Thursday, January 22, 2015

Imitation Is The Highest Form Of Flattery

My dad is an antique collector and dealer, and whenever he finds something "Masonic" it usually winds up in my collection.  A few years ago he found several "Masonic" lapel pins and dropped them by the house.  I glance at them when he gave them to me, and thought they were kind of different, but they sat on my counter for a week before I really looked at them and realized they weren't Masonic at all.  They were anniversary pins for membership in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.  If you can't see the similarities between the Freemasons square and compass and the crest of the Carpenter's Union, you better get to the eye doctor.

As a matter of fact, I've had a little fun with these pins.  I've worn one on my lapel a couple dozen times to Masonic events.  You know, not one single Mason noticed it wasn't a Masonic pin, and believe me, they would have pointed it out in a heartbeat.  Not long after I became a Mason, I wore one of those antique lapel pins my dad had found--as it turns out it was a lady's pin.  I got noticed for sure.  Does your husband know you're here, Mrs. Creason.  Bwahahahahaha!  Sometimes brotherhood can be brutal.

As they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery, and Freemasonry gets flattered a lot.  Our square and compass logo is respected and well-known, and it gets borrowed frequently.  Our symbols are ancient and mysterious to the uninitiated, and I see "Masonic looking" apparel all the time--in fact, I just picked up this sweatshirt off the clearance rack at Kohl's last weekend.  A tattoo artist from Las Vegas contacted me a couple months ago.  He wanted to know if there was a reference book or something of Masonic symbols, artwork, and woodcuts I could direct him to.  He told me that in the last five years, his most popular designs are all based on Masonic and Knights Templar symbolism.

I wasn't able to help the tattoo artist, but I was honest with him, and told him why.  I don't like to see our symbols worn like this by people who don't have an appreciation for what they mean.  But I also understand it is because so many people are fascinated and intrigued by our Fraternity and its mysterious secret knowledge that these symbols are so often mimicked.  And we can't get too upset about our symbols being borrowed by others--many of the symbols used in Freemasonry are not original to our Fraternity.  We did some borrowing along the way as well.  Even the symbol most often associated with us isn't our own--the All Seeing Eye!  We adopted it, but it had been around for millenia and used by many cultures around the world before we began using it.

So don't get mad.  Enjoy the priviledge of membership in the "real genuine deal."  Be content knowing that you actually know what those symbols mean--that you've received light.  And do like I do--when you see a cool t-shirt, hat, or sweatshirt with a "Masonic looking" design buy it and enjoy it!  I must admit, some of my favorite Masonic apparel isn't Masonic at all.  It's those designs that the graphic artists at Aeropostle, Old Navy, and American Eagle are tinkering with that I enjoy wearing.  We have a few, but I wish we had a few more Brothers out there designing graphics like these for our younger Fraternity members--and a few older guys like me that just like anything and everything to do with the Craft.   

~Todd E. Creason

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Master's Lectures: Happiness

Excerpted from a series of lectures delivered in 1923 by
Worshipful Brother Norman B. Hickcox
Evans Lodge No. 524 A.F.& A.M. (IL)

The habit of contentment is formed, not from without, but from within; and it is a wonderfully satisfying habit to own.

We must learn to be content with what we have.  A quiet home; vines of our own planting; a few books full of the inspiration of genius; a few friends worthy of being loved, and able to love us in return; a hundred innocent pleasures that bring no pain or remorse; a simple religion, full of trust and hope and love--to such a philosphy this world will yield all the joy it has.

There is no duty we so much underestimate as the duty of being happy.  By being happy, we sow anonymous benefits upon the world which remain unknown even to ourselves; or when they are disclosed, surprise nobody so much as the benefactor.  A happy man or woman is a better thing to find than a fifty-dollar bill.  He or she is a radiating focus of good will, and their entrance into a room is as though another lamp had been lighted.

Nothing on earth can smile but man!  Gems may flash reflected light, but what is a diamond-flash compared to an eye-flash and a mirth-flash?  Flowers cannot smile; this is a charm that even they cannot claim.  It is the prerogative of man; it is the color which love wears and cheerfulness and joy--these three.  It is a light in the windows of the ace, by which the heart signifies it is at home and waiting.  A face that cannot smile is like a bud that cannot blossom, and dries up on the stalk.  Laughter is day and sobriety is night, and a smile is the twilight that hovers gently between both--more bewitching than either.  


To that I would only add that twelve lectures were prepared by WB Norman B. Hickox, and he gave one each month he was Master of Evans Lodge.  The lecture he prepared on the topic of happiness was the 11th one he gave on November 13th, 1923, and it was one of the longest.  From that you can surmise that WB Hickox thought happiness was indeed one of the most important subjects he wanted to cover.  I couldn't agree more--as those of you who follow this blog know, I write on that subject a great deal.  The subject of human happiness is a very misunderstood concept.  As with many things in our modern society, we tend to make it way harder than it actually is.  

~Todd E. Creason

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Review: The Craftsman's Symbology: Selected Symbols of the Entered Apprentice Degree

Back in December I wrote a rather blunt opinion about the declining quality I'd been seeing in Masonic research and writing entitled Finally The Evidence That Abraham Lincoln Was a Freemason!  You've Got To Be Kidding Me!  In that piece I'd said "just because anybody can write a book these days doesn't mean everyone should."  I also said I wouldn't be reveiwing any more Masonic books because so many of them were so badly researched and written.

That piece got a tremendous amount of attention--apparently I'd said some of the things that a lot of Masonic researchers and writers had been thinking for a long time.  And right in the middle of the conversation that followed, primarily amongst writers and researchers, comes a message from a new writer--Bro. Anthony Mongelli, Jr.  He wanted to send me copy of his book.  He didn't want a review, he just wanted me to look at it.  After the tone of my piece and all the conversation that had followed, I thought Anthony must be absolutely nuts.  After thinking about it, I realized either Anthony had missed the entire conversation that had been going on (which I thought was unlikely), or more likely he knew he'd written a very good book.  

As it turns out, it was the latter.  Anthony Mongelli, Jr. has written a really good book on the symbology of the 1st Degree of Freemasonry--one I enjoyed a great deal.  In this book, which is the first book in what he expects will be nine volumes, he examines three symbols in the 1st Degree--the circumpunct, the apron, and the pillars.  I'm not well versed in symbology, but the book is well written, and well researched.  It was fascinating the way Mongelli traced the symbols used in the degree back through all the various uses and meanings throughout ancient history.  

Anthony plans on writing nine books in total--three books on each degree, and in each book, he'll cover three symbols.  He selected the symbols to cover based on the ones he's most enamored with and devoted to.  That's a good way to do it--that's exactly how I decided which famous Freemasons to include in my own books.  I'm very much looking forward to his next installment.  I learned a lot in the first book that I didn't know, and during a 1st Degree at my Lodge a couple weeks ago, I was kind of surprised at how the things I learned in Mongelli's book had enhanced and advanced my understanding of the Entered Apprentice Degree.  

You'll find Brother Mongelli's book at online booksellers like Amazon.  It's well worth the price of admission.  

~Todd E. Creason

Thursday, January 15, 2015

It's Great To Be Master!

"With great power, comes great responsibility."


One of the greatest honors a Master Mason can receive is to be elected Worshipful Master of his lodge by the brethren.  I had the great privilege of taking this chair a couple years ago.  It's a year I'll never forget.

I remember going home after being installed as Worshipful Master.  I was all wound up.  I told my wife, Valerie, that it wasn't necessary for her to call me Worshipful at home--MASTER was just fine.

I was just joking of course, but it made her so angry, I didn't see her for two weeks!  Well, actually, after a week, I could see her a little bit out of my left eye.

~Todd E. Creason
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