"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Video: Nazis vs. Freemasons

Finding a decent Masonic program at random on Amazon Prime's leviathan on-demand streaming service is frequently an exercise in futility, given the abundance of lurid video nonsense about our fraternity choking the marketplace. But I stumbled into an outstanding documentary last week - Nazis vs. Freemasons: the Robbing of the Lodges

(NOTE: The title listed on Amazon is ‘Nazis and the Freemasons’ but the onscreen title on the program itself is ‘Nazis vs. the Freemasons.’ And yes I know, that Nazi swastika above is backwards - not my artwork.)

Over the last few decades, much attention has been given to the far sexier topic of art treasures stolen by the invading forces of the Nazi regime as they tore across Europe. But it's difficult to find much when it comes to the subject of their sacking of Masonic temples in Germany and in the occupied countries. Few historians outside of the fraternity are even aware this was done, and almost no one even talked about it before the mid-1980s or so. 

Of course, there was Hitler's well-known philosophy that the Freemasons and the Jews were in cahoots to "take over the world," and that "all Jews are Freemasons; all Freemasons are Jews." So there was a direct anti-semitic aspect to the destruction of the lodges. Then there was the longstanding European claim that French Masons had started the French Revolution, and that Masons had essentially designed and controlled the entire government of France's Third Republic in the late 19th century. 

Alfred Rosenberg
Heinrich Himmler
A certain clot of influential Nazis like Alfred Rosenberg (one of the chief architects of Nazi ideology and its top "racial theorist") and SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler had their own reasons for wanting their hands on Masonic archives. Rosenberg created an entire institute for pursuing cultural, historical and anthropological "proofs" of Nazism's racial theories and especially the "Judeo-Masonic Conspiracy." His Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (or ERR) had an entire division devoted just to Masonic archives. Meanwhile, Himmler really was a full-throated devotee of occultism, and had a longstanding inkling that the secretive Masons really might be secretly hiding the the secrets to Life, the Universe and Everything in our secretive secret secrets. 

Once Hitler came to power and shuttered Germany's lodges, the ERR set up their Masonic division in the basement of Berlin's largest former Masonic Temple, while upstairs was turned into the national headquarters of the SS. They made odd housemates: Rosenberg's ERR and Himmler's SS were in direct competition with each other to see who could confiscate more cultural and artistic treasures. 

Rosenberg stored the ERR's loot at Neuschwanstein Castle, while Himmler's best finds got hauled off to Wewelsburg Castle, which became his own virtual crypto-religious shrine for the SS' most elite officers. But the invading Germans weren't just interested in stripping expensive Masonic decor or spooky props. They also gutted Masonic libraries wherever they found them. By the end of the war, Himmler had amassed the world's largest library of esoteric books made up of more than 13,000 stolen volumes from across Europe. A huge portion of them came from Masonic libraries.

Most of all, the Nazis desperately wanted the detailed membership records from the various grand lodges and lodge secretaries (along with trade unions and other voluntary associations) from every country they advanced into. The Nazis removed Masonic records and libraries across France, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, the Baltic States, Greece, and Italy.

Those records - frequently consisting of lodge petitions and other personal information - were a treasure trove for the Gestapo and other security forces and their quislings for tracking down men through their Masonic memberships, sponsors, occupations, known residences, spouses and families, and much more. France's various competing grand lodges, whether male, female or co-Masonic, made no idealogical difference to the Nazi security apparatus. Notions of regularity that Masons might obsess over were meaningless distinctions, and every grand lodge and individual lodge room was looted, regardless of whose it was. The files and confiscated libraries were ultimately sent back to Berlin where the Gestapo, the SS, and their cooperative collaborators pored over them. This was the way that an estimated 250,000 Freemasons wound up being systematically arrested and sent to the camps throughout Europe. 

Because of U.S. and British bombing campaigns on Berlin as early as 1942, the archives began getting shipped eastward into Poland and Czechoslovakia by the Nazis to avoid destruction - only to be captured when the Russians marched in from the opposite direction. Russia's Red Army were the first of the allied forces to roll into Berlin and seize control of the Nazi's centralized record keeping infrastructure. But the story didn't conclude in 1945. When the war ended, the Masonic records never returned. 

The Soviets under Stalin were every bit as obsessive about spying on private citizens as their defeated Nazi enemies had been, and just as ruthless when it came to stuffing their ideological foes into the dark hole of the gulags. The leaders of the Russian Revolution and their successors had been every bit as anti-Masonic as Hitler's Germany, for many of the very same reasons, just without the grim efficiency. So Stalin was happy to capitalize on the Nazi's diligence - those very same Masonic records were packed up from Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia and shipped farther eastward as fast as the Russians could find boxcars and trucks. And they remained behind the Iron Curtain for the duration of the Cold War. Because the Soviets had taken all of the former Nazi territories east of Berlin, all of those former Masons still alive throughout the Warsaw Pact countries could still be traced by Moscow through their old lodge records.

All of this is partially why this very topic today brings out heated fights in, for instance, Italy, when government prosecutors periodically demand that grand lodges turn over their membership records in their regular-as-clockwork anti-Mafia investigations. European Masons have the past as a grim example of how their own private information can be used against them, and it's a large part of the reason they aren't as publicly showy over their Masonic memberships as we are in the U.S. The wartime experience is also why European Masons on the continent are far less consumed by discussions of regularity and recognition at the local lodge level — they know from experience that the enemies and persecutors and would-be destroyers of our fraternity make no such distinctions.

Another reason for Moscow's desire to pore over the Masonic archives was strategic, once the Cold War was in full swing. A large proportion of the military and political leaders of the Allied forces, the post-war Marshall Plan administrators and officers, and leading NATO figures were Freemasons. Many of them were quite public about it (especially the Americans), so the Russians clung to the Masonic information in case it could be used for their own purposes. After Stalin's death, that particular obsession fell by the wayside, but the lost Masonic archives simply disappeared into the massive maw of Soviet bureaucratic detritus. 

Think of the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Patricia Grimsted
It wasn't until 1999 after the fall of the USSR that those decades-old Masonic archives began turning up in forgotten warehouses dotted all across the fallen Soviet empire. That was thanks to the detective work of the redoubtable Patricia Grimsted, an American historian who has specialized in investigating confiscated Nazi treasures, files and other lost cultural material. She is quite literally the hero of this detective story.

This video was originally a French program, but dubbed into English. At 51 minutes, it would make an excellent presentation for a lodge's Masonic education. It features Pierre Molliere, the Director of the Grand Orient de France's incredible Museum of Freemasonry in Paris; historians Andre Combs and Sophie Coeure; Philippe Charuel, Grand Master of the Grande Loge de France; Marc Menschaert, Grand Master of the Grand Orient de Belgique; Philippe Gugliemi, Past GM of the Grand Orient de France; and Patricia Grimsted, whose dogged investigation of Nazi plunder over the years led to the ultimate return of these archives.

Reimagining the Modern Masonic Lodge Room

New lodge room at the Grand Lodge of California
Brother Bryan Godwin over on Reddit recently posted a photo (top of this page) of a newly constructed lodge room now available for use at the San Francisco headquarters of the Grand Lodge of California. This is a terrific contemporary design, and so rarely found in the U.S. Click the photo above to enlarge it - there's an awful lot of sacred geometry ingeniously packed into that space.

(UPDATE: The room was designed by architect and Brother David Hackett. The Grand Lodge also added a dining area with bar, study and lounge with a functioning fireplace. in their remodel. Here are two more angles of the lodge room itself that brethren posted on my Facebook page since I first put up this story.)

Let's be honest. Too many American lodge rooms have a tendency to either look stuck in 1929 (16-foot plaster walls painted in powder blue), or were covered from stem to stern back in 1958 with cheap, phony walnut panelling as though there had been a massive, nationwide closeout sale on the stuff at Ace Hardware that got pimped one summer to the entire fraternity in a Short Talk Bulletin. There's a certain uniform basement rec room feel to them.

Don't get me wrong - while I hate the cheap paneling nailed up in thousands of lodges like so many church recreation halls, insurance offices, garages, and basements throughout the fruited plain, I'm AM a big fan of the late 50s and early 60s contemporary architecture. 

There's a gulf of difference between cheap junk nailed up to cover up a problem versus thoughtful design. For instance, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania's Masonic Village in Elizabethtown has one of the very coolest 1960s A-frame lodge rooms I've ever been in.

Lodge room at the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
But not this...

Be honest - isn't it time to redecorate?
Maybe the time has come to personalize your lodge room, or at least admit that our parsimonious Brethren from the Eisenhower Administration years sufficiently got their money's worth from all that mud brown panelling and blue shag carpeting. Maybe at long last it's finally time to redecorate again. 

If you are interested in reimagining your lodge room with a more contemporary approach, take a look at some modern French and Belgian lodge rooms. Many of their older rooms were wrecked during WWII under Nazi occupation throughout the country, so they had to build brand new ones or redecorate destroyed older ones. Plus, they are often in densely packed, tiny urban locations. They have MANY contemporary designs throughout those two nations. And their lodge rooms are designed for far fewer members than most of our older temples were.

For inspiration, I highly recommend two large format photo books packed full of their lodge room images:

Temples Maçonniques de France et de Belgique by Serge Moati and François Nussbaumer

A La Découverte des Temples Maçonniques de France by Ludovic Marcos and Ronan Loaëc

While expensive (the larger Marcos/Loaëc one has more examples), both are worth having. Both books contain new and older rooms with a huge variety of decor, plus many older rooms with updated contemporary designs. 

Here are a couple of random examples.

Not every design appeals to every taste. One man's idea of impressive is another man's idea of a hotel lobby. But in earlier times, our brethren were not shy about personalizing their lodge buildings and meeting rooms with artwork, custom furniture, unique detailing, and innovative designs. That festive, decorative spirit generally did not flourish in the mid- and late-20th century throughout the US. 

(Maybe it's because we pitched the booze out of so many jurisdictions...)

Notice how so very much in all of these examples is accomplished with lighting. Even plain white walls can become dramatic or soothing or otherwise evocative just with new, modern light sources and alternatives.

Think about the first time you actually walked into your current lodge room. Did it feel "special"? Did it feel like you were in a very different sort of place than anywhere else?

Didn't you WANT it to be?

Our lodge rooms are supposed to be a sanctuary from the outside world. They are supposed to make you feel like you are in a place that cannot be invaded by the problems outside the Tyler's door. They are supposed to make you feel like this is a unique place where important, comforting, reflective, and sometimes transformative things take place. All of the above examples accomplish that in a way that baby blue paint or basement paneling lit with flickering fluorescent tubes while a ceiling fan ticks overhead cannot.

Then, of course, there's another way to accomplish this besides paint, lights and furniture. The Scottish Rite Valley of Houston a few years ago built what amounts to a holodeck - a room surrounded on three sides by projection screens so that quite literally any backdrop or artwork can be displayed. Sixteen hi-def laser projectors are combined with computer generated wraparound imagery and a huge surround sound system. Virtual Reality Solomon's Temple anyone?

Just different ways of looking at it. Next time you walk in, try looking at your own lodge room with different eyes. And then make the most of it.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

'Theatre Bizarre' 2019 at Detroit's Masonic Temple

Every October since 2011, the massive Detroit Masonic Temple has been turned over to the ever expanding Halloween bash known as Theatre BizarreThis type of massive production defies adequate description. 

Theatre Bizarre is a giant, surreal entertainment extravaganza that essentially takes over most of the twelve-story fraternal tower of the Detroit Temple each October. Spread across eight of the sprawling building's levels, each lodge room, ballroom, and public area becomes a venue for a wild carnival atmosphere that combines theatre, burlesque, haunted house, circus sideshows, tattoo artists, punk bands, masquerade balls and other "immersive events." This is all about audience participation on a grand scale, and the organizers take advantage of a huge international movement of performers and artists who travel the world to create these types of shows. 

Pearl-clutching Masons who feel our buildings are no place for such public spectacles need not read further, and this will surely have generations of venerable Masonic figures from our past spinning in their graves at high speed. Some might even regard it as ghastly. But brethren who know our most significant buildings are always in need of income and public exposure to our communities need to read up on this innovative use of the world's largest Masonic building.

The good news for Detroit's Freemasons is that, apart from much needed income, it draws quite literally thousands of people into their building who would otherwise never have encountered it. While the performers and acts themselves would have shocked our predecessors and rung up the vice squad, the actual attendees at its two Gala Nights are strictly required to dress in formal masquerade attire. The general public is invited to attend throughout the week. And the Detroit Temple's uniquely varied architecture and design is the perfect backdrop. The designers and organizers take full advantage of the public's vague sense of secretive, occult spookiness with which Freemasonry has been suffused in the popular culture for decades. 

It takes weeks (starting each September) to install all of the scenery, props, lighting, effects, and more. Resident lodges change their rooms and meeting schedules to accommodate the show.
I fully realize that many Masons may absolutely recoil in horror at the sort of onstage acts this particular program hosts and want no part of seeing it in a Masonic building. 'Community standards' are an ever-shifting landscape, while Masonic ones tend to be less changeable.  Many years ago, one of our local Grand Masters became quite agitated against the notion of renting out our large and abandoned auditorium to theatre groups because he was terrified of potentially seeing an ad for "Come and see The Vagina Monologues at the Masonic!" Fifty years ago a different Indiana Grand Master made a very public condemnation of our magnificent Murat Shrine theatre and forbade them from booking the musical Hair because of its language, disrespect of the flag, and its notorious nude scene. He threatened to expel any Masons who rented their buildings out to "obscene" productions. The story hit the national news. He was lauded by the entire community and the police department for weeks, on the news and in print, for protecting the city from licentiousness. 

That was 1969, the summer after the so-called Summer of Love. Today, grade schools wouldn't hesitate to take kids on a field trip to see that same show.

I won't condemn or defend anyone who would agree today that a program like Theatre Bizarre is just beyond the pale of what many Masons regard as our sacred spaces. There's no hiding that this year's Detroit event will present (among others) a burlesque show called the Dirty Devil's Peep Show, dominatrixes at the Fistitorium, and punk-rock bands like Messer Chups, Mother Feather, and Death. I'll just say that our lodge rooms only become sacred spaces when we meet as Masons, and that extends to caves and quarries, taverns and cabins, and anywhere else. 

Our most significant buildings were almost always meant by our predecessors to be open to and welcoming of the local community, to be part of the fabric of our towns. For way too long, so many of our most important temples have been slipping away from us specifically because we have failed in that mission. Detroit's brethren need to be applauded for recognizing this and shining a spotlight on their Temple in a way that the community appreciates and enjoys.

If you've never visited the Detroit Masonic Temple for yourself and had the COMPLETE tour, put it at the very top of your Masonic list of things to do. It is the largest Masonic building in the world, and was designed to accommodate 50 different Masonic organizations. Including its on-site hotel rooms on the former Shrine end of the building, it contains over a thousand different rooms, and no detail was left out. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Arturo De Hoyos Speaking In Indianapolis Tuesday 10/22

This Tuesday, October 22nd, renowned author, researcher, translator, and historian Arturo De Hoyos will be speaking at Lodge Vitruvian No. 767's Stated Meeting and Festive Board in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Art is the Grand Archivist and Grand Historian for the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite SJ, and his body of work over the last three or so decades has been nothing short of astonishing. To my knowledge, he has not spoken in the Indianapolis area before.

Please alert our Secretary if you intend to be there so he can plan accordingly.

Here is the official summons:
Come join us for fellowship and scholarly discussion on the evening of Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019 AD, 6019 AL.
We are determined to complete our business in one hour.
NOTE: We will be conducting our annual election of Lodge officers at this meeting, but will do our best to complete this process quickly.
Also, please note that our Festive Board dinner is to be tiled, and is open to Master Masons only.
7:00 – 8:00 PM Stated Meeting
Lodge Vitruvian No. 767 F&AM
Broad Ripple Masonic Temple
1716 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46220-2338
“In the style of European Lodges, members are expected to dress in tuxedo for all Communications of the Lodge. Members also purchase their own regalia, (apron, collar, gloves, case), according to Lodge Vitruvian specifications.”
Visitors dress should be tuxedo, or business attire.
8:30 -10:30 PM Festive Board
The Aristocrat - Oxford Room (upstairs)
5212 North College Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46220
Each attendee will be responsible for the cost of his and their guest’s meal.
Keynote Speaker:
Arturo de Hoyos, Grand Archivist and Grand Historian, Supreme Council, 33°, will be presenting his topic, "A discussion on Albert Pike’s Esoterika, his once-secret unpublished text on the symbolism of the blue lodge degrees."

(Be aware that the Red Line boondoggle has eliminated some on-street parking around the Aristocrat, and their parking lot is not large. Be prepared to park on side streets and have a longer walk. Car pools to the restaurant would not be a terrible idea. Of course, you could ride the Red Line wiz-bang electric bus down I suppose, but you'd still have to drive to the Broad Ripple Avenue station and park on the street somewhere just to ride it south for ten blocks - which defeats the whole point. And you'd arrive at about dessert time.)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Speech: Indianapolis' Masonic Temples At The Center of the Community

On Friday night I gave a presentation at the Indianapolis Masonic Temple to an audience of Masons and theatre folks about the role that our city's three Grand Lodge buildings have played in the community ever since the first one opened in 1851. 

Many thanks to WBro. Patrick Elmore for recording this event and editing my presentation into a watchable video (see above). My apologies in advance for the audio. It's one of the deficiencies of recording on a phone.

As I pointed out, each of our three Temples' auditoriums (all officially known as  'Freemasons' Hall') were designed to accommodate our two large statewide Masonic meetings each year – but those massive rooms weren't really built for us. These big spaces were really designed to be used by the city for the rest of the year. And use it they did.

The first Indianapolis Masonic Temple 1850
All three of our Masonic Temples over the years were intended to be an integral part of the community. In Indianapolis our large halls were used for theatrical shows, concerts, speeches, travelogues, public assemblies and debates, and much more. There were magic acts and circus performers, traveling authors and musical prodigies, famous scientists and inventors, story tellers and celebrities. Despite our strictures against the discussion of politics and religion in lodge itself, Freemasons Hall was the setting for Indiana's second Constitutional Convention in 1851, political rallies (Abraham Lincoln spoke there in 1859), stump speeches and tax debates, anti-slavery protests and rallies. It was even rented out to two different churches for their Sunday services.

In 1855 our Masonic Hall was the site of the inaugural public procession and "sumptuous banquet" of Indiana's 'African Freemasons,' descended out of Prince Hall's African Lodge in Massachusetts. The next year they would form the Independent Union Grand Lodge (Colored) of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Indiana, which was the precursor to today's MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Indiana.

The second Indianapolis Masonic Temple 1875
Our second Temple was built in 1875, and there was huge uproar when the architectural firm failed to include an auditorium in the initial design. The Indianapolis lodges and Grand Lodge were far more interested in having downstairs rental income property.  The protests were so heated that they were forced to purchase the next lot to the south at great expense to hastily add an auditorium to the new Temple's backside. It became just as popular as the first one had been to the city. 

When that Temple caught fire in 1905, thousands of people swarmed downtown to watch it burn and mourn its passing. They lined the streets and the small hillside of the State House across the street to watch in horror as the roof collapsed and was consumed by the flames. One brave firefighter ran into the building and emerged from the flames moments later carrying a massive silver drill team trophy of Indianapolis' nationally famous Raper Commandery No. 1 to safety. The crowd erupted in cheers.  Indianapolis' Masons were considered a vital part of the city then, and our loss was a loss to the whole community.

Cornerstone ceremony of the third Indianapolis Masonic Temple on June 6, 1908
When we laid the cornerstone of the third Indianapolis Masonic Temple in 1908, 5,000 people attended the event to cheer us on. The whole city knew that the Masons would be erecting yet another significant building that the community could be proud of. When it opened in 1909, 1,500 people crammed into the building, and another 3,000 surrounded it outside. The Governor couldn't manage to squeeze through the crowd to give his scheduled speech, and finally went home out of frustration.

Freemasons' Hall auditorium of the present Indianapolis Masonic Temple as it appeared in 1913
During Word War II, our present auditorium made up a portion of the Masonic Service Center that expanded throughout the Temple – similar to a U.S.O. It provided services, meals and entertainment for 10,000 U.S. servicemen between 1943 and 45. It was considered the premiere relaxation and service facility in the city for members of the military and their families. The whole community knew they could count on the Freemasons.

In the 1950s Freemasons' Hall was regularly used for swearing-in ceremonies for newly naturalized immigrants. The federal judges who oversaw these events expressed the belief that Freemasonry embodied the American rights of freedom of assembly, expression and religious practice. So our auditorium was the ideal setting in which to express these beliefs to new citizens embarking on their new lives in a new land.

After the 1960s our present Hall fell into disuse. We have not one, but three major Masonic buildings in downtown Indianapolis, and that meant that the Grand Lodge could take advantage of those other venues without investing in and upgrading its own. The Scottish Rite and the Shriners built bigger and better theaters, and so Indiana's Masons used them instead.

Indianapolis Scottish Rite Cathedral auditorium
Grand Lodge moved the annual communication to the larger, more comfortable (and air conditioned) Scottish Rite Cathedral theater across the street. It's been there ever since.

The Murat Shrine Theatre (operated today as the Old National Center)
Founders' Day didn't begin until 1961 and was first held at the Murat Shrine Theater (operated today as the Old National Center). That event eventually moved to the Cathedral. 

By the 1980s the Masonic Temple's auditorium had become an elaborate broom closet, and Grand Lodge used it to pile up junk, old paperwork and floor buffers. Despite a couple of promising fits and starts in the late 90s and again in the early 2000s, the auditorium again went dark, the doors closed, and it remained largely unseen by our own members. Years of ego fights, hurt feelings, neglect, burnout, frustration and a one-foot-out-the-door attitude all took their toll. The city itself had long ago forgotten it even existed.

Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can rise again. 

In May of this year the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana officially took over the management of the Indianapolis Masonic Temple. Decision making has been streamlined, the logjam of inaction has been been broken at last, and great things are on the horizon. A fundraising and preservation foundation for the Temple has been reactivated, and major news is coming. 

More important, this presentation on Friday was part of what will soon be announced publicly about an exciting new chapter in the Indianapolis Masonic Temple's history.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Issue 46 of the Journal of the Masonic Society

Issue 46 of the Journal of The Masonic Society got crammed into the back of my mailbox last week by my postal carrier (who has all of the grace and caring finesse of an old Soviet Aeroflot airline hostess and with much the same looks). 

As always, the lineup for this issue is an impressive one. 

Papers include:
  • "Personal Ritual: A Contemplative Tool for Masonry Beyond the Lodge" by C.R. Dunning, Jr.
  • "Ancient Charges Scroll Case: Putting Craftsmanship Back into the Craft" by Martin Bogardus
  • "Who Are We, and Where Do We Stand?" by Robert L. Poll
  • "The Boyer Model of Scholarship: Application to the Craft" by Michael L. Moran and  Seth C. Anthony
  • "The Symbolism of Preparation" by Mark St. John
  • "Brother, Brother - Brother, Brothers" by Anthony Whitehawk Cabello
  • "Concept of Masonic Renewal: What does it mean to you now and in the future?" by Christian M. Christensen
  • "Why Freemasonry?" by Barry A. Searle
  • "Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism: Ludibrium or Logic?" by Michael E. Ludwig

The great collection of reading in this issue also includes the regular book reviews, Editor's Corner, Greg Knott's great Camera's Lens feature, John Bridegroom's Masonic Treasures and more. 

Hard to believe that we started the Masonic Society just eleven short years ago. If you are not a member or subscriber, you should be! Visit the Masonic Society's website at www.themasonicsociety.com

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Molotov Cocktail Thrown at NYC's Masonic Hall

The New York Post reports that an unidentified suspect threw a Molotov cocktail at the entrance of New York's landmark Masonic Hall on 23rd Street Wednesday night at about 11:45PM. 

According to the report, the glass incendiary device ignited and quickly burned out. Firefighters were called, but the flames had been extinguished by the time they arrived. There were no injuries and there is currently no word yet on any damage.

The suspect was seen on video surveillance cameras and was wearing a grey sweatshirt and green track pants with white stripes down the legs (click the photo above to enlarge). New York Crime Stoppers is seeking tips on this suspect at 800-577-8477.

The Masonic Hall is home to dozens of Masonic lodges and related organizations, and is the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of New York F&AM.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Video: Differences Between the Two U.S. Scottish Rite Supreme Councils

Did you ever wonder why the U.S has two different (VERY different) "mainstream" Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Supreme Councils - one for the Northern (NMJ) and one for the Southern (SJ) jurisdictions? 

The AASR-SJ's Illus. Grand Archivist Arturo De Hoyos and the two Sovereign Grand Commanders - Jim Cole (SJ) and David Glattly (NMJ) -  spell it all out for you in this video that was recently posted by the Scottish Rite of the District of Columbia.

In the first ten minutes, Art explains where the two groups originated and why, the differences in practices and philosophies of their dramatically dissimilar degree rituals, even the "wings up/wings down" controversy. The second half of the program is a back-and-forth interview with the two SGCs.

The message this video conveys is a celebration of the differences and similarities, not a claim as to which of the two jurisdictions is "better or worse." And as Art points out, if you are truly obsessive about it, you can be a member of both jurisdictions simultaneously (although you have to decide on an official "home" valley through which you receive your honors and benefits).

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Former Aurora, Illinois Masonic Temple Destroyed By Fire

And another one gone.

The former Aurora, Illinois Masonic Temple was destroyed by fire last night. It has been empty since 2006. The cause of the fire is unknown.

From the NBC affiliate in Chicago:
Crews continued to battle the massive fire into Tuesday morning. Officials said the ceiling caved in on the five-story structure overnight and it remained unknown as of early Tuesday which portions of the building, if any, would be salvageable.
The blaze rendered the temple structurally unstable, Aurora Fire Chief Gary Krienitz said at the scene early Tuesday. Krienitz added that the temple's roof and part of the facade had already collapsed, and that the entire area was blocked off out of fear that the walls could come down as well.
He also said that debris from the blaze hit an electrical line, forcing ComEd to shut off power in the area and causing a small outage.
No injuries were reported in the fire, officials said, but five homes in the area were evacuated. Fire officials said crews will likely remain on the scene all day Tuesday, with the focus on securing the area and getting people back into their homes safely.
The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

The 1921-24 neo-classical landmark in suburban Chicago was originally built by the proud members of Jerusalem Temple Lodge 90, and was designed by architect William Q. Bendus. It had two large lodge rooms that could seat 200, and an unfinished ballroom. 

But in less than 60 years the neighborhood shifted, membership dwindled, and it was fled by the Masons, like so many other giant Masonic temples in and around Chicago. The Aurora Temple became a banquet center in the 1980s, but has been totally abandoned since about 2006. Local attempts at restoration and reuse had been made over the years, but to no avail. 

Now all that remains of the once proud Masonic presence is a burned out shell.

Preserve and protect what we still have, Brethren. We will never build their equals again.

H/T Scott Dueball

UPDATE: A drone flyover video of the burned out temple has been uploaded to Youtube.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Prince Hall Recognition - Is Mississippi Next?

MW Jason A. Jefcoat, Grand Master of the
Grand Lodge of Mississippi F&AM
(UPDATE: This story was previously posted with an incorrect photo that showed Brother Maurice F. Lucas, JUNIOR instead of MW Maurice F. Lucas, SENIOR, who is the Grand Master of the Stringer Grand Lodge of Mississippi (PHA). That corrected photo has been updated below. My apologies for the error, which was mine entirely.)

The historical segregation between the predominantly white "mainstream" Masons and African-American Prince Hall grand lodges in the American South continues to mosey its way to the well-deserved tar pits. While this post is a little less timely than it probably should have been, I wanted to wait a few more days before circulating it.  

Mississippi's "mainstream" and Prince Hall Scottish Rite Masons
were represented at the Scottish Rite in Memphis last week.
The world did not stop spinning on its axis.

The news from last week about the Memphis (TN) Valley of the Scottish Rite and their Prince Hall Affiliated counterparts cooperating wasn't just confined to Tennessee's Masons. As reported, Mississippi had representatives from their own Scottish Rite bodies - "mainstream" and Prince Hall - attending as well. But there's a little more to the story out of Mississippi. 

Back on September 27th, Mississippi's Grand Master, MW Jason A. Jefcoat posted the following message on the Grand Lodge of Mississippi's official Facebook page:
Not long after I was installed as your Grand Master I received an invitation and a request from the Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Stringer Grand Lodge of Mississippi F&AM, Prince Hall Affiliated for a meeting to discuss the possibility of some type of mutual recognition. As your newly installed Grand Master, with what I still consider an extremely important agenda and a very full schedule, I dismissed this invitation.
Five months later while I was representing our State at the Scottish Rite Biennial Session, I was given the opportunity to meet Brothers from all over the world. In some of these conversations the topic of Prince Hall Masons was discussed. I was made aware of some future events concerning Prince Hall Masonry and our counterparts in the Southeastern Masonic Conference. I talked with Grand Masters whose States have recognized Prince Hall Masons for decades, and I talked to Grand Master whose States are voting on this topic in the very near future. There was a lot of talking, but for once in my life I kept my mouth shut and listened.
Because I know how strongly some of our Brothers feel about this topic, I took my burden to God. I considered the consequences and benefits of what some type of recognition would mean for Mississippi, and I asked Him for help.
Within 24 hours I received a phone call from Grand Master Most Worshipful Brother Maurice Lucas, Most Worshipful Stringer Grand Lodge, Prince Hall Affiliate. I immediately accepted his invitation for lunch the next week. The following is a result of our meeting. The request has been turned over to the Fraternal Relations Committee, and will be presented for a vote at our next Annual Communication.

MW Maurice F. Lucas, Sr.
Grand Master of Stringer GL of Mississippi (PHA)
The letter GM Jefcoat posted was an official written request by MW Maurice F. Lucas, Sr., the Grand Master of the MW Stringer Grand Lodge of Mississippi F&AM (the regular Prince Hall Affiliated grand lodge in that state - see footnote) to discuss joint recognition and arrange a treaty of amity to share concurrent jurisdiction in Mississippi:

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Part of the thing that frustrates new and old Masons alike is the glacial speed with which the fraternity operates, especially when topics like recognition arise. When annual meetings are required to make changes, and simple yes/no decisions to proceed or not are measured in years instead of days or minutes, it's easy to assume nothing is happening. 


What this all means to the uninitiated or the frustrated is that Mississippi's Prince Hall (PHA) Masons will be voting on whether or not proceed with this official request at THEIR next annual communication. THEN the Grand Lodge of Mississippi F&AM will take up the question. Presuming both pass the votes, THEN the two grand lodges will officially meet to hammer out details. THEN the two grand lodges will have to both ratify the agreements. And all of this presupposes that both bodies of historically entrenched Masons even agree to undertake any of this in the first place.

All of this creaky back and forth seemed normal in the 18th and 19th centuries when these types of processes were worked out. Unfortunately, when it comes to potentially controversial topics like anything involving race and the American South, the rest of the world can't refrain from hurling accusations and insults south of the Mason-Dixon Line. This isn't an apologia for this longstanding wall between Freemasons there, but let's give fair-minded Masons the proper opportunity to finally solve it at long last. If they do, this map may be changing again sooner than later.

*Just a note for clarity: since after the Civil War, Prince Hall Freemasonry has long been most active and widespread in the American South. If you don't know the history of the National Compact era and the battles between PHA (Prince Hall Affiliated) grand lodges versus the former Compact-era PHO (Prince Hall Origin) grand lodges, this blog can't really do that justice in a short space. If you read online arguments between Masons on both sides, you might see them calling each other "three-letter" or "four-letter" Masons (F&AM vs the Compact's AF&AM). In some states, the early- to mid-20th century attempt to standardize all PHA grand lodge names by changing to "The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of [your state here], F&AM" was frustrated by legal counter-claims over corporate entity names on a state by state basis. 

Consequently, Mississippi's PHA grand lodge is officially named the "Most Worshipful Stringer Grand Lodge of Mississippi F&AM." The Compact-era's PHO grand lodge got to the courthouse first, so it snagged the simpler name .

For related reasons Florida's ungainly regular, recognized PHA name is the "Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity F&AM PHA Florida & Belize, Central America Jurisdiction, Inc."