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


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Arizona PGM Jeff Carlton Killed in Traffic Accident

by Christopher Hodapp

Arizona's Masonic family has received more tragic news this weekend. Grand Master Jim H. Baker has reported that Past Grand Master Jeffrey Carlton, 33° and his wife Moira were involved in a serious vehicle collision on Friday. MWB Carlton was killed in the accident and Moira is currently in critical condition in the ICU.

The Grand Master requests everyone to keep the Carlton family in their prayers.

MWB Jeff Carlton (photo) served the Grand Lodge F&AM of Arizona in 2012-13, and Moira Carlton is the Immediate Past Grand Matron of the Order of the Eastern Star in Arizona. 

In 2003, he was elected Master of Kingman Lodge 22.*
And in 2008, Jeff served as the Master of the newly formed Rex R. Hutchens Research Lodge No. 5 (U.D) located at the Kingman Masonic Temple. 

I have been told that the family has asked that people please refrain from contacting them at this time, as they are devastated and overwhelmed by this terrible tragedy.

This story will be updated as more information is made available.

*An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated he had been Master of Kingman Lodge in 2013.

Members to Grand Master: The Eyes of Texas Masons Are Upon You

by Christopher Hodapp

NOTE: The original version of this story contained editorializing on my part as to the speculated motives for bringing charges on the floor of the annual session during installation. I have had some clarification of what transpired since the story first broke and have removed my original, erroneous suppositions. My apologies for misinterpreting why it happened. Bear in mind that my initial objection was – and remains – over the theatrical aspect of bringing charges in the presence of wives and families on a public YouTube broadcast, which I still believe was improper.

The Grand Lodge of Texas AF&AM's annual session was held this week in Waco, Texas, and new grand officers were elected and installed. Outgoing Grand Master Brad Billings has been succeeded by MW G. Clay Smith, Grand Master for 2023.

An attempt was made on Saturday to deny installation to the elected Grand Junior Warden, James Rumsey. Just as the new Grand Master, G. Clay Smith, prepared to proceed with the installation ceremonies for the incoming grand officers for 2023, he was handed a sheet of charges to be brought against the incoming Grand Junior Warden. A public video of the event (which has since been removed from YouTube) showed Smith immediately stumbling through a previously prepared, scripted acceptance of the charges he had just been handed.

Curious. This was clearly not exactly spontaneous.

According to multiple sources, charges had originally been filed against Rumsey during the tenure of GM Billings (I've since been told what those charges were about, and the incident was recorded on security cameras at the Scottish Rite). Despite clear video evidence, GM Billings 
dismissed them without action or trial. 

The timing on Saturday was cleverly planned: the “new” charges were handed to Grand Master Smith immediately after he was installed as GM, but before the rest of the installation ceremony started. The move was purportedly a last-ditch, Hail Mary attempt to block Rumsey’s installation after he was overwhelmingly elected to the GJW position. 

A point of order was immediately raised by outgoing GM Billings, objecting to the fact that the new GM could not accept said charges during the installation because the assembled representatives of the state’s lodges are themselves “the Grand Lodge” when it is in session: it is up to the assembled Grand Lodge to accept charges during that meeting, and a GM can only act in its stead when the session is closed.

The Grand Lodge session was officially at refreshment for the duration of the installation, and this attempt at scuttling the new GJW played out in the presence of wives and families, while a video camera publicly broadcast everything on YouTube. That, in my opinion, was a terribly improper way to handle the situation. 

GM Smith declared that the matter would be dropped for the moment, to be discussed in Executive Session instead, and the installation of Rumsey proceeded without further interruption. 

The supportive roar of the crowd was thunderous.

My understanding of Texas code is that charges against a Mason in that jurisdiction must be presented at the Stated Meeting of his lodge, where they are read and accepted. The lodge Secretary then forwards them to the Grand Secretary's office, where they are presented to the Grand Master for his decision to accept them or not. If accepted by him, they then become official charges and can proceed to a trial.

Tweetbook, Snaptwit and Facespace and other (anti-)social media lit up all weekend with comments from Texas Masons who are double-plus-un-pleased by this little drama. This may be a bumpy year in the Grand East of the Lone Star state, and it started to hit chuckholes before it even officially started.

Friday, January 06, 2023

UPDATED: Celebration of Life For Illus. Rex Hutchens 33° January 22, 2023

by Christopher Hodapp

The Grand Master of Arizona has officially announced that a Celebration of Life for Rex Hutchens will be held January 22nd, 2023 in the Red Room of the Tucson Scottish Rite Cathedral, 160 S. Scott Avenue, Tucson, Arizona, beginning at 1:00PM.



Rex Hutchens' obituary has been posted on the Arizona Daily Star website HERE.

It reads, in part:

Rex Richard Hutchens passed away on December 17, 2022, at the age of 80 years. Rex is survived by his loving wife of 52 years, Cheryl; his children, Jonathan, Kimberley; grandson, Michael; his brother, Dwaine (Rose) Goodwin of Missouri and his sister, Moria Zimbicki of California; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Rex lived an extraordinary life. Born in November 1942 in Glendale, Oregon, Rex later lived in California, Oklahoma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, New York City, Pittsburgh and, for the last 53 years, in Tucson. Upon graduating from Mendocino High School in California in 1961, Rex entered the military where he taught at the Army Information School in Oklahoma and began his academic career with night classes.
After discharge, Rex continued teaching at The American Schools in Karachi, Pakistan and Kabul, Afghanistan. Rex graduated with a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Pittsburgh. His Master's and Doctorate Degrees were completed at the University of Arizona.
For 50 years, Rex and his wife Cheryl owned and managed numerous real estate investments in the Tucson and Phoenix areas to which Rex brought his business acumen. When not engaged in Masonic activities, writing, teaching and business ventures, Rex was a motorcycle and sports car enthusiast with an affinity for Corvettes.
Rex never limited his quest for knowledge nor his willingness to share his knowledge. He was in his element when assisting others in increasing their knowledge and honing their communication skills. Rex was a voracious reader; his curiosity was near boundless. Having travelled to dozens of countries and having amassed a personal library of more than 25,000 non-fiction titles, Rex was, indeed, a Renaissance Man!

 In 1982, Rex was drawn to Freemasonry. In the ensuing forty years, he became a world-renowned Masonic leader, scholar, teacher, and author. Rex became a 33rd Degree Mason in 1989 and in 1995 received the Grand Cross, the highest honor which the Southern Jurisdiction reserved for the most exceptional and extraordinary services. Most recently, Rex was appointed Deputy of the Supreme Council for Arizona. He truly experienced one of the most amazing Masonic journeys in the history of Freemasonry.

 Rex forever enjoyed engaging with his many friends. He always welcomed a game of chess with friend Tim Allen. His adventures included trips to Panama and Peru with friend Randy Stern and a trip to Prague with friend, Peter Reardon. Since 2019 Rex's passion was designing and creating a unique library at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Tucson with fellow Mason, co-designer and good friend, Bob Kille. Bob will lead the effort to move Rex's vision for the library to fruition.

 A celebration of Rex's life will be held at the Scottish Rite Cathedral,160 S. Scott Avenue, Tucson on Sunday, January 22, 2023, at 1:00 p.m. Rex's family extends an invitation to all whose lives Rex has touched, whether within Freemasonry or the community. Donations in Rex's memory may be made to the Tucson Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation toward completion of his beloved library. 


Thursday, January 05, 2023

Confirmed: Grand Master of Cuba Defects to the U.S.

Grand Master Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal (Facebook)

by Christopher Hodapp

I received a message from a Brother in Texas last week alerting me that the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Cuba had just defected to the United States. He and his wife traveled to Mexico, purportedly on vacation, and crossed into the U.S. at the Texas border where they requested asylum. The Grand Lodge of Florida provided financial assistance to the couple, and they were helped locally by officers from a lodge in Brownsville, Texas. 

They will be staying with relatives in the U.S. while getting settled.

The story was confirmed this week. The Grand Lodge of Cuba issued a statement yesterday saying he had "abandoned his mission" and "escaped" to Mexico. And the now-immediate Past Grand Master himself – Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal (photo above) – issued a long, public letter explaining his reasons for resigning his position from the Grand Lodge, and for leaving Cuba behind.

For obvious reasons, his name was withheld from the message I received. But just as I sat down today to post it, the following article appeared today on the Translating Cuba website, translated by Regina Anavy. 

Cat's out of the bag now, so I'm not breaking anyone's trust by posting his name.

From: "The Grand Master of the Freemasons of Cuba Denounces a ‘Coup d’état’ of Cuban Counterintelligence"

Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal, second on the left, 
along with José Ramón Viñas Alonso, first on the right, 
and two other master masons, at an event in Veracruz, Mexico. 
(Facebook/José Ramón Viñas)

14ymedio, Havana, 3 January 2023 — Master Freemason Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal, leader until Tuesday of the Grand Lodge of Cuba, reported in a public letter the reasons that led him to quit his position and leave the country. Signed in the “Greater East” of the United States, a country where he has applied for asylum with his wife, and addressed to his temporary substitute, Armando Guerra Lozano, the letter denounces the infiltration of State Security into the Cuban Masonic leadership and his intention, for several months, to remove himself from his post. 

On Tuesday, the Grand Lodge of Cuba published a circular in which it explained that Alfonso Vidal had not returned from Mexico, where he was a guest of the Freemasons of Veracruz, and described his escape as an “unexpected and masonically regrettable event.” 

From the United States, the former Grand Master defends himself from those who accuse him of “abandoning his mission” and recalls that he was elected as a representative of the Cuban Freemasonry in an “unquestionable” ceremony from the legal point of view, in addition to pointing out that at no time did he violate the Masonic principles of succession, as say the Masons infiltrated by State Security, he alleges. He clarifies that he is leaving because of the impossibility of fulfilling his duty, as defined by the Masonic statutes, with the “total transparency, autonomy and necessary freedom.”
The position of Grand Master, assumed at the moment by Armando Guerra Lozano — in accordance with Decree 634, the last one signed by Alfonso Vidal — carries the responsibility of remaining in the position until the celebration of a partial election during an extraordinary session of the Masonic directors. 

However, says Alfonso Vidal, there is a faction related to the Government of Havana within the Grand Lodge, managed by counterintelligence officers, which intends to place in office — in violation of the legislation, he says — a candidate favorable to the regime.
“I am aware that my dismissal from office was being orchestrated through an Extraordinary Session in order to create a fictitious circumstance for Deputy Grand Master H. Fernando González García to illegally occupy the position,” Alfonso Vidal denounced in his letter. 

González García, according to the Grand Lodge circular, was also abroad, but will return, they say, on January 5. The former Grand Master suspects that his return is motivated by that goal. 

Alfonso Vidal considers that the special circular of the institution — initialed, in fact, by his substitute — was out of place and manifests a “total contempt for the Masonic Legislation,” in addition to manipulating his decision not to return to Cuba and labeling his attitude as “bad.” To say, moreover, that they had not communicated with him in the last two weeks is not a “coherent motivation” to assume his resignation without a document issued by the former Grand Master himself. 

“What was the ’serious abandonment of the position and functions entrusted’ if all witnesses can attest that I participated in every day of work in our friendly power [the Mexican lodge]? They don’t have an honest answer, I know,” he says. 

The former leader of the Freemasons questions those who try to effect what, in his opinion, is a “coup d’état,” with the intervention of counterintelligence agents of the regime “who claim to be Freemasons.” “Everyone and each of those who find themselves signing, looking for support, trying to win the support of representatives, lodges, opinion leaders, who spent days trying to send me an intimidating message, all are collaborators and perpetrators of the crime of treason to Freemasonry and will pay,” he denounced in his letter. 

The extensive document also describes in great detail the “attacks” on Cuban Freemasonry in recent months, and relates them to the active work of several of its members in denouncing government repression during the protests of July 11, 2021 and those of the summer of 2022. 

He mentions, for example, the open letter to Díaz-Canel sent by Master José Ramón Viñas Alonso, in which he offered “his opinion on the call for confrontation between Cubans that made everything worse,” earning him pressure from State Security to make a retraction. 

Another case is that of his predecessor in the position of Grand Master, Ernesto Zamora, who refused to attend a meeting with Díaz-Canel from which they intended to exclude José Ramón Viñas Alonso, whom the authorities had “regulated*” shortly before, preventing him from traveling to the United States. 

And finally, in December 2021, Alfonso Vidal recalls, the regime considered intolerable the intervention of Grand Speaker Luis Steve Ocaña in which he invited Cuban Freemasons to get involved in politics. 

“When one is elected to Grand Master it’s not all that one imagines it to be, with the pressure that it represents to be in charge of the fraternal destiny of more than twenty thousand brothers. Obstacles appear that one has to overcome,” Alfonso Vidal said in defense. 

“The fact that the Sovereign Grand Commander [José Ramón Viñas Alonso] became a nuisance for the Cuban Government and the organs of repression, and seeing that he received in many cases expressions of support that were not only Masonic but also from outside the order, State Security went on a mission to take him out of the middle,” he explained. 

The short-term intention, says Alfonso Vidal, was to force him, as Grand Master, to expel Viñas Alonso from the order “under some pretext.” He also said that he had mentioned this situation to Viñas Alonso on a trip they made together abroad — once their ban was lifted — “because I did not consider it safe to do so inside Cuba.” 

Faced with his refusal to accede to the pressures of counterintelligence — an individual who identified himself as Poll made more than 70 intimidating phone calls in one day — Alfonso Vidal made the decision not to go out without company. In addition, he received several police summonses, in which an officer told him that for more than 40 years State Security has been working on Cuban Freemasonry with its infiltrators. 

Fernando González García, the current Deputy Grand Master who will return to Cuba on January 5 “running to comply with orders” is one of those agents, in the opinion of the former dignitary. Other members of the Masonic leadership are part of the “conspiracy” against José Ramón Viñas Alonso, he says: Ernesto Zamora, whom he accuses of having apologized to the Communist Party for his opposition to Díaz-Canel, and the current treasurer of the Great Lodge, Ernesto Navarrete, who “is a policeman,” and who he suggests is managing the Masonic funds in an irregular way. 

Taking advantage of a business trip to a lodge in Veracruz, he and his wife decided to request political asylum in the United States, alleging that they have suffered systematic harassment by State Security in its “masonic hunt.” His son, however, remains in Cuba. For his part, says Alfonso Vidal, José Ramón Viñas Alonso — the main objective of counterintelligence — is “resisting harassment.” 

*Translator’s note: “Regulated,” as the term is used by the government, means forbidden to leave the country.

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Grand Master of Cuba "Abandons His Mission" and "Escapes To Mexico"

by Christopher Hodapp

The Grand Lodge of Cuba announced yesterday that Grand Master Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal did not return to Cuba from Mexico after taking a trip to Veracruz, Mexico he made with his wife.

Using terms like "escaped," it would seem that he may have defected.

From "The Leader of the Cuban Freemasons Escapes in Mexico, Reports the Grand Lodge" on the Translating Cuba website, translated by Regina Anavy:

Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal was elected to the position in March 2022. (Facebook)

14ymedio, Havana, 3 January 2023 — The Grand Lodge of Cuba reported on Monday that Grand Master Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal did not return to Cuba from Mexico after an institutional trip he made in the company of his wife. The leader of the Cuban Freemasons had received an invitation from the Grand Lodge of Veracruz and was to return to the Island on December 21, but “abandoned his mission,” according to a special circular from the Cuban Masonic board.

Before embarking on the trip to Mexico, Alfonso Vidal temporarily delegated his functions as Grand Master in Armando Guerra Lozano, Grand Master of Ceremonies, in order to “be absent from the national territory” at the invitation of Mexican Freemasons.

“During the activities related to his trip, communication with the elected Grand Master was lost,” the statement stays. “Since that moment, attempts to communicate with the Brother have been unsuccessful, which denotes a tacit resignation from his position, also constituting a serious total abandonment of his position and entrusted functions.”

The leadership assures that it does not know the current whereabouts of Alfonso Vidal and his wife, and describes the fact as “unexpected and masonically regrettable,” while guaranteeing that it will not have a negative impact on the work of the Grand Lodge of Cuba, which has, they affirm, “the ability and determination to continue our work and for which we know of the the willingness of all Cuban Freemasons.”

Another high-ranking Masonic dignitary, Deputy Grand Master Fernando González García, was abroad when he heard of Alfonso Vidal’s escape. The statement says that he “has announced his return” for January 5.

The letter, signed by the acting Grand Master Armando Guerra Lozano, and by Grand Secretary Carlos Alberto Pírez Benítez, has circulated on several digital platforms linked to Freemasonry in Cuba.

Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal had been elected Grand Master of the Great Cuban Lodge in March 2022 and was already serving as treasurer of the institution. His election, carried out by the Masonic Parliament, was held after several postponements due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Sunday, December 18, 2022

UPDATED 1/6/2023: Illus. Dr. Rex R. Hutchens Passes Away; Celebration of Life Announced

by Christopher Hodapp

Freemasonry has lost another of our legendary giants. Word has come today that Illus. Rex R. Hutchens, 33°, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arizona in 2006, and author of A Bridge To Light, has passed away. 

I first met Rex in person back in 2010 at the Rocky Mountain Masonic Conference in Albuquerque when Art DeHoyos, Rex and I were the speakers for the program – you can see from this group photo of the three of us that I was at least allowed to be in the same room with this powerhouse pair of brain boxes. 

Rex's reputation for speaking exactly what was on his mind was well-deserved: after my presentation, he observed, "Well, I guess you really aren't a dumbass, after all."

Praise indeed from Rex. 

I have no obituary or details of funeral arrangements yet, but I will attempt to update this post as I receive them – I'm guessing Monday at the soonest when businesses reopen. We are currently sitting in Shamrock, Texas with spotty Internet access as we head for our annual Christmas gathering in Southern California, but I will post details as soon as possible.

His column is broken and his brethren mourn.

Requiescat in pace.


I've still not come across any death announcement, obituary or funeral arrangements for Rex Hutchens. However, MW James Baker, Grand Master for the Grand Lodge of Arizona posted the following message back on December 19th announcing Rex's death:

To: Grand Lodge of F. & A.M. of Arizona
RE: WM Rex Hutchens enters Celestial Lodge
It is my sad duty to announce officially the death of M.W. Rex R. Hutchens, the 2006 Grand Master of the Grand Lodge
F. & A.M. of Arizona, on December 17, 2022. We are blessed to Jive in a jurisdiction, a Nation, and a world, that have been shaped by, and the vision of M.W. Rex Hutchens.
In 1982, Rex was Initiated, Passed, and Raised in Epes Randolph Lodge No. 32 and went on to serve that lodge in l 989 as its Master. He joined Adobe Lodge No. 41 in 1988, serving that Lodge as Master in I989, 2008, and 2011.
M.W. Hutchens has served the Craft in more ways than could ever be limited to a list. He served as Grand Representative to the Grand Lodge of Cuba, Grand Orator in 1992, Grand Chaplain in 1993, and was in numerous committees over the years. He was appointed to the Grand Line in 1999 by M.W. Donald Monson and served as Grand Master F. & A.M. of Arizona in 2006.
He was Deputy for Arizona of the Supreme Council of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, USA, Past Grand High Priest of Royal Arch Masons of Arizona (1997), Past Grand Master of Royal & Select Masters of Arizona (2004), and Past Grand Commander of Knights Templar of Arizona (2007). He was in the Knights of the York Cross of Honor and recipient of the Knight of the York Grand Cross of Honor (Four Quadrants), a Knight Companion of the Red Cross of Constantine, a Board Member for the Scottish Rite Research Society, a Fellow of the Philalethes Society, a Founding Fellow of the Masonic Society, a Friar of the Society of Blue Friars, and recipient of the Knight Grand Cross in the Grand College of Rites.
M.W. Hutchens was a philosopher, a researcher and writer, authoring many papers and books including A Bridge To Light, A Study in Masonic Ritual & Philosophy. He was known to say that the greatest gift that one man could bestow upon another was knowledge.
As a mark of respect for M.W. Hutchens and his life of service to our Craft, I hereby order. by the authority vested in me as Grand Master of F. &A.M. of Arizona by the Constitution of the Grand Lodge that each Lodge in our Jurisdiction observes a moment of silence m his memory at their January Stated meeting.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF. I have hereunto set my band this seventeenth day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-two, and Anno Lucis 6022.
Fraternally and sincerely,
Jim Baker
Grand Master, 2022-2023
Grand Lodge of Arizona, F&AM



The Grand Master of Arizona has officially announced that a Celebration of Life for Rex Hutchens will be held January 22nd, 2023 in the Red Room of the Tucson Scottish Rite Cathedral, 160 S. Scott Avenue, Tucson, Arizona, beginning at 1:00PM.


Saturday, December 17, 2022

Masonic Week Feb 8-12, 2023

by Christopher Hodapp

The website for making reservations for the 2023 AMD Masonic Week is up and running. This year's festivities will be held February 8th -12th, once again at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia (a mere cocktail glass' throw from Reagan International Airport, across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.).

Eighteen Masonic appendant bodies, invitational groups, research organizations, and others will be holding their annual meetings, degree conferrals, elections, banquets, speeches, and other assorted sundry activities. There is also always a healthy dose of Masonic product vendors on hand. 

The direct link to reserve a room at the Hyatt with the convention rate is HERE.

If you've never been to Masonic Week before, the real benefit of going is that it is the largest concentration of seriously proactive Masons from across the country and around the world you'll find on an annual basis, along with many of the best known Masonic researchers, authors, editors, and other personalities. While the bulk of the groups holding their meetings and ceremonies require existing York Rite membership as a precondition for their own admission (and some are invitational only), you will still find plenty to keep you more than occupied for these three and a half days, even if you're not a member of any of those groups.  And there is as much to be absorbed in the hallways, at the bar, or in the hospitality rooms as in the meetings themselves. Make new friendships from around the world, and rekindle old ones. Be sure to b
ring plenty of filthy lucre as there will be numerous vendors on hand to separate you from your hard-earned simoleons.

On a selfish note, I'll announce the annual Masonic Society Dinner on Friday, February 10th, 2023. Our guest speaker will be Brother Robert Dupel who is the Sovereign Grand Master of the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees of Canada as well as the Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Quebec. The tantalizing title of his talk is “It’s About Me” which promises to be a refreshing approach to a tantalizing subject.

If you've never been to the Washington, D.C. area before, this is the perfect excuse to go. I will tell you from experience that there is a 50/50 chance of the weather either bringing three feet of blowing snow, or 70 degree sun-drenched days. Sometimes both. That's just Washington in February. (Pack your toothbrush and an extra set of underwear in your carry-on bag in case your flights get canceled. Old hands know this.) But add a day to your trip to sightsee, and be sure you visit the Scottish Rite's House of the Temple no later than Thursday, because it is CLOSED Fridays and weekends. Visit the Capitol, the monuments, the Smithsonian, the unique Egyptian-themed Potomac Lodge, and much more. Have drinks and cigars at the Old Ebbitt Grill around the corner from the White House (you'll find Masons there nearly any night that week). Or go the other direction to Alexandria and visit the George Washington National Masonic Memorial, and have dinner at Gadsby's Tavern. There's no shortage of historic sites tied to Masons concentrated in the area.

Historically, Masonic Week was long tied to the scheduling of the annual Conference of Grand Masters (COGMMNA), which was scheduled, in turn, to coincide with George Washington's Birthday. That was back in the days when the Grand Masters met every year in Washington D.C. at this time. Consequently, Masonic Week would happen the weekend before at the venerable Hotel Washington, which sat in the shadow of the White House. But sometime in the early 1990s, that connection got frayed by the Grand Masters taking their annual meetings on the road and cycling around the country. Still, Masonic Week has always tried to arrange itself to happen the weekend before, or thereabouts. Weather in D.C., the Super Bowl, and other factors have put pressure on organizers over the years, but after this year's Masonic Week, the COGMMNA will return to the Washington area, at the nearby Crystal Gateway Marriott, also in Arlington. 

Coinciding with THAT event, the George Washington National Masonic Memorial will also be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the laying of its cornerstone on Monday, February 20th. 

Indiana Masons are excited to know that one of our own members, Brother Tyler Whittaker, is an operative mason from Muncie, and he has created a new cornerstone to celebrate the occasion that will be dedicated at that Monday event. (Tyler will be making a live presentation at the Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research in Indianapolis following the Grand Lodge of Indiana's annual Founder's Day festivities on January 14th.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I'm certain they meant absinthe.

by Christopher Hodapp

My deepest fraternal apologies for the long silence on this site. We've had road trips, medical issues, family challenges, roofers, and other episodes at Hodapphäus that have kept me preoccupied for some time now. Plus, Alice and I are currently engaged in some actual paid employment from the For Dummies folks at Wiley Publishing, for which we are grateful.

Thanks to Indianapolis Valley of the Scottish Rite

A belated thanks to the kind brethren who invited me to speak at the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis' annual bean supper night on September 9th. Hat tip especially to Tom Fallis who has just been named as the new Executive Secretary of the Valley and who saw that the evening went off flawlessly. 

As Homer Simpson once said, "If I could say a few words... I'd be a better public speaker." 

I leave it to the audience to decide whether my speech was rousing, or just a dreadful abuse of a wind instrument.

Another Outstanding Festive Board at Rubicon Masonic Society

From a similar Festive Board evening in Spindletop Mansion

I had the pleasure of being a guest of the Rubicon Masonic Society in Lexington, Kentucky on August 26th for their annual Festive Board at the magnificent Spindletop Mansion. Speaker for the evening was dear friend and Brother S. Brent Morris. There's always a certain level of galactic concern when a Dummy and a Complete Idiot come into contact with each other (sort of like the Lazarus episode of Star Trek, but totally different), but it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces again. 

A previous Festive Board
crowd at Spindletop

If you haven't been to one of Rubicon's Festive Boards, have a look at their film The Masonic Table (streams on Amazon Prime), which is a detailed, how-to guide to hosting the sort of event they put on.

Rubicon has been creating videos of Masonic education for quite some time now, starting when COVID shutdowns became ubiquitous. There are currently 24 episodes and they can be seen online HERE.

Hat tip to Brian Evans, Worshipful Master of Lexington Lodge 1, and WB John Bizzack, who seems more like an unstoppable force of nature every time I see him. 

Kentucky's historic Lexington Lodge 1 is one of the top observant-style lodges in the U.S. today, and if you're interested in belonging to a lodge such as this, you owe it to yourself to attend their meetings and events. It's a very different experience than you're probably used to in your local, neighborhood lodge.

New Book Project: RV Vacations For Dummies

Finally, our current project, RV Vacations For Dummies, just popped up for pre-sale on Amazon and is due out on April 11, 2023, so we're busily pounding our faces into the keyboard. 

This one also acts as a companion piece to our 2021 RVs & Campers For Dummies so we can do the old Chico Marx sales job:

"No, itsa not in thata book. Itsa not in thata one, either. You haven't GOT thata book."

"I don't, huh? I'll bet I'm going to get it in a minute, though."

"One'sa no good. Ya gotta have the whole set..."

Unlike our first RV book, RVs & Campers For Dummies, this one's more about planning an actual itinerary for RV road trips, and we've got sixteen different ones to recommend. This one is not a completely original work from us—it was first published in 2003 in conjunction with the Frommer's travel book people, and it is generally revised every few years. Ours will be the seventh edition, and a lot has changed across the fruited plains just since the COVID closures. 

Friday, September 09, 2022

Grand Lodges of England and Scotland Issue Statements and Directives Over Queen's Mourning Period

by Christopher Hodapp

Following the death of Her Majesty The Queen, the United Grand Lodge of England has issued a statement to the press (photo above - click it to enlarge).

The UGLE's Metropolitan Grand Lodge in London issued the following directives to their members:
Brethren & Companions,
Following the death of Her Majesty on 8 September, the following measures will apply:
  • There will be a period of Masonic mourning coinciding with the period of national mourning, and black ties will be worn at all Craft and Royal Arch meetings held during that period. No black rosettes will be worn.
  • There will be no suspension of Masonic meetings during the period.
  • The summons for the first meeting of each Lodge or Chapter sent out from today should be printed in black. At the meeting, immediately after the opening (and the reading of any necessary dispensation), a short period of silence should be observed.
  • The first toast at dinner is now The King and the Craft / The King and Royal Arch Masonry

The Grand Lodge of Scotland has issued the following statement Friday morning:

Dear Sir and Brother
I am writing to you following the passing of Her Majesty The Queen. Our thoughts and prayers are with The Royal Family at this sad time.
I wish to inform you that a period of national mourning has now commenced and will continue until the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. The funeral, I understand, will take place on Monday 19 September 2022.
As a mark of respect the Grand Master Mason has directed that all Masonic activity will cease during this period of national mourning.
Further details will be circulated on Friday 9 September 2022.
Yours Sincerely and Fraternally,
William M S Semple
Grand Secretary
Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II: Requiescat In Pace

by Christopher Hodapp

I was in the midst of composing a message tonight about the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96. But I just saw this Facebook post by RW Glen Cook, Past Grand Master of Utah, and I think he stated it perfectly:

On the passing of Her Majesty:
From a general sense, she was likely the most well known daughter and wife of a Mason; a family member of grand masters. A Mason crowned her. A Mason will be present at the Accession Council of King Charles. She was a friend of the fraternity, and intimately connected with the fraternity.
Masons throughout the world are members in the national grand lodges of the nations over which she reigned. I suspect she has been the ruler for more Masons than any person in history. We have toasted her innumerable times after our convocations. We have asked God to bless her in song.
Now, we shall do so with a new sovereign.
It is for many of us, a signal event in our lives as Masons.
It is also a personal grief. We have lost someone for whom we had great affection. Many have served in her armed forces and held honours at her approval. A senior English Mason and RN officer texted me this morning expressing his grief. We had both already lowered our flags to half mast in respect.
It is an end to a constant in our individual lives.
It is, indeed. Consider that you have to be over the age of 74 to have known a world without her as the sovereign of Great Britain. For our Canadian brethren, consider that she reigned for almost half of that nation's history after its official creation in 1867.

I wonder if we will begin referring to her time on the throne as the Second Elizabethan Period. Even stranger, I wonder if when the new King Charles ascends to the throne if we'll begin referring to a new Carolean Age.

How curious it is that news reports and commentators all day kept using terms like timeless, honor, faith, strength, responsibility, service, selflessness, devotion to duty, prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance — all those qualities it's been so fashionable to mock in Western society over the last 30 or so years that suddenly seem so important, so admirable, so needed, now that we abruptly live in a world without her example.

Requiescat In Pace. 

And long live the King.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Freemasons At Work in the Quarries

In 1898, English Masons conferred the first known Master Mason degree 
 to be held in 'Solomon's Quarry' (Zedekiah’s Cave) 
below the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

by Christopher Hodapp

This coming Saturday,  September 10th, 2022, Eden Lodge No. 477 in Greenfield, Indiana will perform its annual Master Mason degree in a stone quarry east of Indianapolis, and there will be a hog roast beforehand. Contact the lodge for more information.

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Because of Freemasonry's stonemason-guild beginnings, the symbolism of cutting, dressing and assembling perfect stones from a rock quarry to build a sacred temple is the central theme that runs throughout Masonic ritual. The rough ashlar stone symbolizes our own rough character, and our desire to smooth and perfect that ashlar and be worthy to become a 'living stone' to as part of a 'House not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.' And because we use the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem as that ideal symbol, Masons have had an interest in occasionally enacting the ritual in an actual quarry to mix a little more realism with the symbolism. 

After Napoleon's failed mission of stomping around in Egypt in the early 1800s, the administration of Palestine and the Holy Land was taken over by the Ottoman Turks. But it's not like that part of the world has ever had a stable history. After World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations appointed England to superintend the "Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan" and transition the region to create a Jewish homeland and hopefully keep the peace. But the English had already been poking around the Holy Land and Jerusalem for quite some time.

In the late 1860s, England's Sir Charles Warren was hired by the Palestine Exploration Fund to make surveys of the ancient biblically-related sites in and around Jerusalem. They were especially interested in the Old City and the Temple Mount – onetime location of King Solomon's Temple – and Warren conducted excavations that revealed a long-buried cave deep within the complex. The subterranean entrance, known as Zedekiah's Cave, led to an ancient stone quarry underneath the Temple complex, and it was quickly dubbed by Biblical archeologists as 'Solomon's Quarry,' the source of the stones used to construct the sacred Temple three thousand years ago.

Warren would become best known in modern times as the chief of London's Metropolitan Police between 1886-88, specifically because of his role in the investigation of the infamous Jack the Ripper murders. But he was also an enthusiastic Freemason, and he developed a keen interest in the physical sites connected with Masonic ritual. 

Warren was initiated into UGLE's Royal Lodge of Friendship No. 278 in Gibraltar in 1859. He would serve as the District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago from 1891 to 1895. And he served as Grand Deacon in 1887 for the United Grand Lodge of England. Perhaps most important was that in 1884 he was elected as the founding Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076. 

In addition to his papers presented to that lodge and printed in its transactions, he penned two important books on the subject of his biblical archeology work in and around the Temple complex: The Temple or the Tomb in 1880, and The Survey of Western Palestine-Jerusalem in 1884.

Meanwhile in America, Kentucky Freemason and founder of the Order of the Eastern Star, Rob Morris, had made a famous Masonic pilgrimage to the Holy Land himself to see the Temple Mount, 'Solomon's Quarry' and many other sites connected with our ritual, and wrote a book of his travels in 1875 that inspired members of the fraternity all over the world. Between Warren's and Morris' books, articles and speeches, Victorian-era Masons became more and more fascinated with the history and remains of the historical sites referred to in the Hiram legend and subsequent 'higher degrees' of the York and Scottish Rites.

Enthusiastic English Masons who had enough money to get there themselves organized the first degree conferral inside of Solomon's Quarry in 1898. 

A popular Holy Land souvenir for decades was a Masonic gavel set made from stone cut from the Solomon's Quarry site, with a handle and wooden carrying case made from olive wood. But Masons who couldn't make the trip to the Middle East themselves found substitutes closer to home — performing 'quarry degrees' outdoors in a still functioning operative stonemason's rock quarry.

You don't hear all that very often these days about quarry degrees. They're not totally unheard of anymore, but they're nowhere near as popular as they were during the early and mid-20th century. The combination of shrinking memberships, the fraternity's lack of enthusiasm as a whole, and legal liability all seem to have conspired together to make these ceremonies in such incredibly symbolic surroundings much rarer today.

Which brings me to Indiana, home of some of the greatest limestone deposits and quarries anywhere in the United States. Indiana celebrated its 150th Masonic anniversary, its Jubilee Year, between 1967-68. On August 19th, 1967, the nine original founding lodges of the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM, or their direct successors assembled under a full moon and reunited in a stone quarry near Salem, Indiana to jointly confer a Master Mason degree. Then Grand Secretary Dwight L. Smith had deemed the evening to be "Freemasonry's Link With Antiquity," and it was perhaps the event dearest to his heart because of the historic symbolism. 

Dwight was not just a Grand Secretary, he was a force of Nature. He began planning the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Grand Lodge of Indiana a full decade before it kicked off. Dwight was a trained journalist. He became editor of his local newspaper in Salem, Indiana in 1934, at the age of just 25, and he had grown up living and breathing Indiana history. He brought that same zeal for Indiana and its founders into Freemasonry when he became a very active young member, also at 25. He would soon take on editing the Indiana Freemason magazine, a position he held more than 40 years. He took an ordinary monthly Masonic newsletter and transformed it into an internationally acclaimed, informative Masonic magazine that was subscribed to by even more readers outside of the state than in it. Every issue contained thought-provoking Masonic education and historical articles, at Dwight's insistence. He demanded it. At the time, it was considered one of the very best and most informative Masonic magazines anywhere in the world.

Dwight was determined to get Indiana’s Masons sufficiently enthusiastic by 1967, and many of the traditions he and his committee started have continued every single year ever since. In my new book Heritage Endures, I devote a big section up front describing the monumental celebration Dwight Smith and the Grand Lodge pulled off for those twelve months between the Mays of 1967-68. Dwight had 250 Indiana Masons working as part of his enormous Sesquicentennial Commission in every corner of the state, and what they did was truly monumental,arranging major events for every month. Sure, Indiana had 175,000 or so members around those years, as opposed to our 50,000 today, so we had a lot more warm bodies then, and more money perhaps. But consider something else. 

We had far more enthusiasm about ourselves as Masons, too. It was an age when we believed just about anything was possible, so we thought and expected the very best of ourselves.

Things don't happen in a vacuum. The world was in enormous turmoil at that precise time in history. A contentious presidential election. The expansion of the military draft and the Vietnam War. The still powerful Soviet Union behind the Iron Curtain, with constant threat of nuclear confrontation. The mysterious nation of Communist China had just exploded their first hydrogen bomb. The Six-Day Arab-Israeli War that we are living with the ramifications of today. Nightly news coverage of race riots, and war dead no one had seen unfold in their living rooms in living color before. The U.S. space program had just lost its first human casualties in the race to the Moon – three astronauts, including Indiana Freemason Gus Grissom perished in the Apollo 1 fire. A breakdown in traditions and morals. Social and racial strife. A sudden national loss of religious faith and the 'God is Dead' movement. Technological changes happening so fast that people were unnerved by the ways their own lives were affected. 

It all sounds so remarkably like the world we are living in right now, doesn't it?

Indiana's Sesquicentennial Masonic celebration was deliberately designed by Dwight Smith to show the world that Freemasonry was the inverse opposite of all of that chaos and turmoil. If society was a wreck, Masonry was a rock. The very day after China exploded their H-Bomb, Indiana Freemasonry was on television all over the state, telling its story instead.

Dwight’s plan all along was to use the 150th anniversary to plant seeds all over Indiana, and the quarry degree in Salem on that August 1967 evening was just one of them.

Site of operative quarry Masonic degree at Salem, Indiana in 1967

Of the original nine founding lodges in Indiana, only Vincennes No. 1 and Brookville’s Harmony No. 11 remained that had enjoyed an uninterrupted existence since January 13, 1818. Three more, Madison’s Union Lodge 2, Lawrenceburg Lodge 4, and Rising Sun Lodge 6, had ceased for a time, but new lodges had been permitted to form again with their same historic names and numbers. The remaining four had dissolved, but were succeeded by new lodges with new numbers: Melchizidek Lodge at Salem was replaced by Salem Lodge 21; Corydon’s Pisgah Lodge 5 was succeeded by Pisgah Lodge 32; Vevay Lodge 7 by Switzerland Lodge 122; and Charlestown’s Blazing Star Lodge 3 by Blazing Star No. 226. The Masonic Heritage Program for the 150th Jubilee Year branded this event as one of the most significant of the entire twelve-month celebration, as it was the only time these historic lodges had ever met together for such a purpose. 

Before the meeting convened, dinner was served to nearly a thousand guests at the local school in Salem. Following the meal, 1,800 Freemasons from Indiana, Kentucky, Florida, California, Canada, and other jurisdictions all marched down Quarry Street and descended deep into the stone pit a mile away for the degree. It took forty-five appointed Tylers stationed around the perimeter of the area just to guard against any approaching cowans and eavesdroppers. A brief period of rainfall caused some panic, as the Masons fled for cover before the opening gavel could be struck. But the rain quickly stopped—Dwight simply wouldn’t permit it. The bleachers installed for the occasion were dried, and by nightfall the full moon peeked over the rim of the high, sheer pit walls from a clear sky. It fell to the officers of Dwight Smith’s own lodge, Salem No. 21, to open the lodge under the star decked canopy in this “low dell,” and the Sublime Degree was conferred by a cast made up of members of all nine of the historic lodges assembled. 

The Grand Secretary had been determined this night would be central to the celebration from almost the first discussions of the Sesquicentennial Commission back in 1960. He even had specially ‘illuminated’ scrolls created by hand as a tribute for each of the nine lodges by artist and calligrapher Arthur G. Duvall, Past Master of Evansville’s Lessing Lodge 464. The individualized certificates duly noted the names of each lodge’s own “Pioneer Freemasons” who had taken part in the formation of the Grand Lodge in January 1818—23 in all. As the meeting was opened, Smith read an introduction to the crowd, giving the historical background of the occasion. In noting that only two of the founding nine lodges had actually survived intact for a century and a half to witness the Jubilee year, he remarked, 
“In a very real sense this assembly is like unto human life: those who lay the foundations seldom live to place the capstone. One generation puts down the working tools: another generation takes them up and carries on.”
The quarry degree was just one single event that year. With erecting almost thirty permanent bronze historical markers all over the state, television programming, countless local and statewide occasions and gatherings, plays, endless press releases, Dwight's new book Goodly Heritage, and all the rest of the “bread and circuses” he and his committee cooked up, what he wanted to do was pass along the IDEA of Freemasonry, to members young and old, and to curious onlookers who might see a spark of light and knock at the door of a lodge someday. That passion was contagious.

Today we have Indiana’s own Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research U.D. in his memory, but there seems to be a feeling among those who knew him personally that he would never have approved of such a thing at all, let alone one named after him. Dwight felt that it was the role of
everyMason and every lodge everywhere to do research, and to study the history and heritage and symbolism and philosophy of the fraternity, not cloistered away in a single lodge that meets twice a year. You shouldn’t need an excuse to think and work and achieve.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery was a famous world aviator and journalist, and reputed by many to have been a French Freemason. He was the author of The Little Prince, if any of you took French classes and had to read it. He once wrote:
“If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood, and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”  
And that’s what Dwight and his committee and the Grand Lodge were really doing — inspiring their brethren 'to long for the endless immensity of the sea' that is Freemasonry. Dwight didn’t do it alone, he had lots of help. But he saw it all, it was his vision years before. And he dragged all of Indiana's Masons along with him on that voyage. He expected better, and he got it in return from his equally enthusiastic brethren.

It's long past time that we started demanding better of ourselves once again, and living up to the same expectations that Dwight had for himself and for this fraternity, and to once again teach others 'to long for that endless immensity of the sea' that is Freemasonry. Nobody is going to do it for us and there’s nobody else to blame now. And guilt is a lousy motivator anyway.

Men don’t join a club called Freemasonry. They join to BECOME Freemasons. They join because of the IDEA of what becoming a Freemason is to them. I certainly did. I suspect you did too. I hope so, anyway. Everybody fixates on the mantra that we need more new members all the time. Well, we've got far bigger troubles than just plumping up our numbers. We can get all the new members we want, if that's all we want. But those new members will never stay, and keep coming back, and they will never come to truly love Freemasonry as an idea until our own existing members truly love it first. Until we all rekindle the passion we all had for the fraternity on the night of our Entered Apprentice degrees. 

We have no business obligating another new Mason until then.

And until every single one of us longs for that endless immensity of the sea that is Freemasonry. 

*   *   *   

With that in mind, if you are in or near Indiana this coming Saturday, you will have an opportunity to experience what those 1,800 Masons did in 1967 in Salem, or those English brethren did in Jerusalem in 1898 — to imagine Hiram walking among the stones in the quarry, surrounded by the workmen all hard at work. 

On September 10th, 2022, Eden Lodge No. 477 in Greenfield, Indiana will perform its annual Master Mason degree in a stone quarry east of Indianapolis, and there will be a hog roast beforehand. Contact the lodge for more information.