Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Taking A Moment to Say Good Bye To Lodges Past

Longreach Freemasons disband after more than 120 years due to falling membership

Posted 19 Oct 2015, 9:32pm
Freemasonry in the western Queensland town of Longreach has come to an end after more than 120 years.
The Masons disbanded over the weekend because of a fall in membership and expensive running costs.
The group sold its historic lodge in June.
Former master Ian Merritt said the Masons would continue on in Blackall and Barcaldine but it was a sad day for Longreach.
"The lodge in Longreach has been going since 1894 in a couple of different venues, the current venue having been [there] since 1929, and many, many members have been through.
"I think it's something like 581 members over the lifetime of the lodge, so it was a very sad day."
He said many would remember the Longreach Meteor Lodge fondly.
"It's the history as much as anything else," he said.
"The building that has just recently been sold was a major social gathering place for wedding receptions and parties and things like that over the years and that's what the town's going to miss the most.
"Even though it hasn't be used that way for quite a while, it's something that a lot of people in Longreach will remember."

Monday, June 1, 2015

Sensationalizing Freemasonry: a UK Media Staple.

Revealed: How gangs used the Freemasons to corrupt police

Gangsters able to recruit police officers through secret society, says investigation for Scotland Yard

Secret networks of Freemasons have been used by organised crime gangs to corrupt the criminal justice system, according to a bombshell Metropolitan Police report leaked to The Independent.

Operation Tiberius, written in 2002, found underworld syndicates used their contacts in the controversial brotherhood to “recruit corrupted officers” inside Scotland Yard, and concluded it was one of “the most difficult aspects of organised crime corruption to proof against”.

The report – marked “Secret” – found serving officers in East Ham east London who were members of the Freemasons attempted to find out which detectives were suspected of links to organised crime from other police sources who were also members of the society.

Famous for its secret handshakes, Freemasonry has long been suspected of having members who work in the criminal justice system – notably the judiciary and the police.

The political establishment and much of the media often dismiss such ideas as the work of conspiracy theorists. However, Operation Tiberius is the second secret police report revealed by The Independent in the last six months to highlight the possible issue.

Project Riverside, a 2008 report on the rogue private investigations industry by the Serious Organised Crime Agency, also claimed criminals attempt to corrupt police officers through Freemason members in a bid to further their interests.

Concerns over the influence of freemasons on the criminal justice system in 1998 led former Home Secretary Jack Straw to order that all police officers and judges should declare membership of the organisation.

However, ten of Britain’s 43 police forces refused to take part and the policy was dropped under threat of legal action. In England and Wales, the Grand Master of the Freemasons is Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. The United Grand Lodge of England declined to comment last night.

The Independent revealed last week that Operation Tiberius found that organised crime syndicates such as the Adams family and the gang led by David Hunt were able to infiltrate the Met “at will”.

Asked to comment on the Tiberius report, a spokesman for Scotland Yard said: “The Metropolitan Police Service will not tolerate any behaviour by our officers and staff which could damage the trust placed in police by the public.

“We are determined to pursue corruption in all its forms and with all possible vigour.”

Friday, November 21, 2014

France: Jaques Attali Addresses Freemasons in Paris at GO Quarterly Assembly

Talk in Paris at the Grand Orient assembly focuses on France and its Future in Africa

Jacques Attali
 is, with Bernard Henri-Lévy (BHL) and Régis Debray, Freemasons all though of differing viewpoints, among the last specimens of the 19th-Century French controversial intellectual types, unafraid to tackle phenomena and events of their times. A polymath and futurologist, Attali is a university professor who has authored more than 40 books. An honorary advisor to the French government, he was President François Mitterrand’s special advisor from 1981 to 1991.

An economist, Attali was the founder and first president of the London-based 
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) from 1991 to 1993. He’s currently the president of PlaNet Finance. This year, he presented in English on the French international news and current events channel France24 fifteen Lessons for the Future on the history of capitalism based on his book A Brief History of the Future (available at Barnes and Noble).

Attali blogs on the website of the French newsmagazine L’Express and his blog is called“Conversation with Jacques Attali.” A provocative thinker who crafts scenarios in futurology, his latest blog post (November 24) is entitled "Here comes the time of the Pacific War" ("pacific," in this instance, is a translation of the French adjective "peaceful" as this game is also being played on the Pacific Rim). In that post, Attali claims that the enduring configuration of the post-Cold War world will be in the 21st century the G2 (USA-China, the famous "Chimerica" coined by Niall Ferguson):

"For the time being, the masters of the 'peaceful war' are setting up the conditions of their joint management of the world: a G2, masquerading as G20 made of hugs and low blows, is little by little replacing the American-Soviet duopoly of the 'Cold War.' Naturally, Europe is absent from all this [play]."  
The following is my translation of part of Attali's post of November 18 (excerpted from an earlier book) entitled “Africa, our future” dealing with a topic that Attali will touch upon in his address to the Masonic assembly. 

According to statisticians, Africa has just crossed the threshold of 1 billion inhabitants: it shelters henceforth one human being out of 7, whereas it only had 1 out of 10 in 1950, and will host 1 in 5 in 2050 — that is, 2 billion people. This is only one of the signs that turn Africa, main crucible of misery, into a source of growth and the matrix of our future. 

Indeed Africa is foremost the location of all the sufferings in the world: a lifespan of less than fifteen years than the world average, an infant mortality rate 20 times higher than in western Europe, the world’s highest rate of rural flight—with expansion of slums and infrastructure decay. Half of its territory, where half of the population lives, is desert; there, famine is permanent and, just like water scarcity, will exacerbate with climate change that will trigger massive population movements.

Africa is also the ecological lung of the planet: on its forests, which cover about 22% of the continent (and even 45% of Central Africa, in particular with the Congo Basin, the world’s second tropical forest), depend the control of greenhouse gases, the protection of biodiversity, soil stabilization, and freshwater quality and runoff.

Africa is one of the engines of the world’s economic growth, since its growth, for many years, has been greater than the world’s average, and is still greater than 2% in 2009, as against 5% before, which is not enough to prevent millions of Africans to slide into extreme poverty.

Africa is finally the location of all the promises of the world. It’s the richest continent in natural resources (oil, minerals, agricultural products). It’s also the world’s youngest continent: 43% of Sub-Saharan Africans are under the age of 15 and, in Nigeria alone, more babies are born each year than in the entire European Union. Uganda is even the youngest country in the world, with 56% of the population under the age of 15. 

There’s an explosion of schooling rate; the birth rate is better and better controlled, especially in Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, South Africa and Kenya; and life expectancy has increased by sixteen years since 1950. Financial markets are opening everywhere, their universities are improving, internet connections have dramatically changed with the implementation of two submarine cables. Finally, mindsets are changing incredibly fast and governance is improving, despite the persistence of nepotism and corruption. 

That’s why in Europe, especially in France, we should consider Africa as a formidable potential, very much closer to us than the other giants that fascinate us. If we know how to develop natural resources on the African continent, instead of abandoning them to the Chinese and the Americans, once more against Europeans. If we know how to complement the [monetary] zone franc with other cooperation institutions, thus stabilizing commodity prices and promoting the fabulous creative capacities of the continent. If we thus know how, beyond altruism, from which nothing can be expected, to prepare our future by clinging to this exceptional locomotive.

Also see:

LinkedIn v Freemasons: It's not either-or. (Economist)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Freemasonry and the Origins of an Independent Cuba

Ariel Glaria                                                            
Masonic Temple Building in Havana.  Foto:
Masonic Lodge Building in Havana. Foto:
HAVANA TIMES —The ups and downs of history and ill intentions of individuals have made us forget the history – today incomplete – of an institution we could well call the mother of the Cuban nation: freemasonry.
However we know more about freemasonry in the United States, whose symbols adorn cities and dollar bills, than about its significance to our own history, elegantly illustrated by Emilio Roig:
“To fully express what freemasonry represents for us in a few words, suffice to say that, without mentioning it once, twice and perhaps a thousand times, one cannot write the history of Cuban culture or Cuba’s struggle for freedom.”
Introduced into the country by the British in 1762, when, according to a Mason historian, “the light of freemasonry shone in Cuba for the first time”, it became deeply rooted in the culture and expanded until the beginning of the 19th century, when émigrés, coupled with agricultural, industrial and market innovations, brought about a revolution in the field of ideas.
As we will see below, the first independence plot was hatched at a masonic lodge. Our first attempt at drafting a political constitution for a future Cuban nation was also made by freemasons in 1810. Its author was the venerable Joaquin Infante.
The most eloquent testimony of freemasonry’s historical significance for Cuba is to be found in our loftiest symbol, the Cuban flag, where the masonic ideal is concretely expressed in the red, masonic triangle placed over the three blue and two white bands.
The most eloquent testimony of freemasonry’s historical significance for Cuba is to be found in our loftiest symbol, the Cuban flag, where the masonic ideal is concretely expressed in the red, masonic triangle placed over the three blue and two white bands.
The most eloquent testimony of freemasonry’s historical significance for Cuba is to be found in our loftiest symbol, the Cuban flag, where the masonic ideal is concretely expressed in the red, masonic triangle placed over the three blue and two white bands, a symbol that sealed the intimate connection between Cuban independence and freemasonry for eternity. Less striking evidence for this connection is to be found in the names of some streets in Havana, such as Amistad, Concordia andVirtudes.
Such lofty figures as Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, Ignacio Agramonte, Perucho Figueredo, Calixto Garcia, Antonio Maceo and Jose Marti were freemasons.
The uprising of 1810, known as the “Great Masonic Conspiracy”, was organized at a lodge in Havana. Those implicated included Roman de la Luz, uncle of the renowned Jose de la Luz y Caballero, and Luis Bassave Cardenas, who actually called on different popular sectors, such as the mixed race residents of the neighborhoods of Belen, Jesus Maria, Los Barracones, El Manglar and others, to take part in the rebellion.
Jose Antonio Aponte
Jose Antonio Aponte
A white criollo and the son of a colonel, Bassave Cardenas worked closely with the freeman Jose Antonio Aponte. The latter, having evaded official investigations and not involved himself directly in the preparations of the plot, would set in motion a conspiracy two years later.
Some sources point out that the street where Aponte lived, located in what is today Centro Habana, owes the name “Jesus Peregrino” to an altar with that image that Aponte had in the living room of his home.
Though Aponte’s conspiracy isn’t directly linked to the great masonic conspiracy, its scope, development and outcome are the result of many points of coincidence.
Aponte was not subjected to any trial. The island’s Captain General and two other crown officials agreed to sentence Aponte and his 7 followers to death.
On April 9, 1812, they died at the gallows. The head of the leader, the criollo and free man of color Jose Antonio Aponte, was exhibited in an iron cage at the current intersection of Belascoain and Carlos III, where, more than a century later, Cuba’s Great Masonic Lodge would be built.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Communities Vs. Networks: To Which Do You Belong? (Forthcoming: How to Have an Organization with Both)

Communities Vs. Networks: To Which Do You Belong?

In making his newest documentary, Korengal, author and filmmaker Sebastian Junger wanted to explore the answer to the question of why — despite its dangers and deprivations — men actually miss war when their tour of duty is over. A large part of the answer is the intense camaraderie created in combat — a brotherhood that they lack when they return home. In a recent interview, Junger posits that this absence of camaraderie is often at the root of why soldiers sometimes struggle so acutely to adjust to life after deployment. They come home, Junger says, and realize for the first time what an “alienated society” they truly live in. What they need, he argues, is a country that “operates in more of a community way.”

He then adds: “But frankly, that’s what we need.”

Unfortunately, true community in our modern world is hard to find for soldiers and civilians alike. Instead, we increasingly live out our lives as members of networks. This transition from community to network life is truly at the heart of the increasing feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and anomie that many people experience in the modern age. We’ve never been so “connected” — and yet so isolated at the same time.

While networks often borrow from the language of community, the two models of sociality are not the same. In an essay included in the book Dumbing Us Down, author John Gatto sharply elucidates the differences, and argues that if we truly want to experience “the Good Life” and develop fully as human beings, we need to spend more time in communities and less time in networks.

Today I will share some of Gatto’s key points, explore the way networks emptily ape communities, and touch on a few things we can all do to create a greater sense of community in our lives.

Networks vs. Communities

Networks Are Large and Anonymous; Communities Are Small and Intimate

With networks, the bigger they are the better. As Gatto notes, “’More’ may not be ‘better,’ but ‘more’ is always more profitable for the people who make a living out of networking.” Continually increasing in size may even be necessary for a network’s very survival. For example, as a platform like Facebook increases its number of employees, the cost of its servers, and its obligation to please shareholders, it has to keep on accumulating more and more users to stay afloat.

Because networks are so large, anonymity reigns. Members do not meet face-to-face, do not know if the people they interact with digitally are even who they say they are, and may have no idea who also belongs to the network. Because of the lack of physical intimacy, a culture of honor and shame cannot function, necessitating the erection of numerous rules and regulations to check and control members’ behavior.

In contrast, communities have inherent limits on size. Unlike networks, if communities don’t stop growing, they’ll die. According to Dunbar’s Number, most humans can’t maintain more than around 150 meaningful relationships. Anthropologists have found that hunter-gatherer societies hover around 150 members before they split. In Western military history, the size of a military company — the smallest autonomous and fully functioning unit — has been around 150 members.

If a community gets too big, people get overlooked. And because members no longer face the social scrutiny of their peers, they can opt out of contributing without shame or consequence. Once that disengagement happens, community life slowly begins to crumble.

Networks Are Artificial; Communities Are Organic

Networks are typically artificial; they rarely form organically. And they’re invariably created, and then governed, in a top-down fashion. Policies and regulations are decreed from on high with no discussion with or explanation to the people who make up the network.  When those at the top are so removed physically and psychologically from those at the bottom, the solutions ultimately proffered are often out of touch and highly ineffective. Here’s a perfect example: The other day I was at a big-box retailer and mentioned to a cashier how warm it felt inside. She told me that the store’s thermostat was controlled from the corporate headquarters…in New Jersey. “They obviously don’t know how hot it gets here in Oklahoma,” she said with a sigh.

Even when the powers that be in a network ask for input from its lower-level members, the request for feedback is usually a token gesture lacking in any efficacy. For example, corporations sometimes survey their employees about their satisfaction with their job, but don’t make any changes after reviewing the results. Similarly, the White House has created the “We the People” petitioning system where, if 100,000 people sign a petition within 30 days, an official from the administration will offer a response; no action is taken beyond this token acknowledgement. When networks solicit feedback, the aim is to pacify members with the illusion, and only the illusion, of their having a voice and influence.

Communities, on the other hand, are organic and autonomous. They’re made up of a collection of real families that are bound together by geography and shared values. When facing a problem, individuals within a community band together to come up with a solution that will work for them. Because the people trying to address problems within the community — including its leaders — are familiar with the group’s unique needs, the solutions that are generated are typically more effective.

Networks Encourage Passivity and Consumption; Communities Require Action and Contribution

Because there are so many people in a network, members assume someone else will take care of problems that arise. But because that’s what everyone else is thinking, nothing gets done. People will step around someone in distress on the street in a big city, or pass the collection plate at a giant church, figuring other people will help. The anonymity of the crowd allows the passive bystander to escape shame.

Networks not only breed passivity, but encourage consumption. They’re all about what you canget, rather than what you must give. Oftentimes you can buy your way into networks, and because you’re paying for the service, you don’t feel obligated to offer any other form of contribution. The network doesn’t ask for anything either. It’s a business transaction. When you join a gym, for instance, once you pay your monthly dues your part of the deal is done — nothing else is expected of you. In a network, the members provide the money, and the network provides the experience. You are wholly consumer, rather than creator.

Even when contributions are mildly encouraged, because networks are large and anonymous, people can get away with taking from the pot but not adding to it. For example, you can join an online forum, and post some questions in order to pick the brains of other members. While it would be nice to offer advice in return, you’re certainly not obligated to do so. You can come in to a network, get what you need, and leave.

In contrast, in communities you get and you give; you can take from the collective pot, but you’re required to add to it too. There’s a sense of duty and obligation on this point. In a community, the group is small enough that people know who is and who isn’t being taken care of, and who is and who isn’t stepping in to help. If you don’t pull your weight and you’re perfectly capable of doing so, you face social repercussions.

Networks Can Be Location Independent; Communities Are Attached to a Place(s) 

With networks, you don’t actually have to be physically in the presence of the other members of the network to participate in the group. You can work from home for a corporation whose headquarters are halfway around the world or take part in online discussions about starting your own business while you’re vacationing in Thailand.

Communities, on the other hand, are attached to a physical place. They require you to be geographically close to your fellow community members. By necessitating physical presence, and face-to-face interactions, communities force individuals to be accountable to one another.

Networks Divide a Person Into Parts; Communities Nurture the Whole Person

Networks only ask for the part of a person that’s pertinent to that particular network’s limited and specialized aim. When we go to work, we don’t talk much about our politics or our religious beliefs (in fact, asking people about those things can get employers and co-workers in trouble with the law); when we attend PTA meetings, we don’t bring up our work; when we go to our CrossFit class, we talk burpees but not about burping babies. The offering of only one narrow slice of ourselves is especially pernicious on social networks like Facebook and Instagram, where we show others a glowing highlight reel of our lives, but hide the not-so-pretty behind-the-scenes parts.

By splitting the person up, the network promises efficiency. But according to Gatto, “this is, in fact, a devil’s bargain, since on the promise of some future gain one must surrender the wholeness of one’s present humanity. If you enter into too many of these bargains, you will split yourself into many specialized pieces, none of them completely human.” Because we divide ourselves between so many different networks, “no time is available to reintegrate” the different pieces of our personality. “This, ironically, is the destiny of many successful networkers and doubtless generates much business for divorce courts and therapists of a variety of persuasions.”

Communities, on the other hand, nurture the whole person. A community, as Gatto puts it, “is a place in which people face each other over time in all their human variety: good parts, bad parts, and all the rest.” There’s no identity splintering in a community. Yes, you may have the role of town barber, but people don’t treat you merely as a barber in one-off transactions. They treat you as Bill — husband to a wife with terminal cancer; father of three beautiful children; cantankerous man who’s capable of immense kindness; devout and dedicated deacon in his church who also happens to be a free-thinker. Oh, and you cut men’s hair for a living.

When a person suffers a crisis in a community (say for instance a debilitating accident), the community comes to help the whole person. Food is brought over; yard work is done; rooms are cleaned; hats are passed around; spiritual and emotional comfort is given. The same person steeped in network living would have to depend on paying strangers specialized in different areas to get the same sort of help: a cook, a house cleaner, a yard worker, and a therapist.

Is This Group I’m Part of a Network or a Community?

Ever since I learned about the network/community distinction, I’m continually analyzing whether the groups I belong to are one or the other.

In our modern age, intimate, face-to-face communities are hard to come by; while exceptions exist, networks have almost completely taken over how Americans socially organize themselves. So in evaluating the groups you belong to, it’s perhaps better to ask if they aremore like a network, or more like a community. The following questions can help you think through where your group falls on the spectrum:

§  Do I know the names of most if not every person in my group and interact with them?
§  Does my group have a meeting place or arrangement?
§  If I left the group, would anyone know I was gone? Would there be any repercussions for doing so?
§  If I got sick, or needed a favor, how many members of my group could I count on for visits or assistance?
§  Am I required to contribute to the communal pot, or can I utilize the benefits of the group without making any contributions beyond dues/fees/tithes?

Beware of Networks Wearing Community’s Clothing!

For most of human history we ran in small, intimate tribes. We’re social animals, and our brains are evolved for life in close groups. We crave the bonds and sense of belonging and stability that communities provide. In the modern age, these vital communities have disappeared, so we have turned to networks to fulfill our social needs.

But networks can never be a fully satisfying replacement for communities. They’re not designed for social intimacy and fulfillment — they’re designed for efficiency and growth.
And yet we continue to hold out hope that networks can perform a function for which they are fundamentally unsuited. And this hope is so tempting to buy into because many networks attempt to provide what Gatto calls “cartoon simulations of communities.” In other words, networks like to dress themselves up in the clothing of community.

For example, the idea of a “global community” has been much ballyhooed in our time (see The World Is Flat), but running it through the above requirements quickly reveals the idea to be an utter farce. If your only obligation to helping other members involves texting a $10 donation to aid tsunami victims every now and again, what you’re part of is a network, not a community.
Another perfect example of networks masquerading as communities is when giant corporations claim that they consider their employees and customers to be “family.” Except in the corporate version of “family,” members are charged for basic services and can be fired if another “brother” or “sister” will work more cheaply from India.

Marketers perpetrate what is perhaps the most insidious form of networks pretending to be communities. Taking a cue from religion — a strong source of community identity for tens of thousands of years — marketers have turned commercial brands into counterfeit communities. In his book Primalbranding, marketing expert Patrick Hanlon shows how businesses can turn their customers into cultish zealots by taking advantage of humanity’s innate desire to believe in something higher than themselves and to belong to a group. According to Hanlon, successful brands should mimic religious faiths by having a creation story, creeds, icons (logos), rituals, a charismatic leader, sacred words, and non-believers who the believers can use as a foil to buttress their identity.

Apple is perhaps the most successful of these pseudo-religious brands. We all know Apple’s creation story, we know their creed (Think Different), their ubiquitous half-eaten apple icon, their charismatic leader (Steve Jobs), and who the non-believers are (those philistine PC users). Apple even has their holy sanctuaries (the Apple Store). People who use Macs feel a connection to one another. Like they’re part of a community. Except they’re not.

The growing fitness industry is another example of the way in which businesses have done an excellent job of gilding what are really networks with the polish of community life. Enterprises like Crossfit and Tough Mudder have managed to make lots of money, while elevating their businesses into “movements” of loyal, zealous followers.

Online entrepreneurs have become especially adept at creating networks that have the veneer of community. Thanks to Seth Godin, many websites and blogs will have a big square in their sidebar saying something like “Join My Tribe! Sign up for my email newsletter!” But the idea of an online tribe completely contradicts what an actual tribe is. Members of true tribes live and work together on a daily basis, see each other face-to-face, are expected to contribute to the well-being of the tribe, and are rooted to a physical place. In online “tribes,” however, you’ll likely never see your fellow “tribesmen” in the flesh, you can drop out anytime, and your only interaction with other members will be about the specific topic that that particular online community is dedicated to, be it fitness or entrepreneurship.

The façade of community quickly disappears when emergency strikes in your life and you really need somebody. Is the Apple community going to rally behind you and help you out? Of course not. Your fellow online “tribe” members might raise some money for you if they even know about your problem, but they won’t come visit you or provide actual human-to-human services. The fact that the only thing online communities can really do for their members is raise money is a telltale sign that they’re actually just networks and not communities. Community contributions should “pinch” — they should feel like a sacrifice. Lots of people are willing to click on a link to Paypal, but how many will come over to clean out your bedpan? As Gatto puts it, “when people in networks suffer, they suffer alone.”

The lack of genuine care from people in network life isn’t malicious. They are more than likely very caring people. The problem is they’re part of the network, and networks artificially divide us from each other. “I really would like to visit Jim, but you know, we’ve never hung out outside work, so it might be weird if I came by.” The unfortunate result of networked life is that it makes us feel lonely even when we’re surrounded by masses of people. Gatto describes the sad, shallow nature of networked life:
“With a network, what you get at the beginning is all you ever get. Networks don’t get better or worse; their limited purpose keeps them pretty much the same all the time, as there just isn’t much development possible. The pathological state which eventually develops out of these constant repetitions of thin human contact is a feeling that your “friends” and “colleagues” don’t really care about you beyond what you can do for them, that they have no curiosity about the way you manage your life, no curiosity about your hopes, fears, victories, defeats. The real truth is that the “friends” falsely mourned for their indifference were never friends, just fellow networkers from whom in fairness little should be expected beyond attention to the common interest.”
So beware of false tribes, which come to you in community’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening networks.

Learning How to Live in a Community Again

While I’ve certainly put the idea of networks through the ringer in this post, I don’t want folks to get the idea that they’re evil. They can serve a good purpose. They’re good for moving ahead in business, sharing information, raising money, and even meeting acquaintances that later turn into deeper relationships. They’re just not a replacement for true communities. Unfortunately we treat them as such. The result is a world where it is as if people eat only junk food, and don’t understand why their bodies are wasting away. Communities provide us with vital physical “nutrients” that we all need to thrive and be happy.

While it’s difficult to find “pure” tribe-like communities in our modern age, it is definitely possible to cultivate a greater community ethos in the groups you already participate in. As mentioned above, it’s better to not think of communities vs. networks as an either/or proposition, but rather as a spectrum. Churches, neighborhoods, schools, gyms, clubs, and so on can be more like networks or more like communities. Here are a few suggestions to move the ticker towards the latter:

Shoot for small. We’re made to run in tribes of around 150 people. When looking to join a church, deciding what school to send your kids to, or even joining a gym, keep that number in mind. Join groups where you’re able to know every other member by name.

Break larger groups into smaller ones. Belonging to a larger network isn’t a bad thing, if you can find a way to create smaller, more intimate groups within it. Megachurches, for example, often encourage members to join one of their many small groups in order to establish more close-knit bonds than are possible during their huge Sunday worship services.

Create you own tribes. Don’t just be a joiner. The best way to find a community is to start your own tribe. And when you do, don’t take the easy way out of borrowing a preformed, predefined structure; create your group’s culture from the ground up. People often ask me to start an official Art of Manliness men’s group. I have no plans to, because the result would be a top-down network, not a true community. It’s the latter that men need. You don’t need me to show you how to make your own fraternity of men — figure it out together with your brothers.

Get involved. The more passive people are, the more a potential community devolves into a network. For example, many people today treat public schools as a consumer transaction; I’ve paid my taxes, and once I drop my kid off at the curb, my part of the deal is done. Instead, you could volunteer and get involved with the school, get to know the teachers and the other families, and boost the school’s feeling of community. Same thing with your neighborhood —start actively finding ways to get to know the people on your block.

Meet physically. There are churches out there that offer online “services” where you watch the sermon online, give money online, and even pray and chat with other members online. The intention is good — bringing the bread of life to those who otherwise might not get it at all. But such a set-up only feeds one part of the soul; their need for community will remain famished. Online interactions can be fun and convenient — a supplement to our lives — but they can’tsubstitute for in-person meetings.

Share your whole self. The more your group encourages people to bring their whole self, rather than just a slice of it, the more the group feels like a community. For example, many corporate globo-gyms are soulless networks, but small powerlifting gyms often feel like communities, as the members not only know each other’s workout habits, but about their families and jobs, too.

Be prepared to sacrifice. Oftentimes people lament that they want to be part of communities, but what they really mean is that they want to enjoy the benefits of communities without having to deal with any of their responsibilities and hassles. They want to get, but not give. Being part of a community means not only taking from the pot, but putting into it; if you’re not willing to help out fellow members when they’re in need, and deal with the annoyances inherent to any close-knit group, you’ll never move beyond existing in a network.

Live by family. These final two suggestions will likely be controversial, but I would argue that they truly represent the best ways to be part of a community.

The heart of community is family; not just the nuclear family, but extended family. For centuries people lived near their parents and grandparents, along with their uncles, aunts, and cousins. They were your go-to, tight-knit support group. In our present age, one’s parents and siblings are strung out all across the country. You see them once a year at Christmas, and keep track of each other through your Facebook updates. Family has become just another network.

I have long struggled with the fact that while I’d like to live somewhere that allowed more opportunities for outdoor recreation, like Colorado or Vermont, both Kate and my parents and siblings are here in Oklahoma. I have long pondered which is better: living in a place you love, or living by family? While I still pine for the mountains, for now, family wins hands down. Our kids adore their grandparents (and vice versa!), and they’ll get to romp around with their cousins throughout their youth. They’ll get to feel like part of a familial community, rather than nodes in a disconnected network.

Some people relish being far from their families, because then they don’t have to participate in the inevitable hassle of familial drama. But that hassle is part and parcel of our humanity.

Don’t move very frequently. In order to form a community, you need to live and interact with the same people for a long time — to go through a myriad of ups and downs together. People will never know your whole self if you trade them in for new friends every two years. Community requires being rooted in a single place for an extended period of time.

The likelihood of 20-somethings moving to another state has fallen 40% since the 1980s. Various reasons for why young people are staying put have been floated: some posit that the trauma of the recession has made them risk-averse, that Facebook has made them less adventurous, or that they’re just plain unambitious. As such, my fellow Millennials have been derided as the “Go-Nowhere Generation.”

I’d venture to say there’s another reason for the trend that everyone else seems to have missed: my generation, having grown up socially famished in the vacuous network, now rightly craves the nourishment of true community.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Book explores connection between Freemasonry and Mormonism

Book explores connection between Freemasonry and Mormonism

Standard-Examiner correspondent
There are historians who believe there is a complex historical connection between Freemasonry, an organization with origins to local fraternities of Freemasons, and Mormonism, a popular name given to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Michael Homer, an award-winning author who has published numerous articles in the fields of law and Mormonism, delves into the historical parallels in his recently published book, “Joseph’s Temples: The dynamic relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism” (University of Utah Press, $34.95).

Homer said the connections between the two may be challenging and controversial, but are worthy of further consideration even in the 21st century.
"For many years, there has been a gap in scholarship on the relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism,“ said Homer. ”In fact, the subject was almost verboten. But in recognizing the historical importance of this topic, both Mormon and non-Mormon historians have encouraged me to pursue this book-length survey and I am excited to share the results.” 

The focus of the book looks at the rituals performed in Latter-day Saint temples, with more than 140 temples in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa, and traces many of their origins back to the rituals performed in Masonic Lodges, the basic organizational unit of Freemasonry.

Homer begins by recounting how Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other early church leaders were Masons at one time, but recognizes that modern Mormon church prophets and leaders have attempted to downplay the parallels between Mormon ritual and doctrine with that of Freemasonry in the early nineteenth century, saying that Joseph Smith received the temple endowments before he became a Freemason.

Homer explains the history behind the ceremonies used in both Freemasonry Lodges and Mormon Church temples. “Many nineteenth-century Mormons who were serious students of Freemasonry believed that the endowment was a restoration of the ritual introduced in Solomon’s temple that had been partially preserved by the Craft (of Freemasonry),” said Homer.

Several church leaders, including apostle Melvin Ballard and E. Cecil McGavin, an instructor in the LDS Church education system in the 1930s, are quoted in Homer’s book.
In their statements, they explain that Joseph Smith received revelation for the temple endowment ceremony long before he joined Freemasonry, doing so “to fraternize with the prominent leaders in the political and religious world, and that he had a complete knowledge of the temple ceremony before he became affiliated with the Masons,” said McGavin.

However, Homer points out that some LDS church leaders feel differently, such as Reed Durham Jr., director of the LDS Institute of Religion at the University of Utah, who concluded in 1974 that the Mormon temple endowment “had an immediate inspiration from Masonry,” and that “most of the things which were developed in the church at Nauvoo were inextricably interwoven with Masonry.”

Homer states that Durham then said that the connections between Masonic rituals and the endowment were “so apparent and overwhelming that some dependent relationship cannot be denied,” with connections between the signs, tokens, obligations and penalties of the two rituals.

In several sections of his book, Homer notes that Smith taught church members that the most important lessons they needed to learn was the Masonic skill of keeping a secret, including the Mormon Church’s early practice of plural marriage, which has since been abolished.

Homer also points out that the murder of Joseph Smith may have been led by discord between the Mormon Church and Freemasons, who accused Smith of plagiarizing their rituals. The mob that killed Smith on June 27, 1844, included Freemasons, who were criticized for not heeding their fellow Masons in distress.

On July 15, 1844, the local newspaper published an editorial confirming that both Joseph and Hyrum were Masons in good standing, according to Homer’s research. The editorial continued on, saying “they were shot to death, while, with uplifted hands they gave such signs of distress … and that Joseph’s last exclamation was ‘O Lord my God!’, which is the first few words of the Masonic distress call.”

As Homer concludes his book, he declares: “While Joseph’s temples were not a literal restoration of Solomon’s Temple, they are also not a mere pirated copy of Masonic rites. But the first Mormon prophet did use and adapt a Masonic formula and extrapolated some of Masonry’s teachings that were developed during the previous one hundred years in England, France, and America.”

Monday, June 24, 2013

Many Want the Brotherhood We Have. Value it.

How to Create a Lifelong Brotherhood
This article is adapted from the Art of Manliness, a website we often promote. 

by A Manly Guest Contributor on June 18, 2013 
Editor’s Note: This a guest post from Jonathan Mead.

The responses from my closest male friends surprised me when I asked them this question: “What’s the one thing you feel was or is missing that’s held you back from becoming a man?”

I assumed for most men it would be “lack of direction” or “knowing my purpose.” But the common thread in every reply caught me completely off-guard.

Nearly all the responses had to do with a painful absence of brotherhood or mentorship in their lives.
I know that pain deeply.

For at least the last decade, I’ve felt the void of brotherhood and have wondered if I’ll ever have what childhood friends and old men sitting around barbershop stools have.

I’m not talking about just “bros” you shoot the breeze with, but quality, salt-of-the-earth men you know have your back through thick and thin. I’ve felt a pull to build a brotherhood of men I can count on to meet up without hesitance and have real camaraderie with, not just guys that want to get wasted and chase women.

And it’s painfully clear to me that most men are starving for a brotherhood that goes beyond beer slugging and fantasy football.

I got tired of passively complaining and decided to do something about it. You can choose, like I did, to actively create what you want, or wallow in your despair.

But first things first…

The Lost Art of Intentional Brotherhoods

Brotherhood used to be built into tribes and nomadic cultures. Lionel Tiger, who literally wrote the book on male bonding, had this to say: ”Male bonding is a process with biological roots to the establishment of alliances necessary for group defense and hunting.”

The question, then, becomes, have we lost the integral existence of male groups because our modern lives don’t make them a necessity?

Because of their lack of survival obligation, modern brotherhood is becoming more of a lost art relegated to secret societies and dying traditions. The few remaining forms of these brotherhoods are fraternities, Boy Scouts, and church groups. You might also have boyhood friendships that has lasted through adulthood, or built-in brotherhood through close brothers, uncles, or perhaps your father.

That is, if you’re lucky. Not so with me.

I was an only boy of four sisters, so I was out of luck in the “built-in brotherhood” department. And while I loved Boy Scouts, it’s an adventure that ends at adulthood.

If we don’t have brotherhood built-in, perhaps we must create it.

It’s no wonder why movies like Fight Club and 300 are so popular. They stir within us an unquenched desire to belong to our own tribe of men that we can call brothers.

But can we learn to just deal with surface-level interaction and solitude as men? I don’t think so.

There are three reasons we need brotherhoods now more than ever:

Critical Reason #1: We Need Brotherhoods to Become Better Men

Interestingly, men, not women, are the likeliest to form gender-based groups, and have the highest percentage of groups that meet in secret (“secret societies”).

While most of these groups have traditionally had a specific agenda — religious, political, or otherwise — it’s through organized groups that men come together to compete, insult, berate, and grow together.

This is a male-specific form of bonding and growth. Men for thousands of years have come together in intentional groups to sharpen each other in different ways. It’s through challenges from other men that we grow.

Critical Reason #2: Bonding with Other Men Is How We Best Learn 

David Deida, author of Way of the Superior Man, eloquently states the defining characteristic of the male sex: “Life as a man is like a constant error correction. Making a mistake, and correcting, then making another mistake and correcting.”

This is distinct from the way women interact and bond with each other. Men tend to be more binary: “This is right and that is wrong, and I learn by discovering what is most right.” Whereas women tend to be more intuitive: “This is how I feel, and I’m going to feel out what I want to do next based on everything I’m taking in.”

As men, we need this kind of feedback and guidance from other men to help us error correct, to help us learn what it means to be a man. We’re not good at feeling our way through it. We need to see “correct” behavior in order to find our own most appropriate path.

Critical Reason #3: Brotherhoods May Be the Antidote for Fatherlessness and Depression

While more women than men attempt suicide overall, men account for 3/4 of all completed suicides. And suicide rates for men overall have been climbing sharply over this past decade; among middle-age men, suicide now accounts for almost 30 out of every 100,000 deaths –3X that of their female peers. Rates of suicide for men in their 50s has increased an astonishing 50%. What accounts for this jump? One of the reasons researchers cite is isolation.

Perhaps women are often better at maintaining friendships, seeking out help, and discussing their thoughts, challenges, fears and aspirations. Why are men so bad at this? Is it because we’re missing the brotherhood and camaraderie that makes us feel safe to express ourselves as men? Is it the lack of strong male role models that have left us lost in a world where we don’t know how to be strong, sensitive, and courageous men?

We also need more men to step up and lead other men.

How Brotherhood Finally Helped Me Become a Man

I didn’t feel like I was truly a man until I left my cubicle behind, struck out on my own, and started working for myself. Once my wife and I were 100% reliant on my ability to hustle and make ends meet, I felt like I had gone through a rite of passage that transformed me into a man.

Maybe it was that I felt like I could control the course and direction of my own destiny. I had become truly self-reliant for the first time in my life.

But the reason I was able to succeed was not simply because of my own independent will. It was because I had a brotherhood that was also working to create their own vocations on their own terms. These men helped lift me up, believe in me, and made me stronger than I was standing alone.

And while online connections are great, I realized I was yearning for something offline and more personal. I wanted to be able to call the guys to a pickup game of basketball in the park or go on a hike in the woods without planning it out a month in advance.

I wanted real brotherhood, so I decided to do something about it.

There’s an old saying that goes, “When you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, you’ll finally do something about it.”

I got sick and tired of complaining about a lack of brotherhood when there were so many awesome men around me.

So I gathered the email addresses of nine local guys and asked them a simple question:

“Would you be interested in meeting up with other awesome men once a month to do cool things?”

The overwhelming response was, “Hell yes.” I guess I wasn’t the only one that needed something like this.

So far we’ve played glow-in-the-dark miniature golf, sat and drank mind-expanding tea (yes, tea can get you high, believe it or not), and have conquered fears together. We use our gatherings as an excuse to bond and do fun, bucket-list type stuff together.

You don’t need blood-brother rituals, matching tattoos, or secret handshakes to create a brotherhood (not that any of those things aren’t cool).

All you need is initiative and the right men.


How to Create Your Own Brotherhood

The first and most critical step is to define your intention and purpose:
  • What do you want in a brotherhood and why do you want it?
  • What do you hope to gain from and give to it?
  • Is your intention to have fun, bond, and do interesting things, or do you care more about having a forum for expressing your challenges and issues as a man to work through them?
Answering these questions will help you get clear on your purpose for the group.

How to find the right men for your brotherhood:

This is probably the hardest part, and why most men will never do the work necessary to create an organized men’s group.

You have a few choices:
  • Find an existing men’s group or meetup that’s firmly established. If you just want a forum for expressing yourself and exploring your masculinity, this might be the best fit for you. This is the easiest choice if you can find a good group that’s already established.
  • Create a group locally. This will give you the most intentional control and freedom as you won’t have to work within the bounds of an established group and “fit in” to their intentions. This is a bit harder, but worth it if you want to determine the direction of the group.
  • Move somewhere where there’s an existing group. This is obviously the most difficult option. However, if you are already looking to move somewhere where there is a culture much more resonant with who you are, this change might be exactly what you need.
  • Create a group virtually. Obviously, this is the most limited variation, but it might be good enough if you can’t find or create a local group. Instead, you might meet on Skype or Google Hangout.

Recruiting and enlisting the right men:

Who and how you’ll recruit depends on your intention for the group. If you want a group of guys that meets every month as an excuse to go on exciting adventures, you will have different criteria for the men you enlist than if you’re wanting a weekly men’s group that meets to discuss and challenge each other to grow as men.

You don’t have to limit yourself to either of these group types, but deciding your intention for the group will help you identify the right candidates.

Here are some tips I’ve found helpful for finding good men:
  • Try to look for guys that are interested in personal growth, fitness, and pushing past personal limitations. Where do these men hang out? Conferences, seminars, blogs, forums, and events related to personal growth, of course.
  • Look for men that you wouldn’t mind hanging out with for an entire weekend. If someone is going to get on your nerves quickly, they’re probably not a great fit.
  • Determine the size of the group and demographics you want. I find that 6-10 guys is a great size and keeps things fairly simple. Most of the men in our group are in the age range of 25-50. All of us are health-conscious and live active lifestyles so it makes it easy for us to do physical things.
  • Look within your network first. Approach peers, coworkers, friends, and family that you would love to connect with more deeply. Post something on Facebook telling people you’re considering starting a group and ask for interest. Email the people you’re considering including directly with a casual invitation.
  • If you’re having trouble enlisting in your established network, utilize tools like Craigslist (in their Strictly Platonic section) and

Creating the right space and intention:

Our men’s group meets on the last Saturday of every month. Each month we take nominations for what we’re going to do next, and then we vote on what we’ll do.

We use this as an excuse to do adventurous things and conquer personal challenges. Some of them are things that have been on one of our bucket lists for a long time. Some are things one of us has always wanted to learn or try. Sometimes it’s just something random and fun.

If you want to be more formal, you can organize a weekly group with a set agenda. A quick start guide on creating a formal men’s group can be found here.

Next, decide what the rules will be, if any. For our group we have two rules:
  1. It’s not all about business. If we didn’t have this rule it would be easy for us to default to conversations and activities centered around work. This helps us stay focused on what matters to us: connection about but also beyond work.
  2. If you miss more than two meetups in a row you’ll stop getting invited. We want members that are committed and in this for the long haul. If you’re not committed, well, it wasn’t meant to be, and we’re not going to try to convince you otherwise.
We might change this in the future, but this works for us right now.

The final, never-ending step — cultivating the brotherhood:

Starting is obviously the hardest step. But you can’t end there.

Creating a lasting, lifelong brotherhood takes time, energy, and continual investment. You have to “show up” for your brothers on a regular basis. You need to hold space for them to become who they’re meant to be. You need to encourage them, challenge them, and push each other to reach new heights.

More than anything, you just need to show up.

Here are some ways you can do that:
  • Take an active interest in the desires, dreams, and goals of the men in your group. How can you tailor discussions, events, and adventures that help your friends achieve their dreams?
  • Regularly brief the group. What’s coming up next? What was something fun and memorable that happened the last time you all hung out?
  • Share the spotlight and encourage others (especially more withdrawn and introverted members) to share their voice and take a leadership role. Consider rotating coordination and leadership of meetings and events.
  • Teach via example. The more you show up in your fully alive, embodied masculinity, the more you will inspire others to do the same.
  • Make it damn near unmissable. Cultivate an experience and a group that no one wants to miss.
The primary key is to show up and give courageously to your fellow men.

The world needs more brotherhood. Will you create it?

Don’t wait until you’ve got it all figured out as a man. Don’t wait until you’re the perfect leader.

Don’t wait until you have the perfect group of men. A ragtag group of misfits will do.

The world needs more courageous men banding together to challenge each other, to grow together. Wouldn’t you agree?

So here’s my challenge to you: Do one thing today to cultivate more brotherhood in your life.

Now, over to you: Have you ever felt a lack of brotherhood in your life? What are you going to do about it?