Thanks to everyone at the Pittsburgh Masonic Center for their warm welcome. It looked to be well over a hundred brethren and their guests. What was especially gratifying were the many questions that followed my remarks - possibly one of the longest Q&A sessions i've ever had, from Masons, non-Masons and wives.
My deep appreciation goes to brothers Bob Addleman, Jr. and Don Murphy for their invitation, for making it all easy, and for their hospitality. And to Jon Barkan and his crew from Communications For Learning in Arlington, Massachusetts for coming all the way to western PA to shoot footage of a Dummy.
It was especially great to meet brother Daniel Murphy who drove from out east past Allentown. Dan and I have corresponded for three years on Hiram's Forum, but it was a pleasure and a surprise to meet him in person. After the event, he introduced me to the culinary excesses of Primanti Bros., and we continued our conversation til the wee hours. I even remembered to pick up two cases of Yuengling beer, brewed in my old home town of Pottsville at the oldest operating brewery in America (I couldn't enjoy it back then - I was 10).
I always lament the loss of old Masonic temples. Pittsburgh sold their downtown location many years ago and built a more suburban complex, shared by lodges and the appendant bodies. It is a beautifully designed facility, and they are justifiably proud of it.
A curious aspect is that it is built along Cemetery Lane, in a neighborhood with no less than eleven cemeteries in it. I drove past three on my way in, which is sort of disquieting imagery for aging members, I would guess. Anyhow, adjacent to the driveway of the Masonic Center, on a little rise on the outer edge of Union Cemetery, stands the pyramid-shaped grave of Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Russell was not a Mason, and the Masonic Center was built long after he died in 1912, but I'm sure there are those who see it and believe there's a connection between them. But why the pyramid? Russell's early beliefs were that the Hebrews had built the Great Pyramid, believing it to be an illustration of the Bible in stone, and he used the symbol of a pyramid to illustrate the ages of Christianity.
While many have claimed he was a Mason, Russell wrote that Freemasonry, Knights of Pythias, Theosophy, and other similar fraternal and philosophical organizations were unscriptural, saying in 1895 they were "grievous evils." Nevertheless, he borrowed lots of existing symbolism from many sources, and Masonic Knights Templar will be interested to note the "crown and cross" symbol on his tomb (which is not exclusively a KT symbol).
After his death Russell's writings were denounced by the Jehovah's Witnesses, a curious development for a religion's founder, and his books and papers were removed from their libraries. JWs who stumble across his pyramidology today are justifiably confused, and Elders have to explain.