A Focus on Masonic Research, News, and other Tidbits

Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

For Holocaust Remembrance Day on 19 April 2012

(Reprinted with permission of the author)

Peace and Harmony Prevails
Living in Charleston, SC affords a Mason who enjoys visiting other lodges the opportunity to visit a large selection of different lodges all within a 30 minute drive of each other. Especially during the first two weeks of the month a Mason could conceivably visit a meeting of a different lodge or appendant body every night of the week. The opportunities for meeting and fellowshipping with brethren are sometimes staggering. In the act of availing myself of this Charlestonian Masonic opportunity I had a uniquely wonderful Masonic experience a few years ago.

I was visiting Pythagorean Lodge, which I frequently do. I barely got there before the lodge room door would be closed and as I signed the visitor section of the attendance log, I noticed a uniquely Germanic name – Uwe Muehller. Looking over to his lodge affiliation I read: Todtenkopf und Phoenix – Berlin. My father having been a POW in World War 2 in Germany, I had instilled in me from my father an interest in most things German from an early age. I was excited to have the chance to meet and greet a German brother, especially in Charleston of all places. I found him and talked with him long enough to learn he was Junior Warden of his lodge (called 2nd Warden in Germany) before the craft was called to order. After we went through the routine opening ritual and introductions the Master said he was especially honored to introduce 2 visitors – the first was the brother from Germany. The second was brother Moshe Abuderam who was there from Israel to see his son Eli take his first step in Masonry. The Master then made us aware that the following day (Friday 2May08) was Holocaust Memorial Day.

Under what other circumstances would a 60 year-old Israeli and a Berliner sit in peace and harmony with a roomful of Americans and all be perfectly at ease except in a Masonic Lodge? What a learning experience for us all. Regardless of any enmity that may exist outside the walls of the lodge, within the walls of a lodge we are all brothers first. Religious differences, political differences, personal prejudices, they all are insignificant when viewed in the context of our brotherhood. So also then should any differences between us within our own lodges be viewed in the same context. We say our order brings together men who otherwise might have remained at a perpetual distance. We shouldn’t let what petty differences that do exist divide us. We shouldn’t cling to the fairy tales of the past when the light of logical truth has exposed them to be such. We should allow ourselves to embrace the preponderance of similarities between us all and ignore the minor differences. Otherwise we will be forced to admit that we really do just study the ritual to be able to recite it, not in order to obey it. If a Jew and a German can meet on the level and part on the square in a Masonic lodge, what could possibly be worthy of dividing us?

Tom Lewis Jr PM

Friday, April 6, 2012

Research Help Needed

To my fellow researchers - amateur and professional alike: I am searching for the location of the original document signed by John Hancock appointing Dr. William Rickman as “Director and Chief Physician of the Hospital in Virginia…” Dated May 18, 1776.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

No Explanation Necessary (Reprinted with Author's Permission)

No Explanation Necessary

*Previously published in Volume 12, Issue 1, of "The Mariner Lighthouse," the official publication of Mariner Lodge No. 2, A.F.M. of S.C.

Last year my boss asked me a question as I was in mid-meltdown about the latest lodge crisis – “Isn’t Masonry supposed to be something you do to relax? Why is there so much controversy?” I didn’t have a good answer for him, any more than I have a good answer for my wife who listens to me vent from time to time and often asks the same question. One reason for my frustration was the simple fact that a lot of people who have never been master of a Lodge seem to think that simply by virtue of being the master of your Lodge you can fix whatever is wrong by sheer force of will combined with the respect you command as the master. I’ve said this to some Past Masters and invariably they smile and nod sagely as if I finally understand one of the great mysteries of life. What makes that attitude so irritating to a Lodge master is that at least on some level you yourself thought the same thing until you were actually inducted into the Oriental Chair of King Solomon and suddenly came face –to-face with the reality of the office. In theory, masters are wise, proficient in the work, and armed with the respect of all the brothers of the Lodge who all want to pull together for the good of the Lodge. In practice you may not be as wise as you think you are, and you’re dealing with a lot of different people with different levels of motivation, each with their own separate agenda which may or may not be compatible with yours, or even with Masonry itself.

One of the unfortunate realities of Masonry is that some Masons just don’t get it. They are like the seed that falls among the weeds and rocks - it just never takes root and grows.  They may come to lodge and hear the ritual over and over, and comment among themselves about who said a wrong word, or left out a phrase, but somehow the very words they have committed to memory never sink in. They are either unable or unwilling to buy into the concept of what Masonry really is. It’s disappointing how many Masons just scratch the surface of what Masonry is, what it could be to their lives and those of the people they interact with. They think Masonry begins and ends with learning the ritual. They never stop to think of applying the ritual to their lives, even though that is exactly what the ritual tells us to do. Fortunately for us all, some of the seed falls on fertile ground and bears fruit, or Masonry never would have gotten to us.

America was founded in large part by Masons. America has not survived and prospered for nearly two and a half centuries simply because the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and Bill of Rights are beautifully worded documents. America has survived because of what those documents instruct us and our leaders to do. And it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to realize how much better our country would be if more people put their time and energy into following the spirit of those instructions, instead of dissecting them looking for a way around them. Likewise, Masonry has not survived for hundreds of years because it has a beautiful ritual. For one thing that beautiful ritual we are all familiar with is only the latest iteration of a ritual that has been constantly evolving since the early 1600s when it wasn’t nearly as beautiful. Masonry has survived because of what that beautiful ritual encourages us to do. Masonry is a beautiful system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. The problems start when Masons don’t take the time and effort to learn to understand the symbolism in the ritual so they can see through the veil of allegory to get to the morality. We get so caught up in learning the letter of the ritual that we lose the spirit of it. A lot of Masons memorize the ritual to be able to recite it, rather than to be able to live by it. But just mouthing words we don’t understand is not Masonry. We have to learn to listen to what the words say. If you were dying would you rather have a minister at your bedside who can recite the entire Holy Bible from Genesis to Revelations, or one who knew a few less verses but had a close personal relationship with God?
Don’t misunderstand me, learning the ritual is vital to being able to put on degrees that enlighten and move our candidates so that of their own free will and accord they make the decision in their own hearts to become better human beings. But when we recite the ritual as fast as we can like a child reciting bible verses in Sunday School, the poor blind candidate simply can’t absorb and experience what the men who wrote the ritual intended. And we’ve wasted our time, as well as his time and squandered a priceless opportunity. It’s not true that if you say it fast enough, you’ll get it all out without forgetting something. And unfortunately when the words come at you too fast to comprehend, even Masons who have heard it before don’t get the full impact. With enough patience, a parrot could probably be taught to repeat our ritual perfectly, but it wouldn’t make him a better parrot. A chimpanzee could probably be taught to walk clockwise around an altar carrying a staff, while three others sit in tall chairs and rap a gavel when someone approaches. But neither creature is capable of an understanding of what it’s all about and thereby becoming a better version of himself. If we as men don’t strive for an understanding of what the men who wrote the ritual were trying to teach us, then we reduce ourselves to something far less than the enlightened men the men who entrusted the ritual to us intended us to be.
“For those who get it, no explanation is necessary; for those who don't, no explanation is possible.”
Tom Lewis, Jr PM 32° KT KRC
PM Mariner Lodge #2 Charleston, SC
Life Member Jackson Lodge #45, Jackson TN
"Fraternitas Humana Sub Paternus Deus

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Unity (Reprinted with the Author's Permission)

Unity - An Essay
By Joseph F. Giunta, PDDGM
31 January 2012
Some years ago while serving as a District Deputy Grand Master, I was privileged to be an instructor at a Fourth Masonic District Instructional Meeting, at which I addressed the newly elected Lodge Masters in this District. While I was in the process of teaching what I believed those brothers should know, within the very short amount of time allotted for that purpose, a question arose regarding lodge harmony, more specifically how it is achieved. Recognizing the importance of that question and recalling the years I had spent in leadership positions, I devoted precious time to answering it. I went on to explain that we are all obligated to do certain things according to law, and that a Master who leads by exemplifying the law to which we obligated ourselves is a Master who will have harmony, hence unity, in his Lodge. It is this theme of unity that I want to address this evening, based upon law, ritual, landmarks and other Masonic guidelines that have been provided to us over a number of years. Some of what you will hear will be quoted from the Ahiman Rezon. 

Unity has been expressed in a variety of ways, not the least of which are: “United we stand, divided we fall”, and these words from Psalm 133 recited during the circumambulation of the Entered Apprentice Degree: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” From the very beginning of ritual we hear words that should prompt us to direct our inquiries into unity. To achieve unity is to exemplify leadership. To exemplify leadership one must first learn how to follow, and the Masonic learning process can begin by reading the guidelines provided to us by way of our book of constitution and code. 

I believe that some of us are not able to achieve unity, because some of us are not able to define Freemasonry--despite the number of years that we have been members of lodges, or have had the privilege of serving in a variety of positions in those lodges or even by serving as Grand Lodge officers. To some it is an opportunity to serve with humility, to teach with a passion and to believe that the practice of the principles that define our fraternity as they are provided to us is to live a life pleasing to God.  To others it is a social club or an opportunity to glow in the spotlight of ego.  You’ve probably heard the old saying that if you put ten brothers together and ask them to define Freemasonry you will get ten different answers. That should never happen.  In 1939, our Grand Lodge recognized the need to define our Craft and adopted a Declaration of Masonic Principles. That declaration that defines South Carolina Freemasonry can be found beginning on page 486 of the Ahiman Rezon. Those principles tell us: “Freemasonry is a charitable, benevolent, educational and religious society. Its principles are proclaimed as widely as men will hear. Its only secrets are in its methods of recognition and of symbolic instruction.”  Admittedly, not all of us can afford to make charitable contributions, and our benevolent nature may extend no farther than the inclination to do good.  Masonic education is best accomplished by learned men, who teach those whose intellect and desire to learn are at the same level, which is not always the case.  Where we are a religious Craft, Freemasonry is not a religion. The all-encompassing nature of our Craft, however, does provide an opportunity for each of us to choose his own level of comfort and contribute to the Craft as best we can. That declaration goes on to define the social nature of our fraternity in these words: “It is a social organization only so far as it furnishes additional inducement that men may foregather in numbers, thereby providing more material for its primary work of education, of worship and of charity.”  In that statement is the definition of Masonic social clubs here in South Carolina, which provides the guidelines needed for the writing of club bylaws.

I must admit that my passion for and love of our fraternity has caused me to speak out at times when others were silent, and to invoke the words of the Charge at Closing that makes us responsible to: “remind him of his errors and aid a reformation.”  That Charge is not only a beautiful piece of work, it is also binding upon us. It is a charge! How can we achieve unity if we choose to overlook the mistakes of others, especially when those mistakes violate the law to which we are obligated?  To allow a brother to have his own way just because he exerts the power of ego is to allow our fraternity to become disorganized, thus lacking unity.   And to allow a brother to teach about or act upon what he thinks is a good idea may be allowing that brother an opportunity to violate Masonic law, thus causing disagreement, discontent and disunity, and could subject that well intentioned brother to Masonic disciplinary action that includes expulsion.  I once told a group of Past Masters that I would probably call upon one or more of them for advice while I served as Master of my lodge. I also went on to admonish them that when they came to me with advice they had better have their Masonic references open in their hands. In other words what I wanted them to understand is what I want you to understand that there is only one law to follow. 

Some months back, Right Worshipful Brother Grayson W. Mayfield III wrote an article that asked: Should All Good Men Be Made Masons? In that article he expressed his deep rooted feeling that only those who have the intellectual capacity to understand the nature of the craft by way of its teaching should be initiated into its mysteries.  Needless to say there were and still are some brothers who disagree with that sentiment. In an encyclical letter written by Brother Albert G. Mackey, then Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina, there are words that support the Right Worshipful Brother’s opinion. Brother Mackey told us: “Neither is an ignorant or uneducated man desirable as a candidate for our mysteries. Without some intellectual culture it is not likely that he will appreciate the symbolic character of our institution, nor would he be able to become a very useful or honorable member of the craft.” Those words also infer that to admit men simply because they are of a good nature is to cause the fraternity to entertain the notion that we must educate differently in order to accommodate the differences in the educational achievements and intellectual capacities of its membership. To entertain that notion would, by its very nature, cause disunity. 

In the Charge at Closing we are also instructed to: “…be ye all of one mind.” Hence another instance where the need for unity is stressed.  I am going to ask that you review what might be considered the beginning of unity within our fraternity, namely the Twenty-Five Landmarks Of Freemasonry as observed in this Grand Jurisdiction. At the end of those Landmarks is a statement that stresses unity: “These constitute the Landmarks, or as they have sometimes been called, “the body of Masonry”, in which it is not in the power of any man or body of men to make the least innovation.” Those Landmarks unite us, and we are further reminded by way of words taken from the presentation of the Working Tools of the Third Degree, which tell us that we are united as “one sacred band or society of friends and brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist but that noble contention or rather emulation of who can best work and best agree.” Agreement equals unity. 

Above all, unity is stressed by way of our obligation to obey the constitution and edicts of the Grand Lodge, an obligation taken in the presence of lodge assembled, with our hands on the Holy Bible –an obligation which ends with a promise to remain steadfast and to keep the content of that obligation ever in our senses.  We all made that promise to God Himself by way of these words: “So help me God!”  We therefore obligated ourselves to unity through obedience to established law and promised the Grand Architect that we would ever be faithful to that promise. 

The importance of unity should never overshadow the need to recognize individual talent, nor should that talent be used in an effort to diminish or defeat the principles of a society that has withstood the test of time. Here we find an illustration of the fundamental lesson stressed throughout the teaching of our Craft, the lesson of equilibrium as symbolically represented by the level worn by the Senior Warden.

From the teaching of Freemasonry we hear many references to the number three. We are also prompted to consider the importance of the number one. My guess is that it took only one Mason to influence you to ask for a petition, and on that petition is a question that asks if you believe in the existence of one God. The number one united us from the very beginning, even before any of us was received into the beauty and form of a lodge, and it continues to unite us by inculcating these basic precepts, that there is one God to worship, one law to follow, and one correct way to do things. One equals unity, and unity is not only a hallmark of leadership, it is the key to survival of our beloved craft.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

So You Want to be a Grand Lodge Officer?

For those that actively seek a position in the Grand Lodge, I offer the “be careful of what you wish for” advice. Ideally, the office seeks the Brother – not the other way around. Appointment or nomination to a Grand Lodge office should actually come as a surprise to the Brother being so appointed or nominated.

There are many good reasons for this. First of all, seeking an office gives the impression to many other Masons that one is politicking, which is generally looked upon as un-Masonic activity. In addition, in the process of seeking an office, a Freemason can easily find himself in the realm of favor payback if he achieves that which he sought. This can cause a conflict of interest when it comes to decision making. Owing favors can easily cloud one’s good sense of fairness and execution of Masonic law.

As for “being careful of what you wish for,” service in certain Grand Lodge offices can be mentally taxing – if one has a conscious. It seems that this hits many Grand Lodge officers like a pile of bricks once their term comes to an end. I experienced this first hand and other past Grand Lodge officers have related the same to me. Trust me – it is not a pleasant feeling.

There is no doubt about it. Serving as a Grand Lodge officer is a great honor, however, it carries significant responsibility. It is a burden that no one should actively seek. The burden should seek the man. If one is Grand Lodge materiel, then the burden will find him.

Friday, April 29, 2011


I am now the junior Past District Deputy Grand Master of the Fourth Masonic District of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina. This is kind of a cool and weird feeling.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

First Banquet and Symposium of the SCMRS

Late on Friday evening, 22 April 2011, the South Carolina Masonic Research Society (SCMRS) concluded its first Banquet and Symposium in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, which is right across the Cooper River from downtown Charleston – the seat of Southern secession and home of so much Masonic history. The theme for the symposium was “Freemasonry and the Civil War” – properly referred to as the War Between the States. It was an appropriate theme in that the Country is currently commemorating the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the start of that terrible war. The immediate Past President of the SCMRS, Worshipful Brother Paul C. Graham, has described it as a “home run” event.

It was truly an enlightening and first-class occasion that featured two internationally known Masons who are accomplished authors and speakers. They were Right Worshipful Brother Michael A. Halleran, author of The Better Angels of our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War and current Grand Junior Warden of the Grand Lodge of Kansas; and Worshipful Brother Wayne E. Sirmon, a Past Master from Alabama, an expert in the Masonic connections surrounding the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, and a member of Lieutenant George E. Dixon’s lodge in Mobile, Alabama. For those that do not know, Brother Dixon was the last commander of the Hunley – the first submarine to sink an enemy ship.

The fellowship, the good food, the period appropriate music, and the diverse crowd of attendees – Confederates, Federals, Brothers, ladies, etc – all added to the special night. It was the type of event that has caused many non-attendees to say “I’d wish I had been there” after they heard how it went.

Grayson W. Mayfield, III DDGM
South Carolina Masonic Research Society