Among several meanings of the word "warrant", the Standard Dictionary gives the following: "That which gives authority for some act or course; sanction; authority." It defines "charter" as: "A writing issued by the authorities of an order or society empowering certain persons to establish a branch or chapter."
The two words are thus interchangeable in meaning. "Warrant" is more largely used in Great Britain; "charter" is more common in America Both words to Masons in America, Scotland and Ireland now mean the legalizing and empowering document issued by Grand Lodge to brethren for the formation of a new lodge. In England a warrant for a new lodge is issued by the Grand Master, not the Grand Lodge.
The first Masonic charter, so far as is known, was that issued by Prince Edwin, with the consent of his father, King Athelstane, at York, in 926 A.D. This charter, told of in numerous copies of various old Masonic Constitutions, or "The Old Charges", provided fundamental right of Masons to assemble, work, take apprentices, make their own laws, have their own organization. It is, in the thought of many, the fundamental landmark of the Craft.
But to modern Speculative Masons, the charter of a lodge is a document, setting forth the consent of Grand Lodge that certain brethren become the Master and Wardens of a new lodge, and that the new lodge is of. right and of necessity must be, recognized as an equal by all other lodges, with no authority over it and its Master except Masonic law, the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge.
The charter of a lodge is so important that, according to common Masonic practice, it must be present in the lodge-room whenever a lodge is open. Proceedings had without the physical presence of the charter are generally considered null and void.
There is one small exception usually made, perhaps more by closing eyes to it than from any real authority. A visiting Mason may ask to see the charter of the lodge he would visit. It is as much his right to make certain of the legitimacy of the lodge he would enter, as it is the right of the lodge to make certain that he is a member in good standing of a lodge working under a recognized Grand Lodge. In satisfying the request of a visiting brother, the charter obviously must be brought from the lodge room for his inspection. It is improbable that any Grand Lodge would rule that "no lodge" existed during the time the charter was absent from the room for such inspection purposes.
Chartered lodges began with the first or Mother Grand Lodge. Prior to 1717 most lodges were of the "time immemorial" classification. Stone masons working on a great cathedral had their organization, meeting in the lodge (building) erected to hold tools and supplies, meeting place for meals, perhaps at times a dormitory. Their common work, common aims and, as the speculative or ethical teachings arose in their assemblages, common ideals, were a sufficient bond. Apprentices were accepted only at intervals; apprentices served seven years before being tested by making each his "Master's Piece", which, if it was satisfactory, enabled him to become a Fellow of the Craft, or full fledged Mason. There was no pressure of applicants from without, no great desire on the part of non-Masons to become stone masons, except as some lad, (or his parents for him), wanted to become an apprentice.
Hence a charter for a lodge was unnecessary. As the Craft gradually changed from operative to speculative, Masons still held together by the common bond of their interests and their knowledge of the secrets of the Craft.
But with the formation of the Grand Lodge, a new idea took form. In 1717 a regulation (Number 8 of the original 39) adopted by the new Grand Lodge, read: "No set or number of brethren shall withdraw or separate themselves from the lodge in which they were made brethren or were afterwards admitted members, unless the lodge becomes too numerous; nor even then, without a dispensation from the Grand Master or his deputy. And when they are thus separated, they must either immediately join themselves to such other lodges as they shall like best, with the unanimous consent of that other lodge to which they go (as above regulated) or else they must obtain the Grand Master's warrant to join in forming a new lodge.
"If any set or number of Masons shall take upon themselves to form a lodge without the Grand Master's warrant, the regular lodges are not to countenance them, nor own them as fair brethren and duly formed, nor approve of their acts and deeds; but must treat them as rebels, until they humble themselves, as the Grand Master shall in his prudence direct, and until he approves of them by his warrant, which must be signified to the other lodges, as the custom is when a new lodge is to be registered in the list of lodges."
The use of the word "regular", above, is not in the sense in which it is now usually understood. To moderns "regular" and "irregular" are opposites. To the Masons of 1717 a lodge was "regular" when it had a charter, in the sense that it was "sub regula" -that is, had come under-the Grand Lodge. Many "time immemorial" lodges did not immediately ask for, or receive, a charter; this did not make them "irregular" but only non-regular. The lodge at Fredericksburg, in which George Washington received his degrees, was a "time immemorial" lodge without a charter at the time it made a Mason of Washington. Five years after that event it asked for and received a charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
There are further etymological differences between our use of words, and their meanings as understood by our brethren of 1717. An American Mason knows charter, or warrant, to mean the document given by Grand Lodge, creating his own lodge and in its possession.
Our early brethren at first understood no more by the word "warrant" than we understand by the word "permission"; the written document was not at first held necessary. The Grand Master, his Deputy, or some brother empowered by the Grand Master, gave permission to certain brethren to form a new lodge. When the Grand Master gave this authority to another, that authority was contained in a paper termed a deputation. But a deputation is not a warrant or a charter-it is merely the authority given by the Grand Master to another brother to act for him in "warranting"---giving permission to certain brethren to be a new lodge.
While modern warrants, as instruments of Grand Master and Grand Lodge, began in 1717, when the first Grand Lodge was formed, long before that warrants or charters were issued by Kilwinning Lodge of Scotland.
Just how old "Mother Kilwinning" is has been often disputed; few will cavil, however, at the statement that she is undoubtedly as old as the fifteenth century and may be older.
Mother Kilwinning chartered a number of lodges, thus acting as a Grand Lodge before there was a Grand Lodge! The daughters of Mother Kilwinning all took her name as part of theirs and thus there came into being Cannongate Kilwinning, Greenock Kilwinning, Cumberland Kilwinning, and others, some of which are still on the register of the present Grand Lodge of Scotland.
The Grand Lodge of Scotland was organized in 1736. Kilwinning for a time became a lodge under the Grand Lodge. In 1743 it petitioned Grand Lodge for recognition as the oldest lodge in Scotland. On the ground that because the old documents, minutes, etc. of Kilwinning lodge were lost, it could not prove its claimed antiquity, the Grand Lodge of Scotland refused to grant the petition.
Whereupon Mother Kilwinning seceded from the Grand Lodge, and proceeded to charter more lodges, including one in Virginia and one in Ireland!
However, time heals all breaches. Just as the two rival Grand Lodges in England came together after more than half a century and in the great Lodge of Reconciliation in 1813 became one United Grand Lodge of England, so did Mother Kilwinning at last, in 1807, renounce all right of chartering lodges, returned to the fold of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and brought her daughter lodges in Scotland with her!
The word "charter" has been too loosely used in the past for clarity in the present day understanding. Thus, antiquarians and historians of Masonic lore write of the "Charter of Cologne" as "the oldest Masonic charter." But this document was not really issued by some Masonic authority, giving certain rights to others. There is little belief in its being other than a clumsy forgery, made for what purposes any one's guess is as good as another's.
The document miscalled "Charter of Cologne" was purportedly written June 24, 1535: "a manifesto of the chosen masters of the St. John's fraternity, heads of the lodges in London, Edinburgh, Vienna, Amsterdam, Paris, Lyons, Frankfort, Hamburg, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Madrid, Venice, Ghent, Konisburg, Brussels, Dantzic, Middleburg, Bremen and Cologne."
It was purportedly signed by these nineteen Master Masons in Cologne!
It sets forth various principles and practices of the order.
However, internal evidence that the document is spurious is so strong that no Masonic historian now believes in its genuineness.
The Larmenious Charter, or "Charter of Transmission", is another confusing use of the term. It is a document of interest to Knights Templar. It purports to be originally written in or about 1314, but was not published until 1804. It is generally considered to have been written by an Italian named Bonani, who fabricated the document as coming from the pen of "Johannes Marcus Larmenius of Jerusalem" supposed to have been the "Master of the Knights of the Supreme Temple". Its alleged purpose was to confer the Supreme Mastership of the Order of the Temple on another; its actual purpose seems to have been to attach a new order to an older one. Into that it is not necessary to go -the "charter" of Larmenius is not a charter in our understanding of the word, and its use in this connection has added to the confusion surrounding the subject.
Most modern charters given to a group to form and hold a lodge in a particular locality make the lodge stationary. Such a lodge cannot move to another location without permission of Grand Master or Grand Lodge, a provision necessary to keep records and permit inspection. But there have been traveling warrants, usually issued to military lodges, empowering them to travel from place to place with the military forces to which they are attached. The first traveling warrant of which there is record in this country was given by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts to one Abraham Savage, in 1738, to be used in the expedition against Canada; it was really more a deputation than warrant. In 1779, Pennsylvania gave a traveling warrant to a Colonel Proctor to open what in the document is called a "moveable lodge".
The charter of a lodge today is its symbol of legitimacy. It is its power to work, to make brethren, to do all that any lodge is empowered to do. It is its attestation that it is duly constituted, dedicated and consecrated, and is one among its sisterhood of lodges, with rights equal to all other lodges, rights greater than those of no other lodge.
By the granting of a charter a Grand Lodge offers the greatest of evidence of its belief in the trustworthiness and dependability of the brethren named as the principal officers, and the successors they are to install.
No greater disgrace can fall on a lodge than to have its charter forfeited; second only to this is the arrest of the charter, which the Grand Master may do if in his judgment wrong actions or contumacy have brought disgrace upon the Fraternity.
While a Grand Master may arrest (or take up) the charter, only Grand Lodge, which gave it, can forfeit it. It is good to chronicle that both arrest and forfeiture of charter are very rare.
A lodge may give up its charter voluntarily, returning the instrument which brought it life to the Grand Lodge which gave it; this is occasionally, not often, done when circumstances have so dispersed the brethren that not enough remain to act as a lodge, or when indifference among the survivors causes the lodge to become dormant.
The charter of a lodge is its life. The privilege of asking Grand Lodge for one is great. The responsibility of Grand Lodge in giving life to a new child in the Masonic family is heavy. The charter, as a result, becomes the most venerated and loved of Masonic documents, by the brethren whose Masonic life is lived in its shadow.
Religions are fiercely competitive. Many claim for themselves the exclusive mandate to speak and act for God. In contrast, Masonry believes and teaches that God, who "maketh the rain to fall on the just and unjust alike," is the Father of all and is continually pouring out his love and his blessings. He loves all His children equally. The religious differences between human begins is how we respond to His love.
Unfortunately, every time we mortals discover the richness of God's self-revelation, we are tempted to organize and tell people that they can "fill up" only at our spiritual service station, and nowhere else. I am not opposed to organized religion. I spent a substantial part of my life at the University of Edinburgh working on answers to the questions of why we have a church, why we have a ministry and what they should be and do. I found substantial answers, but I am not prepared to say that mine are the only explanations or that God depends on my cooperation or permission for anything.
It is difficult for us human beings to understand God, since we are so far removed from Him and so tempted to confuse our interests with His will. The history of religion is a history of conflict, punctuatedwith wars of words, and steel, between factions who insist that they are the sole, or principal, custodian of God's word and spirit.
In the extreme, some seem to believe that they have the authority to compel God, as well as the rest of us, to obey their will. There is no need to remind ourselves of the religious bloodshed that grieves God and man in many places of the world today. Because Christianity is the most widely supported religion of our culture, we are more conscious of the intolerance that occasionally comes to the surface in that faith. Since the 1975 publication of Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution by Stephen Knight, some Christians have turned from their traditional enemies, other denominations and other faiths, to vent their anger on Freemasonry.
For example, Chick Publications of Chino, California published in 1991 a 24 page booklet by J.T. Chick, with pages somewhat smaller than a dollar bill, entitledThe Curse of Baphomet. The thesis of the book is that Masons worship a demonic god named Baphomet, who is diametrically opposed to Christ. If you follow the story line of the book it is also possible to come to the conclusion that if one is a Mason, his son will attempt suicide and not recover. The pretext and pretense of the book are scarcely worthy of reply. However, there are some interesting points raised.
In the story, comic strip style, state troopers arrive at the home of Sally and Alex Scott in the dark of night, to tell them that their son has been shot. At the hospital, they are told that he attempted suicide and that he has no will to live. The distraught and disheveled parents are, three days later, greeted by the well dressed and smiling Ed, who could be clipped out and saved for a book on how to be a used car salesman. The parent have just asked the question, "Why has God done this to us?" Ed explains that it is because the father is practicing witchcraft by being a Mason and Shriner. Sally and Alex defend their Easter Star, Masonic and Shrine memberships. Ed insists that, although he was once a Mason, he now really understands Masonry because he has learned about Baphomet.
Every Mason will know, and those outside the Fraternity must be told, that Baphomet is unknown to Masonry. It is, actually, a Christian term. Among the charges trumped up against the Knights Templar by King Philip IV of France and his syncophants nearly 700 years ago [web-master: 1307-1314] was an accusation that the Templars worshipped "Baphomet" or the "Head of Baphomet." This dovetailed neatly with another charge, that the Templars favored the Mohammedans over Christians. Baphomet is a modification, a corruption of the name of the prophet Mohammed.
Unacountably, Ed explains that the Masonic appellation, "Great Architect of the Universe," another term from Medieval Christianity, is not the God of the Bible, but is really Baphomet, "ugly, frightening and completely satanic." Ed produces a picture of Baphomet, with a goat's head, red eyes, and a flaming torch implanted in the top of the skull. The otherwise human figure sits with legs folded underneath. Wings are deployed from the back. The figure has female breasts and symbols adorn the visceral area. The hands mock the traditional blessing of Christ, the right hand raised, the left lowered. The goat-headed figure and other symbols are frequently found in witchcraft, but are totally foreign to Freemasonry. The Eastern Star, Ed declares,is designed to hold a Bahpomet's head without the torch. Albert Pike is quoted as saying that Masons know that "Lucifer is God." The Sovereign Grand Commander's Patriarchal Cross is described as the symbol of Baphomet.
Ed convinces Alex to burn his Masonic reglia and repent the sin of being a Mason. On bended knees, Sally and Alex prayerfully burn their Masonic relic, and there son immediately begins to recover, and the book concludes.
In a way, I am sorry Ed is wrong. it would be wonderful if prayer and a righteous life made everything happen the way we wish. Christian experience teaches that God does not work in such a simplistic way. God's people, individually and collectively, have often suffered undeserved pain in spite of their prayers and their holiness. We do not manipulate God in prayer, we cooperate with Him.
Ed, fictitious though he may be, travels in the wake of a onetime popular relitgious tradition. In the days of the Spanish Inquisition, religious beliefs and practices that did not meet the standards of the religious establishment were punished by death. Such executions were called, strangely, "Acts of Faith." Auto-da-Fe became part of of the language of our comon experience. Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines Auto-da-Fe as, "the ceremony accompanying the pronouncement of the judgement by the Inquisition and followed by the execution of sentence by the secular [civil] authorities." In a broad sense, the term refers to the burning of a heretic. perhaps the great irony was that many were converted under duress to what the inquisitors considered orthodox belief, then executed so that they could go to heaven while in a state of grace and before they could sin again. Those being executed were less enthusiastic about the benefits of such immediate transport into eternal life than those making the arrangements.
The ascendancy of the Roman Catholic Inquisition was followed by the heyday of Protestant persecution of witchcraft in the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries. Many pious and responsible persons swore that they saw the devil in one form or another, that they saw accused friends speaking with the devil or acting as his agent. A remarkable occurence in the late 16th century was a solemn inquiry into a report that the devil had appeared in a Scottish church and had "mooned" those present from the pulpit. The incident was scrupulously believed as fact and included in a book on witchcraft written by King James VI (later James I of England) and required to be taught in schools. It is paradoxical that this same King James twenty years later convened the leading scholars of the day to update the translation of the Bible into English. The result of their labors is the king James Version of the Bible.
Some Protestants did not take kindly to theological debate. As late aas 1719, a theological student was hanged at St. Andrews, Scotland for unorthodox beliefs. Grading in seminaries is less severe these days.
Christianity, great as its efforts are to proclaim the Gospel and to serve succeeding generations as the incarnate presence of Christ in the world, has been the home base for some in great and trivial offices who enjoy condemning others and executing those whom they can, by death or disgrace. Members of churches are human and liable to the sins of the flesh, most notably in this case, pride. Those who would try to rekindle the flames of the inquisition are trying to take us 500 years into the past. The Christian Bible teaches that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy and peace. Frenzied attacks on other religious bodies or upon Masonry display little love, joy or peace. Instead of love, there seems to be hatred, instead of joy a thirst for blood and instead of peace, violent verbalization.
It is interesting to note that the rise of Masonry coincides with the decline of witchcraft, real and imagined, together with the hysteria and paranoia such occult practices generated. Masonic ritual inherited from our ancient operative Brethren was Christian. In time it was opened to all men of good will who share the quest to know and serve God. Whatever the intention of God, religion seems to be cursed with the propensity to divide people against each other, as if God wished to be worshipped in a proliferation of towers of Babel.
In contrast, Masonry teaches respect for God and all His children. If we really devote ourselves to the profound task of serving God, deepen our faith, and truly commit ourselves to the call of God, perhaps we shall not have time to criticize others!
Author: Rev. Thomas E. Weir, PhD
Fellow Philalethes Society, Grand Prelate
Grand Encampment of Knights Templars U.S.A.
From Northern Ireland to Iran, from the Middle east to the United States, religious extremism is a growing force throughout the world. Jarred by the rapid pace of social and cultural change, especially the apparent disintegration of moral values and the break-up of the family, some people within this movement have sought refuge from the complexity of modern life by embracing absolute views and rejecting tolerance of other beliefs.
Simple, easy, seemingly stable answers bring comfort in a rapidly changing world. For example, some churches have responded to the personal anguish of their members by circling the wagons, that is, by strictly defining theological concepts and insisting their members "purify" their fellowship by renouncing any other beliefs.
The next step, already taken by various churches, is to yield degrees of control within their ranks to vocal factions espousing extremist views. These splinter groups focus the congregation's generalized anxieties on specific targets, The proffered cure-all is to destroy the supposed enemy. Freemasonry has become one of these targets precisely because it encourages members to form their own opinion on many important topics, including religion.
Thus some churches have expressed concerns, even condemnations, of Freemasonry. Generally, these actions are based on misunderstandings. A case in point is the June 1993 report to the Southern Baptist Convention by the Convention's Home Mission Board. This report defined eight alleged conflicts between the tenets and teachings of the Masonic Fraternity and Southern Baptist theology.
Let' s briefly look at those areas, as representative of the thinking of some well-meaning but misinformed church members today, and see if the concerns are real or simply a matter of misinformation or misunderstanding.
Most of the issues really deal with language in one way or another. Almost every organization has a special vocabulary of words which are understood by the group. It's hardly appropriate for someone outside a group, and without the special knowledge of the group, to object to the terms unless he or she fully understands them and why they are used.
If someone wants to read the Journal of American Medical Association for example, that is his right-but he doesn't have a right to complain the articles use medical terms. A person reading a cookbook had better know terms like fold, cream the butter, or soft ball have special meanings-or he'll make a mess instead of a cake. The same is true of a non-Mason reading Masonic materials. As to the critique of Freemasonry by the Southern Baptist Convention (which, incidentally, had several positive things to say about Freemasonry), here is a brief explanatory discussion of each point.
1. Because they do not see specific words in their historic context, some critics complain of the prevalent use in Masonry of offensive titles and terms such as Worshipful Master for the leader of a Lodge. The leader of a Masonic Lodge is called the Master of the Lodge for the same reason the head of a Boy Scout troop is called a Scoutmaster, an orchestra's leader is termed the Concert Master, or a highly-skilled electrician is called a Master Electrician. The term arose in the guilds of the Middle Ages when the most skillful workman was called the Master. Much Masonic vocabulary dates from that period. Worshipful in Worshipful Master has nothing to do with worship in any religious sense. Masonically, Worshipful is a term of honor and, in this sense, it is a term still used in England and Canada today to refer to such officials as mayors of cities. Worshipful John Doe means exactly the same thing as the Honorable John Doe. In the same vein, the Mayor of" London is addressed as the Worshipful Lord Mayor. Certainly there is nothing irreligious here in the use of Worshipful or Lord. Such terms are a matter of history and tradition, not religion.
2. Some critics of Freemasonry object to what they term archaic and offensive rituals or so-called bloody oaths in Masonry. There is nothing offensive in them. They are ancient, not archaic, since many of them are so old their origins are lost in history. But there is nothing bad in that. The Declaration of Independence is about the same age as the Master Mason Degree, but few complain it is "archaic."
The alleged bloody oaths refer to the penalties associated with the Masonic obligations. They originated in the medieval legal system of England and were actual punishments inflicted by the state on persons convicted of opposing political or religious tyranny. Masonry's obligations do not contain any promise ever to inflict any of the penalties or to participate in the execution of them. In Masonry, they are entirely symbolic and refer exclusively to the shame a good man should feel at the thought he had broken a promise,
3. Certain critics claim the recommended readings for the Degrees of Masonry are "pagan" in origin- "Pagan", as they are using the term, simply means "pre-Christian." The major purpose of Masonry is the study of man's intellectual and moral history for the purpose of developing ourselves morally and intellectually. Such a study has to start with the concepts of man and God as held by early cultures and evidenced in their mythologies. The Greeks and Romans, as well as earlier peoples, had much of importance to say on many topics, including religion. The idea that a physician must act in the best interests of his patient comes from the pagan Hippocrates, and the concept that the government cannot break into your house and take what it wants on a whim comes from the pagan Aristotle. None of us would want to live in a world without these ideas.
In almost every field- law, government, music, philosophy, mathematics, etc. -it is necessary to review the work of early writers and thinkers. Masonry is no exception. But to study the work of ancient cultures is not the same thing as to do what they did or believe what they believed. And no Mason is ever told what he should believe in matters of faith. That is not the task of a fraternity, nor a public library, nor the government. That is the duty of a person 's revealed religion and is appropriately expressed through his or her church.
4. Ironically, some people complain about the Bible used in Lodge being referred to as the "furniture" of the Lodge. No disrespect is intended. Indeed, just the opposite is true. Masons use the word "furniture" in its original meaning of essential equipment. Since no Lodge can meet without an open Volume of the Sacred Law, (which in North America is almost always the Bible) the Bible is essential and given a special place of honor as the "furniture" for every regular Lodge.
5. The Masonic use of the term "light" is often misunderstood by non-Masons. This confusion may lead some to think Masons are speaking of salvation rather than knowledge or truth. Nowhere in Masonic ritual is "light" implied to mean anything other than knowledge. Light was a symbol of knowledge long before it was a symbol of salvation. The lamp of learning appears on almost every graduation card and college diploma. Masonry uses Light as a symbol of the search for truth and knowledge. it is very unlikely that any Mason would think that Light represents salvation.
6. Masonry does not imply salvation may be attained by one's good works. Masonry does not teach any path to salvation. That is the duty of a Church, not a Fraternity. The closest Masonry comes to this issue is to point to the open Bible, and tell the Mason to search there for the path to eternal life. Masonry does believe in the importance of good works, but as a matter of gratitude to God for His many great gifts and as a matter of individual moral and social responsibility. The path to salvation is found in each Mason's house of worship, not in his Lodge.
7. Various critics accuse Masonic writers of teaching the "heresy of universalism." Universalism is the doctrine that all men and women are ultimately saved. Masonry does not teach universalism or any other doctrine of salvation. Again, that' s the province of the church, not a fraternity. You have to look rather hard to find Masonic writers who "teach universalism." Even if you could find one, it's important to remember that any Masonic author writes for himself alone, not as an official of the fraternity. Masonry simply does not have a position, official or otherwise on salvation. Since men of all faiths are welcome in the fraternity, Masons are careful not to offend the faith of any. Possibly this in itself may seem to be universalism to some critics. Masons call it common courtesy.
8. Some critics, less eager to put their own houses in order than to find fault with others, contend most Lodges refuse to admit African Americans as members. Masonry today is not a whites only organization as the hundreds of thousands of Black, Native American, Hispanic and Oriental Masons can testify . Petitions for membership do not ask the race of the petitioner, and it would be considered completely wrong to do so. At the same time it must be said that Freemasonry, like American society and churches in general, has not lived up entirely to its high ideal of brotherhood in dealing with African Americans and other minorities. This is a situation which most Freemasons, like most Americans, are trying to overcome.
There is a schism in Freemasonry dating back over 200 years to when "Prince Hall" Masons, who are African-Americans, declared them selves independent. This schism is similar to the division of the United Methodist Church from the A.M.E., C.M.E., and United Methodist Church from the A.M.E., S.M.E., and A.M.E. Zion churches or the National Baptists from the American and Southern Baptists. In each of these three examples, the organizations are working to repair the damages of centuries of segregation. for each, complete reunification remains an elusive goal hindered by social resistance on both sides, but not by organizational ideals. In the case of Freemasonry, mutual recognition between "black" and "white" Grand Lodges has proceeded at a steady pace for nearly ten years, while African-American members are increasingly common in formerly "white" Lodges.
For instance, at the international celebration of the 275th anniversary of the Grand Lodge of England in i992 (the most recent Masonic gathering of about the same size as the Southern Baptist Convention), there were far more Blacks present than there were at the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston in 1993. Freemasonry's movement regarding racial matters affirms Masonry's genuine revolution with the rest of American society and churches toward genuine brotherhood among all races.
In summary, looking over the concerns raised in the report, none are the tenants and teachings as the report claims. Four of the concerns are merely misunderstandings of Masonic vocabulary by non-Masons. The complaint that some of the writers whose work Masonry studies are pre Christian could be raised against any study of man, government, or philosophy. Almost all areas of study start with the ancient (pagan) Greeks. All members of the Fraternity know that Masonry does not invade the area of the Church to teach any doctrine of salvation, neither universalism, salvation by works, nor any other. And the objection that Masonry is some sort of whites only club is refuted by the myriad of non whites wearing the Square and Compasses. Freemasonry is simply a Fraternity---an organization of men, banded together to further develop themselves ethically and morally, and to benefit the community at large!
Author: Jim Tresner, Masonic Author and John Boettjer, Editor, The Scottish Rite Journal
One of the problems that most often plagues Masonry is poor ritual. By this, I don't just mean getting the words wrong -- I mean ritual that is drab and uninspiring, which fails to actually *teach* a candidate. Ritual is often mediocre, and it doesn't have to be; anyone can do ritual well, provided he knows a little about acting.
It isn't hard, actually; it's mostly a matter of knowing how to do it, plus a lot of practice. This article is intended to impart some guidelines on how to do Good Ritual. It doesn't demand a lot of time, or any particular talent, just a little drive to do well. Read it and play with it. With some practice, you should be able to use these techniques to good effect in your Lodge. The course is specifically aimed at dealing with the longer speeches, but much of it is also relevant to shorter pieces; I commend it to junior officers.
This is adapted from a lecture that I worked up for my own lodge; having done that, I figured I should try to spread these tips around for the common weal of the Craft. (Caveat: I do assume that you have some kind of cypher book, with encoded ritual. If your jurisdiction doesn't use this, you'll have to adapt these lessons.)
1: Figure out the WordsThe first step of learning any ritual is to know what you're saying! This should be obvious, but is often overlooked, because brethren are afraid to admit that they don't already know the right words. Don't be afraid to admit your own limits -- I've never met *anyone* who gets every single word right every time.
Start out by listening to someone say the speech, preferably several times. (You should be doing this the entire previous year, listening to your predecessor.) Listen carefully, and make sure you understand what's being said; ask questions if you don't. (After Lodge, of course.)
Next, go through your cypher or code book carefully, and see how much you can read. Mark words that you can't figure out, or that you're unsure of -- this is the point to catch any mistakes you may be making. Then call or get together with a Ritualist or a reliable Past Master, and talk through it, reading out of the book slowly. Have him correct any mistakes, and fill in the words you don't know. Take notes (preferably somewhere other than in the book), because you will forget the corrections as soon as you're on your own.
2: Understand the SpeechThis step gets overlooked even more often than the previous one. Read through the ritual a couple of times, and make sure you really grasp it. Don't just know the words -- know what it's talking about. Find out who the characters being talked about are. Again, ask questions.
Now, start trying to understand the speech structurally. Any ritual is made up of components, separate pieces that are linked together. For example, a section may be talking about symbols, with three paragraphs per symbol: concrete meaning, abstract meaning, and purpose. Figure out what these pieces are -- you'll use them later.
The next step is especially useful for long speeches -- visualize the speech. Any speech can be thought of in terms of movements, places, rooms, stuff like that. Words are hard to remember in order; places are easy. The canonical example is the Middle Chamber Lecture, which walks through King Solomon's Temple. That's no accident -- that path is easily visualized, and makes a good example of how to learn ritual, which is probably why it is the first major speech an officer learns. This is why we use symbols in the first place: because they are easy to learn and internalize. Use them.
3a: Small-Scale MemorizationThis is never anyone's favorite part; anyone can do it, but no-one finds it simple. It's considerably easier if you do it right, though.
Start out by reading the speech over and over. Don't move on to the next step until you can read it from the cypher quickly, without breaks or hesitation. Read it *out loud*, when you get the chance. This step is particularly important, and skipped more often than any other. Don't skip it -- this is how you get your brain and mouth trained to the words. It may sound silly, but it really matters -- the mental pathways used to talk are distinct from those used to read.
Now, start trying to learn sentences. Just sentences. Read the first word or two of the sentence, then try to fill in the remainder from memory. Don't fret if you can't do it immediately; it will probably take at least 5 or 10 times through before you're getting most of the sentences. You'll find some that are hard -- hammer those ones over and over (but don't totally neglect the rest while you do so). Again, get to the point where you're doing reasonably well on this, before going on to the next step.
3b: Large-Scale MemorizationOnce you've got most of the sentences, try to move on to paragraphs. Again, some will be easy and some hard. Try to understand exactly why this sentence follows that one -- in most cases, the ritual does make sense. An individual paragraph is almost always trying to express a single coherent thought, in pieces; figure out what that thought is, and why all the pieces are necessary. Keep at this until you're able to get most paragraphs by glancing at the first word or two, or by thinking, "Okay, this is the description of truth," or something like that.
Finally, start putting it all together. This is where the structural analysis in Step 2 gets important. You visualized the speech, and figured out how it hooks together; use that visualization to connect the paragraphs. Make sure you have some clue why each paragraph follows the one before. In almost every case, the next paragraph is either a) continuing this thought, or b) moving on to a related thought. In both cases, you can make memorization much easier by understanding why it flows like that. Convince yourself that this paragraph obviously has to follow that one, and you'll never forget the order.
4: Smoothing It OutYou're now at the point where you've got pretty much all the sentences down, and most of the paragraphs, and you're able to get through the whole thing only looking at the book a few times. Now, start *saying* it.
When you're driving in the car; when you're alone at home; pretty much any time you have some privacy, try saying it all out loud, at full voice. Trust me, it sounds very different when you actually say it aloud. You'll find that you stumble more, and in different places. Some words turn out to be more difficult to pronounce than you expected. Try it a few times.
Start out by trying to do this frequently -- once, even twice every day. It'll be hard at first (and it's a real pain to pull out the cypher book while you're driving), but it'll gradually get easier. When you're starting to feel comfortable, slow down, but don't stop. Practice it every couple of days, then every week. Don't slow down below once a week. If you feel up to it, see if you can speed up your recitation. (But do not ever speed-talk the ritual in open Lodge -- that's for memorization and rehearsal only.)
5a: Mindset Last part. You're now at the point where you pretty much have the ritual memorized. Now, the trick is learning how to perform it well. Very nearly everyone has some amount of stage fright; us acting types often have it even worse than most. The trick to overcoming it is control of the nerves.
Now that you're comfortable reciting the ritual, observe how you do it. By now, you're not thinking about it so much; your mouth is doing almost all the work, with the conscious mind simply making a few connections between paragraphs. That is the right state to be in. Think about how that feels, and learn it.
Before you go in to "perform", do some basic acting exercises. Take a few deep breaths; concentrate on not thinking. I think the ideal is a little light meditation, but it takes a fair bit of practice to be able to drop into that state on demand; for now, just worry about being calm. Being calm is far more important than anything else. If you're calm, you're unlikely to screw up too badly; if you're tense, you're far more likely to. Some people like to exercise the body a bit, to relax the mind; you should do what works for you.
5b: ActingNow the final nuance, which separates merely competent ritual from the really good stuff. Now that you're able to let your mouth do all the talking, start listening to yourself. Think about the ritual again, but don't think about the words, think about what it means. What are the important bits? Emphasize those. How could you use your body or hands to illustrate a point? Try talking *to* the person in front of you, not just *at* them -- look them in the eye and make them get the point. You are teaching important lessons here; try to capture a little of the emotional intensity of that importance.
Think of your "performance" as a melding of two parts. Your mouth is providing the words, your mind and heart the emotion. Again, nothing beats practice. This is what rehearsal should really be for -- taking a dummy candidate in hand, and learning how to really get the point across. Don't fret if you find that you need to change "modes" now and then -- here and there you will need to think about the words briefly, when you change paragraphs or hit a hard sentence. That won't throw you, though, so long as you keep track of what you're saying; you've already figured out why each part leads into the next, and that will guide you when you stumble.
Conclusion Don't expect to get all this down instantly; it takes most people a few years to really get good at it. Just try to advance yourself bit by bit. Learn the transitions and pieces first -- if you have that, you can get through the ritual. Next time, work on memorizing more thoroughly. The time after that, work on getting it really smooth. After a while, you can build up to the point where you have the luxury to act. And at that point, you will find that you start doing the kind of ritual that Masonry is meant to have -- both moving and interesting, enough so that the candidate (who is, remember, the whole point) actually *learns* what you're saying, and what it actually means. And if you really do it well, you'll find that you come to understand the meaning of the ritual a good deal better yourself...
Wor. Mark Waks
Past Master, Hammatt Ocean Lodge No. 31
Who was the “Widow’s Son”? The answer might seem easily answered, but when one reads of legends, scripture writings, the Apocrypha and other historical documents it becomes apparent that perhaps we cannot answer this question so easily.
In the writings of Masonic scholars we learn of Hiram Abiff, “The Widow’s Son”. There are others referred to as “The Widow’s Son”. It seems this is a title to which more than one can be named. The use of the title is actually traced back to the Grail lore traditions which speak of a descended blood line and specifically reference Ruth.
Ruth, a woman of the Moabite tribe, was married to Boaz, and she was a heroine of the Old Testament. She was also the Great Grandmother of King David. That King David, the father of King Solomon, who built the Temple? Ruth became pregnant, and married Boaz. He was quite a bit older being 80, while Ruth was 40. The book says that Boaz dies the next day. That must have been some wedding night.
From this point on, all the descendants of Ruth, were known simply as “Sons of the Widow”. A genetic title if you will. A genealogy can be traced. Ruth gives birth to the first “Son of the Widow”, Obed, who grows up and bears his son Jesse, who bears his son David who bears his sons Solomon and Nathan.
Using the lineage given in the Gospels of the Christian Bible, Jesus the Nazarene is a descendant of Ruth, making him also, a “Son of the Widow” or “Widow’s Son”. There are forty-five generations from Ruth to Jesus. This leaves an interesting problem for us as Masons. Nowhere in the lineage mentioned in the Bible does it refer to Hiram Abiff.
Knowing this, it seems the trail grows cold in the search for Hiram Abiff’s title of “The Widow’s Son”. The Grail legends were written in a way that lends itself to allegory and therefore, the story cannot be just assumed to mean that Hiram was literally just a son of woman who lost her husband. These legends early on establish this title and what it means, which is a descendant of Ruth or more aptly a descendant of Boaz, either the 31st or 30th generation from Adam if you rely on Luke's genealogy.
Could Hiram Abiff be related somehow to the historical Jesus the Nazarene? The Gospels leave either a cold trail or a definitive “no,” since he isn't mentioned at all in the genealogy given by Luke or Mathew.
Determining that the term “Widow’s Son,” a flip flop of the term “Sons of the Widow,” was not actually meant to refer to a man whose father had passed, but rather the epithet given to the offspring and lineage of Ruth, heroine of “The Book of Ruth” or “Scroll of Ruth” presented in the Old Testament.
When Hiram Abiff is referenced as being a “Widow’s Son”, it is implied that he was of the line of Ruth, who was married to Boaz and from them, according to Luke, a continued line to King David, King Solomon and eventually to Jesus the Nazarene. The problem here is that nowhere in the lineages mentioned in Luke or Mathew does Hiram show up. Was he a distant relative or cousin?
King Solomon was also a “Widow’s Son” in the sense of being of the lineage of Ruth. Is this why King Solomon called for a Tyrian which was handpicked to be the architect of the Jewish Temple of the God of Israel? Could Solomon have hired Hiram since they were family?
Doing detective work in genealogy can be taxing enough when researching ancestry just a few generations removed from the researcher, a task made much more difficult using biblical origins as references.
The lineage of Jacob is vital to this story. Twelve generations prior to the time of King Solomon, and eight generations prior to the time of Boaz, the twelve sons of Jacob were the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel. The fourth son of Jacob, Judah, was of the line that included the wise King, and extended through him to Jesus the Nazarene. The sixth son, Naphtali, was the founder of the line that included Hiram Abiff.
It is elementary to suggest that at the time of Jacob the designation of “Widow’s Son” had not yet been used, however, in his offspring, through time until we reach the time of Ruth, and from then on, it is not so unthinkable that the lineage would have used this epithet when speaking of their heritage or when scholars were recording the history of the time or even the Gospels.
What is it about this lineage which draws the title to it? What was so special? The three largest monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam all regard it [the lineage] with reverence. After all, this lineage contains Adam, Enoch, Noah, Shem, Abraham, David, Solomon, Nathan, Zerubbabel and Jesus the Nazarene.
Perhaps the coincidence which ties this lineage together is the ability to create. According to Luke, the line starts with Elohim (The Great Architect of the Universe) and then to Adam. The Christian Bible does not specifically make any magnificent claims to what Adam had ever built, however several other men in this lineage in fact are great builders.
Enoch was the builder of the mythological underground temple consisting of nine vaults with an altar where on the “Stone of Creation” and the Tetragrammaton were said to have been hidden. These legends are featured in the York and Scottish Rites namely the 7th degree in the York Rite called “The Holy Royal Arch” and the 13th degree of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction, called the “Royal Arch of Solomon”. In recent years it has even been suggested that Enoch was the builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza. The ancient Egyptians are said to have known the Great Pyramid as “The Pillar of Enoch”.
A somewhat obscure reference to that is found in the Bible, “In that day shall there be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the LORD. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt…” Isaiah 19:19.
Noah of course built the mythological Ark to house all of the creations of God that were spared in the legend of the great flood.
Abraham or Abram and his son Ishmael are purported to have built the Kaaba, a cube shaped building in Arabia which is one of the holiest sites for Brothers of the Muslim faith.
King David built a city and his palace and had sons, one of whom was King Solomon, who was responsible for the Temple of Solomon, which we all know is at the center of the teachings of our noble craft. These builders in the original line or “Alpha Lineage” the line that according to Luke starts with God and leads to Jesus the Nazarene go on and on with fantastic accomplishments.
Let us not forget however that there is the allusion to the building of the spiritual temple, a spiritual artificer which Jesus the Nazarene seemed to personify and ages before then the character Freemasonry calls its patron, Hiram Abiff. The handpicked chief architect of the Temple of God. A man to emulate in his duty and fealty to his brothers, both Hiram of Tyre and King Solomon, this is the man we learn about in our degrees and indeed try to emulate.
The “Alpha Line” is synonymous with “The Widow’s Son”. It could merely be the separation of the generational gap and a more coded obscure way of saying “of the Tribe of Judah” without being abrasive.
It could be that the Tribe of Judah was the main branch of this line and that The Widow’s Sons are an offshoot of the original line but whose closeness to the original line needed to be preserved by means of a title given to these builders.
In the end, we will never know if Adam, Jesus the Nazarene or Hiram were truly related, however it is clear that The Widows Son is a title given to the offspring of Ruth and her descendants. It is also clear that Freemasonry calls its patron Saint Hiram Abiff a “Widow's Son", who was a builder and that the lessons taught philosophically within our Masonic system have much to do with building as well, the main difference is that we are building our spiritual temples. In the Masonic system we follow in the footsteps of Hiram Abiff but we not only represent him, we physically become him in the degrees and in the end we all end up a “Widow’s Son”. Becoming a Master Mason we all end up being builders of fantastic edifices of hearts, minds and souls.
So brethren, I ask you, “Who is the Widow’s Son?”
Look in the mirror brothers and you will surely see him.
Author: Bro. Robert H. Johnson
The Working Tools Magazine November 2013
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