Thursday, December 3, 2009

Great Words from the Scottish Rite

Brethren all,

In an article today on the Scottish Rite web site, Sovereign Grand Commander, Ronald A. Seale gives an interesting view on Dan Brown's books. 

For me the best bit was,"We can easily be over simplistic, categorizing those who inquire into the Craft as good and bad. I would argue that we Masons also fall into distinctive groups according to our responses to questions, sometimes from the general public. There are Freemasons who are eager to share their enthusiasm and love of Masonry with those who make thoughtful inquiry and also understand it’s more often ignorance, not malice, that cause others to raise superfluous issues. Masonry is much more than a series of passwords, signs, or codes to be hidden, but rather it is a philosophy of living and a way of life to be shared with all qualified candidates who knock upon the inner door. To such men, the words of Joseph Fort Newton ring true, “When he has kept faith with himself, with his fellow-man, with his God; in his hand a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song—glad to live, but not afraid to die! Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world.” For these brothers, the attention sent our way by Dan Brown is good news, and we are thankful for the treatment of the Craft in his volume, certain to be read worldwide by millions."

He also warns against circling the wagons and pulling down the shades in an attempt to ride out this current wave of publicity.

Bro.: Seale's final question is extremely relevant.  "Someone you know will read The Lost Symbol and, discovering you to be a Mason, will ask for your reaction. Whatcha’ gonna say?" 

Well...what are you going to say?





Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Monday, November 16, 2009

Urgent Search for Blood Donors

Brethren all,

This just arrived in my Inbox:

"URGENT REQUEST FOR BLOOD TYPE O+

A very sick little girl is patient at the RAMATHIBODI hospital which is near to the Victory monument. She need blood O+, which is very rare in Thailand.

Blood donors can donate between the hours of 8.00 am and 4.00 pm.

Blood group O+

here is a link to the hospital: http://www.ra.mahidol.ac.th/, she is in ICU awaiting a liver transplant procedure.

Sadly today she took another turn for the worse and she is now having 12 hourly blood transfusions and the hospital desperately need more blood.

If you are blood group O+ and you are in Bangkok and you would like to help this very sick child by donating blood or you know a friend/relative or contact who is O+ and would be willing to be a donor please send me a pm asap."

If you can be of help, please contact the hospital directly.


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Potential judges will not have to declare if they are Freemasons

From the Times Online...

"Would-be judges will no longer have to declare if they are Freemasons, the Government said yesterday.

The policy reversal was announced by Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, after a threat of legal action forced a review. He said that it would be “disproportionate” to continue with the practice."

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article6905137.ece

This of course, after UGLE promised legal action. At any rate, its nice to see sanity prevail...at least for awhile.


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tweeting Away

You can now follow the Thai Freemason on Twitter. We're cleverly called "thaifreemason". Follow along and give us a tweet!


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Monday, October 19, 2009

Response to the Lost Symbol


Brethren all,

Just received this link from the Scottish Rite. They've compiled a wonderful response to Dan Brown's new Book, the Lost Symbol. Its worth a read in case any of your non-Masonic friends ask how often you drink wine out of a skull.

My impression of the book was favorable overall. Its a typical Brown novel full of action interlaced with overly long conversations about dodgy history. It did however highlight some of the more interesting and curious architectural features of Washington D.C. that the casual tourist would overlook. That's one thing I do love about his books.

Jim.:

Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Phnom Penh Square & Compass Club

Brethren all,

Great news from Cambodia. Several local and expat brethren have set up a Square and Compass Club in Phnom Penh. In addition to the local membership they also have several brethren who frequently visit Cambodia as members.

Their first meeting is scheduled for October 26th. They plan to meet monthly for dinner and discussion. Master Masons of any recognized lodge may attend.

Contact the club secretary for time and location.


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Secrets of D.C.'s Masonic Wives Revealed

Brethren all,

This amusing article from the Washington Post does a great job of sympathizing with Masonic Widows (more along the lines of "Golf Widows") and deflating the self-importance of most of us Masons. Its a fun read.

By the way, Heather Calloway is the delightful, Director of Special Programs for the House of the Temple in D.C. Our Scottish Rite brethren can often find interesting, historical articles in the Rite's magazine.


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Monday, September 14, 2009

New, Free E-Book Available!

Some know him as "Masonictraveler", tyrannical webmaster and Twitterer. Others know him as Bro. Greg Stewart. Now you can get to know him as an author. Bro. Greg has just published a new e-book on Freemasonry.

According to his site, he wrote the book partly in response to Dan Brown's The Lost Code. In his words, "Many books have been written about what Brown’s new novel may include such as: Masonry’s “occult” symbolism, the assertion of its quasi religious practice, the connections between Freemasonry and the founding fathers, and the bizarre layout of Washington D.C. Each of these texts offer a glimpse into the present tense fraternity, as they ask the same questions that many masons themselves ask. But those books fall short of answering questions put forth by those without any prior knowledge of the craft. That is why this book is a must read for anyone asking the question “What is Freemasonry?”
what_is_Freemasonry_ebook
Download your FREE copy NOW!

As the fraternity enters into the 21st century digital age, there needed to be an answer to that question. There needed to be an easier way to communicate the particulars of what Freemasonry is today, right now, which is at the heart of this free e-book.

I like Greg's writing and the cut of his jib. I also like the fact that this book is free. Download this book! Read this book! Share it with your friends and neighbors.

And if you feel guilty about downloading the fruit of Greg's blood, sweat and tears for free, then I encourage you to donate something to your lodge charity in Greg's name.

Best regards,

Jim.:


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Scottish Rite Videos

Brethren all,

I actually stumbled across this on Facebook. Apparently the Scottish Rite (or someone working on their behalf) have created an account on the video server Vimeo. There, you may find several legitimate videos posted by the AASR SJ on various Masonic and Scottish Rite topics.

Enjoy!


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Phnom Penh Square & Compass Club

Brethren all,

Word has just reached me that a few hearty brethren living in Cambodia would like to start a Square and Compass Club there. As you may well know, Cambodia has been dark since Lodge Lane Xang was closed in 1976 after the revolution. The situation has greatly improved and perhaps the time to resume labor in Cambodia is at hand.

Brethren who live there or who regularly travel there should contact me. I'll forward your information to the brother heading up this exciting idea.

Best regards,

Jim.:


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

The Lost Symbol and Freemasonry

Brethren all,

This just in from the Masonic Services Association ...

The Masonic Society, the Masonic Service Association and the George Washington Masonic Memorial have collaborated on a new website that will address the references to Freemasonry found in Dan Brown's new novel, "The Lost Symbol."

http://www.freemasonlostsymbol.com

The website is being provided for the use of lodges and grand lodges to provide factual information to the public and the press, and as a central location for common questions and answers that will arise once the book is officially released on September 13th. The desire of TMS, MSA and the GWMM is to inform the public and Freemasons themselves about the references to the fraternity in the book.

Currently the site provides basic information on the genesis of Brown's book as well as overviews of Craft Freemasonry and the Scottish Rite. Perhaps best of all is the list of recommended reading material at the bottom of the page. That's worth a click in itself.


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Friday, September 11, 2009

Australian Freemasons Dispel Myths

Brethren all,

Our friends from the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales and ACT in Australia have taken a proactive stance against the upcoming release of the new novel by Dan Brown. Aware of the negative impact brown's previous books had on the Catholic Church, Opus Dei and Christianity in general, the Grand Lodge are promoting Freemasonry in interviews and tours at their Masonic Centre in Sydney.

They seem to be taking a positive view of the upcoming novel, even planning to sell it in their gift shop!


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Brown Blitz Begins

Brethren all,

This week starts the public relations blitz ahead of Dan Brown's new novel, The Lost Symbol. The novel apparently deals with Freemasonry and is centered in Washington D.C. Anyone with an internet connection and a search engine knows there are numerous Masonic connections to D.C. , some real, some imagined. No doubt Brown will stretch imagination further with his new book.

In celebration of the book, The Washington Post offers an article on the book and a photo tour of Masonic D.C. The photos feature shots of the Washington Masonic Memorial and shots of the House of the Temple. Very nice indeed.

Masons in D.C. are gearing up for a huge spike in tourism similar to that seen in France after Brown's previous book, The DaVinci Code. The House of the Temple are getting ready to double their number of tour guides to cope with the expected surge of tourists.
The book is released in the US on 15th September. You can go to the author's web site and see an animated swirl of nonsensical symbols, but nothing at all about the book. Enjoy!


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Freemasons Arrested in Fiji

Brethren all,

Sometimes as we're socializing in our dinner jackets and best bow ties, we forget the dangers of being a Freemason in certain parts of the world. We should cherish the privilege that we have to meet in harmony and without the fear of ignorant tyranny.

This article from the Otago Daily in New Zealand doesn't mention which one of the three lodges in Fiji was raided. But the Craft has been resident in that lovely isle since 1871. There is currently two Craft lodges (one Scottish and one English) and a Scottish Chapter in operation.

We pray for the safety of our brethren in Fiji and a hope for a quick return to peaceful relations with the police.


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

The Really Important Things


Brethren all,

This just arrived from our friends from Loge Erasmus in Bangkok. It's the Summer Oration given by Bro.: John Casson at the Loge Erasmus St John's Celebration held on July 12th, 2009. It's longer than I normally post, but its very good reading.

Jim.:

During the last few months I have came to the conclusion that there is a certain amount of confusion amongst you, and Robert Lomas described in one of the Hiram books what I can see, when he said that when considering Freemasonry the world is divided into two sets of people.

The first are non Masons who look at our rituals and traditions and ask “what is this all about”. The second are the brethren themselves who sit through these rituals but also ask themselves, “What is this all about”.

I will in fact be looking at three areas, and these come directly from talking with a number of brethren:

Firstly, could we make Freemasonry more relevant and start to address the world’s problems, by discussing topical matters such as global warming, the economic situation, third world problems etc.?

Secondly, why don’t we get onto the more interesting stuff in Freemasonry - the mystical element and the elusive ancient secrets?

Lastly, if the JW educates the EA’s and the SW educates the FC’s, who educates the Master Masons?

So, a lot to cover, let’s get stuck in and consider first whether we should be discussing more worldly matters, even though politics and religion are specifically no go areas.

A good starting point to discover why we are actually sitting here today is our Founders Declaration, which states:

Freemasonry is a spiritual movement arising from an inner need,….

And the Loge is founded ……

on a fundamental trust in the spiritual and moral principles that stimulates the world and its progress.

Another way of saying this is, by concentrating on spiritual and moral matters, as individuals we have a direct, positive influence on those around us and our world.

And let’s just ponder a moment on the words of our Grand Master on this very subject, who said:

“We are not material beings on a spiritual path but

spiritual beings on a material path”

And with regards how Freemasonry interacts with the outside world he says:

I’m sure that every individual mason is concerned with particular aspects of the current world situation. Yet, masonry itself does not aim to influence the world situation. I full heartedly agree with the Pro Grandmaster of the United Grand Lodge of England, who said, “the only influence masonry should be seeking is over itself and its members”.

I will come back to our Grand Master’s words when I look at who educates the Master Masons. For now, lets say that we are a collection of individuals who think alike on a number of matters, not all matters, but we choose deliberately to concentrate on those things that unite us:

  • The spirituality
  • The times for sharing & lending a helping hand
  • The fellowship – the fun we have together

Rather than deliberating on the things that divide us, amongst them - politics & religion. I would say we do not ignore politics & religion; we simply relegate them to our world in the “west”, and deal with them there.

Our Loge is our sanctuary. Our place to stop a while, ponder and recharge our batteries to tackle our worldly problems. Mahatma Gandhi encapsulated in a few words the essence of the message I wish to leave with you, when he said:

"We must become the change we wish to see in the world."

Which brings me on nicely to my second point which is about the more “interesting” stuff in Freemasonry - the esoteric, the mystic, the ancient secrets which seem to be so elusive.

I would partly answer this by simply saying that “complicated is not necessarily better”, and with that thought I would suggest we consider Puff the Magic Dragon. This song was written in the late 1950’s, and was very much a part of my formative years as was my mother.

It is only in recent years that I realised my mothers advice had prepared me for Freemasonry. She was a wonderful woman, full of good honest common sense, love for her family and friends and a deep belief in God and it is her words that still echo through my mind to this day:

  • Play fair
  • Everything in moderation
  • Clean up your own mess
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours
  • Stand up and admit your mistakes
  • Be proud of your achievements
  • If you’re wrong, say you’re sorry
  • Always say thank you for any kindness

With all of these I see simple Masonic messages - doing unto others as you would wish they would do unto you – acting on the square to name but two.

Is there a lesson for all of us here? I think so. There is a tendency as we grow older, with greater knowledge and sophistication, to lose sight of the basic, common sense life lessons taught to us by our parents.

Now, whilst it is important to make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge there is a danger in becoming lost in the more “intellectual” side of the Craft.

My mother would call it “not seeing the wood for the trees”, and my point is - if you do not understand and apply the basics, there will be so much in Freemasonry that will slip through your fingers.

For this reason all of us should not lose touch with some of our most basic tenets and should try and retain just a little bit of this past world.

This brings me nicely to Puff the Magic Dragon. For those of you not familiar with this song, it is about the lost innocence of childhood. The loss of the wonder of imagination - the loss of dreams - of having spontaneous fun - laughing until your sides hurt.

Little Jacky Paper no longer visits his old friend Puff, because he has other toys, perhaps we would say more adult, sophisticated toys. How many of you realise that this song about innocence lost was banned in a number of countries, and the reason? Apparently the lyrics were said to be drugs related, more specifically about smoking marijuana, and the reasons, well...

  • Puff was an obvious name for a song about smoking pot isn’t it?
  • little Jackie Paper's surname referred to rolling papers
  • "autumn mist" was either clouds of marijuana smoke or a drug-induced state
  • the land of "Hannah Lee" was really the Hawaiian village of Hanalei, known for its particularly potent marijuana plants; and so on.

Unfortunately none of it is true (Google it if you like). It is just one example of supposedly sophisticated minds, a few years later, seeing things which are just not there. The point I want to make is that there is always the danger of reading a situation or a person incorrectly. Using our own perception of reality to judge something or someone, and Puff is a fine example of this.

To illustrate the point further there is a cautionary tale from Zen Buddhism. Many, many years ago pilgrims would travel very large distances to a remote monastery in Tibet to learn from a famous spiritual teacher.

When his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such a noise that it distracted them, so the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice.

Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session, and when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up in its place.

Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher discussed at great lengths, held weekend seminars and wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.

So, we have a few diverse threads to bring together:

  • my mother’s advice
  • Puff the Magic Dragon
  • and a Tibetan monk and his gagged cat

I hope you see my thread of thought, but if not, here’s a summary of my message in second part.

Firstly, especially for our newer brethren, do not get distracted by the more remote areas of Masonic study, these are very worthy areas of future study but, for now, they are for another day.

Secondly, a message to us all, bear in mind that our increased knowledge and sophistication may have distorted our view of many matters which should be straight forward.

We all view the world through the lens of our own prejudice, what psychologists call “confirmation bias”. By this they mean we seek evidence that confirms our beliefs and ignore or reinterpret evidence that refutes them.

I am sure many of us here have experienced “confirmation bias” in relationships. You do something wrong, and no matter what you do to try and make amends (the flowers, the chocolates), those good and worthy actions are viewed in a negative light.

For now brethren, my advice is learn your craft; concentrate on the basics; remember, complicated is not necessarily better; and most importantly, have fun. Enjoy it. If your time in Loge gives you nothing else, having fun is a wonderful feeling to take with you back to the west.

My last point related to the question: If the JW educates the EA’s and the SW educates the FC’s, who educates the Master Masons?

I would suggest we expand the question further to ask how we apply what we learn in the Loge to the real world.

Just to set the scene lets have the briefest of retrospects of the three degrees

Firstly, one who works with his hands is a labourer Remember that the tools of the first degree are ones of manual labour; - the mallet and the chisel.

Secondly, one who works with his hands and head is a craftsman and in the second degree tools of design are added, for the completion of the rough ashlar.

Lastly, one who works with his hands, head & heart is a master, which is the essence of the third degree.

Now, the JW’s role of educating the labourers of the first degree, and the SW’s of educating the craftsman of the second are very, very different to the skills a master will use, when applying not only his head & hands but his heart.

.

Let me tell you another story to illustrate my point. A philosophy professor stands before his class. He picks up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeds to fill it with rocks, about 2 inches in diameter. He then asks the students “is the jar full?”, and they agree it is.

The professor then picks up a box of small pebbles and pours them into the jar, he shakes the jar and the pebbles roll into the open spaces between the rocks, and he asks them again if it is full, they laugh and agree it is.

He then picks up a box of sand and pours it into the jar, and the sand fills all the space left. "Now," says the professor, "I want you to recognise that this is your life. The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, your children - things that if everything else were lost and only they remained, you would be happy & your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else. The small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. Attend your Lodge. (OK, I added that one) There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, and fix the waste disposal. Take care of the rocks first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

There is absolute silence. Then a student approaches the podium, takes the jar and proceeds to pour in a glass of beer, which of course fills the remaining spaces, making the jar truly full.

And the moral of this tale is: No matter how full your life; there is always room for a BEER. Seriously though, there should always be time for a beer, for G&T’s, for fun - whatever you perceive that to be; without detriment to yourself, your family or friends.

However, coming back to the question of who educates the Master Masons.

It is our duty to know what each others large rocks are, and to help recognize and acknowledge what is important in our lives.

I will come back now, full circle, to the words of our Grand Master:

We don’t only need to learn to practice our rituals but we also need to learn to see and to hear how our ritual is mirroring the essence of who we are, and who we may become in our hearts and lives.

Most of all, we need to learn to share our individual insights with each other in the Lodge. The Masonic Lodge of the 21st century needs to become the place where modern men support each other to reveal and practice this essence in their individual lives outside the Lodge.

The simple answer Brethren is that we educate each other, and I see my duty during the rest of my tenure as Orator of Loge Erasmus to assist each of you in this task. That for me is our road ahead - not just dispelling Masonic clichés, articles and books, but getting as close to our brethren as a real brother, understanding the big rocks, and what are just pebbles and sand - the small stuff.

So brethren, that brings me to my final few words. I cannot think of a better conclusion to the message I wish to give you today than to borrow some words from the English ritual.

“I therefore hope that you will have but one aim in view,

to please each other and unite in the grand design

of being happy and communicating happiness to others”.


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Great Online Masonic Magazine

Brethren all,

The Grand Lodge of California (USA) has a terrific web site that includes a very good magazine. Now you can buy a subscription to the magazine and have it shipped all the way over to Thailand, or you can do what I do and download the FREE online version.

It's a beautiful magazine with interesting articles. Do yourself a favor and check it out!

Best regards,

Jim.:


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Link Corrected!

The link to the GLNF on our site has been corrected! Thanks to the anonymous poster for catching it.

Jim.:


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Friday, June 26, 2009

Masonic Etiquette

Brethren all,

One of my most vivid memories in lodge was the first time I visited a Scottish lodge in Hong Kong. As a very new Mason coming from a small, suburban Chicago lodge, I was overwhelmed by the size and pageantry of the meeting.

That was also my first Burns Night and of course, my first taste of haggis. At dinner, we went through the various toasts including a toast to the visitors. The D of C had previously asked if I would respond on behalf of the twenty or so visitors on hand for the Burns Night. Unwittingly, I agreed.

A lengthy and witty visitor's toast was made. The brethren stood and toasted us and then it was my turn. I stood. Raised my glass and said, "Thank you." Then promptly sat down. Amid the puzzled laughter, the D of C ran over and said that I should probably say a bit more. Having never heard a response to a visitors toast, I was clueless what to say. I nervously stood and mumbled my way through another few sentences of praise for this or that. It was a disaster.

Luckily for you, District 124 of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales and ACT in Sydney, Australia have provided a very useful Masonic Etiquette Guide. This is an interesting and comprehensive guide to how one should act in lodge and at the festive board. It was written with Australian Masonry in mind, but you may apply the principals to any of the lodges in Thailand or elsewhere for that matter.

Enjoy!


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Morgan: The Book!

Brethren all,

Since I unintentionally lifted an entire article from another site without any sort of acknowledgments, I thought I should at least shamelessly plug the book.



A podcast interview with the author, Bro.: Stephen Dafoe is available here. The interview starts at around eight minutes into the program.

Now, go buy it!

Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Morgan Affair

Brethren all,

I received an interesting email over the weekend from my dear friend Bro.: Eddy Norris in South Africa. Its a review and summary of a new book coming out entitled, Morgan:The Scandal That Shook Freemasonry.

The book provides the latest information on a cold case that nearly destroyed Freemasonry in America. Was William Morgan killed by Masons because he was publishing an expose of the Craft's ritual? Or was he simply deported to Canada in a deal worked out between American and Canadian Freemasons? Was the Masonic Governor of New York somehow involved?

The review of the book may be found here.


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Friday, June 12, 2009

Freemasonry and the French Revolution

Brethren all,

I just received notice of an interesting exhibit taking place in London from 1st July to 18th December 2009 on Napoleon's influence on French Freemasonry.

The exhibit will be at Freemasons Hall on Great Queens St and will showcase how Napoleon's campaigns in Egypt "touched the popular and Masonic imagination and
encouraged the use of Egyptian architecture and motifs in the decoration of Masonic aprons and documents. Examples of these will be on show together with French ceramics of the revolutionary period, including a double handled Sèvres porcelain cup and saucer and medals celebrating the role of Napoleon’s family and associates in freemasonry."

Other items on display will be aprons and regalia used by French prisoners of war. Interestingly the exhibit will also include a sampling of the anti-Masonic literature which began appearing at that time.

If you're going to visit ol' Blighty this year, then make sure to make this one of your stops. Click here for more information.


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Friday, May 29, 2009

WAC Burns Night

Brethren all,

Anyone visiting Western Australia in late June with a hankerin' for Haggis might want to check out the Western Australian Lodge of Research, No 277 WAC for their Burns Night. A program called "The Life and Times of Robbie Burns" will be held on Thursday, 25th June ath the Victoria Park Masonic Centre.

The program will be presented by the Depute District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge of Western Australia, Bro. G. J. Rogers Hon. S.G.D. This is apparently a musical journey through the life and times of the famous Scottish Mason. The Festive Board will of course feature Haggis and mysterious amber liquids. The Festive Board is also open to Ladies and guests who may also have a taste for haggis.

Contact the Lodge Secretary for reservations and further details.


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

From a Sikh Brother

Brethren all, as I keep telling you, the Masonic community in Thailand has to be the most diverse in the world. The following is a description of the Sikh religion and how it links to Masonry from one of my dear friends and brothers. Sorry its a bit long, but I think you'll enjoy it.

Jim.:

From a Sikh Brother

I was born in Myanmar (Burma) in a family which at the time was earnestly practicing a monotheistic religion based upon the philosophy of Sikhism.

The year of my birth saw the beginnings of the WWII, which eventually engulfed most of Asia in the 1940’s. This forced my family to move from Burma to our ancestral home in Northern Pakistan (then India) near Peshawar, then to Nasik (near Bombay) and eventually back to Burma in 1946., From 1946 to 1949 I lived with my family in the small district town of Minbu. Then I was packed off to Rangoon, the capital, to continue my education at the best school in the country run by Catholic Missionaries. Before arriving at this Christian School, I had spent various number of years at a predominantly Muslim school in Pakistan, a Hindu school in Nasik, and a Buddhist Monastery plus a Buddhist Public school in central Burma.

This might explain why in my late teens I was coldly aloof and not particularly influenced by any religion. I refused to accept any religious teachings merely because people in my surroundings believed it to be true. I could not persuade myself to imagine that I had a religion because everybody whom I might trust believed in its value.

Thus my mind was brought up in an atmosphere of freedom – freedom from the dominance of any creed that had its sanction in the definite authority of some scriptures, or in the teaching of some organized body of worshippers. Now I profess to practice a form of the Sikh religion that, fits my up bringing, education, and the life I have been exposed to.

The Fundamental Sikh Commandments


The Beliefs

1. The belief in One God

2. The belief in the Guru

3. The belief in the Guru Granth Sahib

4. The belief in freedom

5. The belief in democracy


Rules of Conduct

1. Life of honesty

2. Life of truth

3. Life of restraint

4. Life of householder

5. Life of piety


Truthful Living

1. Kirt Karni –to earn one’s livelihood through creative, productive and honest labour.

2. Nam Japna - to be in tune with the Infinite through meditation on divine qualities, so that the believer becomes filled with HIS NAME.

3. Wand Chakana - to share the fruits of earnings with the needy.


Self – Discipline. To be able to control

1. Passion - Kam

2. Anger - Karod

3. Greed - Lob

4. Attachment - Moh

5. Pride - Hanker


You will note that most of these commandments are common with other religions. But some are a bit different.

In the section on beliefs, THE BELIEF IN THE GURU, the Supreme Teacher is given an importance because we do not have a God that we can give a form to.

We had ten Gurus who were elected to that position because of their qualifications (not their heritage). The tenth Guru installed the Sikh’s Holy Book, containing the teachings of the ten Gurus (and also some inputs from the Hindu and Muslim faiths) as “Sri Guru Granth Saheb” as “The Guru” being the visible embodiment of all the Gurus. Thus you’ll find in our Gurdwaras (temples), the Holy Book installed on the Palki (Palaquin) with a canopy, as if it was a person. The Sikh religion is the most modern religion in India being just over four hundred fifty years old. It is also considered the most universal because our sacred book contains not only the Hymns of the Sikhs but as mentioned before, also those of the Hindu and Muslim faiths.

In the section on rules of conduct, you notice item 4 encourages one TO BE A “HOUSEHOLDER” That is to get married and raise a family. There was a belief amongst Hindu Saints that to achieve communion with God, (for the Sikhs, “NAM” – “THE WORD” ) we had to shed the worldly life and retire into the mountains or some cave in a far away place. Sikhism does not believe in this.

In the section on Truthful living item 2 – NAM JAPNA – literally “recite the holy scriptures”, should bring to mind the Hindu and Buddhist philosophy where one endeavors to merge completely the personal self with an impersonal entity which is without any quality or definition, to reach a condition where mind reaches the purest state of consciousness without any object or content. This is considered to be the ultimate end of this recitation, to completely identify ones being with the “INFINITE BEING” - “NAM” that is beyond all thoughts and words.

Item 3 WANDH CHAKNA is not only charity in the normal sense but also sharing your wealth and food with the poor and the needy. This is practiced in most temples where one can get the three meals of the day simply by showing up at the right time. This is called “Guru ka Langer” or Guru’s kitchen” In fact this communal kitchen was used by our founding Guru - “ Guru Nanak” - to break down the cast system that was practiced then. Every person partaking of this meal had to sit together on the same level – the floor! Unfortunately you can still find the cast system being practiced today amongst some Indian communities.

I would like to touch upon the general appearance and dress code of the Sikh’s. During the time of the first nine Guru’s the Sikhs were not much different in appearance from the believers in Hinduism. At that time India was ruled by the Moghul Emperors who were Muslim. The founding Emperors like Akbar were good but then came Emperor Aurong Zeb who resorted to converting the population to Islam by the sword. The present day Sikhism started at that period to counter this threat. The tenth Guru, Guru Govind Singh, anointed five volunteers who had offered to be sacrificed as the “PANCH PAYARE” - the “five loved ones”, as the core of this movement to guard our Faith. To distinguish them from others, they were to wear the five KS at all times. These are

1. Kase - Long Hair

2. Kanga - Small Comb for the hair

3. Karpan - A four foot sword

4. Kara - An Iron wrist Band

5. Kucha - Long underpants (something like Bermuda shorts)

The turban is a common form of head gear in Northern India and all the three religions wear them, the only difference is in the shape and the way it is tied. The Sikhs have to keep their heads covered when in the temple and in public places.

In closing I would like to touch upon the Indian and consequently the Sikh view of man’s life in this world.

As the day is divided into morning, noon, afternoon and evening the Indians had divided life into four parts. The day has the waxing and waning of its light, so has man the waxing and waning of his bodily powers.

First came BRAMACHARYA the period of discipline in education, not limited only to learning of books and things but being in discipline whereby both enjoyment and its renunciation would come with equal ease to the strengthened character.

Second the GHRHASTHYA that of the world’s work – the life of the house holder – for wisdom does not attain completeness except through the living of life with discipline.

Third the VANAPRASTHYA, the retreat for the loosening of the bonds when man though aloof from the world still remains in touch with it while preparing himself for the final stage of complete freedom namely PRAVRAJYA when even such free relations have their end and the emancipated soul steps out of all bonds to face the Supreme Being.

Being a Freemason these three / four stages remind me of the lessons I have learnt from our three Masonic Degrees


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Father Joe and the Five Ugly Ducklings

Sorry for the long post (and not really Masonic in nature), but I just found this too good to ignore.

For those of you who don't know, Father Joe is a fixture in Bangkok. Known and much loved for his work in the slums of Bangkok and his ability to bring light and love to the children.

If this moves you, please feel free to contact the Mercy Centre directly.

Best regards,

Jim:.



FIVE UGLY DUCKLINGS FROM THE SWAMPS OF KLONG TOEY

By Father Joe Maier, C.Ss.R.

It starts that way with the Fabulous Five of Klong Toey Kindergarten Class of 2009 – 2010. This paddle of ducklings are growing up to be among the most beautiful young men and women on the planet. Maybe not swans, but certainly the greatest of all ducks!

First there’s Miss Bhai. (Her nickname means, “ the highest branch of the tree touched by the morning sun.”) Three years ago, when she was two, the drug cops special branch did a 3:00 a.m. blast into her momma and papa’s Klong Toey shack without knocking; then cuffed and took her folks to the station for possession with intent to sell.

It wasn’t pleasant, as intent to sell brings with it an industrial-sized prison term. Plus momma and papa were small players: they didn’t have the ten thousand baht or so, cash up front, that might have helped them on the way to the station. On top of that, when their agent got word a few minutes later, she wasn’t really interested in helping at the police station, as momma and papa, in her eyes, were dumb, and had been caught before.

Everyone assumed Bhai’s Granny would come to bundle up the baby and take her home as soon as the uniforms left, since they were locking up Momma and Poppa in the Ta Rua (Port Authority) jail, on their way to court and a long stretch in prison.

But Granny got distracted. She got the news in the middle of an all-night-all-day card game with some cronies; it was one of those “I won't quit till I win my money back, or lose everything” moments. And she let the news slip by her.

Two nights later, a thief broke into momma and poppa’s shack. Baby Bhai was lying on the floor, whimpering. The thief was shocked but still stole the rice cooker (probably to save his honor as a thief) plus the drugs the cops didn't find; then shouted “Dying Baby! Dying Baby!" at the top of his lungs and ran into the night. He most probably saved her life. But it took her three months in the communicable diseases hospital to heal and fatten her up. I forgot to mention, she got AIDS from her mom, who got it from her dad.

That was three years ago. Both mom and dad are still in prison, getting sicker.

Now, just a couple-three weeks ago, Miss Bhai got sick again. She’s over it now. After weeks in hospital, she’s back with us. “Measles Bhai,” the Klong Toey Kindergarten Five call her.

Almost lost her to The Measles Monster. That, plus The Measles Monster called in an ugly friend - maybe a stray mean Orc - who shoved a fist-full of pneumonia down her lungs. The doc talked gently, but translated into street talk, he said, “This kid's going to the temple in a wooden box.” It was five days of touch and go. The odds were bad: two in three, she dies.

She's a tough kid. Beat the odds. She didn’t die three years ago, and she didn't die a couple-three weeks ago.

When she returned to us in a hospital van, the rest of her paddle of the Fabulous Five Kindergarten Class of 2009 - 2010 were waiting. They had skipped kindergarten class when they heard she was coming home: Miss Sim, Miss Dao, Miss Fai, and Master Winner.

Bhai insisted that she walk on her own, although she was still pretty wobbly on her pins. They wanted to know about cookies, candy. Did the nurse make you eat all your food? Did she comb your hair nicely? Did you have to take a bath? Did they have school there? Could you watch cartoons? What time did you have to go to sleep? They had wanted to visit, but she was quarantined with the measles. Master Winner wanted to know if anyone had given her a toy car and the girls wanted to know if she had any new dolls.

Today, if you looked at her, even with her taking the aids antivirals twice a day, you wouldn’t know. She looks healthy. Eats as much as she can possibly stuff in each meal, pats her tummy. Doesn’t ever want to be hungry again.

Last week, she completed the school year along with her special paddle of friends: she finished ninth from the top in second-year kindergarten.

Miss Bhai, the number one tough lady of the ugly ducklings says that classmate five-year-old Miss Sim is almost her favorite girl friend. Miss Sim, with an armful of burn-scars, is the smallest of the paddle.

Miss Sim actually struck the match and lighted her own birthday cake candles last week. We asked her if she wanted to, and she nodded okay, which was not an easy call for the five year old who was carried out of a burning shack - singed hair, smoldering clothes, and burned arm, screaming - just over a year ago.

Miss Sim’s arm has healed. Though scarred and certainly not pretty, her arm, hand and finger movement is not impaired. This child fears almost nothing. Five years old, she boldly says there are no goblins or monsters under her bed!!! If there were, she'd whomp 'um just like her Granny used to whomp her if she’d make noise when Granny was in a card game. And Miss Sim gets up at night when her best friend Dao knows she's going to wet the bed and is afraid to put her feet on the floor because of the goblins and monsters under there. Sim, whose bed is next to Dao’s, checks under Dao's bed to see if “the coast is clear.”

Miss Dao’s been with us two years now. She doesn’t have the virus, though her mom did. When momma was still alive, they moved shacks often. Momma was “the roving kind.” The neighbors noticed, and often told her off, said she wasn’t taking proper care of Dao. Dao’s Granny told us that finally she herself urged her daughter, “Best you take that baby, and go to that foundation. Those people there will at least feed you and Dao. Besides, you’re too skinny and sick to keep earning nighttime money any more.” Momma died with us. Miss Dao is now nearly six, and Granny comes to visit when she feels a bit chipper and can hustle bus fare.

Right hand companion to Dao among the Fabulous Five is Miss Fai (her name means “fluffy cotton like the clouds”) who loves to stand in the rain, letting the raindrops wash her hair, run down her face. She came to us four years ago, a sickly child full of lice. Back then if you brought Miss Fai near water, like even a toilet, she'd go bonkers. Suggest a shower, she'd go hysterical. That’s because in the past, her momma, barking mad with each full moon, crazy with the AIDS virus in her brain, would have spells where she would throw water in her daughter's face and then into her own as punishment, screaming the whole time. One night, with another full moon, Momma walked off into the night. Miss Fai is charming, front tooth-less, likes to wear her hair short, dresses like a six-year-old fashion model: always neat and clean.

The only boy in this paddle is young Master "Winner." He's just like his name: a kid every dad would like as his own son. Wears his superman costume to kindergarten. Says he wants to live at our farm on the canal with the big boys. Our farm is half an hour’s drive out of Bangkok, postage stamp small, but enough room for our street boys to be healed and heal themselves from the scars and horrors of city streets. Our farm boys walk to school, go barefoot, go fishing, grow from boys to men. Master Winner tells us he's ready to join the older boys, but just not quite yet as his momma couldn't visit him there very often.

His Momma's gentle, loving, long black hair down her shoulders. She got the virus, from his Western daddy, now disappeared. Or at least so says momma. She knows his relatives; they blame momma and won't touch Master Winner with a 30-foot barge pole. Momma worked in a factory, quit her job for a while, as the daily bus travel was literally killing her. Now she's stronger with the government-sponsored antivirals, and has a new job; got herself a hot water pot and a coffee grinder, and now she sells fresh cups of coffee on the sidewalk in front of a low budget backpackers’ hotel. The police there are kind – know she’s sick - and they ask no favors. Not even free cups of coffee or other favors. And they chase away the bad guys who seek “sidewalk space rent,” so Momma survives.

She tells her “truth,” and that's okay. She tells what she feels she wants us to know.

She offered this unbelievable pact with us. Her idea. I wouldn't have dreamed of such an agreement on my own, nor our staff. I'm not that smart!!! Her pact works like this:

No matter what. No matter how many days she may eat just rice and fish sauce, no matter how tempting the easy nighttime money might be, now matter how much money she might have to borrow from the money lenders, even at 20 Baht a day on a 100 baht, she won't give in. Won’t spread the virus – she promises - IF we care for her youngest son, Master Winner. We gave her our word and we live and die by our word.

And me, I promised beyond the grave. Heavy stuff. I'm 69 and promised her we'd care for this kid, until he grows up. Certainly after I'm dead and gone. The staff said they would keep their word. We will care for Master Winner.

So we said, Momma of Master Winner, you try to keep your word, as best as you can; and if you goof up, we’ll look the other way. Don't worry; we will care for your son. He's part of the Klong Toey Kindergarten Class of 2009 - 2010. He’s a member of the Fabulous Five.

We made our promise, candles and joss sticks in hand at our Mercy Centre: she in front of a statue of the Buddha and me in front of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Momma comes now and then, mostly alone, but sometimes with a boy friend. We ask Master Winner if he wants to help Momma sell fresh cups of coffee over the weekend. Off they go, hand in hand.

This paddle of five of our Klong Toey Kindergarten Graduates… they waddle, they quack, they fall down, and get up. They swim without being really taught, and somehow have found each other in their own beautiful way. Now, school’s out and each morning, they wake up to try to have as much fun as they possibly can.

They may never turn out to be swans, but fabulous ducks they shall be.

Father Joe Maier, C.Ss.R., is the director and co-founder of the Human Development Foundation-Mercy Centre. For more information: info@mercycentre.org; www.mercycentre.org.



Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Boy With Five Pairs of Legs Feels Ten Feet Tall!


Brethren all,

My buddy Bill sent this heart-warming story about how Masonic charities can make a difference. Cody McCasland was born with a rare condition called Sacral Agenesis which caused deformities to his spine in the womb. At fifteen months, he had both legs amputated below the knee.

However, the plucky Texan was soon outfitted with a pair of prosthetic legs courtesy of the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. In fact he has five pairs of legs which allow him to do a range of activities from simple walking to running.

In return, seven-year old Cody's family and friends participate in marathons to raise money for the hospital. So far, they've raised US$95,000. Cody also participates in races and at the Endevor Games won gold medals in the 60m and 100m sprints.

Take a minute and drop Cody an email of support! Better still, pull out your credit card and make a donation to the Challenged Athletes Foundation or the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital. They do good work.

Jim...


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Monday, March 9, 2009

Poll Results

Brethren all,

I've finally tabulated the results from the recent online poll. Some of you may remember the poll asked a number of questions trying to better understand the attitudes of Masons and religion.

While not trying to spoil the plot, I can safely reveal that the vast majority of Masons polled believe in God. There were however a few other insights which you may find interesting. You can find my summary of the results here.

Please contact me if you have any questions on the study.

Jim


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Monday, March 2, 2009

Masonic Education Opportunity


Brethren all,

Many of you out there have been looking for more light in Masonry. The internet is full of poorly written blogs and websites claiming all matter of nonsense. Well, here's an opportunity for you to engage in a great, rigorous, Masonic education program from our friends at the Scottish Rite, specifically, the folks at the Guthrie Valley in lovely Guthrie, Oklahoma.

From their site:

"The College of the Consistory is a free self-study program for Scottish Rite Masons of all Orients. The curriculum is facilitated by the Guthrie College and made available to all enrolled members. The College distributes to its members a syllabus of each degree of the Rite, which will provide ideas for essays and research papers. Each member can choose a topic from the syllabus, or is free to select a subject not included in the syllabus, provided that it represents a theme or topic concerning that degree."

The first part of the course is a multiple choice test on the Lodge of Perfection Degrees (4 to 14). After you pass that, you'll be assigned a research paper on your choice from several subjects. So if you're serious about learning more about Masonry, here's your chance!

Contact the Valley of Guthrie if you further questions.

Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Saturday, February 28, 2009

ANZ Masonic Research Conference

For those who like to plan ahead, the Australia New Zealand Masonic Research Council will have their annual conference in lovely Mandurah, West Australia. The conference will be held from 3rd to 6th September, 2010. Yes, 2010.

The keynote speaker will be the well known W. Bro. Yasha Beresiner. His credits include Grand ranks from the UGLE, Israel and Italy. He is Past Master of the legendary, research lodge Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076 EC and a Kellerman Lecturer in 2000.

We're trying to get a large delegation to head out from Thailand. So start saving your pennies and get ready for the flight to Oz. This should be a great time. Additional information may be found here.

Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Friday, February 27, 2009

AASR Video on Masonry

Well, this was a pleasant discovery. The Scottish Rite (SJ) have created a neat little video on Freemasonry and the Scottish Rite. Check it out at:

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1012594313207&oid=25735398312


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Islam, Freemasonry and Senegal

Scaremongering in the press continues with this article in the Daily Nation, a newspaper from Kenya. The President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade admitted to being a former Freemason after being outed as such by the French weekly l'Express. The article discusses the constant rumors that various African heads of state are Masons and then highlights President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal.

The article seems to stoke up concern over the supposed Satanic and western influences from Freemasonry. The implication being that he is not qualified to be President nor should be considered a religious man if he's a Freemason.

President Wade has since had a news conference where he admitted his membership; declared that he had been "dormant" for many years; and was a devout Muslim.

The article in the Daily Nation is then followed by various comments from readers damning him for being a stooge of western empires or a Satan (probably the same thing from their point of view).

The obviously damning tone of the article is disappointing. Nothing good about Freemasonry is shown, only ghosts and rumors. It should remind us that being a Freemason is a very dangerous thing in some parts of the world.

Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Aussie Brethren in Need!

Reprinted from the Monthly Bulletin of the Grand Lodge of West Australia

The Flames from Hell

Victorian Bush Fire Relief Appeal

Our Victorian brethren are in shock! The full horror of the burning fury, which may have been
created by twisted human minds, is yet to be revealed. Even so, we know more than enough. We
know that many have lost their lives, many are seriously injured, and more yet have lost
everything they own.

It is simply not possible to provide meaningful comfort to those who suffer the loss of loved ones,
but it is possible to provide relief for the care and future wellbeing of the survivors. Money is
desperately needed and, regardless of how much is raised, you may be assured that every last cent will be utilised.

Unless one has had the tragic experience of losing a home, and all it contains, it is very hard to
imagine the number of years it takes to replace the material possessions that we regard as being the essentials of everyday life. The irreplaceable, personal treasures really are irreplaceable. The
photos, the lock of baby’s hair, the wedding veil and the love letters, are never to be returned, no
matter how hard one works in the years that lie ahead.

As the days unfold, we will hear more horror stories of despair and misery, and many of these
stories will involve our Victorian brethren. We are still awaiting a complete account from the
Grand Lodge of Victoria but we were fully aware that the Western Australian brethren would not wish to wait. We have therefore already pledged our fullest support to give them all the help that we in the West can muster.

Brethren, send whatever amount of money you can afford to the appeal, and please send it as soon as you possibly can! You can also be assured that it will be administered with great love and care for the relief of our distressed Masonic brethren and their families.

Please make cheques payable to: The Grand Lodge
and mark on the back ‘Bush Fire Appeal’

Post to: Grand Lodge, PO Box 691, Victoria Park 6979.


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Online Poll Closed!

Brethren all,

Thanks very much for your help with our first online poll. We had 269 respondents from 30 different countries and 70 different Grand Lodges. The results are being tabulated and will be posted here in the very near future.


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Thursday, February 5, 2009

News from the Neighborhood

Just when things feel like they're settling down, we see news articles like this.

The Jakarta Globe published the article on 1 Feb which is effectively a press release from a radical Islamic group demanding that Indonesians leave Rotary and Lions Clubs. Seems as though these clubs are "linked to the Zionist and the Freemasonry movements and secretly supported Israel."

Though we do have both Rotarians and Lions among our members, I don't recall any funds flowing from their clubs into our coffers. Better check with our Treasurer again!

Seriously though, this article (and the fact that it was published as news in Jakarta) remind us to be cautious. We need to promote Masonry in Thailand, but need to be aware that not everyone feels as warmly about Masonry as we do. Take care and govern yourself accordingly!


Visit www.thaifreemason.com

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Robbie Burns




Brethren all,

I was delighted to hear that a collection of Robbie Burns' artefacts have been brought together and will be touring the UK in honor of this, the 250th anniversary of his birth. Those of us not in the UK can see a collection of the more interesting objects online at the BBC.

Burns was of course, the National Bard of Scotland, author of Auld Lang Syne and an avid Freemason.

The Grand Lodge of Scotland are pulling out all the stops this year to celebrate Bro. Burns. Grand Lodge commissioned a double CD on the impact of Freemasonry on on the life and work of Brother Robert Burns. Grand Lodge assure us this is a "handsome and informative product" which coincidentally is available at their online store for GBP14.99. Shipping (and customs duty) will probably add a bit more to the total.


Visit www.thaifreemason.com