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Masonry At Its Source

Historic Evidence Found in Ancient Egypt and Throughout 

The Old World 

Texas Freemason – September 1920 

Editor’s Note: There are many practical-minded brethren in the modem Craft who, though good and active Masons, are little interested in questions of antiquity relating to the order. However, the antiquity of Masonry is one of the supports that has given it appeal to the greatest minds and the finest types of men of past generations as well as the present. It is proof of the great truth embodied in Masonry that endures like the truth of nature itself. Some of the so-called evidence produced by Masonic scholars is rather vague and not established perhaps to the satisfaction of a jury of twelve sitting in judgment; but such facts as Bro. Higgins, quoted in the following article, has discovered are at least as authentic and credible as much of the evidence upon which many of the accepted facts of profane history are founded. This treatise is reproduced for the benefit of Masons who find pleasure in the study of these questions. It has had extensive publication in the profane press. 

With the recent explorations in the Soudan region of Africa of the ruins of Napata, the ancient capital of Ethiopia (the Kush of the Old Testament), bringing to light an ancient temple of Amon containing a huge Masonic altar, and with archaeologists getting ready to renew their explorations in Palestine and the Euphrates valley, antiquarians are expecting further additions to the vast mass of evidence of the worldwide spread of Primitive Freemasonry, which conceals in its rites, symbols and ceremonies the teaching and belief m the “Grand Architect” and “Great Geometrician of the Universe,” a one and supreme God. 

The most noted Masonic antiquarian in the United States, Frank G. Higgins, thirty-second degree, who has passed twenty-five years and travelled the globe in his search for Masonic relics, expects the explorations to bring to light much new material that will link the mound builders of the Mississippi Valley, the Mayas of Yucatan, the ancient Egyptians and the Chaldees into one primitive brotherhood. 

“It is true that Freemasonry is the parent of all religion, the original world-wide cosmic gnosis, diffused in ancient times to the uttermost ends of the earth,” said Mr. Higgins when seen in his Brooklyn home surrounded by hundreds of books and case after case of Masonic relics. “Freemasonry is the Pompeii of prehistoric science. All the Masonic ritual, its Egyptian signs, its Chaldean grips, its Sanskrit passwords, its ancient Hebrew symbols, its cabalistic allusions and its historical record are supremely scientific and a survival through long ages, by various underground channels, of the knowledge of the universe which was gained by Sabean astronomers from the temple tops of Chaldea, India and China and recorded by the equally learned geometers and mathematicians of the ancient Orient. 

Origin Of Great Dials 

“It was the knowledge, concealed within the brotherhood, that enabled them to build the gigantic sun dials, such as that at Stonehenge, in England. The two pillars of Masonry today are the same as those which stood before the Temple of Solomon, erected by the same building fraternity, under the supervision of the priest-architect who builds the Sun Temple at Tyre, before which similar pillars stood. They are the same pillars as those that stood before the ancient temples in America when Cortez gazed in wonder on the civilization of the Aztecs. They are the same pillars that fixed the solstitial points in the first crude circles of stone, with a central stone representing the sun, and the same pillars which became the Temple of Janus among the Romans, the totem poles of modern savages, and the Jakin and Boaz of European cathedrals. 

“The key to the entire secret system is to be found in the ancient system, preserved from ages long anterior to their reputed time by the Israelites, of using identical characters for letters and numbers, a system called gematria, and upon which a simple mathematical formula, 10-5-6-5, is shown to be the basic source of all manifested existence-that formula when presented in the Hebrew letters corresponding to the numbers bring ‘Jod-Ha-Vv-Ha,’ or in English ‘J-H-V-H,’ or Jehovah. 

“If this remarkable fact had been confined to the sacred writings of the Hebrews it might be accepted as a peculiar outcropping of national genius, but this is not the case. My researches reveal the presence of an ‘esoteric,’ or ‘mystery’ Jehovah worship throughout the entire ancient world as the basis of all the outwardly pantheistic cults; the real knowledge being concealed from the mass by the priesthood and rulers, because it was too high for them to grasp. The worship of the Great First Principle, defined and also hidden by the mathematical Jehovah glyph, was at one time spread over the whole expanse of anciently civilized America, whether represented by the vanished race of mound builders of our own United States ·or the perished races of Mexico, Central and South America. This later wonderful fact may as readily be verified by the visitor to such a purely American collection as that in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, or the American Museum of Natural History, in New York, as by the digger in Euphrates mud or Egyptian sands. 

Shown In Modem Lines 

“The crowning secret of the ancients, as well as of our own time, is that the study of the structural proportions of our universe as evinced in lines of force and direction, cyclic time periods, celestial areas and visible parts, reveals the fact that it is of definite form, perfectly balanced proportion and just such a synthesis of the principles of pure geometry as to .show that the features exhibited are from the same causative source as that which geometrizes the snowflake, the crystal, and the blossom. Hence the expression used in Masonry of the Grand Architect and the Great Geometrician of the Universe. 

“The ancient Egyptians adopted as the key to this great cosmic philosophy the famous Pythagorean triangle of 3x4x5 proportions, which is the basis of the celebrated forty-seventh proposition of Euclid. They called the three sides Osiris Isis and Horus, considering the first two as spirit and matter and the latter as nature, evolving from the wedding of the other two. This triangle represented as the ‘Eye of Horus’ and typifying the sun, became the ‘All Seeing Eye’ of Freemasonry. 

“The value of the Hebrew letters in the famous triangle is 543, which is half of an oblong of 3×4 the other half of which is 345. The sum of both equals 888 and is the value of the letters in the Greek New Testament name, Jesus. An oblong of 3×4 contains three of 4×9, and vice versa. The oblong of 4×9 was represented symbolically as the Atef crown on the head of the Egyptian Sun-god Ra, whose name really means ‘light.’ 

“From this simple proportion alone, according to the methods of the ancient Egyptians, can be at once correctly delineated all the main physical features of our universe in absolutely correct astronomical proportions, and in so doing is evolved the most sacred of ancient symbols, the trapezoid of 10-5-65 proportions, which became known as J-H-V-H among the Jews, I-H-0-H in Phoenicia I-H-U-H in Chaldea, H-U-H-I in Egypt, OI-HA-HU in India, HO-HI and FO-HI in China and I-0-W-A in ancient America. We find the Jehovah symbol as the shoulders and arm of Osiris, as he judges the souls in Amenti, in the Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead,’ and as the apron worn by the mysterious stone Colossi of Quiriguá, Guatemala, copies of which are in our own American Museum of Natural History. 

The Great Pyramid 

“We find the Masonic keystone to be not merely an architectural requisite but the angle of 23 ½ degrees, or the correct inclination of the axis of the earth to the pole of the ecliptic, and to embody the vertical section of the great Pyramid of Gizeh four times repeated. We find the little clay idols of the parted aboriginal races of Colombia, South America, decorated with the geometrical glyphs of this secret order, the ornaments of the robes of Ute ancient Inca priests in Peru, but exemplifications of the same sacred figures, and the amulets of the Mayas and Toltecs, in Mexico, also engraved with them. 

“That there must have been some world-wide organization to distribute these symbols in ancient and prehistoric times is evinced by the fact that by common consent the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Mexicans constructed pyramids, which is shown by the great Pyramid of Gizeh, in Egypt, and the Teocalli of Chichen Itza, Yucatan, as leading examples, were component parts of a single geometrical problem, the key to which is the simple Masonic apron as worn today and the graphic symbol of which covenant is still preserved as a cosmic figure among the Hopi Indians of Arizona.” 

In discussing the Masonic keystone Mr. Higgins displayed examples picked up in his travels from China, India, ancient Tyre, Egypt and Palestine that all were cut on the angle of 23 ½ degrees, but perhaps his most precious specimens were several black serpentine amulets from Yucatan and Central America more than three thousand years old that displayed the keystone and also the inverted Tau cross, so familiar. to Masonic brethren in their lodge work. In pointing out the triangle of “equal areas” on the forehead of the amulet and the keystone nose Mr. Higgins drew attention to the fact that the Jewish worshipper today describes with his fingers this triangle in the same place when making his invocation on the Day of Atonement. 

Another exceedingly rare specimen was an early Akkadian or Hittite seal expressing a triangle with three Masonic dots and the sacred proportions of 3×4 and 4×5, a total of sixteen, meaning “J-A-H,” the universe. 

“While these keystones are very valuable in proving my contention that Freemasonry was Widespread even in prehistoric times, I consider the Masonic apron preeminent as the symbol of hidden mysteries of Masonry’ said Mr. Higgins. “It, too, is based on the Pythagorean triangle which, as I said, was used to conceal the mysteries of the Egyptian religion. The priests knew that the letter I, 0, H, or J, V, H, which were publicly applied to the sides of the triangle and called Isis, Osiris and Horus, were the secret mathematical formulae which they considered the key to the universe. 

Hope of Humanity 

‘If you will read in a good book on mythology the story of the death of Osiris, slain by his brother Typhon, and the long search for his mutated body by the disconsolate widow, Isis, you Understand, especially if you are a Mason, how the hope of humanity was fixed on the ‘widow’s son,’ the youthful Spring Sun God, H-U-R-A-M, as 

his name was abbreviated, whose birth also constituted the resurrection of his father, Osiris, with whom he was identified. 

“The development of the famous Pythagorean triangle also forms the triangle that is the base of the Masonic Tau cross. The multiplication of the Pythagorean triangle by four gives the base for the Magian’s philosophy and develops the form of the Masonic apron just as worn today in the lodge room, it is the sixty-four square that I refer to and this square (our familiar checker board) also has hidden within it the exact geometrical proportions of the Gizeh Pyramid. 

“Perhaps the most interesting Egyptian cut I have is that showing Pharaoh invested with the triangular Masonic apron, holding in his right hand the grand emblem and the last grade attained-the Ankh cross-in Masonic Communication with one of that order, whose head is covered with a mask, representing the head of the god Thoth. Examination of the old Egyptian monuments, or pictures of such, reveal the fact that the apron is the badge of all the gods, kings, hierophants, and priests engaged in the rites of public worship. The apron of the ordinary celebrant seems to be a triangle of white cloth suspended from the waist in front and pinned at the comers to the tunic at each side. In the case of the Grand Master the apron is very elaborate in design. The figures represent the rising and setting sun in the lower comer, and the sun at meridian. The rays of the sun are so directed as to describe a regular procession of geometrical angles, such as seen on a Gnomon. Over this sun apron is worn the serpent apron, a modern Masonic apron as worn in lodge and chapter has descended intact in every particular from these ancient brethren of the square and compass.” 

Mr. Higgins explained that the secret of the apron resides entirely in its proportions and showed by a diagram that they were based on a triangle having an apex of fifty-four degrees and two bottom angles of sixty-three degrees each. He said that these two numbers were both eminently sacred Masonic numerals, belonging to the “Nine” or “Three times Three” series. He demonstrated that the proportions of the Egyptian Pyramids were all concealed in the same geometrical figure upon which the Masonic apron was constructed and from his cases of relics brought several amulet aprons that were true in angle or indicated by dots or indentations the true proportions. He displayed a copy from a Peruvian vase which showed a priest of the Incas carrying a staff with a six-pointed star in one hand and a Masonic apron in the other. This figure, which may be seen in the American Museum of Natural History in New York, is displayed throughout the Andean ruins or modifications of the apron are run into borders around the Incan pottery. Perhaps the best example of the apron in America, according to Mr. Higgins, is that found on the statues and little clay images of the ancient Mayas which litter the jungle forests of Yucatan on the sites of the ruined cities. These images as he showed by specimens, are all clothed Master Masons in the same apron as the Egyptian kings and priests and point irrefutably to a universal knowledge of the secrets behind the square and the compasses. 

Figure 1: Illustration from page 19 of Ancient Freemasonry by Frank C. Higgins. 

“We see thus indicated throughout the world,” said Mr. Higgins, “the Masonic brotherhood, erected thousands of years prior to any civilization of which we may have any present record, to the same ever living God whom we worship as the ‘Great Architect of the Universe.’ ” 

Hogs, Goats, And Rodeo Food

By James C. “Chris” Williams IV 

I have to tell you that he has a knack of interrupting me at the most inopportune times. “What the heck are you talking about,” you say? I am talking about Brother John Deacon, that’s what. Pam had gone out shopping with her friend and since I was alone with about four hours to kill I thought I would sneak a little nap. Just as my head hit the pillow …. the phone rang. I thought about not even looking at the caller ID and then when I did, I really thought about not answering it, but I didn’t want to regret it later…. like I wouldn’t anyway. So, I answered and immediately regretted it. At first I was a little confused because I heard grunting noises in the background and without telling you what I thought was going on I will tell you that I almost hung up right then. “Brother Chris” he finally shouted huffing and puffing into the phone. Hold on a second.” “John, what are you doing,” I yelled back. As I listened it sounded like he was in some kind of a scuffle or something. Just as I was about to hang up again he came back on and abruptly asked, “What are you doing right now?” “Well, I was going to take a nap,” I answered. But after what I heard the last thirty seconds I don’t think I could sleep if I wanted to.” “Oh cut it out,” he growled. “Why don’t you come down here and help me.” “Are you kidding,” I said? “I am not driving five hours to see you on a Saturday afternoon.” “I’m not asking you to,” he growled. “I am down here at the Stock Show and Rodeo and I need your help.” I was instantly confused….which is nothing new. I knew our Rodeo was going on but John lived a long way from here so I asked, “You mean our Rodeo?” That got him to sputtering and spitting like he swallowed something the wrong way, “Gol durnitt Brother Chris, you are wasting my time here. I am hanging on to a huge ol hog that’s dang near as big as I am and I need your help.” I have to tell you that many pictures ran through my mind on my way down to the Rodeo Grounds and none were pleasant. When I got there it took me a while to locate John. He was in the swine barn and to my surprise he was actually in the middle of the show ring judging hogs. He never ceases to amaze me and once again I was. When he saw me he waved me down to the gate where I met him. He told me that he was glad I was there and he needed help with a problem child, “Follow me,” he said. He proceeded to tell me that he was a swine judge at stock shows and had been doing that for many years and also showed some of his hogs. I followed him to another barn way back in a far corner where he stopped in front of a trailer that had been backed into the door. Inside was the biggest hog I think I have ever seen. He looked up at me and gave a little grunt and just stared at John. “I don’t think he likes you much, John,” I said. “No kidding,” John replied sarcastically. “I have been trying to get this here “pain in the rear” hog out of this trailer into a pen for the last two hours. I have used up all the boys here and now they won’t help me. This hog is just mean. I know you spent time around livestock on the ranch and you were my last hope.” “John,” I said. “I am confused. This is a show barn. This is where 

they show livestock. This hog don’t look like he wants to be showed.” “Oh he’s ok Brother Chris. He just gets an attitude every once in a while. Once I get him out of this trailer and into a pen he’ll be alright.” “Yeah, right,” I said skeptically. “He looks like he has more than an attitude.” I had never done much with hogs …. mostly just horses and cattle but no hogs. I really wasn’t looking forward to this but I helped John fix up a makeshift chute that would head him into that pen once we or rather “if” we got him out of the trailer. Before we entered the trailer I suggested to John that we just use a come–a- long and pull him out. That got me a nasty look so I called Pam and told her I loved her and followed John into the trailer. I knew that one of the ways you “guide” a hog was to grab his tail and kind of steer him the way you want him to go so I decided I was going to handle that end of him. John eased up to the big guy who started to grunt faster the closer John got. John approached him like a Sumo Wrestler ready to clinch. What happened next, no one could have predicted. I want you to know, dear reader that a six hundred and fifty pound hog can move pretty quick when he wants to. Well just as John was reaching down to try to get him to stand up he shot to his feet and headed for the trailer gate at a high rate of speed grunting and squealing as he went. John dove and grabbed him around the neck like a bull dogger and I dang near missed grabbing his tail on the way by. That crazy hog shot out the back of that trailer at a full run squealing louder than ever with John hanging on for dear life and me ………well, let’s just say it was hard to steer him while I was bouncing off the sides of the fencing on either side of the chute and it was all I could do just to hang on. Everything was a blur and I could hear yelling and yes even some cheering as we were dragged …… yes dragged across that barn by that devils spawn excuse for a hog. Yup I was mad as he_ _ and when we got stopped, if we ever did, I was going to make ham and eggs out of him and then I was going to deal with my Brother John for bringing me down here in the first place. Well it seemed like twenty minutes had passed but it couldn’t have been more than forty-five seconds at the most, as fast as he was running, and then I bounced off a fence post as he passed through the gate into his pen. Then, as quick as it started…… it ended. I just laid there for a few seconds catching my breath and when I looked up I saw that unholy monster laying down as calm and as peaceful as anything. To my left was John who had released his death grip from that hogs neck and rolled over on his back breathing hard. I pushed myself up to my knees and realized that both my arms were scratched and rubbed raw from that seventy-five yard dragging across the swine barn – and the front of my pants was filled up with a mixture of dirt, hay, and pig manure. All the buttons on the front of my shirt had been rubbed off, and if that wasn’t enough I had lost one shoe and my hat somewhere along the way. As I finally got to my feet I became aware of the noise around us, and when I looked I saw a bunch of people gathered around the pen. Some were clapping and some were hootin and hollerin, but most were just downright laughing at us. I shook my head and cleared some of the cobwebs out just as John stood up. He looked around with a sheepish grin on his face and turned to me. He started to say something just as my anger surfaced again and I charged that mean mound of 

pork with the full intent on doing major damage. I really don’t know what I thought I was going to do to that huge blob of blubber, but I was so mad I was going to do something. I launched myself at him as John tried to catch me. I landed hard on top of him and started punching and kicking as hard as I could. After a few seconds I looked up to see him just calmly looking at me. I was totally out of breath and I just laid there on top of him sucking in big gulps of air. Finally John came over and picked me up and carried me out of the pen and closed the gate. People were still talking about our warp speed trip from trailer to pen, and one old timer stopped laughing long enough to ask us if we could get his hogs out of his trailer. He stepped back quickly when he saw the look in my eyes and John reached out and grabbed me. “Come on Brother Chris,” John said quickly. “Let’s go clean up a bit.” I was completely unprepared for the person that was looking back at me from the mirror. There was no doubt I was going to be plenty sore tomorrow. We washed up as much as we could and John offered to buy me some good old Rodeo food. Right outside the swine barn was a Texas BBQ stand where he bought four BBQ beef sandwiches and a half a rack of pork ribs. I thought we were going to sit and eat, but I was wrong. He grabbed the food and walked (with everyone we passed staring at us) over to a little stand that was selling roasted corn on the cob where he bought three ears which he added to the BBQ, and continued on a ways further where he bought two roasted turkey legs. After handing them to me, he crossed to the other side of the pathway to a funnel cake stand for three cakes with cinnamon, and then next door to a drink stand where he talked them into selling him a gallon of tea. There was almost too much stuff to carry as we started to hunt for a place to sit and eat. Finally, we found an empty picnic table, sat and dug in. It was all I could do to eat one of the BBQ sandwiches and an ear of corn. I don’t know what it is about Rodeo food but it just tastes sooooooooo good. I sat there patiently while John ate everything else. Apparently, Rodeo food was to his liking as well. As I sat there I could feel all the bumps and bruises starting to hurt and all of a sudden I felt like violating a couple of obligations with respect to the big guy sitting across from me. Heck I was going to take a nap and now I was beat up severely and it was all his fault. All because of a stupid hog!! I said, “John, before I get so sore that I can’t walk, is there anything you want to talk about to put in the newsletter this month?” “Yup,” he replied. “I sure do. There is something I have been running around in my head for a while that I need to talk about. I want to talk to you about a goat. “A goat? What do you mean a goat? I just got through with you and a hog. I don’t want to have anything to do with a goat. I am sick of animals right now, just stop it,” I said. He just shook his head sympathetically, gave me a sad look, and continued on. “You know Brother Chris, I travel around the State a bit and I sometimes get to see degrees being done by other Lodges and heck sometimes I get to work in some of those degrees. When all the Brothers are out in the fellowship hall eating and socializing before the degree there is always one or more of the Brothers warning the new Candidate to “watch out for the goat.” When I hear that I just shake my head in sadness. Can you picture this? Here is a man who doesn’t know what is going to 

happen to him who is most assuredly a little nervous who has been made to listen to a mandatory reading from the monitor which among other things asks him to open his heart and mind and receive the “light” that is going to be offered to him in his initiation. He is also told that there is no horseplay and that the degree is very solemn and serious. Heck everyone worries when they have to go through an “initiation” that they will be made to do something demeaning or be made fun of and to hear that everything is serious and without any games is a comfort to that candidate. And, then someone walks up to him and asks him if he brought food for the goat and his stress level goes up. And, when he is going through his degree and we want and need him to listen and absorb the words and lessons presented, he instead is thinking about a dang goat.” “I know what you are talking about Brother John. I have seen it myself. I don’t think the Brothers that do it mean it to be mean but it has the same effect.” “You’re durn right it’s mean.” You know we don’t ride goats or have anything to do with goats in any of the degrees. Do you know that the goat or “riding the goat” was started by anti-Masons to ridicule the Craft?” I must have had a surprised look on my face because he said, “It’s true.” “I read that there were men in England who had been rejected for membership in the Fraternity that made up stories about Freemasons “raising the devil and riding on his goat.” Even though it was completely false it was told over and over by anti-Masons and it really hurt our Fraternity. I also read that early Masons referred to the supreme being as the “God of all Things” Once again those enemies of Masonry used the first letters of those words to spell GOAT and claimed it was proof positive of their claims And then we have Brothers who are ignorant of the real meaning of the “Masonic Goat” who think it’s funny to have a little fun with the candidate by making him think there really is a goat. I think if these Brothers knew what they were doing to Masonry by continuing this they might think about not doing it at all.” Then he pulled a folded note out of his pocket and slid it across the table to me saying, “Look at what I found in a book that is an anti- Masonic book.” I unfolded it and there was a picture of a goat on its hind legs with a sinister look on his face and a poem called “When father rode the goat.” I decided to print it: 

When Father Rode The Goat 

The house is full of arnica And mystery profound; We do not dare to run about Or make the slightest sound; We leave the big piano shut 

And do not strike a note; 

The doctor’s been here seven times Since father rode the goat. He joined the lodge a week ago — Got in at 4 a.m. And sixteen brethren brought him home Though he says he brought them. His wrist WAS sprained and one big rip, Had rent his Sunday coat — There must have been a lively time When father rode the goat. He’s resting on the couch to-day! And practicing his signs — The hailing signal, working grip, And other monkeyshines; He mutters passwords ‘neath his breath, And other things he’ll quote — They surely had an evening’s work When father rode the goat. He has a gorgeous uniform, All gold and red and blue; A hat with plumes and yellow braid, And golden badges too. But, somehow, when we mention it, He wears a look so grim We wonder if he rode the goat Or if the goat rode him. 

“Well that’s a cute little poem Brother John,” I said. “But when you think about it, it really is pretty offensive to Masons or should be.” “Exactly my point Brother he said. “ Here we have had people bashing Masonry who have no clue what we do or who we are (and who don’t really care) who just wanted to tear down our Fraternity because of jealousy, or fear, or maybe even anger, and the worst part is that our own Brethren have perpetuated this ridiculous story by using it as a hazing tool.” I just nodded and he got real quiet and got a sort of pained look on his face. I said, “I didn’t realize it bothered you as much as it does.” He looked at me kinda 

funny and said, “As much as it aggravates me I was just realizing that my whole body has just tightened up and the pain is tremendous and I don’t think I can even stand up much less walk.” I don’t understand Brother John. I’m the one who got hurt the worse. I was being dragged …… you were riding.” “Riding, my foot,” he muttered. I was bouncing around like a rag doll on top of that monster.” “Well I don’t remember seeing you as I had my own problems to worry about,” I said laughing. “You do look like you’ve been rode hard and put up wet.” He pointed to my shirt and started chuckling, “At least I’ve still got my clothes on.” By then we were both laughing. I think the people walking by thought we were intoxicated. Not only were we laughing at each other’s appearance we looked like 100 year old men trying to get up and walk. I had to help John up and he almost fell twice which for some reason that I can’t explain both of us thought was pretty funny. We must have been a sorry sight walking back to the barn very, very slowly …….. trying to hold each other up. I left him at the barn leaning against his hog pen. I told him good bye and shuffled as best as I could towards the parking lot trying not to think badly of him. I got just about to the barn door and a thought came to mind. I turned and called to John and asked, “Hey John what is your hog’s name anyway?” He got a real goofy look on his face, shook his head, and said – “You are not going to believe this but his name is Jubelum.” I just laughed and turned away. What a perfect name for that mean old hog. I hope I can walk tomorrow. Ya’ll have a good month. 

Study Course in Masonry

III. Symbolism of the Entered Apprentice Degree-Continued

By Bro. C. P. Boon, San Antonio – Texas Freemason Magazine, June 1920

(Author of Trestle-Board and Working Tools of Symbolic Freemasonry)

INITIATION – A term used by the Romans to designate admission into the mysteries of their sacred and secret rites. It is derived from the word “initia” which signifies the first principles of a science. It is now as it has been for countless ages, employed as a symbol of the birth and endless development of the human mind and soul. The Entered Apprentice degree represents birth and the preparatory stage of life, or in other words, youth.

PREPARATION – Great care was taken of the personal condition of every Israelite who entered the Temple for divine worship, and they were instructed that no man should go into the Temple with his staff, nor with shoes on his feet, nor with outer garments, nor with money tied up in his purse. Dr. Mackey says the preparation of the candidate for initiation is entirely symbolic. It varies in the different degrees, and therefore the symbolism varies with it, and cannot be altered, abridged, or added to in any of its details, without affecting the esoteric design. Bro. Gage says the apprentice in the moral science should give up the rags of his own righteousness and also all precious metals, symbolical of worldly wealth and distinction, and all baser metals, symbolical of offense and defense, in order that he may realize his dependence upon moral forces only. He should be clad in a garment signifying that he comes with pure intentions to learn the noble art and profit by its lessons.

THE LODGE – There are three definitions of a lodge. 1st. It is a place where Freemasons meet. 2nd. It is the assembly or organized body of Freemasons duly congregated for labor or for business: 3rd. It symbolically represents the world. Its covering is the clouded canopy or starry decked heavens, the abode of those who do the will of the Grand Architect. It is furnished with the theological ladder, which reaches from earth to heaven, and is illuminated as is the world, by the refulgent rays of the sun, symbolically represented in his rising in the east, his meridian height in the south, and his setting in the west. This meaning was more manifest at the period when Freemasonry is supposed to have had its origin, for the then known world living around the shores of the Mediterranean Sea was literally of the form of an “oblong square.” If the lodge symbolizes the world, and the Mason symbolizes man, it follows that initiation must symbolize the introduction of the individual into the world or the birth of a child. It was so regarded in the ancient systems of initiation and is now so understood by Masonic scholars everywhere.

CABLE TOW – A cable tow is a rope or line for drawing or leading. The word is purely Masonic. In its first inception, the cable tow seems to have been used only as a physical means of controlling or binding anyone. It has however, a deeper symbolism. It represents those forces and Influences which have conducted not only the individual, but the race out of a condition of ignorance and darkness into one of light and knowledge. This symbolical meaning of the cable tow seems to have been accepted in all of the ancient systems of initiation. The length of a cabletow is three miles. But the Baltimore Convention in 1842 defined it to mean the scope of a man’s reasonable ability. Tradition informs us that for certain crimes committed in ancient times, the penalty was death, and the body buried in the sea three miles out from the shore. That was considered outside the jurisdiction of the country in which he lived, and was a cable tow’s length.

METAL TOOLS – We are told in the scripture that the Temple was “built of stone made ready before it was brought thither, so that there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor tool of iron heard in the house while it was in building.” (I Kings vi. 7) It is a well authenticated historical fact that the Jews, not to mention other ancient peoples, believed that an iron tool was polluting to an altar to Deity. Hence, in the days of Moses the laws prescribed that in erecting an altar of stone to Jehovah no iron tool should be employed upon it. The work of erecting the Temple therefore went on noiselessly, but with speed and perfection. Masonry has adopted this as a symbol of the peace and harmony which should reign in a Lodge, itself a type of the world, and the erection and adornment of the moral and spiritual temple in which we are engaged, that of human character, and of which Solomon’s was typical, is not characterized by the clang of noisy tools. About true character-building there is nothing of bluster and show; it is a silent, noiseless process. It also teaches us that the Temple was a type of the kingdom of God, and that the souls of men are to be prepared here, for that place of blessedness, so the stones must all be squared, and fitted here for their place in the New Jerusalem.

PRAYER – Freemasonry is a religious institution, and hence its regulations inculcate prayer “as a proper tribute of gratitude.” The custom of commencing and ending labor with prayer was adopted at an early period by the Operative Freemasons of England. Their Lodges were opened at sunrise, the Master taking his station in the East and the brethren forming a half circle around him, and received his instructions. At sunset they again assembled after labor, prayer was offered, and their wages paid to them. Bro. Riviere says we are taught that a Mason should never enter upon any great or laudable undertaking without invoking the aid of Almighty God. In the light of that lesson, prayer becomes a duty as well as the privilege of every Mason. How few understand the nature and effects of prayer. Prayer that has become merely a bed-time custom is not prayer; it is an incantation to sooth the conscience or satisfy the demands of a habit formed in more innocent and unsophisticated days. The object and effect of prayer are to bring the soul into conscious harmony with the all-wise Father, whose laws are true and just and righteous altogether. “Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,” so says the old song. If that be true, how earnestly should the compasses be used to circumscribe our desires, so that no unrighteous, no unworthy, no covetous, no licentious prayer insult the Father whose All-Seeing Eye looks into the innermost recesses of our being. Prayer reveals a man to himself. For what do you pray, on what do you meditate, what thought do you ponder over and keep in your heart? Be sure that it will find expression in your outer life, for “the within is ceaselessly becoming the without.”

SECRECY – Is one of the first lessons we learn in Masonry. Bro. Riviere says this great virtue is necessary in our order so that Mason’s will appreciate the lessons taught. As a secret shared between two people binds them together, so the secrets of our fraternity bind the Brethren together. Anything taught you that is a profound secret makes a greater impression upon the mind. If our teachings of beautiful truths were scattered broadcast through the world, they would become commonplace; so they are taught under secrecy, only to those deemed worthy to receive and practice them.

UPRIGHT – The Upright Posture of the Apprentice is a symbol of upright conduct. Bro. Street says in Eastern countries the inferior approaches the superior, the servant the master, the subject the sovereign, in an abased or groveling manner, oftentimes with the face averted as though it were insolence to look directly upon the august presence. Not so in Masonry; the candidate is taught to stand erect and walk upright as a man should. Nothing adds more to a man’s self-respect and strength of character than to walk erect, holding the head well up and looking the world and every man squarely in the face. Freemasonry teaches that all men are and of right ought to be free, that, therefore, no man should abuse or humiliate himself before another. But this manly erect attitude which the candidate is taught to assume, has the same symbolism as the plumb; it teaches that we should always walk upright in our several stations before God and man.

BIBLE – The Bible is properly called a greater light of Masonry, for from the center of the Lodge it pours forth upon the East, the West, and the South it’s refulgent rays of Divine Truth. The Bible is used among Masons as the symbol of the will of God, however it may be expressed, and therefore, whatever to any people expresses that will may be used as a substitute for the Bible in a Masonic Lodge. Thus, in a Lodge consisting entirely of Hebrews, the Old Testament alone may be placed upon the altar. The Turkish Masons make use of the Koran. Whether it be the Gospels to the Christian, the Pentateuch to the Israelite, the Koran to the Mussulman, or the Vedas to the Brahman, it everywhere Masonically conveys the same idea-that of the symbolism of the Divine Will revealed to man. One of the most important things brought to the attention of the Entered Apprentice is the Holy Bible, and he is instructed that it, alone, was to be the rule and guide to his faith and practice. At each succeeding step in this advancement he is reminded that it would guide him to all truth, direct his path to the Temple of Happiness, and point out to him the whole duty of man. And now while we are making a study of the symbols and doctrines of Freemasonry, I want to impress it upon the mind of every young Mason, in the most lasting and substantial manner possible, that the Holy Bible contains the mind of GOD, the state of Man, the plan of Salvation, the doom of Sinners, and the happiness of Believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to the wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It will furnish light to guide you, strength to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the Mason’s light, and the Christian’s Charter. Through it Heaven is opened, Paradise is restored, and the gates of hell are disclosed. The Messiah is its grand subject, our good its design, and the Glory of GOD its end, Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. If you will obey its precepts, it will be to you a river of pleasure, a mine of wealth, and a paradise of glory. It is furnished you in life to prepare for the judgment, and as you, choose, so shall your destiny be, in prosperity or adversity.

APRON – There is no one of the symbols of Speculative Masonry more important in its teachings, or more interesting in its history, than the lambskin, or white leather apron. Commencing its lessons at an early period in the Mason’s progress, it is impressed upon his memory as the first gift which he receives, the first symbol which is explained to him, and the first tangible evidence which he possesses of his admission into the Fraternity.

We find the most satisfactory evidence that the use of the apron, or some equivalent mode of investiture as a mystic symbol, was common to all the nations of the earth from the earliest periods. For a further description and explanation of the Apron, I refer the student to the beautiful article written by Bro. Geo. W. Tyler and printed in the January, 1920, number of Texas Freemason. It is the best, and every Mason ought to read it.

UNTEMPERED MORTAR – In the lecture used in the early part of the present century, the apprentices at the Temple were said to wear their aprons in a peculiar manner characteristic of that class that they might preserve their garments from being defiled by “untempered mortar.” This is mortar which has not been properly mixed for use, and it thus becomes a symbol of passions and appetites not duly restrained. Hence the Speculative Apprentice was made to wear his apron in that peculiar manner to teach him that he should not allow his soul to be defiled by the “untempered mortar of unruly passions” and that he should never do anything, or be engaged in any business, that he could not, consistently, ask the blessing of God upon it. TEMPERED MORTAR – In ancient times when Masonry was strictly an operative institution, the Masons mixed the lime and sand, and put it in large heaps, then covered it over with a heavy coating of sand, and let it remain in that condition for six months or more, in order to temper it, so that all the little particles of lime would slack; this was called good, or tempered mortar. The symbolic reference to tempered mortar is that you should never recommend any person to a participation in our privileges unless you are satisfied, and have strong reasons to believe that he will reflect honor and credit on our noble order; in other words, he is tempered mortar.

NORTH – The north is generally called a place of darkness. The sun in his progress through the ecliptic never reaches farther than 23 deg. 28 min. north of the equator. A wall being erected on any part of the earth farther north than that, will therefore, at meridian receive the rays of the sun only on its south side, while the north will be entirely in shadow at the hour of meridian. The use of the north as a symbol of darkness is found with the present interpretation, in the early rituals of the last century. It is a portion of the old sun worship, of which we find so many relics in Gnosticism. The east was the place of the sun’s daily birth, and hence highly revered.

NORTH-EAST CORNER – From the most ancient times it has been the custom of builders to lay with ceremonies the cornerstone of important edifices, in the northeast corner. In the important ceremony which refers to the northeast comer of the Lodge, the candidate becomes as one who is, to all outward appearance, a perfect and upright man and Mason, the representative of a spiritual corner-stone, on which he is to erect his future moral and Masonic edifice. This symbolic reference of the corner-stone of a material edifice to a Mason when, at his first initiation, he commences the moral and intellectual task of erecting a spiritual temple in his heart, is beautifully sustained when we look at all the qualities that are required to constitute a “well-tried, true and trusty” corner-stone. The squareness of its surface, emblematic of morality; its cubical form, emblematic of firmness and stability of character; and the peculiar finish and fineness of the material, emblematic of virtue and holiness, show that the ceremony of the north-east comer of the Lodge was undoubtedly intended to portray, in the consecrated language of symbolism, the necessity of integrity and stability of conduct, of truthfulness and uprightness of character, and of purity and holiness of life.

It may be that some of us were not as good and upright, when we represented that spiritual cornerstone, as we ought to have been, and the Good Book tells us that none of us is absolutely pure, no not one. But we can if we will, from that time on, erect our spiritual building so that it will be accepted by The Great Architect of the Universe.

Remember The Alamo And It’s Not All You Can Eat

It was Friday night and I was on my way home from work reflecting on a busy week and looking forward to the weekend. My cell phone rang and when I answered it was him. 

“I hope you didn’t call me to ruin my weekend cause it’s been a rough week and I need some rest.” 

“Enough of the small talk my Brother; do you know what tomorrow is?” 

I knew this had to be a trick question but what could I do? I said, “Ok I’ll bite. What is tomorrow?” 

“Tomorrow is the anniversary of the fall of the Alamo”, he said. “Are you going to be there for the Masonic celebration?” 

“Ah, well I have always wanted to go but I am usually working,” I replied. “I really hadn’t thought about it.” 

“Well you need to think about it”, he yelled in my ear “and meet me down there in the morning.” 

I didn’t even know he was in town but I agreed to meet him at the designated meeting place for all the Brothers behind the Alamo. I got up on Saturday morning and looked out the window and it was a little cloudy but looked like the start of a nice day. I got ready and when I stepped outside I realized it was cold and the wind was blowing. Since I was wearing a coat and tie I was not real happy about the wind and temperature but I headed downtown anyway. About halfway there it started raining and since the temperature hadn’t gone up any and the wind was still blowing I said the heck with it and found a place to turn around and I was going back home. John was just going to have to tell me about what happened. I swear that guy must have a GPS on my truck ‘cause as soon as I started back toward home my phone rang and I looked at the caller ID and it was him. 

“Where the heck are you?” He said. 

“Headed home,” I said. “I am chickening out.” 

“If you don’t show up down here there will be heck to pay,” he snarled. 

“Look John, it’s raining and the wind is blowing bad and its cold out there.” 

“You need to turn around and get down here,” he growled. “The sun is out and the wind has stopped and it’s not raining. Just come on.” 

So I turned around again and made my way downtown and found a place to park. When the machine spit out my receipt for parking it promptly disappeared down the street before I could grab it. Yup, you guessed it… wind, and lots of it. By the time I worked my way through the crowd of Brother Masons to where John was standing I was damp from the drizzle and I was cold… and not happy. 

“I thought you said it was dry and sunny and calm down here,” I said through clenched teeth. 

“Well it was when I talked to you,” he said innocently. 

I looked at all the brothers on either side of him and they all shook their heads. I glared back at John but before I could speak he pointed at the bag-pipers in their kilts who were forming up in the middle of the street for the walk over and said, “You ought to be glad you aren’t one of them. Just pray that a gust of wind doesn’t blow them there skirts up. That would ruin a perfect morning.” 

I looked… and he was right. The procession was forming up and we fell in with everyone and walked over to the front of the Alamo behind the Grand Master and the other Grand Lodge officers, with bagpipes blaring. It was quite a sight all those Brothers in their Masonic regalia, joined by members of the Shrine Temple and even the DeMolay were there. John and I positioned ourselves so that we could see everything that was going on. After paying our respects to the Supreme Architect of the Universe and the flags of Country and State, one of the Brothers gave a stirring talk about the American Flag. We listened while the Grand Orator introduced officials from the city and from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and made some opening remarks about the Alamo and its importance in Texas as well as American history. 

As the Grand Orator was praising the heroes who lost their lives at the Alamo 175 years ago, I heard John’s voice next to me. He was talking kind of low and I leaned in to hear what he was saying and I heard him saying the names… slowly… “James Bonham, Jim Bowie, Juan Seguin, David Crockett, Almaron Dickenson, William Travis…” all Brothers who died at the Alamo and I glanced at his face and I saw tears rolling down both cheeks. I guess it could have been because the wind was blowing as hard as it was but I suspect he was, as we all were, thanking those Brothers and other defenders, without whose sacrifice there might not even be a Great State of Texas. Wow, it was sure hard to keep a dry eye thinking about the sacrifices that were made here. 

As I stood there looking up at that beautiful old building my mind slowly tuned out all the sounds and in total silence as my eyes scanned the other Alamo buildings and the area around them I could feel the heavy weight of the emotions that this hallowed place invoked. I could almost see the faces of those one hundred and eighty seven heroes looking down on all of us with smiles of approval and appreciation on their faces. As the lump formed in my throat I felt so very proud to be an American and a Texan! 

I snapped out of my trance in time to hear the Grand Master’s address, and then the final prayer and thanks was given to all those brave men who gave their lives for all of us. We walked in silence back to where our vehicles were parked just enjoying the feeling of being there. It’s almost impossible to stand at the Alamo and not be moved by what it represents. As I reached for my door handle, John informed me that if I didn’t feed him soon he was going to pass out from malnutrition. “Come on John”, I said. “Who’s being the baby now? We don’t have time for lunch right now because we have to get to the Grand Masters Conference.” 

“I didn’t come down here to go to the conference,” he said. “I came for the Alamo anniversary.” 

“Well you drug me down here for this so now you have to go with me to the conference and if you don’t go I will give your name to the Grand Master as a Brother who blew off his conference… and you can bet I will do it too.” 

“Ok, Ok I’ll go with you,” he whined. “But I am hungry.” 

“Don’t worry,” I snapped back at him. “There’s a brunch at the conference so load it up and let’s go.” 

Well the brunch wasn’t near enough to come close to filling him up. He was eye balling the plates of the other Brothers at our table so I bought him another plate to hold him over until supper. The conference was great and as I sat there with the one hundred or so Brothers who were in attendance all I could think of is what a waste that the Grand Masters words were only going to be heard by less than 10% of all the Masons in the area. Every officer and every Brother of every Lodge should have been there. The important Grand Lodge programs that nine out of ten Masons have no idea what they are or how they work were discussed in detail. And when the Grand Master spoke, he delivered a message of getting back to teaching the lessons and meanings of the rituals and symbols, and not just the surface meanings but the deeper and more profound interpretations. He said that we needed to understand what Masonry really is. 

He said that Masonry is intended to be a philosophy and with proper study will provide the means to answer the three questions that every man has or will ask at some point in his life which are: where did I come from, what is my purpose here, and where am I going? He said that a student of Masonry should be always studious and inquiring as to those deeper, more hidden meanings of the lessons of our Rituals. And I agreed with him completely when he said that when a man is raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason he will have acquired a wealth of inspiration that, if he should become a true student of Masonry, will last him a lifetime. 

He also sadly told us that our West Gate has been wide open and unguarded for too long and the result has been an alarming number of men being accepted into the Fraternity that would never have been considered if a proper investigation had been performed. He talked of our history and of getting back to our basics, keeping the ritual pure, and of the things we need to do to insure our future. His words were inspirational and really made me think about my Masonic journey and the future of my Lodge and of the Craft. I glanced around the room and saw the same feelings in the eyes of the other Brothers and many including John were nodding in agreement with our Grand Master. 

John leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, “Durn it Brother Chris, I sure do wish all the Brothers at the last Grand Lodge could have heard this before it closed. Heck, there ain’t many Brothers here and if they are like many of the Brothers at my Lodge some will pass the words along and some won’t. But all the Brothers need to hear this.” 

“You are right John,” I said. “But how are you going to get the word to everyone when they won’t show up to hear it?” 

“I don’t know,” he growled. “But I will sure give it some deep thought while I’m eating. You are going to feed me aren’t you?” 

“You have got to be kidding me John,” I said with a shocked look on my face. “We just ate less than an hour ago.” 

With a look that conveyed to me that he wasn’t kidding at all he said, “My stomach has been growling for the last fifteen minutes and I need to eat something.” 

Actually, I had heard something emanating from his general vicinity that sounded like something a heck of lot more lethal than a stomach growl and I was relieved to know that I could resume normal breathing again. 

On the way back downtown to his truck I was trying to think of a place to stop and eat that would satisfy his taste when he noticed an “all you can eat” Chinese buffet. He got all excited and said “O’ boy I am in the mood for some good old Chinese food and a lot of it.” 

I had never been to an all you can eat buffet with John yet and it struck me as a great deal for John but not for the restaurant. I thought about how in Vegas they always identify the people who win a lot at cards because they count the cards so they aren’t allowed in the casinos and I got a little chuckle thinking about if the same thing happened to John in his town with all the “all you can eat” buffets. 

He sure was excited and when we got to our table he was gone in a flash to the buffet. By the time I got back to the table he was working on one of two heaping plates in front of him. A little Chinese lady walked by and smiled and nodded at both of us and her gaze seemed to linger on John’s double plate but she smiled and continued on to the other tables. Our drinks came and we just sat there enjoying the food, which was excellent. I think John had at least one of everything. I hadn’t finished half of my plate when he was up and heading back for the buffet again and returned shortly with two more heaping plates full. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the little Chinese lady who I figured must be one of the owners staring at John pretty intently and I don’t know why but it made me a little uneasy like she was way too interested in John and his meal. 

Soon he was finished with those two plates and happily on his way back to the buffet for a third time. I was just finishing my plate as John was headed back to our table when it happened. I could see that little Chinese lady making a bee line for our table and she got there just as John did and stabbed a long boney finger right into John’s chest and angrily and excitedly began to talk really fast. 

Now, she was 4ft 10 and he is 6ft 7 so she had her hand way above her head and looking straight up into his wide eyed shocked face and in a high shrill voice let him have it, “You… fat boy. You eat too much. You go home now. You eat up all profits!” 

She reached up and took the plates from his hands, turned him around, and proceeded to herd him toward the door pushing him in the back every couple of steps. I would have helped him if I had not been choking on my tea laughing so hard. All the other diners were staring with disbelief as this tiny lady ran this huge guy out the door giving him a tongue lashing every step of the way. Just before they got to the door one of the other employees intercepted them and he started talking to the lady, both waving their hands at each other and gesturing toward a very quiet and scared looking John Deacon. 

Our waitress had come over to me and began apologizing but I told her this was the most fun I had had in a long time. Finally I told her that I would pay for two more plates if it would get my Brother a reprieve and she smiled and went to the door to deliver the word, which as soon as the older lady heard it immediately stopped talking and began smiling and grabbed John’s hand and escorted him back to the table and sat him down. She then retreated amid a lot of bowing and smiling and bowing and smiling. 

I looked across the table at a visibly shaken John who shook his head and said, “What the heck just happened?” 

I laughed and said, “Well, I think you just got yourself whupped up on by an 85 pound Chinese lady. You better get to eating before she changes her mind.” 

Tentatively he began to eat and soon satisfied that all heck was not going to break loose again, the rest of the diners finally stopped looking our way and everything went back to normal. Not surprisingly he got done pretty quickly and was ready to leave. I handed him the bill which he gladly took and headed to the cashier. After he paid he turned around to leave and the Chinese lady was standing right behind him. It startled him and I thought he was going to have a heart attack but she smiled at him and shook his hand and bowed at him about ten times and he bowed back as he was backing out the door. I told him how ridiculous he looked and he reminded me that it probably was not a good idea to turn your back on her. I agreed and we piled in my truck and headed out. It was a short drive without any conversation. I pulled up to John’s truck but instead of getting out he just sat there staring straight ahead out the window. I was going to ask what the matter was but decided instead to be patient. I figured he would let it out when he was ready. It didn’t take long. 

He took a deep breath and said in a soft voice, “Brother Chris, he is right you know. Everything he said… He is right.” 

I figured he was talking about our Grand Master but instead of asking and being wrong I kept my big mouth shut and let him talk. 

I had to lean over a little bit cause he was still talking kinda low, “We really don’t do a very good job of investigating men who want to join the Fraternity. I have seen it all. I have seen Brothers sign a petition for a man who just walked into the Lodge off the street. I have seen Brothers mark on a petition that they have known the man for months and even years when they only just met. I have seen Brothers investigate a potential candidate in the Fellowship Hall of the Lodge before a meeting just so he could turn in the report on time. I have seen Brothers meet potential candidates in restaurants to do the investigation instead of at the Brother’s home. I have seen candidates be investigated and been voted to receive the Mysteries without their wife even knowing about it. I have seen too many times all three investigators meeting with a prospective candidate at the same time for the investigation. I have even seen Brothers fill out the investigation form before meeting with the applicant. I have seen all these things and more… all in the name of quantity and not quality. It’s enough to make you sick just thinking about it.” 

I shrugged slightly and he continued a little louder, “And do you know what it has gotten us? I’ll tell you exactly what it has gotten us. It has gotten us men of questionable character. Men who, if we had really done a proper investigation, would never have been admitted among us. We have men whose only reason for joining is because they thought it would help them in business. We have men whose only desire to be initiated is to ‘SEE WHAT THE HECK IT IS ALL ABOUT’ with no intention or desire to truly become a Mason. Oh, and there have been and continue to be many whose only desire is to clean up or enhance their tarnished reputations by becoming a Mason in name only. There are even those who join just to join because that’s what they do, they join everything. You know there IS a reason why the question about belonging to other organizations is on the petition. Most of the aforementioned individuals drop out as soon as they realize that Masonry does not and will not feed their fraud and deception. But how much wasted time and damage to our Fraternity is done by these misguided souls? How many lies noted on the petition could have been revealed if only a proper investigation had been done? How many hours wasted by degree teams and mentors and instructors on these liars and cheats? How many good and true Masons have been disillusioned by the admission of those unqualified and unworthy to ever be taken by the hand as a Brother? I think that it is impossible to calculate. Sometimes it seems that we are afraid of turning someone down. Why is that? I often wonder, knowing what I know about what true Masonry is, why there are not lines of good men wanting to become Masons. Could it be that there is a perception that Masonry and Masons aren’t as pure as they are supposed to be? How much Masonic good will be destroyed by these imposters and pretenders. I shudder to consider. Brother Chris, what makes Masonry pure is what will make Masonry grow always and forever. We have been so blinded by declining membership we have begun to sow the seeds of our total demise. I don’t know how I could state it any plainer than that.” 

“Brother John, you said a mouth full right there and I know it’s all true,” I said as I noted the sadness in his eyes. “We Masons are responsible for this and we Masons have to stop it… and now.” 

We shook hands then and made a silent vow to make sure to do what needed to be done to correct this problem. I could see that it was bothering him pretty bad so I walked around the truck as he got out and gave my sad eyed Brother a hug and said, “Don’t worry my Brother, we will get it going.” 

“I know we will,” he replied with a little smile. “We have to.” 

And with that he climbed up into Ol’ Blackie, waved and roared off in a cloud of black smoke. When I stopped coughing I made a mental note to get him in to change those fuel filters next month. 

To all my Brothers out there: Is it worth it to you to only admit those who are duly and truly prepared, worthy and well qualified? It should be. Have a great month. 

The Chamber Of Reflection And A Tater In The Crik

The Profound Pontifications

of Brother John Deacon

By James C. “Chris” Williams IV

The Chamber Of Reflection And A Tater In The Crik


In my business, getting the parts necessary to repair a vehicle can sometimes be the most challenging part of the job. I had sold a clutch job on a truck and was in the process of ordering the parts. I had a choice of having the clutch parts sent to me in the mail with a hefty fee added and not receiving it for an extra day…or… driving the seventy miles to pick it up and getting it the same day. I opted for driving the seventy miles and getting it the same day. As I was walking out the door guess who drove in at the same instant…. yup none other than big John Deacon. I was in too big a hurry to stop and chit chat, so I told him to load it up and off we went.

I thought we could have some really good Masonic conversation in 140 miles but as usual all he was interested in was eating. I kept telling him I had to get that part picked up, but I might as well have been talking to myself. There were a couple of times when I almost pulled over and told him to walk, but I knew that would come back to bite me in the end. We picked up the part without incident and I was unsuccessful in leaving John behind…. not that I didn’t try.

Halfway back I got to feeling hungry and realized we were pretty close to the Gristmill Restaurant outside New Braunfels. I have to tell you that this is one of my favorite places to go. This restaurant was built literally on the bank of the Guadalupe River overlooking one of the most beautiful and popular parts of the river where tubers lazily float by all day long. John had never been there so I asked for a table halfway down the bank about forty feet up from the water. I started to realize the big guy was leery of heights when it took him 10 minutes to walk down two short flights of stairs to the platform where our table was. He was trying real hard not to let me see that he was petrified but it was obvious. I asked him if he wanted to get a different table but after sitting down, he seemed to be ok and he declined to move. He did mutter something under his breath about our table hanging off the side of the hill.

It didn’t take him long to start noticing all the pretty girls floating the river below and I actually had to remind him that we were there to eat. He mumbled something about being concerned about their safety …. which I didn’t buy. Our waitress, Marcie, wanted to know what we wanted to drink, and I told her to bring two teas and she asked if we were ready to order. John grabbed a menu but before he could open it, I reached over and took it from him and while he scowled at me, I ordered three Chicken Fried Steaks with all the fixins including baked potatoes and a basket of their really good rolls. By the time I finished ordering he had stopped scowling and was smiling. I told him we didn’t have time to be picky and their Chicken Fried Steaks were great. He was happy about that and had gone back to watching the river. I just let him watch…. heck it is sure relaxing sitting under those huge cypress trees and watching the river….and the tubers go by. He said, “You know Brother Chris, I have never floated down a river in a tube

before. It looks like a lot of fun. Maybe I will try it sometime.” I must have chuckled too loud because he looked at me and demanded to know what was so funny. “At the risk of upsetting you before you get your food,” I said slowly. “I don’t think they make a tube big enough for your big……….” “There you go again,” he interrupted me growling like a bear. “Always saying bad things about me” “I was merely telling the truth and also looking out for your safety.” “My safety?” he asked giving me a skeptical look. “Yup,” I said. “The chances that you will find a tube big enough… ahhh… your size…. is slim and none. And if you did, considering the shallowness of the river and the expected displacement of your derriere I would expect that the constant contact with the riverbed would render you with extremely scraped cheeks.” I delivered the whole thing, seriously, with a straight face while he stared at me with a confused look on his face. Finally, he said, “Displacement …. ……derriere…. scraped cheeks? Can you talk in plain talk?” “Ok,” I said. “The water is not very deep, and you are going to stick out so low below that tube that you are going to scrape your butt big time.” Well he just stared at me with a blank look on his face. I didn’t know if he was going to growl or yell or ask me to explain again. Luckily Marcie showed up and set our plates down and all of his attention turned to eating. I was enjoying my lunch and I happened to look up and saw John gazing over the side of the railing looking down at the river. Just as I started to give him a hard time about watching the tubers again Marcie walked up and asked how everything was. John looked up at her with big sad eyes and said slowly, “I knocked my tater in the crik.” Marcie just stood there with a confused look on her face and said, “You knocked your what in the what?” I quickly jumped in and tried to explain. “He said he knocked his potato off his plate down into the river.” She looked from me to him and he just nodded with a big frown on his face. She chuckled and shook her head and told John not to worry that she would bring him another. Happily, he went back to eating. I told him he needed to hurry because we needed to get back, but it wasn’t necessary because he was done in no time. I paid the bill and a nice tip for Marcie who was still giggling about John’s tater in the crik.

On the way to the truck I reminded him that he hadn’t said one thing of value so far and he needed to change that. We got back on the road and he said he did have something to talk about. He said, “I was talking with several Brothers the other day and I asked them what they thought about the “Chamber of Reflection”?

Boy, the discussion went back and forth about whether it was changing the ritual to whether it was legal or not to whether its purpose was necessary at all. What is your opinion, Brother Chris?” “Well I haven’t thought too hard about it before,” I replied. “But you can be sure I will now, but I have to say I am not sure at this point. I’ll bet you have an opinion though…. otherwise this wouldn’t be the subject of your conversation today.”

“Well you can bet your sweet bippy I have an opinion,” he said smiling. “But before I offer it up, I want to say a few things about this here Chamber of Reflection and our Grand Lodge Laws. First, You and I and every Mason has sworn to abide by the Constitution, Resolutions, and Edicts of this Grand Lodge which means that we are bound by duty and honor to follow the Laws of our Grand Lodge whether we agree with them or not. Secondly, those of us who have been Masters of our Lodges, we swore that we would make no innovations to the body of Masonry. And thirdly, is this Chamber and its purpose really necessary? Let’s start with the third point first. Is it necessary? Its purpose is to cause a new candidate just before his initiation into Masonry to sit quietly in a special place and think about his life. He is asked to ponder three questions; what is your duty to God, what is your duty to your fellow man, and what is your duty to yourself? Is it necessary that a candidate ponder these questions in relation to his life?

Brother Chris, I think it is. We would hope that as part of making the decision to become a Mason a certain period of reflection would have happened …. but that is not necessarily the case, or after hearing his first reading that he might pause to reflect on these things and others…. but sadly, most candidates receive that reading only minutes prior to their initiation and some not at all. We must not assume that every candidate for Masonry has arrived at the inner door duly and truly prepared. We must make SURE that he is. We do way too much assuming. On the second point, is sitting in a quiet place and being asked to ponder your life’s past, present, and future really an innovation to the body of Masonry? This being done before he begins his degree, is it really part of the ritual at all? And as to the first point, we don’t need to change anything at all…because WE ALREADY HAVE ONE!!” He had shouted the last four words out loud and as I looked around, a little embarrassed I shot back at him, “Whoa up there big guy. The whole world doesn’t need to know! What do you mean we already have one?” “Are you kidding me,” he asked, his voice still a little too loud? “Every Lodge has an ante room, don’t they?” In reality it’s not an ante room. It’s a preparation room. And that has, as most things in Masonry, more than just one meaning. Of course, it is to prepare the candidate physically for his introduction into the Lodge, but that is not where preparation was intended to stop. It is a place to prepare the mind also. The preparation room is there to make a candidate ready both in body and in mind for what awaits him.” “But John,” I interjected quickly, and received the usual dagger stare for interrupting his flow, “Lodges have gotten into hot water with Grand Lodge after creating a Chamber of Reflection with all the trappings of a medieval mystery school chamber in their Lodge ante roo…ahhh preparation rooms.” “I am well aware of that fact, my irritatingly observant Brother,” John growled.” It is all a matter of opposite ends of the same pole. On one end we have Grand Lodge Law, specifically Articles 127 and 223, which prohibits painting the preparation room black, adding the skull and crossbones, hourglass, or other items that symbolize our mortality or the material world vs. the spiritual, evidently because of concern that they might detract from or are not part of the ritual. On the other end of the pole we have absolutely nothing. A bare room that is hardly more than a storage closet,

and in many Lodges is exactly that. It is amazing to me sometimes just how bad we miss the mark with respect to creating the proper atmosphere and perspective for our candidates and new Brothers. Where we need to be in this debate is right in the middle, a true equilibrium. Our preparation room should be a clean, neat place and comfortably furnished. A place where, if you or I were to sit in it, would tend to calm the mind and relax the spirit and allow us as well as a prospective Brother the chance to reflect on himself and this important step in his life. In this as in everything we do in Masonry we tend to rush through it as fast as we can instead of realizing that allowing a proper time for preparation, both body and mind, can be invaluable to a new Mason preparing to take his first step in Masonry. It should be also necessary for each successive step.

To me reflection and how to reflect should be an important part of A Mason’s Masonic Education. How many times have you heard of someone saying that they don’t know how to pray? Most people just assume…there’s that word again…that a person knows how to pray just like we Masons assume that a candidate and new Brother just instinctively knows how to reflect. I know by experience that this is not true. A Brother told me the other day that I was being too dramatic and too theatrical as it relates to the Chamber of Reflection and maybe that is true to a certain extent, but I see two problems that speak to this issue.

First, we consistently fail to properly prepare a candidate mentally for his initiation. Once we have his money and his petition, we seem to have a major letdown in our commitment to his Masonic education and leave everything up to him to figure out from that point on. In fact in many Lodges instead of preparing his mind for the beautiful experience that becoming a Mason is, they instead fill his mind full of uncertainty with talk of goats and other things to the extent that he spends his whole degree thinking about things he shouldn’t. You would think that since this is, for all intents and purposes the beginning of the rest of his life that we would go above and beyond in making sure that he is totally ready mentally for this experience. Could this be a major reason we lose so many new EA’s? Add to that the lackadaisical attitude that many Lodges and Brothers have in making sure that the ritual is done right and it’s a wonder we are able to hold on to the ones we do. As far as being dramatic, each of our Degrees IS a play of sorts with Brothers playing certain parts in order to teach certain lessons and dispense wisdom or light to that candidate. A certain amount of drama is not only expected but is in fact necessary to the success of the ritual.

Every day in this society we are subjected to situations and images both in real life and in the media and movies and music that bombard our senses and emotions to the extreme. We have and continue to be desensitized as to our emotions and feelings and it takes more and more of the same bombardment to keep our interest. There are things that we can do to enhance a new candidate’s first experience in Masonry and doing the ritual correctly in words and movements

is one of the first. But to make sure that he is in the right frame of mind mentally is just as important and a period of reflection before his degree is essential. Not preparing a candidate mentally for his experience would be like telling an NFL team to show up thirty minutes before a game and suit up and take the field without any mental preparation for the game…. without a game plan. In that context, the unprepared players would surely fail to succeed in any part of the game just as our new candidates without proper preparation cannot succeed in understanding the lessons imparted to them in the degree. Instead of preparing them to succeed we set them up to fail……and then we scratch our collective heads and wonder why we lose so many new Brothers.

So, my opinion is: I believe that asking a candidate to sit quietly in reflection in some form just before his initiation and reflect upon those three important questions will not only better prepare him for his reception into the Lodge room but will also enhance the experience. Back in the earlier days of our Fraternity our degrees were an awe-inspiring experience….as they should be now…anything less should not be acceptable.

The ritualistic lessons of our Craft must be as vivid as possible. Our more philosophically and esoterically inclined “New Breed” of members will cherish the experience of reflecting before seeing the Light. They will treasure the instant when called upon to reflect on their duties to God, to their fellow beings, and to themselves. And performing this task before the degree even starts will take nothing away from the ritual itself. I think this is something we owe to our new Brethren…. I really do.”

He stopped talking and we just rode along in silence for the last 30 miles to the shop, me thinking about what he had said. I didn’t even realize we hadn’t spoken until we were turning into the driveway. I apologized to John for ignoring him and he chuckled and said, “You were deep in reflection and that is key to your and to all of our moral and spiritual development which leads to a happier more peaceful existence.”

“You know Brother John?” I said grinning. “It is sure expensive hanging around you, but you sure do get me to thinking and I thank you for that.” “He laughed out loud and grabbed me and gave me a big bear hug. “Let me go,” I gasped. “I can’t breathe.” He finally dropped me and shook my hand. “I’ll see you next month my Brother,” he called out over his shoulder as he climbed in his truck.” As he went out of sight in a cloud of diesel exhaust, I reflected…yup… I reflected on how much I enjoy my time with him. Hope it doesn’t end very soon.

And Santa Said, “It’s All About The Kids”

The Profound Pontifications

of Brother John Deacon

By James C. “Chris” Williams IV

And Santa Said, “It’s All About The Kids”

I was mortified! There was Santa, lying on his back, like a turtle, trying to turn itself over. Kids were staring at him wide eyed with their mouths hanging open and parents were giggling at him.  He was flailing his arms and legs, clearly in distress…. even more distress than the kids watching him. Short staccato grunting sounds were coming out of his mouth. If it wasn’t so bizarre it would have been funny. I wondered why the elves weren’t helping him up….. wait a minute, I didn’t see any elves. No one was helping him. He was a pretty big guy and it would take more than me to get him up.


I looked around for John. He had told me to meet him here but he was nowhere to be found. Where the heck was he?


So I bet you are wondering why I am standing in a shopping mall in the middle of the day waiting for John Deacon to show up. Heck, I was starting to wonder the same thing. He had called two days before and told me he was having trouble with “Ol Blackie” and being the good Brother that I am, I told him I would drive up and swap trucks with him and find out what was wrong and swap back when he came through town.


Well I got to John’s house after driving what seemed to be halfway across Texas and Mrs. Deacon told me he was working a volunteer job and sent me to the city’s major shopping mall. With a big grin she told me that he said he would meet me by the Santa Clause display. I just happened to walk up in time to witness poor old Santa in an embarrassing situation and I was willing to help him up but he was too big for me to do it alone. Then I heard his voice… I thought it was his voice. I looked around trying to locate him and …. I heard the voice again…. screaming at me, “Brother Chris, what the heck are you staring at? Help me up.” I realized the voice was coming from Santa.


“Holy Moly!!! Is that you John”, I said? “Do you hear anyone else calling you Brother,” he screamed again? “Help me up, the blood is running to my head.”  I grabbed his hand and tried to pull him up and all he did is slip across the floor. As hard as I tried I couldn’t get any part of his body to stick in order to pull him up. I told him that if he would just relax we could dust mop the whole area. “You can cut the comedy routine,” he snarled. “This durned Santa suit slips and slides over everything. As soon as I sat down in my seat I slid right out on the floor. That’s when you walked up. “Maybe it’s the configuration of your rear end that’s the problem,” I said as serious as I could. “Maybe it’s not conducive to a positive engagement to that chair.” “He started growling like a junkyard dog, “You need to get me up now while I still have a good opinion of you.”







With the help of several people in the ever growing audience and a lot of grunting and groaning we got him on his feet.  The four people that were in line to see Santa said they were going to do some shopping and would be back later to see him.  Hearing that, John announced that all of the exertion had made him hungry. Imagine that. As I trailed behind Santa walking into Luby’s Cafeteria, I reflected on the most embarrassing moments of my life and realized that during several in the top ten, I was in the company of one John Deacon. You already know where this is going, don’t you?


As I watched John load up not one, but two trays of food, the movie “Animal House” kept coming to mind. John wasn’t as crude as Belushi was in the movie, but the number of little plates of this and that and one of everything else were stacked up pretty high. Heck if he had them all on one level he would have needed two more trays at least. All the workers in the food line were shaking their head but seemed to accept that it was Santa and he needed a lot to keep his portly figure. The lady at the register was having a real hard time adding everything up and that was the time John turned to me and informed me that there was not a place for him to put his wallet is his Santa outfit so guess what, I was going to have to buy.  What a surprise. She was relieved when she finally got to my one little tray.


It took three helpers to help John…I mean Santa get all his chow to the table and by the time I got the bill sorted out and found him he was getting after his meal pretty good. I knew not to talk to him right then so I dug into my lunch in silence. It is always good food at Luby’s and I was sure enjoying mine. I glanced over at Johns spread and it looked like he had had some trouble making up his mind when he was choosing. He had about four different meats and twice as many veggies and I could see a couple of slices of pie peeking out underneath two rolls and a piece of cornbread. If that wasn’t enough I saw that he had grabbed several pickles and jalapenos on the way. Boy, I sure hoped the kids could survive his breath after this.


He kept complaining the whole time that the white hairs on his fake beard and mustache were getting in his mouth. I told him he couldn’t take it off because there were a lot of kids watching so he mumbled something about it not being fair and kept on eating. I figure he consumed about a quarter of that mustache during that meal. Finally after the last trace of food and the last drop of drink was gone he checked around and under all the dishes and after checking my side of the table too he seemed satisfied that there was nothing left eat or drink and leaned back in his seat, let out a big sigh and promptly started to slide out of the seat.


Frantically he grabbed the edge of the table to stop himself from falling on the floor and managed to hold on and push himself back up. He looked up and saw that I was about to burst out laughing and gave me the “John” look and said evenly, “Don’t do it Brother or we are going to have words right here.” “Don’t forget that Santa is supposed to be jolly,” I said, and he quickly looked around to make sure no one had seen him growling.


“What the heck am I going to do about this slippery suit,” he said pleadingly? “And don’t you say another word about the configuration of my rear end. Come up with something I can use.”


“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it Brother,” I said. “Do you have any words of wisdom before I head back to civilization or is this basically a wasted rescue trip?” “Hold on there, my Brother,” he said hurriedly. “Don’t you even want to know why I am dressed in this fat suit?” “Hmmmmm, I said, “Maybe because it fits you?”


“What do you think you are, some kind of comedian,” he snarled as I chuckled to myself?  “So why are you masquerading as Santa,” I asked.  Well, he got a real serious look on his face and said, “I was thinking the other day about how different the world is from the one I grew up in. You can’t take your eyes off your kids or anyone you care about anymore because there is a predator of some kind trying to hurt or somehow take advantage of them. It seems that no one is safe anymore. Also, when I was a kid there was right and there was wrong. It seems that there is not much of a distinction between right and wrong anymore and that instead of something being wrong the one that screwed up is allowed to justify what was done by some ridiculous or unbelievable reason or by blaming the problem on the person that was wronged.  It blows my mind. We have taught our children that they don’t have to take any personal responsibility for their actions. Not only is this crazy, it’s dangerous.  The more I thought about it the more my head ached.” (my head was aching too as he went on) “What happened to the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments? Where in the world has God gone? I don’t see any kids praying anymore.”  As he talked, he was getting more and more agitated.  I had to keep motioning him to talk lower because the more he talked the louder he got.  Why are 97% of the people cow-towing to 3%? It’s easy. If you don’t like something then don’t participate. If you don’t like praying then don’t pray, but don’t make it your object to force everyone else to be like you. If you don’t want to say the Pledge of Allegiance, then don’t say it. If you don’t believe in the Constitution then I say….. GET THE HELL OUT OF THIS COUNTRY ……..  we don’t need you here. He had yelled it out and several shocked diners turned to stare. “I am sorry Brother Chris for yelling, but this is just not right.” “Can you tell me what the *&#*% is a Holiday tree? IT’S A CHRISTMAS TREE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!! Why do I go into the department stores and I don’t hear any Christmas Carrols? We are not teaching the children the values they need to know. We are sitting back and letting people with little or no values and morals teach our younger generation. This cannot continue!”  He stopped talking and much softer said, “So, that’s when I decided that I needed to do something and that’s why I am here. Being Santa let’s me do something positive for the kids and remind them of the good things about Christmas. If we are going to make this world a good one with good people then we have to start with the children.  We have to teach them good values and good morals. We have to teach them about God and what it means to follow God.”


“But John”, I said. “God isn’t as popular as he used to be. There are a lot of people out there trying to convince as many as they can that he doesn’t even exist.” He smiled knowingly and said, “Brother Chris let me tell you about God. There are several different kinds of people out there when it comes to God. Those that think he is there, those that hope he is there, and those that won’t allow themselves to believe he is there. Then there are those like me. You see, I don’t just believe in God. I know he’s there. So many times I look around and see what I am doing and where I am and I know I am right here right now because that’s where he wants me. When I put this suit on today I looked at myself in the mirror and apart from thinking I looked stupid I thought to myself that God put me right here. If it had not been for the idea popping into my thick head putting me here, this is not something that I would normally do; it had to be HIM.  Heck I am sure HE is responsible for me coming into your shop with OL Blackie almost two years ago. I could have stopped anywhere but I stopped at your place. Was it coincidence? I don’t think so. My friendship with you has led to a lot of interesting things. It has caused me to express myself in ways I never thought possible. I believe this is due to HIS influence also. So, I have resolved to begin the New Year doing my part to teach the children and share my Masonic principals and teachings with anyone and everyone I come in contact with. I know we do this as Masons every day but I am going to be more conscious of helping everyone that I can, see the “light”, as we Masons call it. You may think I am crazy but I believe it needs to be done.


He got quiet all of a sudden and looked down. I thought he might be out of breath. I said, “I agree with you John. It would be nice if more people felt like you do.” He didn’t respond and I thought he might have gone to sleep when all of a sudden his eyes got big and his head shot up and he looked back at his watch and exclaimed, “Oh Lord, I’m late! I’ve got to get back! The kids will be waiting for me. He got up and headed for the door and then stopped. “Brother Chris what am I going to do about sliding off the chair again”, he asked in a worried tone.


I told him to go ahead and I would meet him at the display. I had seen the store that I figured would have what I was looking for. Sure enough they did and I got it and hurried to take care of Santa. As I walked up I could see there was a long line of kids waiting to sit on Santa’s lap and John …‘er Santa was standing there fidgeting. He looked stressed and he saw me and anxiously asked, “Well what did you get?” I told him that I had his problem handled. I reached in the bag I was carrying and pulled it out and spread it out on the hard plastic Santa seat. John looked down at it and then at me and then back down… and finally back at me and said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”


“What’s the problem, I said? “It’s got suction cups on one side and bumps on the other.”   “It’s a gol’ durn non slip bathtub mat,” he whined with a pained look on his face. “John, it’s the biggest thing I could find that would fit your ……  “Don’t you even say it,” he snapped as he cut me off mid sentence. “This is embarrassing.”


“What’s worse”, I asked innocently? “Wallowing around on the floor on your back like a beached whale or sitting on a rubber mat? And it’s your color too, it’s pink.” Well he was frustrated and humiliated at the same time but the wisdom of the situation won out as he shook his head and plopped down and motioned for the first kid to come up.  By the time that little boy was sitting on his knee he had forgotten any problems with the seat. He was smiling and talking and was the big lovable John of always. I watched for a few minutes while he talked to several kids and sent them all away smiling and happy. He looked up and I caught his eye and gave him the “thumbs up” signal and waved. He returned the signal and mouthed “thanks.”


I smiled and headed out to find John’s truck hearing the laughing and chatter of the children talking with Santa as I walked away down the concourse.  I had to agree with the big guy. It really is all about teaching the children. I sure hope Ol’ Blackie gets me back to San Antonio. Y’all have a great Holiday Season.

Some Real Masonic Reflection

Some Real Masonic Reflection

You know, I can’t say that I would do anything for a free meal but when John called me and told me he was going to buy me lunch I just couldn’t say no. Even when he told me I had to meet him a ways south of town. The thought that he was scamming me crossed my mind but he usually finds some way to stick me with the tab anyway. He said he had a taste for some Italian food and there was a place he had eaten before called Gabriella’s that he really liked and if I wanted a free lunch I had better get on my horse and meet him. Well I haven’t ever named my truck or any of my vehicles like he named his (except for a couple of names I called it when it wouldn’t start) so I will just say I jumped in my truck and headed south hoping to get there before all the food was gone.

I arrived just after he did and found him sitting against one wall of the dining room with a gloomy look on his face just staring off into space. I slid into the chair across from him and asked how he was doing. He looked over at me and shook his head slowly and said in a kinda sad voice, “I’m ok Brother…… just a little melancholy. I just got back from the Valley and the wind was blowing like the dickens. The dust was terrible and I have been coughing and hacking for three days. I don’t feel good and I am in a bad mood.” “I am sorry John,” I replied. “You do look bad and sound terrible. So why did you want to meet for lunch? When I feel bad I don’t want to be around anyone.”

“I don’t really know,” he said slowly with a little smile. “Except that I didn’t want to eat alone, and I know that the newsletter is getting close to needing to get done.” He went silent all of a sudden looking at the menu. I saw him look up across the room a couple of times and figured he was looking for a waiter so I flagged one down and he quickly got our drink orders and went to get that for us. Soon he was back with two iced teas and said he was ready to take our order. I went first and ordered Lasagna because I like Lasagna and because John had told me it was the best. I was informed that it came with unlimited salad and bread which was good enough for me. He then turned to John who said, “Bring me two of them there Lasagna Plates with all the fixins. I also want a bowl of that spinach/artichoke dip as an appetizer (which I knew he wasn’t going to share) and throw a medium sausage and mushroom pizza in there too.” It was obvious that they had served John before because the size of his order didn’t cause a stir at all.

When the waiter asked if there was anything else he wanted, John looked up and said, “Yes there is. Every time I look across the room there is a feller over there staring at me. I don’t even know him. Can you ask him not to stare at me?” The waiter and I looked at the same time towards the other side of the room and the only thing in John’s line of sight was the opposite wall about 40 feet away. And the wall was actually a mirror which made the whole room look much bigger. I look at the waiter and he looked at me and the pained look on his face at the

realization that John was probably looking at himself was almost too much to bear and I tried hard not to laugh out loud. In John’s defense, the lighting in the room was low but the waiter and I both could see well enough. I could see the waiter struggling to keep a straight face too. I just couldn’t let it go and I asked John which guy he was talking about and he looked over and sure enough he was looking at himself in the mirror. Before I could say anything, John muttered under his breath, “That’s him right there.” Then he gave a kind of wave which of course was simultaneously returned. He then shrugged and looked up at the waiter and said, “Oh heck, he seems like a friendly enough sort. Don’t worry about telling him anything, and looked back down.” I was holding on by a thread and I looked at the waiter whose mouth was hanging open and was looking at John with total disbelief. That’s when I lost it. I laughed out loud for several minutes with John looking at me like I was crazy. The waiter had walked away shaking his head.

I didn’t have the heart to tell John so to change the subject I asked him if he had anything for the newsletter. To my shock and surprise he said, “No I don’t.” I must have looked like I had been slapped because he quickly continued, “I am still aggravated about a lot of the same old things and I am sure your readers don’t want to hear the same things over and over.” “I agree John,” I replied. “But I count on you having something profound to say. Heck the title of the column is about you” “Hey now, Brother Chris,” he shot back a little defensively. “Don’t get yourself too excited. We’ll figure something out. Surely there is something that YOU have going on that we can talk about.”

Yes, I was getting over excited, but the column wasn’t the Profound Pontifications of Brother Chris Williams for crying out loud. Brothers didn’t read the article to hear what I had to say. It was all about John. I opened my mouth to complain but before I could say anything our food showed up. I knew there was no talking to John now because he had a pile of food in front of him. He totally ignored me and set about consuming with serious concentration every single scrap of food within arm’s reach. Watching him, it was not hard to imagine that leftovers in the Deacon house were pretty much non-existent. As I sat there enjoying my Lasagna which was just as John had said, the best, I had time to think about John’s words. Was there anything going on with me that we could talk about? I thought and thought about it and the harder I tried, the less I came up with. Most everything at my Lodge and the Fraternity in general was good and I really had nothing much to complain about. This was not good. I didn’t know what we were going to do but I did know it was John’s fault.

Then as I sat there enjoying my lunch something did pop into my mind. I remembered that Jerod, one of my Lodge Brothers, had texted me a couple of weeks before with a picture of a bumper sticker he had seen on a car that he was sitting behind in traffic. When I saw it, I was a little shocked because it was not only blatantly false in its claim, but a serious accusation printed on a bumper sticker. I figured that John would surely have an opinion about that.

I finished as usual before him as he had about four times more to eat than I did and pulled the picture of the bumper sticker up on my phone to show him. There on the back bumper of the car was a sticker that said…..”Freemasonry, the seed of evil”…..and it had John Quincy Adam’s signature below it. John took my phone and squinted his eyes to see the picture….(I guess I should have told him that he could blow it up so he could see it better but….) He smiled and said, “ Ahhhh, yes I remember reading about John Quincy. He was our 6th President and he got beat out of a second term by Andrew Jackson who was a Mason. He really never got over the bad feelings of that defeat. He was also active and outspoken concerning the events surrounding the Morgan affair. And I remember seeing a quote of his that said that no true Christian could ever be a Mason. Heck he wrote a whole book on the evils of Masonry.

“But that’s pretty bad John,” I said. “First of all, it’s not true and secondly something like that shouldn’t be on a bumper sticker. I haven’t ever seen a bumper sticker or a sign that says something as bad as that about any organization.” “Actually,” he said slowly. “It might be more good than bad.” “Whaaaaat?!!” I snapped back at him probably a little louder than I meant to. How can you say that? Has that Lasagna overload killed off most of your brain function and the remaining cells are running for their lives?” I don’t have a clue what set him off but he was just silent for a few seconds and then I saw a little smile start to form and that smile became and grin and the grin a chuckle and then he leaned back and let loose with a long rolling laugh that had everyone in the room looking our way and most of them laughing too even though they didn’t know why.

I knew then he had lost his mind and I had sent him over the edge. Just as I was about to dial 911 he grabbed his napkin and wiped the tears out of his eyes and said, “I was just imagining those brain cells running for their lives from a piece of lasagna. Seriously, Brother Chris, you have to understand that there have always been, there are now, and there will always be those who dislike and even hate us and our Fraternity. But you have to try to understand why they hate us. To us it seems ridiculous because we ARE Masons and we KNOW what we are. Those that hate us don’t KNOW who we are. You and I have already beaten to death all the reasons why our Fraternity in particular is hated so much by certain people. I don’t think I have ever seen a company or organization of any kind that has all the negative things written about it that Masonry does. And we already know that we bring some of it on ourselves because too many of our Brethren simply do not know how to verbalize what Masonry is or what Masons are. But I think we haven’t talked much about what the effect, if any, are the negative articles on the internet, or the books written denouncing the Craft as evil or the cause of all things anti religious.”

Now I don’t claim to be the smartest Brother around and I could be totally off base about this but I think that the all the negative things actually may help us. I think it’s safe to say that all the negativity doesn’t hurt us all that much. The Morgan affair did hurt the Fraternity with respect to membership and you can say that it was devastating to a certain extent but I might argue that most of those Brothers who gave up their Masonic membership over the Morgan affair might not have had the character to be true Masons in the first place. There is no doubt that those who turned their backs on the Fraternity permanently and never returned, probably never had Masonry in their hearts. Who knows, possibly that purge might have done more good for the Fraternity than bad in the long run.

Masonry has stood the test of time. If there really existed within the Craft the evil that extremists contend, it would have been exposed to the world long ago. It is true that men of low character have infiltrated our Lodges from time to time whose only purpose is to satisfy their misguided and uninformed belief that Masonry has some deep dark ulterior motive than to simply make good men better. And when they find out that there is no conspiracy… evil, of course they remove themselves from the organization. But that doesn’t satisfy their need to disrupt and destroy. Just like we take the symbols of Masonry to help teach our moral lessons, they take some of those same symbols and attempt to convince others that their meanings are evil. These sad people have hate in their hearts and are going spread that hate in any way they can. Fortunately for us, we are not the only thing they hate. Unfortunately for them, their accusations cannot be sustained because they are easily proved false. And so Masonry survives and will continue to survive.”

“Ok John,” I interrupted, even though I know that irritates him. “I understand all of that. But how does the negative stuff help us. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” He gave me a withering stare, which I expected, before giving me his testy reply, “My Brother, Masonry first and foremost is about quality…..not quantity. However, the more Masons we make, the more influence for good we can have on our world. The answer to every problem our Fraternity has, whether real or imagined, is in our failure to practice true Masonry. True Masonry is light….and light is knowledge. Therefore Masonry is knowledge… purely and simply, knowledge. Masonry must be LEARNED……PRACTICED……and PASSED. It really is that simple. Everything else we do from our dinners and fellowship, to our family programs, to our charitable activities, and everything else, is just icing on the cake. But too much of the time we consume only the icing and leave the cake.”

Then he stopped and looked around and waved our waiter over and asked, “What kinds of cake do ya’ll have?” Well, I thought my mind was going to explode. I almost reached across the table and grabbed him, “Wait, wait, wait, you can’t just stop in the middle of that talk and ask for cake.” He ignored me, as usual, and asked for a double slice of double chocolate….or in his

words “choke-let” cake. The waiter left to get John’s cake and he turned back to me and said, “Ok now where was I?” “You were about to get happily beaten by your Brother,” I said through clenched teeth. “I understand the cake and icing analogy completely. And I know that our membership issues have everything to do with most Lodges failure to give our Brothers, both new and old, what they thought they were going to get when they submitted their petition. And I know that it stems from the fact that Masons can’t just practice Masonry, and teach this system of moral development as it was meant to be taught, without injecting their own ideas of what men want and what they don’t. What I want to know is how anti-Mason statements and writings help rather than hurt us and no cake until you finish.”

I knew I had about as much chance of enforcing that last statement as I have of winning the Lotto, but I was hoping to get him to concentrate. “OK, Brother Chris,” he said with a half smile. “I believe, and this is my opinion only, that most men who see something like that bumper sticker don’t even care about it and will never give it a second thought. There will be some who will cluelessly agree. But there will also be some who will see that and wonder what it all means. Those will be men and maybe some women who are inquisitive, intelligent and thinking people who will want to know what the heck it all means and will take a moment to find out. And when they do, and they see that Masonry is a good and worthwhile organization, I believe that the seed of them becoming Masons is planted. As for a woman seeing it, I believe that any woman would be happy to have her husband be part of an honorable an organization such as Masonry and her learning the truth about our Fraternity can only be a good thing.

These are the kind of men that we need in Masonry and as for the bad bumper sticker, because of the pure and honorable principles of our order, there is nothing to fear from anti-Masons. They have tried to destroy Masonry many times and have always failed because Masonry is good. And you cannot destroy good.” Just then John’s cake arrived and I was left alone with my thoughts. It takes him a while to get to the point sometimes, as it is with a lot of Masons I know, but when he does I usually like it and agree with it. I hoped I could write it all down without losing the importance of some of his words. I sure do wish that all Lodges and Masons would get back to being students and teachers. I liked Learn, Practice, and Pass…….Learn well how to be a Mason, Practice the teachings and lessons in all your daily life, and Pass them on you your Brethren and all of mankind.

My daydreaming was interrupted by John’s agitated voice. He had finished his cake and was looking across the room again. “Dang if that old boy ain’t still a looking at me,” he said. “I am just going to have to go over there and see what it is he is staring at.” “Whoa up there John, I said quickly. Maybe you ought to just forget about it. He hasn’t caused you any trouble. “You are right Brother Chris but he just won’t stop. I ain’t caught him looking anyplace else and it’s starting to bother me.” “But John, going over there is not going to make you feel any better,” I

said softly. “Trust me on this. Consider this one Brother whispering good council in another Brother’s ear.”

He was just staring at the wall and then without another word he abruptly stood up and made a beeline for the wall. Well of course what he saw was the “other guy” quickly getting up and walking towards him and that startled him a bit cause he suddenly stopped, a little unsure all of a sudden. It was kinda comical…John and the “other guy” standing there staring at each other. It looked like the beginning of an old episode of Gunsmoke and the gunfight they all started with.

All of a sudden John took one step as did his reflection and then another and then one more and he stopped. By this time, his weird behavior had gotten the attention of all the diners and employees in that part of the room and they were sitting there enthralled by John having a showdown with his reflection in the mirror on the wall. I was like everyone else, frozen in place, waiting to see what was going to happen.

Suddenly I saw his body language change as he realized his mistake…….and like a slap in the face it hit me that he was going to be embarrassed in front of everyone. And really I don’t care if he gets embarrassed in front of me ……but I didn’t want him to be embarrassed in front of the whole room full of people. I don’t even remember getting up but I quickly walked past him pointing at the floor next to the mirror wall motioning him to follow….which he did with a confused look on his face. We got to the wall and I bent down and placed my ring that I had taken off on the floor so that no one could see. Then I picked it up and handed it to John. He looked at it for a second and then the realization hit him and he smiled, grabbed my hand, palmed my ring back to me, gave me a big John Deacon hug, and whispered in my ear, “I should have listened to good council.” Then he turned and walked out the door. I walked back to the table to get my coat and all I could do was laugh. There on the table was our bill. Some things never change. Y’all get back to being students and teachers, ok? There’s a lot of happiness in it. See you next month.

Masonry In Spite of Mona

The Profound Pontifications

of Brother John Deacon

By James C. “Chris” Williams IV

Masonry In Spite of Mona


Almost the whole month had gone by and I realized I hadn’t heard from his largeness, aka, my Brother John. It was almost lunch time on a Friday and I was thinking that it was going to be a real problem if I didn’t get to experience the profundity of his wisdom and knowledge. Nahhh, not really. It would mean I would have to make something up and I surely don’t think all of you want to read something I made up. So, I called his cell phone and after ringing ten times Mrs. Deacon answered. I thought it was strange that he wasn’t out on the road somewhere. I asked where the great one was and she told me that he was in the hospital which scared the heck out of me. Without calmly finding out what was wrong, I just assumed (we all know what happens when you assume) that it was bad and asked for the name of the hospital and the room number and hung up.

Being a Friday afternoon, we were just winding down for the week and just had a few cars needing to be picked up by customers so I asked Leonard if I could get out a little early to go visit John in the hospital. He wanted to know what was wrong with John and all I could do is just stand there with a dumb look on my face and say “I don’t know.” He said at his age it’s probably not good so get out of here and call us and let us know. I knew I had a long drive ahead of me but getting out at noon would put me at the hospital in plenty of time for visitors. I drove as fast as I dared and pulled up in front of the hospital right at five o’clock. It wasn’t a big hospital but I ended up having to ask for directions anyway.

They had him ensconced in a room on the second floor, way back in the corner (big surprise). I could hear his booming voice long before I got to his door. It sounded like he was complaining about something (another big surprise). As I got to the doorway, I saw Mrs. Deacon give him a kiss on the cheek and tell him to behave himself. She looked up and saw me, came over and smiled and gave me a hug and said, “I am glad you are here. I have to run some errands. You can deal with the grouch for a while.”  I promised I would get him under control to which she gave me a little smirk on her way out the door.

As I stepped into the room a nurse flew by me and blocked my way and snarled. “Only immediate family is allowed in here.” Before I could reply John said, “He’s OK, he’s my Brother.” She walked up to me and I could see the little badge around her neck that said “Hi, my name is Mona, I am here to give you the best care anywhere.”  And while I was contemplating that, she looked me up and down with a stern stare and said. “You don’t look a bit like him.” With no time to think I quickly replied, “We had different Mothers.” She continued her inspection and walked out of the room mumbling something about “that’s what they all say.” 

I shook my head to clear it and walked over to John’s bed and asked him what he was in for. He said that they were going to do a knee replacement the next day. I was stunned.  I said with a trace of sarcasm in my voice, “I drove all the way up here, worried about you and all that’s wrong is the bum knee you have had forever?” “My wife told me you hung up before she could tell you what was going on,” he shot back.  “It’s not my fault you came all the way up here.” “Heck, you could have called me back,” I said. “I told her not to call you back,” he replied. “I am glad you came because otherwise we couldn’t have talked this month and you would have just had to make something up.” Hmmmm, I thought. That’s a little freaky and way too clairvoyant for me…… but he was right. So I settled down in the recliner next to his bed and asked, “So what is your major problem? I could hear you complaining about something when I stepped out of the elevator way down the hall. You know they will just throw you out of here if you keep it up and Nurse Mona looks like she could do just that.”

“Brother Chris,” John complained. “It’s the food. It’s terrible and there’s not near enough of it and Nurse Mona doesn’t seem to care. I see her and my wife talking in the hall whispering to each other and looking at me. I think they are doing this to me on purpose. I am about to pass out from hunger.” “Ok, OK John,” I said as soothingly as I could, I will go and get you a big hamburger or something and smuggle it into the hospital. Would that make you happy?” John’s voice got real low and he looked from side to side like he thought the room might be bugged and whispered, “I have got it handled. We should have some more company in a few minutes.”

No sooner than he had uttered those words that four guys walked into the room. One had a bouquet of flowers and one had a card and the other two were carrying a very large box that had a big bow on it. Before anyone could say anything, Nurse Mona appeared in the doorway and announced that only immediate family could be in the room to which John told her that all four were his Brothers. She said “No way” and proceeded to study each of their faces one by one. They were all frozen in place and obviously afraid to move. She was pretty intimidating. Finally, she turned to John and said, “Mr. Deacon I see no family resemblance in any of these men.” The one holding the flowers said, “That’s because….. and before he could finish, she turned on him and cut him off …. “You’d better not say that you all had different Mothers.” We all just stood there like statues, all of us afraid to speak. All of a sudden Mona threw up her hands and said, “Just be warned that visiting hours are over at Eight O’clock and anyone who is left I will throw out.”

I don’t know about the other fellers but I surely believed her and made a note to myself to be long gone by eight. As she was leaving, John called out to her and asked if she would shut the door because we had some important family business to discuss. She whirled around in the doorway and gave all of us a withering stare which spoke volumes about what she was thinking right then and she backed out slowly closing the door as she did. 

“Holy Maloney, John,” I said. “That lady is all business.”  “You darn tootin’ she is,” he hurriedly replied. “We don’t have much time. Brother Chris these are my Brothers Harold, Lloyd, Vester, and Bob. Brothers this is my Brother Chris from San Antonio. We shook hands all around and Bob said, “So this is who you tell all them stories to and everyone thinks you are so durn smart and such. Brother Chris, you and me need to talk sometime.”

“We don’t have time for that,” John interrupted as I nodded in agreement with Bob. “Let’s get to it.  Brother Harold, you see that the door is properly tiled.” Brother Harold replied, “Yes Wor…. I mean OK John.” He put a chair in front of the door and sat down.  While I stood there with my mouth hanging open in shock, the big box was opened a big plastic bag was untied and I watched as more food was pulled out than I thought could possibly fit in that box.

No wonder it took two to carry. There was chicken of every kind and description. There was Fried Chicken, Baked Chicken, Chicken Tenders, and even gizzards and livers, which I can do without, but the rest of them seemed to like them a lot. Next came out a pot of Chicken and Dumplings which made my mouth water uncontrollably.  Then they hauled out about 10 ears of corn on the cob and a bowl of fried Okra which I reached for right away. Heck they even had two loaves of homemade bread. I remarked that the only thing missing was something to wash it all down which got me a sideways glance and a shake of the head by Brother Vester as he pulled out a gallon of Tea and a gallon of Lemonade and cups for everyone.

We were all digging in when John seemed to remember something and turned and called out across the room, “Mr. Jackson? Are you awake over there?” It was then I realized that this was a two – patient room and there was a long curtain separating the two beds. “Hell yes I am awake,” growled the voice from the other side of the curtain. “How could anybody sleep with all that racket going on over there?” “Well I am sorry about that,” John replied apologetically. “Are you hungry?” “It’s about time,” he growled again. “I thought you’d never ask. I was just about to push my panic button and have Nurse Mona break up your party. But you just bought my silence. Now pull this durn curtain out of the way and let me have some real food. I have been in here four days and I can’t take it any more either.”

We all ate fast and in total silence savoring all the wonderful tasting homemade food. The only family business that was discussed throughout the meal was that everyone needed to go to dinner at Brother Lloyd’s house some night because it was his wife that had make most of the food. I can tell you dear readers it was a meal that I would drive five hours to have anytime. While the Brothers were cleaning up the mess that we made, Brother Harold opened the window to let the smell dissipate. Mr. Jackson broke the silence saying, “You know that it’s not going to take Nurse Mona long to figure out your little game. “Whatever do you mean Mr. Jackson,” John asked with an innocent look on his face. “I am just saying that she will figure out that you all are Masonic Brothers at some point and she won’t be happy. She is a by the book person.”

“How did you figure it out,” John asked? “It really wasn’t that hard,” he replied. “My Father was a Mason.  Anyway, thanks for the dinner. Now pull that curtain and let me sleep.” John’s food posse said their goodbyes and told John they would check on him after his surgery and left. I looked up at the clock and it was already close to seven o’clock. I had to drive back that same night so I needed to extract any wisdom of any kind worth using in my column in less than an hour. 

I sure didn’t want to be here when Mona came back. I said in a low voice nodding towards the curtain that separated John’s bed with Mr. Jackson’s, “Do you have anything you want me to tell the Brothers who read the Newsletter?” He pondered a moment before replying and then said, “Don’t worry about talking low. What I have to say can be said in front of anyone.” A low growl came from the other side of the curtain, “I would just as soon you keep it low. I’m trying to sleep.” John lowered his voice to just above a whisper and said, “Brother Chris when did you decide to become a Mason?” “Oh my gosh,” I thought to myself. “I am waiting to hear something profound and important and he’s asking personal questions.” And aloud, “I was initiated in 1984 John so it must have been sometime before that. But what does that have to do with anything?” “No,” he said. “When did you decide to be – come a Mason?” “Come on John,” I asked. “What do you want me to say? I was Raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason in 1985. I guess I became a Mason then, right?”

“No My Brother, you are not getting what I am asking,” he said as he frowned at me. “Then I am confused John. You need to unconfused me.” “Me too,” chimed in the voice on the other side of the curtain. John and I looked at each other and then at the curtain. Then he shrugged and said, “Brother Chris, people are always asking me when I became a Mason and I have always answered like you did and then the other day it hit me like a lightning bolt right between the eyes.” And as he said it he gave this dramatic demonstration of his idea of a lightning bolt hitting him right between the eyes.

“John,” I said hurriedly as I looked at the clock, we don’t have much time. You need to not be so dramatic and get to the point.” ‘He’s right,” echoed Jackson from next door. You are giving me a headache. Get to it man.” “OK, OK here it is,” he said with an exasperated tone, glancing at the curtain as he spoke. “When you were initiated, you were “made” a Mason. When you were Raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason you were told that you were entitled to all the “rights and benefits” of a Master Mason, but nowhere in any of your Degrees or your memory work did anyone tell you or did you read that you had “become” a Mason. You know why? Because you hadn’t. Just because a man is Initiated, Passed, and Raised does not mean he has “become” a Mason. Finishing the Degrees does not mean that instantaneously a Brother has become the man that our Principals and Teachings can make him.

There are many, many Brothers out there that have never made the decision to “become” a Mason. Oh, sure, they had to be good men, of good character to even be considered for membership into our gentle Brotherhood, but “becoming” a Mason takes time, and study, and reflection, and lots and lots of hard work. No wonder that it is said that Masonry is a “Way of Life” because for most Brothers it becomes your life and is a lifetime work in progress. Given the proper amount of time and thought it becomes a part of everything you say and do …. of every decision you make and every life you touch. It inspires you to do things you never thought you could do. But just because you carry a membership card doesn’t …. and I repeat, doesn’t mean you have become a Mason. 

“I think I understand what you are saying John,” I said hoping I wasn’t disturbing Mr. Jackson. “It is pretty easy to spot each of those Brothers who have “become” a Mason. There aren’t that many of them though.” “Yup, Brother Chris,” he said, “but there are many, many more Brothers out there who have made the conscious decision to begin the work necessary to “become” a Mason. All Masons are good men, but there are those who you just know that have “become” everything that Masonry is about. They have not an unkind word or thought, but always a thoughtful smile and a warm handshake. A Brother who you know immediately would do anything for you and who you could trust with your life. They are men who go about their lives doing good things for others without fanfare or recognition. Too many Brothers walk around with a membership card in their wallets and think that means they have “become” a Mason, but I can tell you that they are wrong in their thinking. There is a difference in being a good man and “becoming” a Mason. Now do you know what I am talking about?”

Before I could answer a sad sounding voice from the other side of the curtain said, “Well I sure do.  You make a very good point. I happen to be one of those card-carrying Brothers. I never made that decision to “become” a Mason.” John and I just stared at each other not saying anything. I could imagine Mr. … err… apparently Brother Jackson lying there staring at the ceiling absorbing John’s words. The silence was finally broken by John who asked, “Why didn’t you say you were a Mason before?” I heard the Brother take a deep breath and blow it out, and then he said, “Well I guess I was a little ashamed. Not ashamed to be Mason but ashamed that I never learned how to be a true Mason. My Lodge Brothers were all good men I am sure, but I never felt like I was one of them and it was easier to not go to Lodge than to make a place for myself there. I figured that I was a Master Mason so I was as much a Mason as any of them but just now I sadly realize that I never was.” Then I heard him chuckle and say, “Brothers, I stopped believing in coincidences long ago and I believe that somehow I was supposed to be right here tonight to hear what you said. Thank you for saying it and ….. thanks for the dinner. Now be quiet and let me sleep.”

John and I just stared at each other with a dumb look on our faces. “So, Brother Chris,” said John “Did I give you something to pass on to the Brothers?” All I could do is shake my head and smile. “John,” I said. “You surely did and I will tell you what I think.  I think you “became” a Mason a long time ago.” “I am not so sure about that, Brother Chris,” he said seriously.  “But I appreciate you saying it. I just hope that when the Supreme Architect calls me home, he won’t be disappointed in me.”

All of a sudden the door burst open and there she was….. Nurse … Mona, and she had one of those “HA, I caught you” looks on her face. She looked around the room and seemed disappointed that the other Brothers were already gone and then her eyes settled on me. I glanced at the clock and realized I was on her time. I could feel my hair prickling on the back of my neck as I stammered in a weak voice, “I was just leaving.” “You sure are,” she growled. “It’s eight o’clock. Say your good – byes and get out. I’ll be waiting outside.” Well I just stood there frozen for a few seconds and I realized that my knees were shaking. “Boy she scares the crap out of me,” I said. “I am sure glad I am not in here.” “Thanks a lot,” John whined. “You’d really go and leave a Brother behind knowing how she is?”  “I feel confident that you and Brother Jackson can take her no problem,” I said not really meaning it. “Don’t count on it”, Came the voice from beyond the curtain and I realized I needed to get while the getting was good.

 I said, “OK John, I gotta go now.” “Here take this box with you,” he said quickly. “No John,” I said. “What if she smells it. She will surely kick my rear end all over the place.” “Better you than me,” he shot back. “Now go!” I grabbed the box and did what my Dad told me a long time ago to do in a tight situation. I kept a stiff upper lip and a puckered rear ….  and stepped out into the hall. Oh yes, she was waiting for me all right. I said a little prayer and ended with a whispered “So Mote It Be” that I could get by Nurse Mona with this big box of food trash with my hide still intact….  and boldly started for the elevator.

Then out of nowhere something devious popped into my mind and I thought, “What the heck” and changed my course to pass close by where she was standing with her hands on her hips her eyes shooting daggers at me. As I went past her I leaned in and whispered in her ear that John had told me that he thought she was a real cute. Boy… she reacted as if she had been slapped. As I got on the elevator she was still standing in the same spot with a stunned look on her face. I must have laughed half the way home. I made a mental note to myself not to answer any calls from John for a couple of weeks. He was going to need time to cool off. I hope to talk to you all next month. Have a good one.



High Twelve in Sweetwater, TX

It has been a while since I have seen John, since he retired and all, but as fate would have it, I did accidentally happen to see him…or maybe it wasn’t accidental at all. But I couldn’t let this experience just go by without sharing it. It was one of those times, which as I have gotten older and a little wiser (which is up for argument according to Pam) that I have been able to see past the obvious and realize that things…at least some things… happen as if they were written in some ancient spiritual script and we are merely following what was predetermined long ago. By now you are probably screaming at the page to ‘get to the point already’ ……and so I shall.

It was a Friday a few weeks ago and I was on my way to Lubbock Texas to a weekend training conference with some other members of the Education and Service Committee. Larry, our Chairman was heading the same way, just from a different direction. He was bringing two other of our committee members Richard and Lane. Realizing that our routes were going to join in a little town called Sweetwater and pretty close to lunch time, we decided to meet there and have some lunch and do a little planning for the weekend ahead before driving the last leg into Lubbock. We had sought the advice of that learned sage Uncle Google, and found out that the best place to eat in the area was Allen’s Home Style restaurant located just east of beautiful downtown Sweetwater, Texas. That seeming like our best option, we decided to meet there around noon.

Well, I got there about 45 minutes before they did and since I was unfamiliar with the town I figured I would locate this Allen’s Home Style restaurant and make it easier for them to find when they got in. I entered the address into my GPS and “proceeded to the highlighted route where the guidance system took over”….sounds familiar, huh? And she says that every time. As it turned out, I didn’t need the navigation system because it looked like every vehicle in Sweetwater was parked at Allen’s. I thought, “Wow, it looks like we picked the right place for sure. I called Larry and told him how to get to the restaurant and told him I was going to see if I could find an antique shop to look through while I waited. He threatened me about buying “all the good stuff” and he was still hurling threats as I hung up on him. He and I are on the same page when it comes to old Masonic stuff.

I conversed briefly with my favorite Uncle Google again to ascertain the whereabouts of any antique shops in Sweetwater and got four possibilities. I have been really lucky in the past to find some old and rare Masonic jewelry as well as some old books. All of the shops happened to be located on the same street and all were closed except one. I parked and walked in and was immediately greeted by the owner and his wife who told me to take my time and look around. I said that I didn’t have a lot of time but that I was just looking to see if they had anything in the store that was Masonic in nature.

Immediately I got the feeling that I had said something wrong. He and his wife looked at each other and then everywhere but at me. It was like I was a DEA agent and they were drug kingpins. They looked as guilty (about something) as I’ve ever seen anyone. I was greatly confused and asked, “What’s wrong?” And looking from side to side like he didn’t want anyone to hear (there was no one else in the store) he leaned across the counter towards me and said in a low voice, “I do have a few things but I can’t let anyone see them until the Mayor sees them first.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that. I just stood there with my mouth hanging open trying to figure out what I had missed. A lot of things flashed by in my mind….did this town have a problem with Freemasons? Was I in some kind of danger? The hair stood up on the back of my neck as I watched his hands to see if he pressed a hidden button under the counter. Or did they have something really valuable and special? Or maybe …Brad is right when he says I am such a drama queen. Well that may be but this was a still little weird. There we were

just staring at each other across the counter when the silence was broken by the voice of reason….aka his wife saying, “Yes the Mayor is the Master of the local Masonic Lodge and he has first dibs on all Mason stuff.” “Ahhhh!,” I said, the light finally shining in. “I totally understand now. He is not only a good man but a smart man as well.” And as they nodded in agreement I thanked them and took my leave from the little antique shop on the corner of Main Street.

I decided to go back to Allen’s and just wait for the guys to show up. When I got there it was close to one o’clock and most of the cars had cleared out so I took a spot in front row. I wasn’t sitting there more than five minutes when Larry’s Tahoe pulled in and parked next to me. We all piled out of our trucks and threw the usual pleasantries and insults at each other and headed for the front door of Allen’s.

The minute we walked in the door we were confronted…and I do not mean greeted, I do mean confronted… by a woman who demanded to know how many were in my party. Startled, I quickly said four and she pointed to a table for ten that had three guys already sitting at it and said, “Sit there.” Not even looking at who we were going to be sitting with I glanced around at the room and saw that there were seven other tables and all of them were empty. I was confused, and by the look on Larry’s and the other guys’ faces they were too but before I could ask why, the woman ordered us again to sit.

Now, I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I am married and have been for 41 years and unless my life is in jeopardy, when a woman says sit I usually sit….and ask questions later. Apparently, Larry, Richard, and Lane had been trained in the same tradition. As we sat she asked what we wanted to drink suggesting iced tea and by the time our rear ends hit the chair there were drinks already in front of us. If everything hadn’t gone fast enough already, it got even faster as several women started placing platters and bowls of food on the table in front of us. We were still in the stunned mode and watched as each bowl and platter was picked up as soon and it hit the table by the guys across from us and after shoveling some onto their own plates, they passed them down. Eventually each platter and bowl made its way around the table to us where we likewise took some for ourselves. There was a platter piled high with fresh hot fried chicken (the best I have ever had) and another with half inch slabs of roast beef. There were bowls with what looked like every kind of vegetable known to man. As they passed into and out of my hands I saw mashed potatoes, potato salad, green beans, collard greens, red beans, cabbage, fresh boiled okra, creamed corn, mac and cheese, carrots, squash and gravy and fresh rolls… and a couple of things I could not identify but tasted really good. At that point there was nothing left to do but dig in and eat… and we did.

I had totally forgotten that we were sitting across from three other guys and when I heard his voice I froze for a split second before looking up and when I did I was staring into the big blue eyes of “THE” big John Deacon. I just smiled and stood up as did he, and met him at the head of the table. Our right hands clasped in that familiar grip embracing each other with the other. It had been more than a year since I had seen him and other than looking like he had gained a few pounds, he looked exactly the same. Realizing, I suppose, that food was on the table and getting cold, he broke away abruptly and went back to his seat. As I sat down he reached across the table and greeted Larry, Richard, and Lane and introduced his two friends who were not members of the Fraternity. “I thought you were retired,” I said to him as he filled his mouth with a sizable fork full of food. He tried to answer but was waived off by everyone at the table at the sight of him trying to talk with a full mouth. One of his companions, Mark, replied that, “He was, but they brought him out of retirement so he could show Bill and I the territory.” Then John, making a big deal out of swallowing added, “Naaah, I am

just showing these fellers all the best places to eat.” Now, that is something I could believe for sure. “And I’ll bet you are sticking your two buddies with your lunch bill like you used to with me,” I shot at him. And as I said that, I could see the two heads on either side of him nodding in agreement. “He used to justify sticking me with buying his lunch,” I continued looking at Mark, “by telling me that the wisdom he was giving me was worth every penny.” And as I said that, the two turned to stare at John who flushed slightly but kept on eating.

Finally we all settled into just enjoying the meal. There wasn’t a lot of conversation except for requests for more of this or that every time a bowl or platter got emptied. I watched amazed at the mountain of chicken bones on the plate next to John. Every time a bowl or platter was emptied it was replaced immediately with another full one and usually it didn’t have time to actually touch the table before John grabbed it and forked, scooped, or poured the majority of its contents on his plate. Wow, some things never change. As I sat there watching John I realized with satisfaction how un-stressful this meal actually was, since I didn’t have to pay for John’s lunch and I wasn’t trying to meet a deadline on writing his words of wisdom in time to get it in a newsletter. So unless he was feeling particularly talkative, there would be no profound pontifications today… and that was ok with me.

Larry, seeing how much food was being consumed and the unique situation we were in and John sitting right across the table from us, elbowed me and whispered, “Wow, this would make a heck of a John Deacon article.” And he was right, but the key was and has always been, whether and what he has to say. Sometimes what he says is …unprintable and sometimes it is un- understandable and then other times it is just a lot of whining and moaning. The truth was that right now I was hoping he didn’t have anything to say. But time would tell as it looked like he was starting to get full. I know I felt like I was about to pop, so I pushed my plate away and leaned back and took a deep breath. John saw my discomfort and grinned and said, “You think you are done eating Brother Chris?” “No,” I answered, not even attempting to hide my pain. “I don’t just think I am done…I know I am done.” John, still grinning said, “Just wait.” And as he said those words the smell of something familiar floated across the table….something I really liked. And before I could say it out loud, four bowls of warm fresh homemade peach cobbler were laid on the table.

The first two bowls were empty before they left John’s hands and the next two were empty before they got to me. Then came two more and the third two bowls I grabbed one and Lane grabbed the other and between the two of us Larry and Richard finally got some cobbler too. Then once again silence descended and before it was over there were four more bowls of cobbler delivered to our table. I had two helpings and I was sure I was going to be sick from overeating, but all John could say was “Told you so.” But it was some of the best peach cobbler I have ever had.

I had eaten so much I thought I might lose consciousness. I couldn’t remember ever feeling as miserable as I did and at the same time satisfied by the awesome food, and when I glanced around it looked like everyone at the table was in the same shape I was. I remember my grandfather used to lean back in his chair after a big meal and say to no one in particular, “I think I feel a nap coming on.” I used to laugh at him when he would say that but now I know that he was a very wise man, however, a nap was not in my immediate future.

All of a sudden the silence was broken by the voice of my Brother John who all of a sudden felt it necessary to expound to all of us his view of life and the world about us. He announced to everyone within hearing that he was in the process of expanding his mind. And before I could stop it from coming out of my mouth I mumbled

something about, “that’s not the only thing that is expanding.” We all had to endure a ten second John Deacon glare while choking on our laughter, before he went on. He said that there is a lot of things that are happening around us that we do not realize or even think about. He said that we need to make our view a lot wider and not just see what is in front of us. He said that he had been reading a lot about Brother Manly P. Hall and that Brother Hall had stated that “It is said that wisdom lies not in seeing things, but in seeing through things.

“Daaaang Brother John,” I said approvingly. “You sound like you have turned into some kind of Mystic or something.” “Brother Chris,” he replied looking a little puzzled. “I don’t really know what a Miss Stick or even a Mr. Stick or any other kind of stick or whatever the heck you are trying to say is… all I really know is that I am looking at things a little bit different lately. It’s like things are sending me out a lot bigger messages than they ever have before.” Everyone was chuckling at his ‘Miss Stick/Mr. Stick’ reference and the guy sitting on his left decided to take it a step further and said to John, “Do you have to wear your little tin foil cap to tune in to all those messages?” And then he threw back his head a laughed out loud. When he opened his eyes there were four Brother Masons, not laughing, staring daggers at him. With a look of confusion and fear on his face the laughing abruptly stopped.

John looked directly at the three of us and said in a serious voice, “I want to tell you what happened last week in Lodge. We were about halfway through our Stated Meeting when the Worshipful Master stood up and said he needed to make an announcement. He said that the week before, one of the Lodge Brothers had given him a gift. Well right there I started to thinking that the middle of a stated Meeting might not be the best place to talk about something personal that happened between the Worshipful Master and another Brother. But it turned out that he had a good reason for sharing it with all of us. He said that the gift was something of considerable value and that he was very touched by the Brothers desire to present it to him. He said that the gift had a note accompanying it and the note basically said thanks for being a friend and mentor to him for many years and for all the things he had taught him. As he was telling us this, the Worshipful Master got a little emotional and had to clear his throat a couple of times. And it was then that he commenced to making his point. He said that it had never dawned on him that he was doing the things that the Brother was thanking him for and that it had made him realize that as Masons…. “we don’t realize sometimes what we do for others.” The Lodge got real quiet as all the Brothers there contemplated that statement”….and he grinned as he glanced at the three of us, “just like all of you are doing right now.”

“Now there was a time,” he continued, “when I would just take that statement as face value and not give it much thought, but this is the new and improved John.” We all snorted and shook our heads and quickly agreed that we saw nothing new or improved across the table from us and we told him so. He glared and ignored us and went on with his story. “On the way home that night I couldn’t stop thinking about what the Worshipful Master had said. I started thinking about how important it is that we as Masons commit ourselves to being good men and to doing the right thing and without realizing it, our conduct probably does have an effect on those around us. Heck, if you belong to an organization that says to everyone that we take good men and make them better, people are probably going to be eyeballing us to see if we are who we say we are. As I was driving down that road, I recollected a time I read a paper where it pretty much proved that this great country was created based upon the principles and teachings of this Fraternity and yet there was no mention anywhere of our Fraternity as having anything to do with the founding of this country. History also fails to mention that almost all the major newspapers in the colonies at the time were owned and operated by

Masons nor is it written in any historical account of the founding of our Country that a large percentage of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence and those who wrote the constitution as well as those who were the leaders of our Federal government were our Brother Freemasons.”

“I think that most of us at this table would agree with that, John,” I interrupted, having forgotten the perils of doing so. “But how does that have anything to do with your story about your Worshipful Master?” There was a silence…a too long silence…an uncomfortable silence accompanied by John’s death stare. I had forgotten how bad John hated to be interrupted and I have found that the best thing to do is just be silent till he gets his thoughts back together because that usually takes a little while.

Finally he got it together and continued as if he had never stopped, “The point is…my pain in the rear Brother Chris, that since there was no evidence anywhere that our Masonic Fraternity organized or led the revolution and yet the facts are there that our Country was in fact founded on Masonic principles, then it follows that the Masons of the thirteen colonies, and there were very few of them, by communicating and living those principles and tenets, influenced not only the revolution but also the writing of our constitution and the formation of the government. And therein lies my point and it is in the words that the Worshipful Master spoke. ‘We really don’t realize what we do for others’ or how much living our lives as true Masons influences those around us. And that is something we need to think about every day.” And then he shut up and let us contemplate in silence what he had just said. Naaaah, that’s not true. Actually he noticed a small bit of peach cobbler left in the bottom of one of the bowls and proceeded to scrape a couple of layers of paint off the bowl trying to get that last molecule out of it. But it did silence us and make us think. Even the two non- Masons at the table were left speechless.

As I sat there allowing the warm feeling of his words wash over us, it occurred to me that any good things that we do or any good things that others see in us that would influence them to emulate us, has to come as a result of not just being a member of this Fraternity, but by BEING a Mason and also understanding what a Mason really is and what Masonry is really about. Only then can Masons and Masonry have a real effect on people and society.

The name “Freemason” is not enough. There are way too many named (and many come to mind as I sat there) organizations and groups whose actions are contrary to what their name or stated purpose implies. The name means nothing unless the actions meet or exceed it. The majority of things that we do, we do without thinking about them and as such are the products of the good men that we are, but those times that we come to that fork in the road where we are challenged to do something different or react in a different way than most people would; those are the times that show the world the true meaning of being a Freemason. John’s worshipful master obviously had been a great example of Masonry to his Brother and I expect that he was the same everywhere.

I snapped back into the present at the sound of dishes clattering and not surprisingly John was busy making sure there was nothing left in any. On my left Larry announced that we needed to get back on the road and he was right. We had taken a lot longer than we planned for lunch. I asked for the bill but the lady clearing off the table informed us that there was none and to just go to the register.

I do not know how I managed to pull myself to my feet….it sure wasn’t easy…but it was gratifying to see that I wasn’t the only one with that problem. I was the first to stagger to the cashier and I started to tell her what I had eaten and she ignored me and simply said, “Ten dollars” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had my wallet in my hands and as I opened it I asked, “Ten Dollars?” It was obvious that she didn’t have the time or

patience to explain it to me as she reached into my opened wallet and deftly extracted a ten dollar bill slide it into the register and thank me all in the same motion. All the guys were in line behind me and it was apparent that everyone thought I was shocked by how inexpensive the meal was, however the truth was that I was angry. “How could you be angry,” you say? I was angry for several reasons. I was angry because of all the lunches I had endured with John that he had eaten enough food for four grown men and stuck me with the check. I was angry that here I was at the same lunch with John Deacon and all he had eaten was only going to cost his two groupies ten lousy dollars. Wow, I needed to get on the road and cool off. I got out to my truck and before I could open the door, I was stopped in my tracks by the booming voice of the John as he ran across the parking lot to my truck. He was pretty winded having run about 30 feet and I thought he might have a heart attack as he reached out and grabbed me in one of those smothering John Deacon bear hugs.

“I haven’t seen you for over a year my Brother pardner. Let’s not make it so long next time. Well I forgot about being angry and said, “I agree, John” and hugged him back even though I couldn’t come close to getting my arms around what can only be described as his equator. I am sure there were people who were scandalized watching two grown men hug….but there is a lot of meaning in a Masonic embrace. And that is all I am going to say about that… Sitting in my truck waiting for Larry to go in front of me I watched John haul his humongous -ness into the driver’s seat of Ol Blackie and I smiled at his name for that big black truck. And as he roared off down the road …..I was angry again about that dang ten dollars. I hope I can get over that before I see him again. Until next time…y’all be safe.