30 Μαρτίου 2011

On Masonic titles and humility...

In the course of the history of Humankind, all esoteric philosophical systems, have developed a number of built-in “safety valves” or “traps”, by which they are capable of expelling all possible intruders. Beyond all conventional initiations, these systems contain hidden “trials” for those who must be further tested, in order to verify their spiritual stamina. It goes without saying that such tests have no similarity, whatsoever, with the conventional initiation types of the various masonic degrees.

Some of the most elaborate, time-enduring and brilliant tests that Freemasonry applies to its members, are the various titles, honors and positions bestowed upon them, because they act exactly in the same manner as the mirages and illusions do for a holy man self-ostracized in the desert.

Indeed, there is a contradiction that provokes questions and criticism by all uninitiated people, especially by those who hold a skeptic position against our Brethren. Freemasonry is a philosophical system that teaches (and demands from its members to demonstrate) moderation and humility. It requires that all newly initiated members learn the way to avoid vanity and instead aim to become familiar with the real nature of things, beyond and above all appearances.

On the other hand, Freemasonry has instituted a plethora of impressive-sounding titles, ranks and grades, most of which may sound outdated, obsolete or even dead. It also utilizes designations such as Worshipful, Most Worshipful, Thrice Illustrious etc. which may be regarded as exceeding all acceptable limits of solemnity, especially if one considers that such titles are always accompanied by medals, ribbons, gold ornaments, swords, stars, collars and gold-embroidered aprons and are worn not by kings or generals, but by common people.

When people are governed by Common Sense and are in contact with Reality, all these titles are perceived by them as a part of the Masonic Ritual and they try to understand the inner meaning and the real purpose of these titles. When a Freemason has achieved a personal high level of self respect in the outside world, he is fully capable to balance these peculiar designations and leave his Metals outside the Temple. A truly initiated individual sees all these titles and honors as real burdens and duties. He avoids boasting about them and he hands them over to his successors with a sense of humility. In addition to that, he feels the duty to prepare his successors, before he withdraws with a sense of relief and happiness, because he prepares himself for the end of his cycle, and when that end arrives, he must show the same humility.

The Masonic titles can only perceived as continuous and hard reminders of our material and spiritual imperfections and sarcastic notions of the perfect state we all strive to reach, usually in vain. Julius Caesar used to have a slave holding his triumphal wreath, riding with him in his golden chariot, at times of his greatest triumphal processions and whispering to him that we are all unimportant, fools and mortals. The Masonic titles act exactly in the same manner. They remind the wise and modest men that their possession is just another milestone to the path of their Ultimate Initiation before our Maker.

On the other hand, a hollow man is tantalized by the shine of his Masonic titles. He crawls towards them, and he is prepared to suffer numerous humiliations in order to achieve them. And when he finally manages to reach his target, he clings on these titles as the sole defining qualities of his miserable life. Such men regard themselves as authorities and behave as tyrants against anyone who might present a difference of opinion. They see conspiracies all around them, fearing that someone will strip them of their much deserved titles.

In this case, these titles act as magnifying glasses, showing in the worst possible manner our imperfections and prejudices. They, cling on their bearer like a carcass, showing to everybody, every repulsive detail of his character.

This is, most probably, the real reason so many titles, regalia and honors exist in Freemasonry. To act as tools, separating the wise and modest men from their impostors.

17 Μαρτίου 2011

Fast Track to Freemasonry (?)

One could say a lot of negative things about Facebook;  social isolation under the pretext of communicating, spilling of our personal data to anyone to see, wasting billions of working hours, being exposed to the bad taste and absurd ideas of various individuals etc. etc. etc.

One very positive aspect though, is the ability we have gained to exchange ideas and to communicate with people we share common values with, no matter how far away these people may be living.

Under the FB identity of “Greek Freemason”, I have been fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of a large number of exceptional brothers throughout the World. These people consistently express their ideals regarding Freemasonry, in a manner that makes me proud to be counted among them.

However, this improved communication capabilities have brought to the surface some procedural differences between various Jurisdictions; differences which, most of the time, prove that Freemasonry is not a rigid path towards the Light, but it can twist and turn in many different ways, to accommodate our individual ways of living.

One of the Brothers I have the highest regard for, is Michael Gillard, from Noblesville, Indiana, USA. His accomplishments in the 39 years he is serving in our Fraternity from various posts are too many to even attempt to put down and I consider myself honored to have him among my FB friends. Every time I log in, I visit his “wall” for new and exciting information and thoughts, concerning our Brethren.  It goes without saying, that Michael’s posts attract additional comments from many other wise and important brothers, therefore his page is a virtual “watering hole” for many inquisitive minds.

A few days ago, visiting my brother’s page I read the announcement: “Indiana Grand Master's One Day All Degree Class begins in about 5 hours...” I had heard about this expedient manner by which a lot of our American brothers pass the first 3 degrees in one single day, but I thought that it was an exception and not a common practice. In our ensuing dialog I realized that this is the usual way to reach the Master Mason’s degree, and I admit I felt quite surprised.

You see, in my country we have to stay in the Entered Apprentice degree for at least 1 year (sometimes 2 years), before we are eligible to proceed to the Fellow Craft degree and stay there for a minimum of six months and then be regarded as eligible to become Master Masons. These time constraints were regarded as the minimum requirements, with the provision that we attended at least 80% of our Lodge meetings which took place every week.

The point presented by my dear American brothers, who participated in the discussion, was that a good and fruitful 1-day class is more than sufficient to give our new brothers all the tools required for understanding the concept of the 3rd degree. After all, we live in fast times and an educated individual, capable of handling, on a daily basis, a large number of new information on his job, is more than capable of handling the symbolism, history, procedures and requirements, of the first 3 Masonic degrees.

I shall fully agree to this point. After all, following 24 years of education, I consider myself as adequately trained to learn.


Our experience from our participation in Freemasonry has taught us that it is not the quantity of retained information that counts, but the quality of it. I still regard the day of my initiation to the degree of Entered Apprentice as one of the most important of my life. Apart from the bonding I felt with my brothers in my Mother Lodge, I felt proud to wear the humble white apron that so many people, much more important and wise than me, had worn in the past, throughout the World. And through the period I held that degree I had the opportunity to participate in many more initiations of new brothers and experience this unique ritual from a viewer’s standpoint, a fact that enabled me to further contemplate on the symbolism of my degree. Furthermore, I had the chance to learn the virtues of Silence and of listening to the Masonic Pieces presented by a large number of brothers, before I was able to offer my humble opinion to them.

Becoming a Freemason is a life-altering experience. It introduces you to a new set of ideas, behavior, morals and duties, which are transmitted from the older to the newer brothers, not only by books or dumping of information, but mainly through exemplary processes. The Master Mason is not only entitled but also obliged to be lenient to his 1st degree brother, when he makes his first insecure steps into the Temple. He must show compassion, brotherly love and guidance and feel proud when he sees his new brother progress and become more assertive and participating in the collective Soul of their Lodge. It is the building of an unbreakable bond that lasts for many years to come and makes us feel pride and love for our very aged brothers who still feel obliged to participate in our lodge, even after 50 or 60 years of service.

This is exactly the reason why the quality of a person should be much more important than the quantity of our roster. You select real brothers and you want to make sure that they shall stay at your side, come rain or hail, for the years to come. In past times, a person had to ask for admittance (and be ignored) at least 3 times, before he was considered, as a token of his real interest to participate in our Brotherhood.

This should be the guiding spirit, to my humble opinion. The same spirit that was expressed in Bro. Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Mother Lodge”:

THERE was Rundle, Station Master,
An' Beazeley of the Rail,
An' 'Ackman, Commissariat,
An' Donkin' o' the Jail;
An' Blake, Conductor-Sergeant,
Our Master twice was 'e,
With im that kept the Europe-shop,
Old Framjee Edujee.

Outside - " Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!
Inside - 'Brother," an' it doesn't do no 'arm.
We met upon the Level an' we parted on the Square,
An' I was junior Deacon in my Mother-Lodge out there!

We'd Bola Nath, Accountant,
An' Saul the Aden Jew,
An' Din Mohammed, draughtsman
Of the Survey Office too;
There was Babu Chuckerbutty,
An' Amir Singh the Sikh,
An' Castro from the fittin'-sheds,
The Roman Catholick!

We 'adn't good regalia,
An' our Lodge was old an' bare,
But we knew the Ancient Landmarks,
An' we kep' 'em to a hair;
An' lookin' on it backwards
It often strikes me thus,
There ain't such things as infidels,
Excep', per'aps, it's us.

For monthly, after Labour,
We'd all sit down and smoke
(We dursn't give no banquets,
Lest a Brother's caete were broke),

An' man on man got talkin'
Religion an' the rest,
An' every man comparin'
Of the God 'c knew the best.

So man on man got talkin',
An' not a Brother stirred
Till mornin' waked the parrots
An' that dam' brain-fever-bird.
We'd say 'twas 'ighly curious,
An' we'd all ride 'ome to bed,
With Mo'ammed, God, an' Shiva
Changin' pickets in our 'ead.

Full oft on Guv'ment service
This rovin' foot 'ath pressed,
An' bore fraternal greetin's
To the Lodges east an' west,
Accordin' as commanded.
From Kohat to Singapore,
But I wish that I might see them
In my Mother-Lodge once more!

I wish that I might see them,
My Brethren black an' brown,
With the trichies smellin' pleasant
An' the hog-darn passin' down;
An' the old khansamah snorin' 

On the bottle-khana floor,
Like a Master in good standing
With my Mother-Lodge once more.

Outside - Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!'
Inside- Brother," an' it doesn't do no 'arm.
We met upon the Level an' we parted on the Square,
An' I was Junior Deacon in my Mother-Lodge out there!