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

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Screen Versions of 'Lost Symbol' and 'National Treasure 3' Advancing


Two high-profile, big money media projects of interest to Freemasons are inching closer to reality - and knowing Hollywood, they are spurring each other on in a race to see who gets in front of audience eyeballs first.

First up, NBC has now officially authorized and ordered a pilot film of Langdon, a new TV series initially based on Dan Brown's Masonic-themed 2009 mystery adventure novel The Lost Symbol. I reported this last June, but 
this announcement by NBC and Imagine Entertainment means this project is no longer just a rumor and is slated for the 2020 production season. So it's real as of now.

The potential TV series is being re-drafted as a prequel to Brown's earlier novels, Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, and will deal with the younger years of Harvard "symbologist" and globe-hopping mystery solver Robert Langdon. The novel revolved around the kidnapping of Langdon's early mentor, Peter Solomon, and is something of a Masonic landmark tour of Washington D.C., culminating in the Scottish Rite's House of the Temple.  

Due to several troublesome plot points in the story (pesky stuff like a major portion of the action taking place in total darkness), Sony Pictures and Imagine Entertainment skipped making The Lost Symbol into a big-budget feature film a decade ago, which disappointed Masons everywhere. At least five writers previously attempted to wrestle The Lost Symbol into a feature script over a six year period after it came out - including Brown himself - before Sony and Imagine gave up and instead made his NEXT novel, Inferno, into the third Langdon movie with Tom Hanks. 

No cast has been announced yet. For this new TV series, Hanks won't appear (with his bad haircut), and a new actor will play this younger version of the Robert Langdon brainbox character. 

According to the Deadline website, the approved script for the proposed Langdon pilot has been written by The Crossing creators Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie, and rumor has it that Dan Brown recommended them for the project. 
They've been named as the show's executive producers - they also co-created/executive produced Matador, and served as consulting producers on Star Trek: Discovery and American Horror Story


(While you wait, I'd like to recommend my books Solomon's Builders and Deciphering The Lost Symbol so you can bone up on the REAL Masonic background and history of Washington D.C.)


Meanwhile, over at the House of Mouse more rumors keep being circulated about Disney developing National Treasure 3 as either a big-budget movie release, or as a streaming Disney+ offering. This was first being touted back in November, but now screenwriter Chris Bremmer, who wrote the script for the current Will Smith/Martin Lawrence picture Bad Boys For Life, has confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter that he's been tapped by producer Jerry Bruckheimer to pen a National Treasure 3 script. That's all anyone is saying publicly, and nobody knows if stars Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel, and Helen Mirren will be back, or if this will center on a new set of characters. It's been a dozen years since the second very successful NT movie came out, and that cast isn't getting any younger (although with the creepy new de-aging SFX software, anything is now possible). 

Bremmer's script for the new Bad Boys sequel is being credited with successfully resurrecting that 25 year-old franchise with its aging stars for Bruckheimer, so we may find out what Benjamin Gates saw on page 47 of the President's Book of Secrets after all. With luck, there will be some Masons lurking in the edges of the story again.

The original National Treasure with its Masonic Founding Fathers and buried Templar treasure was deviously designed in 2004 by Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney to capitalize on Dan Brown mania while the world awaited his promised sequel to The Da Vinci Code, which turned out to be The Lost Symbol. Bear in mind that Hollywood is a fickle place and, to quote Bart Simpson (or maybe George Burns), show business is a horrible bitch goddess. One or both of these projects could disappear or actually make it to the light of a flickering screen. I'm guessing some executive saw viewership figures on both Lodge 49 and the Sky TV five part series about the United Grand Lodge of England that Hulu aired last Fall and decided, "These Freemason guys are hot again. Call somebody. Get somebody. And get me somebody while I'm waiting." So maybe this is a race between these two projects, and maybe it isn't. But with any luck, we Masons may soon be back on the public radar screens for a little while again.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Waco and Dayton Stress Community Roles Of Masonic Temples


After being on the road for almost two full months we've finally made our way home and I'm slowly catching up on some past stories that I missed.

The Waco Tribune-Herald highlighted the Grand Lodge of Texas' impressive headquarters in Waco back on January 11th. Their imposing granite Temple, built in 1948, was designed as a modernist depiction of Solomon's Temple on the exterior, based on then-current archeological theories of its style (which have varied wildly according to fantasies and winds of fashion for a thousand years). 





This amazing 150,000 square foot Temple has a 3,700 seat auditorium and was built at least two decades after the greatest Masonic building boom in the U.S. during the City Beautiful movement of 1900-1929. According to the article it was designed by a team of Texas modernist architects that included Robert Leon White, who helped design the distinctive University of Texas Tower; Thomas Broad, who designed the Love Field Administration Building in Dallas; and Donald Nelson, who designed the Dallas Mercantile Bank building. The resident Waco architect was Walter Cocke Jr. Texas Masons spared no expense and lavished $2 million on it in 1948 (more than $23 million today):

From Grand Lodge of Texas an overlooked treasury of history, architecture by J.B. Smith:


The building façade includes a stained-glass depiction of the origins of Texas Freemasonry near an oak tree in Brazoria. At ground level is a carved bas-relief sculpture of the construction of Solomon’s Temple by the French sculptor Raoul Josset, known for his sculptures at Dallas Fair Park, the 1939 World’s Fair and the La Salle statue in Indianola, Texas. He also designed the giant pillars that hold celestial and terrestrial globes.
The article also features WB Robert Marshall of Waco Lodge 92, who shows off the extensive Grand Lodge library and museum in the building.




An important aspect stressed in the article is the role of the Temple in the community of Waco - how it has been used in the past, and the importance it needs to retain in the future:



The building has been used in the past for community events such as Waco Symphony Orchestra concerts, and it is still available for rent. Marshall said the two-level auditorium was designed to give everyone the best seat in the house, and the acoustics are superb.

About three years ago, climate control was installed for the auditorium, making it suitable for events year-round.

Marshall said he believes the facility needs more community use if it is to continue serving Waco through the coming decades.

“As Masons, we use this three weekends out of the year,” he said. “The other 49 weeks, it could be used for anything. … I think there’s a giant gap between the potential value and the actual value of the building. It could really be a hotbed of culture.”






On a similar note, Dayton, Ohio's 1928 Masonic temple (now known as the Dayton Masonic Center) has recently undergone $2 million worth of renovations and has formed an independent, local promotions team to book more weddings, concerts and public events.

From Dayton Masonic Center gets upgrade and new focus as concert venue by Don Thrasher in the Dayton Daily News on Tuesday:





“The Masonic Center’s main Schiewetz Auditorium space is a pristinely preserved, one-of-a-kind theater,” Dayton Masonic Live’s facilities manager Brian Johnson said. “As a still independently owned and operated facility, this sizable investment to updates is yet another milestone in Dayton’s renaissance that we’re excited to help actualize through great concerts and events.”

The Masonic Center, formerly known as the Masonic Temple, was completed and dedicated in April 1928. It has been the site of meetings, conferences, dinners, concerts and more. Dayton Masonic Live, which has a seating capacity of about 1,700, is now booking “a diverse mix of entertainment options, including nationally touring bands, renowned tribute acts, spoken word performers, along with family-centric and local events.”



[snip]

“The Masonic Center has always had a commitment to Dayton through hosting a variety of local events over the years,” Johnson said. “As we continue to activate the space more and more, we still want to have a strong commitment to our neighbors. We want Dayton Masonic Live to be a space where everyone feels welcome.”
The points made in both articles cannot be stressed enough. If our most significant Masonic halls and temples are to survive and thrive in this age of shrinking interest in our fraternity, we need to remind our communities (and ourselves) that these were meant to be places for the public, too. Our predecessors were active civic participants and leaders - they built and grew our towns and cities; they founded, ran or worked at the local industries; and they contributed mightily to local charities and causes long before we became obsessed with national, industrialized charities on a massive scale. The temples were an extension of their insistence that Masonic ideals were transmitted to the public and infused their actions every day. Time after time, local citizens would comment when some project was funded or completed, "Oh, the Masons did that." Masonic buildings, like Masons themselves, made up the very fabric of our communities. It's long past time we took up that banner again. We can start by opening our halls and temples as meeting and gathering places for everyone.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Vegans, Vinyl and Masonic Aprons



"The lambskin, or white leather apron, is an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason..." 
So goes the Masonic description of the aprons we Freemasons wear in the rituals commonly used throughout North America and most of the world.

Like nearly everything else in Freemasonry, the white lambskin apron is symbolic of a pure, spotless and unblemished character to which we all aspire to achieve in our own lives. It comes from the Torah/Old Testament accounts of the Passover sacrifice of the paschal lamb, which was to be a young, unblemished male lamb or goat. In Christianity, Christ was called the Lamb of God by John the Baptist, and His crucifixion, death and resurrection fulfilled the Passover sacrifice by dying for the sins of the world.

And so, our Masonic lambskin is emblematic of the lamb's symbol of innocence and purity.  It is given to us as Entered Apprentices, and we are told to wear it throughout an honorable life, to keep it unspotted and unblemished by the world, and that it is to be laid to rest with our eternal remains when we pass away.

A peculiar article appeared in The Scottish Sun yesterday, announcing that the Grand Lodge of Scotland has broken its 280-year tradition and is now "allowing vegans" to join the fraternity by permitting *gasp* vinyl Masonic aprons. 

Exclamation point.

Who knew vegans WEREN'T allowed to join in Scotland? I'm no pescatarian, but something seems fishy about this story. It's either a solution in search of a minor brouhaha, or somebody had a slow news day and tried to manufacture a headline.

VEGANS will now be allowed to become Freemasons in a move that has seen the Grand Lodge of Scotland change centuries-old traditions.

For years, masons have work lambskin aprons while taking part in rituals - but a vegan alternative is now being offered.
Lambine, an artificial fabric that imitates lambskin, is available for those wishing to join the Lodge without using animal products.
A spokesperson for the Grand Lodge, which once included Robert Burns in its ranks, said there were no reason why vegans could not join the 280-year-old fraternal organisation.
 
In a social media post seen by The Times, they said: "Many lodges now use vinyl [aprons]. Please remember that it is symbolic and does not need to be real."
And the Freemasons' sister organisation down south, the United Grand Lodge of England, has been allowing vegans and vegetarians to use lambine for decades. 
"Our Districts, which are spread across areas such as Asia and Africa include thousands of members from a variety of religions which are primarily vegetarian.
"Since the 1960s both vegan and vegetarian Freemasons of the United Grand Lodge of England have been able to use lambine regalia, which is made from a high grade, soft feel plastic as an alternative to traditional regalia.
"We sold 1,200 lambine aprons in 2019 and 1,900 traditional aprons so they are a popular options here."
However, some masons were not too keen on the idea of breaking tradition.
Speaking to The Times, Gordon Kilgour, a lodge member from Glasgow, said: "In the address to the apron would the ritual be changed from 'You will observe that it is made from the skin of a lamb' to 'You will notice that it is made of vinyl?"
And Sotiris Sakellarios, a Greek mason, said: "Some traditions and symbolism should remain intact."



[snip]

A spokesperson said: "We have 200,000 members and a 300 history of welcoming people from all walks of life, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation or socio-economic position in society.

I hate to break it to the Sun, The Times, Brothers Kilgour and Sakellarios, or anyone else, but non-lambskin Masonic aprons have been around since at least 1717 and probably before. While there are early, oddly-shaped white leather Masonic aprons in museums, many of the earliest surviving American and European aprons from the mid-1700s are silk, and often hand-painted with extensive decoration. 



Different from Scottish, English and European traditions, it's common in the U.S. for a Mason to be given a plain, white lambskin apron as an EA — frequently with a storage tube for safekeeping — that he never again wears after his MM degree conferral. Instead, American lodges usually provide stacks of plain, white cloth aprons to members and visitors for general lodge meetings, and only officers have more elaborate aprons that accompany each position. Our original leather apron is meant to be stored away until our death, and our families are to be informed of what is to be done with it when we depart for the Celestial Lodge.


As for the vegan glories of "Lambine,"  white vinyl Masonic aprons have been marketed in the US for decades. Vinyl's been around for a long time - it was developed in the 1930s, and vinyl leather substitute was marketed under the name of Naugahyde starting in 1936, along with the mythological 'Nauga." 

 The J.P. Luther Company in Wisconsin (where they raise plenty of sheep, by the way) has been selling aprons made of "Luthertex" for well over 30 years now, and probably longer. In truth, vinyl aprons are far more durable and long-lasting than actual lambskin, which is very susceptible to yellowing and cracking. Examining hundred year old lambskin aprons that haven't been stored very carefully can be a depressing exercise, because the leather dries out when improperly stored. It's also devilishly difficult to clean if it gets stained, marked or scratched. Vinyl is also considerably less expensive the lambskin leather. And it survives being rolled up or folded in a small apron case or tube better than the real macoy does.

So I suspect the large proportion of vinyl vs. leather aprons sold as cited in the article has almost zero to do with welcoming vegans into Freemasonry and almost everything to do with budget and practicality. Nevertheless, if this dramatic change of heart brings unforeseen hordes of vegan petitioners pounding on the doors of Scotland's venerable lodges heretofore kept away by our perceived cruelty to sheep, who am I to scoff?

Friday, January 24, 2020

Help With Route 66 Masonic Sites This Week


We crossed from Arizona into New Mexico this afternoon on I-40 and the legendary "Mother Road" of Route 66. We crossed through downtown Santa Rosa, New Mexico late in the day and I spotted Liberty Lodge No. 51's Masonic hall from the 1940s right on the town square - a location that almost every early U.S. Masonic lodge once coveted, and far too many have fled in the last fifty years.


Masonic hall in Santa Rosa, NM
Since we're staying along this historic route all the way eastward to St. Louis, I'm wondering how many Masonic halls still remain in the Route 66 towns along the way? (I do know about the historic Elk City Lodge 182 room in Elk City, Oklahoma at the National Route 66 Old Town Museum location, but I'm danged if I can find a web page, contact info, or even photos of anything but the door.)

I should have asked this back in Arizona, but I didn't. I did swing past Chalcedony Lodge No. 6 in the fun town of Holbrook, Arizona two nights ago - just around the corner a few blocks from the kitschy and world-famous Wigwam Motel - but no one was around. 


Chalcedony Lodge No. 6, Holbrook, AZ
If you read this message this weekend and can point me at the Masonic halls or significant Masonic sites on the Route 66 road in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma or Missouri, please pass it along to me as either a response with the form below, directly to my email at hodapp@aol.com, my Facebook page, or to my Facebook Messenger account. 



Tuesday, January 21, 2020

2020 PSO Conference on Fraternalism, Social Capital, & Civil Society: Washington DC 6/5


The June 2020 PSO Conference on Fraternalism, Social Capital, and Civil Society will be in Washington, DC at the historic (and recently restored) Quaker Meetinghouse on Florida Avenue NW on Saturday, June 5th.

The Policy Studies Organization is the longstanding brainchild of Brother Paul Rich, and that organization has a very broad range of topics in which it fosters research and discussion. Of greatest interest to Masons, the PSO sponsors an international academic conference about Freemasonry and fraternalism every year, alternating between the U.S. and France. 




The overall theme of this June's conference is 'Fraternal Art and Music,' but papers are not restricted to that topic. 

There is NO registration fee - the conference is free of charge. But be sure to register at the website so they can plan the venue arrangements.

The preliminary speaker's list is up online now, but there's still time to submit a paper for the conference. Here is the link for this year's Washington event: http://www.ipsonet.org/conferences/ritualconference-main/wcf2020program
So far, these are the presenters who have been accepted:
1. The Iconography of Mexican Freemasonry
Guillermo De Los Reyes, University of Houston

2. Saving Masonic Temples: The Crisis in Preservation
Paul Rich, Policy Studies Organization

3. The Role of Arts in French Freemasonry
Pierre Mollier, Grand Orient de France

4. Symbols, Images, Objects--Case Studies at the Intersection of Freemasonry and the Visual Arts: Book Presentation, Freemasonry and the Visual Arts from the Eighteenth Century Forward: Historical and Global Perspectives followed by a Round Table Discussion
Reva Wolf, State University of New York at New Paltz; and David Bjelajac, George Washington University

5. Fraternalism and the Fair: The History the National Masonic Fair and ExpositionsChris Ruli, Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, Free And Accepted Masons

6. Dance, Dance, Revolution: George Washington's Masonic Cave
Jason Williams

7. Nobles of the Mystic Shrine March: A Presentation on Masonic Music
Mark Dreisonstok, the Scottish Rite Journal

8. Publishing Fraternalism Roundtable
Brent Morris, Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction; and Steve McCall, Macoy Publishing

9. Two Nineteenth Century Australian Masonic WaltzesDavid Slater

10. Le Comte Alexandre Francois de Grasse
Joe Wages
This is the American alternative gathering to the next PSO conference in Paris which will be in 2021, in case you're filling in your calendar, planning a Europe trip, telling the wife you're just popping out to the wine shop and will be back in three or four days, or working on a paper of your own. Videos of past conferences are on linked sites. See http://www.ipsonet.org/conferences/ritualconference-main



And if you're looking to fill in your research library, past proceedings can be had in both print and Kindle. The journal of Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society is offered free online HERE, and back issues are also available. It is usually published twice a year, and a printed version and Kindle are also available through Amazon of from the Westphalia Press site. The papers generally come from the PSO's conferences in the U.S. or France, and there's usually a wide variety of topics you've likely never encountered before. They are well worth exploring.

(Photo by Jennifer Morris)

2020 Masonic Society Annual Dinner & Meeting 2/7

"Homer, a man who called himself “you-know-who” just invited you to a secret “wink-wink” at the “you-know-what.”*


The Officers and the Board of Directors
cordially invite you to attend
The 2020 Annual Dinner and Meeting
of
The Masonic Society

At Masonic Week 2020
The Hyatt Regency Crystal City at Reagan National Airport
Arlington, Virginia

Friday Evening, February 7, 2020
Gather at 6:45 PM
Dinner at 7:15 PM

Featured Speaker:
WBro. Mark Tabbert
“A Deserving Brother: George Washington and Freemasonry”
A discussion of WBro. Tabbert’s recent research that went into his new book on the subject.

All Freemasons and Ladies are Welcome!

Please make all reservations through the Masonic Week 2020 Website 
(note NEW LINK):



PLEASE NOTE:
The Masonic Society will not have tickets for sale.
All tickets MUST be purchased in advance from the Masonic Week organizers; see links above.
Tickets will NOT be available at the door.

Dinner price per person: $55

RESERVATIONS MUST BE MADE AND CHECKS RECEIVED BY THE MASONIC WEEK STAFF BY THEIR DEADLINE — PLEASE CHECK THE MASONIC WEEK WEBSITE FOR DETAILS.

Sorry — No TMS Masonic Week Hospitality Suite in 2020

Unfortunately, we are not in a position to operate a hospitality suite this year. We know this is a popular activity and we look forward to returning to hosting a suite in 2021. Please catch us in the lobby bar or in other places around the Week.


The Masonic Society is a research organization dedicated to the service of the fraternity and to Masonic scholars everywhere. Its quarterly Journal is one of the top Masonic magazines in the world, and provides news, information, essays, original research, book reviews, and more.
Not a member yet? 
For information about joining The Masonic Society, visit www.themasonicsociety.com


*Jay Hochberg over on The Magpie Mason blog reminds us that the Stonecutters episode of The Simpsons aired 25 years ago  this month, on January 8th, 1995. Meaning that Homer is now qualified for his 25 year pin. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

If the world thinks you're dead, beat on the coffin lid


We've turned the Airstream eastward at last and are headed back home from California. By sheer accident, we happened to be passing through the curious little wide spot in the Arizona highway called Quartzsite just in time for what is billed as the largest recreational vehicle event in the world. For fifty weeks out of the year, Quartzsite is an outpost in the desert with a handful of gas stations and fast food eateries, a grocery store, three or four trailer service companies, several trailer parks, and surrounded by hundreds of square miles of rugged, empty land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. But for ten days in January, this tiny burb is invaded by (depending upon whom you ask) anywhere from 250,000 to two MILLION happy campers for a massive recreational vehicle and rock collector's swap meet and trade show. Easily tens of thousands of trailers, RVs and ATV's dot the landscape and clog every street, and the parking and campsites are quite literally anywhere you can pull off the road.

What does this have to do with Freemasonry? That's easy.



Whenever I go out into informal places and events like this one, I usually wear a square and compass symbol around my neck and often on a hat. All of my vehicles feature a large Masonic decal on their rear windows. Almost since I first joined 20 years ago, I've worn a jacket in cold weather with a square and compass you could spot from low-Earth orbit. 

Let's just say I'm not subtle. I make no apologies that I'm a proud and shameless shill for this fraternity.



I've now spent two days wandering around the hundreds of vendor stalls and tents in Quartzsite, and I can honestly say that, had I had a stack of Arizona petitions, I could have signed up enough new candidates and existing Masons on the spot to charter a new lodge. Probably more. Numerous people saw the familiar square and compass and stopped me to chat about their grandfather's membership, or the lodge that used to be in their town, or joke about our 'world domination plans,' or - most important - ask about membership.

Consider this: the Quartzsite RV show draws heavily upon the very demographic that is historically most likely to join a Masonic lodge: the average petitioning age of Masons has been men between 39-50 almost consistently for two centuries now. The bulk of men wandering this show appeared to be between 40-70, mostly married, decidedly middle class, and with a fair amount of spare time and disposable income on their hands (many were full-time RVers driving VERY expensive rigs). I'm just guessing based on the products in the booths, bumper stickers on cars and rigs, and jewelry worn by attendees that the majority espoused a stronger than average religious faith. All of this is based on surface judgements or conversations I had with scores of people, so they are nothing but generalizations. But I think those observations are still sound ones.

So my question is, why is it that American Masons seem reticent to do something as logical as set up a booth or table at this sort of massive event to tell the public who and what the Freemasons are, to remind them we're very much alive and well, and that we're open to admitting new members?   

I'm not picking on Arizona. And it's especially hard here because there are (to the best of my research) precisely NO surviving Masonic lodges in western Arizona along Interstate 10 until you get almost all the way to Phoenix. With no lodge presence really anywhere near the area (Lake Havasu and Yuma are closest, and both are more than 45 minutes away), there's no one locally to keep up any sense of urgency to be seen out here. I'm just saying this is a wasted opportunity.



Since I'm talking about public outreach, consider this one. A UGLE lodge that is located in a university town in England sets up a booth every year at the school's welcome fair for incoming freshmen.  Certainly a fine idea, given that a greater percentage of the population today has less and less awareness of just who and what Freemasons are. What better place to spread the word in a tasteful and informative manner than set up an information booth at a college?

But obviously the cultural attitude on college campi these days is more pockmarked with potential social outrage landmines than ever before. All-male fraternal groups are under assault all over the U.S. and Britain as being neanderthal bastions of male superiority or the patriarchy or. . . something. Setting up a booth at a college promoting a group like the Masons is like waving a red cape at an enraged, four-footed pot roast in a bullfighting arena.

Interestingly, UGLE has a very pragmatic view about female Freemasonry. They don’t plug their ears and pretend they don’t exist. Between modern anti-discrimination laws in the U.K. and the EU alike, it helps inoculate the fraternity if they can cheerfully say, “Lady Masons? Of course, here’s their address and whom to speak with. May we call you a taxi?”

So, this is where the UGLE's pragmatic approach to female Freemasonry comes in. The English brethren at this particular university have teamed up for several years now with the lady Masons of the Order of Women Freemasons in co-sponsoring their Masonry booth.

Don't everybody start yawping all at once with their "Wimmin can't be Masons!' yawps. 

(With all of the men and women I spoke to in Arizona this weekend, no one even mentioned an objection to our proudly male-only fraternity. I think most people really don't have a complaint about it in the real world, and many Masons feel needlessly apologetic about it.)

But I digress. 

I idly wondered on my drive back to our campsite if Arizona has the ability to create a lodge under dispensation for the sole purpose of maybe holding a single outdoor lodge meeting in the desert for all sojourning Masons attending Quartzsite each year. Or if lodges could band together to set up a large tent for visiting Masons on the grounds of the RV show. Or if there are enough Masons in western Arizona interested in flapjackery to set up a breakfast tent as both a fundraiser and outreach program. Maybe get some of the Shrine Temples involved. This show is so huge that ALL Arizona Masons should be thinking about this. In fact, there's an argument to be made that it's TOO huge for a booth or a table to make an impact - two dozen Masons wearing tee shirts proclaiming "Ask Me About The Freemasons" might yield better results.

The ultimate point is that grand lodges and local lodges stand by year after year and watch our membership shrink with no long-range planning and ZERO long-range commitment to reaching out to reacquaint the public about our 300+ year-old fraternity.  Publicity is not a dirty word, and is frankly more important than at any time in our modern history. We will never take our place again as the preeminent leaders of our communities if we sit idly by as succeeding generations lose their direct family connections to our traditions and collectively forget about us. It's up to us reverse that depressing trend.

How many articles, studies and surveys must we read that reinforce the message that Americans are lonelier, more solitary, more isolated, more friendless than at any time in recorded history before we realize that we as Masons have just what society needs at this moment in time?

Again, not to pick on Arizona - I just happen to be here right now. Every state has its own massive public events like state and county fairs, heritage days, period reenactment events, chautauquas, craft fairs, Renaissance fairs, car shows, holiday parades, and countless others. Masons need to be represented at every single one of them.

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

Writing Your Own Lodge's History



Over the weekend I flew back to Indianapolis to preside over the winter meeting of the Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research. We had an outstanding meeting, and I presented my recent research about the Army/Navy Masonic Service Centers during World War II that were set up in some 90 large Masonic temples around the country. Encouraged by then-Senator and PGM of Missouri, Harry S Truman and organized as a national movement by Carl Claudy and the Masonic Service Association, these were similar to USO centers. It's truly a fascinating bit of history that most Masons have never heard of today.

However, I took advantage of having John Bridegroom as our Secretary and had him pass out an article from the latest Journal of the Masonic Society to our members. (John is the art director for this outstanding quarterly magazine.) Issue No. 47 hit mailboxes at the beginning of the month, and it includes a piece that every Mason should read: 'Thoughts About Writing a History of Your Lodge' by Brother Samuel S. Laucks, II from Pennsylvania.

A few years ago, one of our research lodge members lamented that he felt that he should be contributing to our meetings by writing original "research," but he was concerned that he wasn't much of a writer. Moreover, he felt that after three grand lodge history books since the 1890s (mine being most recent), that all of the "important" stories had been told already, and there wasn't much else interesting to write about. Yet not five minutes later, after I asked about his own Mother lodge, he told me a story about how their old building had burned down in the 1990s and that the Worshipful Master at the time had run into the burning building to save the lodge charter and Bible from destruction!


Every one of us is living through history right this very moment, and it gets made every day when we're not paying attention.

Brother Lauck's article describes how he pored over his own lodge's minute books, treasurer and trustee reports, financial documents, trustees reports, old letters, photos and other obvious sources. If you are a diligent detective, you'll find treasures and tales inside of forgotten lockers, filing cabinets, desk drawers, tucked into books on paper scraps, and in dusty old boxes under the back stairs. Turn everything over and look carefully. In my own case, I've found fascinating clues written on the backs of pictures hanging in our lodge building. And always hunt down grand lodge history books to see if your lodge is mentioned anywhere in your state's Masonic past. Hopefully, there is a decent grand lodge library/museum in your jurisdiction. They generally have local lodge histories that were assembled in earlier days on file. And if you're lucky, your grand lodge may have put your older magazines online in a searchable format, as we have done in Indiana in conjunction with our state library.

Once you've exhausted the Masonic sources, move to the newspapers and magazines both online and in libraries. Check the state, county and local historical societies. And be armed with the list of names of your Past Masters since the beginning, as you may uncover piles of information about the men who started and perpetuated your lodge, yet without reference to their Masonic membership. And always, always, always take the time to scan through local newspapers of various time periods to help comprehend the culture and context that surrounded and shaped your lodge members at different times in history. WHY was your lodge formed WHEN it was formed? What compelled those early brethren to plant their cornerstone where they did?

If you haven't done it before, it's long past time to record the oral histories of all of your living Past Masters and the oldest and most influential (or most colorful) members of your lodge. We've all got audio recorders and cameras in our pockets these days, and we carry them everywhere. Don't wait until these men pass away before realizing the invaluable information from the past they take to the grave. Be sure to also ask these men why they joined, what they loved and hated about the fraternity and the lodge, what their lodge activities were, their successes and dreams, and their disappointments.   

Brother Laucks makes the important point that a lodge history should not be locked in time, especially now that technology makes it so convenient to keep adding to the tapestry of these chronicles. “I believe that a lodge history should not be a purely static document but should provide a sense of optimism and anticipation for that which is to come. The audience should not only be proud of their lodge’s history, but should also be inspired and energized by it as they plan for the future.”


Issue 47 of the Journal of the Masonic Society includes the following:

* "Change 2019" by David J. Cameron, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario

* "Alchemy in Masonry" by Raul Sarmiento

* "Conceptual Metaphors in Masonry" by Alan Schwartz, Ph.D.

* "The Kaleida Code" by Joseph Hatcher

* "Thoughts About Writing A History of Your Lodge" by Samuel S. Laucks, II, M.D.

* "Major John Melville Allen – Soldier, Politician, and Mason" by Billy Hamilton

* "That Good Men Do Something: A Defense of Freemasonry" by Brendan Hickey


Plus the regular book reviews, Editor's Corner, WBro. Greg Knots "Camera's Lens" feature, "Masonic Treasures" by John Bridegroom and more. If you are not a member or subscriber, you should be! At a paltry $45 a year, you're  missing a lot!