Reddit is a news aggregate site, similar to Digg or Stumble. Users submit news items and articles of interest, and readers vote on the quality, timeliness, and usefulness of the item. As the site has grown over the last five or six years, users have added sub-groups, so people interested in certain topics can find items more easily. There are now several thousand interest groups, ranging from art, to cooking, exercise, investing, home remodeling, coin collecting, bicycling, and yes, even Freemasonry. I know this because I happen to be a mod on the Reddit Freemasonry group, along with another one of your blogging friends, The Millennial Freemason.
/r/freemasonry, as the group is known, has been growing steadily for the last couple of years, with now well over 2,000 members. Since the Reddit user demographic tends to be late teens to 30s, the members are mainly younger (i.e., newer) Masons, most of whom are enjoying the opportunity to ask questions and trade ideas with Freemasons in other jurisdictions.
The other day, after I had been writing about how great Masonry is in Connecticut, and how progressive the Grand Lodge was with regard to online communication, one of the members asked if our Grand Master would consider doing an AMA. The next thing we knew, we had it set up.
An AMA is an online Reddit interview, in which a person of interest agrees to stay online for a few hours, answering questions from random users, mainly, but not always, about the topic at hand. While there have been several Freemasons who have volunteered for these on the subgroup /r/iama, MW Simon will be the first Grand Master — and apparently the highest ranking Mason ever — to sit in for one.
For some reason, I’m sure that this won’t stop the various conspiracy nuts from asserting that “Yeah, he might be a Grand Master, but he’s still not a high-enough ranking Mason to know the *real*truth about the Illuminati — Zeta-Reticulan — NWO conspiracy.”
If any Freemasons are reading this, please stop by and join in the fun. If non-Masons are reading this, please stop by and ask questions or offer up comments.
Be there and be square!
Edit: Here’s the link to the AMA.
Like a lot of my fellow Masons, there are times when I get really busy with work, family stuff, work, personal health care, work, projects around the house, and work. In the last few years, I have often missed lodge meetings because I’m working until 7 or 8 pm, or because I’ve needed to do something with the kids, or because some other matter has cropped up that I can’t take care of at any other time. I’m sure that this happens to other brothers, too.
That’s why I’m thrilled by Maso-Net, the new program that will be introduced by RW Simon LaPlace, the incoming Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, that will allow busy Masons to attend their lodge meetings virtually, at their own convenience. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, which he is expected to announce at his installation as Grand Master during next week’s Grand Lodge Annual Communication, so I’ll just mention some of the highlights of the program.
While there have been online Masonic communities of Masons since the before the internet was available to the general public, they have generally taken the form of text-based message boards. Maso-Net will be completely different in that it will allow lodge members to actually see, and in some cases, attend a lodge meeting in real time. To accomplish this, Mason-Net will have several components. One will be a Skype-like interface that will connect members directly to a lodge. Participating lodges will be outfitted with a large screen TV on the North wall of the lodge room, with a corresponding webcam positioned in the Northwest and Southwest corners. Maso-Net Members will sign in and be presented with a view of the lodge room that includes the Master’s chair, and the screen will allow the other members to see who has signed in. Maso-Net members, though their own webcams hooked up to their computers, be able to attend the meeting and follow along with the proceedings without missing any of the details. Amplified speakers near the TV screen will allow them to speak during meetings as if they were in attendance.
RW LaPlace initially conceived of this as a way to reach out to older brothers who were unable to attend because of health reasons, but the idea quickly gained ground among the Grand Lodge technorati who, accustomed to live webcam meetings, saw this as a way to keep existing brothers involved. As a Maso-Net member, a brother could work late, and take a dinner break to attend lodge. Users with smartphones (apps for iPhones and Android phones running ICS or better are already being developed) will even be able to attend while on the road, although they will probably need at least a good 3G data connection.
A real advantage to Maso-Net meetings is that a WM will no longer have to worry about a last-minute cancellation on a degree night. A brother assigned to a particular lecture will no longer have to cancel if he’s away on business; the Master of a lodge would even be able to open if he’s out of town. Imagine an older brother delivering the working tools lecture to his grandson from the comfort of his own home — in Florida! Or imagine a District Deputy being able to attend a different lodge meeting every night of the week, and not spending a fortune on gas and car expenses. This aspect of the program is certainly a way that the Craft can take advantage of new technologies.
Another interesting component to Maso-Net that RW LaPlace is expected to announce will be the ability to sit in on lodge meetings at any time of the day or night by the use of streaming technologies. Participating lodges will begin recording their meetings and using broadband connections, begin uploading those meetings to the cloud. Maso-Net members will then be able to find a lodge meeting and replay it. Members will be able to pause the recorded meeting for a break, or even better, skip through the boring parts.
Still unannounced is just where the video recordings will be stored. The Grand Lodge of Connecticut has its own servers, but as more lodges join the network the data storage itself would become unmanageable, to say nothing of the capacity for streaming a number of different meetings back to the members. Early reports have suggested Youtube, perhaps a dedicated channel as the perfect storage & replay solution. Obviously, the concern was raised that anybody could view a lodge meeting on Youtube, however, the counterpoint was raised that any non-Mason who viewed one lodge meeting was unlikely to make it a habit of viewing many more. I suspect that talks are underway with Google about the possibility of a private Youtube channel. Another advantage of this would be the ability to upload sections of various degree ceremonies in order for lodges to watch them for the purposes if ritual instruction.
There are other aspects of Maso-Net that will be made public after RW LaPlace takes office. About a dozen lodges will be part of the initial phase, and RW LaPlace will probably announce which ones have been selected after his installation, with more participating every month. Brothers interested in signing up to be a Maso-Net member are encouraged to talk to their District Deputy, who should have the contact information.
As a busy Mason who has been having a hard time getting to lodge meetings lately, I’m happy to see that Connecticut is on the forefront of bringing Freemasonry into the 21st century. Kudos to soon-to-be MW Simon LaPlace, and best wishes for an exciting year in office.
Not sure what jurisdiction this is, but they seem pretty “regular” to me.
Well, it’s about time that some of the Freemasons came to their senses, and we should all be thankful that Florida has the temerity to lead the way. I’m talking, of course, about the recent edict by the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Florida who is evicting anyone from the Craft who are not right-thinking, God-fearing Freemasons.
The Masonic online discussion world has been all a-Twitter over this, so there’s no need for me to go over the details, but the essentials (from the Grand Master’s Edict page) are these:
The question has arisen if certain religious practices are compatible with Freemasonry, primarily Paganism, Wiccan and Odinism, and secondarily Agnosticism and Gnosticism.
He then natters on about some legal stuff, and writes:
I. CONCERNING GOD AND RELIGION
“A Mason is obliged, by his tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irreligious libertine.”……….
And then finishes up with the important part:
Therefore, as Grand Master, it is my Ruling and Decision that none of the above mentioned beliefs and/or practices are compatible with Freemasonry since they do not believe or practice one or more of the prerequisites to be a candidate for Masonry listed above.
Further, any member of the Craft that professes to be a member of one of the groups mentioned above shall tender his resignation or suffer himself to a Trial Commission whose final outcome will be expulsion since there is no provision to allow anything contrary to the Ancient Landmarks.
Furthermore, Freemasonry prohibits the change of any of the Ancient Landmarks, and its members admit that it is not in power of any man, or body of men, to make innovations in the body of Masonry.
It’s about time that somebody took a stand to kick out those trouble-making types who can’t commit to a real religion, and who pick some made-up theology in order to join the fraternity. My only beef is that MWGM Jorge Aladro hasn’t gone far enough.
For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to Tom Hanks, Nicholas Cage, or any of those TV specials that have come up in the last five years, the Freemasons have very few actual requirements for joining. You must be a man, of lawful age, of good character, with a belief in a Supreme Creator. Some jurisdictions change the qualifications slightly, but those are the basics. Florida, apparently, has gotten tired of non-religious posers who are trying to sneak into the fraternity by claiming to be believers in completely fictitious, made-up religions like Paganism. Personally, I can’t imagine anything good coming from allowing such trouble makers into the Craft. If a real religion isn’t good enough for those people — or as is more likely the case, those people aren’t good enough for a real religion — then they are obviously rebels who will end up causing nothing but trouble for those around them.
My only concern is that Florida is about 240 years too late. Reading through my Masonic history books, I see that quite a large number of Freemasons from that time were also posers who claimed to belong to some movement called Deism. You can tell that Deism isn’t a real religion because they don’t have any churches. But even at that, listen to what those guys believed:
Deism holds that God does not intervene with the functioning of the natural world in any way, allowing it to run according to the laws of nature that he configured when he created all things. God is thus conceived to be wholly transcendent and never immanent. For Deists, human beings can only know God via reason and the observation of nature, but not by revelation or supernatural manifestations (such as miracles) – phenomena which Deists regard with caution if not skepticism. See the section Features of deism, following. Deism does not ascribe any specific qualities to a deity beyond non-intervention. Deism is related to naturalism because it credits the formation of life and the universe to a higher power, using only natural processes. Deism may also include a spiritual element, involving experiences of God and nature.
So, let’s see: No churches, no bible or holy book, and a God that makes stuff and then wanders off to
God who know where. Those guys from back in the late 1700s obviously were not members of a real religion, either. Too bad MWGM Alandro wasn’t around to kick them out of the fraternity, before they got themselves up to no good.
If you’re interested in reading more about this:
Just in time for the post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping season, too.
From The Telegraph (UK) comes the headline:
Its ‘secret’ handshakes and elaborate rituals have long been a mystery to outsiders, but the world of freemasonry is opening up by selling membership Gift Packs for people to give their loved ones for Christmas.
The Masonic Christmas Gift Pack costs £80 and includes a tour of the local Masonic Lodge, an invitation to meetings with masons, and – subject to approval by the local Lodge – a year’s membership to the group.
The British Federation of Co-Freemasonry described the pack, which is available until the end of December, as “truly a life-changing gift”.
Since I know that some brothers will be scandalized by the very idea, let me take a responsible opposing viewpoint on this.
Ignoring that this particular article is about Co-Masons in England (which we already know are not recognized by “mainstream” UGLE-recognized orders), maybe “holiday gift-packages” are just one more membership drive idea that we’ve been leading up to for the last few years.
Wait, “membership drive”? Freemasons don’t have membership drives; that’s almost as bad as recruiting… which we also don’t do.
In the US, there are already wide-spread and well-financed public relation campaigns to “raise awareness” about the fraternity. This includes things like the MasoniChip and various state-sponsored Child ID programs, advertising on radio, billboards, and producing very nice tie-in videos featuring Ben Franklin, Uncle George, etc., and sponsoring state-wide “open house” visiting hours, during which the lodge building is open to the public, with brothers on hand to act as tour guides.
We already have bumper stickers (and billboards) with “2B1, Ask1,” and various other slogans. We have taken very opportunity to reach out to the public, whether it’s through popular books (the Dummies and Idiot’s Guides are still popular selling items ), movies (From Hell, National Treasure, DaVinci Code), and television (History Channel, etc., specials on “Secrets of the Freemasons Exposed!”)
In many areas, the buildings are old, not well-maintained, and the membership can’t afford to renovate them. Once a month it seems that Chris Hodapp is bemoaning some beautiful old temple that is being sold or torn down because they can’t survive on the 38 active members that still show up. Shriners (who are now airing commercials looking for support for their excellent childrens hospitals) have long dropped the requirement that members need to be either a Knight Templar or a 32º Scottish Rite Mason, and are now open to Master Masons – and sometimes on the internet there surfaces rumors that they would like to open their doors to non-Masons.
We’ve seen 1-day degrees (“Mister to Master” or “Blue Lightning” festivals), and most of the Craft are exhorted to keep a few petitions with them in their car or briefcase so they always have one on hand to pass along.
So, a year’s gift membership to be a Freemason? I’ve had gift memberships to book clubs, wine clubs, record clubs, baked good clubs, and jelly of the month clubs. In light of what I’ve spelled out above (and other things that I might have missed), someone needs to explain just what’s so bad about a gift membership to one of the best “clubs” in the world.
The Millennial Freemason has another take on this, if you don’t like mine.
It was just a couple of weeks ago that we were discussing an article in which someone complained about the MasoniChip (Child ID) program. Now it seems that a hacker has been attacking various Masonic CHIP websites because:
Regular readers of this blog — all 19 of you — have probably seen a few of my attempts at parody or send up of some of the odd or bizarre conspiracy theories that I’ve run across. The thing about parody, though, is that it compels you to be even more bizarre than the object of parody itself, and sometimes that’s just downright difficult. Case in point: A recent article in the Huffington Post, an online news magazine whose author suggests that the Masonic Child ID Program (known around the US and Canada as MasoniChIP, or some variation thereof) is not only unnecessary, but is actually part of a nefarious plan by those nefarious Freemasons to collect the DNA of children around North America for, err, nefarious purposes. Nefariously, of course.
You can read the article if you want more details, but in essence, Amy MacPherson suggests (and I write that because she never seems to actually reach any conclusion, or present enough evidence to state outright) that because the CHIPS programs do not have a direct connection to government-run DNA databases, people should be wary of allowing them (CHIPS volunteers) to actually take any information.
MacPherson does raise several salient points, but it’s sad to see that she couldn’t spend an extra ten or fifteen minutes on Google to find answers to her questions.
In the US and Canada, the MasoniChIP volunteers do not save any of the personal information. There are a number of reasons for this, but we really do not have the resources to store backup copies, nor would we want the responsibility for ensuring their retrievability. Anyone who has seen the basement of a typical lodge in New England knows exactly what I mean: Some lodges are candidates for those Hoarders episodes. “You can’t throw that away! Don’t you know that old John Smith’s grandfather donated that broken chair after he came back from the war?” or “I know that we haven’t had a DeMolay chapter here since 1962, but we can’t get rid of those moldy banners and signs because we might bring it back one day.” Appropriate for DNA storage? I don’t think so.
It’s interesting, though, that MacPherson takes issue with a volunteer group that provides a child safety service, and that it is not directly connected to a government-run DNA database (to make it easier to identify children), but doesn’t seem to bat an eye over the concept that there are government-run DNA databases in the first place! I mean, didn’t she ever watch The X-Files?
That’s just as well, of course, because MacPherson completely missed the bigger news. We all know that the program isn’t really about Child ID at all. I mean, here we put the acronym CHIPS right in front of her, and she completely misses the real story: The program is actually about inserting RFID tracking devices, i.e., micro-chips, into people so we can track them when we finally get that New World Order thing sorted out. We’re starting with the children, and eventually we will move to the elderly, and soon after, most people won’t think twice about giving up some DNA and fingerprint samples. Our “health care professionals” are already experts at implanting chips without the subject noticing, and with the hidden apps that we’re installing on all of those “smartphones,” it will be an easy task to sort and track anyone that we need to.
I’d like to suggest that we start with reporters who don’t know how to write a story.