The Traveling Gavel

The Grand Lodge of Texas (AF&AM) 64th District Traveling Gavel

Tonight we had the privilege of visiting Handley Lodge. It was a pretty great experience! They had, up to this point, been the holders of the GLoTX 64th District Traveling Gavel. This was a program that was originally started by my lodge (148). In order to capture the gavel, your lodge has to show up with 7 or more brothers. The visit can be either during a stated meeting, or a called meeting. If multiple lodge attempt a capture, whichever lodge has the most lodges present takes it home, with a coin toss being the method used to break ties.

The brothers from Handley welcomed us with open arms and we had an absolutely great time. This was a very well-attended stated meeting! Even Arlington Lodge (438, I think) sent a contingent of brothers in their own attempt to make a capture. At one point, someone from Sweet Home Lodge tried to see if there were enough plural members of Sweet Home Lodoge for them to take it! That would have been a very difficult retrieval as they only open lodge in the Master’s Degree, and as such, would require us to send only our Master Masons.

The food was great – the OES chapter at Handley really knows how to knock it out of the park.

Here we are with the Worshipful Master of Handley Lodge, Haskell Rogers III:

Brethren of Fort Worth Lodge with Brother Haskell Rogers, Worshipful Master of Handley Lodge
Bonus picture of our group in front of the very-appropriate “COME AND TAKE IT” flag.

For more information on the Traveling Gavel, check out the 64th district’s page on it. I sincerely urge anyone in the 64th district to “COME AND TAKE IT,” so to speak, as we will try our damndest to take it right back.

The Order of Judas Maccabeus – Raymond Beardsly

I was trying to find out some more info about this Order when it came up a couple of days ago. Found a PDF called “The Pyramid Texts” and figured it would be useful to have this in a more web-friendly format.

If you want to read more articles like this, I think that the Philalethes Society actually offers an optional CD with a massive back catalogue of articles.

The Order of Judas Maccabeus

by R∴W∴ Raymond Beardsly

The Philalethes – October 1991

In the mid-1970’s, a group of York Rite Masons met in the Rochester area of upstate New York to consider the initiation of a new organization with the purpose of eventually proposing it as a new Body to be incorporated in the York Rite of Freemasonry. The inception of this idea had emanated from the fertile brain of the late Brother Herman Sarachan, often referred to as Mr. Mason in the Rochester area. Brother Sarachan had a distinguished Masonic record, having actively participated in both the Scottish and York Rites, as well as having served as a District Deputy Grand Master in the Monroe County area. He had been the High Priest of Hamilton Chapter #62 and the Illustrious Master of Doric Council #19.

For many years, Brother Sarachan edited a column in the Monroe Masonic News (the monthly Masonic publication in the Rochester area) entitled: “Dear Brother Herman,” in which he answered questions regarding Masonry – history, biography, definition, procedure, law, ritual, protocol, etc. His articles were later incorporated into a book under the same title, published in 1979; in addition, Brother Sarachan had previously published a book on the history of Freemasonry in the Rochester and Monroe County area of New York.

Brother Sarachan believed that there was a need for an additional body in the York Rite for those Masons who either could not for religious reasons or would not for personal reasons join the Commandery of Knights Templar. The first two York Rite Bodies, the Royal Arch Chapter and the Council of Cryptic Masons, like the Symbolic Lodge, are non-sectarian; however, the Commandery of Knights Templar is distinctly a Christian Order of Masonry and is also a military-type organization with uniforms, drills and inspections. As a result, Members of the Chapter and Council who are not Christians or who do not favor the militaristic atmosphere of the Commandery do not have a comparable body to join, which would be more suitable to their religious or personal beliefs and mores. With this in mind, Brother Sarachan proposed that a new body be initiated to meet the needs and desires of these particular Masonic Brethren but which would welcome all Masons who wished to participate. The organization would be known as The Order of Judas Maccabeus.

Judas Maccabeus was the renowned leader of the Jews when they revolted against Roman hegemony in the second century, B.C., particularly after the Romans had desecrated the Temple at Jerusalem by erecting a statue of Zeus over the altar. Under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus, the Jews regained control of Jerusalem and the Temple for a period of time celebrated in Jewish history. Because of his prestige and stature in Hebrew history and tradition, the name of Judas Maccabeus was considered most appropriate for the new body. The Order of Judas Maccabeus would be founded on a non-sectarian basis and without military accouterments, with the goal that it would eventually become a parallel Body to the Commandery.

Thus, in 1974, a group of some 30 York Rite leaders in the local area met in the Rochester Temple to formally consider The Order of Judas Maccabeus. Present were Masons prominent in all the York Rite Bodies, including past heads of all of the Grand Bodies in the State of New York: M∴ E∴ Frank Allen of the Grand Chapter, M∴ I∴ Bruce Dayton of the Grand Council and R∴ E∴ Ward Ekas of the Grand Commandery. All in attendance were unanimously in agreement as to the desirability of instituting a complementary Body to the Commandery that would more appropriately meet the needs of our Jewish and other non-Christian or non-military-minded Companions. It should be born in mind that the majority of York Rite Masons present were Christians and members of the local Commanderies.

The Order of Judas Maccabeus was originally to encompass three Orders: The Order of David, The Order of Judas Maccabeus and The Order of the Temple (referring to the Jewish Temple). The Order of David teaches the lesson of unselfish love and devotion and uses as its framework the story of David and Jonathan, as depicted in the Old Testament in the Book of First Samuel. The Order of Judas Maccabeus teaches the lesson of fidelity and devotion to faith and uses as its framework the revolt of the Jews in 168 B.C. against the Roman hierarchy of Antiochus, who had prohibited the practice of the Jewish faith and had desecrated the Temple, as related in the Apocryphal Books of the Maccabeus.

These first two Orders were prepared under the aegis of Brother Sarachan, and, to date, have formed the basis for initiation into the Order. The Order of the Temple, which ultimately is to form the final phase of initiation into the Order, has not been completed. Brother Sarachan’s health failed and he passed on before he could turn his attention to the proposed Order of the Temple. However, it is now in the process of formulation, and much thought is going into its preparation, in order that it may take its place on a level with such awe-inspiring exemplifications as the Royal Arch Degree of the Chapter, the Super Excellent Degree of the Council and the Order of the Temple of the Commandery.

Members of The Order of Judas Maccabeus are titled “Valiant Princes” and constituent Bodies are termed “Assemblages,” whose principal officers are Commander, Chancellor, Orator, Treasurer, Recorder, Captain of the Guard, Lecturer, Marshall, Warden and Sentinel. The premier Assemblage, inaugurated in the Rochester area, is known as Genesee Valley Assemblage #1.

A number of other Assemblages have been instituted in New York State, specifically in New York, Long Island and Buffalo. Also, Assemblages have been inaugurated in the States of Connecticut and New Jersey. Numerous inquiries have been received from interested York Rite Masons from such States as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and California, to name a few.

Although the early years of Genesee Valley Assemblage #1 did not always run smoothly and for awhile the original enthusiasm was somewhat abated, it is now prospering with a large number of new members. Whereas the charter membership was largely Christian, in recent years a number of our Jewish and other non-Christian Brethren have joined. In the meantime, with the emergence of other Assemblages about New York and adjoining States, a Grand Assemblage was instituted a few years ago with the presiding officer designated to be “The Most Sovereign Grand Commander of North America.”

Any inquiries and questions should be forwarded to the above address. Although there may be those who question the desirability of a new Masonic organization, the criterion that should be applied is the need for and function of such a new Masonic entity. Over the past 35 years, we have experienced the inception of two new Masonic organizations which met specific needs and desires and, as a result, have been highly successful. These are The York Rite Sovereign College of North America and The National Camping Travelers. The first originated for Masons active in all four York Rite Bodies, and the second for Masons and their families interested in camping. Both of these Masonic organization have, in a relatively few years, grown tremendously with both of them having well over 100 constituent Bodies throughout the United States and Canada.

In like manner, The Order of Judas Maccabeus was founded to meet a distinct need in York Rite Masonry. Because of this, those of us who have been intimately connected with its formulation and establishment feel that it will play a unique and increasingly important role in The York Rite of Freemasonry.

Raymond R. Beardsley (December 8, 1925 – December 28, 2016) was a member and Past Master of Northfield Lodge #426 F. & A.M. in Pittsford, NY. He was the Past Most Illustrious Grand Master of the Grand Council of the State of New York, Past District Deputy Grand High Priest, Past Commander of Cyrene-Monroe Commandery #12, and Past District Deputy Grand Master 2nd Monroe District. He was a Scottish Rite Mason and a member of Damascus Shrine in Webster, NY.

A Rant on Degree Work

I thought a long time about whether or not I wanted to leave this post published once I switched website hosting. In retrospect, I feel like this was the frustrated writing of a very young Mason. I’m leaving it up as a reminder to myself that I will never not be in need of circumscribing my desires and keeping my passions within due bounds. – Gabe, 08/30/21.

If you volunteer for a part in a degree, you should actually know that part and be able to deliver it.

We had an FC degree today for an EA who has been waiting quite a while. Very happy for him since he has been putting a lot of effort into the work. I had been reading up on the JW position in case we needed to fill in chairs since I had heard we were going to be a lighter crowd that usual – I usually play the part of the JD because I like to play with light switches.

I was initially slated to be the JW pro-tem, but was shortly told that I would be JD, as one of our older brothers from out of state had asked to contribute to the degree. Not a big deal, since he’s older and doesn’t get to do much, so I stepped aside, but in the interest of full disclosure, I really actually was pretty excited to sit in the South for this degree, and was kind of bummed out. However, I do like light switches…

Anyway, this fellow was raised in a different state (now has our lodge as a “home base” of sorts), and is even a PM, but different states are different states, so he was asked if he knew the lines for Texas’ ritual. He said “no,” so I played SD to his JW while one of our older members, Centenarian Brother (turning 100 in a few months!) fed him lines. We did this a couple of times, and the delivery was… shaky at best. He is older, has memory issues, and his speech is very difficult to decipher. However, he was really wanting to do the part, so we went ahead.

Right before the degree, our SW pro-tem leaned over to me and expressed his concerns about the South. Another red flag, I suppose. The degree happens, and sure enough, he forgot every line, had to be prompted more than once per line on multiple occasions, and forgot to display the DG & PS after the obligation while the WM and SW next to him were displaying them. There was a quiet groan from our SW at one point.

While the candidate was back in the prep room, I went over the lines with him, again playing the part of SD while Centenarian Brother taught him his lines. Again, same deal. The same thing happened during closing. It was incredibly frustrating to watch.

After the lodge closed and the acting JW had left, the SW went on a short, quiet rant to a few people that ended with “this was a disaster.”

I am salty? A little bit. I don’t if it’s without merit, though.

So please, folks, if you know your lines, by all means, please, help out. If you don’t, please come to floor school, or observe degrees, or both. I love floor school. I love degrees. I would go and do them every day if I had the time.

TL;DR: I’m whinging on the internet, I suppose. Please forgive me.

Bad Linguistics

This was originally posted to a private lodge Facebook group for Fort Worth Lodge № 148.

Recently, I tried to translate “Mind and Conscience” into both Latin and Hebrew. The Latin translation was very easy: mens et conscientia. Hey, you can see how similar it is, right? When it came to Hebrew, I didn’t get to “conscience” for a long time because of the rabbit hole that “mind” lead down. The Hebrew word for “conscience,” by the way, is מַצְפּוּן or matspon, which means “conscience” or “scruple,” and anciently meant “hidden treasure.” That’s a discussion for another time, I think.

Well, that’s not a simple question with a simple answer. Both in contemporary Hebrew and the Hebrew of the Tanakh / Old Testament, there are many words which are translated to English and the Romance languages as “mind,” but do not actually have the meaning of “mind.” You see, the word “mind,” as we understand it in English, is uniquely colored by the fact that it is a Romance language word.

In Spanish (and Portuguese & Italian) we say “mente,” in Romanian, it’s “minte,” and so forth. However, this isn’t shared into other language families, or regions, or even into other Romance languages! In French (Romance language family), for example, the word is “espirit” from the Latin “spiritus” (“breath,” “breeze,” or “ghost”). In German (different language family, same region) it’s “Geist” which means “spirit” first, then “ghost,” then “mind.”

Then we get to the Semitic language family. Whole different ballgame, folks. As far as I can tell, there is no one word in Hebrew that, strictly speaking, actually means “mind” as we understand it, only words that can be acceptably substituted. I have compiled a small list of them, and what I’ve learned about them. Some of these words were used anciently in the Tanakh / Old Testament, and some of these are more contemporary. I hope I have written this respectfully in an academic context.

Heart – לבב

The word לב or leb (also לבב or lebab) refers to the literal organ of the heart, with secondary, figurative meaning as the seat of emotions and appetites, specifically that of Courage. It can also mean “inner person” or “[the] will.”

Spirit – רוח

Another possible translation is רוח or ruach. It primarily means “wind,” but it can also mean “breath.” It has a tertiary meaning of “spirit” (but still not “mind”).

It also has a prophetic form, רוח הקודש (ruach hakodesh), which is the name of the Holy Spirit in the Tanakh. There are other forms & words of which ruach is a component. רוח אלוהים (ruach Elohim) and רוח-אל (ruach-El) also refer to the Spirit of God. רוח יהוה (ruach Adonai) means “The Spirit of the Lord” and רוח אדני יהוה (ruach Adonai Adonai) means “The Spirit of the Lord God,” which are both commonly and improperly translated as “The Sprit of Jehovah” and “The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah,” respectively. The YHWH discussion is a whole different rabbit-hole.

Soul – נפש

The spirit of a person or an animal is נפש or nepesh, which is directly translated as “soul.” It can also mean “life,” refer to a person / human being, or will/intent. It also has an antiquated meaning of “breath,” which reminds us of רוח / ruach. It can be used to define life and consciousness as we understand it in humans and animals of higher intelligence, which is a very close approximation (but not exact) of “mind.”

Marrow – מֹחַ

More commonly spelled מוֹחַ, but anciently מֹחַ or moach, this word is biblically used to refer to bone marrow (and still is in some contexts), and more recently, primarily in reference to the brain. It closely relates to ruach, “spirit.”

Consciousness – תודעה

A closer word still is תודעה or toda’a, which can refer to an awareness or a consciousness. This is one of the most commonly used words to substitute for mind, but still isn’t a catch-all. The “mind-body problem,” for example, is the “guf-nepesh problem,” while something like “a state of mind” is translated as “a state of toda’a.

Reason – תבונה

The word תבונה or tevunah primarily stands for “reason.” It can also stand for a wisdom, or intelligence. The word for “understanding” is derived from tevunah. The words for prudence, discreetness, knowledge, etc, are also derivations of this word. In Mishlei/Proverbs 3:19-20, we read:

Hashem / God laid the earth’s foundations with wisdom (chochmah), by understanding (tevunah) he set the heavens in place; through His knowledge (daat) the depths were cleaved, and the clouds let drop the dew.”

In this case, Rabbeinu Yonah explains that chochmah is the lowest form of learning – the information that is conveyed to you from someone else. Tevunah is the information or understanding that one arrives to after meditating upon the chochmah one has been taught.

Intelligence – שכל

Shared in Hebrew and Yiddish with slightly different meanings, שכל or sechel means intelligence, brains, wisdom, or in wisdom. Recently, it has also come to refer to common sense and “smarts.” However, it doesn’t just quite translate to any of those, just like “mind” doesn’t translate to it or the other previously-discussed words. In older Hebrew usage, the word had very serious moral and ethical connotations that it does not really have today. In contemporary Yiddish, the word denotes a very respected quality regarding one’s pursuit of knowledge and ability to leave the world a better place.

As you can see, there’s no one word that means exactly what we conceive of as “mind.” This is not uncommon, as many languages have words that don’t quite translate well, like the Portuguese “saudade,” the Spanish “sobremesa,” the German “Weltschmerz,” etc. The closest word, in my opinion, appears to be תודעה (toda’a), which is most commonly used in contemporary Hebrew. Other words I found to be close in the semitic language family are שכל (sechel, Yiddish for “understanding,” shared with Hebrew but with a slightly different meaning), and عقل (*eaql&, Arabic for “reason”).

Online Resources


The Prep Room – Jason Mitchell

These are some notes on a reddit comment by M∴I∴ Companion Jason Mitchell, on the subject of how the Room of Preparation should be set up. All I’ve done is format it for ease of reading.

The Prep Room is ritual space. It is not a closet. It is not storage. It is not a utility room. It is just as “sacred” as the Lodge room proper, the altar, and the VSL itself. Clean out your prep room, and make it “sacred” ritual space.

The Prep Room experience is part of the ritual. It should be one candidate at a time (never exceed one candidate). It is not a locker room. The Candidate should feel mildly unwelcome, and the Officers present need to be coldly professional and oppressively silent. There are no smiles in the prep room. There is no joviality in the prep room. Before the Candidate knocks on the door, he needs at least one heartbeat of hesitation and fear. He needs to look at the exit and make the choice to stay.

The prep room should be dark or dimly light. One light bulbs roughly 20W with a color temperature 2700-3000K (or LED or florescent equivalent) is enough. Bright bulbs, white bulbs, or colors are to be avoided. Candles are another matter, but most temples won’t cover the insurance for open flame.

Paint the town red. The prep room walls should be neither white nor black, but a neutral earth tone. With the proper illumination, the proper effect is achieved. Black and white walls ruin the effect. Neutral colors. Always use neutral colors in ritual environments. They just work better with illumination and colors, especially in low-light conditions.

Symbols. Only ever include symbols directly reference in your Grand Lodge’s Work, lectures, or monitors. The idea is to foreshadow things to come.

Know your work. It should go without saying that the prep room is the first ritual experience of the candidate. If you have to read the Work, you’ve already lost him.

Appendant Body Elitism

I attended a function of [Non-Specified Appendant Body] recently as the guest of one of my Brothers, along with a MM from one of my sister lodges. Was not able to attend the meeting itself, obviously, but was allowed to join in for a hearty dinner and listen to a pretty good talk on the book of Ecclesiastes. Fascinating stuff. Shook a lot of hands, met a lot of new people.

Anyway, I had two exchanges, one short and one long/frustrating, with Brothers I already know. The short one feels like it played into the longer one.

After the dinner, I talked to a Brother I knew, commenting on how well we had been received. “Oh, absolutely, I had no doubt that you’d love it. [NSAB] is the best, friendliest body in all the Fraternity. You just can’t compare.” I brushed this one off because we had very definitely been greeted with open arms. I didn’t even think about this until I was meditating on the other exchange.

The other exchange was with a Brother who I know even better. He’s a very influential brother in our Temple. We’d been talking about different opportunities in the appendant bodies after my raising. He’s very keen on seeing people join [NSAB], which is great, and I plan to join it eventually, but I also want to take some time and “soak” in Blue Lodge. We talked about our line officers and I mentioned how outstanding I think our JW has been.

This is when things started to get more frustrating. This line got busted out (paraphrased from memory): “Well, he’s a very innate leader, and I’m very proud of him, but he doesn’t know the true secrets of Freemasonry. If he’s going to be an effective leader, he needs to ask more questions about what happened in his Master’s Degree, and have them answered, and he can only do that in [NSAB]. That’s where he’ll gain leadership skills, too. Ninety percent of what you hear in the Blue Lodge is bullshit unless you follow up on it elsewhere. We have the answers. You can’t be a good Officer without having learned from [NSAB], and when you sit in the chairs, I want you have done that first. You’ll gain a lot of leadership skills that you need if you do that before getting in the chairs.” This is a sentiment I have heard before from a lot of older Brothers in [NSAB].

I was pretty frustrated by that. Right now, none of our line officers have been through any of the appendant bodies, including some that have been in Lodge for a while now, and the vast majority of them have been doing an incredible job. We have some Blue Lodge Only guys, but we also have some that are considering joining up with the appendant bodies when it’s the right time. I feel like it’s very dismissive from my Brothers in the appendant bodies to place so much emphasis on things outside of Blue Lodge in specific relation to the running of the Blue Lodge.

I’m neither really hear nor there on the appendant bodies, because I’m really interested, but I want to wait for a while, and I have no plans or machinations set on getting into the Chairs because it is waaaaaaay too early for me to have that kind of discussion. I just feel like this a really common sort of sentiment among guys in appendant bodies, and that it’s incredibly dismissive/disrespectful of Craft Lodge in general.

Am I out of line in feeling a little miffed about this? I don’t know for sure, but I am.

Osirian Musings

This was originally posted to a private lodge Facebook group for Fort Worth Lodge № 148.

I’m reading Robert Herd’s the Initiatic Experience. In the second chapter (which is as far as I’ve gotten so far), there’s a lot of talk about the basics of the Egyptian death/afterlife mythos, including the resurrection/rebirth of Osiris, who was buried far in the West. After reading this, something kind of clicked for me and I tried to remember what I learned about Egypt in school!

According to the ancient Egyptians, the West was representative of Death. So much so, in fact, that people would traditionally build homes and regular temples on the East side of the Nile (the land of the living, where the Sun rose) instead of on the West side where tombs and funerary temples were built (the land of the dead, where the Sun set).

In the Lodge, or at least in Texan Lodges (as well as many others, I’m sure), the door through which the candidate enters is on the western side of the room, just north of the Senior Warden’s chair. Here we see that he’s in a dark place, being on the “west bank” where the sun sets (as well as towards the North of the Lodge). By receiving the candidate, we bring him through the doors of the Lodge, from West to East.

Taking the West as Death, the direction of East as Life, and the doors as the barrier between those two worlds, not only is the candidate brought from darkness (western sunset) to light (eastern sunrise), but he is also reborn from death (west, outside the lodge room) to life (east, into the lodge room) as a new man and Mason.