Category Archive: President’s Messages

President’s Message, Issue 25

In my fourteen years as a freemason, I’ve spent countless hours in lodgerooms, bars, restaurants, parking lots, and on internet discussion forums debating any Masonic topic you can imagine. One topic has prevailed over all others. You’ve probably already guessed it. Yes, it’s standards of dress for lodge and, no, that’s not the subject of this column per se. The discussion of that topic is, however, representative of so many other Masonic discussions concerning food, proficiency, how to wear your ring, and other unregulated lodge customs and practices.

These discussions are predictable, boring, often contentious, and generally unproductive. Think about the last time you participated in a discussion on one of those topics. How many minds were changed? How much advancement in Masonic knowledge was gained on either side of the argument? Was this a good use of your time? For most of us, the answers to these questions will be zero, none, and probably not.

I’ve come to a few conclusions in regard to all of these various unregulated lodge practices that might be worth your consideration. It doesn’t matter whether a lodge likes pickled pigs’ feet or pheasant under glass, whether you dress in t-shirts and blue jeans or white tie and tails, or whether your proficiency requires simply knowing the signs, grips, and words or a twenty-page research paper. If you belong to a functioning, generally contented lodge of brethren of high moral character, who remain true to their obligation and exemplify the tenets of brotherly love, relief, and truth, you’re doing the real work of freemasonry. Don’t succumb to the wishes of others who would impose standards that are not realistic for your lodge. If, however, your lodge is experiencing serious problems, perhaps you need to contemplate making some changes and seek the counsel of brethren who belong to a flourishing lodge. If you feel like a fish out of water in your lodge, find another one or start up a new lodge. In some jurisdictions, it takes as few as ten brethren to start a new lodge.

For those of you who tend to offer unsolicited advice that is neither wanted nor needed under the guise of raising the bar, remember that we are a fraternity of men of every country, sect, and opinion. There are many paths to Masonic light. Celebrate not only the diversity of race, creed, and religion that we pride ourselves on, but also the diversity of customs and practices that make visiting and conversing with other brethren so enjoyable. When you encounter something that is not your particular cup of tea, but is not contrary to Masonic tenets and philosophy, exercise your freedom to ignore it.

It is always appropriate to remain vigilant in defense of our rules and to protect the reputation of the fraternity. It is our obligation to assist a brother purposefully seeking to improve his Masonic experience. At a time when our numbers are dwindling and our influence waning, we should take every opportunity to support and encourage our brethren instead of searching for ways to divide us.

One of the more common complaints I hear is that most freemasons don’t read much about the fraternity and I find that to be a valid complaint. I think it is important for a brother to have at least some knowledge of our history, philosophy, and symbols beyond what is offered in our rituals and lectures, as much of that is allegorical. Allegory- the Hiramic Legend, for example- is used to impart moral lessons and not to inform. Freemasonry has a rich history that goes largely ignored by many freemasons.

Not everyone has the time or inclination to conduct an in-depth study of Freemasonry. Although there are excellent books like Chris Hodapp’s Freemasonry for Dummies or Brent Morris’s TheComplete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry that provide a cursory look at Masonic history and are written in a style that won’t induce slumber, many freemasons are loathe to pick up a book.

The Journal of the Masonic Society is a perfect alternative for a brother who might not invest the time necessary to read a book, but might take fifteen or twenty minutes once every month or two to read a 2500-word article on some aspect of Masonic history or philosophy. The Masonic Society will always cater to the more serious minded students of freemasonry, but we can also benefit the brother who is a more casual observer of the fraternity and perhaps even inspire him to pick up a book or two. Please share the benefits of membership in The Masonic Society with all of your brethren and help broaden the path to further light in freemasonry.

For those who regularly attend the annual meeting of The Masonic Society during Masonic Week, please note that next year’s event has been moved up a couple of weeks to January 28-February 1. The event will once again be held at the Hyatt Hotel in Reston, VA. The Masonic Society meeting and banquet is traditionally held on Friday night, which would be Friday, January 30. Registration information should become available in late October or early November. We will keep you up to date via the website and our Facebook page. Discussion at the 2014 meeting indicated that Masonic Week would once again be changing locations in 2016.

The officers and directors of The Masonic Society are actively discussing whether to sponsor the next phase of The Quarry Project. As most of you know, TQP was created to provide instruction for both novice and experienced Masonic researchers and preservationists. Phase I was held last September in Alexandria, VA at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial and was an unqualified success. The conference was co-sponsored by the Masonic Library and Museum Association and the GWMNM. An announcement on Phase II will be made sometime in October 2015. To learn more about TQP, visit the website at .

It is with regret that I inform you that Bro. Gord Vokes has submitted his resignation as a member director of The Masonic Society. Many of you know Bro. Gord from his frequent postings on the TMS discussion forum. Bro. Gord has fulfilled his duties as director honorably and his contributions to TMS are greatly appreciated. He has graciously agreed to stay on until a replacement is appointed. Thank you, Bro. Gord, for your service to TMS.

James R. Dillman, FMS
President, The Masonic Society

President’s Message, Issue 24

In my initial President’s Message, I provided a list of objectives that I hoped to accomplish during my term in office. One of those objectives was to communicate with the membership to determine how we might be of better service to you. As previously noted, we want to be more than just a magazine. We believe we took a big step in that direction by co-sponsoring The Quarry Project. We have held mid-year meetings in Indianapolis, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, and Philadelphia. All of those meetings featured several speakers and a banquet. We have been contributing sponsors to a few different Masonic workshops and symposiums.

I would like to hear ideas from you, our members, on how we might improve on or expand our mission to promote Masonic research. I would also be interested in any comments you have about The Journal of The Masonic Society. We considered including a questionnaire in a forthcoming issue of the journal. It occurred to me that I have been a recipient of a number of these types of surveys and I have yet to fill out and return the first one. I also get a steady stream of online requests asking me to fill out one kind of survey or another and I always decline. I doubt if most of you are more inclined to fill out and mail a survey than I am. As such, I think the best way to accomplish this is to simply ask those of you who have suggestions or thoughts about the job we’re doing to send them directly to me. Please send them to . You may also send them via U.S. Mail to The Masonic Society, 1427 W. 86th Street, Ste. 248, Indianapolis, IN 46260-2103. Make sure that you address them to my attention. I pledge to read and respond to every one in as timely a manner as my schedule allows.

Since we last published, the Editor of The Journal of The Masonic Society, Michael Halleran, has assumed the title of Most Worshipful Brother, owing to his election as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Kansas back in March. We congratulate MW Bro. Michael and send along our best wishes to him as he leads the brethren of Kansas for the next year. They could not have chosen a more dedicated, capable, or worthy brother.

M.W. Bro. Michael has also marked his one-year anniversary as Editor of The Journal. He has done a stellar job with the magazine and has been a true pleasure to work with. This will be a challenging year for him as he fulfills his other duties as a husband and father, practicing attorney, and Grand Master of Kansas. Please remember Michael in your devotions and ask the Grand Architect to grant him good health, safe travel, and the strength necessary to keep up with his busy schedule.

W. Bro. John Bridegroom has likewise celebrated his one-year anniversary as Art Director of The Journal. John is responsible for the layout and photography and is a most talented graphic artist. He has done artwork for many different Masonic organizations all over the country. I think you’ll agree that The Journal is as aesthetically pleasing as any periodical published anywhere. John is also a very busy freemason. He was just elected to serve as Grand Conductor of Council for the Grand Council of Cryptic Masons of Indiana. He has also been appointed as the new Public Relations Director for the Grand Lodge of Indiana and chairs the committee that oversees The Indiana Freemason, the official publication of the Grand Lodge of Indiana.

This is a bit personal, but also something that I know will be of great interest to all of you. W. Bro. Chris Hodapp, Editor Emeritus of The Journal of The Masonic Society, continues to fight health issues. Most of you know that Chris underwent successful surgery for cancer a few years ago. He remains cancer free, but is plagued with chronic back pain as a result of the very invasive surgery he underwent. His doctors have had no success at alleviating his pain. Chris takes heavy doses of painkillers, which do little more than take the edge off. The side effects from the medication along with the constant pain affect his ability to concentrate, to travel, to sleep, or do just about any of the things that we take for granted. Ask him how he is doing and he’ll say he is fine. But he’s not. Everything Chris does is a struggle.

The Masonic Society owes a tremendous debt to Chris. It was largely Chris’s name on the magazine that gave immediate credibility to TMS. It was shortly after TMS was founded that his health problems first began. Throughout his diagnosis, treatment, and surgery for a life threatening disease, Chris continued to edit, write, and lay out the magazine with little or no help. He also handled all of the advertising. He did it all for a pittance of a salary. I have no idea how he did it, but he did and I’m eternally grateful to him, as all of you should be. I’m asking all of you to please keep Chris and his wife Alice in your thoughts and prayers as Chris struggles with this chronic pain and the debilitating side effects of the medication.

James R. Dillman, FMS
President, The Masonic Society

President’s Message, Issue #23

One of the most common laments among freemasons suggests that we should be doing a better job of guarding the West Gate, the implication being that we are admitting a steady stream of unworthy men into our fraternity. You can wager with absolute certainty that any discussion of whatever is deemed to ail freemasonry at any particular moment will eventually result in someone insisting that the root of the problem lies in our failure to guard the West Gate. This is immediately followed by a chorus of nodding heads and various exclamations of assent. Honesty compels me, and likely you as well, to confess to pointing a finger at the West Gate to explain away our troubles on more than a few occasions. Let’s examine this old bromide to determine if there is actually any truth in it.

Freemasonry demands that its initiates be of good repute before the world with a strong moral fiber. There are other organizations and fields of endeavor with similar demands. How does freemasonry match up against them? I would say that we are doing much better than the public service and political arena and at least as well as doctors, lawyers, policemen, teachers, and the clergy. Do some men of weak character and low morals slip through the cracks and become freemasons? It happens, but rarely, and they are more often than not found out and expelled. We are a fraternity of mortal men who are as subject to human nature as anyone else. Good men sometimes make bad decisions and when they are freemasons, the cost of their poor judgment is usually their membership cards. The preponderance of the evidence indicates that we are pretty good judges of character.

So who are these allegedly unworthy men that are sneaking through the West Gate? It depends upon who you are asking. Ask one brother and he will tell you that they are bologna sandwich-eating Neanderthals who dress poorly for lodge, cover their lapels with pins, don’t read, cannot comprehend the true lessons of freemasonry, hold fish fries in their lodges, and think the entirety of freemasonry is contained within the ritual. Ask another and he will just as boldly aver that they are snooty, wine-sipping rich guys in tuxedos who read boring books, attend highbrow lectures, eat expensive food, could find Masonic symbolism in a chainsaw, and can’t go more than a minute without expounding upon the wonders of the kaballah and alchemy. One faction bemoans anti-intellectualism and the other screams elitism and the true spirit of brotherhood that we are obligated to extend to every freemason gets lost amid the bickering.

I see this debate, which often devolves into serious arguments, played out on social media, in Masonic discussion forums, and in parking lots after lodge. There is a somewhat humorous element attached to this. If you ask any individual brother, he will swear to Heaven above that he is upholding the tenets, traditions, and requirements of freemasonry and that it’s the other guys who are letting the undesirables pass through the West Gate. It occurs to me that the common ground we should be searching for is easily discovered if each of us thinks back to the time when we first knocked on freemasonry’s door.

Before we were initiated, we were all asked in one form or another if we sought the privileges of freemasonry based on, among other things, a desire for knowledge. The path that leads to knowledge is laid out in the Fellowcraft degree where we learn about the power of the human mind, which, with the aid of our five senses, enables us to seek and store knowledge. We are given a mini-course in architecture because speculative masonry, the building of a spiritual temple, corresponds so closely to operative masonry and the construction of temporal buildings. We are introduced to the liberal arts and sciences because all of the knowledge we attain falls within the realm of one of those arts or sciences. From that point on, freemasonry becomes a very personal journey and we are each entitled to pursue knowledge and further light by following a path that we choose for ourselves.

James R. Dillman, FMS
President, The Masonic Society

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