Journal of the Emerald Specter 63: The Benefit of Hindsight

Technically, this will be a “random history” column, but will also fill the role of figuring out how to move forward with concepts and ideas… it’ll all make sense as I role this out.

The problem with this particular bit of random history, I find myself unsure of a heading image to use… I want to continue using headings that get made and I’ve already created three that I don’t think will ever get used again. I could be wrong, of course, but the idea of the headers is to give me ample options when I’m writing these columns.

So, with the thought process on this next one, I think I have covered a wide topic while still keeping the general topic at hand in one piece. Things will look a little weird in the beginning but I promise that I’m actually going somewhere with this, so without further ado:

In late 1996, Bob (of the Greatest Show fame) and I decided to form an American knighthood. Bob came from a background, of which I only vaguely remember, that had him and his hometown posse with lengthy “titles.” The idea that Bob would be able to add “sir” to that was something he was interested in. If you’re wondering, I also had a lengthy title, thanks to Bob inducting me into the gang, and after the knighting between the two of us, my title was now Sir Lor Tian Dark Tiger, Teydani Priest of the Werecat Clan. I haven’t used that in two decades, but I have retained the knighthood.

The idea of the knighthood wasn’t anything more than improving myself and having a background to do so. The Emerald Knights, as we were, had a bit of a falling out and when I left the Navy, I took the knighthood’s concepts with me back home.

I was going to build the Emerald Knights from the foundation that was what Bob and I had established. There was a small recruitment and I ended up adding friends (Viper, Dan, Kyle, and Angus). Yes, two of those are nicknames and rather than struggle with forcing my use of their real names, I’ll just call them how we all referred to them for all this time.

Establishing a structure by which the Emerald Knights would operate was our first order of business. We established a hierarchy, recruited a few more members, and we were well on our way to being better. Our mode of self improving wasn’t quite solidified, though, as we were entrenched in trying to build that idea from scratch. The “from scratch” is what you should remember as I continue with this tale.

Building the Emerald Knights slowly converted from a self improvement group to creating shadows where shadows didn’t need to exist. A faction within a faction was eventually created, bureaucracy in our meetings was formed, and we stopped growing and sort of just treaded water at that point.

Here’s where things got rocky.

Trying to control things without necessarily having a goal in mind, I ended up driving a wedge between myself and Dan, the person I would have chosen as the successor to the “leadership” that was (at that time) myself. The wedge was so deeply driven that I hadn’t even spoken to Dan (or any of the others) for almost two years, when Dan and I started talking again.

Gone was the idea of doing anything with the Emerald Knights, as far as the group was concerned, but I did still want to get back to the focus of what the Emerald Knights was supposed to be: self improvement with some flowery caveats to entice the populace in general.

Here’s the call back to what I mentioned before, and in hindsight, I realize that building something from scratch when resources existed to build up from was a terrible idea. With several failed attempts at rising up into a management position in my working career, I realize that I should have formed the basis for the organization and stepped back to let the others grow that as I simply filled in with input now and then.

Basically, induct everyone into the organization with the idea of growing it in a certain direction and then stepping down from leadership into a more ceremonial role, leadership emeritus if you will.

If Dan, Kyle, Angus, Viper, or any of the others read this above description, they might be confused by what the ultimate goal initially was… we didn’t really have a lot of clear communication on that front, which was part of the problem. Reconnecting with Bob and bringing up the concept again, the Emerald Knights just kind of “died on the vine” as our distance didn’t make the idea of a knighthood (for self improvement or otherwise) feasible.

My concept for self improvement has had a resurgence in recent times (by recent, I mean in the last couple of years). Discovering bullet journaling, then building the BuJoRPG with self improvement as the very core of the system, I was making progress again on a solo level. I’ve never liked the solo idea in totality and believe that groups can improve better as we have each other to draw from rather than drawing from a single source.

This leads me to a more recent set of ideas that I’ve wanted to develop.

The core “tagline” of Freemasonry is “making good men better.” I’ve toyed with the idea of joining the fraternity several times, but after digging into what the fraternity did as far as ceremony, I’ve decided against becoming a member. Personally, the deep connection to a “supreme being” isn’t a terrible idea but intertwining that concept with almost everything is what really turned me off. The other item that bothered me is that while the fraternity claims to be enlightened (at least more than the common individual), they retain that women aren’t really worthy of being part of the group and thus Freemasonry is a “men’s only” club.

If the switch from the Emerald Knights history to Freemasonry seems jarring, bear with me. I didn’t have a great segue to get from one to the other.

Freemasonry teaches “good men to become better” by teaching lessons of allegory wrapped in symbolism and ritual. I think I’ve covered all the buzz words in that sentence. That all boils down to each lesson is a play, acted out by the initiate (the Mason seeking that degree) and other members, to “bring light to the Mason.” The concept of the “bringing light” is where I came up with the enlightenment bit, though I don’t believe they, themselves, consider themselves enlightened.

I’ve known for sometime, from the words of the Masons themselves, that if you look on the Internet, you’ll find everything you need to know about the Freemasons. If you look for yourself, the important thing is to push aside all the asinine conspiracy theories to find out exactly what is at the core of the organization.

What I was looking for, and will point you at now, are the lessons of the degrees themselves. Since the Scottish Rite has 32 degrees, I felt that the “more lessons” would better my self improvement far greater than just the generally accepted “three degrees.” Thus, I began my search for the rituals (as that is what I believed was what I needed to find). I came across a little bit more, though.

Discovering what the actual “play” of the ritual was, while tedious in its reading, contained the basic information I was looking for, I also discovered the lectures (which contain most of the same information but also go on to describe in more detail what needs to be learned from the ritual itself). I tried just learning from the lectures themselves but noticed, when I went back to look at the rituals, that the pair of them were important to have together rather than separately.

Thus, my research now includes both ritual and lectures, but also is expounded upon by dogmatic and esoteric research for each degree by Masons “of old.” Together, these sources flesh out the concepts that help make “good men better.”

I’ve done a lot of research that I plan to produce a podcast explaining each degree. The podcast would be a monthly podcast, probably be a little longer than I normally do (on a solo basis), and would each concentrate on one of the degrees of Freemasonry.

Things that won’t be included are the secret passwords and handshakes… mainly because they do not further my own self improvement and are what the Freemasons actually consider the “secret” portion of their fraternity. No conspiracies for world domination, no ritual butt sex, and no manipulating the world to suit their own needs.

Here’s where I tie everything together.

If I would have used the Freemasons as the basic foundation for the Emerald Knights, the Emerald Knights would still be a thing today. I don’t believe the general idea is lost but I don’t think that I, nor any of the others I mentioned above, could be the ones to resurrect it.

My own self improvement will be benefitted from researching the Masonic degrees. I’m not into the conspiracy theories, I won’t have a “grand organization” from which to govern others in their own self improvement, and I’m content to leave the past in the past. I’m not even sure that building an organization around this is necessary.

The morality within Freemasonry is rooted by their religious background, something to give a “reason to be moral.” Religion has used this concept to give others an anchor for their moral actions. If you need an anchor to be moral, then what kind of monster would you be without that anchor? I don’t need an anchor, personally, and since I don’t I’ll have to be content without the “brotherhood” aspect of Freemasonry that I think enriches the general concepts of their lessons.

Hindsight being 20/20, the Emerald Knights should have found a basic foundation from somewhere else (actual Medieval English chivalry, Samurai Bushido code, Freemasonry, etc) and built up from there. Coming up with the concepts from scratch would have meant (I now realize) decades of refining things that others have already done the work on.

Without revolving around self improvement organizations, this should be applied to everything you do. Want to create a roleplaying game? Why build everything without the benefit of looking at the work of others? Why not take the foundation laid down in other games and build up from there? What about bullet journaling? Why “recreate the wheel” instead of just using the concepts in the system already created?

Why do we make things so difficult on ourselves?

When I was young, just like billions of youths before me, I thought I had all the answers and knew everything I needed to know. What did I need from the older generations who had lived life and tried to pass on that knowledge to me?

I didn’t exactly shun that information but I should have listened a lot earlier, a lot more, and definitely put more effort into following the advice.

I sit here typing this column up as someone who has 40+ years under my belt. I’ve seen things and made mistakes that didn’t need to be made because those mistakes had already been made by others. Now I am the one who points out the mistakes I’ve made to prevent others from having to make them, trying to enrich the “youth” of tomorrow from coming to the same realization that I’ve outlined (in general concept) in this column.

Maybe there DOES need to be an organization that does what Freemasonry does, but be far more inclusive to the world at large?

I can’t be the one to build it, though… not alone, at least.

Thanks for reading.