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

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

UCLA International Conference on Freemasonry - April 18th

The 9th annual UCLA International Conference on Freemasonry will take place on Saturday, April 18th.  This year's theme is 'Esotericism and Masonic Connections.'

As part of its collaborative partnership with the history department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the Institute for Masonic Studies presents an annual International Conference on Freemasonry on the UCLA campus. 

The UCLA International Conference is sponsored by the California Masonic Foundation and the Grand Lodge of California. These events seek to educate and inspire scholars of the Craft. The International Conference welcomes all Masons, Masonic and academic scholars, UCLA faculty and students, and members of the general public.

Freemasonry offers everyone a pathway to self-improvement, fellowship, and community. For the committed few, it holds the promise of even more. For more than 300 years, Masonic teachings and symbolism have attracted those in search of deeper, secret meanings about the natural and even supernatural world. These esoteric pursuits, shrouded in mystery and mysticism, have endured through the centuries and even today continue to fascinate seekers around the world.

On April 18, experts and scholars on Freemasonry will meet on the campus of UCLA to discuss the eternal quest for esoteric knowledge and its broader relationship to the Craft. The ninth annual UCLA International Conference on Freemasonry is a rare chance for Masons and non-Masons to dive deep on metaphysics, antiquity, and the occult.

This year's presentations have been announced:

Freemasonry and the Esoteric: Elitism, Insecurity, and Unenlightened Self-Interest
Ric Berman, author of several books on Freemasonry including Espionage, Diplomacy & the Lodge

Although Masonic esotericism hints at ancient secrets, it was in fact not widely introduced into the craft until the 1730s—a means of appealing to an elite aristocratic and mostly French audience. The success of that marriage in the eighteenth century led to Freemasonry’s systematic introduction into the United States, a consequence not of politics or spirituality but economic self-interest.

The Esotericism of the Esoteric School of Masonic Research
Henrik Bogdan, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Gothenburg

The founding of London’s Quatuor Coronati research lodge in 1884 gave birth to a new school of Masonic history and research, based on legitimate texts and study rather than the subjective or “inspired” Masonic writers of the past. However among this new school were a subset of scholars approaching research from what historian R.A. Gilbert called the “Esoteric School of Masonic Research”—part of a broader milieu of fin-de-siecle occultism.

Hidden and Visible: Mormon Garments in Community
Nancy Ross, assistant professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, Dixie State University

Weighted with meaning, sacred (and secret) undergarments have long been a highly important, though seldom discussed, part of the Mormon church. Indeed, across religions, sacred garments like these have presented profound dilemmas and indicated deeper meanings for wearers and their broader communities.

Freemasonry and Neoplatanism
Jan Snoek, historian of religions at the Institute of Religious Studies, University of Heidelberg

Several philosophers, expanding on the teachings of Plato, developed theories without which Freemasonry could never have found its form. From Abbot Suger’s construction of the church of St. Denis—Europe’s first gothic cathedral, dedicated to light and beauty—to the third-century parable of the sculptor who must perfect himself, meet the thinkers who paved the way for modern Masonry.

Stephen Freeman on Antigua and London: A Respectable Rosicrucian
Susan Mitchell Sommers, professor of history, Saint Vincent College

The recent discovery of a single surviving pamphlet by a quack doctor, Stephen Freeman, living in Antigua in the late 18th century offers a rare glimpse into not only the thinking of a fringe medical professional, but also paints a stunning portrait of the lives of striving middle-class emigrants in the West Indies struggling for respectability. Largely by leaning on connections through societies including the Freemasons and esoteric Rosicrucians, those like Freeman hoped to improve their lot in society and find deeper meaning—in both cases, often unsuccessfully.

Saturday, April 18, 2020
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM (Pacific Time)

University of California, Los Angeles
330 De Neve Drive
Covell Commons-Grand Horizon Room
Los Angeles, California

To register, CLICK HERE 
Registration is $25 for the conference only, or $30 with the optional buffet lunch (which must be purchased in advance via the registration page).

England's WB Ric Berman, noted Masonic scholar, past Prestonian Lecturer, and Past Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 (EC), regarded as the premier lodge of research, will be in Los Angeles in mid-April to speak at the UCLA Symposium. 

Ric says he would be happy to stay over and give talks or presentations elsewhere in Southern California before or after that event, or even elsewhere in the U.S. if he can arrange his airline flights and connections. Hosting lodges need only cover local transport/accommodation. Ric is a world-class Masonic speaker and this is a rare opportunity while he's on our side of the Atlantic. 

But be aware that Ric has to finalize his travel plans very soon, so if you have any interest in hosting him during this trip in April, you need to contact him immediately before his tickets get purchased.

If interested, please email april2020@quatuorcoronati.com.

Ric will be back in the U.S. again in September when Quatuor Coronati will be hosting another North American Conference at the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in Boston. Details about that event are available at www.quatuorcoronati.com.

For a list of his books, see his Amazon author page HERE.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Stonecutter

One thing always leads to another, and connections are funny things. While I was back in Indianapolis over the weekend I came across this unusual artifact we uncovered from a long-forgotten storage locker in the downtown Temple. I've never seen a sculpture quite like it, and it has the look of something from the 1930s or so. Then my friend David Hosler posted this old Chinese folk tale today on Facebook that I first read many, many years ago and had forgotten about. It was popularized in the disarmingly philosophical little volume, The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, which used the classic children's stories of Winnie the Pooh to introduce the basic fundamentals of Taoism.

Thanks for the reminder, Dave.

The Stonecutter

There was once a stonecutter who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life.

One day he passed a wealthy merchant’s house. Through the open gateway, he saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stonecutter. He became very envious and wished that he could be like the merchant.

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever imagined, but envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. Soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!”

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around. It was a hot summer day, so the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!”

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!”

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!”

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, feared and hated by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it – a huge, towering rock. “How powerful that rock is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a rock!”

Then he became the rock, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a stonecutter's hammer pounding a chisel into the hard surface, and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I, the rock?” he thought.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Colorado's Ghost Town Lodge

The rich heritage of American Freemasonry as it expanded westward throughout the 19th century can still be found carefully preserved around the country - usually in unusual places. There is a great story today on the Colorado Public Radio website about Colorado's historic Nevada Lodge No. 4, which still operates as a working lodge today in the ghost town of Nevadaville.

From 'Why Freemasons Still Lurk In The Ghost Town Of Nevadaville, Colorado' by Natasha Watts:

If you take exit 243 off Interstate 70, you’re most likely headed for the glittery casinos of Central City and Black Hawk. But make a wrong turn on your way up the mountain, and you may end up in a ghost town.

In the 1800s, Nevadaville, Colorado bustled with gold miners. Today, only a few buildings stand, relics of the Old West version of our state that’s hard to find anymore. An old trading post, a saloon and a tiny town hall dot the dusty main drag.

You’ll also find some Freemasons.

Once a month, they converge upon Nevadaville to practice their rituals in a building built by brothers from another time.


There are just under two million Masons in America. The basic unit of Masonry is the Lodge, which is what the group that meets in Nevadaville is called: Nevada Lodge #4.

Colorado’s only ghost town lodge was built in the 1870s. It’s still around today thanks to the efforts of Masons through the decades to preserve this piece of history. The lodge meeting room still possesses the original wallpaper and wainscoting, according to Patrick Dey, Worshipful Master of Nevada Lodge #4. (The lofty-sounding title basically means he’s the current elected leader of the group.)

Dey says the lodge room in Nevadaville has impressed many an outsider, including members of other local lodges who come to the ghost town for initiation. Typically pledges are led in blindfolded, and “when it comes off... I always hear them go, ‘wow.’ Just to be in that room during that is such an experience.”

For Nevadaville miners in the late 1800s, Masonic membership was something to aspire to. Back then, Dey says dues were $4 a year. The average miner made $1 a week, so that constituted a month’s wages.

Being a lodge member gave a man wealth and status, as well as an assurance that his brethren would help pay for medical needs or after-death expenses. Think of it as Old West health and life insurance.

Brothers still help each other monetarily as needed, but Dey says the main draw now is old fashioned, face-to-face connection — something hard to find in the digital age.

“Up here in Nevadaville, we don’t get good cell phone reception, so you don’t have to worry about guys sitting there playing on their phones in lodge...” Dey says. “So hang out, enjoy yourself. You’re in a ghost town!”

An architectural designer by day, Dey is obviously passionate about the preservation of the building. He and his brothers come up frequently to do restoration work. Sometimes, when they stay late, they’ll sleep overnight in the old building. To him, it feels like communing with the past...

READ THE REST (or listen to the radio version) HERE

Colorado's Nevada Lodge 4 was established in 1861 in the mountains west of Denver. For more information about the lodge and its meetings, check the website HERE.

If you're traveling in Colorado there are a wealth of Masonic historic sightseeing possibilities:

Denver Lodge No. 5 - Colorado's oldest chartered lodge (1859). Meets in beautiful Denver Masonic Hall (b. 1889) at 16th and Welton Streets. Red sandstone exterior building was gutted by fire in 1984, and completely rebuilt inside.

•Denver Airport - the conspiracy lovers' dream. Masonic dedication marker and time capsule in main passenger terminal, creepy murals (by artist Leo Tanguma), swastika runways, underground tunnels, 'alien' vocabulary embedded in the floor, Satanic blue horse sculpture - it's all there, and more.

•Fairplay - Lodge Room Over Simpkin's Store (South Park City Historical Site, 100 4th Street, Fairplay, CO)

•Leadville - Corinthian Lodge No. 35 (b.1910; chartered 1882), highest altitude active US lodge (10,152 ft).

Pike's Peak Cryptic Masonic Monument

Friday, January 10, 2020

SRRS 2020 Bonus Book: 'Daniel Parker's Masonic Tablet'

The new bonus book from the Scottish Rite Research Society should be in mailboxes by now, and a fascinating piece of work it is, too. Once again, Arturo De Hoyos has resurrected a unique, fascinating and little-known book from the past - this time with the assistance of Daniel Gardiner, the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Montana.

The book is Daniel Parker’s Masonic Tablet, originally printed in 1822. And if you have any interest in the development of Masonic "Blue Lodge" Craft ritual, this one needs to be a part of your library. It is the earliest transcription of what we call Preston-Webb work in the U.S., from which nearly every state derived their rituals used today.

I'll let Art explain it in his own words, from his Facebook page this week:
"[B]eginning about 1797 Thomas Smith Webb, author of the “Freemason’s Monitor,” taught a unique form of Masonic ritual to his students, who transcribed the ritual in private books, in a one-to-three lettered cipher code. This “Webb work” became the basis for most Masonic rituals used throughout the United States. In 1822 the Rev. Daniel Parker, a zealous Mason living in Kingston New York, had printed his own clever cipher ritual, which by-passed the need for private tutors, as a supplement to Webb’s Masonic monitor. He was rewarded with expulsion, but has the honor of creating the first printed American cipher ritual.
"Although it’s not precisely the Webb work, his text does give us the earliest full description of uniquely American Craft and York rituals. (The text has some really interesting differences in language!) At the time there were two Grand Lodges in New York State. Parker’s ritual represents a version of the “City Grand Lodge” ritual, while William Morgan’s exposure is a version of the “Country Grand Lodge” ritual. The current Grand Lodge of New York includes elements of both.
"The introduction to this book includes a brief biography of Rev. Parker, a history surrounding the creation of his cipher, and shows how it was later used and abused by anti-Masons, and inspired the creation of the ciphers used today.
"This hardbound illustrated book (451 pages) includes a complete facsimile of the original cipher, and a full plaintext decryption of the earliest descriptions of the American versions of the degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, Master Mason, Past Master, Most Excellent Master and Royal Arch Mason.
"Also included in the appendix, for the benefit of ritual comparison, are facsimile reproductions of the original (never before reproduced) editions of William Morgan’s “Illustrations of Masonry by One of the Fraternity” (Batavia, 1826), and “A Revelation of Freemasonry” (Rochester, 1827)."
The Scottish Rite Research Society is an offshoot of the AASR-Southern Jurisdiction, but do not let that dissuade you from becoming a member if you are outside of their territory. Annual SRRS membership is $55 and includes the annual Heredom collection of research papers, the quarterly Plumbline, a bonus book or other item every year (!), plus a discount on books and items from their shop at the House of the Temple (also available online). To join, CLICK HERE. 

By the way, Art says that he will be happy to provide autographed copies of this most recent book (contact him directly), and that it will be available soon through the AASR-SJ's online store for non-members of the Society.

(Photo by Baruti Kmt-Sisouvong)

Monday, January 06, 2020

Virginia Lodge Pays Off Local School Lunch Debt

For at least two centuries, local Freemasons were regularly seen as an integral part of the  communities in which they resided. But after the dawn of the 21st century, that image has drifted out of the public "common knowledge" that used to bind cities and towns together in civic participation. That doesn't mean your local lodge can't get back on your town's radar - not by a long shot. 

In case you are under he misapprehension that I'm arguing for plundering your treasury, "making a difference" usually takes far more initiative and imagination than money. Consider this story out of Bluefield, Virginia today from the local NBC affiliate. 

The local lodge - Harman Lodge 222 - just voted unanimously to pay off the unpaid school lunch debts for two local schools, and send donations to two local career centers. The total tab? Just $1,000. But Bluefield residents have just been reminded that the Masons are alive and well and dedicated to helping their neighbors and children.

From the WVVA website:

BLUEFIELD, Va. (WVVA) - Harman Masonic Lodge # 222 in Bluefield, VA made a decision at their January chapter meeting. 
The Lodge voted unanimously to pay off unpaid school lunch balances for Dudley Primary School and Graham Intermediate School in Bluefield, VA.  
Unpaid meal debt at our local schools is a growing trend and we feel like no child should have to worry about not having enough money to eat lunch.  
Grat Slade, Harman Masonic Lodge #222 member
The Lodge will also donate $500 towards Graham High School’s unpaid lunch debt.  
They also voted to donate $250 to the Tazewell County Career and Technical Center and $250 to the McDowell County Career and Technical Center.  
This money will be used for their Skills USA program.  This is a nationwide competition that requires the schools to pay for lodging, food and transportation for the students.  
I would like to urge all local organizations, businesses and churches to consider donating to Graham High and Graham Middle School to pay down the debt for unpaid school lunches. As a community, we can help these children concentrate on their school work, and not how much they have in their pockets.  
Grat Slade, Harman Masonic Lodge #222 member 
In addition to monetary donations, the Lodge is currently planning a litter pick up day closer to the end of winter.  
We are excited for the year ahead of us and hope to make our communities better. 
Grat Slade, Harman Masonic Lodge #222 member

This is nothing new for Harman Lodge. In the past, the lodge has also provided small scholarships for local high school students, as well as funding other local causes. 

Bluefield is unique, as it straddles the Virginia/West Virginia state line. For a brief time, the Virginia-side town was actually named Harman, after the death of local Civil War hero, Colonel Edwin Houston Harman. The lodge was established in 1866, and also named in his honor.