Thursday, February 26, 2009

Midwest Conference on Masonic Education

The Midwest Conference on Masonic Education will be holding its 60th Anniversary meeting on April 24 - 26, 2009 in Springfield, Illinois.

It just so happens that this also marks the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln and there will be loads of Lincoln-related activities in Springfield to attend.

Registration is just $50, and rooms at the host hotel are $94.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spongebob Infiltrates a Lodge


Spongebob fans take note. Check the latest episode in which Squidward joins a Cephalopod Lodge.

For those who haven't the vaguest notion of what I'm talking about, no, I am not speaking in tongues.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Chicago Scottish Rite This Saturday 2/21/09


I'll be speaking Saturday February 21st at the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago's reunion, located at the Shriner's Hospital for Children, 2211 N. Oak Park Avenue.

Degree work will begin at 10AM, and will include:
4° - Master Traveler
14° - Grand Elect Mason
16° - Prince of Jerusalem
18° - Knight of Rose Croix
32° - Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret


I'll be speaking at dinner, which will begin at 5:30PM.

For more information, see the Valley's event schedule. Looking forward to meeting Chicagoland brethren!

February 20th: International Pipe Smoker's day


Today is International Pipe Smoker's Day, in case you hadn't heard of it by now.

According to the IPSD Website,

WE ENVISION A WORLDWIDE COMMUNION
of pipe-smokers that is bound together by a shared love for pipe-smoking, mutual respect, and goodwill • We envision a society that respects the informed choice and adult use of smoking tobacco • We envision a world where governments act in good faith and integrity, and have the political will and personal courage to express their values appropriately through legislative means • This means that as a group we are united and strong in our beliefs, have understanding, patience, wisdom, enjoy the philosophical aspect of pipe-smoking, and seek to promote pipe-smoking as part of a lifestyle that can be thoroughly enjoyable to adults through the responsible use of tobacco.

MISSION
To foster links across the globe in honor of friendship, benevolence, and tranquility; and to celebrate the fraternity of pipe-smokers across all borders.

PURPOSE
On this day we will take a breather and celebrate the noble art of pipe-smoking and the noble spirit which pervades the brother/sisterhood of the briar. We will put into practice the time-honored and ancestral traditions of raising our pipes in toast to each other in the evening in unison and, thus, share a bowl together.

PHILOSOPHY
Today’s hectic environment almost dictates that we run on full efficiency, have total involvement in our work, our families and in every aspect of what we do to survive and achieve in a world set at high speed.• With ever-changing values it is the intent that The International Pipe-Smoking Day will allow us, the Brothers and Sisters of the Briar to step back and appreciate our rich historical value. • For pipe-smokers and pipe-smoking everywhere the day will be emblematic of our shared values, history, traditions, and aspirations.


Here's to the brethren of the briar. For those interested, it's a Peterson Holmes Collection, Original (picked up in 1987 on my first trip to London), and puffing my dwindling stock of bulk Dunhill cavendish custom mixture (discontinued inexplicably in 2007).

It's the tobacco most likely to incite the comment, "I'm deathly allergic to tobacco smoke. But I love the smell of your pipe..."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

UPDATED: GL of New York Restores Recognition with the GL of District of Columbia

The following messages are being circulated:

February 18, 2009

Brethren All:

Our Most Worshipful Brother Kwame Acquaah, Grand Master of Masons of the District of Columbia, has contacted me from the Conference of Grand Masters and Grand Secretaries in North America (taking place this week in Anaheim, California) and requested that I announce to you on his behalf this happy news:

The Grand Lodge, F. & A.M of the State of New York has announced this morning that it has renewed recognition of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. A joint statement issued today by our Grand Lodge and the Grand Lodge of New York at the Conference of Grand Masters and Grand Secretaries in North America, confirmed that the issues between the two Grand Lodges have been resolved and amity restored. MWB Acquaah greatly appreciates the cordial and amicable manner in which this matter was handled between our Grand Lodge and the Grand Lodge of New York. The Grand Master prays that the bonds of fraternal affection between our two Grand Lodges will continue until time is no more.

The Grand Master is also happy to announce that MWB Thomas M. Velvin, Jr., Grand Master of Masons of Maryland, has ordered the immediate resumption of the processing of requests for jurisdictional waivers from our Grand Lodge. Grand Master Acquaah is thankful and appreciative of the cooperative manner in which the Grand Master of Masons of Maryland worked to facilitate resolution of this matter.

The Grand Master would like everyone to know that he is grateful and most appreciative for the patience and understanding of all DC Freemasons during the past several weeks.

Our Grand Master respectfully invites as many of you as are able to join him at 7:00 pm this Friday, February 20th at the Scottish Rite Center on the occasion of our Grand Lodge Founders' Day. Please register by email at grandlodge@dcgrandlodge.org before 12:00 noon on Thursday, February 19th. Most Worshipful Brother Acquaah looks forward to seeing and sharing fellowship with you on this very joyous occasion.

Fraternally,
Walter R. Hoenes, P.M.
Assistant to the Grand Secretary

THE GRAND LODGE OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Free and Accepted Masons of the Nation's Capital




February 19, 2009
TO: ALL GRAND LODGES WITH WHOM WE ARE IN AMITY

Dear Brethren:

Be It Known that at the Conference of Grand Masters and Grand Secretaries of North America, held from February 14 through February 18, 2009, the Grand Lodge F.&A.M. of the State of New York and the Grand Lodge F.A.&A.M. of the District of Columbia entered into discussions concerning the resumption of fraternal relations between our two esteemed Grand Lodges.

Therefore as a result of these cordial and amicable discussions, our differences were resolved contingent upon further deliberations to follow with explicit regard to the fraternal relations and future intercourse appertaining to District Grand Lodge of Syria - Lebanon, the Lodges in Lebanon warranted by the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and the Lodge in Lebanon warranted by the Grand Lodge F.A.&A.M. of the District of Columbia.

In good faith and with this understanding, the Grand Lodge F.&A.M. of the State of New York restored Full Masonic Relations and Mutual Recognition with the Grand Lodge F.A.&A.M. of the District of Columbia effective February 18, 2009.

Witness my hand and private seal the day and year first above written.

Edward G. Gilbert
Grand Master

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

TV's "Legends & Lyrics" Taping at Grand Lodge of Tennessee in Nashville

Guy Clark, Roger McGuinn, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Lamont Dozier, Dwight Yoakam, Evanescence's Amy Lee, Robert Cray, Melissa Manchester, Grand Funk Railroad's Mark Farner, The Rascals' Felix Cavaliere and other songwriters and performers are set to appear over the next five days at Nashville's Grand Lodge of Tennessee's auditorium. American Public Television is using the auditorium to tape episodes for the Legends & Lyrics music series.

Two shows will be taped each day between February 20th and 24th, at 3 PM and 8 PM. The public may attend at no charge, by going to www.legendsandlyrics.com and printing a pass.

Several years ago, the Grand Lodge of Tennessee made a major commitment to restoring and maintaining its beautiful Nashville headquarters, by passing a $10 per member per capita increase, for a period of the next 20 years. There aren't many jurisdictions that would make such a bold investment in their architectural heritage, but the brethren of Tennessee stepped up to the plate, and it is paying off with high visibility events like Legends & Lyrics. It's high time that our Masonic buildings stopped being invisible within the communities we seek to serve.

"Freemasons For Dummies" Creates Trouble For Senegal's Prime Minister

According to Blog-Maçonnique, a Belgian blog about Freemasonry, now the Prime Minister of Senegal is being tarred with the same anti-Masonic brush as their president. And apparently the "proof" is in his reading material:

When a former prime minister reads "Freemasonry for Dummies"

Since the president of Senegal was recognized (or "confessed") to have been a Freemason, the web and Sénégalais newspapers do not intervene in this matter.

Browsing Walfadjri one can read an article: Macky Sall: "I will never be a Freemason". Apparently, Macky Sall, Prime Minister, was accused of being a Freemason. He was claimed to have been seen on an airplane reading a book about Freemasonry. The leader emphasized that the work in question, 'Freemasonry for Dummies' is an explanation for those who know nothing of the topic.

He kept repeating that he had "never had relations with Freemasonry or any secret society or cult. I've never been a Freemason, am not, nor ever will be. My one and only way was, is and will always be the belief in Almighty Allah and the precepts laid down by the prophet Mohamed, peace upon him."

La Franc-maçonnerie pour les Nuls (Freemasonry For Dummies) by Philippe Benhamou and Christopher Hodapp (First Version Pocket, 2008) is available at Amazon.fr and La Cale Sèche


I do seem to recall a review a few years ago that liked the book but hated the title, and recommended tearing the cover off before you took it on a plane. Mister Sall should have thought of this...

Senegal President Under Fire for Past Masonic Membership

It seems the president of the African nation of Senegal is in hot water over his past membership in Freemasonry. According to Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper, Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade has been outed by Paris' weekly l'Express magazine as a former Mason, and it's causing a row among the Muslim nations in Africa. According to l'Express, Wade was initiated many years ago into a lodge in Besançon, in Eastern France.

The Kenyan paper claims that Freemasonry is "usually associated with sectarianism, rejection of God, shady and satanic practices and more importantly as a practice incompatible with Islam." Nothing like an unbiased source of news, I always say.

Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade


The article goes on,

In a note sent to the French publication, the Senegalese president denied being a member anymore.

He said he resigned long ago. But he also openly admitted that he had been a member of a freemason movement in the past, out of “intellectual curiosity”, thus generating more controversy in the country where freemasons, rightly or wrongly, are viewed as a sect opposed to God’s supremacy.

In his answer to the article accusing him of being a freemason, Mr Wade wrote “It’s true, but I have to specify that I am not a ‘dormant mason’. I was deprived of my membership after a voluntary resignation.”

Following the revelations, one Member of Parliament, Imam Mbaye Niang, who defends Islamic views said the president should resign.

The allegiance of francophone heads of state to freemason movements is a matter of great speculation here and a subject that comes up in the media every now and then.

According to l’Express, only the Gabonese president El Hadji Omar Bongo Ondimba openly admits his belonging to freemasonry while many other leaders in West and Central Africa are reported to be active but “hidden” members.


Wade's letter was reprinted on the Pressafrik website and says he left the lodge in 1959, after failing to find "intellectual exchanges of a high level."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Changes at the Knight Templar Magazine


After nearly three weeks of non-stop traveling, I'm sifting through the mail today and came across a nice surprise. In an upcoming issue of the Knight Templar Magazine, I made the small contributions of a old photograph, and a review of Stephen Dafoe's Templar comic, Outremer. My unexpected reward from the magazine was this beautiful coin.

This is just one of the numerous changes that have been made to the KT magazine by editor John Palmer. Just since the end of last year, the KT Magazine has undergone a major renovation. It has expanded from 32 to 36 pages, with new typefaces and full color. Advertising has been added to help pay for the increased costs, giving 130,000 Templars exposure to products and suppliers. They have assembled an outstanding editorial board: Rex Hutchens, Stephen Dafoe, Aaron Shoemaker, Leroy Delionbach, Terry Plemons, and Sid Dorris. And they have pledged an end to the longstanding lineup of grip n' grin photos, 50 knights snapped from across the street in such fuzzy detail that their faces look like thumbs, or photos of sticking lapel pins on each other. They have promised more feature articles on the history, symbolism, and philosophy of Templary, Christianity, and Freemasonry, and delivered on those promises. With all due respect to the brethren who used to write them, gone are the articles about dead baseball players who were Templars. Today, you are more likely to read about the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Bravo to all involved at the KT Magazine. Your work has not gone unnoticed.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

AMD Masonic Week and The Masonic Society

The entire week has been nothing short of a blast. The head count for The Masonic Society's First Circle gathering was around 70 brethren and ladies, an incredible number for a firstime event like this. Yasha Beresiner's address was the perfect combination of entertainment, information and inspiration, all wrapped up together. BTW, Yasha was also made the newest member of the Society of Blue Friars earlier in the day, so attendees were able to hear him twice this week, in very different circumstances.

Dinner was outstanding—you missed a beef tenderloin and crab cakes...

The business meeting was well received, and fulfills our promise to be transparent in our planning and our finances.

Our hospitality room is #2012, the Mayan Calendar End o' the World Suite. It has been packed every night, and brethren have visited until the wee hours. (Aaron Shoemaker lucked into having the room next door—we tried to warn him...)

We have signed up many new members this week, both new Masons and some old friends, and it's most gratifying to see this kind of acceptance and confidence is an organization less than a year old. Many thanks to all of you who have helped us grow and improve in this first year, and especially to all who made it to Masonic Week!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

New Masonic Renewal Committee Website


If you haven't visited the Masonic Renewal Committee web page lately, it has been completely redesigned. You'll find a wide variety of resources for new and established lodges.

The Masonic Renewal Committee is sanctioned by the Conference of Grand Masters of North America, and has recently been charged with assembling Masonic education resources from around North America into one easy to access resource. This will eventually go a long way towards keeping grand lodges from reinventing the wheel. Great work has been done by grand lodge education committees, only to be buried in obscure or defunct websites. The MRC is seeking to put the best ones online where all Masons can access them. Subjects include mentoring, leadership, membership retention, communication, community projects and charities, secretarial issues, and more. There are Powerpoint presentations, a calendar of all grand lodge communication dates, and even a password protected area for grand masters to discuss issues.

With active participation from grand lodges, this promises to be a tremendous resource.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dan Brown's Next Book Ready?

Sitting in the lobby of the Hilton today, I was chatting with Brent Morris when his Blackberry popped to life. I didn't check my iPhone, but I discovered a similar message on it later. The message was shot around the publishing world today that has them popping the champagne corks in bookstores everywhere.

Dan Brown is finished with his next manuscript.

Entertainment Tonight is reporting the following story today;

Ron Howard tells ET that The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons author Dan Brown has completed a third book featuring Professor Robert Langdon.
Director Ron Howard tells ET's Mark Steines that Dan is very excited about the book. Ron tells ET that he has not had the chance to read it yet, but tells us he can't wait to do so.
Internet rumors have swirled that the new book will be titled The Solomon Key and will take Robert Langdon to Washington, D.C. and focus on the Freemasons.


We'll see if there's any truth to this in the coming weeks. I'm guessing there's been a guy on 24-hour duty with a briefcase full of cash sitting by the front door of Doubleday in New York for the last three years, waiting for Brown to walk in with his Kinko's box. And only time will tell if the book really turns out to be about the Masons.

Brown's coy remark about when the book will be released suggests that it will be tied to some significant date. If it is Masonic, might it be St. John's day, June 24th, when modern Freemasonry began in England in 1717? The U.S. Capitol cornerstone ceremony on September 18, 1793?

We'll all know soon enough.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Masonic Week Arrival

Arrived in Alexandria at the Hilton Mark Center for Masonic Week 2009. The Masonic Society's first Executive Committee meeting was last night, and we are fortunate to have Roger Van Gorden, Ron Martin, Nathan Brindle, Jim Dillman, Jim Hogg, Fred Kleyn and Jay Hochberg all here.

I'm writing this in snatches between events, so bear with me.

We have a table set up in the vendor's area and are signing up new members at a rapid clip. The acceptance by the fraternity in such a short time has been nothing short of astonishing and gratifying. And for us to be a part of the Masonic Week program just eight months after opening our doors is amazing. Many thanks to Billy Koon and Paul Newhall for their kindness and assistance.

We have a hospitality room — Room 2012, the Mayan Calendar End of the World Suite, so please join us in the evenings after your banquets and other festivities.

Our guest speaker for Friday's banquet has arrived, noted Masonic author and researcher Yasha Beresiner. Yasha is great fun and a true Renaissance Man, and we are all looking forward to his address.

A group of us are heading for what is becoming an annual gathering at Gadsby's Tavern of the Knights of the North & Friends to discuss the future of traditional observance-style lodges and other heresies. This was a major highlight of last year, and promises to be another evening of great food and friendships. This is truly a stimulating group of Masons to be associated with.

Meanwhile, stop by the table, buy a book from the Dummy, take this last chance to sign up as a new founding member of The Masonic Society, or just say hello.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Kodiak and the Grand Lodge of Alaska


Me and the new Grand Master for Alaska, MWBro. John R. "Bo" Cline.


My all-too-brief visit to Kodiak, Alaska and the annual communication of the Grand Lodge of Alaska was truly a once in a lifetime experience, and I owe a tremendous wealth of gratitude to Most Worshipful Brother Jared Decker, now the immediate Past Grand Master, and his lovely bride Suni, for their friendship and their hospitality. All of the brethren were great fun and made me feel at home. Kodiak is a remarkable place to visit.

Despite fears of the explosion of the Mount Redoubt volcano that never happened, and eight inches of snow that DID happen, the airport was opened in time Thursday morning for almost all of the attendees to at last make it in. GM Decker had counted on the local hotel's promise of the construction of a new convention center in time for this event, but when it became obvious that wasn't going to happen, the Kodiak American Legion Hall and the Elk's Lodge both came through with facilities to accommodate the grand lodge activities. In keeping with their promise to overfeed me, the opening night dinner at the Legion featured cod fresh off the boat and the biggest King Crab legs I've ever encountered.

BTW, anyone who thinks the American Bald Eagle is endangered hasn't been to Kodiak. Entire flocks of them fill the trees, line the roofs and stand on every light pole around town.

The Grand Lodge of Alaska is in the largest state of the union, yet is one of the smallest with just 19 lodges. Alaskan lodges were under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Washington until the Alaskan's voted to form their own in 1981. Nevertheless, close to a hundred brethren attended this year's event, with visitors from across the US and Canada. This despite historically discouraging weather almost every February ("Last year in Fairbanks it was 65 below zero! Ya shoulda been here!").

Again, my deepest thanks to everyone who made my trip to Kodiak a memorable one. And congratulations to Most Worshipful Brother Bo Cline, the newest Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Alaska.

No rest for the stooopid. Alice and I are off to Washington DC in the morning for Masonic week and the first meeting of The Masonic Society.

Masonic Book Club: Illuminati Weishaupt's "Diogenes Lamp"

I stumbled in late last night from Kodiak, Alaska and eagerly tore into the box that arrived from the Masonic Book Club. Actually, two boxes, for somehow I received two copies (neither one numbered as in the past 30 some years). The selection was no surprise, as I had heard about it some time ago: Diogenes Lamp ("Die Leuchte Des Diogenes") by Bavarian Illuminati founder Adam Weishaupt .

I am not really about trashing the work of others, and if someone has done good solid work and been a little sloppy in its presentation, I'm not such a tweedy, patches-on-the-elbows sort of critic who snorts insults through my tendrils of pipe smoke. But the truth is that this volume is a disgrace.

The two introductory sections are written by "Sir knight Mark Bruback." (See photo) Just from a purely technical standpoint, the text is loaded with spelling and formatting errors (and the most irritating elementary school convention of using "&" instead of "and"). While he would have done service to readers by discussing in a rational manner the modern day Illuminati accusations of alarmists like Lyndon LaRouche and David Icke, referring to them only as Mr. LaDouche and Mr. Icky is appallingly juvenile.

There is no explanation about "Sir knight Mark's" role in bringing this text to light, other than a brief allusion to his procuring the German translation services of Amelia Gill, or why he was chosen to write this appalling introduction (He does explain it a bit on his MySpace site). Indeed, it would have been nice to know Ms. Gill's background and translating experience, because Bruback's errors and inappropriate goofiness call into question the accuracy of the Weishaupt text itself. And Bruback's inclusion of lines from Aleister Crowley's Thelema writings for no apparent reason adds an OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis) element to the book that comes totally out of left field.

One of the biggest benefits of the previous editions from the MBC was the production of hard-to-find older works, enlightened by a modern, well-written preface. By publishing this volume under the imprint of the Masonic Book Club, it calls into question their editorial judgement and expertise in a very big way. (And could they have picked a more unreadable typeface to print this in?)

The Bavarian Illuminati writings have never been available in English, as incredible as that may seem. With all of the Illuminati hysteria that has occurred all the way from the Illuminism scares in the 1790s, through Robert Anton Wilson's reintroduction of the Illuminati in his peculiar and satyrical trilogy, along with Icke's own "reptilian" brand and LaRouche's anti-semitic version, it has taken the threat of a movie based on Dan Brown's Illuminati story Angels & Demons to at last bring forth this one small volume of authentic Illuminati philosophy.

Bear in mind that "Die Leuchte Des Diogenes" was originally published in 1804 in Regensburg, long after Weishaupt was chased out of Bavaria and the Illuminati was exposed as a group of anti-clerical and anti-monarchial revolutionaries who were infiltrating Masonic lodges. Their organizational documents were well publicized by the Bavarian government (again, we have no English translations of these, even though they exist). So Diogenes Lamp may simply be Weishaupt's weepings on what might have been, and why the Illuminati was really just a lovable bunch of harmless fuzzballs.

The text of the work itself turns out to be—nothing special. It is a distillation of Enlightenment philosophy, relying on quotations from other writers and philosophers and darlings of the period. No irony that Weishaupt would have more than a few quotes from Shakespeare's "misunderstood" characters of King Richard II and Brutus, given his recent troubles in his home country. But again with a problem of this edition: why translate the Weishaupt German text, but leave as untranslated long quotes from French and Latin sources?

I know there are texts that actually lay out the Illuminati's rituals and organizational structure that researchers would love to have available in English (and not just John Robison's descriptions of them, or Albert Mackey's and Abbe Barruel's descriptions of Robison's descriptions...) The Illuminati has been erroneously tied to the Freemasons by anti-Masonic critics for 200 years, and I was applauding the publication of this book before I saw it. The good news is that we at last have the first book of authentic Illuminati writings translated into English. The bad news is it's this one.

Robin Carr retired last year from the Masonic Book Club, and I realize there's a steep learning curve for any new management team. And the publishing business has its own special hurdles to overcome. One of the biggest raps against the club over the years was the total lack of communication to members. You simply sent in your money, and eventually a book would come. Hopefully, this will be addressed, and I hope next year's selection is an improvement over this one. The Masonic Book Club has a good reputation from the past, but this volume is a step backwards.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

San Antonio & Perfect Union Lodge No. 10

It's madness at Hodapphäus. A flight to Naples, Florida to surprise the bejeebers out of my mother for her birthday (carefully balancing the shouting of "SURPRISE!" somewhere between hearing loss and heart attack). Two quarterly meetings were snowed out upon our return, including Lodge Vitruvian's Robbie Burns Night, dammit. Global warming, indeed.

Then off for three days to San Antonio, Texas speaking to the brethren of Perfect Union Lodge No. 10 for their annual Past Masters' dinner. Many thanks to WM Brett Doyle and especially to Brother Richard Vickery, who arranged the trip and was the perfect guide and host. Brother Vick has posted his own very kind remarks about the weekend here. Although I must admit that being called the Suze Orman of the Masonic world is a first, I now understand why people on the street often mistake her for me.

Perfect Union Lodge #10 is one of several that meet in the beautiful Scottish Rite Cathedral, just three blocks from the Alamo, and is one of the most visually stunning lodge rooms I've seen.

I'd never spent much time in San Antonio before (a rainy Sunday about 20 years ago, as my brother in law pointed out of the car, "Look, there's the Alamo, there's River Walk. Let's get back. The game starts at 2:00.") The brethren of Perfect Union put me up at the very famous 1859 Menger Hotel, where Teddy Roosevelt burst into the bar and got the boys liquored up, and the next thing they knew, they were rough-riding it to Cuba. I lucked into the monthly Saturday Fiesta, and the whole area around the hotel and the Alamo was turned into a marketplace with music, food, longhorn steer rides for the toddlers, and literally hundreds of people having a great day. It would be hard to have a more perfect trip.

Again, my deepest thanks to everyone who came out for the dinner on Saturday, and especially to WM Doyle, Brother Vick and his wife Rebecca for their hospitality and their friendship.

Vick, me, and WBro. Doyle.


Off to Alaska! Then Masonic Week in DC!