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

BE A FREEMASON

Monday, July 22, 2024

Kansas Masonic Con This Weekend - July 26-28



by Christopher Hodapp

There's still time to sign up and attend the Kansas Masonic Con this coming weekend, Friday - Sunday, July 26-28, 2024, at Rosedale Lodge 333 in Mission, Kansas (near Kansas City).

Speakers will include:
  • Chad Thomas – “Freemasonry: Form vs Function”
  • Jon Ruark – “Stoic Resilience in an Age of Uncertainty”
  • Nicholas Laine – “The Creation of Enlighteners in Lodge”
  • James R. Morgan III – “The Lost Empire: Black Freemasonry in the Old West”
  • Duane Marshall – “The Journey of a Mason”
  • Chad Kopenski – “The Power of Masonic Myth”
  • Lincoln Wilson – “How Much Masonry Do You Want?
Rosedale Lodge 333, Mission, Kansas

There will be a Friday evening 'meet and greet' with the speakers, with the bulk of the program on Saturday, followed by a masquerade festive board Saturday night, and wrapping up with an outing on Sunday. Tickets can be had for each event individually, an all program pass, and for virtual attendees who wish to watch online. 

Sunday, July 14, 2024

New Book by Chris Ruli: 'Brother Lafayette' Available for Presale


by Christopher Hodapp

It's Bastille Da today, so I think it's appropriate to post this story. Macoy Publishing has announced the pre-sale of Brother Christopher Ruli's newest book, Brother Lafayette: the Marquis de Lafayette's Masonic Travels in America 1824-25 (Macoy, 2024, $24.95) now through September 24th, when it's expected to begin shipping. 

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Major General Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette’s triumphant goodwill tour of America between 1824-25. Fewer and fewer Americans these days have been taught about Major General Lafayette and his role in the American Revolution, and even fewer know of just how dedicated he was to the cause of liberty, before he arrived in America, and long after he returned home to France where he was swept up in its own revolution. But in addition to his long career as a military figure, statesman, revolutionary, protector, political prisoner, and so much more, he was also a Freemason.

In 1824, Lafayette visited America at the invitation of President James Monroe, and began traveling the country. The American Revolution’s 50th anniversary was approaching, and Lafayette was the last of George Washington's major generals who was still alive. During his whirlwind goodwill tour, he spoke in many places, including several Masonic lodges. He was treated with much the same sort of awe and adoration that had been reserved for George Washington himself, which never ceased to astonish him. Everywhere Lafayette went, adoring crowds followed him through the streets. Balls, dinners, tours, concerts, parades, and public honors of every kind were arranged to honor him, and what started out to be a three-month trip lasted over a year. It was during that visit that the park north of the White House was renamed to honor him. Literally hundreds of other parks, towns, cities, and counties throughout the United States are named after him. And there were more than a few Masonic lodges chartered in his name.


Lafayette's famed American tour took him to all 24 of the United States at that time – 6,000 miles in all – and in the decades following his visit, it seemed as though every Masonic lodge in the country wanted to claim their members had some kind of meaningful contact with the legendary general and Freemason.

Ironically, despite the high-profile visitations and associations with Freemasons while he was here, just a year later, William Morgan would disappear in Western New York, allegedly murdered by Brother Masons, and the most vehement period of American anti-Masonic persecution would erupt throughout the country.

Now, author and Washington DC Mason Christopher Ruli has done a deep dive into the itineraries, letters, diaries, minute books, and press reports of the time to create a full and definitive account of Brother Lafayette’s Masonic contacts and travels throughout his famed trip. The result is 
Brother Lafayette: the Marquis de Lafayette's Masonic Travels in America 1824-25a detailed, fascinating, and eminently absorbing travelogue with a uniquely Masonic focus. 

Similar in nature to Chris' previous Masonic history of the Presidential Mansion in Washington, DC, (The White House & the Freemasons, Macoy, 2023, $29.95-39.95) Chris has meticulously tracked down every known instance of Lafayette visiting Masonic lodges, grand lodges, and individual Freemasons. Through diaries, newspaper accounts, even lodge minute books, he has provided the best documented evidence of Lafayette's interactions with Masons all along the route. And they were considerable in number!

You'll find letters, transcripts of speeches, tributes, toasts, diplomas, songs written for the occasion, descriptions of medals and other gifts given to Lafayette. He was granted honorary memberships in lodges and grand lodges. When the weather turned cold in November 1824, he wintered at Alexandria, Virginia's famed Gadsby's Tavern. In January of 1925, halfway through the trip, he wrote to his friend Thomas Jefferson, "I contemplate to set out for the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, New Orleans, and the western states, upwards of 5,000 miles to be performed in 99 days with only 13 days rest...and 300 miles through a sort of wilderness. We will do the best we can." 

He was 69 years old, and the trip would have been grueling for men half his age.

(Typically for my own state of Indiana, which had only been granted statehood less than 10 years before, our legislature, our governor, and our grand lodge made no effort to issue Lafayette an invitation, and the only reason he set shore here was when his steamboat ran aground—the 19thy century version of only stopping at an Indiana truck stop on the way someplace else.)

Macoy's is offering the book for pre-sale now for $24.94, and delivery is expected in September. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.




Just as an added aside, the 
American Friends of Lafayette have been preparing for celebrating the bicentennial of Lafayette's farewell tour, erecting historical markers, arranging for events all along the 6,000-mile route of his original trip. Festivities will begin August 16, 2024 in New York City and wind up at Mount Vernon in September 2025. If you live or belong to a lodge in an area that Lafayette actually visited, you should consider erecting a permanent historical marker describing the visit. Or if your city or town is already doing so this year, be sure your lodge contacts the local group arranging for the marker and ask if your lodge or grand lodge can take part in the dedication and other festivities.

If you don't know much about Lafayette or can't fathom why he was so adored by Americans at the time, read the excerpt below adapted from my 2005 book, Solomon's Builders:

Monday, July 08, 2024

Partnership of Grand Lodges Purchase Grand View Systems



ByChristopher Hodapp

Grand View Systems, creators of one of the most popular membership management systems designed especially for Masonic organizations, has just been acquired by a joint partnership of grand lodges in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, California, and North Carolina.

From the press release:



Dear Valued Grand View Users,

We’re thrilled to announce that Grand View, your trusted membership management software system, has been purchased by a partnership of four Grand Lodges: the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, Grand Lodge of North Carolina, Grand Lodge of California, and Grand Lodge of Minnesota. This acquisition marks a significant milestone in the Grand View journey, and we are excited about the future prospects it brings.

Our vision for Grand View is that it’s owned by the fraternity, ensuring that its mission aligns closely with the values and needs of Masonic organizations. We are delighted to inform you that Brother Jeff Clarke will continue to lead Grand View, and all of its dedicated staff will remain in place, ensuring continuity and stability for our users. Jeff and his team will continue to be your main point of contact.

As we look to the future, Grand View’s immediate goals are to assess and enhance its capabilities to onboard new Masonic organizations seamlessly while continuing to provide robust support to its existing users. Your satisfaction and success are our and Grand View’s top priorities, and we and the Grand View team are committed to making Grand View an even more powerful tool for your membership management needs.

We are also eagerly looking forward to the upcoming Users Conference, where Jeff will share more detailed plans and ideas. This will be a fantastic opportunity to hear directly from you about how we can all work together most effectively moving forward. Additionally, we’ll discuss how other Grand Lodges and Masonic organizations can join the ownership group in the future, expanding our collaborative efforts.

Thank you for your continued trust and support in Grand View. We are excited about this new chapter and are confident that under its new ownership, Grand View will achieve great things.



 

Friday, July 05, 2024

Missouri's 2024 Truman Lecture Features Oklahoma's Robert G. Davis, PGM in September



by Christopher Hodapp

Each year, the Missouri Lodge of Research hosts an important speaker for their Fall Truman Breakfast, named for PGM Harry S Truman of Missouri, who was instrumental in founding this educational special purpose lodge almost a century ago.

This year's speaker will be Oklahoma Past Grand Master, RW Robert G. Davis.


Robert G. Davis is a Past Master of three Masonic lodges in Oklahoma, a 33° Mason and recipient of the Grand Cross. He is a Past Grand High Priest of Royal Arch Masons, Past Grand Master of Cryptic Masons, Past Grand Commander of the Knights Templar in Oklahoma, and Past Sovereign Grand Master of the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees of the United States. He served the Craft as Grand Master of the Oklahoma Grand Lodge, AF&AM in 2021. He currently serves as a Board member of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.

He is the author of four books, including: The Mason’s Words, outlining the history and evolution of the American Masonic ritual; Understanding Manhood in America, focusing on the fraternal quest for the ideals of masculinity; The Journey of the Elu to Enlightenment, providing a contemporary interpretation of the degrees of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite; and In Search of Light, a course of hieroglyphic and symbolic moral instruction for the Symbolic Lodge.

The Fall Breakfast takes place during the annual communication of the Grand Lodge of Missouri AF&AM, which moves around to a different part of the state every year. This event will take place September 17, 2024 at the Convention Center in St. Charles, Missouri. (St. Charles is on the far northwest side of St. Louis.) 

It's a 7:00AM breakfast before their grand lodge meets, so late risers need to adjust accordingly.

Important note: You MUST register and pay for tickets for the Fall 2024 Truman Series Lecture in advance, no later than July 31st, if you want to attend this event. 

Male and Female Grand Lodges Counter Misinformation With New 'Council for Freemasonry in England and Wales'



by Christopher Hodapp

If you've been reading Freemasonry Today, the official magazine of the United Grand Lodge of England, over the last couple of years, you've doubtless noticed an increasing number of articles highlighting female Freemasonry and reporting on cooperative actions between the male-only UGLE, female Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF), and the the Order of Women Freemasons (OWF). Back when the UGLE celebrated its 300th anniversary of the founding of the first grand lodge in 2018, the female grand masters from both the OWF and the HFAF were invited to the festivities. In fact, for quite some time, UGLE has stated that they consider both organizations to be in all ways "regular" Freemasons, apart from admitting women as members. In recent years, they have cooperated in joint public outreach programs, such as UGLE's Universities Scheme, which brings Freemasonry's message and opportunities to university campuses and encourages students to join a nearby Masonic lodge.

A couple of weeks ago, the UGLE, the OWF and the HFAF announced their most public cooperative partnership yet: the formation of a new Council for Freemasonry in England and Wales, a joint commission made up of representatives of the three English grand lodges specifically created to present a united voice for Freemasonry in the United Kingdom.

In a statement released online, the Council explained its formation and purpose:
This new Council aims to enhance further existing and longstanding collaboration and promote the fundamental principles of Freemasonry, including merit, tolerance, diversity, and inclusion, between the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the Order of Women Freemasons (OWF), and the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF).

Even in 2024 Freemasonry continues to face various unfounded criticisms and inaccurate misconceptions, often stemming from deep-rooted prejudices, or preconceived falsehoods. Contrary to the erroneous claim that Freemasonry is exclusively male, women’s Freemasonry has been an integral part of Freemasonry in the UK for over a century. While Freemasonry is practised in single-sex Lodges, this is no different from many other activities, including most sports as well as many other community groups.

The establishment of the Council for Freemasonry will formally establish an overarching forum for collaboration. In addition, the Council will bring together the community service ambitions of all three bodies, coordinate communication and engagement with other organisations, drive the membership growth ambitions, particularly for women Freemasons, and allocate resources and facilities for the general benefit of both male and female Freemasonry.

The Council will include the heads of each Grand Lodge, and each Grand Lodge will provide the President for a twelve-month period, chairing Council meetings in strict rotation. The President for the first two years will come from the OWF and HFAF, with UGLE covering the third year.

The formation of the Council for Freemasonry in England and Wales marks a pivotal step towards enhancing cooperation, addressing misconceptions, and promoting the values of Freemasonry. This historic initiative reaffirms Freemasonry’s commitment to integrity, friendship, respect and service, while keeping community service and charitable giving at the absolute forefront of this historic organisation.
Almost immediately, the new Council got a chance to make its first big public noise. It all started over the news of a longtime male-only institution. 


In May, London's venerable Garrick Club (see these photos from their website) voted to admit women to full membership after almost two centuries of being exclusively for men. I guess Old Blighty is now saved after this brave and bold move. 

You'd have thought the good news just came in from Waterloo. It was the biggest victory since Old Boney got sent packing. Naturally, the UK press could scarcely contain itself.


The Garrick was originally founded in 1831 as a gentleman's club for actors, theatrical directors, and playwrights, along with deep-pocketed patrons of the arts—as its bylaws stated, for those of "gentlemanly accomplishment and scholarship." The club is named for David Garrick, considered to be the greatest actor of all time, or at least in the 18th century when he lived. Fans of Winnie the Pooh stories may have heard of the Garrick; upon his death, author A.A. Milne left the rights and royalties from the Pooh stories to the club in perpetuity. 

As a big, odious clot of bellyachers, the press in the UK despises same-sex clubs of men (Not clubs of women, of course. Same-sex clubs for men are branded as secret enclaves of deal-making, back-patting, and good-ol-toffey-nosed job networking, while same-sex clubs for women are to be celebrated as 'bold, brave, groundbreaking, and long-overdue.') So, whaddya think the UK press did after beating their rheumatic chests in victory over toppling another venerable bastion of male-only institutions? Of course, they took it as an opportunity to once again swipe at the Freemasons for not following suit and 'getting on the right side of history.' 


Private English mens' clubs were all the rage in the 19th century, and nobody in their right minds wanted to eat or socialize with actors anyhow back in the 1830s, so it made sense for them to establish a club of their own. The clubs flourished throughout the 20th century, as any faithful reader of P.G. Wodehouse novels* can attest, but private anythings for men have come under attack off and on for the last 50 years or so throughout Western society, especially in Britain. The Garrick still has plenty of actors and rock stars on its membership rolls, but it's also got its share of the upper icing-covered layer of the society cheesecake these days: not just actors, but lawyers, judges, high-profile businessmen, government ministers and policy advisors, even King Charles III himself. An attempt was made by some members back in 2010 to admit females as full members, but the existing membership failed to make the change at that time. A handful of members resigned in protest over the issue, making a big public show of it on their way out the door, but the Garrick held fast for another 14 years.

Earlier this year, the Guardian decided to stir the pot again and publicly published a list of the current Garrick members in an effort to force another vote on admitting women. As has been done in the past, the goal was to paint male membership in private clubs as a shameful, despicable fetish that shouldn't be permitted in a progressive society. Consequently, the club's reputation took a public beating over it, with the usual claims that these big-deal, establishment male movers and shakers in important parts of government and other institutions meet in their private clubs to make deals, craft legislation, scratch each others' needy backs, hire each other, and otherwise screw over whatever the English version is of smelly Walmart people and the Deplorables. And, by Zeus' thunder! the laydeez deserved to join their ranks so they could do it too, dammit! 

So, to stab into the soft underbelly of this story, the Guardian's exposure of the members fulfilled its purpose: a bare majority of 51% of the members of the Garrick finally voted in May to open the doors to the ladies, and immediately named Dame Judy Densch and Sian Phillips as full members. 

I suppose the Empire is saved now.

So what does this have to do with Freemasonry?

After the story broke reporting the Garrick's admission of women, the longtime journalist and English peer Baroness Patience Wheatcroft (not a made-up name), posted a column on the New European site entitled, Forget About the Garrick, What About the Freemasons? She seemed to have no problem with the Garrick excluding women because it's just an old geezer home for unemployed, has-been actors, and she even spent a few paragraphs declaring such clubs to be just fine and harmless because they're really unimportant to powerful people:
Put aside the fact that the rules ban business talk, a stricture that admittedly might be hard to implement, the [Garrick's] ornate Covent Garden building is not the beating heart of Britain. It is a haven for elderly thespians and those who wish to rub shoulders with them. Yes, that includes a gaggle of Conservative politicians but Michael Gove would probably be more interested in collecting the autograph of Brian Cox or Hugh Bonneville than trying to discuss matters of state. Jacob Rees-Mogg, should he ever deign to sit at the communal long table, would surely be too occupied playing to the crowd to say anything of import. . .

The Cabinet Secretary and the head of MI6 have stressful jobs and, like Pooh, probably enjoy a bit of relaxation and some favourite food. As they, along with a gaggle of judges, rushed for the club exit in the face of the Guardian campaign, they weren’t trying to ensure that women have equal access to power, merely that their own careers would not be blighted by allegations of unfair discrimination. Their willingness to drop their Garrick membership shows how little they value it – these people know where power really resides nowadays: in Silicon Valley, the trading desks of Goldman Sachs, and the offices of Blackrock.

However, the Baroness continues, as for those flaming Masons:
And right next door to the place where the Garrick’s historic vote was taken early this month – the Connaught Rooms – is the imposing Freemasons’ Hall. That’s home to the United Grand Lodge of England, an organisation which far pre-dates the Garrick and which remains firmly closed to women.

If the Guardian really wanted to pursue the principle of equality, then the mysterious power and influence of Freemasonry could be worth its attention. This international movement lists its principles as “Integrity, Friendship, Respect and Service”, all qualities that might be thought to have appeal to those of every gender and none. Undoubtedly, the movement does charitable works but there are some who suspect that its charity most decidedly begins at home.

Elaborating on its aim of fostering friendship, the Grand Lodge literature says: “All members share a sense of togetherness that strengthens their ability to succeed and grow”. Would it be at all surprising if that success at work was given a helpful nudge, perhaps a promotion, by a fellow mason in the same company?
And, yes, lest you think it was somehow left out of the piece, farther down in her editorial, the baroness managed to work in the universal English press anti-Masonic mark of snark: a reference to 'rolled-up trouser legs' (although, the term 'dodgy handshakes' was somehow left out).

Funny. This 'New European' sounds remarkably like the 'Old European' to my tin ear...

But this time, when the press began to crank out "the Garrick now admits wimmin, so wut in God's holy teeth is wrong with those bloody Masons?" columns, instead of spreading out and laying prostrate for another public flaying by the rent-seeking, activist presstitutes pounding on their tripe-writers, the brand new Council for Freemasonry immediately answered

United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), The Order of Women Freemasons (OWF) and the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (Freemasonry for Women) are united in our surprise and unease at an article published in The New European by Patience Wheatcroft. The article contains a number of significant inaccuracies and we feel obliged to respond in order to provide Baroness Wheatcroft, and her readers, with an accurate representation of the truth.

Beginning with the numerous claims about Freemasonry’s entry requirements, we are delighted that the author has visited the UGLE website and reflected on the organisation’s core values of Integrity, Friendship, Respect and Service. While she was there, it is a shame, however, that Baroness Wheatcroft did not manage to locate the section of our website dedicated to Women Freemasons, who have been proudly meeting in this country for over 100 years. Indeed, even more simply, a cursory Google search would have revealed the websites of the two female Grand Lodges that meet in the United Kingdom, as well as their numerous social media channels. The links for all three of our websites can be found in the footer of this statement and we encourage you to peruse them at your leisure.

Secondly, on the points raised about our charitable commitments, we are proud of the impact that we, as Freemasons, have within the community. We are pleased that in 2020, during the dark and uncertain early stages of the pandemic, Freemasons contributed over £51.1 million to deserving causes. This includes not only financial contributions but also the dedication of over 18.5 million hours annually to volunteer work. In 2021, as the societal impacts of the pandemic continued to take hold, UGLE allocated over £4.7 million through specific relief programs, focusing on community support, food aid, domestic abuse, homelessness, and mental health.

Thirdly, in relation to the points made about members, we celebrate the diversity of our membership. Freemasons have been part of a unique and enduring social organisation for over 300 years, with no political or religious affiliations. Our diverse memberships include individuals of various ages, races, religions, cultures, and backgrounds. This is something that we wholeheartedly celebrate.

In reference to Baroness Wheatcroft’s remarks about customs within Freemasonry, we are surprised that such timeless traditions appear unfamiliar to a sitting Member of the House of Lords, where ancient practices linking the existing body to its predecessors are rightly celebrated. In the same way, our traditions come from historical links to medieval stonemasons and more information can be found about this on our websites and social media channels.

Finally, we are proud to be Freemasons. Articles such as the one referenced above only serve to spread misinformation and misconceptions and we are determined to not only stand up for our members, those of all genders and those of none, but to present, once and for all, the truth about Freemasonry.

Our doors remain firmly open.

United Grand Lodge of England, Order of Women Freemasons & the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (Freemasonry for Women)
One of the primary jobs of the new Council for Freemasonry is to counter public misinformation and press attacks against the fraternity by spreading the message that English Freemasonry is NOT just for men; that male and female Masonic organizations coexist, and are all alive and well and open for membership; and that none of these three grand lodges in Britain have any desire, intention, or reason for changing their practices or ideology of being a sanctuary from the outside world for their particular members, male or female.

So, if Baroness Wheatcroft finds herself somehow lacking in enough titles, memberships and benefits of her lofty station in life, she's certainly free to apply to the OWF or HFAF. After all, she's got as much chance of getting in as anyone else, provided she can pass an investigation and ball-and-cube vote. . .


*Just as an aside for Wodehouse fans, not only was P.G. himself a member of the Garrick (which doubtless provided him with endless fodder for his fictional Drones Club stories), but so are both actors Stephen Frye and Hugh Laurie, who played Jeeves & Wooster in what are the very best filmed versions of those stories ever made. 

Small world. Wouldn't want to paint it...

Monday, July 01, 2024

"It's A Big Secret. Everybody Knows About It."




by Christopher Hodapp


Brother Mike Comfort posted a link on Facebook last week to a 2017 Super Bowl ad I'd completely forgotten about, pimping for - of all things - Mexican-grown avocados. Us sooper-secret 96nd degree Supreme Sovereign Grand Master Templar High Priest Freemasons control those, too. 

That's right.  Without you even knowing, we lurk everywhere.

Even in your party dip.



Thursday, June 27, 2024

Charters of Lodges In Lebanon Revoked by GM of District of Columbia





by Christopher Hodapp

MW Grand Master Jacob M. Bressman of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia has arrested the charters of all three of their lodges in the Middle Eastern nation of Lebanon. Official Decision No. 2024-4, issued June 24th, revokes the charters of Phoenix Lodge No. 1001, Cadmus Lodge No. 1002, and Cedrus Libani Lodge No. 1003, all located in Beirut, Lebanon.



The Decision states:
"It has come to my attention that Phoenix Lodge No. 1001, Cadmus Lodge No. 1002 and Cedrus Libani Lodge No. 1003, have each demonstrated an inability to work together in fraternal communion-to such an extent that their disharmony warrants action by this Grand Lodge; and. . . have been provided ample opportunity to rectify these issues but have failed to do so. . . 

[snip] 

[These lodges are now] prohibited from holding all communications, conducting visitations to other Lodges, and participating in any Masonic activities-including all appendant bodies-held throughout this or any other Jurisdiction in the World, until such time as this matter is properly resolved."

The decision does clarify in this instance that the members of these three lodges who are in good standing "continue to enjoy their individual privileges and rights as Masons of this jurisdiction."

For such a relatively small country, Freemasonry has had a chaotic history Lebanon. In 1999, authors Kent Henderson and Tony Pope reported in their indispensable book, Freemasonry Universal, that there were at least 18 grand lodges at work within Lebanon at that time; several had just one single lodge and a grand master "appointed for life."

Grand lodges of Scotland, New York and the Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF) have all had regularly chartered lodges in that country for decades. Scotland's first lodge in the area was chartered in 1861, back when the region was called Greater Syria, and the Scottish lodges flourished during the period of the Ottoman Empire. The GL of Scotland formed its own own District Grand Lodge of Lebanon in 2012. New York first established lodges in Lebanon in 1924, and created its own District Grand Lodge of Syria-Lebanon back in 1955.

The entry of the GLofDC into Lebanon was a recent development. I believe they chartered their first two lodges there in 2017, which turned into a major controversy that resulted in New York, Scotland and DC all trading accusations and withdrawals of fraternal relations for a few years.

Further mucking up this melange, three of the Grand Lodge of New York's chartered
Lebanon lodges petitioned to form their own grand lodge. A charter to that effect was signed and issued by the Grand Lodge of the F&AM of the State of New York on October 24, 2018 creating the Grand Lodge of the F&AM of Lebanon

It's worth pointing out to those unacquainted with the geography, Lebanon sits just west of Syria and north of Israel, abutting the Golan Heights. Increased Hezbollah attacks against Israel from across the border are in danger of escalating the war into Lebanon sooner than later. It is a complex country with a complicated population mix and a history of violent upheavals ever since achieving its post-WWII independence. As desperately needed as Masonry's message of tolerance, cooperation, universal benevolence, and brotherhood may be in this region of the world, the realities of human conflicts aren't always so easy to trowel over with the cement of brotherly love.




Sunday, June 23, 2024

Smoky Mountains Masonic Marker Near Maggie Valley Vandalized


by Christopher Hodapp

The Great Smoky Mountains Masonic Marker at Black Camp Gap in North Carolina was recently vandalized, according to an article on the WLOS-TV13 website


The Marker, located along the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a stone monument that was constructed in the 1930s by area Freemasons, and it contains stones from all 50 states, many of which are inscribed with their origins. 

Attendees at the annual Great Smoky Mountains York Rite Festival held in Maggie Valley each July make a pilgrimage to the Marker. It was dedicated July 11, 1938 and contains a time capsule. 


The Marker sits at the top of a hill and can be reached via a series of stone steps that are engraved with the names of various lodges and grand lodges that contributed to its construction. Photos in the article show damage was done to those stairway stones, along with several more on the Marker itself:

Blue Ridge Parkway representatives say it appears that someone took a hammer and chipped the steps away at the Masonic marker near Maggie Valley, all the way up to the main marker. "It appears to be some fairly recent vandalism," said Blue Ridge Parkway spokesperson Leesa Brandon.

Brandon says that only last week did they hear of the damage at the Masonic marker off of the Heintooga Road section of the Parkway.

"Unfortunately, instances of graffiti and vandalism on the Parkway are all too common," said Brandon. "But we're sorry obviously to see this particular instance at this historic marker that's been here since the late 1930s."

The monument includes rocks from most states — from places such as Plymouth Rock and the Alamo. Some of the stones have even come from the Rock of Gibraltar and Antarctica.

"A biker told me about it," said Mark Balree, who is visiting from Wilmington. "I'm going to go see it."

He finds the monument intriguing and is saddened to hear of the vandalism.

"Our law enforcement rangers have been on site and have collected some of the information," said Brandon. But, with no surveillance cameras on site, the investigation will be difficult.

"It's very hard to know or say exactly what happened without any witnesses," she said.

Brandon said this marker has a significant meaning to the Freemasons. "We've started some discussions with some of the local caretakers of that site about next steps," she said. The repairs, however, will be more difficult than replacing graffitied or stolen overlook signs.

"This is not going to be that kind of repair," Brandon said. "It will require a lot of special care and attention."

Future security measures are up for discussion, such as a security camera and more patrols.

"I think all of those conversations are on the table," she said.

The Blue Ridge Parkway says anyone with information should contact authorities at 1-800-727-5928.

 

The Marker was the brainchild of T. Troy Wyche in the early 1930s. A stone bearing his name was damaged, as was a triangular stone commemorating its dedication in 1938. It was created to demonstrate the cooperation among Masons all over the world.

The National Park Service explanation of the Marker
(Photo: Chris Hodapp)

According to the National Parks Service sign, the Marker is made up of 687 stones that came from the various states and 41 other nations, from every continent, including Antarctica. They include stones from Plymouth Rock, the Rock of Gibraltar, the Alamo, and the White House.

Over the years, a metal fence was installed around the Marker in an attempt to prevent just this sort of vandalism, and a wooden shelter was built over it to guard against damage from the natural elements.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

The Illumin-Arby?!


by Christopher Hodapp

More proof that we Freemasons are everywhere, hiding in plain sight. Even in fast food establishments.

First it was Taco Bell back in 2018, with hidden squares and compasses in their exterior light fixtures, followed by an entire ad campaign linking secret societies, secret lapel pins, tacos, and the Illuminati. The Belluminati.


Now it's Arby's with the "Masonic" all-seeing eye over an unfinished "Masonic" pyramid, just like the "Masonic" symbols on the back of the "Masonic" dollar bill. 

Actually, it's announcing the return of Arby's longtime signature side item, the triangular-shaped potato cake. And at the base? Dipping sauces and the Roman numerals for 'July 1, 2024.'

Friday, June 14, 2024

Speaking at New Jersey's Nutley Lodge This Monday 6/17



by Christopher Hodapp

This coming Monday, June 17th, I'll be flapping my way New Jersey-ward to speak at Nutley Lodge 25. Despite my having spoken there in 2011 and 2012, Worshipful Master Jerry Lukowiak wants me to come back anyway. 

It's not like he hasn't been warned... 

Dinner at 6:15PM, lodge opens at 7:00.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

RIP: Bill Hosler


by Christopher Hodapp

UPDATE Monday, June 13th, 10:30AM: This story has been updated with Bill's official obituary, and funeral and memorial services’ information for both Arkansas and Indiana.

The world suddenly became a sadder and far less pleasurable place to inhabit this weekend. Word came that my friend and Masonic Brother William C. Hosler, PM, passed to the Celestial Lodge on Thursday, June 6th. He was 58.

If you're a Masonic podcast fan, you may be familiar with Bill from the 'Meet, Act and Part' program, with co-hosts Greg Knott, Darin Lahners, and occasionally, 'The Midnight Freemasons' author Todd Creason. 

Bill Hosler entered the fraternity three years after I did. Back in the early 2000s, he joined Fort Wayne's 
Three Rivers Lodge 733, and almost immediately became a regular contributor to early Internet Masonic message boards like Jeff Naylor's Indiana-based MasoniclLight.net (which started in November 1999). 

Bill and I became buddies right from the start, sharing our love for 1960s British comedy. He had lived for a time in England, and I seemed to be the only one who caught on to his references to the hilarious old 'Carry On' movies.

MasonicLight.net came into being in the nascent days of the movement to create observant-style lodges in the U.S. (which went by various names over the years, like European Concept, Traditional Observance, Best Practices, and others I've lost track of). A core clot of us on the website began tossing around ideas which quickly led to the establishment of Indiana's Lodge Vitruvian 767, with our fearless leader Jeff Naylor as its founding Worshipful Master. And a lot of those ideas made their way into Laudable Pursuit, which we published on online anonymously under our group's nom de l'internet, The Knights of the North.

Bill Hosler was one of those intrepid knights of the keyboard.


At that time, Bill was a truck driver based in Fort Wayne, in northeastern Indiana. In the coming years, he served as Worshipful Master at Three Rivers Lodge, and became a plural member in Calvin Prather Lodge 717 in Indianapolis. 
Bill was a member of the Fort Wayne Valley of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite (NMJ); he served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Royal Arch Chapter 19; and he was Commander of Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knights Templar. He was also member of Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne, where he served as the webmaster and editor of their magazine. In 2007, he became a member of the Grand Lodge of Indiana's Technology Committee.

Bill relocated to Texas for a while, and he attended lodge whenever and wherever he could. He joined Lebanon Lodge 837 in Frisco, Texas, Roff Lodge 169 in Roff, Oklahoma, and Ardmore Lodge 31, where he became a life member. He and his wonderful lady, Tammi Harmoning, most recently settled in Three Rivers, Arkansas.


Meanwhile, he continued to write about the fraternity, contributing regularly to Todd Creason's 'The Midnight Freemasons' blog. Over time, he contributed a series of thoughtful short stories that featured dialogues between a young Mason named Pudge, and the Wise Old 50-year Mason, in a vein similar to Carl Claudy's famed Old Tyler Talks and The Old Past Master tales.

The 'Meet, Act and Part' podcast hit the air in 2020, and Bill was a regular presence there, too. But it was really Facebook where Bill's natural tendency to find a hilarious punchline in all things really came alive. I could always count on him to make me laugh at thoroughly inappropriate moments.


Services for Bill have not yet been announced, but this post will be updated as soon as I find the details (see below). My deepest condolences and sympathies go out to Tammi. Please keep her and the rest of their families in your thoughts and devotions.

I'm sorely going to miss you, my friend.

His column is broken, and his Brethren mourn. 

Requiescat in pace.

UPDATED June 13, 2024, 10:30AM:

Bill's obituary in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette:

William "Bill" Hosler, PM, age 58, of Cave Springs passed away on June 6, 2024, in his home. He was born February 1, 1966, in Fort Wayne, Ind., to William Carl Hosler and Margaret Ann Coil Hosler. Bill was the eldest of three children and was raised in Huntertown, Ind. Bill was preceded in death by his parents; and his beloved dog, Happy, who was the age of 13. Survivors include his soulmate, Tammi Harmoning of Cave Springs, Ark.; and his two siblings, Holly Hosler of Ohio, and Bob Hosler of Missouri. 

Local services for Bill will be Thursday, June 13, 2024, 1 p.m., at Hunt Chapel of Pinnacle Memorial Gardens in Rogers, Ark. Visitation will be held at Epting Funeral Home, Bentonville, Wednesday, June 12th, from 4-6 p.m. Bill will be laid to rest at Lindenwood Cemetery, Fort Wayne, Ind. Fort Wayne, Ind., services will be held at Lindenwood Cemetery on Saturday, June 15, 2024 at 2 p.m., with entombment to follow. 

Bill had several careers through his life, including a decade driving a truck. While it was not without stress, he found joy being on the road because he was able to visit all 48 United States and two provinces of Canada. He also worked as a Security and Emergency services officer at a General Motors, where he met so many long-lasting friends. For several years, Bill was the building manager for the Fort Wayne, Ind., Masonic Temple, and shared so many stories of his time there. Many of the inspirations for his fictional published writings came from his time as caretaker to the old Masonic edifice in Fort Wayne. 

Since his earliest days, he had a vivid imagination and a flair for writing. His writings have been published in the Working Tools magazine and he was a Regular Contributor for The Midnight Freemasons. He was also so happy when he was able to accomplish being a published author of Meditations of a Flawed Ashlar. He also found joy and laughter being a Co-Host of the Meet, Act and Part podcast with wonderful brothers he cared deeply for. He spent the last 14 years with his lady, Tammi, and their yellow Labrador named Happy, living across Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas. They enjoyed traveling with their precious dog to many parts of the lower 48. Within the last few years, they found joy in seeing the world, cruising the Caribbean and Atlantic Islands and had already begun planning several trips in the near future. 

WB Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002, in Three Rivers Lodge No. 733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007, and in 2006, became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill was a member of Calvin Prather Lodge No. 717 in Indianapolis. He also held Masonic memberships outside his mother jurisdiction, amongst which was a perpetual membership of Ardmore No. 31 in Ardmore, Okla., and a lifetime member of Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco, Texas. Bill was a member of the Valley of Guthrie Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Oklahoma and the Valley of Indianapolis, Ind. He had also served as the High Priest Fort Wayne Chapter of the York Rite No. 19, and was Commander of Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. Bill is a founding member of the Masonic Society, he also held membership in the Dwight L Smith Lodge of Research in Indiana, Oklahoma Lodge of Research, Texas Lodge of Research, and The Missouri Lodge of Research and the Scottish Rite Valley of Fayetteville, Ark. 

Arrangements: Epting Funeral Home of Bentonville Condolences: www.eptingfuneralhome.com

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Postcards from Vancouver, Canada



by Christopher Hodapp

NOTE: This article rated RLRA (Really Long. Read Anyway.)

My very deep and belated thanks to the brethren of the Grand Lodge AF&AM of British Columbia & Yukon for inviting me as the keynote speaker for their Grand Masonic Day in Vancouver at the beautiful Freemasons Hall in New Westminster at the end of May. This event, presented by the Vancouver Lodge of Education and Research, has been going strong since 1982 and features a unique educational program each year with a lineup of speakers. 

I would especially like to thank Brothers Troy Spreeuw and Wes Regan for the great job they did organizing this event and for asking me to be a part of it. Troy and his wife Nina handled the book sales all afternoon and evening, and Nina also handled tickets sales for the event and other administrivia.  I'm afraid it was an extremely long day for them both. 


Attacks on Masonic Buildings in North America


Brother Wes Regan put on an excellent presentation concerning attacks on Masons and Masonic buildings in North America over the last several years. Vancouver was hit particularly hard a couple of years ago when an anti-Masonic arsonist set fires at three different Masonic buildings around the city, damaging one, gutting another, and completely destroying a third. A police officer spotted the arsonist at the last location and arrested him on the spot. 

This was a companion presentation to his article in a recent edition of the Philalethes Magazine (Vol 76, No. 4)Wes’ presentation collected statistics from several different grand lodges across North America. Few grand secretaries have been keeping detailed records of these sorts of things over the years, but it is obvious that individual lodges have got to step up to the plate and install surveillance cameras, alarm systems, exterior lighting of parking lots and entrances, and other security precautions, because these mostly Internet-driven, conspiracy-stoked anti-Masons are showing no signs of letting up.

When a window or doorway gets bashed in, it’s often done by someone who started out by painting graffiti on the building. Police departments don’t usually have anti-Masons on their radar. They don’t commonly know that antis do exist in large numbers, and so authorities don’t usually correlate several different attacks as perhaps coming from the same person. As a former Scotland Yard officer in attendance brought up, this is very similar to the sorts of attacks made on Jewish synagogues. Anti-Mason’s often conflate us with their own theories of 'nefarious Jews' who all supposedly control the world behind the scenes. Because of this common connection among conspiracists, we may be seeing a slow increase in vandalism in conjunction with the anti-semitic and anti-Israel protests going on around the world.

Transgenderism and Freemasonry


An extremely thoughtful program about the issue of transgenderism and Freemasonry was presented by WBs Frank Fowlie and Shaun Turner, with a panel discussion moderated by Philip Durell. These brothers researched differences between gender policies enacted recently by the United Grand Lodge of England versus those in several different U.S. grand lodges. Some grand lodges in North America and elsewhere have recently added language to their petitions or within their constitutions, stating that Masons and new petitioners must be natural born men, and remain as such. In contrast, the UGLE was compelled by European Union laws and England’s own transgender anti-discrimination laws to get very specific about what lodges can and cannot do. Laws there kick in when an existing member decides to change gender to live as a woman, or when a petitioner comes to them who presents as a man, but was in fact born as a woman. It can lead to a serious legal tango.

Even though, from a statistical standpoint, the possible numbers of potential trans-person petitioners will likely be infinitesimally small, it is going to happen in the coming years (and already has in several jurisdictions). The question becomes, should a grand lodge adopt an official policy, or remain completely silent? In truth, silence may not always be possible into the future as states and countries enact more and more specific laws on the subject. In the absence of federal law, this will continue to be a local or state level issue and there will be no uniformity. Bear in mind that our ancient customs and usages within the fraternity still permit every Mason the right to vote his conscience when accepting or rejecting a petitioner, just as every Mason still has the right to object to the attendance of any visitor into his lodge.

One thing is certain; if a trans-person petitions a Masonic lodge and is turned down for membership, someone who is determined to be a crusading activist on the subject may very well take their story to the news media, which will not give a particular damn that individual lodges can administer their own by-laws and their own members as they see fit. The press will merely characterize it as "The Freemasons" turning away a trans-person membership. That could very easily mushroom into an ugly and noisy lawsuit, and worse, a noisome and destructive story in the press. 

As the panel discussion wound down, there was no conclusive answer, and there wasn’t meant to be one with this presentation. This was intended as an informational session to familiarize members with the terminology, the laws, and the potential issues involved. It was heartening to witness just how calmly and rationally the discussion was handled by everyone present. There was no chest-thumping, smart-assed commentary, or angry pronouncements against one point of view or another. My hat's off to the brethren who handled the conversation so reasonably.

Civility. Whatta concept.

Lodge Communication and Masonic Education

A presentation by Junior Grand Warden Ron Cawthra concerned the importance of lodge communication, mentoring, and using the many tools that the GLofBCY offers to lodges to help educate their new members. Every single year, every jurisdiction has a whole new class of Worshipful Masters and officers who have never heard about these programs before, or never paid attention to them until they actually got to the East. A grand lodge could (and should) present this exact same transfer of information, year after year, as it reaches an entirely new audience every time.

The Dummy Speaks

As the afternoon darkened into evening, they had no alternative left but to let me speak. I’ve decided to stop giving long talks because of my throat – several of our members have threatened to cut it. But somehow I made it through this time without any ensuing property damage, so I presume the brethren found it of value. 


The program concluded with an open Q&A session with Wes and me, and I was gratified to see that no one bolted for the doors. It was either our scintillating observations or everyone was too overstuffed and preoccupied with digesting their dinners to have the energy to flee the joint. That, or everybody's NyQuil kicked in at the some moment.

After the program ended,  Troy Spreeuw recorded an extended discussion for his Mystic Tye podcast featuring the presenters, along with a group of brethren visiting Vancouver from lodges in Seattle, Washington.

Vancouver Masonic Centre


Let me jump back a day to Friday. While I was flown in for the Saturday event, I had the day before to explore the Vancouver Masonic Centre before visiting two lodges there that evening. The VMC is an example of Masons acting together in concert to create a new modern facility that is every bit as impressive as our older buildings, but far more practical for the modern fraternity, as well as providing for the future. Working with local city planners and housing authorities, they have created a facility that is also of great service to the surrounding neighborhood. 

(If you were a subscriber to the Journal of the Masonic Society and received the Spring 2023 double issue #59, check out the article 'What To Do With Our Masonic Buildings' by Wes Regan and Jack Barr wherein they describe the developments in Vancouver.)

Yep. 3+5+7+ another 18 = 33 steps

Their original 1970s-era hall was too far gone to keep pumping money into, so they knocked it down, and worked with an architectural firm to design a modern hall with a future source of substantial income. 





The Masonic portion of the building features two large lodge meeting rooms; a very accomodating social gathering/seating club room; a bar featuring individual scotch lockers for members' use; a roomy board meeting/banquet table/library area perfect for medium-sized festive boards; a coat and apron case closet; a small museum display area; and even two carved stone, functioning fireplaces. All of this is compactly arranged on one single floor. 

Lounge/social area, with the bar in the background.
Those are members' private scotch lockers on the back wall.

Lounge area with working fireplace

Board room / festive board dining table with room for 24




Apron and coat closet

Upstairs is the grand lodge office and the library/archive/museum room.

On the first, fourth and fifth floors are social and dining spaces, including an open outdoor patio. They have their own in-house catering staff for handling meals. But it's what's behind all this that's the key to self-sufficiency. 

Photo: Shape Architecture

Sharing the underground car park and behind the fraternal building is an 18-story apartment building, which will provide income for decades to come. The Grand Lodge has one furnished 2-bedroom suite set aside for out of town visitors, traveling grand officers, or the occasional visiting Dummy.

I will do a separate story with more about this ambitious project. (The Westminster hall also has a similar setup behind its historically-protected facade, because good ideas have a way of spreading.) Check out Wes Regan's article in the California Freemason magazine about these two projects HEREI will say here that Masons in every city or town with one or more enormous Masonic buildings they can no longer afford need to travel to Vancouver and see what they've done. 

More of that anon.

I do want to thank the brethren of Vancouver's Southern Cross Lodge for their generosity and hospitality on Friday night. Southern Cross is a unique lodge within their jurisdiction because it is believed to be the only Masonic lodge in all of Canada that is permitted to work using Australian ritual. Getting to see this while I was here reminded me that I saw Pennsylvania ritual when I visited Scotland many years ago, English emulation ritual when I went to Ohio, and now Australian ritual when I came to Canada. 

Go figure.

Grand Lodge Library & Archives

WB Trevor McKeown, Grand Historian

This trip also presented me with the great fortune of spending time with Trevor McKeown, the Grand Historian of the GLofBCY, and curator of their Grand Lodge Library & Archives. I've long admired the enormous amount of work Trevor has done in creating and updating their incredible website over the last 25 years. If you do research on almost any topic involving the fraternity, sooner or later you'll hit a link to their website with its hundreds of entries. 



Currently, the Grand Lodge Library & Archives is tucked into a compact space in the building. But new custom cabinetry has been installed in a display area adjacent to the lodge rooms and the large social lounge on the lower floor, which will permit better lighting and more visible and accessible exhibits. To paraphrase a commandment, 'Thou shalt not covet thy Brother's display cases,' but I just can't hold back my envy. 


New custom display cases in the lobby. I only took pictures because
I want some now.
 
And don't get me started on their wall of moveable library stacks upstairs...

In the midst of the Friday night merriment, I also attended a business meeting of the Vancouver Lodge of Education and Research, in which Trevor is the Secretary.

Masonic Meetings themselves aren't where the best fraternal experiences are made; it's the before and after times that really count and forge real fraternal brotherhood. With that in mind, Secretary McKeown's report clocked in under 7 minutes, and the entire meeting was opened in due form, conducted and closed in form in a mere 12 minutes total.

Trevor will be honored in November by being installed in London as the Worshipful Master of England's Quatuor Coronati Lodge of Research, and local brethren are organizing a group excursion to be there with him for this event. Congratulations! (If you inclined to visit yourself, QC’s meetings are held at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London, and start at 4.00 PM.

'Getta You Tootsie Frootsie!' - Chico Marx (1937)


Trevor also knows where Vancouver's great restaurants are, along with the shop that has the distinction of being in the Guiness Book of World Records for having more flavors and varieties of ice cream than anywhere else on Earth. La Casa Gelato is at 1033 Venable Street, and 238 is the current flavor count, in case you were curious. Over its 40-year history, they've made 588. And I haven't had real gelato since visiting Italy many, many moons ago.