Saturday, May 11, 2013
(In Pennsylvania Masonry, we are specifically told to engage in the study of the Five Principal Orders and given their names, but we do not have any legenda or lectures in our work that explain their significance to the Craft.)
For our interest in a short discussion of classical architecture, we can focus on the structural elements, namely the differences in the styling of the supporting columns. In classical architecture, columns evolved throughout time to reflect the technology of the builders as well as the aesthetic sensibility of the times. All columns are composed chiefly of three parts, the base, the shaft and the capital. To which order a column belongs depends primarily on the proportion of the width of the column to its height, but more noticeably about the decorative elements that are used to adorn the capital and base. A more intense study of these architectural forms will indicate many other elements that contribute to the classification of an order, but we will focus on the columns themselves.
Although the Principal Orders are five, two are actually derivatives of the original three orders, namely, the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian, also known as the Greek Orders. In many lodge rooms, these are the orders that are used for the pedestals at the station of the Junior Warden, Senior Warden and the Worshipful Master.
The oldest of these is the Doric, which is most notable for originally lacking a base, and standing flat on its flooring. Doric columns, found on the Parthenon in Athens, are decorated with vertical grooves, usually twenty around, which are thought to originate in imitation of ancient columns made of bundled wood. They have a smooth, undecorated capital that joins to a square plate of material known as an abacus. Doric columns have a proportion of six or seven times their diameter. Since all columns are narrower at the capital than at the base, Doric columns look shorter and squatter than other columns. The Lincoln Memorial also employed this order in its construction.
The Ionic column brought several changes to the simplicity of the Doric. Because of advances in building techniques, the proportion of columns was changed to make them nine diameters high, thus allowing for taller construction. The capitals of Ionic columns are decorated with a spiral figure known as a 'volute', whose name derives from the Latin 'voluta' or scroll. It can only be speculated as to whether the Greek architects conceived of this shape from natural observations, such as snail shell, or by mathematical derivation. Although lost in the mists of time, the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, one of the Ancient Wonders of the World, was constructed with the Ionic order. The Jefferson Memorial is another modern example of this order as is the Westmoreland County courthouse.
The Corinthian column is less mathematical and more sculptured in appearance. In addition to the increase in its proportional height to ten diameters, the capital is richly decorated with small volutes and complex leaf-like structures, which are styled after the 'acanthus' leaf, a common flowering Mediterranean plant with fern-like leaves frequently used for decoration. The Pantheon in Rome is the canonical example of this order of architecture and still stands today. The U.S. Capitol building and the National Archives are decorated with this order.
The other two Orders are called Roman orders and are derivations of the Greek. The Tuscan Order actually came into use long after the Greek period, but is listed first because of its starkness and simplicity. The Tuscan is essentially an undecorated column and had a 'renaissance' in Roman architecture. Its proportional height is also seven times the diameter. Thomas Jefferson's famous home, Monticello, is decorated with Tuscan columns.
The Composite Order is not actually an order to itself, but is a later addition to classical architecture, consisting of various compositions of each of the features, generally that of the acanthus leaves and volutes in alternating arrangement. It usually has a proportion of eleven or twelve times the diameter. It was used in Ancient Rome primarily for triumphant arches, such as the Arch of Titus, which still stands in the Forum and commemorates the sack of the Second Temple at Jerusalem.
In the next installment, I will discuss the meanings of the various orders and their association with Masonic teachings.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
With thanks to Bro:. Kevin Main
Sunday, March 31, 2013
It seems instructive to focus on the common themes between these two holidays and avoid the stark differences. Both holidays celebrate redemption and the renewal of the spring, the resurrection phase of the cycle of life. Both are focused, in their own way, on liberation - from slavery and sin. Both are structured around festive meals, centered around family and friends. Both use the egg as a symbol of nature and fertility.
In the Passover 'seder' ceremony, we eat green herbs to remind us of the forthcoming spring, dipped in salt water as a reminder of the tears shed by martyrs and those who suffer in the cause of good. Green is also the predominant color of the regalia of a "Perfect Master", which is what I have been thinking about a great deal. Primarily, I will be traveling back to Guthrie to see the degrees of the Scottish Rite again at their Spring Reunion, secondarily because I have been set my fifth degree paper
for the College of the Consistory, so I will be paying special attention to that degree and it's symbolism of new life as the consequence of death.
In addition to these sacred holidays, it's also visitation season, meaning I will have the opportunity of traveling with my District Deputy Grand Masters as a sitting Master. I am really enjoying the opportunity to meet so many Brethren from near and far. I am looking forward to visiting lodges in Ohio, West Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia too!
As a result, I make a promise to record my experiences during my travels. I hope it is edifying.
Monday, January 14, 2013
In Morals and Dogma*, the chapter for the 28º - The Knight of the Sun or Prince Adept - still remains one of my favorite chapters in that austere and stirring masterpiece of Bro:. Albert Pike. I will leave you with his closing instruction for that degree as my final thoughts for the evening:
There is no pretence to infallibility in Masonry. It is not for us to dictate to any man what he shall believe. We have hitherto, in the instruction of the several Degrees, confined ourselves to laying before you the great thoughts that have found expression in the different ages of the world, leaving you to decide for yourself as to the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of each, and what proportion of truth, if any, each contained. We shall pursue no other course in this closing Philosophical instruction; in which we propose to deal with the highest questions that have ever exercised the human mind, --with the existence and the nature of a God, with the existence and the nature of the human soul, and with the relations of the divine and human spirit with the merely material Universe.
*Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry , prepared for the
Supreme Council of the Thirty Third Degree for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States:
Monday, December 10, 2012
Almighty and Eternal God, teach us that we can see always see clearly in the glow of Masonic Light. Grant us grace to recognize the labors that You would have us perform, courage to proceed with them, and strength to complete them. Eternal Father, light up the small duties of this life as well as our Great Work. May we understand that Your presence dwells in the most common tasks, and let us understand that there is no service to others which is without value. We thank You for our opportunities to serve and ask for Your guidance and blessing in all our endeavors.
0 Lord, our God, You have shepherded us through all our years and have heaped blessings upon us. Forgive us those times when we have refused or ignored Your counsel and guidance. Since we have been so richly blessed, a large obligation is upon us to share our talent, energies and resources with those in our lives. May our sincere repentance bring about a strong resolve to be more diligent in service to You, a deeper desire to be more worthy of the responsibility given us and a greater sensitivity to those about us.
Lord, Deliver us from selfishness and egotism, which so easily beset us. May our minds find their way to Your mind that our work may result in beneficial actions not only for the Craft, but for everyone. Grant that we may become healers and part of the solution to the problems we face. Help us to speak, through love, to the conditions, which trouble us and our nation so that your peace may prevail in this Lodge and in our world. We dedicate this time together to you and thank you for Your continuing blessings.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
"Without the slightest opposition to the Christian religion, as such, it can readily be shown that a sectarian bias of any kind is an innovation, wholly unwarranted, and entirely contrary to the genius of Masonry. Masonry, on the broad principle of toleration and brotherhood, can exclude neither Jew nor Gentile, Parsee nor Buddhist from its ample fold. [There is] a universal character which recognizes the fraternity of all religions, and finds fellowship with all men, as brothers of one common humanity. No genuine Mason, imbued with the spirit of liberality, will treat any religion with derision or contempt, or exclude from fellowship any Brother who believes in the existence of God, the Brotherhood of Man, and the Immortality of the Soul."
-- Bro:. J. D. Buck, "Mystic Masonry"
In my Masonic career, there have been a few times where I was unintentionally embarrassed by Brethren who do not realize that my faith is different from theirs. I have been carelessly and harshly reminded of my ineligibility for eternal life in heaven because I do not believe in the divinity of Jesus, even though I believe I understand what Jesus said and meant in a much more visceral and practical way than some of the more narrow-minded Masons who claim the mantle of 'Christian'.
In my mind, Masonry is in no way a religious institution, despite the claims of its detractors, but a deeply and profoundly spiritual one. I consider spirituality, not religion, to be a landmark of Masonry because it represents the connection to the universality of true light. We do not tolerate religious disputes in the lodge for the same reason we do not in our public secular lives - we cannot presume that a plurality of religion within a Masonic body represents a consensus of belief. Masonic prayers are not directed to Christ, or the God of Abraham, or Allah, or the Great Spirit because these characterizations detract from the ubiquity of the spiritual nature of the Craft. We ask for blessings from the G:.A:.O:.T:.U:., not the specific deity of any religion.
In the work of the Masonic Craft, we are collaborating on a spiritual, not a religious temple. It is a temple of contemplation, not of doctrine. It is a temple made without stones, without mortar, without columns, without pilasters, without jewels, without fine linen - erected to celebrate our discovery of the spiritual light that binds all of mankind in general, and all Brother Masons in particular.
Monday, December 3, 2012
M.W.Bro. Jorge L. Aladro, the Grand Master of Masons in Florida, has invited much criticism with his letter of November 28th. The Ruling and Decision No. 3 attacks "primarily Paganism, Wiccan and Odinism, and secondarily Agnosticism and Gnosticism" and accuses all of them as being incompatible with Freemasonry. The wrongness of his statements is obvious to any who have paid attention to the history of Freemasonry and the lessons of its rituals, and are in plain violation of obligations which M.W.Bro. Aladro has taken at her altar. I am not going to break down his arguments and refute them individually; this has already been done excellently by Bro. Cliff Porter in his open letter. Instead, I will examine a trend in Freemasonry that I believe is actually a positive one.
Problems with religious discrimination in Freemasonry are not new. In fact, in the Spring of 2004, M.W.Bro. Stanley Thompson, then the Grand Master of Missouri, made disparaging remarks about non-Christian religions in public and inspired at least one truly excellent Mason to leave the fraternity. When Freemasonry first made its way to India via the British Empire, it took decades before the first Hindu was allowed to join a lodge. The first Jewish Masons were probably admitted in the 1720s, but even that is rather late. Ideas about tolerance and religious freedom have had to become increasingly expansive in the modern world as our awareness of various religions and society's attitudes towards acceptance have evolved.
In recent years, some parts of the country have seen a resurgence in interest in Freemasonry. This is great news for the Craft, but these new members tend to be younger men who are interested in the spiritual and ethical messages of Masonry, and as such, they are seekers. Many of them may consider themselves gnostic, pagan, or agnostic; but all Freemasonry needs to be concerned with is their belief in a supreme being and, depending on the jurisdiction, some form of immortality of the soul. It is not the right of any man to impose his views of religion and Deity on others. We are here to be tolerant, not to promote religious bigotry.
This wave of younger Masons interested in alternative spirituality and religion must be vexing for some of the so-called "old guard" of the Fraternity. It has been made clear repeatedly that there are members of grand lodges across the country who, in spite of the obligations they made before God, view Freemasonry as just another vehicle to practice religious discrimination. They view the Craft as strictly Christian and try to limit its vital message. And they are wrong.
"Freemasonry is a progressive science," we are taught in its ritual. Centuries ago, we were at the edge of social progressiveness, but over generations we fell behind. For a long time, the specters of bigotry and intolerance have overshadowed the vision of the fraternity, and only in the past few decades has this begun to be reversed. Sometimes intolerance will continue to rear its ugly head as it has in Florida, but those of us who believe in the messages of virtue and tolerance at the heart of Freemasonry need to remain strong and continue to act with patience, prudence and fortitude. If we can do so, we will see Freemasonry return to the forefront of progressive thought where it once stood.