Square and Compass: The Fraternal Emblem

As the emblem of the oldest and largest fraternity in the world, without question, the Masonic Square and Compass is the most recognizable of all fraternal symbols. Because Freemasons are such a diverse group, and the fraternity is international, it’s pretty obvious that we don’t all look alike. We come from different generations, different countries, and different races that speak different languages, and we come from many different religious faiths. The Square and Compass is the way Freemasons have in identifying each other as Masonic brothers.

As Masons travel about in their daily lives, and we see a stranger wearing a Mason ring or displaying the symbol on the bumper of their car, we know we’ve found a new friend and brother, and all the things that may make us different from one another melt away when we meet as Brothers on the things we share in common.

The Square and Compass is a symbol of the blue lodge, our home lodge. In the great American Midwest, where I’m from, you’ll find a lodge in just about every small town, and usually several lodges in every city. Every Mason belongs to a blue lodge, or symbolic lodge, and it’s there that we receive our first three degrees in Masonry, the 3rd degree, that of Master Mason, being the highest Masonic degree a Freemason can receive. But there are fraternities within the fraternity as well, where a Mason if he so chooses can continue on and receive additional degrees to the Master Mason degree. Each body has it’s own symbol. There’s the Double Eagle of the Scottish Rite. The Crescent and Scimitar of the Shrine. The Triple Tau of the Royal Arch. The Broken Triangle of the Cryptic Masons. The Cross and Crown of the Knights Templar. And many more.

When Freemasons meet as strangers, often through these symbols, we know something about this stranger right up front. We know he is a man of Honor and integrity. That he has been judged by the men that know him best, and been found to be worthy and well-qualified to be a member of our fraternity, by sharing those same universal beliefs and tenets that we all, as Freemasons, share in common. And that he has dedicated himself to the service of his fellow men.

Freemasons wear those symbols with pride and humility. Pride that they belong to a group who have accepted as a design for living the lessons Freemasonry teaches, and humility that we have been chosen and accepted as a man worthy to share in Masonic fellowship with our brethren, and use our unique skills to the betterment of mankind.


On This Day In History: The Dukes of Hazzard Premieres!

'69 Dodge Charger
It was a very important day in American history for boys my age.  The premiere of "The Dukes of Hazzard" in 1979!  It brought phrases like "get 'em, Flash," "you just hush, you dipstick,"  and "lost Sheep to shepherd, lost sheep to shepherd" into the American lexicon.  For seven seasons, Daisy squeezed into those cut-off shorts, and Bo and Luke jumped the same creek in the General Lee week after week.  You'd think even Rosco and Boss Hogg after so many years would figure out those ornery Duke boys were going to jump that same damned creek again this week to escape, but they never did.  I guess they were the "dipsticks."

I don't know why my dad let
me watch it every week . . .

But by August 16, 1985, all the young boys had grown up, and the Dukes of Hazzard faded away.  It's funny, but a few years ago, Valerie and I went to Warner Brothers Studios, and she took my picture standing in front of Crazy Cooter's Garage.  It wrecked it for me forever.  I learned that garage sits right across the square from the Gotham City Courthouse from the original Batman series, and next to a church where Elvis and Ann Margaret were married in one if those (I better be careful in word selection here) classic Elvis movies.  Around the corner from Rick's Cafe where Bogart and Bergman met again.  In fact, Cooter's garage is only a couple doors down from Ben Matlock's House, and across the street from "Animal House."

And of course there's Daisy.  Daisy was the first contender to come along and challenge that Farrah Fawcett poster on our bedroom walls.  You have no idea the trouble I've gotten into in life chasing girls wearing cut-off jeans.


Book Review: To Kingdom Come by Will Thomas

I've been down the better part of four days with the flu, and other than losing about five pounds, there's not much good that came out of the experience.  However, I did get a lot of reading done.  One of the several books I read over the past week was Will Thomas' second Barker/Llewelyn book.  I really enjoyed the first one, and I was hoping the second would be just as good.  I wasn't disappointed. 

For you Freemasons, there was an interesting "initiation" into a brotherhood of Irish loyalists that takes place during the story I think you may find a few parts of familiar. To date, there are five Will Thomas novels in this series, and I'll definitely get around to reading them all.  It's great escapist fiction set in Victorian London.  I'd highly recommend it. 

From the Publisher:

Victorian enquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his young assistant Thomas Llewelyn first introduced in Will Thomas's critically acclaimed debut novel Some Danger Involved are back with a new mission in To Kingdom Come . When a bomb destroys the Special Irish Branch of Scotland Yard all fingers point to the increasingly brazen factions of Irish dissidents seeking liberation from English rule. Volunteering their services to the British government Barker and Llewelyn set out to infiltrate a secret cell of the Irish Republican Brotherhood known as the Invisibles. Posing as a reclusive German bomb maker and his anarchist apprentice they are recruited for the group's ultimate plan: to bring London to its knees and end the monarchy forever. Their adventures take them from an abandoned lighthouse on the craggy coast of Wales to the City of Light where Llewelyn goes undercover with Maire O'Casey the alluring sister of an Irish radical. Llewelyn again finds himself put to the test by his enigmatic employer as he is schooled in the deadly science of bomb making. Fraught with explosives secret initiations and vicious stick fights and featuring historical figures such as Charles Parnell and W. B. Yeats To Kingdom Come is a riveting sequel to Some Danger Involved .


On This Day in History: January 16

Customers breaking the law at a speak easy during Prohibition
On January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes," is ratified and becomes the law.

Nine months after prohibition was passed, Congress passed the Volstead Act.  The Volstead Act provided for the enforcement of prohibition, including the creation of a special unit of the Treasury Department. Despite a vigorous effort by law-enforcement agencies, prohibition ultimately failed, and the large scale distribution of alcohol created one of the most violent periods in American history as organized crime fought to maintain control of the fortunes that could be made from illegal liquor.

In 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed and ratified, repealing prohibition. 

Ronald Reagan: Great Quote From Great American

Ronald Reagon
40th President of the United States

"We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions."

~Ronald Reagan

Famous American Freemasons: Nook and Kindle Editions

Famous American Freemasons, both Volumes I and II, are available in the Kindle Store on Amazon.com and the Nook Store on Barnes & Noble (bn.com) for the amazing bargain price of $7.99 American.  I know what you're thinking--but I live in England, how am I going to get it?   Well, for the first time, the Famous American Freemasons series is available on Amazon UK.  They would have been available sooner in the UK, but it was a painstaking process translating them into English. 

I appreciate your patience, I know I announced the e-book editions were on the way over a month ago, but there were . . . issues. As it turns out, it wasn't nearly as easy as I thought it was going to be.

On This Day In History: January 9

Mermaid?  Or Manatee?

On this day in 1493, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, sees three mermaids, which he described later as "not half as beautiful as they are painted."  In fact, they weren't mermaids at all--they were manatees.  Mermaids are breathtakingly beautiful, mythical creatures that according to legend can take on mortal shape and marry human men.  Manatees are marine plant eating mammals that weight between 800 and 1,200 pounds. 

Now judge not, lest we be judged.  Haven't we all made that same mistake at some point?  I wonder what they were serving on the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria?


Novel Release! Thanks To All Involved

One Last Shot
My new novel One Last Shot is now available on Amazon!  It's also available for download to your Kindle.  There isn't much product information up yet, that usually takes a few days to catch up, but you'll find all those details here

Moon & Son Publishing Logo
It's the first book published by Moon & Son Publishing, and it turned out beautifully.  I had a lot of help.  My wife Valerie most of all.  She's almost a co-author of this book.  I'd have never gotten the plot worked out if it weren't for her.  And my mom, Jane Creason, has edited all my books so far, and this one was the most challenging of all.  I couldn't do these books without her keen eye.  Thanks again, mom! 

I actually had several editors this time around that read it at various states of finish.  Billie Scales, Judy Gordon, Jack Hall, Brion Sausser, and Lesley Millar all read it and offered excellent suggestions and encouragement.  Ray Gordon designed the colophon for Moon & Son Publishing.  I needed something that would reproduce well very, very small--like on the spine of a book, and on the title page.  I'd sent him a scan of a little moon I wanted to use from a 200 year old Masonic woodcut, and he said he'd clean it up and sharpen it for me.  You can't believe how surprised I was when I got it back and saw he'd replaced the original moon's face with mine!  Of course my nose isn't that straight.  With my big mouth, it's been broken a few times.  Thanks for fixing that for me, Ray.  It's way easier than plastic surgery. 

Buy my Daddy's book so I can
 go to college one day!
And of course, the cover is absolutely stunning thanks to the remarkable design talents of my new friend Brion Sausser.  I ran across Book Creatives on the internet one evening, and contacted him, and it's the best decision I made.  Brion will be designing all the covers for Moon & Son Publishing going forward.  Brion doesn't just design covers, but offers a range of services to authors, including interior design, websites, etc.  And he's great to work with. 

Moon & Son Publishing will be releasing two more projects this month as well.  The first two volumes of the Famous American Freemasons series will be available for download to your Kindle within a few days, and a for Nook users, it should be available at Barnes & Noble for download within a couple weeks.  The third and final volume of the Famous American Freemasons series is well under way, and I expect that to be released in 2012.  There's a great little promo video for the final volume on my website toddcreason.org   

What? Are You Ashamed to be Seen Here?

You know what I don't get?  I know how many people view this blog every day.  In fact, last month was the highest number I've seen.  Yet I don't have one single follower (and I'm sorry to say my wife isn't even a follower).  It's almost like you're embarassed to be seen here.  Come on.  Suck it up.  Click the link below and become a follower.  It would sure help me to know who my audience is, instead of just how many.   

House of the Temple: Restoration Project

House of the Temple during construction circa 1913
The Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction has announced plans to do a major renovation of the House of the Temple in Washington, D.C.  The building has stood as a monument to both architecture and Freemasonry for nearly a century.  The renovation will include plans to structurally improve the building, improve building access for guests, preserve thousands of books, documents and artifacts in the Temple Library for future generations (including their copies of the Famous American Freemasons series I hope), and restore the building's impressive furnishings, stone, wood, and ironwork. 

The House of the Temple in Washington, D.C. been called the most beautiful building in the world, and was praised as "the high-water mark of achievement."  The building was designed by John Russell Pope, and it was Pope's first monumental commission.  It earned him a Gold Medal from the Architectural League of New York along with many other accolades.  He went on to design the National Gallery of Art West, the National Archives building, and the Jefferson Memorial.  

The building is stunning inside and out, from it's massive edifice towering 130 high, surrounded by columns and topped with a magnificent stepped pyramid roof.  The front entrance is flanked by two massive stone Sphinxes, each carved from a single limestone block of Indiana limestone--each of these massive blocks originally weighed upwards of 89 tons.  The artist that carved them was famed sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, who designed several famous United States coins, including the Walking Liberty and Winged Mercury coins. 

The interior is just as impressive, and is inspired by both Greek and Egyptian influences.  It is a masterpiece of design, from the awe-inspiring Atrium with it's beige Tavernelle marble from France, inlaid with black marble from the Greek Isle of Tinos, to to the Grand Staircase, flanked by Egyptian statues carved from black marble, which were also sculpted by Adolph a. Weinman.  Perhaps the most incredible of the interior spaces is the Temple Room.  Massive in size, with a domed roof towering eight stories above. 

Temple Library
 It's good to know that through this huge renovation project, the House of the Temple will stand for generations more to enjoy, not only as an example of architecture, and a repository of rare books and knowledge, but as a testament for the positive influence Freemasonry has had on the world. 

Author's note: I found most of the information for this piece in the January/February issue of the Scottish Rite Journal, an issue dedicated in full to the House of the Temple's history and the restoration project.  The Scottish Rite Journal is published monthly by the Southern Jurisdiction, and it is a magazine I look forward to reading each month.  If you'd like to subscribe, you can do so by contacting them at journal@scottishrite.org


William McKinley: A True and Upright Mason

I ran across this article I'd written for Masonic Travels back in 2009.  It's a great story, so I thought I'd share it again.  It's one of those stories I ran across too late to use in the Famous American Freemasons series--I'd already profiled William McKinley when I discovered it. 

William McKinley
25th President of the United States
The Battle of Opequam took place in Virginia very near the end of the Civil War in Virginia-very shortly before the decisive Union victory at Gettysburg. The battle is more commonly referred to today as the last battle of Winchester. Winchester, Virginia, where this battle took place, was a hot-spot during the Civil War, and it was very well defended by the Confederate Army. Three major battles were fought there during the war. The Union Army won only the last one.

Shortly after the last battle of Winchester had been fought and won by the Union, a Union officer went with his friend, a surgeon, to a field where about 5,000 Confederate prisoners from the battle were being held under guard.

Very shortly after they passed the guard, the officer noticed his friend, the doctor, was talking to and shaking hands with some of the Confederate prisoners. He also noticed that the doctor was handing out money from a roll of bills he had in his pocket. It was a considerable sum of money the doctor was handing out, and he handed it all out before rejoining his friend.

The Union officer wasn’t sure what he’d seen. Curious, he asked the doctor about it after they left the camp.

“Did you know these men or ever see them before?”

“No,” replied the doctor, “I never saw them before.”

“But,” he persisted, “you gave them a lot of money, all you had about you. Do you ever expect to get it back?”

“Well,” said the doctor, “if they are able to pay me back, they will. But it makes no difference to me; they are Brother Masons in trouble and I am only doing my duty.”

The Union officer decided at that moment to become a Freemason. He recalled thinking to himself, “If that is Freemasonry, I will take some of it for myself.”

That Union officer’s name was William McKinley. He would later become the 25th President of the United States. On May 3, 1865, a few months after visiting that camp with his friend, he became a Freemason at Hiram Lodge No. 21, in Winchester, Virginia.

If I stopped right here, I think I’ve told a pretty good story. It’s a story that tells us a lot about the character of one of the most virtuous men that ever sat in the office of President of the United States-a man who was moved to join Freemasonry after witnessing an act of kindness and charity.

But there is another side of this story-a side that reveals a great deal about the character of the institution that McKinley had resolved to join.

McKinley was true to his word. He took his degrees in Winchester just few weeks after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse and just two weeks after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theater. To say this was a tumultuous time in American history is an understatement. This was a period in our history when emotions ran high on both sides. Many in the North felt the South should be punished for the war and the death of Abraham Lincoln. Many in the South who felt General Lee shouldn’t have surrendered the Army rallied to raise the Confederate Army again. Most citizens on both sides of the conflict wondered if the wounds of the Civil War could ever be healed.

However, at the height of this turbulent time in our history, a group of Masons in Winchester, Virginia, put their differences aside, and together, North and South, put on the degrees. In fact, the Worshipful Master of Hiram Lodge No. 21 was a Confederate chaplain, and along with Masons that had served in both the Union and Confederate Armies, they performed the degrees. William McKinley was raised a Master Mason.

William McKinley is often overlooked by history-actually much of the reason for this oversight was his exemplary character. He was trusted. He listened much more than he spoke. He was willing to admit when he was wrong. But McKinley’s greatest character trait was his honesty and integrity. He twice turned down the nomination for President because he felt each time that the Republican Party had violated its own rules in nominating him. He squashed the nomination both times-something a politician today would probably view as an unthinkable act.

Politics at the turn of the last century is much as it is today-full of scandal, corruption, and greed. McKinley was pretty boring compared to many of his contemporaries. Never embroiled in a personal scandal or controversy, McKinley’s virtuous character hasn’t given historians and biographers much to comment on. And of course, it didn’t help McKinley’s memory that he was assassinated before his full vision for America could be realized. He accomplished some remarkable things, won the Spanish-American War, and began many more important projects and initiatives. Teddy Roosevelt, McKinley’s larger-than-life successor, often receives credit for completing many of the initiatives that William McKinley actually began.

William McKinley is a very good example of what a true and upright Mason should be.


Freemason Wisdom to Begin the Year

Marion McDaniel Lodge No. 56
Tuscon, Arizona
"Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes to us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."

~John Wayne

"I hold it within my power to do things differently today than I did yesterday."

~Benjamin Franklin

"You create your own universe as you go along."

~Winston Churchill

The great promise of the New Year is this idea that each year we have an opportunity to start over again, with a clean slate, and do things differently than we did in the year previous.  But what we often miss is the idea that we have that same opportunity each day.  That we hold it within our power each moment to begin to build our own world the way we want it to be, and that there are no limitations to what we might do. 

But New Year's Eve seems to be the only day when most people even consider the idea that they have that power within them.  That in the stream of life, we can either choose to paddle our own canoe and pick our own direction, or be content to drift in the current.  That is isn't the fickle finger of fate that determines the course of your life--that we make our own luck, and we pick our own path.  But it is a lesson that is soon lost until the next December 31st, because it's so much easier to drift, than to paddle.  So much easier to make excuses for an unfulfilled life than accept the fact that we are where we are in life because of the choices we've made along the way, and if we truly want change, all we have to do is make different choices.  And next thing you know, we're looking at that blank slate before us again, so full of promise and potential, and so little changed from the previous year. 

Ask yourself this question as you look at beginning the new year--are you going to drift this year, or are you going to paddle?