Book Review – Meditations of a Flawed Ashlar

Many readers will probably be familiar with Bill Hosler – he is a much-respected and veteran American Freemason and a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog. His passion for his Craft is tangible and below we have a great review, and an exclusive chapter from his new book ‘Meditations of a Flawed Ashlar’.

Sharing his observations from his historied Masonic career, Confessions of a flawed Ashlar is Bill Hosler’s love letter to Freemasonry.

Bill blends fiction and non-fiction to tell poignant stories about the mystic tie of brotherhood.

While so many modern Masonic writings look externally for solutions to some of Freemasonry’s issues, Bill looks internally finding them readily available at the local Lodge level.

His friendly and humerous prose makes for an easy read. Both the novice and experienced Freemason will find wisdom in this book.

Masonic education is a tricky thing; you need to write deep enough content to be valuable, that will not alienate the reader who is new to Freemasonry, will not bore the experienced member, will not scare away the brother who is just looking to learn about famous historical Freemasons, and still reach the deepest esotericist.

Through his various writings across the internet, Brother Hosler has proven time and again that he has the ability to meet these obstacles, and he has focused that vision on a full length book.

The book itself is divided across 32 lectures, any of which can easily be adopted for use in a lodge setting.

Topics range from reflections on a lodge that has already failed (and the lessons which may be learned from it) to the roll of Freemasonry in modern society, and the things that our more seasoned members can teach our newer members.

Most of the entries are positive and hopeful, and make for great reads when you’re feeling discouraged in your Masonic journey.

The lectures include a curated selection of Brother Hosler’s many years of Masonic writings, but far from just being a “best of” rehashing, included are some lectures which (to the best of my knowledge) have not been published anywhere else.

If you have read Brother Hosler’s works on the various Masonic websites he writes for, you have an idea of the tone you can expect, although I believe you may be surprised at how personal some of the lectures can get.

Throughout the book, Brother Hosler highlights some of the greatest aspects of the Masonic spirit in a way that can’t fail to bring a smile to the face of the most hardened grumpy past master, in a down to earth manner which is reminiscent of talking to a friend in the dining hall after a lodge meeting.

When the book does tackle the more negative aspects of the fraternity, it does so in a loving way, and always presents multiple solutions to the reader which can be implemented for improvement.

In addition to being a reflection on the fraternity as a whole, it is also a good representation of Brother Hosler’s own Masonic journey; at various points in the lectures, he discusses his own challenges with burnout, working through the various chairs in multiple bodies, going from naive to disillusioned to hopeful, and even provides caution against following his footsteps.

The final lecture, “Plenty, Health, and Peace” is a sombre reflection on a lifetime of mistakes and regrets, before reaching a healthy physical and mental outlook through the teachings of Freemasonry.

Mixed in with these personal reflections and anecdotes are the occasional fictional accounts of happenings at a lodge which, while fictional in nature, are familiar enough to most seasoned Freemasons that they could have been true recordings between brothers in our own lodges.

Of special note is the short story “The Box,” which portrays a passing of the torch that all fathers wish for.

While there is value in reading the book straight through to get a feeling for the concepts presented, the true usefulness of the book is seen when each lecture is examined individually and contemplated thoroughly.

There is significant wisdom presented in most of the work presented, and a deep investigation will reveal the deeper layers hidden within.

The best use for this book is to present these lectures with your lodge’s education, and to discuss them after the meeting in an open format, to obtain more thorough insights into the nature of our gentle craft.

Through this method, you will find many new ideas and point of views from the brothers in attendance, which will hopefully drive your lodge forward in its mission of making men into Masons.

(As an aside, I purchased two copies of this book, once in Kindle format and once in Kobo format, so that I will always have a copy ready for my own lodge meetings.)

The book is available in paperback from Amazon, and in digital format on both the Kindle and Kobo bookstores.

I compared the Kindle and Kobo versions, and did not find any difference in formatting, so whichever is your preferred format you will receive the same quality product.

I do not have the paper book for review, but those who do have reported that it is well formatted also, and is 142 printed pages long. I read this in approximately 2.5 hours.

I highly advise purchasing at least one copy to have at your lodge for last minute education, along with a personal copy for your consideration.

I hope to see more books coming from Brother Hosler in the future (especially a compendium of his excellent series “The 50 Year Member”).

Reviewed by: Adam Thayer

Chapter 13. On yonder book  

Elmer Herendeen was sitting in the passenger seat of his daughter’s car.

He hated being driven around instead of just jumping in his car and driving himself. He had been driving for more than eighty years and seen no reason why he shouldn’t continue.

Several near misses and a couple of fender benders convinced his kids that he should no longer drive. He hated relying on someone else to drive him to the places he needed to go but he was thankful he was still living in his own home and not in a nursing home.

As his daughter pulled into the lodge’s parking lot she told her dad, “Have a good time. Call me on my cell phone when you are ready to go home”.

She kissed Elmer on the cheek and gripped his hand. “See you in a little while” he said as he got out of the car and walked to the door of the temple.

As he opened the door, he saw a group of men sitting around the tables in the dining room. There were so many new faces!

Many of the men in the room he had known for decades but recently the lodge had been getting a lot of new members. Something had made the younger generation discover Masonry.

It did his heart good to see young men knocking on the lodge’s door. There were so many that the usual team of men teaching the memory work couldn’t handle them all, so the Master of the lodge asked Elmer to join the team and help these youngsters advance through the degrees.

Elmer was happy to help. For many years he had been on the memory work team until he felt it was time to step aside and let the younger men take up the work.

But since his wife died, he had been living alone in his house. It was a lonely life although his kids would visit him, and several members of the lodge would come to check on him and drive him to his doctors’ appointments.

As he walked in the door Elmer removed his overcoat and fedora and hung them in the coat closet. The Master of the lodge came and greeted him, “Hi Elmer, I have your candidate over here for you. Elmer,

I would like you to meet Zac Morrow. You are going to teach him the EA lecture”. Elmer took Zac’s hand and led him into the temple’s library.

Zac was the newest Entered Apprentice, just nineteen years old and eager to learn. He couldn’t wait to advance through the degrees.

The two sat down at a beautifully crafted hardwood table and the old man opened his briefcase and removed his cipher book. The book had seen better days, the once beautifully tooled leather had become cracked and worn; the Grand lodge seal embossed in gold on the front cover had lost its luster to the point the gold could barely been seen. 

Pages were yellowed and some had torn, scotch tape had been used to hold the torn pages together. You could barely read the printing on the pages under the tape.

The book’s binding had given way and the pages were loosely contained within the two covers, the duct tape the old man had used to try and fix the binding had stopped working a long time ago.

“Wow!” Zac said, “That book is ancient! You should get a new one! I’m sure the lodge has others you could use”. The old man frowned “I’ll admit it has seen better days but there is still a lot of life left in it.” Zac laughed, “Are you kidding? The pages are just lying in there. It’s not a book it’s just a folder of old pages!”

“Son. Let me tell you a little story. When I was just a little older than you, I got this book when I was on leave from the army. I was raised as a Master Mason right after I got out of basic training, before I was shipped overseas.

The men in this lodge rushed to get me raised in the short time I had at home. As I was leaving to go back to the army, I placed this book in my back pocket and started to learn the symbols that make up the cipher as I rode the train back to camp.

I read it religiously on the troop ship that carried all of us to England. I found some waterproof material to wrap it in and carried it in the breast pocket of my uniform as I waded into the water of Omaha beach during the Normandy invasion.

I recited parts of the ritual to myself as I waded in those waters, trying to distract me from the bullets zipping by my head and watching men die as I advanced to the beach.

I think that is what kept me sane during that awful time. I felt like by reciting it to myself the Grand Architect of the Universe was watching over me.

This book comforted me whilst fighting all the way across Europe, until the day we heard Germany had surrendered. And with tears of joy, I read it on the troop ship all the way home.

When the Army recalled me to fight in Korea, the book went with me as we served the country once again. I even had it with me when I got to attend lodge in Japan when I was on leave!

Back home this book helped me learn the ritual when I was going through the chairs into the very East of this lodge, and it allowed me to help other men gain more light in Masonry, just like today as I teach you. 

This book has been my friend, my companion, my inspiration for over seventy years. It has been in my back pocket through wars, weddings, the births of my children. Good times and bad.

Through all of my travels. And when I put down my working tools and pass to the celestial lodge above, I have instructed that this old book will be in the pocket of my suit as they lower me into my final resting place, so I can continue to learn at the feet of the Master of the Grand Lodge above.

“You see my Brother, this book and I have a lot in common. At one time we were both new and we have both traveled some.

Neither of us are in perfect condition. We both share a lot of wear from all the years of use, but we are still in pretty good shape for everything we have been through.

I feel like both of us are in pretty good shape considering the shape we are in.”

The young man lowered his head in shame. Zac had tears in his eyes, “I’m sorry Sir, I meant no disrespect. I can see why that little book means so much to you. It’s your life between two covers.” The old man smiled and placed his hand on the young man’s shoulder.

“You are right Son. Masonry has been my life and I learned a lot of it from that little book. And I charge you to do the same thing. The teachings of Masonry will carry you through life’s challenges if you apply them and don’t worry, I took no offense. That is why you are here to learn to subdue your passions.”

With that the old man opened the book and said, “let’s get your life in Masonry started.” 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Hosler

Bill is the eldest of three children born to Bill and Margaret Hosler, raised in Huntertown, Indiana.

Since his earliest days Bill has had a vivid imagination and a flair for writing. In third grade Bill’s mother was called into school by his teacher convinced that he had plagiarized a fictional story that he was asked to write for an assignment. The teacher told his mother “It’s just too good to be written by a child!” It took quite a bit of convincing to get the teacher to believe that Bill had written the story himself.

Bill has had several separate and interesting careers through his adult life, including a decade driving a truck, which allowed him to visit all of the forty-eight continental United States and two provinces of Canada. Bill also worked as a Security, Emergency services officer at a General Motors plant.

For several years Bill also was the building manager for the Fort Wayne, Indiana Masonic Temple. Many of the inspirations for Bill’s fictional pieces come from his time as caretaker to the old Masonic edifice.

Today he resides in Bentonville, Arkansas, with his lady Tammi and their yellow Labrador named Happy.

W.Bro Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002, in Three Rivers Lodge No. 733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana’s Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Calvin Prather Lodge No. 717 in Indianapolis.

He also holds Masonic memberships outside his mother jurisdiction, amongst which is perpetual membership of Ardmore No. 31 in Ardmore, Oklahoma and a lifetime member of Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco, Texas.

Bill is also a member of the Valley of Guthrie Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Oklahoma and the Valley of Indianapolis, Indiana. He has also served as the High Priest Fort Wayne Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

Bill is a founding member of the Masonic Society he also holds membership in the Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research in Indiana, Oklahoma Lodge of Research, Texas Lodge of Research and The Missouri Lodge of Research, and the Texas Lodge of Research. His writings have been published in the Working Tools magazine and is currently a Regular Contributor for The Midnight Freemasons and Co-Host of the Meet, Act and Part podcast.

Check out Bill’s website: https://billhosler.com/

Follow him on:

Instagram @billhoslerpm

Twitter @BillHoslerpm

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