Monday, December 10, 2012

A Worshipful Master's Prayer

0 Sovereign God, the G∴A∴O∴T∴U∴, we thank You for this solemn occasion which has drawn us together. Grant that this may be a happy and enriching place for us all for we desire your presence, Your wisdom and Your courage. Challenge us to understand better how to manage and appreciate the experiences we will share. Help us to support one another in a spirit of brotherly love so that our efforts in your name will be for the benefit of us all. Guide us and strengthen us for what lies ahead.

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

Spirituality vs. Religion in Masonry

"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"
I have grown accustomed to the notion that Masons do not comprise a majority of men in the world, and as a Jewish Mason, I have become comfortable with the fact that I represent a minority of a minority.  In many ways, this presents an advantage, chief among them being able to correctly pronounce "Yehu-Aber" and "Naphtali", among other biblical names.

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

On the Religious Intolerance in Florida

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.

Welcome to The Oblong Square - a collaboration of:
  • Mitch Goldstein ( - Philanthropy Lodge No. 225, F&AM of Pennsylvania
  • Erik Arneson ( - Esoterika Lodge No. 227, PM of Ashland Lodge No.23, AF&AM of Oregon
The Oblong Square is intended to be a serious site of Masonic Scholarship but with a sardonic and offbeat twist.  Interested collaborators are invited to contact the authors.

"True Masonry is esoteric; it is not a thing of this world; all that we have here is a link, a doorway, through which the student may pass into the unknown.  It has nothing to do with things of form save that it realizes that for is molded by and manifests the life it contains, and the student is seeking to mold his life that the form will glorify the God whose temple he is slowly building as he awakens one after another the workmen within himself and sets them to the carrying out of the plan which has been give him out of heaven."
Manly P. Hall - "The Lost Keys of Masonry"