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

Friday, December 30, 2011

The greatest library in the world

I traveled to the Grand Lodge of Iowa’s Masonic Library in Cedar Rapids yesterday to finish research on my symbolism paper- I posted a few pictures below in a slide show. I completed the body of the paper some time ago, but I needed to clarify several confusing bibliographic citations I had in my notes; I guess I should have listened to my sophomore English teacher and used index cards to keep track of everything!

The Iowa Masonic Library is a joy to visit and a pleasure in which to research. The assistant librarian, Bill Kreuger, was helpful as always. I’m amazed that this library, one of best Masonic Libraries in the world, is so accessible to Iowa Masons. And it’s difficult to describe the significance of the Index Rerum. The Index Rerum is the only index of Masonic periodicals of its kind, anywhere in the world. Librarians at the Masonic Library began indexing articles in Masonic periodicals sometime around 1905, according to Tim Anderson, Deputy Grand Secretary. The result is a massive card catalog which indexes every imaginable Masonic topic. I found almost 100 index cards on the topic of ashlars alone.

I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to libraries: I worked in one as a teenager, I nearly lived in one when I coached debate, and now I serve as a trustee on the board of my local public library. I suppose only a teacher would enjoy spending a vacation day researching at a library, but I think anyone with an interest in Freemasonry would find their time spent visiting the Iowa Masonic Library worthwhile.

For those interested, part of my research paper is posted at the Masonic Research network in the article submissions area under downloads. The title is Symbolism of the Ashlars: Three Interpretations.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Knights of Saint Andrew

The Des Moines Scottish Rite’s Knights of Saint Andrew welcomed six new Knights Tuesday, Dec. 27. The knighting ceremony featured a lecture regarding the history of the organization and background information about the emblems of the KSA including the saltire, or Saint Andrew’s Cross. After the ceremony, each of the six new Knights received a lapel pin, patent, and KSA medal on a green ribbon; after holding the medal in my hand I understood why it is sometimes referred to as a “boat anchor!”

The KSA provides hospitality at the Sheppard's Tavern, helps to put on the 28th degree at reunions, serves as greeters at Scottish Rite events, and provides service to the Valley as needed. I joined so that I could get more involved with the Scottish Rite. I’ve enjoyed participating on several of the degree teams and the KSA will allow for additional service to the Valley.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Iowa Conference on Masonic Education

Iowa Conference of Masonic Education at the Iowa Masonic Library, 813 First Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids on February 10 and 11, 2012

Monday, December 26, 2011

Marsengill Christmas Dinner 2011

Darrell Fremont, 2012 Operative Lodge #308 Worshipful Master

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nazis, Gold, and the Masons

My friend Jay over at Bailey's Buddy wrote about the novel, The Traitor's Emblem by Juan Gomez-Jurado, a few weeks ago. It took awhile for me to get a copy from the library as there was a waiting list, but when I did finally get it home, I wasted no time. One evening I thought I'd read a dozen or so pages before bed; I didn't get to bed until after 1:30 AM! I could not put this engaging book down!

I encourage you to check out this novel, especially if you're interested in history, Nazis, Freemasonry, or just a great story.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Operative Lodge #308 2012 Officer Installation

Operative Lodge #308 will be holding an installation of our 2012 Officers on Saturday, January 7, 2011 beginning with a meal at 6:00pm; please RSVP to the Lodge Secretary, Jim Trotter at for the meal. The installation will take place at 7:00pm.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Poinsettia delivery

Freemasons from Operative Lodge #308 in Polk City, Iowa delivered Poinsettias to the widows of the Lodge this weekend. Six brothers and one very organized member of Eastern Star in Polk City helped with the effort.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Masonic Ritual and Civility

My latest projects include memorizing the Door Lecture in the Entered Apprentice degree and reading about the Royal Arch chapter degrees. I came across an interesting piece of writing that illustrates a similarity between these two seemingly disparate topics. This is from the book Lessons in Capitular Masonry by Charles C. Hunt, 1929. In the book, he reprints a talk by Pierre Cushing in 1913 titled The Spirit of Masonry:

"And as with the secrets and Ancient Landmarks of Masonry, so with its ritual and the very language in which it is expressed. What careful provision is made, what agencies are employed, that no change or innovation shall creep in, that unauthorized shoots shall be pruned away as soon as they appear; that all shall be handed on in the quaint dignity and simplicity and beauty in which we receive it from the fathers. No branch of the (church) is more conservative of its ritual than the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons…We need the spirit which it symbolizes and fosters in this age and country, perhaps, as never before. For indeed, it is an age of recklessness in act and speech…"

Cushing’s analysis really makes sense to me. Moreover, he justifies why I need to be careful not to stick in an “of” or make the word “ceremony” plural. The ritual matters. It matters because it symbolically represents dignity, simplicity, and an unbroken connection to a common, fraternal past. We show respect for that past by preserving it.

In addition, Cushing’s argument promotes civility in social discourse. Through the practice of learning the ritual, a Freemason becomes part of a process recognizing the value of tradition which maintains a continuous link, through language, with a time in our culture when incivility was perhaps not unheard of but at a minimum not glorified. Masonic blogs spend a lot of time debating what’s wrong with the fraternity or how it can do a better job attracting new members. To me, as crazy at it may sound, the act of learning the ritual is something that I’m really enjoying. The process of learning it shouldn’t be seen as a weakness of Freemasonry but as a strength. The act itself is symbolic.

Is this only a tenuous link to memorizing the Door Lecture? I think not. Rather than focus on the mundane act of repetition and misreading a ciphered text, learning ritual symbolically represents something more.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Door Lecture and no electricity

Polk City lost electricity for about two hours Monday night right about supper time. Now that it’s getting dark early, we needed all the flashlights and candles we could round up. Even with a half dozen flashlights, all of which seemed to be running low on battery power, and three or four candles putting out a head-spinning combination of scents, our time without power threw us for a loop. We’re just not used to sitting around without the TV, the iPad, the internet, or the dvd player running. We tired quickly of listening to the battery powered radio. After about the first hour, I asked my wife if she’d play the piano for us. So, we moved into the front room of our house and my three-year old son and I enjoyed an impromptu concert by flashlight. I decided this would be a good time to work on memorizing the Door Lecture too, so I grabbed my King Solomon and read it by flashlight as my wife played piano and my son explored the ornaments on the Christmas tree. All in all, it was quite an enjoyable 20 minutes or so. I actually felt like I was getting used to no electricity. Memorizing ritual doesn’t require much in the way of modern conveniences, and in some ways it seemed an appropriate activity for such a situation.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

University of Freemasonry at the Des Moines Scottish Rite

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
- traditional Scottish Prayer

Ghosties, ghoulies, and long-leggedy beasties were present last night in Pete Taggart’s, 32 ยบ KCCH, presentation of “Things that go Bump in the Night: the Ghosts.” Professor Taggart reviewed a history of the ghosts from Plato to Bacon to the Stanley Hotel, perhaps better known as the Overlook Hotel from the movie The Shining. Prof. Taggart kept the audience entertained throughout his talk, which took place in the potentially haunted Des Moines Scottish Rite Temple. His tales included local spots reputed to be haunted such as the Salisbury House, the Blue Lodge room in the Scottish Rite building, and other locations in Des Moines.

Look for another session of the University of Freemasonry at the Des Moines Consistory webpage.
(cross posted on the Des Moines Consistory blog)