Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Complex Garment of Words

"It is by means of the more lofty conceptual images that the inner principle of Holy Scripture can be stripped gradually of the complex garment of words with which it is physically draped.  Then to the visionary intellect - the intellect which through the total abandonment of its natural activities is able to attain a glimpse of the simplicity that in some measure discloses this principle - it reveals itself as though in the sound of a delicate breeze."

St. Maximos the Confessor (580-662), First Century on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Word vs. The Logos

"Hence a person who seeks God with true devotion should not be dominated by the literal text, lest he unwittingly receive not God but things appertaining to God; that is, lest he feel a dangerous affection for the words of Scripture instead of for the Logos."

St. Maximos the Confessor (580-662), First Century on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Through A Glass Darkly

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

1 Corinthians 13:12

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Perfect vs. The Partial

"But when what is perfect appears, what is partial is superseded: all mirrors and indistinct images pass away when truth is encountered  face to face."

St. Maximos the Confessor (580-662), First Century on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Cross and the Burial

"All visible realities need the cross, that is, the state in which they are cut off from things acting upon them through the senses.  All intelligible realities need burial, that is, the total quiescence of the things which act upon them through the intellect. When all relationship with such things is severed, and their natural activity and stimulus is cut off, then the Logos, who exists alone in Himself, appears as if raised from the dead. He encompasses all that comes from Him, but nothing enjoys kinship with Him by virtue of natural relationship. For the salvation of the saved is by grace and not by nature."

St. Maximos the Confessor (580-662), First Century on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Blue, Purple, Scarlet, Gold, White

"Heavens Royal Blood Purchases Purity"

James Strong, The Tabernacle of Israel in the Desert
"The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre, skilful to work in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and in timber, in purple, in blue, and in fine linen, and in crimson;"

2 Chronicles 2:13

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Mystery of the Cross

"He who apprehends the mystery of the cross and the burial apprehends the inward essences of created things, while he who is initiated into the inexpressible power of the resurrection apprehends the purpose for which God first established everything."

St. Maximos the Confessor (580-662), First Century on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The key to arcane symbolism

"The mystery of the incarnation of the Logos is the key to all the arcane symbolism and typology in the Scripture, and in addition gives us knowledge of created things, both visible and intelligible."

St. Maximos the Confessor (580-662), First Century on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Cathedral Mechanics

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Passionless State

"The soul that at any time improved as regards the knowledge of virtue and increase in righteousness should obtain an improved position in the universe, pressing onwards at every step to a passionless state, until it comes to a perfect man, a preeminence at once of knowledge and of inheritance."

St. Clement of Alexandria

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Cunning Man

"And now I have sent a cunning man, endued with understanding, of Huram my father's,

The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre, skilful to work in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and in timber, in purple, in blue, and in fine linen, and in crimson; also to grave any manner of graving, and to find out every device which shall be put to him, with thy cunning men, and with the cunning men of my lord David thy father."

2 Chronicles 2: 13-14

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Sun and the Moon

"God set these lights in the heavens, not merely as lamps unto our physical feet by night and by day, but in a far deeper sense to keep us mortals enlightened by their astonishing revelation of our cosmic and spiritual history. For the sun and moon together trace in the open book of the skies each month and each year the entire narrative of our inner experience."

Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Spiritual Symbolism of the Sun and Moon

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Opening and Closing

"The openings and closings are regarded as but so much casual formality devoid of interior purpose or meaning, whereas they are ceremonies of the highest instructiveness and rites with a distinctive purpose which should not be profaned by casual perfunctory performance or without understanding what they imply."

Walter Leslie Wilmshurst, On the Opening and Closing of the
Lodge, from The Meaning of Masonry

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Seen of Cephas

"And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:"

1 Corinthians 15: 4-5

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Winchester Cathedral

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Mysteries of All Nations

"Freemasonry is not, as some authors seem to think, a scion snatched with a violent hand from the ancient mysteries; but, in reality, the original institution from which all the mysteries were derived; because, from their agreement in certain essential points which could only be obtained from a system of purity and truth, we derive ample testimony to establish the fact, that the mysteries of all nations were originally the same, and diversified only by the accidental circumstances of local situation and political economy."

George Oliver, Signs and Symbols Explained; 12 Lectures

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Light vs. Darkness

"Masonry is a march and a struggle towards the Light. For the individual as well as the nation, Light is Virtue, Manliness, Intelligence, Liberty. Tyranny over the soul or body, is darkness."

Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Constant Felicity

"Masons in particular, as the elect of God, should put on bowels of compassion; your addition of wisdom, both scientific and Divine, which you receive in your lectures should make you apt to teach. The humble condition, both of property and dress; of penury and want, in which you was received into the Lodge; should make you at all times sensible of the distresses of poverty, and all you can spare from the call of nature, and the due care of your families, should only remain in your possessions, as a ready sacrifice to the necessities of an unfortunate, a distressed Brother. Let the distressed cottage feel the warmth of your Masonic zeal; and if possible, exceed even the unabating ardour of Christian charity. At your approach, let the orphan cease to weep; and in the sound of your voice, let the widow forget her sorrow. Let your amiable presence at home be the constant felicity of your family. Let the sincerity of your piety and devotion be a song of praise in the church.  Let the integrity and affability of your conduct in the world, be the subject of conversation to all those with whom you travel through life; and charity and benevolence the armorial bearings of your masonic honours."

Jethro Inwood, Sermons

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bowels of Compassion

But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

1 John 3:17

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Eternal Wisdom

"And even such details as the construction of the kalendar, or the reckoning of the years, become irradiated with a sudden glow when we recognize as those long-departed students gazed silently and persistently into Nature's infinite Book of secrecy, their vision pierced beyond the veil of sense; and that for every festival and every cycle, the outward aspect of the earth and heaven imaged to their mind some interior and eternal truth.  And that interest quickens with an ever-growing freshness as we pass from the celebration and ceremonies of their common life to the deeper doctrine of the Hidden God, and the Instruction of the Postulant in the secrets of the Eternal Wisdom."

Walter Marsham Adams, The Book of the Master

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Moses in Egypt

"Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; he was initiated in all the knowledge of the WISEMEN of that nation, by whom the learning of antiquity had been retained and held sacred; wrapped up from the eye of the wicked and vulgar, in symbols and hieroglyphics, and communicated to men of their own order only, with care, secrecy, and circumspection. - This secrecy is not in any wise to be wondered at, when we consider the persecution which would have followed a faith unacceptable to the ignorance of the nations who were enveloped in superstition and bigotry; and more particularly, as these sages were in possession of that valuable knowledge of the powers of nature, of the qualities of matter, and properties of things, so dangerous to be communicated to wicked and ignorant men, from whose malevolence the most horrid offences might be derived: of which we may judge by the extraordinary and astonishing performances even of those impious and unenlightened men, who contended with MOSES, in the miracles he performed, under the immediate impression and influence of the Deity."

William Hutchinson, The Spirit of Masonry in Elucidatory Lectures 
Lecture One: The Design
Photo Source: all-history.org

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Monday, October 14, 2013


"The best institutions may be brought into contempt by the indiscretion of those who form them."

William Preston, Illustrations of Masonry

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Do not slander your brother

"Value then the reputation of your brother as you would your own; his disgrace, especially in the relation of it, will always be a part of your own; and if he deserves not your love and complacency, at least he has a demand upon your pity and commiseration."

Jethro Inwood, Sermon Preached at Gravesend on the Celebration of St. John the Baptist, June 24, 1793.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Series of Stories

"Experiencing the world as a series of stories helps create a sense of context.  It is comforting and orienting. It helps smooth out obstacles and impediments by recasting them as bumps along the way to some better place - or at least an end to the journey. As long as there's enough momentum, enough forward pull, and enough dramatic tension, we can suspend our disbelief enough to stay in the story."

Douglas Rushkoff, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

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"Storytelling became an acknowledged cultural value in itself. In front of millions of rapt television viewers, mythologist Joseph Campbell taught PBS's Bill Moyers how stories provide the fundamental architecture for human civilization. These broadcasts on The Power of Myth inspired filmakers, admen, and management theorists alike to incorporate the tenets of good storytelling into their most basic frameworks.  Even brain scientists came to agree that narrativity amounted to an essential component of cognitive organization."

Douglas Rushkoff, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

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Monday, October 7, 2013

We are all yet students

"You may sound the Atlantic, until you can display on paper a chart of its entire basin; but who has found and mapped out all the bottom of Masonry? On her sea we are all yet students."

Excerpt from "Oration by the Rev. Ferdinand C. Ewer on the Relationship Between Masonry & Christianity" 1862.

Photo: AnglicanHistory.org

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Friday, October 4, 2013

He that hath ears...

As Masonry stands before a man, full of deep meanings, full not merely of moral precepts but of revelations of sublimest truths--the mysteries of time, God, and eternity--she accompanies, as it were, all her teachings with these unanxious words: "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

Excerpt from "Oration by the Rev. Ferdinand C. Ewer on the Relationship Between Masonry & Christianity" 1862.

Photo: anglicanhistory.org

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

St. John the Divine Cathedral

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On The Level

"There are some who despise those they would make, if they could, a species below them, and as not made of the same clay as themselves"; "But if you study the holy book of God, you will there find that you stand on the level not only with them, but with the greatest kings on the earth, as Men and as Masons..."

John Marrant, A Sermon Preached on the 24th day of June 1789, Excerpted from "Black Square and Compass" by Joseph A Walkes, Jr.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Warden's Staff

"The master masons of the medieval period still retained knowledge akin to that used by our ancient forebears about how to us the Sun, probably at the time of the equinox, to determine what to them was a standard unit of measure, a unit that they could easily replicate and retain by cutting a pole, or rod, to the length of the resultant shadow."

Kevin Gest, The Secrets of Solomon's Temple

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pure Fire

"In the Proverbs, Solomon proceeds as through meditation. In Ecclesiastes, he ascends to the first grade of contemplation. In the Song of Songs, and he transports himself to the final grade."
- Hugh of St Victor on Pure Fire

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Brotherly Love

"He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes."
1 John 2:10-11

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Prince Hall Jurisdictional Regularity

"It has been held by many writers that the issue of this warrant was, in fact, an infringement of jurisdiction - but they fail to say whose jurisdiction for there were, at that time, two Grand Lodges in Massachusetts. And in any event the British Grand Lodges have never accepted the American doctrine of exclusive jurisdiction."


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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Every Moment

"Every moment we live through is like an ambassador who declares the will of God, and our hearts always utter their acceptance."
Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675 - 1751)

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Unity of Masonry

The following quote is excerpted from a magazine from the year 1859. I have left the spelling of terms as written, although they display a general ignorance of other religions in the world.  The intent is not to offend Muslims, Hindus, Jews, or Buddhists, but to show the general attitude of Freemasonry, even in ignorance of the specifics, toward universal acceptance of men of all religions, and the attempt to define what unites all of us irrespective of sect or creed.  I believe we have misinterpreted this acceptance to believe that almost no religion is favorable to any specific religion.  I don’t know where we went off the path.

“As Christian Masons, acknowledging the divinity of Christ, we have introduced the Bible into our lodges to manifest our belief in the doctrines which it inculcates; in like manner the followers of Moses, Mahomet, and Burmah may introduce into their masonic assemblies their Pentateuch, their Alcoran, and their Vedan, and yet the unity of masonry would remain – the essential principles on which she moves would be the same – she would still declare to her votaries, I regard not to what sect you attach yourselves; venerate the popular religion of your respective countries; follow the light of your understanding; forget not however the doctrine of the religion of nature; adore the Great Architect of the Universe, acknowledge the immortal soul, and look forward to a state of future retribution, when the virtuous of all religions and countries shall meet together and enjoy never-fading bliss.”

The American Freemason; A Monthly Magazine, Volume III (1859)

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Worse than an Infidel

"Let diligence, temperance, and sobriety be the prevailing habits of your domestic life; that idleness and extravagance may never, in any instance, cause your families to lament your want of conjugal and parental affection. He that careth not for his own household, cannot be a Mason; he is worse than an infidel."

Jethro Inwood, Sermons

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St. Denis Cathedral

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On Death

"Let me die the death of the just, that no injustice may ensnare or wickedness seduce me. How good the death that does not take away life, but makes it better; good in that the body does not perish but the soul is exalted. "
St Bernard of Clairvaux

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First Survey of The Tyler's Sword

The Tyler's Sword Project has released its first survey, and is asking Freemasons of Prince Hall Affiliation to provide some basic information about themselves, their Lodges, and their Grand Lodges. You can find and fill out the survey at this link:
The Project is managed by Freemasons of Prince Hall Affiliation. The first survey will be closed on Sunday September 15, 2013. The results will be compiled into statistics and released as a report on October 1, 2013. You can follow the activities and announcements of the project at any of the accounts below:
At the Project website:   www.tylerssword.info
On Twitter:     https://twitter.com/TylersSword
On Facebook:   facebook.com/tylersswordproject
On Google+:  +the tyler's sword project
By Email:  https://groups.google.com/d/forum/tylerssword
Please "like", "+1", "Share", "Retweet", or "forward" this information for other PHA Freemasons.
You can contact the project at tylersswordproject@yahoo.com with any questions.

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Tyler's Sword Project

I would like to announce a project called The Tyler's Sword Project.  This is an initiative to build a new information source for Prince Hall Affiliated Freemasonry.  We will publish surveys to gather data, compile the results, and publish the reports at a later date.  The first survey will be made public (released) on Monday September 2, 2013. More information is available at the Project Website: www.tylerssword.info.

At this time, we are asking for only Freemasons of Prince Hall Affiliation to engage the surveys.  The results will be made available publicly.  You may follow the progress of the project on Twitter (@tylerssword), Facebook (/TylersSwordProject), Google+, or via email at the Tylers Sword Project Google Group (send email to: tylerssword+subscribe@googlegroups.com).

The Tyler's Sword Project is managed by Freemasons of Prince Hall Affiliation, and is sponsored by our partner The Prince Hall United Service Agency (PHUSA).

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

We Made History

This evening the Freemasons of Ohio made some history.  Not the Mainstream Freemasons or the Prince Hall Masons.  Not the "white Masons" or the "Black Masons", but the Freemasons of Ohio.  

What started as an opportunity for two of the smallest lodges in Central Ohio to perform joint ritual work on a Thursday evening in late August, turned into a number of firsts.  I'm glad I was there.

Samaritan Lodge No. 117, and Arts & Sciences Lodge No. 792 performed joint ritual work for a new Master Mason.  Arts & Sciences is of the Grand Lodge of Ohio.  Samaritan is of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio.  Our jurisdictions have had visitation together.  we have sat in lodge together.  We have observed each other performing the Master Mason Degree work.  Years ago, when the two Jurisdictions first entered into co-recognition, we performed the ritual together, but never before for an actual candidate.  

This evening a team from both Grand Lodges performed together in the Raising of a new Master Mason.  We shared responsibility.  This was the first time in the history of Regular Freemasonry in the State of Ohio, that a lodge of the Grand Lodge of Ohio, and and a lodge of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio, performed joint ritual work.  This could not have been possible without the leadership and vision of both Grand Lodges.

It gets more interesting.  The Candidate is a member of Arts and Sciences Lodge, but his father is a member of a Prince Hall Affiliated Lodge ("Rising Sun" in Youngstown, Ohio).  His father was present to perform some of the most important parts of the ceremony.  I have to say, it was an amazing thing to see a father from one Grand Lodge, perform ceremonies on behalf of a son in another jurisdiction. He presented him with a ring, and they embraced as father and son, and as brothers.  Our two jurisdictions were literally connected with a yet stronger cord this evening. As two families are connected when a child from each gets married and produces a child, we now have a relationship which is stronger than our petty differences.

But Arts & Sciences and Samaritan were not alone in this history.  I counted at least five lodges representing the Grand Lodge of Ohio, including York, Arts & Sciences, University, Reynoldsburg, and another I can't recall the name of.  At least 5 lodges and two districts were represented from the MWPHGLO, including Samaritan, King David, Gloria, Rising Sun, and St. Mark's.  Three of the Brothers had only been raised a few weeks ago, and this was their first meeting as Master Masons themselves.  What a great first meeting to have.

With this act, Freemasonry in Ohio has taken another upright regular step toward its own ideals and aspirations.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Moral Agent

"He is a moral agent who is capable of performing moral actions; and an action is rendered moral by two circumstances, - that it is voluntary, - and that it has respect to some rule while determines it to be good or evil."

Richard Watson, Theological Institutes: A View of the Evidences, Doctrines, Morals, and Institutions of Christianity

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

More About the Word

"The written word is the emblem and external expression of the unwritten Eternal Word, the Logos or Substantial Wisdom, of Deity out of which every living soul has emanated and which, therefore, is the ground or base of human life."
W. L. Wilmshurst

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Reared on earth by the Hand of God

“As I tarried within, I found that Masonry began to open before me as ever a profounder and profounder study. I consulted some of its great authors, and they gave me at least the clue with which I could threat its mazes; they placed in my hands the plummet with which, sailing out upon its ocean, I could sound its depths; for the views which I shall soon present to you are by no means original discoveries of mine. I found that what, in the ritual of Masonry, had seemed to me frivolous was richly laden with meaning; the shadowy shapes came out of their mist. Until at last, impressed with awe at the wondrous harmony of all the parts of the structure, at its majesty as a whole, and at a certain reserved strength which I recognized in it, I felt that I stood within a structure reared on earth by no less than the hand of God. For God’s constructive hand is not alone to be seen in the church; it is to be seen in governments, in machinery, in systems of thought, and in the organization of nations and civilizations. And, finally, I felt sure that if there were brethren in whose minds our beloved Masonry took the place of the church, that they misconceived her great design; that they failed to recognize the thoughts that were within her as she spoke; that the fault was not hers, but theirs.”

Excerpt from "Oration by the Rev. Ferdinand C. Ewer on the Relationship Between Masonry & Christianity" 1862.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

A Vindication of Masonry

"Though every man who carefully listens to the dictates of reason, may arrive at a clear persuasion of the necessity and beauty of virtue both private and public; yet it is a full recommendation of a society to have these pursuits continually in view as the sole objects of their association: and these are the laudable bonds that unite Freemasons together in one indissoluble fraternity."

- Excerpt from a Discourse composed by Brother Charles Leslie, member of the Vernon Kilwinning Lodge, Edinburgh, and delivered by him at the consecration of that lodge on the 15th of May, 1741.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Esoteric Masonry

This is a meditation on the concept of “Esoteric Masonry”. The title is intended to be thought provoking, because I have come to believe Masonry, by its very nature, is “esoteric”.  Therefore, all Masonry is Esoteric Masonry.  The term Esoteric Masonry is redundant.  Let us put forth an initial definition to work from.

Google: "intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest."

Merriam-Webster: "designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone", "requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group", "difficult to understand".

Dictionary.com:  "understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest"

1645–55;  < Greek esōterikós  inner, equivalent to esṓter ( os ) inner + -ikos -ic

And from etymologyonline.com:

esoteric (adj.)

    “1650s, from Greek esoterikos "belonging to an inner circle," from esotero "more within," comparative adverb of eso "within," related to eis "into," en "in" (see en- (2)).   In English, originally of Pythagorean doctrines. According to Lucian, the division of teachings into exoteric and esoteric originated with Aristotle.”

The fact of Freemasonry being an institution relying on initiation, whereby an individual moves from being outside a group of people to inside a group of people, it seems clear that all Masonry is “Esoteric”.  There is no “Exoteric” Masonry (unless you are talking about “2B1Ask1”).  The word Esoteric can be misleading, and carries connotations sometimes unintended, sometimes intended.  I consider it one of the Masonic “spooky words” that Masons like to use to attempt to create some class of knowledge or experience which is somehow different from the knowledge or experience of other Freemasons.  It is an attempt to construct an inner circle that cannot exist in true Freemasonry.

One could say that the encoding of moral philosophy into symbolic language “is” Masonry.  The encoding itself, not the moral philosophy, is what we do.  The moral philosophy itself is not uniquely Masonic, and no Mason can claim it is.  The art or science of encoding and decoding is Masonry.  All encoding and decoding is by nature esoteric.  One can easily learn moral philosophy without Masonic symbolism. The practice of Freemasonry is in part, the practice of symbolic language.  It is the learning of “how” to decode what seems to be hidden in order to derive meaning from the observation.

The image for this meditation is a ribbon of fabric. From afar it appears to be a single layer, but light and proximity reveals multiple layers.  Pulling back one layer may reveal another.  This is the nature of our Craft.  There is no exoteric experience versus an esoteric experience.  All Masonic experience is esoteric.  We need to employ the image of layers in order to understand and communicate this.

The first tangible experience of Freemasonry can be said to be initiation into a lodge. You could say this is the first layer of knowledge a Freemason has revealed to him. After due consideration and meditation upon this experience, almost immediately, the Freemason experiences a revelation that each of the things he has experienced has at least one additional meaning.  Another Freemason may explain some tricky little hook to him, or in listening to a lecture, or considering a symbol placed before him, he may realize that there was some hidden meaning behind the surface knowledge.  This is Masonry.  It is common to all Freemasons, not just some Freemasons. The emblem of the “layer” is offered to illustrate this.

The following framework of five points is offered for consideration.

  1. The layers are interchangeable
  2. There is no upper or lower limit to the layers
  3. There is no “wrong” layer
  4. The layers are not secret
  5. Every layer is Masonic. None of the layers are Masonic.

The layers are interchangeable

There is no correct order, and there is no “top” layer or “bottom” layer. There are only layers that are new to you.  Everyone brings to Freemasonry their existing experience. It could be books they have read, their religion, aspects of their psyche, their dreams, their education, or any combination of experiences.  Contemplating a symbol, an act, a lecture,  a word produces a revelation in each individual which is unique to them. When this occurs, it is the “deepest” that individual has gone.  The layer a Mason has revealed is not “deeper” than the layer another Freemason has just revealed, though both may contemplate the same symbol, act, lecture, or word. Nor is it any less deep.  It is just new to him.  And that is all.

Looking at a symbol such as the Point Within a Circle, or an equilateral triangle, or an angle of 90 degrees, or a rising sun, or a word spelled in Hebrew Letters, or Greek Letters, or any other symbol, a Mason may experience a revelation of a mathematical or geometrical nature, finally understanding what a calculation means.  Another Mason, looking at the same symbol may experience a religious revelation, finally understanding what a scripture means (to him). A third Mason may experience a psychological revelation, finally understanding how he needs to change certain personal behavior. A fourth Mason may experience a philosophical revelation, finally understanding another piece of how the universe functions, and on and on.

At some point in the future, the third Mason may experience the revelation the second Mason has already experienced.  The fourth Mason may have already experienced the revelation of the first Mason before contemplating the symbol at all.  None of these Masons is going in a “correct” order.  None experience a deeper meaning than any of the others.  None of the revelations are deeper than any other.  They are all simply new to each individual.

It is important that Masons not spread the false impression that if an individual has not experienced the revelation they have, that their experience is somehow “less deep”. Your revelations are not my revelations. We may experience completely different revelations.  No one layer is above, below, deep, or shallow. All are completely equal in value.

There is no upper or lower limit to the layers

Having been exposed to a new symbol, an individual may pull back a layer and reveal a completely different meaning to it.  Sometime later, with study and discussion another layer may become exposed, and another; all relating to the same symbol. There can be a single layer.  There can be a million layers. Considering a symbol like the letter “x”, a Mason may interpret it as a letter of the English Alphabet, its number position in that alphabet, the same in the Greek alphabet, as a mathematical symbol, as a religious symbol, as a political symbol, or any number of layers.  If a Mason has only a single interpretation of the symbol, he is not incorrect, nor shallow in his understanding.  If a Mason has a hundred more interpretations, he is not incorrect, nor is he any deeper in his understanding.

There is no wrong layer

Freemasons should not push on other people our revelations in certain specific settings. Political or Religious layers are not “wrong”. They are legitimate.  When a Mason describes an interpretation of a symbol based on his religion, you might tell him not to discuss it in open Lodge.  But it is inaccurate to suggest that his interpretation is in any way wrong.  Likewise, many legitimate interpretations of Masonic ritual point to political philosophy and direct action that should not be discussed in open Lodge.  It is a correct interpretation of Masonic ritual and symbolism, as a competing or alternative interpretation would also be.

The layers are not secret

Some Masons have internalized revelations based on interpretations of symbols. Whatever these layers may be, they are not secret.  That the sun rises in the East is not a Masonic secret. That a man should regulate his behavior in order to benefit society is not a secret. Even that a man may do certain things to establish or re-establish a connection with Deity, is not a Masonic secret. The symbols used to facilitate the personal revelation are not secret. Though a Mason may have an hundred layers of interpretation of an hundred symbols, none of the symbols or his interpretations of those symbols are Masonic secrets. The Square and Compasses are not secret symbols. The interpretations of the meanings of the Square and Compasses are not secrets.

These layers may be impossible to communicate, but not prohibited.  They are impossible to communicate because if they are truly layers of symbolic interpretation, revealed through an initiatic process or meditation, they cannot be communicated through speech, or picture, outright explanation.  You could try.  We simply do not have the words.  Humans do not have the capacity to communicate these things to each other.  If we did, there would be no need for the science of Masonry.  We could simply write everything down in a book, or describe them to each other.  We would not need to dress in aprons and walk in patterns and carry objects, and repeat phrases, and display symbols.  However, it has been shown that the activities of Freemasonry, including but not limited to initiation, meeting as lodges, and performing ritual, are effective means of spreading revelation of layered knowledge. The institution carries with it the impression of secrecy when, in fact, the inability to communicate openly is woven into the science itself.

You could reveal every Masonic secret and explain in plain language every layer of knowledge you considered to be esoteric, and you could not provide the sought knowledge to the seeker.  They would still seek.  We know this, because it has been done.  There are no Masonic secrets that have not been printed and spoken publicly (FYI, this does not mean Freemasons are permitted to do it). Yet the exposure of secrets cannot allow one outside the lodge to understand Masonic knowledge as those inside do.  Yet going through the most basic, rudimentary practices of lodge membership, that of initiation, almost no matter how poorly performed, provides a seeker with building blocks and tools to peel back layers of knowledge he never could have experienced had you simply wrote out the experience on a piece of paper.

Every layer is Masonic.  None of the layers are Masonic.

An intentional enigma. One may legitimately and successfully reveal every layer to oneself through freemasonry or none of them.  All may be revealed outside of freemasonry as well.
There is no invisible line separating Masonic knowledge, or Masonic revelation with non-Masonic.  If a Mason uses skills (working tools) learned within Freemasonry to contemplate symbols, the revelations of layers exposed by this practice is Masonic knowledge.  As said, one may suddenly understand personal behaviors he has to change.  Is that Freemasonry?  Most Freemasons would say yes it is.  However, had the man come to this realization without ever having stepped foot in a Masonic Lodge, would the same revelation have been Freemasonry?  Of course not. Here lieth the enigma.

None of the layers are Masonic. One may gain the same insights, the same personal revelations, the same knowledge by studying Astrology, Alchemy, Religion, Geometry, Mathematics, Music, Psychology, and on and on. One may learn to interpret symbols. The layers of personal revelation themselves are not Masonic. The process the individual used to arrive at, reveal, or expose the layers internally can be Masonic, or it can be some other path.

One of the motivations for this meditation is the consideration of Freemasons who are either getting too much out of Masonry, or aren’t getting enough out of Masonry.  Some have convinced themselves that they need to go to a different system than regular Freemasonry, or a different affiliation, or need to leave Freemasonry.  This ranges from the seeker who has experienced a revelation that is inconsistent with their religion to the seeker who has not experienced the revelation they think they are seeking. He who has experienced something they did not like needs to understand that the layer of revelation itself may not be Freemasonry.  Masonic science simply shows how one may interpret symbols. The interpretation itself is personal, and one Mason’s interpretation may not be another’s. There is no Baphomet in Freemasonry.

He who has not experienced what he is seeking needs to understand that the ability to pull back layers is all one needs and all one will ever get, out of our system or any other.  The fact that one is not accomplishing the personal revelations one sought is likely not a failure of the system.  It is important to be careful not to adopt someone else’s interpretation of symbols as your own.  You will always be seeking confirmation of an understanding which is really just someone else’s interpretation of the same symbolism you are contemplating. Beware of someone talking to you about Baphomet and telling you it is a secret, inner, esoteric “meaning” of a Masonic symbol.  It is not. If you are frustrated that your lodge is not describing the inner meanings behind  “Lucifer”, “Osiris”, “Emerald Tablets”, or whatever, know that it is not a shortcoming of your lodge or of Freemasonry.  As a superior system, Masonry engages in teaching its initiates how to interpret the simplest of symbols to derive deep meaning layer after layer.

If you leave Freemasonry for a religious institution, or for a different initiatic system, or a different affiliation within Freemasonry, you may find a system which resonates better for you, and provides more opportunities to arrive at those revelations described here as layers. We should all try to understand, however, that Masonry as a system is not inferior or flawed, and that another Mason may receive the revelation they seek right where their feet are planted.  We should understand that those revelations or layers you may experience within Freemasonry or outside of Freemasonry are not Freemasonry itself, neither are they a religion, or another initiatic system.  Hopefully, they are “truth”, which you desired to arrive at.  Truth is larger than the religion that reveals it.  It is beyond religion, it is beyond an initiation, it is beyond whatever system is used to reveal it.  You cannot experience more truth, or greater truth than anyone else.  Nor is the truth you find any lesser or weaker than anyone else’s.

This is an attempt to describe another “meaning” of Masonry through the use of an emblematic symbol, that of a ribbon of many layers.  This “meaning”, if it exists, can only manifest by your contemplation of the symbol as described.  If successful, it should produce in the reader new realizations and lead to new considerations.

This is Masonry, which has no need or use for so-called esotericism. Every concept leads to another idea. None of us experience “deeper” meanings than any other.  Not only is there no esoteric Masonry (because all Masonry is esoteric), there is nothing you can learn in Masonry that you could not also learn elsewhere. Likewise, with regard to the moral philosophy you may seek out of Freemasonry, there is nothing you can learn elsewhere, that you cannot also learn within plain ole regular Freemasonry.  It is as esoteric as any other system. So, I am saying goodbye to “Esoteric Freemasonry”, not because I don’t believe in it, but because the concept is unnecessary, and wrongly implies there is some “other” Masonry.  There is not.  There is only what may be new to me.

I continue seeking.

Doug McCollough, Master Mason
St. Mark’s Lodge No. 7, F&AM, PHA
The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio

In the event this post generates some comments or conversation, I hope you will leave comments on my blog, tag me on Twitter (@masonicbookworm), comment on Google+ (+Prince Hall Affiliated Freemasonry), or my Facebook page. I also participate on the Blue-Lite Research and Discussion Yahoo! Group for Freemasons of Prince Hall Affiliation.



@masonicbookworm, @PHAMasons


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Sunday, August 18, 2013

You Are Brethren

"You who are not Masons lie under the same general obligation to act as brethren to us, and to each other as we do to all the world, and in particular to each other of our pious and honourable community."

Jethro Inwood, Sermon Preached at Gravesend on the Celebration of St. John the Baptist, June 24, 1793.

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A Kemetic Masonic Framework

This post may be controversial to some as it deals with issues of race in Freemasonry. I hope it will be greeted with an open mind, with more light than heat, and will build greater understanding of the subject. Many Masons discuss the role and/or influence of Ancient Egypt on modern Freemasonry.  Some investigators claim a vested interest in the discussion due to a special cultural connection to Ancient Egypt, as well as a historical one. This post may serve as a framework within which accurate consensus can be reached.

The term “Kemetic” is used in place of or interchangeably with the term Ancient Egyptian to set the stage for the biases of the author.  The people of Ancient Egypt most prominently referred to their civilization with the vowel-less term “KMT”, or “KM”, which many have interpreted as being pronounced “Kemet”.  Other variations such as “Kham”, or Khamitic, are sometimes seen.  The term is being used here to differentiate the civilization from the conception of it by the Greek derived word “Egypt”, or “Aegypt”, which I believe is inaccurate in this context.

Many people of African ancestry or descent claim Ancient Egypt/Kemet as a legitimate part of their cultural heritage, if not direct history.  Many Freemasons therefore inquire as to the potential legitimate masonic heritage of Kemet, particularly in context of their being restricted from access to Masonic science as practiced by lodges of European descent.  This post is an attempt to allow several questions to be addressed using a framework for discussion.

The following five statements form the framework:

  1. Freemasonry has legitimate ties and origins in Ancient Egypt/Kemet.
  2. Ancient Egypt/Kemet was an African civilization.
  3. The so-called race of the Ancient Egyptians / Kemetic People is being, and has been, grossly misrepresented.
  4. The science of Masonry has evolved through multiple advanced civilizations.
  5. Masonic science is as much the cultural heritage of African-Americans as it is anyone else in the world.

The exploration of these five statements form the framework through which questions about Kemet, Freemasonry, and maybe race can be more accurately discussed.

Freemasonry has legitimate ties and origins in Ancient Egypt/Kemet

This claim has often been obscured by unsupportable expansions on it.  I believe it should be kept simple so a line of logic can be drawn.  No matter what else you may think about the subject, this statement can be proven on its own merits as a historical fact.  This does not mean that Freemasonry originated in Ancient Egypt.  It means that it has ties to the culture and civilization that can be proven by historical record.  This is the case for Operative as well as Speculative Masonry.

In Operative Masonry, the use of tools to work in stone and build structures collectively, as teams of workers having divided responsibilities according to skill specialization, was clearly performed by the Kemetic people.  Clear references to symbols, the working tools used by modern operative Masons are evident in ancient texts.  This is well documented.  The passing of operative knowledge throughout the region around the Kemetic civilization is also well documented. Building techniques can be seen to have been shared between Kemet and other contemporaneous societies, so we know that knowledge grew, was refined, and was distributed over time.

You may argue that this knowledge did not originate in Kemet, but in other civilizations.  For the present point, I would say this doesn’t matter.  The statement only says that the Masonic science was present in Kemet, and legitimate ties exist.  Saying the knowledge was passed to Egypt from some other civilization is not relevant.  I only claim that the science has some legitimate ties and origins.  Not exclusively.

Speculative Masonry likewise can be documented as present in Kemet (as a set of philosophical principles, not lodge organization or practices). It can clearly be shown that the development of religion, or a relationship with Deity was advanced in this civilization.  That symbols were used to communicate the advanced philosophy is well documented.  A clear connection can be made between many of the symbols or symbology used in operative Masonry or building sciences, and those used in the development of advanced philosophy, cosmology, and the understanding of God or Deity. Further, a path of influence from this ancient civilization and modern Masonry can be drawn; including Kemet, the Greeks, the Romans, the Hebrews, the Arabic civilizations, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, to modern speculative Freemasonry.  It is a documentable path, not a clear, bright line.  Nonetheless, the ties and origins are legitimate and can be documented.

This statement does not negate the reality that Freemasonry also has legitimate ties and origins in several other advanced civilizations. This statement does not claim that Freemasonry has “exclusive” origins in Ancient Egypt.  This statement simply claims that any claims that state Freemasonry has no ties or origins in Ancient Egypt are incorrect and cannot be supported by documented evidence.

Ancient Egypt/Kemet was an African Civilization

The statement is necessary to come to terms with several false statements that have been made over many generations.  There has been a concerted effort to remove any references to Africa or Africans from any discussion concerning Kemet/Ancient Egypt.  This is likely due to the influence of racial thinking, and the cognitive dissonance associated with accepting the ability of an African people to independently develop not only an advanced civilization, but a parent civilization to other advanced civilizations.  So let’s put the question to bed.

Kemet/Ancient Egypt is geographically located “in” Africa, that is, on the continent of Africa. We are asked to accept that Egypt is in Africa, but the advanced civilization part of Egypt is not “African”.  It must be something else.  Imported from elsewhere, that kind of thing.  Some commentators are so incapable of accepting that an African people might have developed this civilization, that they imagine it was flown in from outer space and dropped on the planet.  They literally believe this is a more plausible explanation than that the people of the Nile Valley developed the civilization independently.

The so-called race of the Ancient Egyptians / Kemetic People is being, and has been, grossly misrepresented

I have seen the works of many so-called Egyptologists in which they stumble and sputter over who the Ancient Egyptians must have “been”.  The other day, I read a blog post (in 2013) of someone who stated matter-of-factly, that there is no evidence that they were “Black Africans”.  It is clearly a painful thing for them to accept, so they simply do not.  Either the advanced ideas were brought into Africa from outside of Africa, dropped in from outer space, or some other “race” of people inhabited that part of Africa.

While I have read all of the major Egyptologists, I have found that many of them have not familiarized themselves with the works of many scholars of African Ancestry.  I assert that the research and arguments of scholars like George G. M. James, Cheik Anta Diop, and Ivan Van Sertima, have addressed this question head on, and have made clear, convincing, and as yet un refuted arguments displaying the legitimacy of an African origin of the Ancient Egyptian/Kemetic civilization.

This does not necessarily refer to race.  We should conceive of Kemet not only as an advanced civilization, but as a “Great” civilization, on the level of Rome, Persia, China.  As such, it acted as the center of the universe, and brought in people of many different languages, cultures, and skin colors.  All great civilizations have done this.  As a civilization spanning thousands of years, at different points of its history, different portions gained in influence, leadership, and roles changed and passed through many hands.  In our modern obsession with race and skin color, we make categorizations in ways ancient peoples did not.  The fallacy some thinkers are guilty of is, in the face of a display of people of multiple colors, languages, national origins, and other characteristics, they presume to define the lighter skinned peoples as the source of the civilization or culture, and the darker skinned peoples as the recipients of the culture.  They assume skin color is an accurate indicator of geography. While this may be so in a standard society in the ancient world, it is not reasonable in a Great Civilization.  The fact that Carthage was at one point a part of the Roman Empire does not mean that the Roman empire was Carthaginian, no more than it was exclusively Gallic or Italian exclusively.

In looking at a wall painting of Barack Obama as an African-American President of the United States of America, they would claim America was a Black civilization based on this.  This would be foolishness of course.  The logic is flawed, and does not allow for the existence of a pluralistic, “race-less” civilization in the ancient world, even though there is evidence that skin color was not a determining factor of ability to lead the empire.  Add to this the fact that Kemetic documents sometimes applied colors to people, peoples, gods, and other entities according to layered symbolism, which some Egyptologists presume to understand.  For example, some persons are depicted as completely “black”, others, various shades of brown, red, white, and even blue. There are no blue people. These colors are used to denote qualities, characteristics and roles in a complex system in some contexts, in other contexts they could be considered to refer to actual skin color the way an American racist might.  It is inaccurate to use color depiction in Ancient Egyptian documents as indicative of “race” in the modern usage of the construct.  It is likewise inaccurate to fail to allow for the pluralism present in the thousands of years history of this civilization.

We come back to the basic facts.  Ancient Egypt/Kemet was an advanced civilization developed over thousands of years by the peoples of the Nile Valley, in Africa, whose ultimate achievement was the most influential civilization of its era. During its existence, it exported culture and science, as well as philosophy and religion.  It also drew into itself influences from other surrounding societies and populations. People of different subcultures, religions, and what we would today consider races or skin colors, transversed into, out of, and through this civilization.  It is a mistake to say it was not an African civilization.  It was. Also, African is not a race any more than American is.

The science of Masonry has evolved through multiple advanced civilizations

While there are clear references to what we would today consider modern Masonic science in Ancient Egypt/Kemet, there are likewise references in other advanced civilizations.  Masonic scholars have damaged their credibility by making claims such as that “Freemasonry comes from Ancient Egypt.”  It is more accurate to say that Masonry compiles and configures knowledge and philosophy that has been influenced and advanced through thousands of years, and through multiple civilizations and systems.

It is inaccurate to say Freemasonry is “Christian”.  It is inaccurate to say that Freemasonry is “Egyptian”, or that it is a religion.  However, it is also inaccurate to say that Freemasonry does not include elements from many different systems, which includes religions, Ancient Egypt, and other advanced civilizations and philosophical systems.  This may be difficult for non-Freemasons, and anti-Masons to understand.  But Freemasons should be capable of understanding the ability of our science to compile complex systems into symbolism and layered concepts.  This is the case with Ancient Egypt.  You will find elements of Ancient Egyptian civilization, Greek civilization, other advanced African civilizations, Indian civilization, other Asian civilizations, Arabic, Persian, Babylonian, Moorish, Enlightenment, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, and any number of systems of thought.

It is the nature of man to segregate things so they can be understood discretely.  But the world does not function this way without the influence of mans segregative nature. Freemasonry has recognized that the truths in one system are consistent with the truths in another system.  The system itself is not the determinative factor, the truth is the thing we are seeking.  Therefore, while Masonic science is clearly influenced by ideas and practices originating in Kemet, it is also, just as much if not more, influenced by ideas and practices originating elsewhere.  Some of these may have built upon the existing, while others may have applied completely new influences.  Masonic science does not deny the possible influence of any source of truth.  This includes Ancient Egypt/Kemet.

Masonic science is as much the cultural heritage of African-Americans as it is anyone else in the world.

If we have successfully passed through the above controversies, perhaps we can pass through this one.  Some people may be surprised to learn that some African-Americans claim Ancient Egypt/Kemet as a part of their cultural heritage.  Some may be surprised to learn that there is an actual documentable attempt to de-Africanize Ancient Egypt specifically to deny a historical cultural heritage to members of the African diaspora.  Within the philosophy of racism, an argument has been made concerning the racial inferiority of Black people, that they are a people who can point to no advanced civilization, and are therefore racially inferior.  Most of these arguments were long ago proven false and dismissed, however, the detritus of them remain in places such as the blog post I found that claimed that “clearly” the Ancient Egyptians were not Black.

So we must continue to stamp out the roaches now that the light has been turned on.  While there have been multiple legitimate African civilizations that can be pointed to, including Mali, Songhay, Ethiopia, Nubia, Ghana, the fact that some of the same racists claiming the inferiority of African people, were simultaneously claiming Ancient Egypt as their own racial and cultural heritage, made addressing this civilization a richer target for scholars.  For if, Ancient Egypt was/is an African civilization, then this inferiority/superiority argument crumbled into dust.

This argument was long ago won. These petty and weak arguments have been discredited and we have moved on.  There remain some who refuse to acknowledge that this argument is over, but those of us who hope to be advanced have moved on to higher more relevant topics.  People of African ancestry are however, studying Masonic heritage alongside their own personal cultural heritage.  We are cognizant of the old arguments that African people have had no civilization, and are therefore inferior.  Masons desire to advance fully into a more accurate depiction of their heritage, and hopefully this framework allows for the more accurate and appropriate explorations of the issues of this advancement.  

Hopefully this discussion describes Ancient Egypt/Kemet not as a purely Black African phenomena, within which no other skin color or heritage has had influence.  I do not believe this is accurate, although many scholars of Kemetic history have made this argument, perhaps in an overzealous attempt to refute the counterclaim.  But this is not realistic.  And it cheapens the reality and grandeur of this African civilization.  When the Greeks came to Kemet/Egypt to study, be initiated, and learn the root ideas that would allow them to return to Greece with degrees and credibility to establish their schools, they opened the world to the heritage of Kemet through the door they had opened.  This same process had occurred by Kemetic peoples to other civilizations.  This process occurred throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, and elsewhere.  It is impossible to say, whether in terms of race, skin color, language, ideas, or religion, that this civilization stops here and that one starts there.  

As European peoples can claim a legitimate line of heritage to Egypt via the Moors, the Greeks, the Arabs, and other routes, African-Americans can claim a legitimate line of heritage.  As it is foolish to claim that Europeans “cannot” claim a legitimate line, or that they “stole” this heritage, it is foolish to say that Africans and African-Americans cannot claim a legitimate heritage.  This will bristle some, because it seems clear that a heritage or legacy has been “stolen”.  I would clarify this position, since most intelligent European thinkers acknowledge Ancient Egypt as a root of civilization, and a civilizing force in the ancient world.  What has been stolen is the identity of the Ancient Egyptians/Kemetic Peoples, who I claim to have been a more pluralistic, diverse population over thousands of years than others seem to acknowledge.  To say that peoples of all colors may have been present in ancient Egypt, but only the white people were the “true” Egyptians, is clearly racist and should be dismissed. Likewise to say that only the Black people were the “true” Egyptians is not provable, and fails to acknowledge that “race” was not conceived of in the same way in the ancient world.  The claim destroys the credibility of those who make it.

Possibly I have frustrated everybody who has considered this.  As it is incorrect to claim that a person of European ancestry cannot claim a cultural or Masonic heritage in Ancient Egypt, it is incorrect to claim that an African-American cannot.  Kemet was a global civilization, and all peoples on the Earth can claim a connection to it.  It was legitimately developed by human beings, not space aliens, and those people resided in Africa.  African people had the greatest influence over this phenomena, but not the only influence.

Doug McCollough, Master Mason
St. Mark’s Lodge No. 7, F&AM, PHA
The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio

In the event this post generates some comments or conversation, I hope you will leave comments on my blog, tag me on Twitter (@masonicbookworm), comment on Google+ (+Prince Hall Affiliated Freemasonry), or my Facebook page. I also participate on the Blue-Lite Research and Discussion Yahoo! Group for Freemasons of Prince Hall Affiliation.



@masonicbookworm, @PHAMasons


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