A Focus on Masonic Research, News, and other Tidbits

Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Worshipful, Worshipful, Everywhere a Worshipful

The landscape of honorifics used to address certain leaders and past leaders in lodges and Grand Lodges can be confusing to even experienced and informed Masons. The adjective “Worshipful” is applied in several variations to describe and honor current and past holders of such positions as a Master of a lodge, elected and appointed officers of a Grand Lodge, and Grand Masters. “Worshipful” can actually be disturbing to some of those outside of the Fraternity when they mistakenly apply a more modern religious connotation to the word. The use of the word in Freemasonry, however, stems from its older use as a term of respect.
Worshipful - British. a formal title of honor used in announcing or mentioning certain highly regarded or respected persons or groups.
Source: Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/worshipful (accessed: September 27, 2009).
Using the Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina as a starting point in this examination, there can be found three primary variations involving the word “Worshipful” – Worshipful Brother, Right Worshipful Brother, and Most Worshipful Brother.

Worshipful Brother (other variations: Worshipful Master, Worshipful Sir, and Worshipful). This honorific is used to address current or past Masters of a lodge of Freemasons. This title is also applied to the following appointed and past officers of the Grand Lodge: Senior Grand Deacon, Junior Grand Deacon, Grand Marshal, Grand Pursuivant, Grand Steward, and Grand Tiler – all of which have to be Past Masters before being appointed. Note: The position of Grand Chaplain, which will be mentioned in the next paragraph, is the only Grand Lodge office that does not require the holder to be a Past Master.

Right Worshipful Brother (other variations: Right Worshipful Sir and Right Worshipful). In South Carolina, this address is used for current or past Grand Lodge officers in the following positions: Deputy Grand Master, Senior Grand Warden, Junior Grand Warden, Grand Treasurer, Grand Secretary, Grand Chaplain, and District Deputy Grand Master.

Most Worshipful Brother (other variations: Most Worshipful Sir and Most Worshipful). This honorific is reserved for the current and past Grand Masters of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina.

Though this may seem straightforward thus far, the confusions will now be illustrated by way of a couple of specific, real-world, examples.

If the office of Grand Secretary, who would normally be addressed as Right Worshipful, is held by a Past Grand Master – he retains the title of Most Worshipful. If the office of Grand Marshal, who would normally be addressed as Worshipful, is held by a Past District Deputy Grand Master – he continues to be addressed as Right Worshipful. In other words, a Mason retains the honorific suitable for the highest position held – regardless of his current position.

To add to the confusion – current and past Senior Grand Deacons, Junior Grand Deacons, Grand Marshals, Grand Pursuivants, Grand Stewards, and Grand Tilers wear aprons that look exactly like those worn by current and past District Deputy Grand Masters. The absence of jewels – which only sitting Grand Lodge officers in these positions will have, name badges that clearly identify the Mason’s past status, or personal knowledge of the Mason’s Masonic resume can certainly lead to confusion when it comes to addressing these Masons as Worshipful or Right Worshipful.

Once one considers other Grand Jurisdictions, the confusion is amplified. In some Grand Jurisdictions, the Grand Master is addressed as Right Worshipful rather than Most Worshipful. Pennsylvania offers an example of this difference. In some other Grand Jurisdictions, such as Scotland, a lodge Master is addressed as Right Worshipful Master rather than Worshipful Master. One can also find such titles as Very Worshipful (Connecticut) and Right Honorable (Florida) in some Jurisdictions that have positions such as District Grand Lecturers and District Instructors.

Despite this confusion, there is one title that will always work and be appropriate – “Brother.”

Note to Tim: Thanks for the idea.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Higher or Side Degrees?

Many Masons are familiar with the charts that show a hierarchy in the Freemasonic family. Two examples are shown here and both place the Craft, or “Blue,” lodge degrees at the bottom of the scale. These types of illustrations and trains of thought have often led to the misconception that the degrees and orders offered in the York and Scottish Rites are the higher degrees of Freemasonry.

Of course, any learned Freemason is aware that there is no higher degree in Freemasonry than that of the Third Degree, which can only be provided by a Craft lodge. The degrees and orders of the two Rites, or any other appendent body, are actually side degrees. The following chart – in my opinion – better illustrates that concept than do the two previous.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Line Up to be the First to Read The Better Angels...

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War is scheduled for release in the Spring of 2010.

I have had the pleasure of corresponding with the author, Michael A. Halleran, for some time and - if my dealings with him are any indication at all - I am anticipating that The Better Angels of Our Nature will be a great read. Well-read Masons will recognize Halleran's name from the regular "Brother Brother" column in the Scottish Rite Journal and from his published work in Heredom. Halleran is the 2007 recipient of the Albert Gallatin Mackey Award for Excellence in Masonic Scholarship for his "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Masonic Courtesy and Relief in the American Civil War." Brother Halleran currently serves as the Assistant Editor of the Scottish Rite Research Society's The Plumbline.

A Facebook group with the same name as the book has been started where you can keep up with the author's pre-release speaking engagements and the progress toward release of the book.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Funerals and Masonic Rites – Inspiration from the Grave

The idea that funerals are for the living and not for the recently departed is not one invented by me. The deceased have gone on to their just rewards and need not the physical manifestations of a funeral. For the loved ones that are left behind, however, the funeral provides a vehicle on the path of closure and is an important part of the grieving process. In many ways and despite the sad nature of what necessitated them, funerals can sometimes serve as an inspiration to the living.

Most people are no stranger to the religious inspiration that often results from attending a funeral. For Masons, however, there is another, additional type of inspiration that can come from a funeral and is certainly evident when a Mason dies and is buried with Masonic Rites – something I recently witnessed again.

The second line signer of my petition for the Degrees passed away this past Monday and was buried with military honors and Masonic Rites on this past Thursday. I initially dreaded attending the funeral for – I imagine – the same reason many people dread funerals. We do not like to face death and funerals force us to face that thing which will come for all of us one day.

In my recently departed Brother’s case, he led a long and full life and – when death came for him – he went to the afterlife quickly and without suffering. My Brother had many lofty titles associated with Freemasonry and the associated bodies of the Order, but what happened immediately after his passing and at his funeral tells more about him and his Fraternity than can a list of those titles.

Within an hour of my Brother’s death, the network that connects Masons over great distances was alive with the sad news. Knowing his love for the institution, some of the very first people contacted by his widow were members of the Fraternity.

The number of properly clothed Masons in attendance at the funeral were too numerous to count and they included our Grand Lodge’s sitting Grand Master, our sitting Senior Grand Warden, three Past Grand Masters, numerous current and past District Deputy Grand Masters, sitting and Past Masters, and many other Masons. Many of these men travelled many hours to attend the service, which was held in a very rural corner of our State.

The atmosphere of fraternity was so thick that you could almost reach out and touch it. The pastor that conducted the service was also a member of the Craft and had actually been attracted to Freemasonry in large part due to the influence and example of the man that he now preached over. The Masonic Rites were delivered in a very solemn and dignified manner by one of the best ritualists in the Grand Jurisdiction.

When it was all over, I left the grave side with inspiration – not dread. In addition to the inspiration gained from reviewing my deceased Brother’s trials, tribulations, and achievements in life; I was inspired in a fraternal way. I was reinvigorated about Freemasonry and my appreciation of the meaning of Brotherly Love was reaffirmed and bolstered.

Thank you – my Brother – for letting me be at your funeral. Even in death, you continue to serve the Fraternity.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Recommended Reading - Solomon's Builders

I have just [finally] gotten around to finishing Solomon's Builders by Christopher Hodapp, who was kind enough personally sign it for me in Alexandia, Virginia, in February 2009.

Folks, it is worth reading and I highly recommend it. You can track it down by going here: http://www.hodapps.com/

The Internet – A Blessing and a Curse to Freemasonry

The Internet has become both a blessing and a curse for Freemasonry. On one hand, the Internet is a tool of immeasurable value to those that are involved in research and writing about the world’s oldest fraternity. Imagine what Albert G. Mackey could have done if he had the Internet! The World Wide Web provides a quick and easy way for Freemasons to communicate over great distances and to keep current on the various activities of the fraternity. On the other hand, the Internet also makes it easy for clandestine masons and those who oppose Freemasonry to express their views – sometimes in a disproportionately loud manner – to the unsuspecting public. Recognized Freemasons – if they are not sufficiently knowledgeable and careful – can also often be trapped into discussing Freemasonry in an inappropriate manner.

Let this be made clear – Freemasonry can not be practiced on the Internet. There are, however, Internet sites that have Freemasonry as their predominant subject material. This is often commonly referred to as e-Masonry. Most readers will already be familiar with the websites that belong to Grand Lodges, subordinate lodges, and appendant bodies. Those types of sites are not the subject of this piece as we all know about those sites and their purposes. Many readers will also be familiar with the conspiracy theory and anti-masonic sites and, since those can not be considered as containing accurate information about Freemasonry, they will also not be examined in this article.

The push to discuss and form connections about Freemasonry on the Internet has blossomed in the last decade or so. The somewhat legendary CompuServe Masonry Forum existed until at least 2001 and gave birth to much of what is often called e-Masonry. From this, Masonic forums blossomed and personal websites were created in an ever evolving landscape in cyberspace.

The situation today finds a variety of e-Masonry sites. The ones that most folks come into contact with are the forums and it is in these sites that many Masons first experience e-Masonry – often leading to other Internet sites and ventures. There are a variety of forums that are oriented toward Freemasonry, of which The Sanctum Santorum and the Mastermason.com Forums are but two examples.

Beyond the forums, one can find the personal websites, of which there are many. An example of one of the longest running can be found in Anti-Masonry: Points of View, which makes a point of exposing anti-masonic rhetoric as well as bogus or quasi-masonic organizations. Anti-Masonry is now in its eleventh year of existence. The Masonically inclined personal websites multiplied drastically as people discovered the ease and cheapness of using existing blog services. Such services as Blogger and WordPress gave even the most website design challenged folks an easy way to share their message. One of the more popular examples of these types of sites can be found at Freemasons for Dummies. Even some Grand Lodge officers have began to use blogs to communicate their messages to their jurisdictions and with others. An example of this can be found at Grand Master’s Musings.

Despite the perceived popularity of e-Masonry, the most prolific forum posters and the website owners represent a very small percentage of Freemasons. This relatively small group of e-Masons has, over time, loosely organized itself into an online community by way of cross links to each other’s sites and cross posting of various articles. One can go to a variety of forums and sites that allow outside comments and find the same screen names over and over. This has resulted in a loose nucleus of sites and Internet personalities that could be thought of as the unofficial news network for Freemasonry. The King Solomon’s Lodge Blog Aggregator is representative of one useful method that has loosely tied these sites together.

As should have been expected, this relatively small group of e-Masons began to talk by using various voice programs available – ultimately leading to podcasts such as Masonic Central. These podcasts are often populated by the very same nucleus of online personalities that are so often found in the forums and blogs.

Relatively recently, an effort to more formally organize some of these sites was undertaken and Freemason Information was the result. Freemason Information brought some of the more popular sites – all of which happened to be blogs – under one umbrella along with the Masonic Central podcast.

In what is probably the greatest concentration of serious online students, researchers, and writers of Freemasonry; a new research society – operating almost entirely on the Internet – was born not very long ago. The Masonic Society includes many of the “who’s who” of modern day Masonic researchers and operates its own forum for members only. The methodology of The Masonic Society has allowed it – best as is possible at this time – to solve the problems associated with anti-masons and clandestine masons on the Internet.

Due to the nature of their fraternity, Freemasons have understandably been hesitant to jump into the Internet world without caution. Like those that feel the need to spout anti-masonic rhetoric, people belonging to some of the clandestine, quasi-masonic bodies have never – for the most part – been constrained by this sense of caution. This resulted in a proliferation of sites and online personalities which represent irregular and unrecognized masons. As Freemasons explore their fraternity on the Internet, they can not help but to run into these types of sites and personalities. Therein is found one of the dangers of e-Masonry. The other danger arises when Freemasons – out of ignorance – engage in discussions that can be construed as Masonic communication of an unauthorized nature or divulge internal Grand Lodge or lodge business that should not be shared with the rest of the world.

There can be little doubt that Grand Lodges were caught off guard by the proliferation of e-Masonry. Quite frankly, the codes and constitutions of the various Grand Lodges were not written to directly deal with this phenomenon – though the obligations should be sufficient. The phenomenon is here, however, and time will tell whether Grand Lodges are able to effectively cope with it by way of education and guidance to their members – and it must be coped with in this age of an increasingly Internet savvy society where a young man will “Google” first and ask questions later.

The Internet is a tool and, like all tools, Freemasons must use it with caution and respect. Remember – a hammer can bless you with a properly driven nail or curse you with a busted thumb.

Worth Reading - from the Pages of the Scottish Rite Journal

In addition to some other fine articles in the September-October 200 edition of the Scottish Rite Journal, here are a couple that really caught my attention.

There Can Only Be One Grand Lodge.

The Worshipful Master: His Ultimate Duties.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

District Deputy Grand Master – Revisited

See also: District Deputy Grand Master – Origin of the Position

It is interesting to examine the reasons leading to the creation of the positions of District Deputy Grand Masters, the growing pains associated with the adjusted system of governance associated with the positions, and the eventual tweaking of the District Deputy system that overcame its initial deficiencies.

Prior to 1871, the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina had at various times used a single position – that of Grand Lecturer – to assist the Grand Master and Grand Lodge in ensuring that subordinate lodges were uniform in their workings. Due to vast distances involved and the slow nature of travel in those long ago times, it is obvious to see how this was an inefficient system at best.

The initial District system approved by the Grand Lodge of South Carolina in 1871 did little to alleviate the same problems associated with the Grand Lecturer system. Only ten Districts were created and many of the District Deputy Grand Masters reportedly suffered from some of the same problems which a Grand Lecturer had – distances and difficulty of travel. In the years immediately following the creation of the system, some District Deputy Grand Masters reported that they could not even find some of the lodges in their District. Some reported that they – being that most were men with professions – did not have the time to devote to such a large undertaking as that of visiting all of their District lodges and managing the requests for decisions coming from such.

By 1887, rumblings were being heard that called for the abolishment of the District system. Some of the District Deputy Grand Masters, themselves, were proponents of the abolishing the system. In 1891, a constitutional amendment was proposed that – if passed – would have ended the office of District Deputy Grand Master and revived the position of Grand Lecturer. In 1892, the Grand Lodge postponed consideration of this proposal indefinitely.

The situation involving the District system was finally tweaked into a workable part of the government of the Grand Lodge when, in 1896, the Grand Lodge voted to increase the number of Districts. This set in motion the future practice of redrawing District lines and increasing the number of District Deputy Grand Masters as the Grand Jurisdiction grew in its number of chartered lodges – with roughly ten lodges in each District.

Source: Cornwell, Ross & Willis, Samuel M. A History of Freemasonry in South Carolina; The Years 1860 - 1919. The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina, 1979.