was my first introduction into political philosophy, my "gateway drug" so to speak. Aristotle, in this work, defines "happiness" as life lived in accordance with virtue. As Masons, we are familiar with some of the virtues he discusses, such as temperance, prudence and justice. In fact it is quite possible that this book had an influence on whomever originally wrote our ritual, as many Masonic principles are found on its pages. Several times when reading this book I found myself saying "Hmmm, i've heard that before!"
Prayers for the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno-I found this one on the bargain rack at Barnes and Noble. It presents a dystopian vision of a near future United States where the Islamists have won, and most Americans have converted to Islam, either by choice or force. Not the strongest writing, but a fun read, and a chilling vision of where religious extremism (of any sort) could lead this country. Some of the premises are a bit far-fetched, but it's an enjoyable story and possibly prophetic warning.
My last choice is highly specialized to my own geekish tastes. I enjoy learning languages, and although I only speak two in addition to our own, I dabble in many more. Another Barnes and Noble bargain rack find, How to Learn Any Language by Barry Farber has been a great resource to me. Mr. Farber is a famous talk show host, and throughout the years, he has achieved at least nominal proficiency in more than 25 languages. What is even more amazing, is that he learned most of these languages on his own with no formal schooling. This book outlines his methods and suggestions and is filled with amusing anecdotes and useful advice. If you want to teach yourself a language, this book is an invaluable aid.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Masonic recognition is a sore subject. Despite this, the question of who is or is not a Mason is an issue of fundamental importance to our Craft, and one that needs to be readdressed with a new perspective. On its current path, "mainstream" American Freemasonry is facing a bleak future. Membership is, for the most part, declining due to deaths and a lack of interest. At the same time, as mentioned in a previous post, our Craft is thriving in Europe and other parts of the world. The problem with this is that many of the Masonic bodies that are experiencing growth are considered "clandestine" or "irregular" by mainstream American Masonry. Obviously, however, they are doing something right, something that we as American Masons are not doing. Could it be that American "regular" Freemasonry has devolved into the sort of Moose Lodge men's social club that we are always strenuously insisting that we are not? Have the bulk of American Masons lost sight of the true philosophical, esoteric nature of our Craft, while the so called "irregular" or "clandestine" Masons are practicing the true tenets of our noble institution?
When I first became interested in Freemasonry, I was in France. I began researching, and of course since I was in France, the bulk of the material I found was written from the French perspective. (This was in 1996, before the widespread availability of the internet, so all of my information came from books) When one is speaking of the French Masonic perspective, it is almost a given that this perspective is heavily influenced by Masonic bodies which are considered "irregular", as the majority of French Masons belong to "irregular" bodies. These writings portrayed a Masonry that was vibrant and alive, steeped in the philosophical and esoteric traditions, a Masonry that was so much more than just a social club. When I returned to the United States and finally joined a Lodge, I found a completely different version of our Craft, one that was a mere husk of what it could be. But I knew that the seed was still there, and could blossom, if only nurtured and allowed the opportunity to flourish.
In some cases, such as Halcyon Lodge #498 in Cleveland, Ohio as well as the myriad Traditional Observance Lodges that have sprung up around the country, this is occurring in regular, recognized Lodges and all is well with the "powers that be". But in others, such as the infamous Rite of the Rose Cross of Gold incident, enthusiastic, knowledgeable Masons, who only want to experience the full depth of our Craft are being are being oppressed, erased from the rolls, and declared "clandestine". All of this in the name of "regularity" and "good order". So what gives?
This, in my opinion, is where the concept of recognition comes into play. As the current order stands, "regularity" and recognition are determined by the Grand Lodges, often based on recommendations received from a shadowy body known as the Commission on Information for Recognition. Any time a Grand Lodge deviates from the standard party line, as did the Grand Lodge of Minnesota several years ago in recognizing the Grand Lodge of France (which incidentally is perfectly "regular"), there are threats of being outcast from the "regular" Masonic world. It seems that the issue of recognition creates a good portion of the tension and disputes within our Craft. I advocate a simple solution to this problem. Perhaps Grand Lodges should get out of the "recognition" business altogether. Leave it up to individual Masons and Lodges to decide for themselves what constitutes a "regular" Mason. After a man receives the three degrees, he has been given ample tools for determining for himself the "regularity" of another Mason. This decision should be left up to the individual Mason's conscience, not dictated by self interested Grand Lodge and/or Scottish Rite politicians. Every Mason is on a unique journey to the East, and should be allowed to find Light for himself, wherever that may be. If he finds that the length of his cabletow includes the Grand Orient of France or the RRCG, then so mote it be.
Now, I realize that this idea is controversial, and many will disagree. Furthermore, the implementation of this would be problematic, and there are all kinds of related issues, but this is something that needs to be discussed. Change is long overdue. There are enough problems in the Masonic world without petty partisan bickering over "recognition" and "regularity". Perhaps if we set aside our differences and concentrated on the things that bind us together as Masons, we could return our Craft to being the progressive and relevant institution that it once was, and certainly can become again.