Sunday, July 26, 2020

Anno Lucis-The Masonic Era

Photo by Tom Hendrickson
Have you ever looked at a Masonic Cornerstone or a formal Grand Lodge document and noticed that there are two different years on it?
One year should be easy to recognize as it is the calendar year and following the year is A.D. (e.g. 2020 A.D.) which is Latin for Anno Domini which means ‘in year of our Lord”. Normally we write the year, and very rarely add the A.D. Now, there may be times when you will see C.E., but that is another discussion…
The other year will look quite different, with a year such as 6020 and will be followed by the initials A.L. which is Latin for Anno Lucis. Anno Lucis means “in year of Light”. The Anno Lucis date is used for Masonic dating or the Masonic calendar. This year is usually used for our ceremonial or commemorative occasions.
Converting the year from Anno Domini to Anno Lucis is quite easy. Simply take the year (i.e. 2020 A.D.) and add 4,000 and it becomes 6020 A.L.
If you have been a Mason for some time, this should be common knowledge for you but I would like to go a bit deeper and explain an interesting aspect of Masonic history that has been largely forgotten and the meaning behind the Anno Lucis year.
Anno Lucis, or “in the year of Light”, represents the symbolic moment that light came into the world at its creation. As found in Genesis 1:3 KJV, “And God Said,” Let there be light: and there was light”. In the early days of the Grand Lodge of England, when they started using Anno Lucis it was sometimes referred to as in the year of Masonry. But, how did they know precisely when God created light in the world?

In the 18th and 19th century it was accepted and common knowledge by most people of the English-speaking world that God Created the world at nightfall on October 22, 4004 B.C. They knew that for it was printed in the Bible. The two men who responsible for that were the Archbishop of Ireland James Ussher and publisher Thomas Guy. Now for the rest of the story...

Photo peter lely-Wikipedia

James Ussher was a key figure in the religious debates of the 16th century and he led a remarkably interesting life. He was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1581. He was taught to read by his two aunts who were blind from infancy. He went on to be one of the first students admitted to Trinity College in Dublin, where he flourished and continued for advanced degrees. He had a library of over 10,000 books, which can be seen today at Trinity College as a monument to wisdom and learning.
Ussher was ordained into the Anglian Church in 1601 and eventually was appointed Archbishop of Armagh and Primate from all of Ireland in 1625. Ussher was present in 1649, when King Charles I was led to the scaffolding and to the execution block. He fainted when King Charles I was beheaded, and he had to be carried off to recover.
Ussher was a very prolific writer during his lifetime with 40 published works in English and Latin. The work that he is most known for today was twenty years in the making, was written in Latin, and published in London in 1650 titled “Annales Veteris Testamenti”. The book was 1,300 pages with 14,000 footnotes with each paragraph numbered and indexed for easy referencing. An English version was published in 1658 titled “Annals of the Old Testament”.
It was James Ussher’s intent to arrange the historical events in the order in which they took place of the Jews, Persians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans into a singular Chronology or timeline, and thus merge the histories. The histories of China and other eastern countries had not yet become well known into Europe yet so those were not included
Ussher’s objective for this book was to write a world history covering every known major event from the creation to 70 A.D, using the Bible as his framework. He believed that the Bible was the only reliable source of chronological information. Ussher and most of society, at the time, held a literal belief of the Bible.
Ussher went to great lengths to collect all the available historical knowledge to help him. He had access to the libraries of Oxford, Cambridge, London, and Trinity College in Dublin.
His reference material included various ancient Old Testament Bibles: Samaritan, Pentateuch, Syriac as well as texts and histories of Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Hebrew all in their original ancient languages, although most of the material he used was secular in nature. He analyzed how ancient calendars were calculated and consulted with Astronomers and used their planetary observation tables.  One of the challenges to overcome in creating this chronology was that all the various countries had different calendars and differing methods of recording time.
Ussher died in 1656 before the English version of his book was published. His book sold well enough, at the time, but the dates of his chronology would have drifted off into obscurity and died a natural death, except for an opportunistic publisher.
Ussher was not alone in calculating the creation of the universe and subsequent chronology. Many other great minds calculated their own Biblical time lines and there was a major effort in the 16th Century, by scholars across Europe to establish a full chronological history. Isaac Newton tried his hand at it and compiled an 87,000-word composition, to support his date of 3998 B.C.  Martin Luther, a theologian and important figure in the Protestant Reformation conducted his own study, determining the date as 3961 B.C. Johannes Kepler, an astronomer also
This was an extremely popular area of study for the scholastic community. At least two hundred different dates were proposed by scholars for the time of creation, ranging from 3483 to 6934 B.C.
Thomas Guy was a London publisher and book seller.  In 1675, Guy began printing the King James Bible including Ussher’s dates in the margins alongside the corresponding scripture text.  With the inclusion of Ussher’s dates in the bible, they became generally accepted across society.  The King James Bible was the most accepted Bible of the English-speaking nations so by publishing Ussher’s dates, they were accepted fact and the first chronology to be widely accepted. 
At the time, a large portion of society believed that the Bible is the actual word of God, and it was interpreted very literally. The powerful combination of the reader seeing in black and white that God created the world in 4004 B.C., and that Adam and Eve were driven out of paradise in 4004 B.C. was immense.  Noah’s Flood took place in 2948 B.C., King Solomon died in 975 B.C. and the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Jews in Babylon captivity took place in 586 B.C.  All the other events in the Bible from the Creation up to 70 A.D had a date in history and as such Ussher’s dates had the very strong appearance of having Biblical Authority.
It may be hard to imagine now, but at the time when people saw dates, in black and white printed within the Bible, they believed that those dates were Gods own truth.  
In 1701 the Church of England also adopted Ussher’s dates in their official Bibles, and Ussher’s dates would continue to be included in most versions of the King James Bibles until the 1900s. Interestingly, his dates were printed in the Gideon Bible until the 1970s.
In 1721, James Anderson was commissioned to write the history of the Freemasons for the newly formed Premier Grand Lodge. His work became known as “The Constitutions of the Freemasons, Containing the History, Charges, Regulations, &c. of the most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity, For Use of the Lodges”. It was published in 1723 and was greatly expanded in 1738.
Anderson may have exaggerated just a little bit when he created a mythological chronology of the Craft. Like Ussher, Anderson starts his 48-page history using the Bible as the initial framework of the story.  He begins with Adam, who was created with that special knowledge of geometry which was passed on to his descendants. He includes Noah, Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Hiram Abif, and Nebuchadnezzar.
Andersons story winds thru the history of ancient Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire. Freemasonry passes thru France to Britain to the year 1723 showing the very long and ancient pedigree of the Grand Lodge. Anderson devoted quite a bit of space to King Solomon’s Temple. Anderson, it could be argued, wrote probably the most important Masonic work ever published. 
What unites Anderson and Ussher is that Anderson uses Ussher’s dates for the biblical events throughout his Masonic historical story. The history of freemasonry was explained by defining the Masonic Era while using a Masonic Calendar based upon Ussher’s dates.  Thus, the Masonic calendar is based on the calculations of James Ussher and the date that starts the Masonic era is 4004 B, C., Anno Lucis “in the year of Light”.
There were other terms used to define the Masonic Era before Anno Lucis became more popular after the formation of the United Grand Lodge in 1813. James Anderson uses “Year in Masonry” in both his first and second editions of his Constitutions.  There are many others here are a few examples Anno Masonry, Anno Latomorum-“In year of Freemasons”, Anno Lapidariorum “In year of the Stone Cutters”.  
The 1723 edition of Anderson’s Constitutions eventually arrived in America where it was edited and reprinted in Philadelphia in 1734 by Benjamin Franklin. It was the first Masonic book to be printed in America.
Anderson created a mythic origin that continues today.  Most of the Grand Lodges eventually rounded the date to an even 4000, for easy addition, however the Grand Lodge of Scotland continues to use the original date of 4004 B.C.
Ussher’s book survives to this day as it continues to be printed today and can be easily found in bookstores as “The Annuals of the World”.  Today, his work is associated with Young Earth Creationism,
In today’s modern world where we can use Radioactive Dating to determine that the earth is 4.5 billion years old (give or take a few million years) James Ussher dates may seem overly simplistic.  However, both men used their scholarship to make a careful study of all documents and traditions available and using the most accepted scientific method of their time.   I believe we need to judge these ideas, not by our modern concepts, knowledge or technology, but judge them by the intents and thoughts of their time. Perhaps 500 years from now our modern technology, science, and medicines will seem out of date as well. 
Because James Anderson collected and captured and preserved so much of the Masonic symbolism and lore that were anchored in the ancient Craft, we can continue to experience those teachings today.  By Anderson creating or re-enforcing the concept of the Masonic Era using James Ussher’s date of 4004 B.C. as the day our Supreme Architect of the universe brought light into this word, it provides us with a symbol that unites all Freemasons across the world.
Free Masonry’s continued use of Anno Lucis on our Cornerstones, ceremonial documents, and lodge minute books may not be accurate to today’s scientific standards, but I think it’s a loving tribute and part of the mystic tie that continues to bond us with our Brothers of the Ancient Craft from so long ago.


Saturday, June 6, 2020

Freemasonry on the Doorstep
An Individual Freemasons response to the Covid-19 Pandemic
By Tom Hendrickson-P.G.M.

In the past few months, we have watched the deadly Coronavirus sweep across the world, and ferociously spread across the United States. The Covid-19 pandemic has created a type of national emergency that has severely disrupted society and our daily lives, in ways that we have never experienced before. Most of the state governors have imposed drastic measures ordering their residents to remain in their homes and to practice social distancing to slow the spread of this deadly virus.
Our country has experienced many crises in the past. There were wars, acts of terrorism, hurricanes, flooding and many other natural disasters. In those emergencies, we as the public were called to action, but this time is different. This can be life or death for many individuals, it has affected all Americans in multiple ways and the crisis came with inadequate warnings about the magnitude, both for health of the nation and the economy. This national emergency is different as we have been told to go home, wait or work in isolation along with totally and dramatically changing the way we normally live our lives. 
Social distancing started out with avoiding physical contact and staying at least six feet away from other people to lessen our chances of catching COVID-19. Then it quickly expanded to the prohibition of people gathering in groups. In particular, this kept us from our Masonic activities. It also meant not attending our houses of worship, concerts, sporting events or even participating in a pickup game of basketball. Schools, colleges and universities closed and shifted to online learning. Any business deemed non-essential locked their doors. Some employees were sent home with equipment to work from home while others have been layed off or furloughed. Those employees that have confidence in their jobs have no idea when they might return, but some others have no confidence in returning to their jobs ever again.  Self employed individuals wonder how to pay the bills and if life will ever be what we knew as “normal” ever again.

In just a few weeks COVID-19 dramatically changed our lives. We are all struggling with our own anxieties and uncertainties about our lives and COVID-19. Listening to my Brothers, friends and family members I think I can say we all share some of the same anxieties. We all fear catching COVID-19, or that our family members will get sick. We are worried about financial hardship from being laid off from our jobs, or will we have a job to return to? We may have experienced loss from our retirement investments or college savings? How long will my savings last and how can I pay the bills? If older or have health issues, if I catch COVID-19 will it kill me? With no promise of when the situation will be over the uncertainty is starting to influence our mental health. Our fears coupled with uncertainty leave some terrified by the unknown risks.

Shelter in place, social distancing, social isolation or the term lock down have new relevance to our daily lives, and depending on your perspective, may be easier for some to cope with than for others.
Shelter in place or locked down may be different for someone else, but to me they mean the same thing.

Social Isolation or Locked Down is a term depending on your perspective but means the same thing.  

We were ordered to stay in our homes except for buying food, seeking medical attention, pick up prescriptions or for other types of essential services. Health authorities have issued guidelines for people who have serious underlining health conditions that might be at much greater risk for severe illness or death from the COVID-19.

In a very short period of time living day to day became more complex and certainly add to the sense of fear surrounding the Coronavirus. We were only allowed to leave the house for the essential needs. Getting coffee, eating out, visiting the gym, going to the barbershop, watching a movie and even seeing our doctors and dentists become impossible.

Suddenly wearing a mask and rubber gloves become a daily essential and almost routine.  When we go to the grocery store, we are met with long lines, and empty shelves. On one of my trips to the store I could see the anxiety in a woman’s eyes and hear the despair in her voice as she was talking to her husband. “No toilet paper, no hand sanitizer, no bleach, no chicken…now what?”

There were and are some people who cannot leave their homes because they have underlying health conditions and it is too dangerous to risk getting exposed to the virus. Even the Minnesota is “opening up” and relaxing some restrictions, those individuals still have to be careful as the danger has not passed. There are those with mobility problems that have had to change their daily routines.  These groups of people have the added worries of if they will have enough food to eat, and what are they going to do when their medications run out. Where do they turn for help to obtain the necessities of life for weeks or months? Many have lost their spouse and have been living alone for some time. The few friends that they do have left are in the same situation that they are in or are living in a care facility which is, as has been shown in the death rates, its own difficult situation.

Lock down is a term often used by state and federal prisons and also by a young mother who lives in my city and resides in an exceedingly small apartment with two young children. She recently has been laid off and lost her access to daycare. She takes her kids outside for one hour a day for fresh air and exercise or sometimes longer on a nice day. “Just like the prisoners in the supermax” she told me and laughed. She used to go grocery shopping with the kids but now given the virus, she does not dare expose them nor do stores want extra individuals in the stores. She really needs someone to pick up a few things at the grocery store or to watch her children for a short time so she can make the trip.
I have been very lucky that having to shelter in place has not been a hardship and I have enjoyed it.  While I share the anxieties of many individuals, my family has been very fortunate too.

Shelter in Place
My wife has been very blessed to be able to work from home. Her daily commute is from the bedroom to the office saving several hours a day of typical commute time. She has been able to stay focused and connected and still manages to squeeze in laundry between conference calls.
My daughter and grandson have been staying with my wife and I, and it has allowed us all to connect more and have great talks. My daughter is a working Mother, and this has allowed her slow down her pace and focus on work and school. She gets a break while I play with my grandson.
Our normally quiet but spacious home has become, an office, a three-star restaurant (my opinion as I do the cooking), a pre-school, and a gym but most important it is filled with laughter.

However, for those coping with anxiety or depression, being thrusted into social isolation can be particularly destabilizing. They have developed normal schedules and routines that help them to successfully and effectively live their lives with meaning and purpose. Going to work, meeting with friends for coffee, going to the gym, participating in a Yoga class, or attending a book club meeting, all of these options, almost overnight. ceased to exist because of the Coronavirus.
With the problems and benefits I have observed during this period of social isolation, I saw that we as human beings have a strong urge or essential need for social connections. We crave social contact as we sometimes crave food. This is true for all individuals but, I believe, was made more acute by the threat of COVId-19.

For me, Freemasonry means the masonic ritual is not just a ceremony but a teaching to be lived. Freemasonry becomes a way of life. If I did not act or do something, I would not be practicing the oath that I took.  My entire work life I had to create solutions to urgent problems and to act quickly. For me to be able to remove those anxieties and fears was a piece of cake,

I had developed a list of Widows, Brothers, and friends that I call every few days and to see how they are doing. Many of them live alone and their grown children are living several states away and daily life can be lonely for them. I would ask them for a list of groceries they needed, and if there was any anything to be picked up at the pharmacy. I would bring the needed items to their home and place them on their doorstep. I would ring the doorbell, and step back up to allow for social distancing. Everyone was eager for a conversation. I did learn to bring a lawn chair, for some of those talks could last awhile.

The time we are living can be filled with much uncertainty and we should protect and take care of ourselves and our loved ones.  But if you could find a way in your heart to spend a little time on a simple act of kindness for a lodge brother, a widow, or a neighbor, you will find yourself among many others who have found that we can change the world for the better one act at a time.

Freemasonry is my way of life, and I found another place to live my Obligation

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Grand Lodge of Russia-Sing Auld Lang Syne

The Grand Lodge of Russia with Grand Master Andrey Bogdanv has made a video in support of Freemasons across the globe. 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Owatonna-Austin Minnesota York Rite Get Together

Generally speaking Freemasonry in our state is decreasing in size, and our York Rite is to no acception. In the past decade the population in our smaller communities, and rural areas have decreased as well. Throw in the aging population in the equation and there is a problem to having thriving Lodges, and effective York Rites.

There are a few people (myself included) who saw the problem, and working with other Companions and Sir Knights to develop a plan to get over those obstacles.

The Owatonna and Austin York Rite have come together for a monthly social event, and to assist each other with degree work. This photo is the second such monthly event. Positive things are already occurring from it. One of those Brothers pictured is a potential candidate. There was discussion that at our next meeting three more perspective York Rite Candidates will be invited to join us. Seventeen came for dinner. Plans for this quarterly business meeting will be for a full form ritualistic opening. Something that has not been seen in these parts for sometime.

To make changes, all is needed is a little thinking out of the ordinary, having the courage to try something  different. a little communication and finding a comfortable place with great food.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Minnesota Grand Commandery Selects Pastor to Attend Holy Land Pilgrimage

Pastor Karl Jacobson with members of the Minnesota Grand Commandery

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2020

The Minnesota Grand Commandery is proud to announce that it has selected a Pastor to attend the 2020 Knights Templar Holy Land Pilgrimage. Reverend Dr. Karl Jacobson of the Good Shepard Lutheran Church, located at 4801 France Ave. Edina, Minnesota is the Pastor chosen for 2020. Karl graduated from St. Olaf College in 1996 and was then accepted at Luther Seminary graduating with a master’s in divinity in 1996. He has subsequently served congregations in California, Virginia and Minnesota.

Karl took a break from parish work and returned to school to obtain a doctorate in theology to undergo a more in-depth study of Gods Word. Karl then taught Religion and the Bible at Augsburg College for six years. He currently serves as the Senior Pastor of the Good Shepard Lutheran Church. 

Karl is married to Angela (who is also a Pastor) and they have five children. In his free time, he enjoys reading, golf, tennis, and watching the Vikings (and simultaneously despising the Packers). Karl is also a published author and he has written many books, written commentaries on Biblical topics, and blogs about the Bible and popular culture.

Pastor Jacobson is very excited to have been selected for the Holy land Pilgrimage. He stated, “I know the gospel and the other biblical stories well, but to walk them, to be in the physical locale will I believe enrich them for me and for my teachings.” He is looking forward to having the opportunity to make a presentation, upon his return, to the Sir Knights of our Grand Commandery.

The Knights Templar Holy land Pilgrimage for Christian Ministers is a program that has been offered from Grand Encampment since 1977. The purpose is to provide an intensive educational and spiritual study with a historical and cultural immersion experience. Sir Knight Tom Hendrickson, who traveled to Israel in 2017 for the same pilgrimage stated, “it’s easy to see why a Pastor who has had the opportunity to walk where Jesus walked, to see the landscapes, to place your hand on the Wailing wall in old Jerusalem, to hear the sounds and see the cultures of the people will gain much that will have a positive effect on the Pastors spirituality, and in his teaching and preaching to his congregations”
The Knights Templar have sent over 3,000 ministers on the pilgrimage over the last 40 years. The Minnesota Grand Commandery has sponsored four Pilgrimage Ministers since 2010. The Grand Commandery has a dedicated fund for the purpose of sponsoring a Minister for which they hold an annual fundraiser to raise funds. The cost of the pilgrimage is approximately $3,400, which includes round trip air travel from JFK airport to Tel Aviv Israel, all lodging, meals, transportation, tour guide, travel Insurance as well as other associated expenses.

For 2020, Zion Commandery has generously provided Pastor Jacobson with additional funds that will assist him with the cost of air travel from Minneapolis to JFK airport in New York city.

If a Commandery would like to sponsor a Minister for next year’s trip please see the requirements on the Holy Land Pilgrimage website and send a recommendation to the Minnesota Grand Commandery Grand Recorder.