Tuesday, February 21, 2012

GLNF Deemed Irregular by North American Grand Masters

The Conference of Grand Masters of North America is going on this week in Atlanta, and there are major issues in the Masonic world that the GMs will be discussing: the situation with the Shrine in Michigan and Alabama, the Grande Loge Nationale Française with its embattled GM François Stifani, and the Grand Encampment's Rectified Rite, just for starters.

The first news to leak out is from the Commission on Information for Recognition, chaired by William Holsinger, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of California. According to the LML in English website, the Commission found that the Grande Loge Nationale Française has engaged in irregular behavior worthy of losing its recognition. It is VERY important to understand that this does NOT mean, as the LML website states, that the North American Grand Lodges have yanked recognition of the GLNF. The Commission cannot do that, and neither can the Conference. Only individual GLs can pull their recognition (as the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia did, to a certain extent, last week, joining 32 other worldwide GLs that have derecognized or severely limited their relations with the French GL). The Commission only reports on the regularity of other GLs and issues an opinion that North American GLs are free to follow or ignore. Nevertheless, if the rumor is true, this is very bad news for Stifani and the GLNF.

A new obedience is forming from the hundreds of lodges Stifani has either suspended or who have refused to pay their Grand Lodge assessments. The Union des Loges Régulières Françaises (ULRF) is forming the Grande Loge Unie de France (United Grand Lodge of France) that will either strike out on its own, or will merge back with the GLNF once Stifani is gone and the troubles are settled (if that is possible).

For the long version of what has been transpiring in France, read the ULRF's version here.

In the meantime, no word has leaked out yet in reference to the Shrine and the RER. More as it becomes available. The final Report on Recognition will be read later this week.

Monday, February 20, 2012

International Pipe Smoker's day

Roger VanGorden and I freezing ourselves on the patio in Alexandria, VA
in 2011, for the sake of reveling in the Brotherhood of the Briar.

"A pipe is the fountain of contemplation, the source of pleasure, the companion of the wise; and the man who smokes, thinks like a philosopher and acts like a Samaritan."
-Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton


Today is International Pipe Smoker's Day. Raise your pipe in celebration!

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.

For those of you who have long admired the art of the pipe, but didn't know where to start when it comes to partaking of the joys of the leaf and briar, The Art of Manliness website features a Pipe Smoking Primer, written by Jason Mills.

The 1979 Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health (Table 7, Section 13, page 17, or page 637 in pdf form) shows that, in one study (H. A. Kahn), pipe smokers of 1-4 bowls a day actually have a lower mortality rate than non-smokers. Table 8 of a second study (E.C. Hammond), shows pipe smokers who smoke more than 9 bowls a day, again, had a lower mortality rate than non-smokers.

That's because a pipe keeps us calm and free from hysterics. In fact, messing with a pipe allows the experienced puffer to avoid answering a direct question for as long as 45 minutes.

"The pipe draws wisdom from the lips of the philosopher, and shuts up the mouth of the foolish; it generates a style of conversation, contemplative, thoughtful, benevolent, and unaffected..."
-William Makepeace Thackeray, from The Social Pipe


My favorite pipe in my collection is a Stanwell calabash shape, and my tobacco is a custom blend by Dunhill from a dwindling stock that is getting low enough for me to worry. I haven't smoked much in the last year, so that's helping to save the stockpile. Until the early 2000's, I could still get my custom mixture from Dunhill in Chicago, then New York. That stopped when they went out of the pipe tobacco business. Dunhill has began to reissue its tinned tobacco in the U.S. in 2010 but I don't hold out hope for the custom mixtures ever again. *sigh*

Friday, February 17, 2012

Israeli Library Uploads Newton's Theological Texts

Israel's national library, which contains a vast trove of Issac Newton's esoteric writings, has digitised his occult collection and posted it online.

From Physorg.com:

Among the yellowed texts are Newton's famous prediction of the apocalypse in 2060.

Newton revolutionized physics, mathematics and astronomy in the 17th and 18th century, laying the foundations for most of classical mechanics - with the principal of universal gravitation and the three laws of motion bearing his name.

However, the curator of Israel's national library's humanities collection said Newton was also a devout Christian who dealt far more in theology than he did in physics and believed that scripture provided a "code" to the natural world.

"Today, we tend to make a distinction between science and faith, but to Newton it was all part of the same world," said Milka Levy-Rubin. "He believed that careful study of holy texts was a type of science, that if analyzed correctly could predict what was to come."

So he learned how to read Hebrew, scrolled through the Bible and delved into the study of Jewish philosophy, the mysticism of Kabbalah and the Talmud - a compendium of Jewish oral law and stories about 1,500 years old.

For instance, Newton based his calculation on the end of days on information gleaned from the Book of Daniel, which projected the apocalypse 1,260 years later. Newton figured that this count began from the crowning of Charlemagne as Roman emperor in the year 800.

The papers cover topics such as interpretations of the Bible, theology, the history of ancient cultures, the Tabernacle and the Jewish Temple.

The collection also contains maps that Newton sketched to assist him in his calculations and his attempts to reveal the secret knowledge he believed was encrypted within.


The texts may be accessed here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Masonic Society Names fellows and officers


The Masonic Society held its annual Board meeting at Masonic Week in Alexandria, Virginia on February 10th, and is proud to announce the following brethren as the Fellows for 2012:

Ron Blaisdell
Cliff Porter
James R. Dillman
Mark G. Robbins
Paul Newhall


Fellows are named by the Board in recognition of their contribution to the body of knowledge of the fraternity, through their writing, their Internet work, their service to the Society, or other labors for Freemasonry. Congratulations to these hard working brethren!

The following officers were elected for 2012:

President - John R. “Bo” Cline
1st Vice President – James R. Dillman
2nd Vice President – John Palmer


Many thanks to Michael Poll for serving as President for 2010 and 2011. Mike did an outstanding job as the Society's second president, and we are deeply appreciative for his hard work and dedication.

Back From Masonic Week


Me, Nathan Brindle and Jim Dillman at the Masonic Society booth in Alexandria for Masonic Week. Photo by Roger VanGorden.


Alice, Wiley and I are home at last from Masonic Week in Alexandria. We took our leisurely time about things, so we didn't get home until Wednesday evening. As usual, the events were outstanding, with a couple of personal standouts for me (some of which I can't discuss yet, and two of which were among the most moving experiences I have had as a Mason).

On Friday, February 10th I had the very distinct honor of being named as the 101st member of the Society of Blue Friars, by Grand Abbot S. Brent Morris. The Blue Friars were formed in 1932 to recognize Masonic authors, and today there are only 26 living members. I am humbled to be in the company of so many brethren whose work I have long admired, and am deeply appreciative of this honor. Each year I look forward to the Blue Friars gathering and the paper delivered by each new member, and it was a great experience to be the one delivering it this year.

Monday evening I had the opportunity to head for Baltimore to speak to the Maryland College of the SRICF. Many thanks to the fratres for their kind invitation and their generous hospitality.

The Masonic Society had another outstanding week, with many old and new members stopping by our table in the vendors' area. The hospitality suite, although smaller this year thanks to the hotel's remodeling, was packed to the rafters Thursday and Friday evenings. Many thanks to everyone who stopped in for a wee dram and great conversation, and especially to Jim Dillman for acting as our bartender and lifeguard once again.

Our banquet was outstanding, and speaker Brett McKay, co-author of The Art of Manliness, gave a terrific talk on the origin of his book and website, and what it means to be a man in today's society. Thanks, Brett, for making it a great evening, and to everyone who came out. Billy Koon stopped by to point out that we again outdrew his Knights Occidental gathering at the same time.

Looking forward to next year, the Allied Masonic Week will move hotels to the Hayatt in Reston, Virginia, February 6th through the 9th, so there are many unknown details that will be worked out as the year progresses.

George Washington Masonic Stamp Club 2/26

The 2012 annual meeting of the George Washington Masonic Stamp Club, with the conferral of the Master of Philately ceremony for new members, will take place Sunday, February 26, 2012 at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.

The day's events include:

Noon – An optional ($5) tour of the upper floors and tower will begin.

1:30 – Review of Covers/social hour in North Lodge Room.

2:00 – The annual meeting, with Master of Philately.

4:45 – Regroup at Joe Theismann’s Restaurant at the bottom of the hill.

5:30 – The 55th Anniversary Dinner (“no host,” with ladies and guests welcome).

Dinner Speaker: Bro. Rudy Krutar on “Look Both Ways.”

Those desiring to receive the Master of Philately should reserve in advance by contacting Secretary John R. Allen at gwmsc1956(at)gmail.com

Membership proposals are balloted upon at each meeting. Each requires a completed application, including payment of the $20 Life Membership fee, and evidence of current membership in a recognized Blue Lodge.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Freemasonry in India Is Growing

The Grand Master of India reports that, while membership in some countries may be slipping, India is seeing new gains.

From the Times of India, "Old Secret Society Finds Future in Youth":

"Writer Dan Brown certainly created a flutter about Freemasons, but what's encouraging is that membership in India is growing while many other countries are losing members," says Balaram Biswakumar, neurologist and grand master, The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons (AF & AM) of India.

"While fiction has played a role in this, a lot of our new masons are youngsters who have access to the Internet and have read about Freemasons and their charitable activities," he says. Kumar attributes the growth in membership to the conservative approach of selection adopted by the masons. Most new entrants have a familial masonic link.

IT professional S Ramasubramanian, who was initiated into Lodge Ramprasad in the city in January 2010, says he had some idea about masonry as his paternal uncle and cousins were part of the society. "The rituals were a bit of a surprise," he adds.

"Having said that, I must confess there is nothing scary about them. Like every religion has certain symbolic rituals so does freemasonry," says Ramasubramanian, a manager with Cognizant. Lodge Ramprasad has around 188 members, 15 of whom are in their thirties.

[snip]

Another 'brother',Harish Mohan, who joined freemasons at the age of 18 in 2003, has been a regular with his mother lodge, Om Vigneshwara. When he joined the freemasons 10 years ago, Om Vigneshwara's membership was 30. It has now doubled. Around 24 members of Om Vigneshwara are in the 20-40 age group. The entry age is 21, but it is relaxed to 18 for those whose fathers are members of lodges.

Mohan is associated with a project that provides solar power to villages across the country. He attributes the growth in membership to open sessions with families and the public at large by the Grand Lodge of India. "We are becoming more open. At Om Vigneshwara, we have two family meets every year," he says.

Masons get little time to learn about each other in the formal environs of the lodge, so members like Mahendra Jogani are trying to encourage social interaction through initiatives like the Freemasons Family Circle. The Freemasons Family Circle has 300 members in Chennai.

"This is an informal body, and is not affiliated to freemasonry. The whole objective is to provide a platform for family and social bonding," he says.

Thirty-nine-year-old Peeyush Sinha, also known as 'green mason', was drawn into the fold after hearing about the masons from friends abroad. The diamond trader joined the freemasons three months ago but says he has still not been exposed to all the rituals of the society.

"There were a lot of queries initially. They were clarified during the first two meetings. Discussions largely centre on societal change and it is very enriching," he says. Religion and politics are taboo subjects. Sinha belongs to Patel Fulchand Lodge, which has 30 members of whom he is the youngest.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism: Saturday, April 28, 2012

Registration is now open for the April 28 symposium at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library in Lexington, Massachusetts.

The symposium seeks to present the newest research on American fraternal groups from the past through the present day. By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members. The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for fresh interpretations of American society and culture.

Seven scholars from the United States, Britain and Belgium will fill the day’s program:

-Jeffrey Tyssens, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, “The Goatee’s Revenge: A Founding Myth and a Founder’s Cult in American Fraternalism”

-Yoni Appelbaum, Brandeis University, “The Great Brotherhood of Toil: The Knights of Labor as a Fraternal Order”

-Adam G. Kendall, Henry W. Coil Library and Museum, “The Shadow of the Pope: Anti-Catholicism, Freemasonry, and the Knights of Columbus in 1910s California”

-Samuel Biagetti, Columbia University, “A Prehistoric Lodge in Rhode Island? – Masonry and the Messianic Moment”

-Alyce Graham, University of Delaware, “Secrecy and Democracy: Masonic Aprons, 1750-1830”

-Bradley Kime, Brigham Young University, “Masonic Motifs in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”

-Kristofer Allerfeldt, Exeter University, “The Significance of Fraternalism in Three Criminal Organizations of Late Nineteenth Century America: The Mollie Maguires, the Ku Klux Klan and the Mafia”

All Symposium attendees are invited to a public lecture by Michael Halleran, Independent Scholar, “Gentlemen of the White Apron: Freemasonry in the American Civil War,” at 1 PM, in the Maxwell Auditorium. This presentation is made possible through the generous support of Ruby W. Linn.

The symposium is funded in part by the Supreme Council, 33°, N. M. J., U.S.A. Registration is $65 ($60 for museum members) and includes morning refreshments, lunch and a closing reception. To register, complete the Registration Form and fax to 781-861-9846 or mail to Claudia Roche, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 33 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA 02421; registration deadline is APRIL 14, 2012. For more information, contact Claudia Roche at croche@monh.org or 781-457-4142.

A registration form can be downloaded here.

Northeast Masonic Symposium 4/14 Albany, NY


The Northeast Masonic Symposium will take place April 14th, 2012 at the Desmond Hotel in Albany, New York, sponsored by St. Georges Lodge No. 6. I'll be speaking that day, along with Dr. Roger M. Firestone, Terry L. Tilton and Richard Friedman. Tickets are $50, and include lunch and a cocktail reception.

For more information see the symposium website at www.northeastmasonicsymposium.com

George Washington: Zombie


William Thornton is best known for his winning design for the U.S. Capitol, building in Washington DC. As a part of his design, he envisioned a special burial niche for the body of George Washington. But Thornton was trained in Edinburgh, Scotland as a doctor, and when George Washington died in December 1799, Thornton had bigger plans than just putting the President's body in a special tomb. He concocted a scheme that would use cutting edge techniques to reanimate George's body into a zombie.

Really.

From the io9.com website, "The Capitol architect wanted to reanimate George Washington’s dead body":

The president may not have feared death, but he did fear being buried alive. Before he died, he commanded his secretary, Tobias Lear, to make sure that he would not be entombed less than three days after he died. In accordance with Washington's wishes, his body was put on ice until it could be moved to the family vault.

That's where the story gets a little strange. The morning after Washington died, his step-granddaughter Elizabeth Law arrived with a family friend, William Thornton. History best remembers Thornton as the architect who created the original design for the Capitol building, but he was also a trained physician, having studied at the University of Edinburgh. Although he did not practice medicine for much of his life, Thornton always had a keen interest in the workings of the human body, and he suggested a novel method for resurrecting the fallen warrior. Thornton told Washington's wife Martha that he wanted to thaw Washington's body by the fire and have it rubbed vigorously with blankets. Then he planned to perform a tracheotomy so he could insert a bellows into Washington's throat and pump his lungs full of air, and finally to give Washington an infusion of lamb's blood. Friends and family declined Thornton's mad scientist offer, not because they thought his solution impossible, but because they felt the nation's first president should rest in peace.

So what gave Thornton the idea to play Dr. Frankenstein? Susan E. Lederer, author of the book Flesh and Blood: Organ Transplantation and Blood Transfusion in Twentieth-Century America, notes that many physicians in the late 18th Century believed that lamb's blood had special properties, and believes Thornton meant to give Washington's circulatory system "a spark of vitality" that might jolt him back to life. But Paul Schmidt, in his article "Forgotten transfusion history: John Leacock of Barbados" published in the British Medical Journal, suggests that the University of Edinburgh may have been on the forefront of transfusion research (unless you count all those transfusion experiments in 17th-Century France). Thornton wasn't the only Edinburgh alum thinking about blood transfusions during that time period. Philip Syng Physick, an earlier Edinburgh grad (who incidentally practiced in Philadelphia, where Thornton himself briefly practiced medicine), is reported to have performed a human blood transfusion as early as 1795. John Leacock, a later graduate, performed successful transfusion experiments, believing an infusion of blood would "excite" the recipient heart. Leacock's experiments in turn influenced James Blundell, who is credited with introducing the process to the mainstream medical community. Schmidt wonders if the Edinburgh community took particular interest in those early French transfusion experiments, planting the idea in Thornton's mind.


H/T to Rob Mountain. Image: Zombie George Washington by Plemon Studios.