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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Masonic Values Handed Down to Me

It has become fashionable in recent years to study the values of freemasonry which were a strong influence on many of the founding fathers of the Unites States, and which have been shared by many people in the UK and Europe. When I was in the Mirabai Bookstore in Woodstock several days ago I was struck by how many books are on the shelves which purport to impart the secrets and the wisdom of the masons. I have never been a member of a Masonic organization, and actually resisted some suggestions from family members that I should join up when I was in my teens. My resistance to masonry was part of my youthful rebellion, subtle as it was. In later years I came to regret that I never took the opportunity when I had it. I have been surprised at the attention given to masonry since the publication of the “da Vinci Code”, as I always saw the Masonic organizations I knew as a child growing up in a Western Pennsylvania steel town as a variety of social club which sometimes held interesting events. My favorites were the Easter Breakfast held by the Beaver Valley Commandery of the Knights Templar in Beaver Falls, the Childrens Christmas Party held by the Blue Lodge in Aliquippa, The Shrine Circus at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh, and best of all, the Shriners Picnic at Kennywood Amusement Park near Pittsburgh in August every year. I liked the Shriner’s events because I thought their fezes were neat, and I got to wear my father’s sometimes. The Knights Templar swords carried by my father and grandfather and two uncles were fascinating, as were the plumed hats they wore. I took it as a matter of course that the men in the family liked to dress up in their knight’s regalia and go off to meetings of the commandery, consistory, and grand encampment at frequent intervals.

The women in the family were masons also. My mother, grandmother, and aunts were all in the Eastern Star, and my Grandmother and aunt were involved in the Ladies Auxiliary of the Commandery. They often participated as the ladies of their Sir Knight husbands as they attended various events. Dinner table conversation at Christmastime usually included a good deal of commentary about who was 32nd degree and who was 33rd degree, and what the difference was between York Rite and Scottish Rite.

My father, Paul Martin Moore, dropped out of the Knights Templar in the late 1940’s because of his heart condition and the strain of wearing the heavy uniform. His brother, James Harvey McGeorge Moore, continued on through the line of state offices to become Grand Commander of Pennsylvania, and my great uncle Paul Miller Moore, made it all through the line to become Grand Commander of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States.

Even in my generation there was Masonic involvement. My sister and my two close cousins were all active in the Rainbow Girls as teenagers, but I never became involved in any of the Masonic related activities. Jackie Gleason and Art Carney going of to meetings on “The Raccoons” in episodes of the “Honeymooners” was about the way I viewed the whole proposition. I certainly never had an inkling that the masons had anything at all to do with “hermetic philosophy,” or that Friday the 13th is viewed as unlucky in our culture because that was the day Pope Clement the 4th and the King Philip the Fair of France initiated the campaign to eradicate the Knights Templar in 1307. I never knew that there was a vast “Templar National Treasure”, that the Jolly Roger flown by pirates of the Caribbean is derived from the Templar flag, or that legends of a vast treasure of the Templars in Nova Scotia continue to this day. I was aware that Templars never refuse help to the son of the widow, but I thought this was just due to the generosity of my uncles, not because it was a Templar tradition related to legends of Hiram Abiff. I never dreamed that Baphomet would be a key figure in Masonic traditions.

What I did get from my Masonic family was a day to day education in applying Masonic values. I list them here from memory: support spirituality and religion, help people in need, be honest, work hard, be sensibly frugal, take people for who they are, use a practical approach to problems, be generous, be pragmatic, be an active citizen, pay your bills, keep up your family ties, be active in civic associations, strive for success, be supportive of parents and children, and be politically realistic on the conservative side.

Today I am touched to find that my father, who died in 1951, is still listed online as a Past Master of the Blue Lodge, and that my great uncle Paul has a DeMolay Chapter in Butler Pennsylvania named for him. I will never be a mason, although I have been reading a good deal about them recently, and find them highly interesting at this late date in my life. Maybe my own son, or my grandson will carry on the tradition someday. Certainly I have a great deal more respect for masonry than I did as a youth, and I observe the contemporary renaissance of the craft with great interest.


At 8:59 PM, Blogger Jerry said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Jerry said...

You are never too old to ask to join the Fraternity of Free & Accepted Masons unless your mental health prevents it.


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