A Focus on Masonic Research, News, and other Tidbits

Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Masonic Relief: An Eyewitness Account

Last year’s Junior Warden of my Lodge made less than half of the regular communications during his term in office due to his poor health. He was diagnosed with cancer and it was and is doing its best to destroy his body. This former Junior Warden truly loves the Craft and his Lodge. He was also very active in several other bodies such as the York and the Scottish Rites.

We all knew about his declining health but what we didn’t know about – he being a proud man – were his financial troubles that were byproducts of his health issues. It was actually by accident that we discovered the depth of the financial problems when I made a phone call to him one evening a few months ago to check on him. During the course of the conversation I learned that his electricity was close to being turned off. Other than for his home, almost everything had been repossessed from this hardworking man – truck, boat, etc.

Following that conversation and after taking a few moments to say a prayer in my backyard, I put the phone to good use and spread the word to the “movers and shakers” of my Lodge. The District Deputy Grand Master was also alerted and we fired up the Lodge’s Masonic Relief Committee. The paperwork involved with requesting relief funds from the Grand Lodge Masonic Relief Committee was expedited and the Grand Lodge issued emergency funds even before the paperwork was completed. Within a few weeks, not less than one thousand dollars rolled in from “passing the hat” efforts in my Lodge and in our sister Lodges in the District. The local York Rite Bodies joined in the effort and collected more donations. Our past Junior Warden’s lights are still on and they will not be darkened.

He is not out of the woods and his health is steadily deteriorating, but we will make sure that his basic necessities are taken care of. If and when he succumbs to the cancer, I am confident that his widow will be looked after in the same manner.

This is the way we do it here. We do not engage in institutionalized charity for the masses or throw money at things like the child ID programs. We concentrate our efforts on our Brethren, their widows, and their orphans.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tolerance and Freemasonry

tol·er·ance (tŏl'ər-əns) n. The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.[1]

Tolerance is a word that is thrown about frequently in our modern day society and its use has taken on a connotation that goes beyond its basic definition. To be referred to as being intolerant of others is akin to being labeled a racist and is like a scarlet letter upon the forehead of anyone accused of not practicing tolerance when it comes to the beliefs and practices of others.

This modern view of tolerance as a supreme virtue has began to seep into the thoughts of many Freemasons as they mimic general society and its trends. But is the practice of tolerance really a teaching of Freemasonry? It may possibly be so, but is full tolerance a goal of Freemasonry? I submit that it is not and should not be.

For one to achieve the full definition of being tolerant he must not only recognize the beliefs and practices of others but he must also respect those beliefs and practices. To fully achieve a tolerant society, therefore, all beliefs and practices would have to be deserving of respect and some are – undoubtedly – not deserving of such.

Most reasonable men would agree that those that sacrifice babies in the name of a religion are not deserving of respect. The same can safely be said about fascists, communists, or sweatshop owners. Can anyone reasonably claim that the beliefs and practices of the members of the Ku Klux Klan are deserving of respect? Anyone that says “no” is intolerant of others and should go ahead and proudly put that scarlet letter upon their own forehead. In these cases, intolerance should be considered as an honorable virtue.

There are those that, of course, would say that the previous examples are ridiculous since they pertain to groups that do not represent the common good of society. The sticky point, however, is contained within the possible answers to the following questions. Who gets to choose what should be tolerated or not? Who gets to choose which beliefs and practices are deserving of respect? Here is my answer to both of those questions. Each individual gets to make that choice.

Freemasons should already know that and they should not be following the whims of general society. Remember – general society should be copying Freemasonry and not the other way around. Freemasons should also know that there is a happy medium between tolerance and intolerance, and they should not be ashamed to take either path as the situation calls for it. It is often a noble thing to be intolerant and one should not be ashamed to wear the scarlet letter.

[1] The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Lodges Solomon

Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, F. & A. M. of Georgia, recently celebrated the 275th anniversary of its founding in the city of Savannah. This lodge provides two possible dates of organization – 21 February 1733 or 21 February 1734 – and claims the title of the Oldest Continuously Operating English Constituted Lodge in the Western Hemisphere.

Whenever the topic of this old lodge in Savannah enters a conversation on the northern side of the Savannah River in South Carolina, Palmetto State Freemasons cannot but help to think of another old lodge in another historic Southeastern city. Located just a couple of driving hours north of Savannah, one can find Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, A.F.M. of South Carolina, located in Charleston. This lodge was warranted in 1735 by the Grand Lodge of England. Albert G. Mackey, in the course of his research published in 1861, had this to say.
In a roll of Lodges under the jurisdiction of England, appended to Hutchinson’s “Spirit of Freemasonry,” with the following title: “List of Lodges, (with their numbers,) as altered by the Grand Lodge, April 18, 1792,” I find the number 45 is marked as having been warranted in 1735, under the name of Solomon’s Lodge, Charleston, South Carolina, which is followed by number 46, in the same year, designated as Solomon’s Lodge, No. 1, Savannah, Georgia.[i]
The reader that paid attention to the previous quote will undoubtedly raise an eyebrow or two and ask the obvious question. How can Solomon’s Lodge in Savannah claim to be “oldest” when there is documentation of a slightly older Solomon’s Lodge in Charleston, which also continues to operate? The arrival to the answer of that question requires some interesting further investigation.

Before proceeding further, it should be pointed out that there are other old lodges worthy of mentioning. At least two of the following lodges claim an “oldest” designation.[ii]

* Saint John’s Lodge No. 1 in Boston, Massachusetts, was organized on 30 July 1733.
* Norfolk Lodge No. 1 in Norfolk, Virginia, was constituted on 22 December 1733.
* St. John’s Lodge No. 1 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was organized on 24 June 1736.

In the case of the Lodges Solomon in Charleston and Savannah, the friendly debate between Masons on both sides of the Savannah River revolve around two terms – organized and warranted – and which of the terms establishes a lodge’s true birth date. It has been established that Solomon’s No. 1 in Charleston was warranted prior to Solomon’s No. 1 in Savannah – though it may have been only by mere moments and by the accident of which warrant was chosen to be issued first. If one uses the warrants to establish birthdays, then the Charleston lodge is the eldest of the two.

The dates of organization provide different dates of birth, however. Solomon’s Lodge No. 1 in Charleston did not officially meet for the first time – on 29 October 1736 – until, presumably, after its warrant had arrived from England.[iii] Solomon’s No 1 in Savannah, however, was meeting as a Time Immemorial lodge prior to the issuance of a warrant.[iv] Though some questions remain as to whether or not Time Immemorial lodges were still considered as proper in the 1730s, the Grand Lodge of London may have been unaware of the activities of the lodge in Savannah or “looked the other way” when it issued a warrant in 1735. Regardless, if one uses the dates of organization then Solomon’s No. 1 in Savannah predates its counterpart in Charleston by approximately two years and eight months.

The friendly debate continues.

[i] Mackey, Albert G., M.D., The History of Freemasonry in South Carolina. Columbia, S.C.: South Carolina Steam Power Press, 1861, p. 3.
[ii] Porter, Robert S. II. Historian’s Apse, http://www.solomonslodge.com/historiansapse.html (Accessed March 7, 2009).
[iii] Mackey, pp. 2 and 4.
[iv] Porter (accessed March 7, 2009).