Friday, 24 December 2010

The Best of the Season!

May I wish you all the best of the Season.  I see this as a period of divine reflection, where we each have the chance to examine relationships with our fellow man and our respective God/s.  Today as I type this, I am looking forward to sharing a nice meal with my wife and having a few drinks and perhaps heading to Church, to contemplate the sacred mysteries within my tradition.

Wherever and whoever you are, I raise a Glass to you, I wish you many blessings for this season and for evermore, may your countenance always be in the light and may your heart always know the warmth of love.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Tracing Board - 1st Degree

We dont work the Tracing boards in Ireland, but I use them in my own philosophical, introspective  musings (try saying that with a few drinks!).  The Entered Apprentice is offered these set of symbols to focus their thoughts and guide meditation.

As Dr Lomas states

"The floor represents the physical state, or our material bodies, the lower or material nature.  The sky with it's Sun, Moon and Stars stands for the mind, or intellectual nature.  But the blazing Star, or glory, represents the ultimate spiritual core"

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The coming of the "Star Child"

During this Christmas season, I often reflect on my Volume of Sacred Law, which happens to be the Bible (not just the Bible that was handed to us at the time of Nicea - courtesy of the Mithrastic Emperor Constantine).

 It is interesting to note that the concept of the Messiah (which simply means 'anointed' - remember when Samuel anointed Saul, the first king of Israel? - )

"Samuel took a phial of oil and poured ot on Saul's head; he then kissed him and said, 'Has not Yahweh anointed you as leader of his people Israel? You are the man who is to govern Yahweh's people and save them from the power of the enemies surrounding them." - 1st Samuel 9:26-27)

Intensely related to the coming of each Israelite Messiah, was the number 40, this was the symbolic number representing the cycle of the star of Venus - the symbol we as Freemasons hold sacred.  It was like a 'timer' - As Bro. Christopher Knight explains

"For Solomon, the cycle of Venus of precisely 40 years was of paramount importance.  He like the kings before and after him, knew that every important aspect of life was governed by this divine period of 40 years, as is the Old Testament Records" - The Hiram Key Revisited

  • Moses led his people through the wilderness for 40 years (from the ripe age of 80 - the beginning of his third Venus cycle, until his death at the age of 120, his third Venus cycle)
  • Throughout the Old Testament, Yahweh allows the land to rest for 40 years
  • Israel had done evil and Yahweh gave it to an enemy for 40 years
  • Eli was judge of Israel for 40 years
  • Saul (first king of Israel) became King at age 40 and ruled for exactly 40 years
  • King David, Solomon's father, ruled for 40 years
Going back to the Shekinah - this was a brillant star (the same Star saw by the magi at the birth of Jesus, incidently the word 'magi', is where we get the word magic from) that was caused by the planets Venus and Mercury rising in conjunction - from Earth, they overlap and look like a single, extremely bright Star.

"I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there will come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab and destroy all the children of Sheth" - Numbers 24:17

The Shekinah appeared with such brillance, that everyone was impressed and the Jews began to examine who would be the promised Messiah.  The Shekinah - called the 'Star of Bethlehem' by later Christians is described in Matthew 2:1

"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wide men (magi) from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is he who has been born king of the jews?  For we saw his star when it rose [or in the east] and have come to worship"

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Why I created this Blog

The important thing I want to try and portray about the craft is :

Everything we do inside the lodge is about friendship, brotherhood and love, we sit together as brethern, communicating with each of our God's seperately, yet together, we care for the nameless-faceless individuals outside lodge, through charity. We enjoy being family, helping each other through times of difficulty and celebrating in times of success
The Anti-Masons dont understand this, I believe we hold the greatest secret of all - how to live a happy, peaceful contented life - its called Tolerance.

The Shekinah, the presence of God

The Shekhinah, the prescence or dwelling of God. This is grammatically feminine and therefore represents the female aspects of God. It was the cloud (Shakhan) in which God represented his/her self to the Hebrews, it was used in the standard Jewish blessings each sabbath in the Temple of Jerusalem

"May he who causes His name to dwell (shochan) in this house, cause to dwell among you, love and brotherliness, peace and friendship"

The place that housed the Shekinah, was seen as a direct communication to the divine (much like the function of the Egyptian Pyramids)

This was the basis of Solomon wanting to create a Temple worthy of housing the presence of God, to finish what his father David wanted to construct (but could not, as he was a warrior king and his hands were stained with blood)

The Shekhinah did not have to dwell in a physical location, but in the Talmud it was stated that "where 10 gathered together in prayer - the Shekinah would appear as well" - much like Jesus proclaiming "Where 2 or 3 are gathered together in my name, there I shall be also"

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Egyptian Sacred Geometry

Why do we look at some Egyptian representations on Masonic Temples?

May I submit this for edification - may it be the fact that we are looking at the sacred Geometry in Egyptian temples.  If you research the throne of the Hegemon, we see a cube, apparently measuring 5 hands equally (on each side), perhaps linking to the 5 elements.

The Throne is the standard from which all geometric buildings such as Solomon's Temple derive from.  Imhotep was the first builder to realise that this calculation yielded a stable structure.
There are deeper meanings within the Golden Section, such as the relationship between Isis, Ra and Osiris, the generation of the 3rd unique entity from two distinct entities - also look at Pythagoras for this (47th proposition of Elucid), this then expresses the mysteries of Ra-Hoor-Khuit.

The Purpose of Ritual - is it an enlightening process?

What is the purpose of ritual within Freemasonry?, why do we as human beings need a seemingly repetitive system?. 

Ritual is described as "A set of actions performed for their symbolic value".  Ritual can be created through religious directives or social traditions.  But it should be clear that meaningful ritual has a serious and beneficial content behind the rich symbolism. 

As Julian Rees states in regards to Freemasonry:

"If we examine the ritual forms which we have inherited, we discover that much of the Spiritual content remains.  We discover that all the way through our ceremonies we are encouraged to research our inner selves.  Wherever we look in masonic ritual, the constant theme is one of knowing who and where I am, and knowing  my true relationship to my fellowman and the universe I inhabit"

Recently I have been confronted with several Brethern and non-brethern who dont think there is any real significance to what, we as Masons do in lodge. This can be easily countered by pointing out everything that we do in lodge has tremendous significance - from the fraternal friendship displayed, to the giving of alms, the dedications to the G.A.O.T.U. displaying the practical values of faith, hope and charity.

However delving into the ritualistic aspects of Freemasonry, I do believe there is great significance to the individual participating and watching within the lodge.  Tracing the possibility that Freemasonry comes from the ancient mystery schools, Julian Rees continues -

"The Mysteries were schools, which provided the gateway to the non-material realms, and to the knowledge of the natural laws operating in them.  They existed for the satisfaction for those who wished to know more, those who wished to understand divinity, directly for themselves.  How did they do this? Incorporated in the practice of ancient Mysteries were a process of initiations, a process directly comparable with Masonic initiation"

Monday, 13 December 2010

Burning Volumes of Sacred Law

Does the title of this post outrage you?

It should in my opinion - don't worry, Im not talking about noble Freemasons burning VSL's in or outside their lodges.  Im talking about a paticular individual who has gained 'celebrity' by threatening to burn The Koran.  Im not a Moslem - sometimes I wonder if I can categorise myself as anything, but think it's wrong for anyone to destroy any work that is held sacred by my brother.

Yes Virgina, there is a Santa Clause

As we reach closer to the sacred and fun period Christmas, all of us have to admitt that we all still await the visit of that fat, jolly figure - the encapsulation of the warmth of human feeling, of Charity and wonder - Father Christmas.  It doesn't matter what age you are, what your personal beliefs are - we all believe in Santa, Father Christmas, Pere Noel, Kris Kringle.

In my home, my wife goes mad for Christmas, she puts up the tree, decorates it beautifully and places all sorts of images of this jolly icon around our house.  We have Santa playing the saxaphone, Santa hanging off the tree, Santa sitting on the Roof of a house - ready to deliver presents to one household.  Beside the DVD player, we have Raymond Brigg's Father Christmas cartoon, Tim Allen in 'The Santa Clause' (and yep, we have all the sequels!) and The original classic of the 80's 'Santa Clause The Movie ' with Dudley Moore.

Every year I read the Editor of the New York Sun's response to a little girl called Virgina,_Virginia,_there_is_a_Santa_Claus - explains what I'm talking about, if you have never heard of it.

It's a marvelous thing to watch the magic of Christmas unfold, but its a magic that you have to let into your heart  - this is the one time of the year where we all feel that we can be that better person, we have always dreamed of becoming .  As the editor of the New York Sun stated:

"No Santa Claus!, Thank God he lives and lives forever.  A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood"

My Heart believes in Santa Claus - does yours?

Morals and Dogma - Chapter 2 continued

"In your studies as a Fellow-craft you must be guided by REASON, LOVE and FAITH"

Wise Bro. Pike expounds these as the 'bed-rock' of human existence and indeed the basis for all practical knowledge. To me each of these aspects of human moral character can be seen as gifts from the divine.  We have reason to help us understand the world around us, the greatest exponant of Reason perhaps being either Geometry or Retoric (two of the seven Liberal arts, as far as I remember).  Geometry to help create and understand the mystical connection between 'idea', 'design' and practical creation, Retoric to explain concepts and project our ideas to others, Retoric helps us explain, so others can collaborate - and perhaps be similarly inspired.

Love, as is poetically put by C.S. Lewis - "A Reassurance for man to know that he is not alone".  None of us would want to live without this gift, this is the gift that brings forth the noble charitable aspects of man, this gift gives us hope and strength - as does th gift of Faith.  Everything we do in and out of lodge should be motivated by love, our fraternal bond is the purest expression of brotherly love that we can express.  Think of it this way, in lodge we sit with a wide range of people, people similiar and people incredibly different, yet we all have common accord.  In Belfast we are lucky enough to have an active 'festive board' period after lodge, heading out for a steak dinner or an Indian, EVERYONE looks forward to these events, we all sit round and enjoy our company, catching up with Brethern, chatting and sharing all that has happened in the last month.

A Festive Board to me is a family occasion, If  may be so crass to share a personal aside - My concept of creation is not just of an impersonal Geometrician, as some imply of  Masonry (I personally believe that Masonry through it's teaching expounds a personal deity, interested in his creation - hence why, I call all these aspects celestial gifts), I believe, from my Christian context, that creation began from the love emanating from the Father to the Son and to the Spirit, through this joy, laughter and love, creation began.

Morals and Dogma - Chapter 2 The Fellow-craft degree

"Masonry, successor of the Mysteries, still follows the ancient manner of teaching.  Her ceremonies are like ancient mystic shows - not the reading of an essay, but the opening of the problem, requiring research, and constituting philosophy the arch-expounder.  Her symbols are the instruction she gives.  The lectures are endeavors , often partial and one-sided to interpret these symbols.  He who would become an accomplished Mason must not be content merely to hear, or even to understand the lectures; he must aided by them, and they having, as it were, marked out the way for him, study, interpret, and develop these symbols for himself  "

So begins the second chapter of Bro. Pike's Morals and Dogma - reading and re-reading this paragraph, it still resonates deeply.  Bro. Pike proclaims Freemasonry as the natural successor to the ancient mystery schools of Pythagoras, the Essenes, the rites of the Egyptians..that Freemasonry is influenced by the very fabric of social history - a history that gave us scientific breakthrough and new spiritual outlooks.

Bro. Pike looks at how the teachings of the ancient mysteries have changed since many of their teachings left Egypt and how these mysteries have been transplanted into various nations througout the earth, changing some of their essence and mis-translating or potentially losing their key messages.

Bro. Pike ascerts the original messages of the ancient mystery schools were:

"It was but a development of the original purpose of the Mysteries, which was to teach men to know and practice their duties to themselves and their fellows, the great practical end of all philosophy and knowledge"

The practical end of these duties seem to be the freedom of man in thought, word and deed, a freedom against the tyranny of spirit, which can easy overcome us - if we for one moment see ourselves as mere 'drones' of the system. My friends you are a free person, free to think and feel whatever you wish - this is the most precious truth of existence, this makes you conscious of your duties regarding choices in life.  If you were not free in a personal and indeed theological sense, you would have no real duty, for choice would not exist - and life is meaningless.

"Truths are the springs from which duties flow; and it is but a few hundred years since a new Truth began to be distinctly seen.  That MAN IS SUPREME OVER INSTITUTIONS, AND NOT THEY OVER HIM.  Man has natural empire over all institutions.  They are for him, acording to his development; not he for them."

"Once revealed , it imposed new duties on men.  Men owed it to himself to be free.  He owed it to his country to seek to give her freedom, or maintain her in that possession.  It made Tyranny and Usurpation the enemies of the Human Race.  It created a general outlawry of Despots and Despotisms, temporal and spiritual.  The sphere of duty had increased.  Patriotism had, henceforth, a new wider meaning.  Free Government, Free Thought, Free Conscience, Free Speech!"

Friday, 10 December 2010

Morals and Dogma - Chapter 1 continued..

One of the most interesting aspects for the first time readers of this chapter is the emphasis that Pike places on Kabbalistic teaching.

"YOD is, in the Kabbalah, the symbol of unity, of the supreme deity, the first letter of the Holy name; and also a symbol of the great Kabbalistic triads.  To understand its mystic meanings , you must open the pages of the Sophar and Siphra de Zeniutha, and other Kabbalistic books, and ponder deeply upon their meaning. "

So what is the linkage between Freemasonry and the Kabbalah? - there have been several Masonic writers who draw parallels between Masonry and Kabbalistic teaching - Bro. Schwartz of New Jersey states

"There is no doubt that there is a confluence between Freemasonry and the Hebrew religion"

This seems a logical statement since Freemasonry has its major motif of King Solomon's Temple.  But what of the Kabbalah?

"Kabbalistic speculation and doctrine is concerned with the realm of divine emanations or Sefiroth, in which God's creative power unfolds" - Gershom Scholem

Charles Ponce asserts that the Sefiroth and En-Sof are the major concepts in the Kabbalah, Ein-Sof meaning 'without end' - the Sefiroth are the ten points of light emanating from Ein-Sof (God).  Ponce also looks at the Merkabah - the 'myth' of the chariot throne of God, which can be reached by knowing the correct words to go through the various celestial chambers - much like the Freemason needing to know the certain words to facilitate his entrance into the lodge at various levels.

"The Kabbalists believe that the transmission of the name of God from master to pupil is part of the rites of initiation.  The newly-raised brother  also recieves a word in a certain manner, which is never used in normal conversation. "

Morals and Dogma - Chapter 1 Entered Apprentice

Lets get this out of the way - Pike wasn't anti-relgious, any anti-mason worth his or her salt, would pick up Morals and Dogma, read at least the first chapter and come away with the fact that Pike was a Deist.

Pike (and Mackey) were geniuses, they lived in a time were little was known about the craft and no reliable historical information was available.  They were both serious researchers into the craft, and Pike could be credited with expanding the Scottish Rite in the Southern Juristiction.

This Chapter looks first at the use of the Gavel and Rule within the individual and society itself, Taking the operative mason could not just bang away at the stone with brute force, hoping that the statue would take form, he applies this in a broader speculative sense to society

"The force of the people, or the popular will, in action and exerted , symbolised by the gavel , regulated and guided by and acting within the limits of law and order; symbolised by the 24-inch rule; has for it's fruit Liberty, Equality and Fraternity - liberty regulated by law; equality for rights in the eye of the law; brotherhood with its duties and obligations as well as its benefits ."

Looking at the moral message of the ashlar stone in the context of politics he states:

"The rough ashlar is the people, as a mass, rude and unorganised.  The perfect ashlar is the state, the rulers derived their powers from the consent of the governed; the constitution and the laws speaking the will of the people; the government harmonious, symmetrical, efficient"

Pike also addresses the point that Freemasonry is not a religion, but has religious aspects, or perhaps more properly seemingly religious aspects -

"Though Freemasonry neither usurps the place of , nor apes religion, prayer is an essential part of our ceremonies.  It is the aspiration of the soul of the soul towards the Absolute and Infinite intellegence, which is the one supreme deity"

Why do I say that prayer is 'seemingly' religious?, let me share something personal with you.  I at times, have great difficultly reconciling my personally held 'religious' beliefs with the events that happen in my life, however even a times of this doubt, I still direct my thoughts to God - leaving theology aside, I simply ask for his help.  Therefore prayer to me, as an individual is not a 'religious trapping' but a deeply personal point of contact with the Architect.

Pike continues:

"To deny the efficacy of prayer is to deny that of Faith, Love and Effort.  Yet these effects produced, when our hand, moved by our will, launches a pebble into the ocean, never cease; and every uttered word is registered for eternity upon the invisible air"

Thursday, 9 December 2010

What is an initiate?

When I talk to my wife about going for my 'next degree' or meeting a new initiate, these words roll off my tongue quite easily, yet my wife looks at me with a puzzled expression, an expression I soon adopted, when I asked myself "What is initiation?".

Initiation in its simplist sense - is being shown something by someone 'in the know', taking this in an operative masonic sense, it was being taught geometry by the tools of the trade, creating something solid from abstract ideas (this is the real understanding of the term magic - not most tosh spouted by occultists).

As Dr Lomas says:

"If your level of perception could be changed, if you could be raised up in awareness and understanding things in the upper world"

(The upper world in this instance meaning - opening intellectual and spiritual awareness beyond our current parochial climate.)

Initiation can teach you that there is infinitely more 'out there' than you know currently, it gives you a taste that you can explore uncharted intellectual and spiritual waters through reason and intellect.  It gives you the tools to earnestly explore the inner nature of YOU and how you can become a more 'rounded' individual.

The Checkerboard

One of the first thing that strikes you when you enter a lodge room, is the presence of the 'checkerboard' - a basic explaination was given to me about this - that a man may walk through the dark and light of life.

Through further meditation and reflection in the lodge room (and reading Robert Lomas's Secret Science of Initiation) there are several theories regarding the presence of the 'board'.

"The floor represents the physical state - or body, the lower or material nature"

This is where we constantly focus (while we are awake), this is our realm of experience, most of us see inherent duality within the physical plane, hence the checkerboard.  We see both the dark and light aspects of the world around us and within us - since the Garden of Eden, Man has understood the dual nature of  his being - yet the knowledge of Good and Evil, displeased the creator, ashe knew this would bring conflict within our mortal self.

More aspects of duality are present within Man himself - two arms, two legs, two lungs, two eyes etc, even the duality of gender of Male and Female - dualism is inherent within the world itself, an inescapable fact of this reality.

As Dr Lomas continues to elaorate:

"Experience of these opposites is essential to human growth.  Our existence consists of perpetual movement, like chessmen, from a white square to a black square, and from a black square to a white one.  These moves continually test us and form our character, we grow as a result of our responses to both good and bad principles"

This calls us to look at the checkerboard, and as we move through it, recognise the universal teaching offered by the white and black tiles

Supporting Other Lodges

Allow me to get something off my chest -  I am proud of my lodge, I love it, I fraternally embrace each member and always look forward to our festive boards to catch up and have some 'craic'.

But I have done a little bit of Masonic travelling, and although my lodge is growing in number, with possible candidates and new members, other worthy lodges are not.  My purpose is to try and support these lodges - and the members therein.  There are Brethern who love their lodge as much (if not more) as I do, their hearts must be heavy as they look at membership fees raise higher, members grow fewer..

I see it as a Masonic duty and indeed pleasure to go along to these lodges and attempt to support them, it's something perhaps we should all do as Masons - to strengthen the craft as a whole.

The Purpose of Masonic Initiation -W.L. Wilmhurst

"Throughout the ages the aspirant to initiation has found it essential to pass under the personal tutition of some expert teacher who knows the way and can give him help suited to his own personal requirements.  Hence the craft, following this traditional method, declares that every new apprentice shall find a Master and from him gain instruction and from him gain instruction. "

"For the opened lodge was not intended to be a place of instruction, it is a place for the corporate realisation of the truths in which we are instructed privately elsewhere."

"It rests on the moral duty of every more advanced Brother to help the less advanced, but apon the spiritual principle that whoever has freely recieved must also freely give, that no one is initiated for his own private advantage, but to pass on his light to somone below him on the ladder".

These sentences from Wilmhurst's "The Meaning of Freemasonry", give me cause to pause and think, I have been privileged to have several good Masonic Brethern who have guided me gently to further light, through explaination of Masonic culture, symbolism and conversation.  Many new initiates into Masonry wonder what the lodge business is all about, it's different to what they expect, through book reading, or the Movies - they think each lodge meeting conveys new secrets, rather than the actual business that goes on in reality.  Yet was Wilmhurst says, each piece of lodge business is a working of the basic tenents of Masonic Faith, Hope, Charity and Fraternity - the core 'secrets' of the craft.

Finally we see that we as Master Masons have the duty to help guide EA's and FC's in their journey, to respect their beliefs and help them develop Masonically at the point of their personal need. One of the most daunting aspects of Freemasonry can be assuming an office (something I feel at the moment - I am my Lodge's incumbant Junior Deacon), I have been encourged by the friendship of the current lodge officers, their good humor and willingness to teach.

To be a Master Mason is not the end of the Masonic journey, it enables us to use all the tools to help ourselves an others, to extend kindness to new members of the lodge, to help others begin and continue their Masonic duty, to these ends Master Masons become a shining beacon in the lodge, imparting knowledge to others and listening to others life stories.

The Path of the Individual

Glancing through the Retrospect last night, I noticed that it discusses a a Masonic view of the individual

 - We are helpless as we enter life and we need the help of others to survive in this life

 - We enter this world as equals, not in terms of physical abilities or mental atributes or material prosperity, but in terms of our mortality.

        All Freemasons will remember why their eyes were covered and the explaination given for such after

 - Because we all enter life in a state of mortality, we need to support each other, this is the reason for charity and fraternal support for each other - especially in times of distress

              The lesson in the Irish second degree regarding the 'Masonic penny'

 - Self development is achieved by the expansion of the intellect through the study of nature and science and the application of reason.

             The 'Liberal arts'..

Masonic Development

One of the Objectives of Freemasonry (in a global sense) is to provide oportunities for self development.  So what exactly IS self-development?.  Self development could be - improving your relationships with your friends and family, working to develop your skills at work or at a hobby you have (my current hobby is Call of Duty Black Ops..), or developing your understanding of both the material and spritual world around you.

Self development is defined as "The growth of the individual person's abilities by the individual himself", within the context of historical operative masonry, this was concerned with the individual with developing his skill as a master craftsman.  Through each of the operative degrees, the mason demonstrated his abilities as a developing tradesman, with the advent of purely speculative Freemasonry, self-development was redefined as a broadening of the mind, intellect and talents (looking at the Fellowcraft degree and the 7 Liberal arts expounded there)

Through the individuals self development, Society begins to develop - therefore Masonic self development, is not just for the individual, but for the good of society itself.

Looking at this struggle to develop the world around us through our own education extolled through Masonic ritual, we can perceive how Freemasonry examines the World in general - this is taken from Retrospect on the Third Degree - W.Bro Phill Hellier

"Freemasonry percieves the world to be composed of two dimensions, material and spiritual.  With regards to the spiritual dimension, Freemasonry takes a monotheisti view.  That is, one God is acknowledged, and is believed to exist as a distinct being, who created the world and exists through and in the world.  God is also the ultimate basis for determining moral and good human behaviour"

When we look at the first degree Retrospect says:

"...above all it taught you to bend with humility and resignation to the will of the GAOTU, and to dedicate your heart, thus purified from every baneful and malignant passion, fitted only for the reception of truth and virtue, as well to his glory as for  the welfare for your fellow creatures"

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Allegory and its importance

As I was going through the 3rd degree, I noticed the importance of allegory, especially near the end.  UGLE states that "Freemasonry teaches self-knowledge and moral lessons, through participation in a progression of allegorical two-part plays".

So using the term 'Self-knowledge' - this shows that Masonry asks us to first understand ourselves, through this attempt to concentrate on what makes us who we are (a concentration on individualism).  Julian Rees states "Freemasonry provides a path to be followed in progressing towards the sacred center, to discover the mystery of the self and the spark of divinity within" - (Julian Rees - Freemasonry An Approach to Life)

All of you who are Masons who have experienced the Tracing Board lectures (unfortunately in the Irish Constitution we don't explain the Tracing Board's - so I am relying on my reading of the lectures to understand what is said) know that within the First Degree lecture there is a specifc mention of the human center ("the circle bounded between  the North and South by Parallel Lines.etc etc..likewise on the Sacred Volume, and while a mason keeps himself thus circumscribed, he cannot err".)

We as Masons are being asked to look inside ourselves, to be aware of our own nature, our virtues and vices, so we can be sure of ourselves in relation to others - to be aware of our vices that we might use the VSL and the divine commands and words of the Architect to help shape us into a perfect ashlar.
History of Freemasonry - Speculative Freemasonry

Following on from my previous blog about the origins of Freemasonry from the operative sense.  Speculative Masonry began when Gentlemen who did not practice the craft of Freemasonry (building and working with stone) began to be admitted to lodges.

I think its an error to see the foundation of 'purely' speculative lodges as the foundation of Speculative Masonry - or the use of Freemason tools (such as the level) to be used as esoteric moralistic tools.  A local example of this is the finding of the Baal' Bridge Square ('s_Bridge_Square.htm)

If we look at the Egyptians (senses rolled eyes) - yes most Masons cite the Egyptians at some stage in their ramblings, and there are specifc reasons for this:  As the Egyptian's were developing their Hieroglyphics, they created the term for 'writing' or 'to write' - this they called "The Speech of the Gods".  Why is this an important fact?, well as the ancient Masons concentrated in more complex buildings,the Master Mason would have had to arrange training for the workers, the large gangs of masons who were working in the construction of the stone buildings.

 This training - some archeologists have said was conveyed in the use of hieroglyphics and oral catchechism - must like modern day masonic ritual conveys.

History of Freemasonry - Operative Beginnings

The term "Mason" was the name of someone who 'worked' with the building craft in the Middle Ages.  In England this craft was split into several disciplines - tilers, quarrymen, setters etc.  These craftsmen operated in different 'Guilds' or Lodges, each discipline had their own Lodge Officers, rules and regulations.  In these laws was also the law of the Church - which was linked to the law of the realm at that time - this was called the Ordinances of Religion.

One particular group of Masons worked with stone, these craftsmen were travellers by nature, therefore each discipline's lodge was faternal in nature, if a member of a lodge finished his work in one area, he travelled to the next place of work and attached himself to the lodge of that area.  Due to the nature of their work, they were called Freemasons, their work was listed as a ' fine art ' and their skills were in much demand.

Architects were called Freemasons, because of working with free-stone (Robert L. Cooper - The Rosslyn Hoax?).  The main body of their work was concerned with the construction of Cathedrals, Churches, Monasteries, Palaces - etc.  Their work contained the secret of architecture - which no man with a few tools and yeas experience building barns etc could penetrate - therefore the Freemasons work was a class apart from the other masons.

What is a Freemason?

This is a question  get asked a LOT, and I mean a lot.  Many people have certain preconditions about Freemasonry, most come from sources such as films based on the subject - The Man Who Would Be King (starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine), From Hell (Film starring Jonny Depp,based on a fantastic graphic novel by Alan Moore) or books, ranging from the famous anti-masonic books by Stephen Knight, to Dan Brown's conspiracy-laden Solomon's Key.

The truth is that being a Freemason is a personal commitment (note the word personal here), its a commitment to follow the ancient precepts of the order (such as Brotherly Love, adhering to the ancient landmarks and conforming to the particular customs of Freemasonry), a commitment to studying moral law and applying it in your day-to-day life, a commitment to our fellow man (not just Freemasons!, as some anti-masonic writers would lead you to believe), to show a kindness and generousity to our fellow travelers in this world.

There are three great Principles related to the moral teachings of Freemasonry:

Brotherly Love -
To show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to our fellow man. This sets a masonic attitude out as being very different from what can be perceived as the 'norm' for the world.  We as Masons dont give up our rights to have opinions, whether religious, personal or political, but we learn to enage members of society in dialogue about these issues in a non-confrontational way.  In otherwords we "dont fall out about our differences".

Relief -
Freemasons are taught to show charity and care, not just for Freemasons, but for society as a whole.  We don't see ourselves as a 'special' group who adicates from the needs and purposes of society, but we see ourselves as an integral part of society.  We seek out those who are in need, and attempt to help them.

Truth -
Freemasons strive for truth, that's a broad general statement - truth can be personal, universal - or both!  There are many ways to search for truth - through study  sacred text, through contemplation...