Friday, December 19, 2008

Selling Freemasonry

Nick Johnson at the Millinneal Freemason blog asked the question about Selling Freemasonry. You know the question: should we do it. He cited some good examples of websites and advertising for the Craft that have been put up by various authorities. I'm exploring this idea further. I just got started with putting my thoughts together, and I'm using a Mind Map to make my notes. I decided, for the sake of spontaneity to post my first take on the Mind Map. Those interested can look at the points that I'm considering, and take 'em apart one by one, or in whole. Please let me have your input. Open the JPG in your image viewer to see where I'm going with this. Follow the ideas from the center of the map outward.

You'll notice this is a bit more nitty-gritty. I've been looking at the physical presentation that some of our facilities, and yes, our brothers, make to the public. This may be as important, and easier to fix, than some other items.

I went to a meeting a while ago in another jurisdiction, where the sidewalk and stairway was so covered by trash that it took a 60 gallon trash bag to pick it all up. It was an open meeting, so non members were going to have to pick their way through this to get in. People driving by saw it daily.

There's peeling paint, badly written (or even spelled) signs, uncut grass, and weeds in the cracks of the sidewalks at some of our "temples." Is this good selling, or what IS it selling?

Let's talk about it.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Brothers and Sisters,

I know it's late, or is it, what day is it? I know it's late, but the Thanksgiving season has found me more square than ever (and I mean L7), and I've been contemplating what I have to be thankful for.

One thing for sure is that I'm thankful for all of you. For letting me share your thoughts and mine; for accepting me into your life, and for the Craft that we all work in. This has been a revealing and thought provoking year for me, and you all have been part of it.

Thank you all,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Research Tool and Organization

Research Tool and Organization

I'm playing around with a new tool for research and organization.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love gadgets and elaborate stuff that's supposed to make life easier, but usually just clutter things up.

Well, my new one is Personal Brain which is a type of mind mapping tool with a dynamic interface that changes when you focus on a particular node, or thought.  You can link to files, link to webpages, link to calendars, people and images.  You can create documents within the program, and launch such applications as MSWord and others.

This post is being done in Google Documents, which says that it will publish it to my blog.  This is mainly to test that idea.

So, I apologize for not giving my usual deep wise words of wisdom from the depths of wise thought stuff, but this is mainly a test.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Lessons Learned

It's Saturday Night. I've just finished working with the brothers at the Scottish Rite at our reunion, presenting the degrees to our new brothers. I worked as a sound assistant for the PA system for several of the degrees, and I was the Assistant Expert in the 32nd Degree. I worked with a lot of the "White Hats." These are guys who have been awarded the highest degree in Scottish Masonry, the 33rd degree. They are men who have labored long in the quarries, and have been honored with this honorary degree for their contributions.

They were doing the "grunt work," for their new brothers and for the Rite. They were helping people get dressed for the degree work. They were moving props. They were serving hot dogs and cleaning up after meals. They got there at 5:00 am, so we could start at 6:00. They parked cars and served as ushers. Sure, there were others too: Red Hats and Black, and Knights of St. Andrew. The core of the workers wore White Hats.

This was a palpable lesson in Brotherly Love for me, and should have been for anyone watching.

When we are asked to help out,we need to think of these brothers. We need to put our egos on hold, and maybe our interests. What we want to do will come. What we need to do is right there in front of us.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election 2008

It's now 11:13 p.m. on November 4, 2008. National Public Television has just announced that Senator John McCain has called Senator Barak Obama to concede the election for President of the United States. As we all know this is an historic election in many ways. Senator Obama is the first African American to be elected President in our history. What does this say about our history of division and prejudice in this country? I don't know yet. My son just said, "Hooray for Liberal Guilt!" Is this what this is about? Was this decided on the basis of race? I don't know. I hope not.

In Scottish Rite Freemasonry we are enjoined to be Soldiers of the People. Not to be governed by the cowardly forces of party and division. Senator McCain has just given the best speech of his life, stating his belief in these principles, and that Senator Obama represents a healing of these divisions, and that he, Senator McCain, hopes that he may be able to work with President Obama to bring our country into a greater unity. "Please believe me when I say that no association means more to me than that of being an American. I have been a candidate for the presidency, and now I am once more it's most loyal servant."

We need to pledge ourselves to this same goal, as stated by Senator McCain. That demagoguery and partisan politics must be put aside to make our country as great as its historic potential.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Treason of the Mind

When we are brought to the light, we are enjoined to seek further light. Among the sources for this light are included the Seven Liberal Arts. We are told to study and discuss. Another primary source is the Great Light of Masonry, and other VSLs. Each of these books are of value to a person seeking more light.

One of the stumbling blocks to a search for enlightenment or any other pursuit of knowledge, is the voice in our head. We come to any study or discussion with a full blown picture, complete with sound and color, of the issue at hand. It's more than opinion. It is full blown knowledge. It is worth noting that the type of knowledge spoken of here is that which is in the book of Genesis in the King James Translation of the Bible. It isn't an intellectual agreement or construct, but an intimate joining with, such as the way Adam Knew Eve. No one dies for intellectual constructs, but many martyrs have died for this second type of knowledge.

Unfortunately, this knowledge isn't necessarily accurate. It is colored by our experiences and our level of intellectual attainment. This isn't a hierarchy of one person being more advanced than another due to education, but a quantifiable pile of information. Some people have a bigger pile than others, particularly in areas they are interested in.

Freemasonry enjoins us to seek knowledge and enlightenment in areas that are not in vogue these days. I know many men with advanced degrees who don't recognize the scriptural references in our rituals. They are well educated, but haven't looked into these windows. For many, the Bible is one area that the window is truly one of colored glass. Many have read through it, and can quote it extensively, and still see it, as through a glass darkly.

The question of Evil, what is the nature of it, what is the source of it, who is the agent of it and what is to be done about it is discussed freely among us, and in the Bible. It just isn't as easily answered as many of us think. We bring our own hearing and reading to the material, and often it isn't in touch with what's there in the words.

Satan isn't some horned devil in the Bible. Lucifer isn't synonymous with Satan. Evil is not a substance that is poured over us, and certainly Satan isn't the source or agent of it. Biblically speaking, that is.

Dealing with the simplest of these statements first, Lucifer isn't Satan, or the source of evil: Lucifer is referred to only in the King James translation. The name isn't used in any other English translation. Lucifer is the title of the King of Babylon, and his fall is given as a sign by Isaiah. Later, in Revelations, the real translation of this name, as Light Bearer is given to Christ.

But anyone can tell you that Lucifer is the Devil! It just isnt so.

Satan is a bit harder to pin down. If you're a Mormon, Satan is a brother to Jesus and a son of Heavenly Father, who rebelled. Biblically, Satan is a being who tempts man to do that which man by nature wants to do: choose the wrong path. In the Book of Job, Satan is on the same plain with God, and they have a discussion about the faith and fate of mankind as exemplified by Job. Satan doesn't do the bad things to Job.

To cut this short, and save bandwidth, Evil is the otherside of good. The Supreme Architect designed and created only good in this universe, and yet the universe is finite. That which wasn't created is what we call evil. It is manifested and made real by our own disobedience, a tendency we inherited, according to the Bible, from our original ancestors. This tendency to choose evil, or nothingness, or lack of life, is the original sin we inherit. In it we choose nothingness, death, or "the outer darkness."

We are the agents of evil. Mankind brought evil into this world. Disobedience is its source. Free will, or Free Agency, absolute freedom of conscience, is the mechanism by which it works. And all of these are what makes us actually superior to the angels. As Jesus told Thomas, blessed are those who believe without having seen. The angels live in the presence of the Ultimate Good at all times, and can thus easily choose good. We are constantly tested and tempted, and often choose the wrong. Without that choice, the Great Architect would be the Great Dictator.

Don't believe anything I've said. Test it for yourself. Look in the sources, but first try, with all your might, to let go of your preconceived notions and pictures. That's the challenge of Freemasonry. To let go, and take the leap in the darkness that can lead to light, or maybe just to more darkness.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Maryland Masons in History

John MacAdam, the inventor of the road surface named after him was a Mason. His Macadam surface for roads, consisting of crushed stone that compacted under use, was first used in the United States in Maryland.

The first macadam surface in the United States was laid on the
"Boonsborough Turnpike Road" between Hagerstown and Boonsboro, Maryland.
By 1822, this section was the last unimproved gap in the great road
leading from Baltimore on the Chesapeake Bay to Wheeling on the Ohio
River. Stagecoaches using the road in winter needed 5 to 7 hours of travel to
cover 10 miles.

It never fails to surprise me how much influence such a small state as Maryland has had in the history of our country.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sustaining Membership

It's been a rant of mine for a while. It's becoming a rant for more than just me. It's about how do we revive and sustain our membership. It's about Brotherhood. It's about Morality. It's about Friendship. Not only are finances (non payment of dues) involved, but the wellfare of our individual members, and the collective wellfare of our institution. This posting stems from a discussion of non payment of dues, and is part of my take on this subject.

I hope that this stimulates a few people to chime in with ideas of how to solve this problem. It is solvable. It requires work.

I've done some talking with others at our S.R. meeting. A couple of the brothers are professional marketers. I have done my share of that sort of thing in the past as well, having run my own business for several years before retirement. I was reminded that what we're talking about when we talk about sustaining membership is marketing. The same principles apply.

In a marketing program, it's statistically true that a mailing (Trestleboard) has a 1% response rate. That's 1% calling back; not 1% buying. Keeping customers (Brothers/Members) requires much more work, and bringing back those who have fallen away, even more. The reason it takes more work is that there are several factors involved in them not returning: they might be bored; they might be angry; they might be too busy; they might be too sick; they might not have money. Any of these could contribute to the belief that "there's something wrong," with me or with the others. I don't fit. Masonry is for the rich, or Masonry is for the good old boys, or "they just don't like me."

When I ask what's being done about reviving members, I'm told, by almost everyone I ask, "Well a couple of years ago, we set up a phone committee, and called everyone. They didn't answer the phone, and didn't answer our post cards, so trying to contact them doesn't work." If you did this in a business, you'd be out of business within 6 months. Reviving members who no one's seen requires research, repeated contacts, and personal effort. What are the most excellent teachings of our organization? Is not caring included in each of those teachings that are between the points of the compasses?

In my opinion, our attitude toward missing NPD brothers has to be one of "What's wrong here, can we help?" rather than these guys are a financial drudge, and need to be purged. At least until we find out differently.

How do we find out differently? How do we find customers for our businesses? Research, advertising, personal contact.

It's a big job, and it's getting bigger. some of us have responsibility for the operation and success of our lodges. This includes financial success and it includes fraternal considerations. Perhaps the system of inherited offices, men moving up in the line, needs to be looked at. When you move to an office in line, do you get that this carries real responsibility for real assets and real people, not just for knowing ritual. Perpetuation of ritual is very important. Perpetuation of the Craft is too. Our brothers are at the heart of it.

Birmingham #188

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Building the Parthenon

There is a new Nova Science Now Production coming up on PBS this week. It's about building the Parthenon: how the Masons designed and carried out the building.

You can see a webpage of it here:


Sunday, August 3, 2008


"We've tried that, and it didn't work." "No one's interested in that." "Those guys haven't been here in so long that we don't even know where they are."

FreemasonFromTheFreestate has ranted about this in the past, but it seems to me that it's the responsibility of those who are active in our Lodges to see to the needs of all, especially those who are inactive. It is a problem. Our records are incomplete when it comes to brothers who haven't been around for a while; no one has time to bring the records up to date; calling the numbers that we have takes time and the ability to handle rejection.

Our population is aging. Many of our missing brothers need help to get anywhere, let alone to Lodge meetings. Those who don't need help to get there, figure that they don't know anyone anymore, and no one cares whether they show up.

I hear from every one I talk to about the dichotomy between how many members are on our roles, and how few show up to meetings, that this is normal.

There's a parable about normalcy that I've illustrated in the two pictures here. They show Betas in a fish bowl. Betas live their whole life in the fish bowl. Some have little castles or plants or divers to make their lives full. They usually don't have other Betas, because they fight. Anyway, Betas live their whole life in this bowl.

They swim around all happy, preening and displaying their colors. They wiggle with happiness when you feed them. They do everything in there. They eat, swim, play with the diver, and poop in there. The more you feed them, the more they poop.

As time goes on, the clear bowl I've shown first, becomes the second bowl. Cloudy, stinky. The fish doesn't wiggle much anymore. He doesn't play with the diver. He doesn't preen or show his colors. He kind of hangs there. Drooping.

Do you know what the fish calls this? He calls it normal.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Scottish Rite

I have taken the 32 degrees of the Scottish Rite, in the Orient of Maryland. It is the most exciting part of Freemasonry for me so far. I am currently working my way through the Master Craftsman program, which is a series of directed readings and examinations that focus your thoughts.

One of the questions in each of the tests, is what interesting or surprising thing have I discovered in my readings. There has been much that surprised me. Probably the most surprising thing about my whole experience is how many truly nice, admirable men and women I've met. I have included women because in our Valley, it's a family affair. Of course, at 59, I truly lower the average age in the room when I come in, and so there aren't a lot of kids toddling around. When my wife came to our first dinner, she was absorbed by the ladies there, and treated as a long lost friend. And so have I been.

Of course, we're meeting on the level with the high poobas of the state and Grand Lodge. Sit at table with three or so PGMs, and the current GM. We ain't exactly buddies yet, but we are brothers.

Then there's the content of the lessons of the degrees. I don't know how much is public and how much I need to shut up about, so I'll be very discrete. Suffice it to say that I'm struck with elation about the obligations I've taken, and to intellectual excitement by the demands to not just see or hear the ritual, but to know and live it. The theme is to build on the most valuable tenets of our craft through an expansion of the mythos of the building of the temple.

The choice of a craftsman, a builder, even a master builder, as our hero has been brought to a greater level of clarification for me. That a man, by his ability is elevated to talk and plan with kings has truly profound implications for us all.

While writing this, I'm going to go off on a train of consciousness thing for a bit: I was about to say "for society," in the preceding paragraph, but that is trite to the point of meaninglessness. The meaning is to us. We are society. We are the nation. Our participation is required for any of these structures to function. This isn't politics. It's the nature of the world.

Many of our earliest brothers were part of the age of enlightenment, both in philosophy and in science. They were looking to find out the nature of God by studying his works, and to find the nature of the world. This is it. The nature of the world is participation. Governed by the Law of Love.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Research Tool

I am not one to avoid obcessions. My latest is inspired by studying my new membership in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Orient of Maryland, Valley of Baltimore. I have received my 32 degree, and am studying the meanings and history of the rituals and the Rite. For any Master Mason who is reading this, I recommend highly that you join the Scottish Rite. If you are interested in a new level of brotherhood, join the Scottish Rite. If you are interested in the more philosophical and esoteric aspects of Freemasonry, join the Scottish Rite. If you are in Maryland, let me know, and I'll see to it you get a petition.

In studying the information I was given, I was looking for an interesting way to take notes on my reading. I've always been one to want a system to make th
insert linkis more fun. I have found a very good one. It's called Mind or Concept Mapping. Mind Mapping was developed and copyrighted by Tony Buzan, and he offers a lot of information on it on line, including a good software package. Concept mapping was developed by several sources, but was brought together by David Novak and Alberto Canas. I am using C-tools, which is a free program being inplemented by the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.

These systems, and I use them together, are great for note taking, because they are free form, and you don't have to fit things onto a line, and then have to try to insert information later. Information is put on the paper in "Nodes," which are connected into concepts or thoughts. These Nodes are integrated with mnemonic devices, such as pictures, videos, notes or hyperlinks to expand them and imprint them on your mind. The nodes are key words, with little to no elaboration, except in the notes and images. In university studies, people using mapping retained more than people using standard outline type note taking.

Mapping requires two main things: Interest and Organization. All memory systems require this, but this one is fun. Use colors, pictures, drawings by your own hand and organic shapes. Tony Buzan holds that the organic shapes refect the structure of your mind, which, according to him is radial, not linear. Few things in nature are linear.

I have included a map of my schedule for next week. In C-map, it can be updated or manipulated very easilly, and shared on line with anyone interested, and allowed by your own security settings.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Summer Reading List

As Masons, and as citizens, we are encouraged to educate ourselves. In the Second Degree, Masons are recommended to familiarize themselves with the Liberal Arts, which adorn and polish the mind. As citizens, we need to have grounding in which to form our decisions, as well as to entertain ourselves. Hopefully both can be done together.

For some reason, ignorance is being encouraged in popular culture today. How many situation comedies have the hero, or the head of the household, criticizing anyone in the family or group of friends who enjoy learning or show any indication of trying to improve themselves intellectually? Think, Simpsons, or The King of Queens, or Two and Ahalf Men. Seinfeld did it differently, but with the same attitude. I enjoy most of these shows. They're clever, and obviously written by people who didn't take the advice to avoid intellect, but they're insidious because of their enjoyability.

So, after reading a couple of other blogs that have dealt with the issue of reading lists, I'm submitting one of my own. Please make additions or deletions:

The System of the World, by Neal Stephenson
Catch 22, by Joseph Heller
De Rerum Natura, (in Latin or English) by Lucretius
Dialogues, by Plato
A Hat Full of Sky, and the sequels to it, by Terry Pratchett
In Fact, any book by Terry Pratchett
The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine
Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegutt
The Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
1984, by George Orwell
The Attack on Reason, by Al Gore
The Gallic Wars, by Julius Caesar
Candide by Voltaire

There are many more. You must read Huckleberry Finn, for its perspective on childhood, fatherhood and race in America, The Mysterious Stranger, for Twain's take on war and nationalism, Major Barbara, and Man and Superman, by George Bernard Shaw, and The Playboy of the Western World, by Synge, just to see what a well made play is about.

These books help provide a context within which decisions can be more valuably be made. There are many more.

What do you suggest?

Here's a good place on line to start looking at some of these books, not to mention

Friday, March 14, 2008

With Friends Like These?

This video is deliberate political satire, and it addresses an issue that we all face in whatever group or endevour we are engaged. Everyone wants to help. Where does the impulse to help come from, and what is its effect? These questions need to be considered whenever we are moved in this direction. Sometimes it's better to just shut up!

The impulse to help at first seems to be completely altruistic. We see a need, and we know that we can make it better. We want to improve the life of a person or a group, and promote the general welfare. Often, though, it comes from an attitude of superiority. We are better than, know more than, can fix the problem that this poor individual has better, more, quicker, than this person or group can on their own.

Often this really seems to be the case. They're really stuck. They're really wrong.

I can solve any problem you have in two minutes. If you'll only listen to me and do what I say, your problem is solved. The world is made better.

There is another space from which this impulse can come. That space recognizes the individual or the group of individuals, as capable and whole in and of themselves, and may want or need assistance to move from a stuck place. It's a subtle difference, but a significant one.

Helping often generates heat instead of light. Assisting can make both parties much lighter. A way to know where you're coming from on this is the level of satisfaction experienced in the outcome. We're looking for a win-win situation. Acknowledging the ableness of a person makes both parties come away smiling.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Brother W.E.B. DuBois

It's the end of Black History Month. This seems an appropriate essay to publish again, especially in the light of matters within the Craft that concern many of us. Even without these particular issues, Our Purpose is said to "Make Good Men Better." This essay directly addresses this purpose.

This was written in a time of debate between two stars of education in the United States, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois about the direction that education for African Americans should take. These men disagreed on the subject. Both were Prince Hall Masons.

Brother DuBois could write. If I posted this just for the beauty of the language, it would be appropriate, but the message of this essay is valuable as well. I recommend that the whole article be read at

(I love the phrase: "many many thoughts ago.")

Du Bois, W. E. Burghardt.

"Of the Training of Black Men."

Atlantic Monthly 90 (1902): 289-297.

FROM the shimmering swirl of waters where many, many thoughts ago the slave-ship first saw the square tower of Jamestown have flowed down to our day three streams of thinking: one from the larger world here and over-seas, saying, the multiplying of human wants in culture lands calls for the world-wide co-operation of men in satisfying them. Hence arises a new human unity, pulling the ends of earth nearer, and all men, black, yellow, and white. The larger humanity strives to feel in this contact of living nations and sleeping hordes a thrill of new life in the world, crying, If the contact of Life and Sleep be Death, shame on such Life. To be sure, behind this thought lurks the afterthought of force and dominion, -- the making of brown men to delve when the temptation of beads and red calico cloys.

The second thought streaming from the death-ship and the curving river is the thought of the older South: the sincere and passionate belief that somewhere between men and cattle God created a tertium quid, and called it a Negro, -- a clownish, simple creature, at times even lovable within its limitations, but straitly foreordained to walk within the Veil. To be sure, behind the thought lurks the afterthought, -- some of them with favoring chance might become men, but in sheer self-defense we dare not let them, and build about them walls so high, and hang between them and the light a veil so thick, that they shall not even think of breaking through.

And last of all there trickles down that third and darker thought, the thought of the things themselves, the confused half-conscious mutter of men who are black and whitened, crying Liberty, Freedom, Opportunity -- vouchsafe to us, O boastful World, the chance of living men! To be sure, behind the thought lurks the afterthought: suppose, after all, the World is right and we are less than men? Suppose this mad impulse within is all wrong, some mock mirage from the untrue?

So here we stand among thoughts of human unity, even through conquest and slavery; the inferiority of black men, even if forced by fraud; a shriek in the night for the freedom of men who themselves are not yet sure of their right to demand it. This is the tangle of thought and afterthought wherein we are called to solve the problem of training men for life.

Behind all its curiousness, so attractive alike to sage and dilettante, lie its dim dangers, throwing across us shadows at once grotesque and awful. Plain it is to us that what the world seeks through desert and wild we have within our threshold; -- a stalwart laboring force, suited to the semi-tropics; if, deaf to the voice of the Zeitgeist, we refuse to use and develop these men, we risk poverty and loss. If, on the other hand, seized by the brutal afterthought, we debauch the race thus caught


in our talons, selfishly sucking their blood and brains in the future as in the past, what shall save us from national decadence? Only that saner selfishness which, Education teaches men, can find the rights of all in the whirl of work.

Again, we may decry the color prejudice of the South, yet it remains a heavy fact. Such curious kinks of the human mind exist and must be reckoned with soberly. They cannot be laughed away, nor always successfully stormed at, nor easily abolished by act of legislature. And yet they cannot be encouraged by being let alone. They must be recognized as facts, but unpleasant facts; things that stand in the way of civilization and religion and common decency. They can be met in but one way: by the breadth and broadening of human reason, by catholicity of taste and culture. And so, too, the native ambition and aspiration of men, even though they be black, backward, and ungraceful, must not lightly be dealt with. To stimulate wildly weak and untrained minds is to play with mighty fires; to flout their striving idly is to welcome a harvest of brutish crime and shameless lethargy in our very laps. The guiding of thought and the deft coordination of deed is at once the path of honor and humanity.

And so, in this great question of reconciling three vast and partially contradictory streams of thought, the one panacea of Education leaps to the lips of all; such human training as will best use the labor of all men without enslaving or brutalizing; such training as will give us poise to encourage the prejudices that bulwark society, and stamp out those that in sheer barbarity deafen us to the wail of prisoned souls within the Veil, and the mounting fury of shackled men.

But when we have vaguely said Education will set this tangle straight, what have we uttered but a truism? Training for life teaches living; but what training for the profitable living together of black men and white? Two hundred years ago our task would have seemed easier. Then Dr. Johnson blandly assured us that education was needed solely for the embellishments of life, and was useless for ordinary vermin. To-day we have climbed to heights where we would open at least the outer courts of knowledge to all, display its treasures to many, and select the few to whom its mystery of Truth is revealed, not wholly by truth or the accidents of the stock market, but at least in part according to deftness and aim, talent and character. This programme, however, we are sorely puzzled in carrying out through that part of the land where the blight of slavery fell hardest, and where we are dealing with two backward peoples. To make here in human education that ever necessary combination of the permanent and the contingent -- of the ideal and the practical in workable equilibrium -- has been there, as it ever must be in every age and place, a matter of infinite experiment and frequent mistakes.

In rough approximation we may point out four varying decades of work in Southern education since the Civil War. From the close of the war until 1876 was the period of uncertain groping and temporary relief. There were army schools, mission schools, and schools of the Freedmen's Bureau in chaotic disarrangement, seeking system and cooperation. Then followed ten years of constructive definite effort toward the building of complete school systems in the South. Normal schools and colleges were founded for the freedmen, and teachers trained there to man the public schools. There was the inevitable tendency of war to underestimate the prejudice of the master and the ignorance of the slave, and all seemed clear sailing out of the wreckage of the storm. Meantime, starting in this decade yet especially developing from 1885 to 1895, began the industrial revolution of the South. The land saw glimpses


of a new destiny and the stirring of new ideals. The educational system striving to complete itself saw new obstacles and a field of work ever broader and deeper. The Negro colleges, hurriedly founded, were inadequately equipped, illogically distributed, and of varying efficiency and grade; the normal and high schools were doing little more than common school work, and the common schools were training but a third of the children who ought to be in them, and training these too often poorly. At the same time the white South, by reason of its sudden conversion from the slavery ideal, by so much the more became set and strengthened in its racial prejudice, and crystallized it into harsh law and harsher custom; while the marvelous pushing forward of the poor white daily threatened to take even bread and butter from the mouths of the heavily handicapped sons of the freedmen. In the midst, then, of the larger problem of Negro education sprang up the more practical question of work, the inevitable economic quandary that faces a people in the transition from slavery to freedom, and especially those who make that change amid hate and prejudice, lawlessness and ruthless competition.

The industrial school springing to notice in this decade, but coming to full recognition in the decade beginning with 1895, was the proffered answer to this combined educational and economic crisis, and an answer of singular wisdom and timeliness. From the very first in nearly all the schools some attention had been given to training in handiwork, but now was this training first raised to a dignity that brought it in direct touch with the South's magnificent industrial development, and given an emphasis which reminded black folk that before the Temple of Knowledge swing the Gates of Toil.

Yet after all they are but gates, and when turning our eyes from the temporary and the contingent in the Negro problem to the broader question of the permanent uplifting and civilization of black men in America, we have a right to inquire, as this enthusiasm for material advancement mounts to its height, if after all the industrial school is the final and sufficient answer in the training of the Negro race; and to ask gently, but in all sincerity, the ever recurring query of the ages, Is not life more than meat, and the body more than raiment? And men ask this to-day all the more eagerly because of sinister signs in recent educational movements. The tendency is here born of slavery and quickened to renewed life by the crazy imperialism of the day, to regard human beings as among the material resources of a land to be trained with an eye single to future dividends. Race prejudices, which keep brown and black men in their "places," we are coming to regard as useful allies with such a theory, no matter how much they may dull the ambition and sicken the hearts of struggling human beings. And above all, we daily hear that an education that encourages aspiration, that sets the loftiest of ideals and seeks as an end culture and character than bread-winning, is the privilege of white men and the danger and delusion of black.

Especially has criticism been directed against the former educational efforts to aid the Negro. In the four periods I have mentioned, we find first boundless, planless enthusiasm and sacrifice; then the preparation of teachers for a vast public school system; then the launching and expansion of that school system amid increasing difficulties; and finally the training of workmen for the new and growing industries. This development has been sharply ridiculed as a logical anomaly and flat reversal of nature. Soothly we have been told that first industrial and manual training should have taught the Negro to work, then simple schools should have taught him to read and write, and finally, after years, high and normal schools could


have completed the system, as intelligence and wealth demanded.

That a system logically so complete was historically impossible, it needs but a little thought to prove. Progress in human affairs is more often a pull than a push, surging forward of the exceptional man, and the lifting of his duller brethren slowly and painfully to his vantage ground. Thus it was no accident that gave birth to universities centuries before the common schools, that made fair Harvard the first flower of our wilderness. So in the South: the mass of the freedmen at the end of the war lacked the intelligence so necessary to modern workingmen. They must first have the common school to teach them to read, write, and cipher. The white teachers who flocked South went to establish such a common school system. They had no idea of founding colleges; they themselves at first would have laughed at the idea. But they faced, as all men since them have faced, that central paradox of the South, the social separation of the races. Then it was the sudden volcanic rupture of nearly all relations between black and white, in work and government and family life. Since then a new adjustment of relations in economic and political affairs has grown up, -- an adjustment subtle and difficult to grasp, yet singularly ingenious, which leaves still that frightful chasm at the color line across which men pass at their peril. Thus, then and now, there stand in the South two separate worlds; and separate not simply in the higher realms of social intercourse, but also in church and school, on railway and street car, in hotels and theatres, in streets and city sections, in books and newspapers, in asylums and jails, in hospitals and graveyards. There is still enough of contact for large economic and group cooperation, but the separation is so thorough and deep, that it absolutely precludes for the present between the races anything like that sympathetic and effective group training and leadership of the one by the other, such as the American Negro and all backward peoples must have for effectual progress.

This the missionaries of '68 soon saw; and if effective industrial and trade schools were impractical before the establishment of a common school system, just as certainly no adequate common schools could be founded until there were teachers to teach them. Southern whites would not teach them; Northern whites in sufficient numbers could not be had. If the Negro was to learn, he must teach himself, and the most effective help that could be given him was the establishment of schools to train Negro teachers. This conclusion was slowly but surely reached by every student of the situation until simultaneously, in widely separated regions, without consultation or systematic plan, there arose a series of institutions designed to furnish teachers for the untaught. Above the sneers of critics at the obvious defects of this procedure must ever stand its one crushing rejoinder: in a single generation they put thirty thousand black teachers in the South; they wiped out the illiteracy of the majority of the black people of the land, and they made Tuskegee possible.

Such higher training schools tended naturally to deepen broader development: at first they were common and grammar schools, then some became high schools. And finally, by 1900, some thirty-four had one year or more of studies of college grade. This development was reached with different degrees of speed in different institutions: Hampton is still a high school, while Fisk University started her college in 1871, and Spelman Seminary about 1896. In all cases the aim was identical: to maintain the standards of the lower training by giving teachers and leaders the best practicable training; and above all to furnish the black world with adequate standards of human culture and lofty ideals of life. It was


not enough that the teachers of teachers should be trained in technical normal methods; they must also, so far as possible, be broad-minded, cultured men and women, to scatter civilization among a people whose ignorance was not simply of letters, but of life itself.

It can thus be seen that the work of education in the South began with higher institutions of training, which threw off as their foliage common schools, and later industrial schools, and at the same time strove to shoot their roots ever deeper toward college and university training. That this was an inevitable and necessary development, sooner or later, goes without saying; but there has been, and still is, a question in many minds if the natural growth was not forced, and if the higher training was not either overdone or done with cheap and unsound methods. Among white Southerners this feeling is widespread and positive. A prominent Southern journal voiced this in a recent editorial:

"The experiment that has been made to give the colored students classical training has not been satisfactory. Even though many were able to pursue the course, most of them did so in a parrot-like way, learning what was taught, but not seeming to appropriate the truth and import of their instruction, and graduating without sensible aim or valuable occupation for their future. The whole scheme has proved a waste of time, efforts, and the money of the state."

While most far-minded men would recognize this as extreme and overdrawn, still without doubt many are asking, Are there a sufficient number of Negroes ready for college training to warrant the undertaking? Are not too many students prematurely forced into this work? Does it not have the effect of dissatisfying the young Negro with his environment? And do these graduates succeed in real life? Such natural questions cannot be evaded, nor on the other hand must a nation naturally skeptical as to Negro ability assume an unfavorable answer without careful inquiry and patient openness to conviction. We must not forget that most Americans answer all queries regarding the Negro a priori, and that the least that human courtesy can do is to listen to evidence.

The advocates of the higher education of the Negro would be the last to deny the incompleteness and glaring defects of the present system: too many institutions have attempted to do college work, the work in some cases has not been thoroughly done, and quantity rather than quality has sometimes been sought. But all this can be said of higher education throughout the land: it is the almost inevitable incident of educational growth, and leaves the deeper question of the legitimate demand for the higher training of Negroes untouched. And this latter question can be settled in but one way -- by a first-hand study of the facts. If we leave out of view all institutions which have not actually graduated students from a course higher than that of a New England high school, even though they be called colleges; if then we take the thirty-four remaining institutions, we may clear up many misapprehensions by asking searchingly, What kind of institutions are they, what do they teach, and what sort of men do they graduate?

And first we may say that this type of college, including Atlanta, Fisk and Howard, Wilberforce and Lincoln, Biddle, Shaw, and the rest, is peculiar, almost unique. Through the shining trees that whisper before me as I write, I catch glimpses of a boulder of New England granite, covering a grave, which graduates of Atlanta University have placed there: -- "IN GRATEFUL MEMORY OF THEIR


This was the gift of New England to the freed Negro: not alms, but a friend; not cash, but character. It was not and is not money these seething millions want, but love and sympathy, the pulse of hearts beating with red blood; a gift which to-day only their own kindred and race can bring to the masses, but which once saintly souls brought to their favored children in the crusade of the sixties, that finest thing in American history, and one of the few things untainted by sordid greed and cheap vainglory. The teachers in these institutions came not to keep the Negroes in their place, but to raise them out of their places where the filth of slavery had wallowed them. The colleges they founded were social settlements; homes where the best of the sons of the freedmen came in close and sympathetic touch with the best traditions of New England. They lived and ate together, studies and worked, hoped and harkened in the dawning light. In actual formal content their curriculum was doubtless old-fashioned, but in educational power it was supreme, for it was the contact of living souls.

From such schools about two thousand Negroes have gone forth with the bachelor's degree. The number in itself is enough to put at rest the argument that too large a proportion of Negroes are receiving higher training. If the ratio to population of all Negro students throughout the land, in both college and secondary training, be counted, Commissioner Harris assures us "it must be increased to five times its present average" to equal the average of the land.

Fifty years ago the ability of Negro students in any appreciable numbers to master a modern college course would have been difficult to prove. To-day it is proved by the fact that four hundred Negroes, many of whom have been reported as brilliant students, have received the bachelor's degree from Harvard, Yale, Oberlin, and seventy other leading colleges. Here we have, then, nearly twenty-five hundred Negro graduates, of whom the crucial query must be made. How far did their training fit them for life? It is of course extremely difficult to collect satisfactory data on such a point, -- difficult to reach the men, to get trustworthy testimony, and to gauge that testimony by any generally acceptable criterion of success. In 1900, the Conference at Atlanta University undertook to study these graduates, and published the results. First they sought to know what these graduates were doing, and succeeded in getting answers from nearly two thirds of the living. The direct testimony was in almost all cases corroborated by the reports of the colleges where they graduated, so that in the main the reports were worthy of credence. Fifty-three per cent of these graduates were teachers, -- presidents of institutions, heads of normal schools, principals of city school systems, and the like. Seventeen per cent were clergymen; another seventeen per cent were in the professions, chiefly as physicians. Over six per cent were merchants, farmers, and artisans, and four per cent were in the government civil service. Granting even that a considerable proportion of the third unheard from are unsuccessful, this is a record of usefulness. Personally I know many hundreds of these graduates and have corresponded with more than a thousand; through others I have followed carefully the life-work of scores; I have taught some of them and some of the pupils whom they have taught, lived in homes which they have builded, and looked at life through their eyes. Comparing them as a class with my fellow students in New England and in Europe, I cannot hesitate in saying that nowhere have I met men and women with a broader spirit of helpfulness, with deeper devotion to their life-work, or with more consecrated determination to succeed in the face of bitter difficulties than among Negro college-bred men.


They have, to be sure, their proportion of ne'er-do-weels, their pedants and lettered fools, but they have a surprisingly small proportion of them; they have not that culture of manner which we instinctively associate with university men, forgetting that in reality it is the heritage from cultured homes, and that no people a generation removed from slavery can escape a certain unpleasant rawness and gaucherie, despite the best of training.

With all their larger vision and deeper sensibility, these men have usually been conservative, careful leaders. They have seldom been agitators, have withstood the temptation to head the mob, and have worked steadily and faithfully in a thousand communities in the South. As teachers they have given the South a commendable system of city schools and large numbers of private normal schools and academies. Colored college-bred men have worked side by side with white college graduates at Hampton; almost from the beginning the backbone of Tuskegee's teaching force has been formed of graduates from Fisk and Atlanta. And to-day the institute is filled with college graduates, from the energetic wife of the principal down to the teacher of agriculture, including nearly half of the executive council and a majority of the heads of departments. In the professions, college men are slowly but surely leavening the Negro church, are healing and preventing the devastations of disease, and beginning to furnish legal protection for the liberty and property of the toiling masses. All this is needful work. Who would do it if Negroes did not? How could Negroes do it if they were not trained carefully for it? If white people need colleges to furnish teachers, ministers, lawyers, and doctors, do black people need nothing of the sort?

If it be true that there are an appreciable number of Negro youth in the land capable by character and talent to receive that higher training, the end of which is culture, and if the two and a half thousand who have had something of this training in the past have in the main proved themselves useful to their race and generation, the question then comes, What place in the future development of the South might the Negro college and college-bred man to occupy? That the present social separation and acute race sensitiveness must eventually yield to the influences of culture as the South grows civilized is clear. But such transformation calls for singular wisdom and patience. If, while the healing of this vast sore is progressing, the races are to live for many years side by side, united in economic effort, obeying a common government, sensitive to mutual thought and feeling, yet subtly and silently separate in many matters of deeper human intimacy -- if this unusual and dangerous development is to progress amid peace and order, mutual respect and growing intelligence, it will call for social surgery at once the delicatest and nicest in modern history. It will demand broad-minded, upright men both white and black, and in its final accomplishment American civilization will triumph. So far as white men are concerned, this fact is to-day being recognized in the South, and a happy renaissance of university education seems imminent. But the very voices that cry Hail! to this good work are, strange to relate, largely silent or antagonistic to the higher education of the Negro.

Strange to relate! for this is certain, no secure civilization can be built in the South with the Negro as an ignorant, turbulent proletariat. Suppose we seek to remedy this by making them laborers and nothing more: they are not fools, they have tasted of the Tree of Life, and they will not cease to think, will not cease attempting to read the riddle of the world. By taking away their best equipped teachers and leaders, by slamming the door of opportunity in the faces of their bolder and brighter minds, will you make them satisfied with their


lot? or will you not rather transfer their leading from the hands of men taught to think to the hands of untrained demagogues? We ought not to forget that despite the pressure of poverty, and despite the active discouragement and even ridicule of friends, the demand for higher training steadily increases among Negro youth: there were, in the years from 1875 to 1880, twenty-two Negro graduates from Northern colleges; from 1885 to 1895 there were forty-three, and from 1895 to 1900, nearly 100 graduates. From Southern Negro colleges there were, in the same three periods, 143, 413, and over 500 graduates. Here, then, is the plain thirst for training; by refusing to give this Talented Tenth the key to knowledge can any sane man imagine that they will lightly lay aside their yearning and contentedly become hewers of wood and drawers of water?

No. The dangerously clear logic of the Negro's position will more and more loudly assert itself in that day when increasing wealth and more intricate social organization preclude the South from being, as it so largely is, simply an armed camp for intimidating black folk. Such waste of energy cannot be spared if the South is to catch up with civilization. And as the black third of the land grows in thrift and skill, unless skillfully guided in its larger philosophy, it must more and more brood over the red past and the creeping, crooked present, until it grasps a gospel of revolt and revenge and throws its new-found energies athwart the current of advance. Even to-day the masses of the Negroes see all too clearly the anomalies of their position and the moral crookedness of yours. You may marshal strong indictments against them, but their counter-cries, lacking though they be in formal logic, have burning truths within them which you may not wholly ignore, O Southern Gentlemen! If you deplore their presence here, they ask, Who brought us? When you shriek, Deliver us from the vision of intermarriage, they answer, that legal marriage is infinitely better than systematic concubinage and prostitution. And if in just fury you accuse their vagabonds of violating women, they also in fury quite as just may wail: the rape which your gentlemen have done against helpless black women in defiance of your own laws is written on the foreheads of two millions of mulattoes, and written in ineffaceable blood. And finally, when you fasten crime upon this race as its peculiar trait, they answer that slavery was the arch-crime, and lynching and lawlessness its twin abortion; that color and race are not crimes, and yet they it is which in this land receive most unceasing condemnation, North, East, South, and West.

I will not say such arguments are wholly justified -- I will not insist that there is no other side to the shield; but I do say that of the nine millions of Negroes in this nation, there is scarcely one out of the cradle to whom these arguments do not daily present themselves in the guise of terrible truth. I insist that the question of the future is how best to keep these millions from brooding over the wrongs of the past and the difficulties of the present, so that all their energies may be bent toward a cheerful striving and cooperation with their white neighbors toward a larger, juster, and fuller future. That one wise method of doing this lies in the closer knitting of the Negro to the great industrial possibilities of the South is a great truth. And this the common schools and the manual training and trade schools are working to accomplish. But these alone are not enough. The foundations of knowledge in this race, as in others, must be sunk deep in the college and university if we would build a solid, permanent structure. Internal problems of social advance must inevitably come, -- problems of work and wages, of families and homes, of morals and the true valuing of the things


of life; and all these and other inevitable problems of civilization the Negro must meet and solve largely for himself, by reason of his isolation; and can there be any possible solution other than by study and thought and an appeal to the rich experience of the past? Is there not, with such a group and in such a crisis, infinitely more danger to be apprehended from half-trained minds and shallow thinking than from over-education and over-refinement? Surely we have wit enough to found a Negro college so manned and equipped as to steer successfully between the dilettante and the fool. We shall hardly induce black men to believe that if their bellies be full it matters little about their brains. They already dimly perceive that the paths of peace winding between honest toil and dignified manhood call for the guidance of skilled thinkers, the loving, reverent comradeship between the black lowly and black men emancipated by training and culture.

The function of the Negro college then is clear: it must maintain the standards of popular education, it must seek the social regeneration of the Negro, and it must help in the solution of problems of race contact and cooperation. And finally, beyond all this, it must develop men. Above our modern socialism, and out of the worship of the mass, must persist and evolve that higher individualism which the centres of culture protect; there must come a loftier respect for the sovereign human soul that seeks to know itself and the world about it; that seeks a freedom for expansion and self-development; that will love and hate and labor in its own way, untrammeled alike by old and new. Such souls aforetime have inspired and guided worlds, and if we be not wholly bewitched by our Rhine-gold, they shall again. Herein the longing of black men must have respect: the rich and bitter depth of their experience, the unknown treasures of their inner life, the strange rendings of nature they have seen, may give the world new points of view and make their loving, living, and doing precious to all human hearts. And to themselves in these the days that try their souls the chance to soar in the dim blue air above the smoke is to their finer spirits boon and guerdon for what they lose on earth by being black.

I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls. From out the caves of Evening that swing between the strong-limbed earth and the tracery of the stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the Veil. Is this the life you grudge us, O knightly America? Is this the life you long to change into the dull red hideousness of Georgia? Are you so afraid lest peering from this high Pisgah, between Philistine and Amalekite, we sight the Promised Land?

W. E. Burghardt Du Bois.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Our life is about renewal. We move or we die. Each generation, and each people have the same battles to fight. Freemasons have often been in the forefront of these fights, and continue to be today. Forty five years ago, we were in the midst of working toward a vision of equality and peace. Brother Medgar Evars had been murdered. More would come. Other brothers would be beaten and jailed for both of these struggles.

Bob Dylan wrote many of the anthems of these movements. Forty Five years ago, he performed this at the Newport Folk Festival for the first time along with Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, Pete Seegar and others. All looked so young and clean cut. The hope of the old left was expressed in these songs, and continues to be for this old lefty.

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea?
Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

I can remember singing and playing this song in the Washington National Cathedral, after a sermon wherein Dylan was named a prophet. I was shaken by this, and I have no doubt Dylan would have been also, and would still refuse this. Much later I read a book entitled, The Prophets, the Conscience of Israel. Seen in this light, Bob Dylan wrote prophesy.

Our fraternity has been filled with prophets from its inception. Who are they now? time will tell.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Negative Campaigning

With the primary season in full swing, I felt it necessary to alert us all to this information:

Vital stuff to consider in our existencial decision making.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Brother Theodore Roosevelt

President and Brother Theodore Roosevelt. This video is an introduction to his acts and programs in office. Bro. Theodore never liked to be called "Teddy," and no friend ever did. The name stuck because it seems so homely and chummy. This is from the History Channel; there is a commercial in the begining, but hold on:

The Presidents: Teddy Roosevelt - Legacy
The Presidents: Teddy Roosevelt - Legacy

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ethan Allen

When I was in school, I learned that Ethan Allen was a military leader, and that's about all.  This clip shows a different side of the man, and tells a lot about how influential the thinking of the enlightenment was in America during the 18th Century.

from:  Reason, The Only Oracle of Man

Allan believed that the universe was created by God, but beyond that there was little that could be known about the nature of God except what could be learned through the study of the natural world through science.
“In the circle of my acquaintance, (which has not been small,a) I have generally been denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious I an no Christian, except mere infant baptism make me one;.”
“The desire of knowledge has engaged the attention of the wise and curious among mankind in all ages which has been productive of extending the arts and sciences far and wide in the several quarters of the globe, and excited the contemplative to explore nature’s laws in a gradual series of improvement, until philosophy, astronomy, geography, and history, with many other branches of science, have arrived to a great degree of perfection.”
“An unjust composition never fails to contain error and falsehood. Therefore an unjust connection of ideas is not derived from nature, but from the imperfect composition of mind-. Disconnection of ideas is the same as misjudging, and has no positive existence, being merely a creature of the imagination; but nature and truth are real and uniform; and the rational mind by reasoning, discerns the uniformity, and is thereby enabled to make a just composition of ideas, which will stand the test of truth. But the fantastical illuminations of the credulous and superstitious part of mankind, proceed from weakness, and as far as they take place in the world subvert the religion of Reason, NATURE and TRUTH..”,

- Reason: The Only Oracle of Man

Guam Visit



I have been trying out a new composing program for my blog, and the last two posts I thought I had made, were not just lost, but messed up the whole layout of my blog. I apologize to any who have come looking for the information I thought was here.

I will be trying to clear up the mess today, and try to recreate the missing posts.

Steve Brettell

Guam Visit

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ethan Allen, Reason, the Only Oracle of Man

I ran across an interesting bit of information about Ethan Allen, commander of the Green Mountain Boys. We only read of him as a battle leader, not as a philosopher. This bit reveals a lot about

the spirit of the enlightenment in early America.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Streamer Tips I Couldn't Figger Out on My Own And also a Moral

This is an American Beauty Streamer

Made of feathers and bucktail, with Jungle Cock cheeks, a tinsel body, and a red hackle beard. This type of streamer imitates bait fish, and catches big aggresive trout, pike and bass.

The tip I got the other day can be translated to a lot of flies, such as Lefty's Deceiver All of these hackle type flies require the pairing of feathers evenly on either side of the hook.

Select matching feathers that curve in opposite directions when laid out on the table. They should be just a bit longer than the hook shank.

Select a couple of duck flank feathers to make the cheeks, and a couple of jungle cock feathers, or stick on eyes

Here's where the fun part comes in: glue the feathers into individual stacks using super glue, and allow to dry. After this, tying them on the hook is easy as pie.

Apply the tinsel and any ribbing you choose on the hook.

Place one feather bundle on either side of the hook, about one eye distance away from the eye.

Tie in some red hackle barbs as a beard; and form a good smooth head and apply varnish. Red hackle beards resemble gills, and seem to work better than other colors.

These streamers can be tied in any size from a size 12 to a 2/0. They catch fish, are pretty, and fun to tie.

Attractors and imitators fill our lives. We are attracted to people and organizations because of what we believe we can gain from them. We are erotic beings. Eros is love for that from which we can derive benefit. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.

We are often attracted to imitators rather than the real thing. Imitations often are flashier and more alluring than the real thing. Substance lasts; imitations pass away quickly. Look for substance in associates as well as things.

We often want to have, and want people to see that we have, and too often don't care how we get it. We cheat on exams, we break speeding laws, we tell white and other lies when we feel cornered. In extreme cases we break serious laws; attack our fellows and take what they have gotten.

Bro. Theodore Roosevelt said that it is perfectly correct for the rich to have a mansion and a yacht, and a big car. To have a fur coat and nice shoes. But it isn't all right for the rich to have two, three or four mansions, cars, yachts, coats and pairs of shoes when their fellows have none. When those duplicates are acquired by less than ethical means.

We should give thanks for what we have; we should strive for more; we must use our increase to benefit our brothers and sisters.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fly Fishing for Dinosaurs

The Washington Times has published an article about a different thing to be on the lookout for when fishing in the D.C. Area. Giant man-eating dinosaurs!!! Or at least their tracks.

Dinosaur tracker unearths big surprises
By Sarah Karush
January 14, 2008

In the past thirteen years, Ray Stanford has amassed an unprecedented collection of 112-year-old footprints, like the one from a sauropod (above) that once roamed what is now Maryland. (Associated Press)


Ray Stanford pulls into the lot of a fast-food restaurant in College Park and parks at the back. Wearing high rubber boots and carrying a backpack, he makes his way through the brush and down to a stream bank littered with cups and wrappers.

He has come to track dinosaurs.

For the full article go to The Washington TimesThe Washigton Times

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bro. Gerry Ford

President Gerald Ford could be considered my brother on more than one front. We didn't share much in the way of political beliefs, but we shared much in the way of philosophical ones. Just the method of application was ascew. Gerald Ford and I were both Eagle Scouts, and we were both Freemasons. This is a video of a newsconfrence covering a memorial service for President Ford by the Grand Lodge of Washington D.C. It pretty much speaks for itself. It does show our unity in diversity pretty well.

Find more videos like this on The Working Tools Magazine

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Bit on Symbolism

Freemasonry is full of symbols. In many of our lodges some of the symbolic items are not emphasised the way they once were. an example of this is the Tracing Board, which used to be shown in most lodges. It was decended from the planning board upon which the Master of Works on a building project would trace out the days work. What would be blue prints today.

In symbolic Masonry, they present a plan for life, and usually are specific to a particular degree or activity. To the right is a modern example. I will not go into the symbolism at this time.
I had an American Lit. Prof. who insisted that when we read, we should "think fat." That most of us "think thin." What he meant is to try to see the broadest possible interpretation of the words, music or picture that we are presented with. This is in keeping with the meaning of LOGOS, the Greek word for word.
LOGOSis the word used in the Gospel of John, where it is said, "In the begining was the Word." It carries a very broad meaning, including all of the meanings of all of the people who have used the word throughout time. For example, what can water stand for? Water will drown you, so it's death; you can't live without water, so it's life; water is changable; water is bright; water is dark; water flows and yields; water disolves everything; water destroys and builds.
Perhaps it's the technological nature of our society that induces us to want precise meanings. This hasn't always been the case. English is a particularly rich language with more words than any other European language, and more ambiguity in its grammar than most.
One problem with English is that its grammar comes from trying to shoe-horn Latin grammar into it. It makes it full of holes, but those holes can be filled with meaning if we "Think Fat."
The same can be said for pictures. They are rich in both specific and implicit meanings. A good example is Breugel's painting of The Kermesse, which shows a party on the feast of St. George

If you look at the painting, there are circles inside circles throughout the picture. The people aren't just dancing, they are engaged in all of the activities of life, not just play, but eating, working, dancing, having sex, drinking and cooking. The houses and dishes are shown. The costumes are detailed. The faces are round, the dancing is in circles, the plates are round, and the openings on the wagon are round. Notice the illustration on the banner. Doesn't it look much like a tracing board? What do we know about circles?
What I'm saying is that the picture is ripe with symbols. People in the days that our fraternity was born were excited by symbols. In a semi-literate society they conveyed meaning beyond the obvious; to the literate they recalled leassons read; to a society with secrets they sent messages to those in the know.

Fear and Trembling


Soren Kierkegaard in his work, Fear and Trembling, the Sickness Unto Death," speaks of the existential anxiety engendered by change.  In his more extensive work on Anxiety, he said:

“However, in regard to all this, one has to wait for the appearance of individuals who, despite outward gifts, do not choose the broad way but rather the pain, the distress, and the anxiety in which they religiously call to mind what meanwhile they lose, as it were, namely, what is too seductive to possess. Such a struggle is indubitably very exhausting, because there will come moments when they almost regret having begun it and recall with melancholy, at times possibly unto despair, the smiling life that would have opened before them had they pursued the immediate inclination of their talent. Nevertheless, in the extreme terror of distress, when it is as though all were lost because the way along which he would advance is impassible, and the smiling way of talent is cut off from him by his own act, the person who is aware will indubitably hear a voice saying: Well done, my son! Just keep on, for he who loses all, gains all.”

Those who move into and through this fear and anxiety gains all.  We have experienced crisis and fear forever.  The twentieth century seems to have carried more than its share.  The twenty first looks like it will have its own load.  Al Gore, in The Attack on Reason, says that this emphasis on crisis makes us more controllable.  Our division into class, race, religion or region is driven by this fear and trembling.  Keep us worried and we'll be easily guided. 
Mr. Gore says that education which encourages reason is the answer to this anxiety.  This is how we can move into and through the fear.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Good New Film

The Freemasons of Indiana have put out a good film about the Craft. It can be found at:

The Tao of Masonry: Jim is In!

The Tao of Masonry: Jim is In!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

HAPPY 2008


What This Blog is About

This blog is the thoughts of a Freemason. It's not affiliated with any Masonic body, and doesn't speak for Freemasonry in any sense of the word. My purpose is to raise questions, not dictate answers. If you read this blog, please comment; please subscribe, so we can look for answers to these questions together.