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

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.