St John the Baptist was a traveling preacher who lived in the Jordan River Valley in the first century A.D. According to the New Testament John was a Jewish prophet who preached the imminence of God’s Final Judgment and baptized those who repented in self-preparation for it. He is revered in the Christian church as the forerunner of Jesus Christ. After a period of desert solitude, John the Baptist emerged as a prophet in the region of the lower Jordan River valley. He had a circle of disciples, and Jesus was among the recipients of his rite of baptism.
His austere camel’s hair garment was the traditional garb of the prophets, and his diet of locusts and wild honey represented a strict adherence to Jewish purity laws.
Later in his life he as imprisoned by King Herod and was executed by beheading around 28-36 CE.
He is considered a major religious figure by many religions including Christianity, Islam, Baha’i Faith, Druze Faith, Madaeism and Gnosticism.
St John the Baptist Feast Day is one of the major holy days of Freemasonry. It is celebrated on June 24, the Summer Solstice or the longest day of the year. He represents severity and strength of character.
The Volume of Sacred Law, or VSL for short, is what Freemasons call the religious text that is used in their ceremonies and traditionally placed onto their altar while the lodge is in session. In predominantly Christian areas such as the USA, it is most common to display the King James Bible. This is the same sacred text that candidates take their obligations upon.
If a lodge has members of different faiths it is often common to display multiple books upon the altar, to represent each member. The most common books of faiths besides the Christian bible are the Muslim Qur’an, the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, the Buddhist Discourses, the Jewish Tanakh, and the Sikh Granth Sahib. Generally Grand Lodges consider a text as permissible if it represents sacred teachings to the Mason. However, that is entirely jurisdictional.
One of the most notable individual VSL is the George Washington Inaugural Bible. It belongs to St. John’s Lodge No. 1 in New York City and has been used at its meetings since 1767. It is famous, however, for being the Bible used at the first inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States, and numerous presidents since then.
Albert Pike (December 29, 1809 – April 2, 1891) was a Renaissance man who was a writer, orator, lawyer, jurist and Confederate general. He is most famous for his copious writing on Freemasonic philosophy and symbolism. He served as the Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction from 1859 to 1889. During this time he rewrote the rituals for the Scottish Rite degrees, in addition to publishing his most famous tome “Morals and Dogma”. In 1944 his remains were moved for internment to the headquarters of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction at the House of the Temple in Washington, D.C. Even though he was the head of the Sottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction, it is important to stress the fact that there is no single leader or figurehead of Freemasonry as a whole. Some conspiracy theorists refer to him as a Masonic Pope, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Several controversies have swirled around Albert Pike over the years. While he was undoubtedly a man of his age who held certain believes that by today’s standards would be unpalatable, some of the bigger issues seem to be without proof. A rumor that he was involved with the Ku Klux Klan has never been substantiated. It has been rumored that Pike held certain offices in the KKK, but that has not been corroborated by historians who reviewed the membership roster “The Prescript”, also known as the Klan constitution.
In 1901 a statue was erected to celebrate Albert Pike as a Mason in Washington D.C. It was gifted by local Freemasons to the district and to the federal government. There was a desire by the citizens of Washington D.C., which was supported by the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction, to remove the statue over the years, due to the controversy it sparked with his affiliation with the Confederacy. This request was not adhered to by the National Park Service which owned the land and monument, resulting in the toppling and burning by outraged citizens after the protests on July 2, 2020. These protests were inspired by the outrage after the murder of George Floyd.
No matter the shortcomings of the man himself, it is undeniable that Pike had a monumental impact onto the Scottish Rite in particular, and Freemasonry in general. His writings provide tremendous insight and inspiration to countless masons the world over.
As the preface of Morals and Dogma states: “Every one is entirely free to reject and dissent from whatsoever herein may seem to him to be untrue or unsound. It is only required of him that he shall weigh what is taught, and give it fair hearing and unprejudiced judgment.” It would be wise to approach the life and writings of Albert Pike with the same mindset.
The Golden Trowel Award is an award that is given out by lodges within the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Texas to deserving brothers. It is an award to recognize brethren who display extraordinary efforts and service to their lodge on a regular basis. Each recipient can only receive it once per lodge; and each lodge can only award one per year.
The idea for this award originated in a place called “Armadillo Acres”—the get-away home of Past Grand Master Leonard P. Harvey. In the Fall of 1989 while at Armadillo Acres for a bit of breather before the up-coming Grand Lodge Session, the Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, and Grand Senior Warden were discussing the fact that nearly every lodge has brothers who day-in and day-out accomplish the “little things” for Masonry and for their lodges. The cement, if you will, that unites a building in one common mass or, in our case, unites us as a true brotherhood. While sitting in “the red chair” twiddling between his fingers a small golden trowel that was given to Brother Harvey’s father-in-law several years previously, the proverbial light came on and the Deputy Grand Master declared, “We can call it the ‘Golden Trowel Award.’” And thus began the creation of this highest honor that a lodge can bestow.
It requires a committee of five of the most recent past masters of the lodge to vote on a worthy brother. The award is presented in an open meeting at lodge and friends and family members of the recipient are invited to attend this high honor.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE; also often known as the Elks Lodge or simply The Elks) is an American fraternal order. The Elks began in 1868 as a social club for minstrel show performers, called the “Jolly Corks”. It was established as a private club to elude New York City laws governing the opening hours of public taverns. The Elks borrowed rites and practices from Freemasonry.
Until 1995 the Elks had been exclusively a men’s fraternal organization. However, due to pressure from individual states and several lawsuits, the national organization voted to extend membership to women.
The current requirements include belief in God, American citizenship, willingness to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, willingness to salute the flag of the United States of America, willingness to support the laws and Constitution of the United States of America, being of good character and being at least 21 years of age.
Today there are still about 1,900 local lodges, and about 1,000,000 members.
The International Order of Rainbow Girls is a Masonic youth organization. It teaches young women, between the ages of 11-20 years of age, leadership training through community service. They learn about the value of charity and service through their work and involvement with their annual local and Grand (state or country) service projects.
It was founded in 1922 by Reverend W. Mark Sexson, a Freemason, was asked to make an address before South McAlester Chapter #149, Order of the Eastern Star, in McAlester, Oklahoma. He had studied the Masonic youth organization for boys: “DeMolay” and he suggested that a similar organization for girls would be beneficial.
Members are expected to serve their community, be law-abiding, acknowledge the authority of the Supreme Assembly, and show loyalty to the other members.
To live a full life and make the most of our time. It is a reminder to work for a life of compassion, honesty, and integrity so that we may improve not only our own lives but those in our community as well.
The hourglass is an ancient tool to measure time. This tool was in common use before the invention of clocks. The hourglass includes two glass bulbs with a narrow passage through which the sand passes. Each grain of sand indicates the passing of time. The wings symbolize that time is fleeting.
In masonic literature this symbol is used to remind the Mason that his life is continuously passing by. The present will be the past. And each moment that passes leaves less sand in the top part of the hourglass that indicates how much time is remaining.
It is used as a Memento Mori, like the skull and crossbones, or the sprig of acacia. It tells the Freemason to live a full life and make the most of his time. It is a reminder to work for a life of compassion, honesty, and integrity so that each one may improve not only their own lives but those in their community as well.
In right-angled triangles the square from the side subtending the right angle is equal to the squares from the sides containing the right angle.
Euclid was a Greek philosopher who is called the father of Geometry. He lived in Egypt around 300 BC. He wrote one of the most influential mathematical textbooks in all of history: the “Stoicheion” or Elements. In it he captured much of the mathematical achievements of ancient Greece.
It is also referred to as the 3:4:5 ratio, or the Pythagorean Theorem. It is related to the concept of sacred numbers. This mathematical principle is used to create perfect squares, and was highly important in the laying of foundations during the building of temples and palaces in the ancient times, including ancient Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Rome.
It is also used to remind Freemasons to “square their square when it gets out of square”.
After a Worshipful Master has finished his term in office he will become a Past Master. This is a position of great honor. Depending on the jurisdictions Past Masters have differing responsibilities. In some lodges the junior Past Master, or most recent Worshipful Master, becomes the Tiler. In others they become the incoming Marshall or Secretary. Even if a particular lodge does not have any such formalized progression, each Past Master is still put into an position of trust and leadership. He will be expected to provide counsel and guidance to the active Worshipful Master.
Past Masters are the only ones who are eligible to wear the special emblem of the Sun, Compasses and Quadrant. The Quadrant replaces the traditional Square. The sun represents the Masonic Light, or Wisdom, that a Past Master encompasses and is supposed to pass on. It also signifies that the Past Master has observed the Sun at Meridian height, (the South), setting (the West), and Rising (the East).
The Quadrant, or Protractor, is opened to 60 degrees. This is the angle of an equilateral triangle, where all three sides are the same length.
In some European jurisdictions, mostly in Great Britain, the 47th Problem of Euclid suspended by a square is used as a past Master symbol. The 47th Problem of Euclid is used to prove a square, a vital skill to ancient builders. Suspended by the square, the symbol represents knowledge and wisdom that a Past Master has gained from his service to his Lodge and Freemasonry in general.
In the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Texas Past Masters are allowed to wear a special apron that includes the emblem of their office. This is one of the few officially recognized aprons that are allowed by the Grand Lodge of Texas.
The Anchor is a symbol of well-grounded hope and a life well spent. It has long been a symbol of stability. It is believed that the anchor became a symbol of hope with early Christians. Drawings and carvings in the catacombs of Rome depict the early usage of this symbol in the Christian faith.
Early Freemasons were enamored with Antediluvian, or pre-flood, symbolism. This included Noah’s Ark, rainbows, doves, and more. The ark reminds us of the rough and unpredictable seas that we have to traverse in life. A strong belief in deity helps provide the safe passage.
“The anchor and the ark are emblems of a well-grounded hope and a well-spent life. They are emblematical of that Divine ark which safely wafts us over this tempestuous sea of troubles, and that anchor which shall safely moor us in a peaceful harbor where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary shall find rest.”
(quote: Albert Mackey, Encyclopedia of Freemasonry)