Iowa Freemasonry is a personal journal of a Freemason in central Iowa. This blog documents my Masonic research interests, experiences, and reflections. Welcome!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sweet Pickles

Our sweet pickles have moved from the brine to the sugar syrup stage of production. They soak in the syrup for four days before going into the Mason jars. At the end of each of the four days, I drain the syrup from the pickles, boil the syrup, and then pour it back over the pickles.

The syrup solution is incredibly sweet: 2 parts sugar to 1 part vinegar. I harvested just over 2 gallons of cucumbers and that meant a staggering 10 pounds of sugar and ½ gallon of vinegar, plus assorted spices.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Symbolism, according to H. L. Haywood

I checked out H. L. Haywood's The Great Teachings of Masonry from the Iowa Masonic Library about three weeks ago. The book is coming due now and I have to send it back to the Library. Before I do, I'd like to post Haywood's description of the significance of symbolism.

…a symbol does not exhaust itself so quickly as words. There is mystery and depth in it, an infinity of suggestiveness, an incitement to new approaches of thought…

We cannot learn the message of a symbol with a passive and receptive mind, because it is of the genius of symbolism to hide as well as to reveal. When a thing is conveyed to us in clear simple words, or in plain pictures, such as one sees in the movies, there is no need that one make a great effort of his own mind to comprehend it all; but when a symbol is put before us, and we have a reason for securing its message to us, our own minds must act, for no symbol wears its meaning on its sleeve. … And that in itself is a virtue, because many men are cursed by the refusal to use their own faculties.

Also, the symbolical character of the teaching of Freemasonry has tended towards that intellectual tolerance which is one of its glories. There can be no dogmatic and official interpretation of a symbol to compel the unwilling assent of any mind; the symbol’s message, by virtue of its very message, fluid and free. So that every man has a right to think it out for himself.

Freemansonry and Amateur Radio

The Masonic Gathering is a group of people interested in Freemasonry who meet once a week on Sunday evenings for fellowship. It’s different than a traditional Lodge because the meeting takes place on amateur radio frequencies (“ham radio”) through the internet. You don’t have to be a Mason to join in, either. Here’s how the Masonic Gathering website describes their purpose:

The purpose of the “Gathering” is for Brother Amateur  Radio   Masons  to  fellowship and exchange information. Many of our check-ins do not have the opportunity to attend lodge due to work or health reason and the “Gathering” give them the opportunity for Masonic Fellowship.

The Gathering is not a lodge, but just a Gathering of Masons who share the hobby of  Amateur   Radio and a love of the Craft. We are not recognized by any Grand Lodge or appending bodies.

Check-ins are open to the public and we do not discuss any of the esoteric work of the craft in the rooms or on the airwaves.

Each week  we have a discussion topic which the brothers are invited to comment on. Brother Chuck Cumming, WA5THZ, who serves as the Gathering’s Chaplin, brings a weekly program on some subject of interest to the brothers. These are always thought provoking and a joy to listen to.

I checked in for the first time this past Sunday and had an enjoyable time. If you’re a licensed amateur radio operator you can use EchoLink. If not, eQSO is a software package that allows participation. More information can be found on the Masonic Gathering page.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back to school

The school year has started and that means back to work for me. I teach American Government at the high school level. I also teach an Advanced Placement Government and Politics class for which students can earn college credit.

I used to teach, and coach, high school debate, but I resigned that position last year. I’m sure I’ll miss debate, in fact, I do already. Each year brought a new debate topic to study and I enjoyed learning about them. I’ll miss working with the debaters, too; that was the best part of the job. Most people would be surprised how competitive high school debate is and how hard debaters work in the summer and during the school year.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate in Ottawa, IL in 1858.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Iowa State Fair

I attended the Iowa State Fair on opening day, Thursday, August 12 with my family. The heat index that day was 110 so we didn't stay too long. We did have time to see some of the sites we enjoy most: the quilts in the Varied Industries Building, the Discovery Garden outside the Agriculture Building, the animal barns, and a couple of politicians. I had a dutch letter and 2 lemonades.

I'll go back to the fair this weekend on Saturday and Sunday to volunteer at the Discovery Garden. The Garden is sponsored by the Polk County Master Gardeners (PCMG) and I started volunteering there last year to earn my yearly re-certification hours as a PCMG. ISU Extension sponsors the PCMG and I've enjoyed learning from ISU professors, Extension staff, and other veteran gardeners.

By the way, I took the picture above on Thursday morning a about 9AM- that's why te Grand Concourse looks so empty. I imagine today and tomorrow will be a different story.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Symbolism of the Rough and Perfect Ashlars

I’m writing a paper on the symbolism of the Rough and Perfect Ashlars. Based on the research I’ve done so far, I’ve listed ten interpretations of these two basic symbols below. Most of the interpretations are not mutually exclusive; one doesn’t cancel out the others. Moreover, many support each other to the extent that they represent different layers of meaning. However, there is one or two that surprised me, especially the co-masonry symbolism! In addition, as a high school American Government teacher, I enjoyed researching Pike’s view of the Ashlar representing the Separation of Powers! This is my first research project into Freemasonry and I’m learning that even the “basic” symbols aren’t so basic after all.

1. standard
2. simplistic- start/end
3. people/state
4. individual/social
5. consistent moral standard towards the world and private life- both faces show
6. deity- ROS, Cornerstone
7. Living stones
8. futuristic prediction of coming co-masonry
9. Borglum- remove the excess and find that perfection was there the whole time
10. esoteric- numerology

Friday, August 6, 2010

hideous mechanical cowan

Is Brother Mackey talking about the internet?

from the Masonic Quarterly Review, Volume 1 Number 1 (opening paragraph of the first article), July 1857, pages 5-6:

“Many well-meaning, but timid, and, if we must say it, narrow-minded members of the fraternity, object with great strenuousness to the freedom with which masonic topics are now discussed in the publications of the order. They imagine that the veil which should conceal our mysteries from the unhallowed gaze of the profane, is too much withdrawn by the modern race of Masonic writers; and that the esoteric doctrines which should be intrusted only to the memories of the craft, and received through oral instruction within the tyled recesses of the lodge, are thus improperly exposed to the public eye and ear. In the diseased imaginations of these good people, the Masonic press assumes the hideous form of a great mechanical cowan…”

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Index Rerum

If you’re over 25, you probably used the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature in high school and college. When you needed to find a magazine article on a particular topic, you reached for the Reader’s Guide, an index for over one hundred periodicals. Every school I taught in had one. My first job at the high school summer debate camp at the University of Michigan was to coordinate the use of the University library system by several hundred debaters. I learned a lot about other indexes to periodicals besides the Reader’s Guide. Of course now, the Reader’s Guide is electronic and searchable on computer. Where I presently teach, we use periodical indexes by EBSCO. It has several different indexes to choose from, each of which indexes different types of magazines- general academic, humanities only, science only, etc. But I have never encountered anything like the Index Rerum before.

The Index Rerum is an index created by the librarians at the Iowa Masonic Library. The librarians over the years have made index cards, BY HAND, for hundreds of Masonic topics found in Masonic periodicals and Research Lodge Proceedings. Masonic students can use this Index to find articles on an array of topics. For example, I researched the symbolism of the Rough and the Perfect Ashlar during my visit there this past week. Under the subject heading Ashlar, I counted 96 cards, each of which referenced a different Masonic periodical! One of the articles I used in my research dated back to 1857 and I’m sure the Index Rerum goes back even further as the Library has older periodicals. This resource is an incredible research tool.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Iowa Masonic Library

I have a few days left before I return to school so I took a short drive to the Cedar Rapids – Iowa City area to do a bit of library research. Today I’ve been at the Iowa Masonic Library in C. R. and tomorrow I’ll be in Iowa City at the University of Iowa library.

The Grand Lodge of Iowa A.F. & A.M. Masonic Library is simply amazing. It contains over 100,000 volumes and has been called the largest Masonic library in the world. The Grand Lodge librarian, Bill Krueger, is welcoming and helpful. Although I’ve only been a Mason for a few months, he treated me with respect and took time to answer all of my questions. The most prolific Masonic scholar couldn’t expect more!

I’m researching Masonic symbolism, specifically the symbolic meanings of the Rough and Perfect Ashlars. I’ve found quite a bit of information in the library’s collection so far, including a copy of a full color engraving (dated 1754) which I hope to use in PowerPoint presentation in the near future.

I checked out two books to read this evening, one of which is H. L. Haywood’s Symbolical Masonry. Haywood writes in the preface that he “…spent the larger part of one year…” researching his book in the Iowa Masonic Library. It reminded me of how fortunate I am to be able to use such a facility, if even for a day or two.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Freemasons For Dummies: Starting A Masonic Library

Freemasons For Dummies: Starting A Masonic Library

Favorite Masonic Book?

My entered apprentice degree is scheduled for this evening and I thought I'd share my opinion on my favorite Masonic book as a total newcomer: no question, it's Freemasons For Dummies by Christopher Hodapp. Like other books in the "Dummies" series I've read, it's written by a knowlegable expert and it's a clear explanation of the basics, and, some of the not-so-basics. Hodapp's insight into what beginner's don't know amazed me. For example, I didn't understand how Freemasons were different from the Elks or the Kiwanians. He explains that. Clearly, too. He walked me through the history, the funny hats, and I love his reference to Putnam's concept of Social Capital (that's probably because I make my high school government students read an article by Putnam!). His book even includes part of the Regius Manuscript, something I don't understand but its presence there tells me this guy has ethos!

Thanks Christopher Hodapp for a great book!
(reposted from Feb. 18, 2010)