Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rosalind Brodsky: The delusional time-traveler

The other day in a comment to the article Rituals, Pop Stars and Conspiracy Theory, someone called Freeman a conspiracy poet.

Today brings us a conspiracy artist.

From The Prague Post (of the Czech Republic):
Suzanne Treister's "Hexen 2039" is a fantastical and perpetually expanding art project involving the artist’s alter ego, Rosalind Brodsky — a para-scientific researcher of the future who is occupied with new military-occult technologies being developed for use in psychological warfare. Like some character out of a novel by Thomas Pynchon or Umberto Eco, Brodsky is a delusional time traveler who works for IMATI (Institute of Militronics and Advanced Time Interventionality) in the year 2039, investigating ancient and contemporary systems, especially occult and military histories.

Through drawings, diagrams, videos, a Web site and site-specific interventions (or “performances” in art lingo), Brodsky mines the complex and seemingly endless links between conspiracy theories about behavior-control experiments by the U.S. government, Soviet brainwashing experiments, British intelligence agencies, occult groups, Hollywood, Disney, witchcraft in Eastern Europe and neuroscientific research connected to the U.S. military's Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations (PSYOP) program.
If that's not enough, she also ties in Aleister Crowley and the occult group Ordo Templi Orientis, Disney's Fantasia, MGM's Stargate and The Wizard of Oz, Russian biophysicists, the composer Mussorgsky (made re-famous by Emerson, Lake and Palmer's 1971 Pictures at an Exhibition), Chernobyl, the British spy group MI5, John Dee's crystal ball, Pavlov's dogs, the Illuminati, and, of course, those dastardly Freemasons.

Her show is now winding down in Prague, after a tour of San Francisco, Philadelphia, Brazil, Great Britain, and Germany.

Image: Rosalind Brodsky in her Electronic Time Travelling Costume to rescue her Grandparents from the Holocaust ends up mistakenly on the set of "Schindler's List," Krakow, Poland, 1994. From her website.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bloggers unite for love and compassion

I received an email from BlogCatalog, one of those blog-indexing websites The Burning Taper joined. The email said:
Thousands of bloggers from around the world are joining together this Thursday, September 27th with a single message: Stop Abuse!

BlogCatalog would love for you to be one of them!

On Thursday, September 27th, post about any abuse topic you care about — child abuse, domestic abuse, animal abuse, drug abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, political abuse — and let the world know you stand united with thousands of bloggers as part of the Bloggers Unite "Blog Against Abuse" campaign. Depending on your topic, you can even link to local, regional, national, or international organizations that you care about or support. Every post will count!
I pondered it for a moment, deciding if I wanted to join in yet another one of those "everybody blog about a specific topic today" memes.

Two thoughts, or rather, one thought leading down two paths, came to mind.

The word "against" is negative. It's about fighting, about resisting.

I was reminded of a quote attributed to Mother Teresa: "I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there."

The other thought was of something I recall hearing in the movie The Secret. Focusing on something increases the probability of manifesting it. Focusing on "abuse," even if you're against it, according to the philosophy given in The Secret, will not make it go away. It will make it more likely to happen because you're giving it energy by thinking about it.

Do we have more or fewer people living in poverty because of the War on Poverty, more or fewer drug abusers and addicts because of the War on Drugs, or more or less terrorism and fear because of the War on Terrorism?

Abuse is the opposite of caring, of compassion, of love — so why focus on it?

Instead, let's focus on its opposite, something we really do want and need more of in our lives.

How about today we focus on Love? Make September 27 a day you express your love for someone, or something.

Give your pet a treat. Tell your parents, your children, your spouse or significant other that you love them. Go out with a friend, get drunk (if you must) and tell your buddy in slurred, next-day-embarrassing words, "I lub you, man." Share some brotherly love. Walk up to a stranger and tell them you love their fashion sense, their cool car, the way they do their hair, or say some other unexpectedly nice thing that will make them feel good. Smile at someone. Hug someone or something, even a tree. Practice random acts of kindness.

And remember to love yourself.



Click here to play a MIDI file of The Beatles' All You Need is Love.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rituals, pop stars and conspiracy theory

I'm often amused and/or baffled and/or intrigued by conspiracy theorists. It must be a constant adrenaline rush to be continuously afraid of the Illuminati, Freemasons, Bilderbergers, little grey aliens, the Walt Disney company, and all those other things that go bump in the night.

At the root of conspiratorial thinking is the need to "tie things together" and put order into our lives. We live in a big, confusing world, and to psychologically survive and to explain why they don't feel in control of their own lives, some people get caught up in finding patterns and gestalts where they don't necessarily exist.

Or maybe some of the dark (or light) interrelationships do exist, and those who are unbelievers are, as the conspiracy theorists say, simply blind sheep.

Below you'll find one of my current favorite conspiracy videos. The "dark underbelly" of "serendipitous events" discovered by a man known as "Freeman" leads him down some wildly bizarre paths that, in a weird sort of way, sometimes almost make sense.

The word serendipity, coined by English author Horace Walpole, comes from Serendip, an old name for Sri Lanka. He explained that this name was part of the title of "a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of...."

In this video, Freeman has made some curious "discoveries" as he followed his mysterious trail of bread crumbs through the dark woods.

He's convinced there is an "MK-Ultra trauma-based mind control" program going on in our country. It begins with Walt Disney, who was, he says, an FBI agent and a "high-ranking" Freemason, and involves child pornography and molestation, rape, murder and strange rituals. "Walt Disney is not who you think he is, and Disney World is not what you think it is," Freeman warns.

Freeman was led to these conclusions after viewing the movie The Butterfly Effect, which, curiously, was not a Disney-produced film. But fear not — he finds the initial correlation in the "fact" that the MK-Ultra program is called the Monarch Program, and monarch, of course, is a type of butterfly.

Anna Nicole Smith, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and others "aren't just pop stars trying to cry out for attention," he says, but are "people who have been abused all their lives."

In the world according to Freeman, the recent strange behaviors of Spears and Lohan are a result of their attempts to break free of their lifelong mind control programming.

Disney's Mouseketeer program was a supply pool of brainwashed children who were later to be manipulated into pop stars who would publicly perform ancient religious rituals, he says.

Freeman explains that the Superbowl XXXVIII wardrobe malfunction, when a bare female breast adorned with a solar disk on its nipple was ceremoniously exposed to millions of "shocked" viewers, was actually a reenactment of an ancient Babylonian sun-worshiping ritual, an interaction between the god Marduk and the goddess Ishtar. Justin Timberlake was a Mouseketeer, he says, and Janet Jackson was an abused, mind-controlled child star. Everyone has seen a bare female breast; was it really shocking?

The kisses between Madonna, a "professed kabbalist," and Britney Spears and then Christina Aguilera at the 2003 MTV Music Awards were a symbolic raising by the "Worshipful Master" (she was wearing a top hat and tuxedo-like costume) of the junior goddesses. It was a passing on of Madonna's "high priestess" status, raising Spears and Aguilera to a "higher place in the kabbalistic order."

Shortly after this passing of the flame, Madonna announced that she wanted to be called Esther, which is the Biblical version of Ishtar. The Biblical husband of Esther is Mordecai, the same god-concept as Marduk.

Esther, of course, is the "noble queen" of the Masonic Order of the Eastern Star.

And "Esther's" was the name of the hair-salon where Britney Spears recently went to cut off her hair, her attempt to "break away from the mothers of darkness" and her "handlers."

(Let me add my own personal "linking relationship" to this apparent madness. On the very same day that I stumbled upon this video a few weeks ago, another female Disney star made news by having acted in a very adult, un-Disneyesque way: A nude photo of High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens hit the Internet, causing quite a stir, at least among parents of pre-pubescent Disney fans.)

Perhaps Walt Disney did have a thing for little girls. His first cartoon was not of Mickey Mouse, nor even of Mortimer or Clarabelle. It was a 1923 live-action blended with animation dance routine of a little girl based on Alice in Wonderland. [See video number 2 at Disney founded his company the same year, 1923, that he made this cartoon. For those who like to explore weird tie-ins and linking relationships, see also for more on the number 23.]

According to Freeman, Anna Nicole Smith, who was abused as a child, was a sacrificial priestess, married off to an aged Nazi. The money she inherited when her husband died was intended for her child. Her firstborn, Daniel, was ceremoniously sacrificed according to ancient tradition to make way for her new baby, the Moon Child.

Freeman ties together Pepsi, NASA, Target Stores, Aleister Crowley, Nazi genetic experiments and ancient Aryan bloodlines, the brainwashing effects of Disney's "It's a Small World" ride, AT&T, Guy Fawkes, the "nefarious" nature of KinderCare and Boys Town, blues guitarist Robert Johnson's going down to the crossroads to make a deal with the devil, George H. W. Bush's "thousand points of light" as a symbol of the Illuminists, etc.

I'm tempted, as you probably are, to dismiss all of this as the musings of a stoner or the rantings of a paranoid lunatic. But amidst all his synchronistic madness, there are reasons to ponder more deeply.

Humans crave rituals. Most of us have morning and bedtime rituals: bathing, morning coffee, reading the paper or checking email. Freemasons and Eastern Star members perform odd rituals that make little sense to even most of those who perform them. Christians routinely reenact Jesus Christ's baptism and his final dinner, symbolically eating flesh and drinking blood. Some Christians have foot-washing and snake-handling rituals, and Catholics ritually make the Sign of the Cross and repeat catechisms and "mantras." Some people nail themselves to crosses on Good Friday. Muslims ritualistically face Mecca and pray five times a day. Millions of people have created rituals surrounding the Superbowl, the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament, and other sporting events. In fact, sporting events themselves are rituals, reenactments of ancient battles or tests of strength between young men coming of age. Rock concerts are rituals. Television shows often cause impromptu rituals to spring up among fans, such as when thousands of people would gather in small groups to eat cherry pie and drink strong black coffee while watching Twin Peaks back in the early 1990s. The Rocky Horror Picture Show inspired moviegoers to participate in all sorts of strange rituals, reenacting events in the movie. Perhaps even your regular reading of this or other blogs could be considered a ritual.

Rituals symbolize and bring to our minds something "greater" than our individual selves. All rituals at some level remind us of God, or the gods and goddesses, or the unifying spirit of mankind, or nature (usually the sun, moon and stars), or, perhaps most important of all, a simple, flowing continuity, or a hope for such a continuity, or a peace of belonging.

Many rituals are private affairs, like praying, meditating, or even just idle brain-chatter thinking while you drive the same routinely ritualistic way to work and back every day. Other rituals are enacted en masse, like attending church services, lodge meetings or sporting events.

Whether private or public, rituals serve to remind us of our faith in a god or in our higher selves, our desires perhaps for eternal life, or simply a regular, fluid continuity of earthly life.

But what happens when we're caught up in someone else's ritual unexpectedly or unknowingly, or if their ritual has a deeper or different meaning that we believe it has?

A few years ago, right after my divorce, facing the holidays alone for the first time in years, I was invited to a new girlfriend's home for her family's Christmas ritual. It was pleasantly awkward, to put it mildly, but ultimately disastrous to our relationship. I had stepped into a set of long-standing traditions that were, while superficially similar to my own, quite alien to me on a more deeply personal and spiritual level.

The same sort of disconnect happens when we attend a new church, or join a new club or organization, or watch a new TV show. Unless we're immediately repulsed by the experience, we seek ways to join in and become "one of the gang." Even when the event seems to be nothing more than entertainment, such as a ball game or rock concert or TV show, we want to partake of the feeling of "oneness" of the particular group already watching or in attendance.

I remember the 1980s when little girls wanted to dress and act like Madonna. Now, they want to be like Britney or Christina or Vanessa or whoever the current pop icon is. Little boys wanted to be their sports hero or favorite TV character or superhero. The influence on us, adult and child, by popular culture and religion is enormous. We overlook obvious flaws in our role models, or sometimes emulate those flaws, in our desire be like our heroes and to belong to a group that emulates, even worships, those "gods and goddesses." We wear our hair like they do, we dress like they do, sometimes we walk and talk like they do. Our transformation isn't always a conscious decision.

If our copying of their looks and mannerisms isn't always done at a conscious level, then what other values or beliefs do we perhaps pick up from those we look up to? Are our child sports enthusiasts learning the values of sports stars like Michael Vick and O. J. Simpson? Are our daughters learning to be pantyless coked-up vixens like Spears and Lohan? Are Masons blindly emulating less-than-honorable "high ranking" Masonic leaders? Are future politicians learning to work for the common good, or do our political leaders teach us only partisan bickering, backroom dealing, lying and how to have gay sex in public restrooms?

If the values of these role models can affect us and our children on such basic levels, what effect are these public rituals, if they are indeed public rituals, that Freeman talks about having on us? What purpose could they serve? Are there really "secret masters" (they're all Freemasons, according to Freeman) pulling strings that make Madonna, et al, perform these elaborate and ancient ceremonies before huge crowds? Are these acts just the product of songwriters and choreographers trying to entertain and earn money, or is there a deeper purpose? And if there is a purpose, who is served by it? Are we mind-controlled by these acts simply as a means for superstars and mega-corporations to make money, or is there a Higher Power (human, god or demon) controlling earthly events? If so, is this power benevolent, malevolent, or neutral?

I don't have answers, just questions.

Worship of and reverence for Nature, especially the sun and moon, date back into the mists of antiquity. Modern echoes can be found in many places, most noticeably in Christianity and in Freemasonry as well as more openly pagan rituals. Is this adoration of the heavenly bodies an intrinsic and intuitive part of our humanity? Does the cyclical nature of Nature draw us to take inspiration and hope in immortality and/or our own personal and group continuity? Other than warming us, nourishing crops, and controlling the tides, do the sun and moon affect us in a spiritual manner, or an astrological or even quantum way? Are there forces related to the sun and moon that we haven't yet discovered or labeled?

What is it that draws us to ritualize or attempt to put order into our lives? What power drives us and controls us? Does the Universe conspire for us, or against us?

Image: Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2003 MTV Music Awards ceremony

Watch the video here or on Google Video.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Pickens Star Lodge 150th anniversary commemorative coins available

Along with about 200 others, including many of the brethren's family members, I attended the 150th Anniversary get-together at my lodge yesterday.

Pickens Star Lodge No. 220, F. & A.M., was chartered on October 30, 1857. The town of Jasper, Georgia was also founded that year.

You can read more about the lodge and the town in an article I posted several months ago.

If you'd like to own a commemorative coin for your collection, let me know and I'll pass your request on to the lodge's secretary. The bronze coin costs $5, plus a small shipping fee. A few silver coins are still available at $20. Lapel pins are also available for $2.50.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

There must be some misunderstanding

As you've probably noticed, I enjoy quotations by famous people, as well as quotes from readers, pro and con, that express your opinions on The Burning Taper. You've no doubt noticed the Masonic quote generator at the top of the page and the quotes from readers in the sidebar.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of my philosopher-heroes, said, "To be great is to be misunderstood."

I don't think I'm great, but I do sometimes feel misunderstood. Perhaps H. L. Mencken's words more aptly fit me: "Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood."

I hope that occasionally what I write here "afflicts" you with ideas, that I give you pause, once in a while, to think about something in a new way.

In spite of having a flat tire today, it's been an exceptional week. I've had some wonderful moments with old friends, and made some great new friends as well, and survived four major airports. Business is looking up. Things are going well, and the future looks bright.

A few minutes ago I discovered that while I've been out of town this week, a fellow writer did a review of The Burning Taper on his blog, A Partir Pedra, which means "To Break Rock." His article is written in Portuguese, which I don't speak or read. Fortunately, the Babel Fish translator helped me make sense of what Rui Bandeira wrote about the Taper.

He said: "Widow's Son é um maçon que cultiva a polémica — mas respeita as opiniões alheias —, fomenta a discussão — mas pretende-a esclarecedora — e defende com intransigência — mas com espírito democrático — as suas concepções."

That translates, roughly, to "Widow's Son is a Mason who cultivates controversy, but respects other people's opinions; foments a quarrel, but intends it to be enlightening; and defends his intransigent ideals with a democratic spirit."

I like that. I think he's got me pegged. It's nice to be understood by someone from another country, who doesn't speak English as a first language. But I won't let it go to my head. I promise to keep afflicting you with ideas that can be misunderstood. Mencken and Emerson would want me to.

You can read (in Portuguese) the article on his blog. Or copy the URL and paste it into the Babel Fish. Be sure to set the language translation for Portuguese-to-English.

Image: Henry Louis "H.L." Mencken (1880-1956)

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Friday, September 21, 2007

That which was found

I've just returned from a very enjoyable trip to Hartford, Connecticut. Though the trip was for business purposes, as the Gods and Goddesses of Coincidence would have it, the hotel I was staying at in Connecticut was within a five minute drive from the home of my Masonic Brother Don Tansey of the blog Movable Jewel.

Such Masonic fellowship and courtesy I've never had! We're all truly blessed to have Bro. Don as our brother.

Bro. Don picked me up at my hotel after day one of my conference, and off we went to his lodge for dinner and an Entered Apprentice degree.

I was warmly welcomed by those brothers who were already assembled at the lodge. There were many men there from Bro. Don's lodge, St. John's Lodge No. 2, as well as local brethren from other lodges.

I then accompanied Bro. Don into the lodge room to assist him in setting out the furniture, aprons and jewels. Bro. Don treats doing this as a solemn occasion, a few moments to "get into" the subtleties of feeling that accompany a communication. I tried to maintain a solemn dignity, but I was overwhelmed by the interior of the lodge room, and couldn't stifle quite a few utterances of the word "Wow!"

The ceiling of the lodge room is vaulted, and must be 30 or 40 feet high. It is painted sky blue, and around the edges are realistic-looking clouds. Massive columns surround the stations of the East, West and South. An incredible organ sits in the North. The altar is covered with a beautiful blue cloth, and is surrounded at three corners by real burning tapers, not electric light bulbs.

After we finished laying out the aprons, etc., we went back downstairs for a tasty dinner. I sat with some of the brothers while Bro. Don slipped off to put on his tuxedo, which all officers wear at each meeting.

I and the other non-officer brothers were wearing suits or jackets with neckties. This formality of dress is something I've never seen. In Georgia, well, clean overalls and work boots are perfectly accepted attire.

To me, this formality added an elegance and solemnity to the proceedings to come.

After dinner, Bro. Don and I joined the Grand Marshal, who was visiting that night, for my examination. An examination, in case you don't know, is a procedure that a visiting brother who has never sat in lodge with a member goes through, to prove he is in fact a Mason.

After I proved my worthiness, the Grand Marshal, W. Bro. Simon R. LaPlace, asked me what was only an academic question: "What would you do if we had a visiting Prince Hall brother here tonight?"

As there was no Prince Hall brother actually attending, I didn't have to answer or even ponder it, but it was food for thought. The Grand Lodge of Georgia, of course, does not recognize Prince Hall Affiliated Masons to be Masons, or, rather, considers them "clandestine."

I would have welcomed the opportunity to sit in lodge with a Prince Hall Mason. A sojourning Mason temporarily falls under the jurisdiction of a regular Grand Lodge of the state in which he is visiting. Since I was in Connecticut, the rules and recognitions of that Grand Lodge are supreme.

The lodge meeting itself was impressive. I can't go into details here in a public arena, but suffice it to say, it was an awesome experience. I was most taken with the dignity and respectfulness of the members. Joking, sideline talking "general foolishness," sadly so common in previous lodges I've attended, were minimized. That's not to say the brothers didn't act human; it's just that they acted with an air of awareness that what they were doing wasn't just a mere Monday night social "greet, eat and meet" or prayer meeting.

Bro. Don was the most "professional" of them all. His floor work was outstanding, and, in his role as Senior Deacon, the most active physically and verbally in an E.A. degree, he was impeccable.

It was a pleasure seeing just how different a lodge meeting in Connecticut — both demeanor and the ritual — is from a meeting in Georgia. While of course everything was similar enough to be recognizable to me, it was different enough to make me sit up and take notice. I see why my northern brethren have repeatedly told me that the Masonry I've described (in the South) doesn't match their experience.

I left the meeting, truly, with a "contact high," from simply being there.

Before the meeting adjourned, I was escorted to the East, by the Senior Deacon, and officially welcomed by both the Worshipful Master and by W. Bro. LaPlace, and given an official lodge coin of St. John's Lodge No. 2, which celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2004, as well as the Grand Master of Connecticut's official lapel pin.

On my second night in Connecticut, Bro. Don again picked me up at my hotel, and took me to his house, where I met his lovely wife. We shared a fine evening of food, libations and fellowship. I know now that I truly have a brother in Connecticut.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Hate crime laws: Are they good for society?

In the past several years, legislation against "hate crimes" has been instituted across the country.

Exactly what is a hate crime? And are laws against hate crimes a good thing?

Google gave me these definitions of hate crime:
  • Crime of aggravated assault, arson, burglary, criminal homicide, motor vehicle theft, robbery, sex offenses, and/or crime involving bodily injury in which the victim was intentionally selected because of the victims' actual or perceived race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or disability.
  • An offense committed against another person, with the specific intent to cause harm to that person due to their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or culture, etc.
  • A hate crime (bias crime), loosely defined, is a crime committed because of the perpetrator's prejudices. This is a controversial political issue within the US. The US Congress (HR 4797 - 1992) defined a hate crime as: "[a crime in which] the defendant's conduct was motivated by hatred, bias, or prejudice, based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity of another individual or group of individuals.
Basically, all crime is a hate crime, because you wouldn't commit acts of violence, assault, arson, etc., against someone you love.

And there are already laws on the books against violence, assault, arson, etc.

Prosecuting someone for a hate crime in addition to the crime they actually committed strikes me as punishing someone for their thoughts. One could argue (not that I'd necessarily believe them) that their thoughts were programmed by their heredity, upbringing or environment. Certainly many people are biased or prejudiced against people of other races, religions, sexual orientations, etc.

In absence of a "real" crime, the "thought" crime isn't illegal. How can a thought (or motivation) become a separate crime only if you act on that thought or motivation?

What purpose do laws against hate crimes serve, that the laws against the crimes themselves don't already provide?

There is the recent horrendous case in West Virginia where six white men and women kidnapped, tortured and sexually abused a black woman. Her captors choked her with a cable cord, stabbed her in the leg while calling her "nigger," poured hot water over her, made her drink from a toilet and beat her, according to the victim's statements. Prosecutors have charged three of the six with kidnapping, which carries a maximum life sentence, and sexual assault, which carries a 35-year maximum. The other three assailants have been charged with assault during the commission of a felony, which carries a 10-year sentence.

Now several West Virginia black churches along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference are clamoring for the State to also charge the six with hate crimes, which in West Virginia carry a 10-year sentence.

"The family is aghast and totally devastated by the findings of the Logan prosecutor that this barbaric, heinous, despicable [crime] is not one of racial hatred," said Rev. Emanuel Heyliger of the Ferguson Memorial Baptist Church in Dunbar, West Virginia.

"How can you not charge them with a hate crime and pursue it when it appears to be racially motivated?" asked Bishop Richard Cox, a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "Every black preacher in that city and every concerned, fair-minded white person in that city ought to get together. We need to march and protest."

What purpose would it serve, either for the victim or for society, if the accused were convicted of hate crimes? Even if convicted, the sentence for the hate crime would probably run concurrently with the other sentences, especially in the case of a life sentence. Is the expense of a separate trial worth it? Who benefits? Who is discouraged from committing a similar crime because of the additional penalty?

Since the first time I heard of hate crime legislation, I've been against it. It "favors" a minority group, as if their victimization is somehow worse than it would be to a non-minority. The laws separate rather than unite.

Blacks have rightly demanded for years equal rights; why should they (or any other minority group) get special consideration? No matter the motivation of a criminal, the end result is still a crime, and the victim is no more or less victimized.

Gays and lesbians are now a vocal minority, demanding equal rights regarding marriage, employment, benefits, etc. I support that, just as I support equal rights for blacks, those of a minority religion, those with disabilities, etc.

What I don't support is additional, special consideration because of their minority status when they are the victim of a crime.

What do you think?

Update, Thurs., Sept 27: Democrats have attached hate crime legislation to a massive spending bill for the Iraq War. Pres. Bush had promised to veto any federal hate crime bills, saying that state legislation across the country was sufficiently adequate.

Image: Frankie Brewster and her son Bobby Brewster, charged in the West Virginia case

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Friday the 13th, Jacques de Molay and alien lizard kings

We're only a month away from the 700th anniversary of the Pope's roundup of the Knights Templar, the event that supposedly gave us the belief that Friday the 13th is unlucky.

Looks like we just missed the Scottish Rite's presentation of The Trial of Jacques De Molay, which was performed back on Sept. 6 in Des Moines, Iowa, according to an article last week on the Freemasonry Resources blog.

According to the article, the play "is a presentation of the final confrontation between the leader of the Knights Templar and Philip, the King of France.

"The story, set in 1314, details how the Knights Templar, a group of warrior monks sworn to protect the Christian Holy Land, were captured and tortured at the end of the Crusades. The round-up of the Knights Templar on Friday, Oct 13, 1307 is believed to be the origin of the superstition of 'Friday the 13th.' 2007 marks the 700 year anniversary of the events.

"Jacques de Molay was the last Grand Master or leader of the Knights Templar. The events leading to his execution form the basis for the play. The story of Jaques de Molay and the Knights Templar has been featured in movies such as [The] DaVinci Code and National Treasure."

Another blog has presented more of the story of the Knights Templar, taking its information from such diverse sources as Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, Lincoln, Bagient and Leigh's Holy Blood, Holy Grail, various history books, and Jim Marrs' anti-Masonic book Rule By Secrecy. Marrs has written extensively on Alien Lizard Kings, UFO's, Egyptian pyramids and the Trilateral Commission, so take your salt shaker with you when you read this one.

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Guest editorial: 'Halcyon Lodge: Moving Freemasonry Forward'

The Burning Taper welcomes guest editorials, essays and papers from Masons and non-Masons. If you have a paper or editorial you'd like to see published here, please send it to us either as a simple text message in email or as a Word document attachment. Please send only your own work, not someone else's. By submitting it you are granting us the right to publish it. If we use it, it will be published as is, in its entirety, though we reserve the right to edit it for spelling, punctuation, clarity and/or grammar. Your only renumeration will be our thanks.

Halcyon Lodge: Moving Freemasonry Forward by Bro. Jeff Peace

It's September and, after being dark for the summer, Halcyon Lodge No. 498 had its first meeting of the season last night where Wor. Bro. Ken Miller laid out our vision of the future. His talk was the culmination of years of planning and strategizing what is today Halcyon Lodge No. 498. Our new web site and discussion forums were brought online to coordinate with this event to reveal to the Masonic world our vision of the future of American Freemasonry.

Halcyon Lodge No. 498 is not your ordinary Masonic lodge composed of local Masons. It is the result of the combined efforts of brothers from across the United States that have worked quietly together over the past several years to turn our dreams into reality. It is my pleasure to share with our brothers from around the world the results of our labors.

Our new web site is now online and provides a look at our lodge and the events that take place there. Here you will discover photographs of our temple building, online Masonic education, and information about our charity that aids inner city youth.

We are firmly committed to continuing Masonic education and have also developed our own online Masonic discussion forums that are open to Masons and non-Masons alike. We have also purchased a large Masonic library from a private collector, and will be making this available to our members and researchers.

The degree mill pace that we believe plagues the Craft today has come to an end at Halcyon. Our candidates will receive the degrees in a slow progression over time, and be required to write papers in demonstration of their knowledge of Freemasonry. The West Gate will now be closed to all except those truly found worthy of becoming a part of our ancient brotherhood.

We are reducing the number of business meetings to a minimum in favor of educational and convivial activities for our members. Moving forward we will be focusing on building the true spirit of brotherhood among Masons and engaging in activities that promote this.

Membership in appendant bodies should be openly discouraged. For years these groups have acted like leeches sucking away our leaders and energy. Starting today Freemasonry is returning to the Blue Lodge where it belongs. Any further light they may have been able to provide will now be available through our library and lodge education.

We feel these changes and others are necessary for the future viability of Halcyon, and that they may benefit other lodges as well. It's time Freemasons quit chasing their tails and begin charting a course into the future. Halcyon has begun this process and looks forward to working with other lodges to help them achieve their goals as well.

If you or your lodge would like to work with Halcyon we can be contacted through the form on our web site, or you can join our online discussion forums.

Let today be the day that we begin to build the future of Freemasonry in the United States and a revival of the true brotherhood of Freemasons everywhere.

— Jeff Peace, Halcyon Lodge No. 498, Cleveland

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Freedom of expression

Thanks for the interaction on yesterday's article on the 2007 First Amendment survey.

I got a good chuckle out of an anonymous poster's comment when he said, "Oh, W.S. is just in his kitchen standing on a chair screaming 'Eeek! A Christian!' again." I liked it enough to add it to the "Can I quote you on that?" section over there in the sidebar. (Send your comments about The Burning Taper to

In today's news cycle there are two stories that seem to me to be related to the attitudes and views of Americans as indicated by the First Amendment survey. Both stories seem to indicate that a majority of Americans hold the twin icons of our country, the American flag and Jesus, in higher esteem than they do tolerance for our differences and for "liberty and justice for all."

Matt Drudge yesterday linked to a North Carolina TV station's story about a Sampson County high school not allowing students to wear clothing displaying the American flag. Actually, the ban was against students wearing any flag, American or otherwise. The logic behind the ban was that gang members identify themselves with flags of different countries.

Personally, I think that's lame logic, but I agree if one flag is banned, then all, including the American flag, should be banned.

However, I don't believe any flag should be banned. As a libertarian, I'm all for free expression, including by school students. If people want to wear red, white and blue clothing, or flags — any flag — I'm all for it.

(Aside: I'm old enough to remember when hippies took to wearing American flag patches and red, white and blue clothing, hats and bandanas. In those days, the "Establishment" took offense at that, saying that type of clothing showed disrespect to the flag. Nowadays, shirts and jackets mimic the flag, and the flag emblem is everywhere. Thanks to retailers like Old Navy, most everyone has some item of clothing that 35 years ago would have been considered disrespectful of the flag. Now it's considered patriotic. When did that change?)

After a day's pummeling in the press, the Sampson County School Board overruled the local school's ban, and today, students can wear any flag they wish to on their clothing. Good call.

So what does this have to do with yesterday's First Amendment survey?

On the TV station's website, accompanying both stories is a poll asking "Should schools be allowed to ban clothes that display flags?" The answer-choices were Yes, No, An exception should be made for American flags, and An exception should be made for other national or cultural flags."

Of course, I voted "No." Schools shouldn't be banning any clothing as long as the clothes cover up the essential "naughty bits" and don't have the commonly agreed upon "dirty words" on them.

Most of the poll respondents (at this moment, just over 20,000) didn't say "no, schools shouldn't ban clothing with flags on them."

Seventy percent said that an exception should be made for American flags.

So much for freedom of choice, and freedom of conscience, and freedom of expression. Instead of celebrating the freedom that the American flag represents, a majority of those answering the poll chose the rah-rah patriotic warm and fuzzy glow.

America used to be the beacon of freedom in this world. Now, according to polls, we'd rather rally around the symbol of freedom instead of letting everyone have a taste of that freedom.

And now, as Bro. Paul Harvey used to say, "Page Two."

I can't think of any female comedienne that I like less than Kathy Griffin, except for Rosie O'Donnell. (I haven't decided yet if I love or hate Sarah Silverman.) I find Griffin boorish and extremely unfunny.

But someone must like her; she recently won a Creative Arts Emmy Award.

The other day she gave a crude, but funny to the audience, acceptance speech, mocking award-winners who include Jesus in their lists of people they thank for winning an award.

I don't think Jesus gets too personally involved in granting wishes, or helping people win awards, or any of the other zillions of favors people ask of him everyday. I mean, by helping you win an award, wouldn't he be actively involved in keeping someone else from winning? Hardly seems Christ-like.

But I digress.

Here's what she said: "A lot of people get up here and thank Jesus for helping them win this award, but I have to say nobody has been less helpful in getting me to this moment than Jesus. I don't know what I ever did to him, I just think he doesn't like me that much, and if he had his way, Caesar Milan would be holding this statue right now, but he's not and I am! So I guess all I can really say is, 'Suck it, Jesus! This statue is my God now!'"

While the audience apparently thought it was funny, the Catholic League (and I'm sure other Christian groups, both Catholic and Protestant) didn't.

Catholic League president Bill Dohohue condemned Griffin's remarks, calling them a "vulgar, in-your-face brand of hate speech."

Hate speech? Oh, come on! Jesus doesn't offend that easily.

But Americans do. Most of the news articles I read about Griffin's comments wouldn't even print her entire quote. The E! Channel has already said it will delete her comments when the program airs on Sept. 15th.

Americans get offended far too easily. Jewish-Americans got up in arms 20 years ago when Bro. Jesse Jackson called them "hymies." Jackson himself gets all high-and-mightily miffed when a black man calls another black man "nigger." Don Imus caught hell for joking about "nappy headed ho's." Newspapers won't even reprint Griffin's comments for fear of offending Christian readers.

In a comment to the First Amendment story yesterday, Bodo summed it up succinctly. "Freedom," he wrote, "is frightening to ignorant people. They know deep down inside that they can't trust themselves, and so they don't trust anyone else (assuming everyone is like them) and want protection."

Let freedom ring. Let others speak. Don't censor their choice of clothing or their choice of words. If someone doesn't like you, or attacks your sacred cow, relish in it. Be proud that you're living in a country where you — and everyone else — has freedom of expression.

Sometimes I get complaints about what I write on this blog: "You shouldn't say that," or "I don't like your tone," or "You're too preachy," or "You're doing a disservice to Freemasonry by exposing such and such."

Those are all expressions of a desire for censorship, for the suppression of ideas, because I've pushed the envelope of someone's belief system. People don't like hearing things that go against their set-in-stone beliefs. "How dare you question my politics/religion/Freemasonry?!"

As Thomas Jefferson said, "Question with boldness even the existence of God...."

He also said this: "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."

Live free.

And let others do the same.

Image: The Bill of Rights

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Christian States of America

If belief creates reality, it's no wonder we're living in a Bizarro World.

The First Amendment Center just released its 2007 survey results of Americans' opinions on the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment.

Sixty-five percent (nearly two-thirds) of the respondents said they believed the nation's founders intended the United States to be a Christian nation, and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation.

When asked to name the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, 64% knew that freedom of speech was one of them. Only 19% knew that freedom of religion was a right enumerated in the First Amendment. Sixteen percent knew about freedom of the press, and 16% knew about the right to associate and assemble. Only three percent mentioned the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

A full 29% either refused to answer the above questions or flat out admitted they just didn't know!

After having the First Amendment read to them, 25% agreed when asked if the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.

Let that sink in for a moment.

One in four Americans believes that we have too much freedom!

Thirty-four percent think the press has too much freedom. Thirty-seven percent do not think the press should be allowed to criticize the U.S. military's strategy and performance.

Twenty-eight percent believe that the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion "was never meant to apply to religious groups that the majority of the people consider extreme or on the fringe."

More from the survey:
  • Public schools should be allowed to put on Nativity reenactments with Christian music: 43% agreed.
  • Musicians should be allowed to sing songs with lyrics that others might find offensive: 42% disagreed.
  • People should be allowed to say things in public that might be offensive to religious groups: 39% disagreed.
  • People should be allowed to say things in public that might be offensive to racial groups: 56% disagreed.
  • Teachers and other school officials should be allowed to lead prayers in public school: 58% agreed.
  • A public school teacher should be allowed to use the Bible as a factual text in a history or social studies class: 50% agreed.
The demographics of the respondents: 67% with at least some college; 79% white; 62% having a household income over $40,000 a year; 30% Democrat, 28% Republican, and 26% claiming to be Independent. 49% were men, 51% women. Only 1/3 of the respondents had children under the age of 18.

Seventy-three percent said they were Christians (50% Protestant, 23% Catholic).

Twenty-six percent of all respondents said they were "fundamentalist/evangelical Christians." If I remember high school algebra, that means that .26 / .73 = nearly 36% of the Christians interviewed considered themselves fundamentalists and/or evangelicals.

To me, the most telling of all the statistics is the section asking where the respondents primarily get their news. Sixty-one percent of the respondents said they got most of their news from passive sources, that is, television (52%) and radio (9%).

Twenty-one percent get their news from what I would call, for lack of a better term, active sources (newspapers, 20%; magazines, 1%.) By active, I mean, in comparison to TV and radio, where you don't usually actually think about the news, at least not while you're receiving it. With magazines and newspapers, at least you choose the pace at which you try to absorb a news story, and you have the choice of whether to actually read a story or not. With rapid-fire TV and radio, you're usually just bombarded, and before you can decide if you actually want to know about a story, yet another story is being presented. Often, you're not only given the story, but told, directly or indirectly, what you should think about it.

Fifteen percent said they got their news from the Internet, and four percent said "other," whatever that means. Again, for lack of a better term, I would call news you get from the Internet "interactive." You choose what to read. You can take your time thinking about what you've read, and leisurely form an opinion. In many cases, whether on news organization sites or on personal blogs, you can interact with others by posting your own opinions, conclusions, disagreements or rebuttals.

It's my hypothesis, which of course cannot be proved or disproved without access to the individual survey forms, that the readers (of magazines, newspapers and Internet) in this survey held more liberal or libertarian views, and knew more about, and held in a higher regard (or even higher reverence), the First Amendment, while those who got their news spoon-fed to them by television and radio talking heads and pundits held the more "conservative," anti-freedom viewpoints, and knew less about, and valued less, the freedoms enumerated in the First Amendment.

Agree? Disagree? Come on... be interactive!

You can find the actual survey questions and answer tables in a PDF file provided by the First Amendment Center. You can also find the Center's original press release on their site.

News stories about the 2007 survey can be found here, and here, and here.

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Albert Pike's 'Compasses and Square'

Brother Tubalcain of the blog Tubalcain420 recently posted the following essay from Bro. Albert Pike's Esoterika which discusses the Compasses and the Square as Masonic and Hermetic symbols. May you find light in these words.

The Compasses and Square

What is there in these implements that entitle them to be regarded with reverence as two of the three Great Lights of the Lodge? What do they really mean? And what is the meaning of the different relative positions of the points of the compasses and the square in the three Degrees? Are these meanings in any way connected with the saying that "the principal tenets of Freemasonry are included between the two points of the compasses?"

The earnest inquirer after truth, the student of Masonic symbolism, does not want ingenious explanations, worked out by the intellect of anyone. What he wants to know is whether these two symbols had any definite and fixed meaning when they became part of the inheritance of Freemasonry; and if they had what their real meanings were. He wants certainty, and not guessing, conjectures or speculations.

I inquired, some years since, of an eminent English Masonic scholar and antiquarian, Bro :. William James Hughan, whether the compasses and square were used on the altar in the same positions, in England, as among us, and since what time had they been so used; desiring to be sure that their use was not a novelty introduced in this Country.

He replied, "I cannot say how long it has been the custom as to the points of the square and compasses in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Degrees. I am inclined to consider it an old one, as it is general."

In a Lodge of the French Rite, when the Senior Warden is asked, "Are you a Master Mason?" his answer is, "I am; I have passed from the square to the compasses."

The square is an instrument that can he applied to level surfaces and rectilinear angles only. The earth anciently was supposed to be a level, with occasional inequalities of hills and valleys. For many practical purposes it is regarded as level now. In the ordinary operations of surveying it is so treated, its spherical shape not being regarded. The surveys of the public lands of the United States are so made; and consequently the lines of adjoining surveys never coincide.

The compasses are used to describe circles, and in spherical trigonometry in which the square cannot be used. They are therefore a fit symbol of the sky, the heavens, which form as it were, the roof of a half-sphere, in crossing which the heavenly bodies appear to describe arcs of circles; and the square is a fit symbol of the Earth.

In the copy of an engraving which is upon the first page of this essay these two symbols appear. It is taken from a Hermetic work in Latin by Basilius Valentinus, published in 1613. In it you see a naked human body with two heads, one male and the other female, one with the right and the other with the left arm extended. Over the male head is the astronomical sign that denotes the sun, and over the female that which denotes the moon, and between and above these signs is that which denotes the planet Mercury. In the hand which is on the male side is a pair of compasses; and in the hand on the female side is the square. These symbols, as you see, were engraved and published over a hundred years before what is called the "revival" of Masonry, in I717, and they had been in use and had a settled meaning for hundreds of years before Valentinus published them.

We know with absolute certainty what their signification was to the Hermetic philosophers who used them. It is not a matter of conjecture or speculation but of absolute certainty of knowledge. The figure with one body and two heads represented the generative or creative power of the Deity and the productive capacity of nature. The generative power had its abiding place in the sky. Light is the great generative agent. The productive power is in the flat earth.

Every human being is of a compound and double nature, animal and material in part; and in part intellectual and spiritual His body is said to have been formed of the dust of the earth: his soul, spirit, intellect are of another nature. One is earthly, the other heavenly, one material, the other spiritual.

The compasses, which are a fit symbol of the heavens, are also a fit symbol of all that is heavenly and spiritual; the square which is a fit symbol of the earth is also a fit symbol of all that is earthly and material, in nature and man.

In every human being that lives, there are four forces, each always acting, and two of them apparently antagonistic to the other two. Two of these belong to the animal, earthly, material nature of man, the animal or sensual appetites and the passions. Both of these, man has in common with the animals; and so far as these rule him, he is but an animal. The other two belong to his intellectual and spiritual nature. One of them is the Moral Sense, whose conclusions are as absolute and infallible as those of the mathematics; by means of which Moral Sense, given in a greater or less degree to every man, he knows what is right and what is wrong for him to do. How little so ever of any moral code may control the conduct of an Indian wholly uncivilized, his Moral Sense teaches him something, at least this, that if a thing is placed in his hands to deliver to another, and he promises to deliver it, it is not right but wrong to fail to deliver it and appropriate it to his own use.

The other is the Reason, which reaches man what is the wisest and best for him to do for his own good, and this also belongs in a greater or less degree to every man.

These do not result from the combination of the atoms of matter in our bodies, It is a sufficient argument with which to refute those who think they believe that there is no God, that it is simply impossible, that the Moral Sense could originate in or be produced by any combination of material atoms, or by the action and counter action of any conceivable forces of matter. To create a moral law or a single tenet of it, there must be a superior Will to enact it; and that Will must enact it in obedience to the unerring conclusions of an infinite wisdom.

It is the Reason, by the analogies perceived and formulated whereby we attain by observation of phenomena, a knowledge of causes; and so have precisely the same kind of knowledge of the Infinite Will, Wisdom, Power and Beneficence, which reveals Itself to us in nature and in ourselves, as we have of electricity; of which in its essence we know nothing; but from its effects we attain such knowledge as is attainable by us, of what is.

The Moral Sense and the Reason come to us, as it was anciently said, "from above"; the sensual appetites and animal passions, anger, revenge, hate, jealousy, envy and the like, "from below." But they are not, as was once believed, implanted in us by the devil. They also are gifts and endowments which we receive from the Infinite Wisdom. For to them, are in a great measure, owing the heroism and endurance of human nature. They are the springs of human action and of human exertion, and without them no man could be great. It is by the potent action and counteraction of these opposite forces, the appetites and passions always acting in striving to overcome, but controlled by an undue subordination to the other forces, that true greatness is achieved. They are not evil and devilish, to be extirpated and mortified; for most of the great deeds which men have done in the world have owed their doing to these springs of action. Harmony everywhere consists in equilibrium, and equilibrium is the result of the alternating preponderance of opposing forces. The astronomers have been forced to suppose a centripetal and a centrifugal force, each the opposite and antagonist of the other, one drawing the planet towards the sun, and the other causing it to strive to dart away from it, the line of action of both be in one straight line in opposite directions, to explain the movement of the planet round the sun in its elliptical orbit.

When the candidate is prepared to be initiated, he represents man in the state of barbarism, ignorance and subjugation. He is neither naked nor clothed, barefoot nor shod; meaning that his faculties are but half developed, and that the Moral Sense and reason, though they exist in him are in a dormant condition, He is hoodwinked, and so deprived of light, symbol of his supposed deprivation of the light of knowledge and the obscuration of his intellect; and he is further symbolically deprived of the light of reason and knowledge of himself, of nature and of God, by being deprived of all articles made of the precious metals, gold and silver.

For gold was among all the old nations, the metal of the sun, and silver that of the moon. The same words meant "gold" and "sunlight" because the sun in rising flooded the east with gold; and the same words in more than One language meant "silver" and "the moon." The light of the sun symbolized the direct light of revelation coming from The Deity into the soul and enlightening it. The light of the moon, which is the reflected light of the sun, symbolized the shining into one soul of the light from another, the light of revelation reflected from one intellect into another and illuminating and enlightening it.

And his preparation was completed in the cable-tow around his neck.

We may compare him in this condition to, and consider him, representation of the vast masses of the common people of the ancient ages, say of the Egyptian toilers, a huge hoard of slaves, under the pharaohs, with no knowledge of nature or the causes of things, except what they gained through the senses, with not even a glimmering idea of one God or a divine providence, of a hereafter, or of anything for themselves after the end of their poor miserable life; denied knowledge by the priests, because the possession of it by them would make them dangerous; worshiping the sacred bull, the ibis, the scarabaeus, idols grotesque and hideous; slaves of their kings, to whom their lives were no more than the lives of insects; their reason dormant, their Moral Sense inactive; and in their appetites and passions, mere animals.

We may regard him as of a somewhat higher nature, a Saxon like Gurth born-thrall of Cedric the Saxon, or one of the peasantry of France in the days of Henry the Fourth; for he represents every man and every people in which the sensual appetites and animal passions have ruled with a dominion uncontrolled by the Moral Sense and the Reason.

When he is brought to light his attention is directed to the compasses and the square on the altar, and he is made to note that both points of the compasses are under the square. He is about to begin his journey from the west to the east in search of light, which is to "make progress in Masonry," and he is to labor three years as an Apprentice before he can become a Fellow of the Craft.

The two points of the compasses symbolize his Moral Sense and Reason, and the two arms of the square, essential appetites and animal passions: and the two points of the compasses are under the square because in him as a candidate for initiation and deprived of light, the Moral Sense and Reason are supposed to be overpowered and subjugated by his appetites and passions, which belong to his animal nature. He is now to begin to "make progress in Masonry."

When he becomes a Fellowcraft, he sees one point of the compasses above the square and one below it: which is to teach him that he is supposed, by zealous endeavors to attain the Lights to have attained at that moral and intellectual condition, in which his appetites and passions no longer have the entire habitual mastery over his Moral Sense and Reason, but these have become so strengthened and developed by his labors as an Apprentice as to be enabled sometimes and in some degree to hold their ground against the former and even overcome and control them.

And when he becomes a Master Mason, he sees both points of the compasses above the square; which is to teach him that he is supposed to have attained that condition in which the moral, intellectual and spiritual forces of his nature have become superior to its material and animal forces and energies, his Moral Sense and Reason have the habitual mastery over his appetites and passions, the divine in him transcends the human, and there is in him that equilibrium of the forces of his nature which constitutes excellence and entitles him to honor.

The habitual mastery-not never-failing, never-interrupted mastery, of his appetites and passions; for that is the condition to which no man attains or can attain in this life.

He is at last a "Master Mason," because, and only because, he has become Master of himself. If he is not so, he deceives his fellows; for by permitting himself to be supposed such, and by having accepted the compasses and square, lying upon the holy hook of his faith on the holy alter, illuminated by the three lights that symbolize the Deity — the compasses and the square which are the symbols of God the Creator, and of nature, of which God is the soul and whose forces are His varied actions — as a true symbol of his moral and intellectual condition, he in the most solemn manner pledges his faith and soul and honor to all his Brethren and the whole Order, that he is and will continue to be in all things such as he so represents himself.

And if, ever afterwards, when present in the Master's Lodge, he feels and knows that the compasses and square, as they lie there, are not a true symbol of himself, but false, because these are not so, he is a living lie, and should turn his back upon the symbol and upon his Brethren and go mournfully away.

Thus the question, by what right are the compasses and square made two of the Great Lights of the Lodge, fit be counted as such with the Holy Book of one's faith, is, it seems to me, satisfactorily answered; and I know no other way in which it can be.

And we may now, perhaps, learn what is the meaning of the phrase, that, "the principal tenets of Masonry are included between the two points of the compasses." You may perhaps see it now: but I think if I had at the beginning, asked you who read this to stop and reflect upon the phrase, and see if it had any meaning to you, you would, after repeating it to yourself again and again, have been compelled to admit that it is one of those phrases which sound well and seem to mean something, but which when examined, are found to consists only of so many words arranged in a sentence which has no meaning at all.

But "the principal tenets of Masonry” are the whole moral law, and that moral law wholly consists of the dictates of the Moral Sense and the conclusions of Reason; and as these are symbolized by the compasses, it follows that the principals of that law or the tenets of Freemasonry, are included between the two points of the compasses.

You may now also understand why a Master Mason has "passed from the square to the compasses" and from the high place of Gibeon, where the ark of the covenant rested, to the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite, the site of the temple in which it was finally deposited.

The three lesser lights, it is said, are the sun, the moon and the Master of the Lodge. How long is the Lodge, how broad, how high and how deep? The Universe is the Lodge by Masonry’s own definition.

The sun and moon, to the ancient Egyptians, represented Osiris and Isis; one said to be the Deity and the other nature. But we get little knowledge as to what the Egyptian Deities really meant, from the monumental inscriptions cut in stone by command of the old monarchs of Egypt. I believe that Osiris was the Deity as Will and Power, and Isis, the Divine Wisdom in the Deity. Thoth was the Divine Word, the utterance in Humanity of the Divine Wisdom. The Greeks called him Hermes, and represented him as the giver of all knowledge to men. He was the Logos; of whom St. John afterwards said that He was in the beginning with God and was God.

In the old Hermetic engraving copied at the beginning of this lesson, the sign of the planet Mercury is above those of the sun and moon, midway between them; and the Greeks called this planet also Hermes. He is the nearest to the sun of all the planets; and consequently is seldom seen; for if he rises before the sun, his rise is so little a while before the sun’s; and if he sets after the sun, his setting is so little a while after that of the sun, that he is almost always in the golden glow of light of sunrise or sunset so that one’s eyes cannot discern him, I, being nearsighted, have never seen him, when another who was with me has; and Copernicus, the great Danish astronomer it is said, died lamenting that he had never seen him in all his life.

To the Egyptian Hermes, Thoth, is ascribed the promulgation of the philosophy distinguished by his name as the Hermetic: and various writings in Greek, by unknown authors, have been ascribed to him, some of which are still extant. Into the possession of the Hermetic philosophy came the symbols used by Pythagoras with his secret explanations of them, and his doctrines in regard to numbers; the knowledge of all which was always confined to a few adepts, and so became almost universally misunderstood. In the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Hermeticism became connected with Alchemy; and by what seemed mere jargon and an unmeaning babble of words, the meanings of its symbols and their true explanations were carefully concealed from the multitudes, and as carefully from the Priesthood, who would have pronounced the doctrines heretical and burned at the stake those who taught them.

We find in Freemasonry the principal symbols of the religious doctrines of the Zend Avesta, the book of the faith of the ancestors of Medians and Persians, and of their priests, styled the magi, "The wise men of the east," who possessed the doctrines when Cyrus, of Median descent, became Master of the great city of Babylon. These doctrines Pythagoras learned; and as he could not have learned them elsewhere, the presumption is that the tradition is a true one, that he visited Babylon and was a pupil of the magi, as he had been of the Egyptian priests. He made these doctrines known to his disciples among the Greeks and invented symbols, especially the right-angled triangle and the lesser and the greater tetractys, to perpetuate the knowledge of them among the adepts and conceal it from all the rest of the world; in which he was so successful that, as Plutarch, ascribing the use of the right-angled triangle to the Egyptians, interpreted it in a manner altogether incorrect, so Yamblichus, writing of the life of Pythagoras, showed a profound ignorance of the meaning of his symbols; and the meaning of what the great philosopher said as to the virtues of numbers unconnected with things, as totally unknown yet.

Hermes, the Egyptian Thoth, the Divine Word, bearing the same name as the planet Mercury, was "The Master" of the Hermetic philosophers, the "Master" of the Universe, the Divine Presence in it, the Master of Light and Life, and the mode of concealment of things in Masonry is strikingly shown by questions and answers, “Have you seen your Master today,” etc., given above. For Hermes, the planet, while in the blue ground of the sky is also always in the golden glory of the sun; and by these questions it was ascertained whether the person to whom they were put was a Mason, acquainted with the secret doctrines of the Hermetic philosophy.

By this and many other proofs we know that the symbols of Freemasonry were introduced into it by the Hermetic philosophers in England, one of whom at least was a Mason — E1ias Ashmole.

The "Master of the Lodge" was Hermes, the Divine Word: and the phrase, "The sun, the moon and the Master of the Lodge:" finds its exact symbols and representation in the Hermetic engraving given at the beginning of this lesson.

The sun represents the Deity: the moon the Divine Wisdom and to these three the various triads of the Lodge allude.

Hermes said that the universe was the second god, and man the third, why and how, he did not clearly explain. The books bearing his name were given by those who did not intend to make known to the whole world the meanings of their symbols. It would have been better if Masonic writers of books had imitated, their caution and reticence; for with Mackey's and Oliver's works on one side and our Monitors on the other, any Profane may know all that the mass of Masons know about Masonry.

Fortunately these writers could not disclose what they did not know, and the real meanings of our symbols are still our own, notwithstanding our itching for notoriety so prevalent now in the Order, and the irrepressible desire of Masonic journalists and others to print and publish everything.

The universe is the idea of the Divine Wisdom, realized, as the making under the direction of the inventor, perhaps without his own hands touching it, of the machine of wood and metal, is but the expression in these of the model in the mind of the inventor. It is in the universe that we see all of the Divine Wisdom that it has disclosed or will in this life disclose to us. In it alone we attain unto any knowledge of that Wisdom. It is the Soul of the Universe; and therefore the universe, its body is said to be the second god.

In Man is the Divine Word, the Voice and utterance of the Divine Wisdom, Every human intellect has in it something of the Divine nature.

It is a ray from that in the Deity which is something higher than our Reason and Intelligence, but of which these are effects, as light is an effluence from the flame of the fire. These are the doctrines of Hermetic Philosophy.

— Albert Pike, Esoterika

Image: This is the graphic referred to in Pike's essay

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Monday, September 10, 2007

A photo tour of the George Washington Masonic Memorial

The non-Mason blogger at The Contrarian and his wife stopped by the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia over the weekend. He just posted quite a few photographs of the way cool stuff they saw.

His captions make the photo tour all the more enjoyable. Check it out.

Image: Bro. Gareth Diem, Supreme Tall Cedar. Photo by The Contrarian. Portrait by unknown. The first thing that came to mind when I saw that cap on his head was, "Is he wearing a tinfoil hat?"

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Grand Orient of France votes against allowing women to join

The blog Lost in France reports that at the recent annual meeting of the Grand Orient of France, "sixty percent of the 1,200 delegates attending rejected outright the proposal that was put forward by their slightly more liberated Grand Master Jean-Michel Quillardet to allow women to join their Lodges."

According to the website, the GODF was founded in 1773, and has over 48,000 members.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Hot enough for you?

It's been an extremely hot and dry summer here in Georgia, as it has elsewhere around the country.

I've noticed several of the local Protestant churches around here have taken advantage of the heat wave to try to scare up, literally, old and new members who have probably been spending their Sundays at the lake or pool.

One local church's marquee has read for several weeks: "Hot enough for you? Try Son Block." Truly a stupid attempt at a pun.

Another church's sign shouts out: "You just THINK it's hot here!" Obviously, a reference to that pesky, humid, dry-roasted feeling you'll get when you go to Hell.

Last night, driving home along the Interstate, a truck pulling a trailer carrying a race car passed me. Emblazoned across the back of the race car was this loving Christian message: "JESUS: BELIEVE OR BURN!"

What the hell (pardon my language) is wrong with these fundamentalist types, that the only way they can find to express their Christian love is by trying to scare you with a mythological place of eternal torture? Where's the love their Savior exhibited? Where's the compassion for the weak and the downtrodden, the sense of community, the grace of God?

Religion should make you feel warm and fuzzy, or at least noble and spiritual, not fearful. It should help bring out the best in a person. Don't you have a better reason to believe in your Jesus than that it supposedly gives you a Get Out of Hell Free card?

Update, Wed. Sept. 12:
Most of the references to "hell" by Jesus used the Greek word "gehennah," which actually referred to the burning trash pit outside the city. One poor fellow recently experienced the "fiery pit" in Jeddah, a Saudi Arabian city on the Red Sea. While walking in an area formerly used as an animal market, he sank into "soil" that left him with second and third degree burns. Toxic waste was ruled out; what he sank into was animal waste, which as it decays produces scalding temperatures and diphosphane gas that can spontaneously combust.

Image: Though this graphic was made using, it is representative of the type of messages seen on local church marquees around the country this summer

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Masonic unrest in West Virginia

Georgia. Alabama. Arkansas. Arizona. Connecticut. England. The Philippines.

There's another crack in the cement of brotherly love. This time it's in West Virginia.

Bro. Chris Hodapp, on his Freemasons for Dummies blog, gives us a glimpse into emails to and from a group of Masons, comprised of at least 100, and the Grand Master of Masons in West Virginia, M.W. Bro. Charles F. "Chuck" Coleman, II.

Apparently, the group is unhappy that measures they voted on, and passed, at the most recent Grand Lodge communication have been overturned unilaterally by the Grand Master.

A West Virginia Mason using the name I.M. Hiram sent out an email to a large group of supporters, and the email found its way to the Grand Master.

The Grand Master, it seems, immediately threatened expulsion of those who were a part of this email chain.

The motto displayed on the website of the Grand Lodge of West Virginia is "Building Bridges amongst Men through Brotherhood."

I recall that West Virginia's most famous bridge was the Silver Bridge, which collapsed into the Ohio River in 1967, killing 46 people, after area citizens had been repeatedly warned for over a year about the upcoming disaster by the appearance of the Mothman, a winged man-size creature with glowing red eyes.

Read the emails and Bro. Hodapp's commentary on his blog.

Image: Statue of the Mothman in Point Pleasant, West Virginia

Additional resource: More about Mothman

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Sex sells seats, Southwest Airlines used to say

Sex used to sell seats. Now being sexy gets you kicked out of your seat.

Kyla Ebbert was hassled recently as she boarded a Southwest Airlines flight because a prudish stewardess, um, excuse me, a prudish flight attendant decided Kyla's clothing was too "revealing." She was asked to not board the plane, or to "adjust" her clothing.

Oddly, Ms. Ebbert wore the same outfit on the return flight and no one said a word or raised an eyebrow.

At left is a photo of Kyla's attire.

No, wait.

That's not Ms. Ebbert. That's the uniform the self-righteous flight attendant would have had to wear had she been a Southwest Airlines stewardess in the early 1970s. At that time Southwest Airline's internal marketing motto was actually "sex sells seats." The hot pants-clad stewardesses handed out drinks called "Love Potion" and "Passion Punch" while sauntering down the aisles wearing high-heeled go-go boots.

In a 1981 court case, Southwest Airlines attempted to defend its policy of hiring only attractive female flight attendants. Southwest argued that female sex appeal was a bona fide occupational qualification under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act because it wanted to project a "sexy image and fulfill its public promise to take passengers skyward with 'love.'" The Court disagreed and Southwest lost. The Court determined that Southwest was not in a business where "vicarious sex entertainment is the primary service provided."

Image: Southwest Airlines stewardesses circa 1970

Update, Sat. Sept. 8: Here's a Southwest Airlines television commercial, circa 1972. My thanks to an alert reader for unearthing this video.

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