First and foremost, I am indebted to my family for supporting me in all of my endeavors since my youthful years in Florida and beyond: to my mother, Lily, for her unspeakable love and personal guidance since well before I uttered my first word; to my father, Charles, for his untiring and selfless support of my academic and professional development; and to my brother, Jason, for growing up with me and sharing those memorable moments of life and scenes from childhood that only true brothers can understand. May this book and its merits serve as a testament to the immense contribution of my family to who I am today. I owe my life to them in more ways than I can count.

I must thank Brother Daniel Herr, my friend and fellow traveler from my undergraduate years at Cornell University, who encouraged my philosophical development well before we encountered Freemasonry. Over the years, he has helped me realize that a genuine friendship is a rare gem to be treasured, regardless of where we reside. This book is dedicated to him, for being the first to inspire me to see life as nothing but a journey with a wide expanse of possibilities and challenges.

My Masonic journey would not have been possible without the guidance and devotion of Brother Travis Roberts, my mentor from Norman Lodge No. 38 in Norman, Oklahoma. As a fledgling Mason, I spent countless hours in discussion with him in his office at home, orally learning the full proficiencies of all three degrees line-by-line – a process that took months to master, but with sublime rewards that will last a lifetime. His level of devotion to Freemasonry is unsurpassed, and I constantly strive to follow in his footsteps. Many thanks go to Brother Daniel Hanttula, who was the first to suggest that I someday write a book about Masonic philosophy; to Brother Clayton Daily for being my first mentee and whose friendship exemplified the irreplaceable camaraderie that can come from teaching and learning degree proficiencies; to Brothers Ray Stone, George Lanzidelle, Gary Bailey, Louis Khoury, Jeremy Orosco, Josh King, Clayton Hoskinson, and all the other brothers of Norman Lodge No. 38 for contributing to the beginning of my journey. No matter where the trail of life may take me, Norman will always be my Masonic home.

Other Masons from Oklahoma have contributed significantly to my personal growth: Therin Miller, for encouraging me to write this book, for his inspirational life of honor and integrity to his family and country, and for being a genuine and faithful friend who makes my Masonic journey completely worth the time and effort; Colt Looper, for his innate ability to see and apply the lessons of Freemasonry to his life, no matter the difficulties; and Josh Overvig, for never ceasing to question and to think outside the box. Our many late-night conversations about the interpretations of Masonic degrees were enlightening.

During my brief stay in Colorado in the summer of 2010, I met several Masons with whom conversations led to some of the concepts presented in this book. Thus, they deserve my utmost gratitude. Thanks go to Brother Stefan Moran, for living a life of service and whose devotion to self-improvement inspires me to be a better person each day; and to Brother Brian Murphy, for exhibiting the strength of resolve and an unshakeable faith for doing what is right, no matter how high the hurdle – a virtue that I aspire to achieve. The mutual trust that developed from the many Masonic conversations we shared proved that within the Masonic fraternity, good friends might only be just around the corner. To see such great examples of young Masons who strive to uphold the values of the fraternity gives me the faith to strive on. Thanks to their encouragement, this book is now a reality.

I am grateful for Brother Ryan Klassy, who was the first Mason to welcome me to Colorado. His friendliness, positive attitude, and tireless devotion to the new generation of Masons never cease to inspire. Thanks also go to Brothers Charlie Plagainos and Bruce Yelen, who accompanied me to memorable Masonic events. My experiences in Colorado contributed greatly to my journey, so I must recognize the following lodges for hosting my visits: Boulder Lodge No. 45, Columbia Lodge No. 14, Nevada Lodge No. 4, Denver Lodge No. 5, Centennial Lodge No. 84, Estes Park Lodge No. 183, Fidelity Lodge No. 192, and Northglenn Lodge No. 194. Special thanks go to Centennial Lodge No. 84, for voting me as an honorary member of their lodge. I am sincerely humbled.

The final version of this book would not have been possible without the following brothers in Hawai‘i who reviewed the drafts and offered helpful feedback: Michael Wright, Stephan Fabel, Monty Glover, Justin McNeal, RJ Kapuscinski, and Greg Pentecost. Thanks also go to Les Fukushima for her comments about the initial manuscript. To all the brothers of Honolulu Lodge and Schofield Lodge, thank you for making me feel at home since the first day of my arrival on these beautiful Hawai‘ian Islands.

Special thanks go to Brother Greg Pentecost, for his unwavering devotion to the cause of Masonic education in Hawai‘i. His Masonic Education Dinners, held three times a year, present a forum for constructive discussion about all elements of Masonic philosophy, history, and tradition. With brothers throughout Hawai‘i contributing as speakers, these events enhance the traditional spirit of Masonic dialogue. The theme of this book was solidified during the first of these dinners. I strongly encourage all Master Masons visiting or residing in Hawai‘i to participate!

The abovementioned brothers include students, businessmen, nurses, paramedics, Marines, soldiers, veterans, pastors, scientists, engineers, teachers, and other professionals – people from all walks of life, contributing to an organization that has thrived for centuries. Many of those acknowledged here are only in their twenties. No doubt, the future of Freemasonry rests in good hands.

Several of my friends unaffiliated with Freemasonry have contributed greatly to my life journey and to the ideas contained within this book, and they deserve my utmost respect and gratitude. There was no person more intimately tied to my spiritual and philosophical development during my time in Oklahoma than my good friend Nicholas Engerer. Our backpacking trips and adventures vastly expanded my physical and mental horizons. From deserts to alpine lakes, from prairies to snow-capped mountains, from tornadoes to monasteries – we left no stones unturned, no thoughts unscrutinized, and no possibilities unexplored. Regardless of the separate journeys that we must now take, his contribution to my life adventure will always be preserved in his photographs that comprise the covers of this book.

Thanks go to Kevin Ballantine, whose unfailing strength and positive attitude against the toughest odds inspire all who know him. His fortitude and humor have been a true inspiration for me since my years in college. Thanks also go to Stephen Mullens, for showing me the importance of constructive, religious dialogue and the beauty of the strength of a friendship grounded not on what we believe, but on our mutual care for Truth, humanity, and the pursuit of science. Finally, I must acknowledge Ven. Jian Hu and Ven. Jian Mao for their guidance over the years and for instilling within my heart the motivation for self-improvement and the pursuit of my spiritual quest to seek life’s deepest mysteries.