Order In focus: The Order Of The Secret Monitor

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Continuing on from our first article on the “other degrees” in freemasonry, we come to the Order Of The Secret Monitor or as it’s also known “The Brotherhood Of David & Jonathan.”

I really feel this order is often overlooked by a good number of brethren. This is a real favorite of mine and one I feel lots of people would really enjoy if they knew a little more about it.

The story:
The full name of this order gives a clear insight into the tale that this order portrays and that is the brotherhood and friendship of one Jonathan, son of Saul King of Israel and David, his presumed rival for the crown.

The full story is one of comradery and really hits home the meaning and need for “brotherly love.” That oh-so important principle we are told is vital to freemasonry.

The degrees in this order are three in number and each of them unveil another portion of the story, They consist of :-

First Degree: Secret Monitor

Second Degree: “Prince” or “Princes degree/Prince of the order etc”

Third degree(installation): Supreme Ruler

What’s really lovely here is that the installation of the master of the conclave or “Supreme Ruler” as he is known in the order is actually the final part of the story and makes the meeting that much more special for the SR elect.

DJ

Regalia:
Another bonus for this order is that the cost of regalia is among the lowest in freemasonry, comprising of a simple jewell which is worn from the breast pocket of your jacket, it is the symbol of the order which is appended to a two colour ribbon, varying in colour depending on your degree in the order.

The other regalia that is worn are officers sash’s and Supreme Rulers Robe and collarette  which will be provided by the conclave at the beginning of the meeting apart from provincial and grand officers which provide their own depending on which rank and office they hold.

OSM-Jewels

Prerequisite:
That of being a master mason only, this is why I believe the OSM to be a great choice for newly raised brethren who are looking to make some new friends outside of the craft and branch out into something new without stepping into anything majorly serious and heavy before they are ready.

Why it’s great:
The pun laden ritual has enough moments to make any mason throw their arms up and cry “Ooh,Suits you sir!” to a plethora of laughter and sniggers and enough action and energy to make even the most die hard ritualist engaged and hungry to hone their skills and delivery.

But what I personally really love about the OSM is that it really does make you feel the camaraderie of masonry, This is both because of the incredibly enjoyable ceremonies and attitudes that secret monitors have towards one another, one of trust and genuine respect.

Who would love The Order Of The Secret Monitor?
I really feel the OSM has something to offer everyone, it has enough to be different from the craft and enough likeness to make sure that you feel right at home. take a look at the order if you want a genuinely good feeling about the state of the world and want your faith in humanity restored. In this day and age to know you can make some genuinely close trustworthy friends so easily is exactly why it should appeal to everyone.

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Famous Freemasons – Sir Alf Ramsey

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Sir Alf Ramsey is a legend engraved in the mind of every English football fan. A professional footballer for Tottenham Hotspur & Southampton, he went onto management and peeked winning the World Cup for England. What most people don’t know is that during the period he was England manager Sir Alf Ramsey was also a freemason.

During his playing days at Tottenham Alfred Ramsey was initiated into Waltham Abbey Lodge, No. 2750 where he saw a quick progression in becoming a master mason. As a 33 year old man, he was Initiated in October 1953, passed in the Nov, then finally raised the following October. Ramsey resigned from his Lodge in 1981.

Not much is known about Sir Alf Ramsey as a freemason, but it is known that he was never master of his lodge. Following his death in 1999, his wife donated his masonic regalia and certificates to his old lodge, which have been proudly displayed in the Chingford masonic hall. In 2012 the UGLE borrowed these items as part of a special exhibition to celebrate masonic sporting achievement in the year of the London Olympics.

Alf-Regalia

English football has a rich history of Freemasonry. The football association was founded at the Freemasons tavern next to the Grand masonic temple in London and the local Freemasons Arms now celebrates the pub as its spiritual home. The freemasons arm’s is a meeting place for many masons and is decorated with football memorabilia. There have also been rumors of more recent masonic football connections like, Sir Alex Ferguson, Ally McCoist and referee Jeff Winter.

Sir Alf Ramsey was known for saying “You’ve won it once. Now you’ll have to go out there and win it again.” And so will always be known as one of Freemasonry’s biggest winners.

Order In Focus: The Mark Degree

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This is the first article in a series profiling ‘the other degrees’ in Freemasonry.

We know that about 30% of masons in London go on to join the royal arch (also known as ‘chapter’) and an even smaller percent go on to join one of the other degrees.

So we will get started with my current favourite, Mark Masonry or as it’s more commonly known “The Mark”

The story:
This should complete the fellowcraft craft degree and fill in any holes in the story of the building King Solomons temple. A candidate for advancement takes on the role of an operative mason in King Solomon’s quarries and attempts to submit his work to be used in the building of the temple.

Regalia:
upon your advancement, you will be wearing a claret and blue trimmed apron similar to the master masons one (West Ham fans, rejoice!) what’s also nice is the breast jewel that you wear from your breast pocket with a keystone attached to it. It’s also worth noting that it is a personal opinion of mine that the grand rank regalia in this order is by far the most beautiful

Mark-Jewel

Prerequisite?
The only prerequisite to be “advanced” into the mark degree is that you have taken your third degree and are a master mason of good standing. It’s also worth noting that as a subscribing member of the mark, you are then entitled to join the ancient and honourable fraternity of the royal ark mariners.

Why it’s great:
This order is often referred to as “the friendly degree” as in my personal experience that name couldn’t be more accurate. Honestly, the reason why the mark degree is so great is quite simple. The people.

I’ve sat in a mark lodge and burst out laughing and had the most fun. The ceremony of advancement is both a theatrical and involving one where the candidate should come away with the biggest smile across his face.

Another massive plus about the mark degree is the mark benevolent fund; a charity that can give grants and financial aid to the brethren who are in dire need of it much sooner than any other charity/masonic charity.  The ways in which they raise funds are always great and the incentives are also wonderful, with breast jewels and tokens to commemorate the contribution of a lodge or brother towards the specific fundraising target.  Obviously, charity is and always will be at the forefront of a mason’s mind when giving but I can’t deny that it is nice to receive a tie or lapel pin in recognition of one’s contribution, which again, in turn, further advertises the cause and its fundraising.

Who would love The Mark?
People who are looking for something FUN in masonry, this order is more relaxed and enjoyable in some points than the craft, that’s not to say that it’s not as serious in its message.

However, it does have the advantage of having hilarious crowd participation to really hit home messages and make sure that everyone is involved in the candidates special moment, making the mark an order to really look forward to and participating in.

Written by: 4 of Hearts

Famous Freemasons – Rudyard Kipling

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Rudyard Kipling, an English writer and poet from the 1800s, was also a keen Freemason. He was initiated into the Hope and Perseverance lodge in Lahore Pakistan, at the age of 20, having special dispensation. Kipling was Initiated by a Hindu, Passed by a Mohammedan and raised by an English man. Having had a very unique experience of masonry Rudyard Kipling wrote this poem:

The Mother Lodge:

There was Rundle, Station Master,
An’ Beazeley of the Rail,
An’ ‘Ackman, Commissariat,
An’ Donkin’ o’ the Jail;
An’ Blake, Conductor-Sargent,
Our Master twice was ‘e,
With ‘im that kept the Europe-shop,
Old Framjee Eduljee.

Outside — “Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!”
Inside — “Brother”, an’ it doesn’t do no ‘arm.
We met upon the Level an’ we parted on the Square,
An’ I was Junior Deacon in my Mother-Lodge out there!

We’d Bola Nath, Accountant,
An’ Saul the Aden Jew,
An’ Din Mohammed, draughtsman
Of the Survey Office too;
There was Babu Chuckerbutty,
An’ Amir Singh the Sikh,
An’ Castro from the fittin’-sheds,
The Roman Catholick!

We ‘adn’t good regalia,
An’ our Lodge was old an’ bare,
But we knew the Ancient Landmarks,
An’ we kep’ ’em to a hair;
An’ lookin’ on it backwards
It often strikes me thus,
There ain’t such things as infidels,
Excep’, per’aps, it’s us.

For monthly, after Labour,
We’d all sit down and smoke
(We dursn’t give no banquits,
Lest a Brother’s caste were broke),
An’ man on man got talkin’
Religion an’ the rest,
An’ every man comparin’
Of the God ‘e knew the best.

So man on man got talkin’,
An’ not a Brother stirred
Till mornin’ waked the parrots
An’ that dam’ brain-fever-bird;
We’d say ’twas ‘ighly curious,
An’ we’d all ride ‘ome to bed,
With Mo’ammed, God, an’ Shiva
Changin’ pickets in our ‘ead.

Full oft on Guv’ment service
This rovin’ foot ‘ath pressed,
An’ bore fraternal greetin’s
To the Lodges east an’ west,
Accordin’ as commanded
From Kohat to Singapore,
But I wish that I might see them
In my Mother-Lodge once more!

I wish that I might see them,
My Brethren black an’ brown,
With the trichies smellin’ pleasant
An’ the hog-darn passin’ down;
An’ the old khansamah snorin’
On the bottle-khana floor,
Like a Master in good standing
With my Mother-Lodge once more!

Outside — “Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!”
Inside — “Brother”, an’ it doesn’t do no ‘arm.
We met upon the Level an’ we parted on the Square,
An’ I was Junior Deacon in my Mother-Lodge out there!

Ritual – y’know that Important bit

Ritual Freemasonry

At the last quarterly communication, The Pro Grand Master Peter Geoffrey Lowndes delivered this incredible speech to Grand Lodge.

I, like a lot of other masons read this straight after on Freemasonry Today’s website. The more and more I read of it, the greater the smile on my face became. For such an august mason to state in Grand Lodge that he struggled with learning ritual like most of us was amazing thing to read.

“I am not going to pretend that I have ever found ritual learning easy, and, as time goes by, dare I say, I find learning new ritual more difficult, but, nonetheless, I shall never forget the satisfaction of carrying out a second degree ceremony at the first meeting that I was in the chair of my mother lodge.”

Another excellent point that was raised was the Pro Grand Master being a massive fan of lodges ‘sharing the work.’ This is something I, personally feel is amazing and another useful tool in the retention of members worldwide.

“One of the prime reasons that lodges are being encouraged to share the workload is so that members should spend time really learning and understanding what they are delivering and not just reciting ritual parrot fashion”

I have seen lodges from all over the UK with a sizeable stewards bench and not one of the brethren had delivered or been asked to do a single bit of ritual, this, to me is unacceptable. The Pro Grand Master also mentioned that people are getting busier and busier and finding time to learn lengthy bit of ritual is becoming an even more difficult process

“I entirely accept that learning ritual is time consuming and time is at a premium in today’s hectic schedule of life. But how often is it true that the busiest people are those who find the time to learn it. “

Lodges sharing the work is going to ensure that from the second you are initiated you have little pieces to learn and deliver in open lodge. Which is sure to build up confidence levels in members and make their approach to the offices easier, along with their progression being smoother in the craft.

What I can’t fathom, is that there was virtually no mention of any ceremonial or ritual element in the new UGLE DVD (which I am a big fan of) bearing in mind that the message, and indeed the most fun part for me is the learning, rehearsing and delivery of it’s nearly three hundred and fifty year old ritual. Understandable, the word “Ritual” might seem a little bit daunting or off-putting however to not mention or at least better word something so integral seems absurd.

Our rituals and floor work, is something of an art form to me and i’m sure many of you. we spend hours of our time whenever we can with that little blue (or whatever colour book you’re learning from) trying to master this art, so that it can make someones evening, or open someones mind to an amazing message.

Those of us at the 52 Society are of the opinion that learning, not reading, should always be the aim and desire of every Freemason

“Our ritual is to be treasured and there are few better experiences than seeing and hearing a really well conducted masonic ceremony.”

Written by: 4 of Hearts

Chamber of Reflection

Freemasonry like many other mystery traditions is a journey down the pathway of self-discovery and self-betterment. The ceremonies and ritual are designed to enlighten and teach the initiate moral lessons, which if delivered correctly, evoke an awakening inside the candidate. Today the chamber of reflection is not used in regular craft lodges in England, being seen as a dark and morbid practice banished to the other degrees.

A chamber of reflection is self explanatory, a small-darkened room used to reflect on the journey ahead. The format and furnishings of the room can vary, but it should adjoin the lodge meeting room. The candidate is led into the room and left alone for a period of time to contemplate their surroundings. The room is bare except for a small table containing some items and lit by a single candle. The items on the table include; a human skull, crossed thigh bones, a sickle, bread, water, sulfur, salt, mercury and an hourglass. The skull, bones and sickle offer the opportunity to reflect on mortality; coupled with the hourglass it represents our short time on earth. Bread and Water represent the simple but essential elements needed to survive, and are a lesson in leading an uncomplicated life. Sulfur, Salt and Mercury are alchemical elements attributed to the great work and combined convey a message of faith, hope & charity. Written on the wall in front of the candidate are the initials V.I.T.R.I.O.L which is a Latin alchemical acronym meaning “Visit the interior of the earth; by rectification you shall find the hidden stone” This phrase teaches the candidate to look inside himself. A piece of paper and pen are often left on the table for the candidate. The reasons can vary but in many instances the candidate is asked to answer some questions and write a moral and philosophical testament. Once the initiate has finished this task he is told to ring a bell to indicate he has finished reflecting and is ready to embark on his masonic journey.

The Chamber of Reflection Table.

The Chamber of Reflection Table.

It is unlikely that the candidate will understand all of the symbols, but a man destine for change and enlightenment will find it a valuable lesson. There are many other deep and meaningful allergy’s attributed to the chamber of reflection leaving each initiate to make his own conclusions.

The chamber of reflection is a beautiful and profound symbolic experience vital in the process of initiating a new member into the secrets and mystery’s of Freemasonry. True initiation is an internal process taken on by the individual and triggered by the surrounding help and guidance of others. I believe that modern candidates will benefit from a moment to relax and reflect on their up coming induction, having been striped of all other distractions. I personally believe that we should bring back the chamber of reflection and set a better spiritual and symbolic path for our new initiates.

Written By: 5 of Clubs / Joker

Charity

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The values of Freemasonry are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. Freemasons are taught to practice charity and to care, not only for their own, but also for the community as a whole – both by charitable giving, and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals.

The above is taken from The United Grand Lodge of England web page.  Although I think it is an accurate description of our charitable intentions, there is however something I would change about it.  I would argue that Freemasons are not “taught to practice charity and to care”.  I prefer the word encouraged.  After all, can one really be taught to care?  Perhaps its because I don’t like the idea of it, that a Freemason should need to be taught such a thing.  In my eyes to us it should be innate.  It’s what makes us who we are.  Yes of course we inspire it amongst ourselves and collectively we push each other to do good but again I see that as being encouragement.  We aren’t teaching something that wasn’t there in the first place because I would argue that somebody who didn’t have a charitable heart to start with isn’t really a great candidate for Freemasonry.  My humble opinion of course.

A few nights ago whilst having dinner with friends, one of the guests, asked me my plans for the following day.  I told her that I had a meeting to go to without telling her that it was Masonic.  She persisted in her questioning and I saw no reason to not to tell her that I was a Freemason and that it was indeed a Masonic outing.  On hearing that I was a Freemason her eyes narrowed and I could feel the cynicism sweep over her.  Her questioning turned into interrogation, her curiosity to accusation.  Out came the usual…

“What do you get up to”.

“Why is it so secret”.

I merely answered that it was a charitable society where you can meet new people, make friends and discuss moral and spiritual values along with other principles – to which her reply was …

“But whats in it for you?”

Such a shame, that charity, meeting new people and making new friends is not something to be enjoyed by itself.  I know what she meant.  It was evident that she subscribes to the idea that we are all greasing one another’s palms and trying to help each other to ‘get on’.  She was right in one respect.  We do help each other.  The only difference is she believes we exclusively help other Freemasons.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I imagine that we all know someone who has benefited from the charitable donations that are made by Freemasons and Freemasonry in general.  The recent floods for example, money was given by The Grand Charity to help with the efforts.  Funding Hospice services, Air Ambulance charities, worldwide disaster relief and that’s not to mention the long list of grants for medical research.  Whilst I mention it, why not check out the shiny big machine that we raised £2.5 million for, which will hopefully help people to ‘get on’ with their lives should it be successful in treating their cancer…

Cyber Knife – Project

With regards to my interrogator, I’m not sure I swayed her.  I find it hard to see why.  She knows me to be of good character (I hope) and she has never upon shaking my hand found there to be any grease upon it.  Sadly some people will always view our organisation with cynicism.  I suppose in some measure they are right, we are all acting in self-interest – just one’s self-interest in charity.

Written By: King of Diamonds