From the Venerable Master (December 2023)
The Place of Religion in Freemasonry
"Let no man enter upon any great or important undertaking without first invoking the aid of Deity!" At the threshold of one's Masonic career, this admonition emphasizes the value and efficacy of prayer within Freemasonry. It signifies that Freemasonry is rooted in natural religion, the faith of all good men and true, an integral part of every person's nature, expressed through prayer.
A father once expressed his pride in his son's desire to become a Mason, stating that Freemasonry is his religion. This conversation highlights the relationship between Freemasonry and religion. The son, however, does not view Freemasonry as a religion, but rather as a support and aid to all religions.
This dialogue underscores the need to define and limit the role of religion in Freemasonry, clarifying its religious aspects and its connection to dogmatic and revealed religions. Many Freemasons, like the father in the conversation, often confuse the natural religion at the core of Freemasonry with dogmatic or sectarian religion.
The Masonic Belief
• There is one God, the Father of all men.
• The Holy Bible is the Great Light in Masonry, the Rule, and Guide for faith and practice.
• Man is immortal.
• Character determines destiny. Love of man is, next to love of God, man's first duty. Prayer, communion of man with God, is helpful.
The Masonic Teaching
Masonry teaches man to practice charity and benevolence, to protect chastity, to respect the ties of blood and friendship, to adopt the principles and revere the ordinances of religion, to assist the feeble, guide the blind, raise up the downtrodden, shelter the orphan, guard the altar, support the Government, inculcate morality, promote learning, love man, fear God, implore His mercy, and hope for happiness.
These principles, rooted in natural religion, form the foundation of Freemasonry. They are universal and applicable to all civilized religions. While these beliefs have similarities with certain religious dogmas, they serve as a common ground upon which Freemasons, regardless of their faith, can unite.
Historically, Freemasonry evolved in the 18th century in Great Britain, transcending borders and religious differences. The "Charges of a Free Mason" highlighted the importance of recognizing God and religion. Masons were encouraged to obey moral law, avoid atheism, and embrace honor and honesty. While Masons were once required to adhere to the religion of their respective countries, this changed to allow individuals from various denominations to become Masons. Freemasonry aimed to bridge differences, promoting friendship among individuals who might otherwise remain apart.
Before the transformation into a universal fraternity, Freemasonry was closely linked to the Established Church, serving its interests. As the Craft shifted from an operative to a speculative organization, it broadened its scope to include men of diverse backgrounds and beliefs, effectively universalizing its principles.
Religion is fundamental to Freemasonry, as it promotes morality and right living based on the principles of natural religion. These principles include the belief in one God as the Father of all men and the concept that all men are brethren under the one God. These fundamental ideas are essential to all civilized creeds and reflect the natural religion at the core of Freemasonry.
Natural religion, which is universal and ethical, differs from dogmatic religion. While natural religion provides ethical teachings applicable to all, dogmatic religion builds upon specific historical events, articles of faith, or movements within its tradition.
Modern Freemasonry does not endorse any particular dogmatic religion. It does not seek to replace the articles of faith that its members may hold by birth, tradition, or personal conviction. Instead, it deepens and enriches the religious consciousness of its members through Masonic work.
Freemasonry welcomes adherents of all religions, serving as a support and aid to various dogmatic religions. It encourages individuals to uphold the principles of their faith while fostering unity and understanding among people of different religious backgrounds.
By emphasizing the naturally religious character of its teachings, Freemasonry offers a valuable service. Its teachings and principles guide Masons in their personal and civic duties, making them better citizens and better Freemasons. Freemasonry supports the idea of prayer, labor, and the realization of God's Universal Kingdom on Earth, aligning with the mission of many churches.
In conclusion, Freemasonry stands as a beacon of unity, emphasizing the natural religion that transcends differences and encourages individuals to live right and think high. It is not a replacement for personal religious convictions but a complementary force that strengthens individuals in their pursuit of moral and ethical living. Freemasonry's universalistic approach fosters harmony and brotherly love among people of diverse faiths, reflecting God's fatherhood in a world united in brotherhood. Excerpts from The New York Masonic Outlook May 1927
San Jose Lodge of Perfection Naresh Rampershad, 32° 2022-2023 Venerable Master
From the Wise Master
At the end of October, our blue lodge representatives with other voting members of Grand Lodge elected the next set of leaders for our Craft. On November 4th the Santa Clara Valley Masonic Officers Association hosted our are Grand Master of Masons in California, the Most Worshipful Sean Metroka, and several other Grand Lodge officers for the annual Grand Master's Reception. MW Metroka's message of Sharing the Light of Freemasonry is good and timely for this season. We have the opportunity to reach out into our communities, around our homes and around our work places, to share a bit about our Fraternity and our desire to help people. By being the example of character for people to emulate, practicing civility during some of the most trying times with difficult topics, and by showing kindness to people when perhaps they rarely receive it, we can set that standard for people to strive for. With all of that being done, our familiar symbol of the Compass and Square becomes recognized more as a brand of positivity that can continue to attract great people to do even greater things. Our Craft is not a simple trend that is occasionally fashionable, it is a sustaining beacon for folks to be measured by. As we reach out into the community to remind them that we are here, every little bit helps. In my blue lodge, each year we like to sponsor a tree at San Jose’s “Christmas in the Park”. It’s fun to meet with the other folks who are out decorating their tree and tell them more about what we stand for as well as watch folks admire our tree with a cup of hot cocoa in the evenings. So… how are you Sharing the Light of Freemasonry this season?
San Jose Chapter of Rose Croix Timothy M. Lynch II, 32° 2022-2023 Wise Master
From the Commander of Kadosh (December 2023)
Freemasonry is not a religion. Freemasonry welcomes men of all different faiths and beliefs into our organization we only ask that you have a monotheistic belief in a supreme being. This brings me to the time of year we are now entering, Christmas.
At one time in the world this was the celebration of hope as we moved from the darkest day of the year and the days began to get brighter. We now celebrate Christmas and the birth of Christ who lived and taught very specific lessons when dealing with your fellow man. These same lessons are taught in other religions too.
The lessons that Christ taught were tolerance, justice, hope and kindness, charity, and love, to only name a few. These lessons are taught throughout Freemasonry. It is because of this that in my humble belief that Freemasonry truly embodies the idea of the Christmas season year-round.
In our lodges and other Masonic organizations we, not just at this time of year, plan and perform acts to help the communities we are in daily. We teach our members, our brothers, to deal honestly and fairly with all whom we encounter. We emphasize that we are on the level with our brothers whether we have known them for years or we are first meeting them on that day. We teach that their religious affiliation or their political affiliation does not matter, that they have the right to their beliefs and affiliations just as we have the right to ours.
The positive energy that is generated in our lodges hopefully makes its way into the community through the acts of the individual masons. We learn the lessons of tolerance, justice, and hope so well in our meetings and Masonic activities that we instinctively act in the same way when out in the world.
We have been accused of running the world, but that is most certainly not the case. I do believe we are changing it every day though, when we walk out into the world and display that Masonic Spirit, that Christmas Spirit, we make the world just that much better by being in it and sharing with the world the ideals that Freemasonry is founded on.
Allow me to say this in the most secular way possible Merry Christmas to all regardless of faith, may this season bring you joy, happiness, and a better tomorrow!
San Jose Council of Kadosh David M. Kampschafer, 32° 2022-2023 Commander of Kadosh
From the Master of Kadosh (December 2023)
By now we should all be familiar with the origin of Freemasonry and the Scottish Rite. What may not be known is there was a Golden Age of Fraternalism. Membership grew at a rapid pace from the last third of the 19th century into the first part of the 20th. In the early 1900s it was estimated there were 568 fraternal societies and as many as 40% of American males belonged to one. The early lodges included: Patrons of Husbandry (Grange – 1864); Elks (1868); Knights of Columbus (1882); Woodsmen of the World (1890).
If you visit old cemeteries, you may see headstones that look like a tree stump with an inscription “Here lies a Woodsman of the World”. That person was not a logger but rather a member of Woodsmen.
After the Civil War mutual and beneficial insurance companies decided to use the form of a fraternal organization to sell and retain new accounts. At that time there were no government welfare programs. In 1907, it was said there were over 78 fraternal orders offering low-cost insurance. This was an incentive for working men to join these fraternities. After the New Deal, many of these orders became insurance companies such as Woodsmen. There are still fraternal lodges where insurance is part of membership such as the Portuguese lodge S.E.S.
Some lodges arose from specific occupations. In the mid-1800s, railroads were big but working there was dangerous and there were no regular working hours. One account had a locomotive engineer working a single shift of over 40+ hours. Refusal to take the assigned runs could result in immediate firing. Under these conditions the first of the railroad lodges started, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (1863). Insurance and medical assistance were the primary goal, but work rules also resulted. In later years other railroad occupations formed their own lodges which became labor unions.
Many of the 568 lodges were not insurance related but found having “side degrees” helped build membership. These degrees, for a better term, were entertainment. If these lodges were college fraternities, the side degrees could be called hazing.
These side degrees had elaborate equipment available from catalogs such as the DeMoulin Brothers. During the depression lodges stopped buying and DeMoulin Brothers became one of the largest suppliers of marching band uniforms.
The DeMoulin 1930 catalog showed available equipment. Frequent purchasers were the Odd Fellows and Woodsmen. Masonic lodges were not clients as it was said that Masons “were gentlemen and not frat boys”.
The items in the catalog included the Molten Lead Test where the candidate was to plunge his hand into a pot of melted lead. It was a pot of cold water with a flame under it. In the water was a material called “Dry Mercurine” which made it look like metal. The advertisement said it was cheaper than real mercury.
Another item was the collapsing chair which would provide “wholesome fun” but many of the catalog items were not that wholesome. In 1922 some DeMoulin employees used one to play a prank on a railroad shipping agent. That “wholesome fun” cost the factory $5000.00. (A top paid gold miner in the Sierras, that year, was paid $4.50 per day!) Some prank.
The final item worth mentioning was The Goat! There were several versions with different features. All were basically a wheelbarrow with a goat’s body which the candidate rode blindfolded. Must have been popular as “riding the goat” can still be heard.
To finish, here is an edited tale about a goat rider,
When Father Rode the Goat
The house of full of arcana, and mystery profound
We do 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 4:00 a.m. - - -
And sixteen brethren brought him home, though he says that 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. 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!
San Jose Consistory Richard M. Fisher, III, 33° 2022-2023 Venerable Master of Kadosh
From the Chief Knight (December 2023)
Calling all 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Masons! And I am reaching out in particular to all of our newly capped Brothers who were able to complete their degrees during the recent Reunion. Our chapter of the Knights of St. Andrew (KSA) is doing a lot of cool things and we want to share it with you.
KSA is a great way to get involved and be of service while not overcommitting yourself to a new and unknown body. While the Lodge of Perfection, Chapter of Rose Croix, Council of Kadosh, and Consistory perform most of the work during our Stated Meetings, KSA supports these bodies by running sound, providing door greeters, receiving moneys for the Stated Meeting dinners, and running the bar during dinner. We also provide Flag details and the Arch of Steel honor guards for dignitaries and events.
San Jose Knights of St. Andrew Timothy M. Lynch II, 32° 2022-2023 Chief Knight, KSA