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


Monday, December 31, 2007

Ohio Masons Converge On Marietta For Bicentennial

Dig back in your American Masonic history sources and you'll find the stories about the famed American Union Lodge. First formed in Massachusetts in 1776, American Union Lodge functioned as a military lodge for seven years. The lodge quickly moved to New York, where it was granted permission to meet under the name of Military Union No. 1. General Washington attended at least three of its meetings, but a commonly circulated rumor that general Lafayette became a Mason in AUL is, however, false. Nevertheless, several of Washington's generals did become Masons in American Union: most notably, Otho Williams, Rufus Putnam, and Samuel A. Parsons. And while I'm looking this up, it should be noted that while not "all" of Washington's generals were masons, as is often claimed by anti-Masons and irrationally exuberant brethren alike, out of 74 men who were commissioned as Generals in the U.S. Continental Army between 1775 and 1783, 33 of them were Freemasons – nearly half. (the indefatigable Paul M. Bessel lists them).

The lodge was officially reorganized in 1790 in Marietta, Ohio at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers. American Union Lodge No. 1 was the first lodge in the Northwest Territory, and the first lodge of what would become the Grand Lodge of Ohio.

It was the members of this lodge who fleetingly attempted to encourage George Washington to become the General Grand Master for a national Grand Lodge of the United States when the war ended. When washington turned them down, the brief movement for such a nationwide governing body fizzled. York Rite enthusiasts should note that American Union's well-preserved records indicate that it was among the earliest US lodges to regularly confer the Past Master, Mark Master, Most Excellent Master and Royal Arch "steps", beginning in 1792.

Ohio became a state in 1803, and by then there were lodges established in Marietta, Cincinnati, Chillicothe, Worthington, Warren and Zanesville. American Union Lodge became lodge #1 when the Grand Lodge of Ohio was formed in 1808, at a convention in Chillicothe (the capital at that time) on January 4th.

To commemorate the bicentennial of the formation of the GL of Ohio and the premiere status of American Union as Ohio's first Masonic lodge, more than 350 Masons will converge on Marietta this Friday to kick off the year.

The best of wishes to the brethren of American Union Lodge and the GL of Ohio during this auspicious year.

On a personal note, I briefly lived on a farm in rural Marietta many, many moons ago, when dinosaurs ruled the earth and I was but a mere prat of about 5. My only memory of the town was a visit to the riverboat Rhododendron, then used as a floating dinner theater, which I have just discovered was moved to Clinton, Iowa in 1966. No longer floating, but still a theater. So it goes.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Vrijmetselarij Voor Dummies

Last spring I had the happy experience of accidently meeting the man who was translating Freemasons For Dummies into Dutch. Brother Jimmy Koppen is a Mason from Belgium, and I had the pleasure of meeting him in Scotland at the International Conference on the History of Freemasonry. He had contacted the Dutch publisher of the Dummies books and asked if such an edition was being planned – and suddenly found himself plunged into the business of translating my American original, plus Brother Phillipe Benhamou's French version, along with making more alterations to explain the variations of Freemasonry in both Belgium and the Netherlands.

I stumbled across Jimmy's blog today (rather clumsily translated by Google's language robot). By the way, I notice that the word "Dummies" translates in almost any language...

It's interesting to see the changes that get made along the way. Like the French version, new chapters had to be created to discuss the history of the order in both Belgium and the Netherlands, along with a chapter about feminine and co-Masonry (other nations rarely have OES chapters, but do have female and mixed grand lodges, with something on the order of approximately 150,000 female Masons worldwide). Appendant bodies like the Shrine are almost completely unknown, since Masons outside of the US never tossed alcohol out of the lodges. And our Scottish and York Rite systems are very different from what is practiced in the rest of the Masonic world.

The book hit Dutch shelves earlier this month. Many thanks to Brother Koppen for his months of hard work.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Your Good Health Music Bomb For The Weekend

Well, this herky-jerky little ditty from 1975 was just what the doctor ordered to keep me on my blood pressure meds: Get Well, Get With IT! It's got sort of an Up With People! riff to it that makes me want to shindig.

My Mother Lodge

I've missed a whole lot of events over the last week due to my recent breakneck tour of the healthcare industry – Christmas with my family, parties, speaking at the Feast of St. John, a belated birthday celebration for my sister. In return, I got to spend a quiet Christmas Eve with my wife and dog in Room 203 of the cardiac unit, listening to the gentle gurgle of my draining lungs while visions of the Mortal Coil Shuffle danced in my head. But I'm missing my lodge's officer installation today, and I'm not happy about it.

Broad Ripple Lodge No. 643 is my Mother Lodge. It's where I got jabbed with a Steward's pike into an officer's chair two weeks after I was raised. It's where I was elected Master after two years as a Mason. I've seen it at its lowest ebb, against the ropes, devoid of anyone to put in a chair, and contemplating a vote for its own demise — which is how it ended up with a green rube sitting on Solomon's cushion in 2001. Likewise, my very closest friend Nathan Brindle, who joined with me and was raised the same day as I was, followed me a year later. Since then, I have served as Treasurer or Trustee, and Nathan has spent seven years as either Secretary or assisting the secretary from behind the scenes. For nine years the two of us have a running gag that we seem to always be the last guys out of the building to shut off the lights, check for gas leaks, and lock up the joint.

Broad Ripple Lodge isn't on the ropes anymore. Nine years after I joined, the lodge is active and alive, and I couldn't be prouder of these brethren. They have come together as brothers and friends and have accomplished just what Freemasonry is supposed to do: taken a disparate gaggle of men from every walk of life, every religious and political persuasion, every kind of educational and economic background, with nothing more in common than the shared experience of Hiram's journey, and forged lasting friendships.

Wbro. Willard V. Saylor, one of the proprietors of WT&T Fraternal Supplies in Franklin, is our new Master for 2008, and I really wanted to be there today for his installation by PGM Rick Elman, for a whole lot of reasons. But there's no shortage of qualified guys to sit in officers' chairs anymore, and Nathan and I no longer have to be the last guys out of the building. As vainglorious as it might sound, it's mentally the end of an era for both of us. And that's a good thing.

Bravo, lads. It's going to be a great year.

Photo by Nathan Brindle, PM:
Front Row, LtoR: Lee Hargitt, PM, Treasurer and Trustee; Matt Davis, Junior Warden; Will Saylor, Worshipful Master; Miles Evanston, Senior Warden; Darren Klem, PM, Secretary.
Back Row, LtoR: Tim Brinkmeyer, PM, Marshal; Michael DeWitt, Senior Steward; Ben Fuhr, Junior Steward; Mike Walkup, Senior Deacon.
Not shown: Jay DeFord, Junior Deacon; Ken Morgan, Chaplain; David Feldman, Tyler; Chris Hodapp, PM, Trustee; Todd Ebbert, PM, Trustee

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Chris' Cardiac Care Christmas

Greetings brethren, and thanks for all the kind messages, calls and visits. For those who don't know, I was admitted to the hospital on Monday afternoon because of extreme shortness of breath. I'll say. It seems that my lungs were filling up to the brim with fluid, which was preventing me from insignificant things like sleeping and inhaling. My doctor was so concerned that he actually threw me in his car and drove me to the hospital.

After three days in the Indiana Heart Hospital, they don't think I'm in here because of a heart problem, but they aren't sure. THAT'S modern medicine. It's been a true comedy of errors in here that I won't think is so funny when the bills come (since I have no health insurance). Still, no one here can seem to figure out why my lungs fill up with fluid. And there's a little question of a massive, unidentified mass of tissue under my thyroid that's striking terror into my very being, especially since my 13 year old oncologist, Dr. Pablo Mengele, keeps reiterating that it might not be cancer, really. Maybe. Not. But there are over 300 kinds of cancers and it might be one. He of course wandered in to my room last night in his $500 Armani suit while my whole family was here and blurted this out.


More tests today, then I think they'll send me home while I sweat it out for three days like a prisoner on death row to hear just which of the more than 300 cancers this isn't.

Not my idea of how to spend Christmas. But given the way I felt Christmas Eve, better than the alternative. And best of all, I have both Alice and the dog in the room with me. All in all, everything after this is a gift.

Thanks again for your thoughts, prayers, wishes, and especially for your friendship.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Rose Circle Society Upcoming Events

The Rose Circle Society is a new organization dedicated to exploring esoteric knowledge, with a particular interest in its place within Freemasonry. Two of the founding members of the Society are Brother Christopher McIntosh, member of Pilgrim Lodge No. 238 in London, and author of several books about Rosicrucianism and 17th-19th century occultists; and brother Robert A. Gilbert, 1997 Prestonian Lecturer, Past Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 , former editor of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, and co-author of Freemasonry: A Celebration of the Craft.

Growing out of a 2006 esoteric conference in New Jersey, the Society is planning two events in New York in 2008. The first was just announced on the MasonicLight Yahoo discussion group.

At the Grand Lodge building on 23rd St. in New York City on Saturday April 12th, the Rose Circle will bring you a full day of scholastic analysis & insight into the effects & subsequent value of Ritual Initiation. Speaker Line Up Includes:

Charles Cicero who is a well known adept/practitioner and author on various Initiatic paths involving ritual workings. He is also the Grand Senior Warden of the Florida Grand Commandery & member of the Red Cross of Constantine and an 8th grade member of the SRICF.

Tabith Cicero (Author, Writer and Sister in the Order of the Eastern Star in Florida) Tabitha will be speaking on the Tarot and its ritualistic application.

Cliff Jacobs (Cliff is an Honorary 33rd* recipient, the current Orator for the Consistory, the former Director of Work for the Rose Croix Chapter at the Scottish Rite Valley in Manhattan. Cliff is a well known, published writer & public speaker who often appears in the papers as well as various venues in New York City. He serves as the Deputy Executive Director for Queens Public Television in New York City)

The second event will be in October 2008, with details to be announced.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Marion, Indiana Masons Keep and Improve Their Temple

The Grand County Chronicle-Tribune reports that the Masons of Samaritan Lodge No. 105 are not selling their building in Marion, Indiana. They are staying and refurbishing it.

"This building was built for the Masonic lodge, and we just wanted to keep it this way," said Shane Gibson, the new incoming Master of Samaritan Lodge No,.105 of Free and Accepted Masons.

The 1912 building will require $120,000 in exterior renovation of its limestone exterior, and another $100,000 in interior and mechanical work, including a new boiler, electrical and plaster repairs.

Samaritan Lodge's 100 year anniversary will be in 2012, and the brethren are determined that their building will last well into the future as an historic part of the community. They have bucked the trend that so many lodges have fallen victim to, of shrugging off what they momentarily regard as a white elephant and fleeing their historic temples for a metal pole barn in a corn field.

No, Freemasonry is not about buildings, and Freemasons can meet in hotel conference rooms, church basements, caves, living rooms and even a brand spankin' new steel shed. But our forefathers built these temples for us, as a symbol of their pride in the fraternity. They made sure they were the best that could be constructed. All they expected was for us to maintain them, and in so many cases, we've let them down. Temples that were built and paid for 90 years ago as symbols of beauty and of our pride in ourselves as Masons get sold every day by brethren who have no vision, or who had no alternative because the last three generations failed to plan financially for the future. Cheap dues, no foundations, no investments, no comprehensive planning – all have led to this sad moment in our history, as so many lodges murder their own posterity. What would the men who built these temples say to us today?

That's why the brethren of Marion have much to be proud of. They are investing in their future by preserving their heritage. It is a sentiment that is growing among new, younger, excited Masons, who are unfortunately in a race with those who, sadly, want to be rid of these buildings as fast as they can be thrown away. Sometimes, like a troubled marriage, staying is the hardest thing you can do. It takes more work.

By contrast, the Masons of Grand Island, Nebraska now have little more than a trinket to remember their 1925 Temple by. And then there is this pathetic story from Elgin, Illinois.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Levant Preceptory in Templar Magazine

Levant Preceptory, Indiana's only period recreation Masonic Knight's Templar group, is featured in the Indiana Supplement of the monthly Knights Templar Magazine for January.

Indianapolis Feast of St. John

I'll have the honor of addressing the assembled lodges of Indianapolis at the Feast of St. John on December 27th at Indiana Freemasons' Hall.

Century Lodge No. 764 will host this year's feast.

Dinner will include beef tenderloin, salad, desert and beverage. Cost per meal is $20.00 per attendee. Dress code is coat and tie. Doors will open for Registration at 6:00 PM EST and a Table Lodge will be opened on the Entered Apprentice Degree at 7:00 PM EST.

Lodge Secretaries should calculate their total attendance and forward a check from their Lodge along with the number of meals to be reserved. The deadline for dinner reservations is Thursday, December 20, 2007.

For reservations contact: Carlton E. Curry, Chairman

Rosslyn Bans Photography

Beginning January 2nd, visitors to Scotland's Rosslyn Chapel can just leave their cameras in the car. The Chapel authorities say they are doing this for "health and safety reasons." It seems that videographers are tripping and falling on the uneven floor slabs as they watch their viewfinders instead of their step.

And still cameras? Oh, the flash bulbs cause epileptic seizures.

But don't worry.

The gift shop has plenty of souvenirs to sell you to make up for the loss of that keepsake photo you won't be allowed to take.

Kindly tell these Scotsmen to stop perpetuating a cultural stereotype. I'm reminded of the Bugs Bunny cartoon when the Scotsman fires a musket ball at Bugs. It misses and eventually falls to the ground. The Scotsman runs over, picks it up, wipes it off, and puts it back in his gun. "S'been in the family fer years."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Pilgrim Christmas

Many who have glanced over my resumé have puzzled over my monthly contribution to the Texas organic gardening magazine, Living Natural First. As I told its editor two years ago, I don't know the first thing about organic gardening, which was just fine with him. He wanted some comic relief from the rest of the magazine's monthly dose of compost, leaf mold remedies and the gardener's astrology chart. The result has been an ongoing column entitled Pilgrim's Progress: Rustic Tales of an Organic Greenhorn. It should be noted that the Pilgrim columns have a healthy dose of fiction to them, but they generally follow the story of a couple who move to the country from the city – he is an urban creature who couldn't tell which end of a hammer to use to properly twist a screw into a wall, while she is a child of the 60s, completely enthralled with living an environmentally healthy lifestyle. Together they fight the battle of garden slugs, home improvement, industrial tool rentals and marauding rodents.

With the book deadline pressing down on my head like an enormous pressing thing, I had tried to back out of the column for the last few months, which apparently resulted in an insurrection from a group of church ladies in Wichita Falls who gathered every month to read the monthly Pilgrim story aloud. They literally telephoned the editor. If I didn't come up with a Christmas tale, I was assured, my eternal soul was at risk of being testified against at Peter's Gate by these otherwise kindly ladies. Therefore, here is my Christmas column from the Pilgrim.

A Pilgrim Christmas

My father is not a cheapskate. Let’s just get that clear right up front, before my significant helpmate shouts, “He is too!” from the next room. My father is a child of the Great Depression, when that hearty stock of gritty survivalists baked their own bread made from dirt they dug from the back yard, walked 28 miles to school every day (uphill, both ways), and gave birth to their children in mangers because there was no room in the inn. Er, wait … I think I’m mixing up my stories here.

My father inculcated in the child that sprung from his parsimonious loins a healthy admiration for frugality, placed in a delicate cosmic balance with the sentimental, resulting in what I like to think of as a proper state of mind when it comes to arguments over spending too much money at Christmastime. Over the years, I have neatly ducked the undoubtedly environmentally sound protestations of my bride who has suggested the purchase of a prefabricated Christmas tree every holiday season since we were first tethered together in connubial bliss. The first hints usually begin long about August.

“Hey look,” she’ll hey from a corner of the living room, “I’m still picking up pine needles from last year.” I regard this as the gift that keeps on giving the whole year through, a gentle reminder of the Christmas spirit, even in the scorching, humid heat of the summer doldrums.

“Uh-huh,” she’ll respond. “I remember now. The vacuum cleaner clogged and tore a belt on all those needles when I was cleaning up after your tree last year.” I generally respond to this assault on my coniferous preferences by blurting out a bar of O’ Tannenbaum. I prefer the German lyrics. It gives my response the proper sense of “I’m not buying a plastic tree, and this is final,” in a way that only the German language can really communicate:

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Dein Kleid will mich was lehren:
Die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit
Gibt Mut und Kraft zu jeder Zeit!

It’s the sort of heartwarming lyric I can imagine Erwin Rommel barking at his wife when she suggested an artificial tree, as he was headed out the door to Libya to go command the Afrika Korps.

Long about September, she’ll take the opportunity to wander past my desk and casually make an offhand remark about how the average acre of uncut pines and firs generates enough oxygen every day to keep 18 people breathing, or that 21 million trees were mercilessly hacked down in the prime of life last year, and that if every American man was as shamelessly pigheaded about Christmas trees as me, 446,996 acres of trees would be whacked down. At 18 people’s daily oxygen, per acre, I’d be personally responsible for suffocating 8,045,928 of my fellow citizens. To which I reply, if that includes the lady who cut in line in front of me at the grocery with 215 items in the ‘12 or Less’ lane, armed with a suitcase filled with coupons, that would be okay by me.

Come November, there’s no avoiding the artificial tree display at the Hardware Hut, where all of these wire and plastic mockeries of the yuletide season stand, like some arboreal firing squad. “A snap to put up in less than five minutes!” they coo. “No mess, no fuss!” they taunt. “Look! I’m even pre-lit!” teases the latest phony fir, as it’s fake fronds beckon the holiday shopper, appealing to his weakening resolve with a can of evergreen-scented air freshener, included at no extra charge. Like some scantily-clad temptress, whispering in his ear, they display their tainted wares and attempt to seduce him. “Take me to your house, honey. I look like the real thing. No one will ever know. I’ll even make it easy on you when you’re tired of me after New Year’s Eve. You can pack me up when you’ve finished with me, and put me away, and not even think of me till next year. Because I’ll wait for you, baby.”

No dice. I’m not buying. Which brings me back to the recombinant cheapskate gene I allegedly inherited from my father. Because, you see, not only am I not buying an artificial tree made by Chinese prisoners in a “re-indoctrination” camp, I’m not buying a real one either. No $200 tree in a box for me, but also no pre-cut, dried out, sap-oozing, needle-dropping, $99 refugee from a Michigan tree farm for me, either.

My parents divorced early in my life and have been remarried several times between them, which means my extremely complex family relations resemble more of a merger than a standard familial bond. It’s more like the close, personal relationships one develops with fellow passengers during a bus plunge. So the strange mélange of holiday traditions that have been passed, re-passed, co-mingled and co-opted by the various offspring that make up my siblings, half-siblings and step-siblings have allowed all of us to cherrypick the ones we like best and force them upon our own families. And the one that I consider sacrosanct is the annual chopping down of a free-range Christmas tree – the word “free” being the operative term.

My father has never, in his 87 years, paid for a Christmas tree, and he taught me all of the tricks of the trade. Overwhelmingly, his preferred manner of tree shopping involved long afternoon drives in the country searching for just the right combination of isolated location and questionable property ownership, returning as dusk fell to quickly chop down his prize. Over the years, we had a wild variety of trees – the standard pines, firs and spruces, and the not-so-standard hemlocks, cedars, cypresses, and arborvitaes. Some were downright dangerous to the touch, with the same sort of prickly nature as a cactus plant, which made the hanging of lights and ornaments a hazardous occupation. And true, there was the occasional bird or rodent that rode into the living room, buried deep within the tree’s hidden recesses. Some of my fondest memories were of Dad, heady with the scent of the hunt and emboldened by a couple of tankards of spiked nog, chasing a startled starling around the house, frantically batting at it with a broken pool cue stick. The tradition was what mattered, and it added a sense of wild adventure to our celebrations that other families missed. “And the price was right,” Dad would always say, cheerfully.

Obviously, as he got older and we moved to more densely populated urban areas, this became a more challenging activity. After all, the local bank branch or office park looked with prejudicial disfavor at the destruction of their expensive landscaping for the sake of one gritty, Depression-era gentleman’s ideas about Christmas celebration. And honestly, I thought it was a little over the top to call me wanting bail money that first year in the city, especially during the busy holiday shopping season.

Technology has come to the aid of the modern Christmas tree shopper in the form of the Whack & Heckler 18-volt rechargeable, cordless chainsaw – a tiny titan of the tool world that makes quick work of surreptitious Nöel deforestation, especially in the gathering gloom of December’s early sunsets. This year, I was especially happy with my choice – a six foot evergreen of some sort, discovered down a ravine far from civilization – because it sported what appeared in the bitter cold dusk to be tiny, baby-sized pine cones. I quickly channeled my inner Paul Bunyan, felled it, dragged it up the hill like a prize of war, lashed it to the roof of the car, and drove homeward.
Once I had mounted it in its stand in our living room, my sweetling was less than impressed. “It’s shaped funny,” she noted, “and it isn’t even green.” True, I had to admit that, in the tungsten glow of our home, it did indeed look a bit brownish.

“Yes, but the price was right,” I quoted Dad. Somehow I didn’t think this impressed her.

“One of these days you’re gonna get arrested doing this. Or shot by somebody who catches you and your little George Washington hatchet trespassing on their property.”

“Oh come on,” I offered, “it’s Christmas. Look at the little baby-sized pine cones. I picked it out special. Have some nog.”

She soon warmed to the combination of the season and the pioneer spirit of adventure. Well, she at least warmed up enough that she soon helped me decorate the new tree. We strung the lights and hung our delicate ornaments. Against my own personal artistic judgment, I even let her heave great wads of shiny aluminum tinsel all over it – her own family’s favorite decorating tradition. Frankly, I had to admit that the strands of shredded chrome helped to hide the brown looking branches. But we did take extra care to put lights close to the baby-sized pine cones to highlight their natural beauty.

Two nights later I was standing in the garage, on the other side of two closed doors, when I heard a shriek she usually reserves for finding spiders in the shower or raccoons in the refrigerator. I ran in, to find her standing across the living room, pointing in horror at the Christmas tree.

“Your pine cones,” she hissed, with a combination of revulsion and rather pointed blame. “They’re moving!”
Sure enough, upon close examination, the pine cones were convulsing and bulging, with the unquestionable activity of something inside trying to escape. Into our living room. It seems that my baby-sized pine cones were, in fact, a rather active infestation of bag worms. Warmed by our central heating system and the close proximity of Christmas lights, the caterpillars inside of the cone-shaped brown sacks had thawed out and were now seeking to relocate. One had fallen to the floor, and the dachshund had already sailed down the hallway with it like a trophy.

There was only one thing to do. I opened up the sliding glass door to the patio, picked up the tree, and heaved it out into the yard. A beaten man, I went out and retrieved the stand and the ornaments, and then dragged the fallen symbol of my pioneer spirit to the back of the yard where the caterpillars could refreeze in peace. I would later bone up on bag worms, and discover that I would have to pull all of the bags from the tree and burn them, since they were filled with eggs laid by the female worms, and would only go on to infest the evergreens in my yard next year. Since the tree was already chopped down anyway, up the whole thing would eventually go in a blaze to Tannenbaum Valhalla.

Some traditions fade away, while others die a much quicker death. My holiday tradition took just long enough for a drive to the Hardware Hut to be smothered completely. I now sit puffing my pipe and sipping my nog, looking at a wire and plastic thing masquerading as a tree. It did just take five minutes to set up, with no fuss, and no risk of arrest for criminal trespassing. If I squint a bit and sit across the room, it looks just like the real thing. The evergreen-scented air freshener completes the illusion. And there will be no pine needles to clog the vacuum up, and certainly no bagworms to evict. I can pack it up the day after New Years, and no one will ever know.

But it’s just not the same.

Women To Start New Masonic Lodge in Cuba

Hot on the heels of the Cuban Masonic conference last week comes this news today. The Gran Logia Femenina de Chile (Women's Grand Lodge of Chile) has agreed to help a group of Cuban women open the first feminine lodge in that country. According to a story on IPS News today, a delegation will be sent to Havana and Pinar del Rio to initiate several dozen women for the new lodge.

Citing feminine lodges in France, Belgium, Spain, the U.K., Chile, Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay, Digna Gisela Medina beleives that women Masons will be recognized by regular Grand Lodges "sooner than later." Medina is the head of the Working Committee on Women's Masonic lodges in Cuba. Former Grand Master of the Grand lodge of Cuba, José Manuel Collera, agrees, and says that the men only rule in Masonry is outmoded.

It should be noted that in 1999, the United Grand Lodge of England issued the following statement:

There exist in England and Wales at least two Grand Lodges solely for women. Except that these bodies admit women, they are, so far as can be ascertained, otherwise regular in their practice. There is also one which admits both men and women to membership. They are not recognised by this Grand Lodge and intervisitation may not take place. There are, however, discussions from time to time with the women's Grand Lodges on matters of mutual concern. Brethren are therefore free to explain to non-Masons, if asked, that Freemasonry is not confined to men(even though this Grand Lodge does not itself admit women). Further information about these bodies may be obtained by writing to the Grand Secretary.

American brethren who point to the Order of the Eastern Star as an alternative for women and fraternal membership should also note the UGLE's statement about the OES:

The Board is also aware that there exist other bodies not directly imitative of pure antient Masonry, but which by implication introduce Freemasonry, such as the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership of such bodies, attendance at their meetings, or participation in their ceremonies is incompatible with membership of this Grand Lodge.

The Square's New Format

The December issue of The Square magazine arrived today. As threatened in the September issue, they have gone from the smaller "digest" size to a more standard 8 1/2 x 11 format. Bravo to The Square for the upgrade, which gives them more room for more articles and photos. Since the merger of the UGLE's MQ magazine with Freemasonry Today, The Square is now England's only independent magazine devoted to Masonry.

Scotland has its own independent Masonic magazine, The Ashlar.

In the US we have... hmmm.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Big Night at 'The Little Inn'

Back in September, I mentioned a special evening was being planned in conjunction with New York's Livingston Library – "The State of Masonic Education," a lecture and discussion by a panel of Masonic researchers and scholars. Sadly, I was unable to arrange my driving schedule to be there. However, Wbro. Jay Hochberg from New Jersey, a frequent poster to the Masonic Light Yahoo group, presented a detailed report of the evening, which he kindly has allowed me to reprint here. Thanks, Jay.

A big night at 'The Little Inn'

A huge event for "education Masons" took place Monday night at La Petite Auberge on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan when the Grand Lodge of New York's Livingston Masonic Library inaugurated its dinner-lecture series with a symposium titled "The State of Masonic Education."

Such an event would have been indispensible had the panelists been chosen from among the local lodges, but the speakers this amazing evening were "out of towners". A delegation of six brethren from Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 in London provided the commentary. And who is better qualified to speak? QC2076 is the first Masonic lodge of research, having been chartered in 1884 for the purpose of dispelling the fanciful myths, legends and hunches that had passed for Masonic scholarship for generations (and sometimes still persist). The stellar line-up of speakers was:

Bro. S. Brent Morris, the newly installed Worshipful Master (the first American to reach that office) and Director of Publications for the A&ASR-SJ.

Bro. Peter Currie, Senior Warden, who is the editor (and even typesetter) of "Ars Quatuor Coronatorum," the annual book of transactions comprised of the papers presented at the lodge's meetings. Also a Past Provincial Senior Grand Deacon of Kent and Somerset.

Bro. Trevor Stewart, Prestonian Lecturer for 2004 and PM of the lodge.

Bro. Granville Angell, Lord of Cannock, Prestonian Lecturer for 2006 and a Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden of Hampshire.

Bro. John Acaster, the newest member of the lodge and also a Past Provincial Grand Senior Warden of East Lancashire.

Bro. John Wade, also of Sheffield University's Center for Research into Freemasonry.

Bro. Roger Burt, Professor Emeritus at University of Exeter, and a PM of the lodge.

Bro. Charles Lawrence, Professor at University of East London, and a Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden of Essex.

Our very capable Master of Ceremonies was Bro. Bill Thomas, a Trustee of the Livingston Masonic Library, as well as a Past Master of Shakespeare Lodge
No. 750 (GLNY) and Sovereign Master of Half Moon Council, Allied Masonic Degrees.

Shakespeare Lodge: http://www.shakespeare750.com

A very thoughtful invocation for blessings upon the food of nourishment and the food for thought to be enjoyed was given by Bro. John Walker Robinson,
Worshipful Master of the GLNY's newest lodge, a "Traditional Observance" lodge called Lux Aeterna No. 1184 in NYC. Welcomes were then extended by
Bro. Barry Mallah, President of the Library's Board of Trustees. Fraternal charm wasted no time in warming the brethren as Mallah presented to Morris an artifact for QC2076's archives: a century-old St. John's card.

"I can't imagine that Charles and Camilla could be treated better," Morris said in thanks for the hospitality extended to the brethren during their stay in connection with this dinner-lecture and the 250th anniversary celebration of St. John's Lodge No. 1.

WM Morris began the evening's program with the history of Quatuor Coronati Lodge and its impact on Masonic education. The lodge's lengthy history need not be related here, except to quote Morris wryly observing that previously the presence of stone buildings in the South Seas Islands would have been deemed evidence of Masonry's existence in that exotic locale, whereas thanks to the scientific, fact-based and peer reviewed methods of the lodge, such baseless conclusions are now discarded.

In addition to the lodge brethren's papers being published in the annual book of transactions, there are comments on these papers from other members published thereafter. "This makes the research valuable," Morris said, because challenging questions and probing points of view can assist the reader in furthering his Masonic knowledge.

"There is now great interest in Masonry. Our new members want to know more about our degrees and our symbolism," he noted. "But let me caution against bad information. It's a tragedy that trees died to publish (title of book deleted), to publish something so unhistorical and poorly researched. Instead, let's get these brothers to the New Jersey Lodge of Research, to the American Lodge of Research... to the Philalethes Society, to the Phylaxis Society...."

Freemasonry from the perspective of an editor was addressed by Bro. Peter Currie, Senior Warden.

He produced several 19th century books that he passed around for all present to examine. One was a ritual manuscript, an actual handwritten transcription of York Ritual from the Senior Warden of Lodge of Agriculture No. 1199, dated Nov. 22, 1878. It was the custom then, Currie explained, for the incoming WM to write down all the ritual, "except that which we're enjoined not to write."

But the book in hand did contain the question "What are the jewels of a Master Mason?" The answer: a mysterious acronym that after some effort was shown to refer to the contents of the Ark of the Covenant.

Currie's point is to call attention to the absence of lectures in many English rituals. Lectures in degrees are for the education of Masons, he explained, as many questions the brethren have can be answered by these narratives that decipher the action of the degree work. As we Americans were adding lectures to our rituals in the 19th century, the English brethren were losing theirs.

On a humorous note, he told the story of his visit to a lodge in Spain where he was asked to sit in as an officer. "But I don't speak Spanish," he explained. Don't worry, the Master assured him, it's Emulation Ritual. "But," Currie protested, "I'm a Stability man!" informing the Master that UGLE has many rituals beside Emulation.

Stability Ritual: http://www.stabilityritual.com/ritualbkpreface.html

Quoting Bro. Phillip Broadfoot (c. 1815) who labored in the Lodge of Reconciliation to start anew from the rituals of Moderns and Antients, Currie told his listeners "Rest assured it is the duty of the researcher to afford information to the brethren if in his power." Anecdotally, he told of his search for the origins of the Apron Lecture found in the EA Degree in some Japanese lodges. He traced it to the Philippines then to Chicago and elsewhere before finally asking Brent Morris. At first Morris didn't have an answer, but realized after they got off the phone that it was sitting right there on his desk. "And I should have recognized it from my own initiation!" he said to the laughter of sympathetic brethren.

Continuing on the limitations of ritual as education tool, Currie told of the Shadbolt rituals. At first there was one, which was disseminated when the Lodge of Reconciliation sent forth ritualists to teach it in lodges. But as this process was underway, the Lodge of Reconciliation changed that ritual, and sent out other instructors, causing there to be two competing Shadbolt rituals.

Coming out of the Lodge of Reconciliation, the Grand Lodge never said "THIS is the ritual!" Currie explained, crediting the GL for allowing that autonomy for lodges. "The genius of English Masonry is it's lax on the Landmarks. We very wisely never and will never pronounce on the ritual. That is the dynamic of that relationship between the lodge and Grand Lodge."

But, he added, the lectures need to be returned to prominence. "They should be able to find their own level. They're in the back of some ritual books, but in my jurisdiction the average Mason doesn't know the books exist." Rather than finding their own level, the lectures "have sunk without a trace."

"The lectures provide answers to questions the brethren have," he said in conclusion. "They inform us about the degrees. There is little serious education in Britain," but "restoring the lectures would go a long way."

The restaurant itself deserves praise as well. La Petite Auberge is part bistro, part French country chateau, and right there in Murray Hill. The fare is gloriously abundant in calories, fat and flavor. For appetizers, we chose either paté or butternut squash soup. For the entrée, we had either poached salmon with dill sauce or beef bourguignon. Desserts: choice of cherry cheesecake, chocolate mousse or flan. The wait staff was tiny but easily handled all 50 of us without anyone wanting for anything. And they were very understanding as regards the copious flow of wine. In fact, we are thankful for the generosity of the New York Ontario Shrine Association, which donated the evening's wine. (Surely there's a joke in there somewhere.)

La Petite Auberge: http://www.lapetiteaubergeny.com/index.htm

There were several presentations and introductions made. Bro. Granville Angell give the Livingston Library a rare version of the book of his Prestonian Lecture on Masons who received the Victoria Cross, unique because it's a hardcover, bound in maroon cloth, the color of the ribbon of the VC. "It was Bonaparte who said inside every soldier's case is a marshal's baton," Angell said. "Well there is a pen in every Mason's case."

Bro. David Bailey, chairman of the MWPHGL of NY's education committee, addressed the brethren. "We are rapidly approaching our 200th anniversary in 2012," he said. "And we'll be leaning very heavily on the Livingston Library" for historical information.

Bro. Richard Eberle, the first WM of Lux Aeterna Lodge and a past president of the library's board, told the group that the purpose of "Traditional Observance" lodges like his is to return education to the purpose of Masonic lodges.

Trevor Stewart then presented to the Livingston Library three items: a book especially produced by QC2076 containing papers presented to the lodge on the subject of Masonry in colonial America (soon to be available on CD); a French esoteric text; and the famous print of Freemasons' Hall in Sunderland, built in 1784, where Phoenix Lodge meets.

Phoenix Lodge: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_Lodge_No._94

Stewart was the final speaker in the program, defining Masonic research and its urgency in his presentation titled "Widening Our Masonic Inquiries."

He illustrated various levels of research prowess by likening them to the ripples a stone makes in water.

He told the story of an Austrian who settled in the north of England a century ago. He helped found a lodge there. When the First World War broke out, the Provincial Grand Master, a nobleman of some importance, "ordered" that all Masons who were natives of any of the Axis powers should return home. This fact, if properly understood, opens a broad avenue of research. What did this Austrian brother do? How did his lodge react to this edict? What did UGLE do? Is it ever proper for a Mason (and remember, we're obliged to obey the lawful authorities) to try civil disobedience?

Some of these questions are handled the way a journalist covers the Who, What, When and Where. Other questions require primary research, as in visiting this lodge and reading its archives. Still other questions require philosophical ability: the Why. And a good writer can weave an important story out of it all.

Well, Trevor is one of the best in the business, and here's the beginning of the story:

The brother resigned from the lodge and returned to Austria. The lodge accepted his decision "with sadness" and voted to have the minutes reflect the value the brethren placed on this brother's contributions to their meetings.

"Why am I telling you this story during this festive occasion in Manhattan?" Stewart asked. "Because this story raises the fundamental questions of writing and doing Masonic research."

"If you were going to write the history of any lodge, you could have three different ways of approaching it," he added. "You start out asking the First Order Questions. It's a narrative. There is an end. It is an eminently worthwhile way of proceeding, and there are acres and acres of books in the Livingston Library" that take this approach. "Lodge histories quote from minutes and newspapers that are long since lost and they answer questions that are useful."

"But you don't always believe the records written by lodge secretaries, do you? There are issues of legibility, completeness and accuracy. They are products of their own era and subject to their own prejudices. Is the guy really saying what happened?"

Stewart once peered into the history of the Lodge of Dundee in Scotland. Every Dec. 27, St. John's Day, the Master would be installed and the brethren would embark on a procession through town. "There were flourishes, flutes, guys in regalia. They'd go from the pub to the church for a sermon and back, much to the entertainment of the local population who cheered and clapped." On one occasion, the captain of a ship was persuaded to fire a cannon ceremoniously; the shot destroyed the roof of the provost's house, which put an end to the annual celebration for a while.

Stewart dwelled on the facts of the parade route. Researching a street map from that era and reading the secretary's description of the route, he realized it was a circular tour. "In that cold, wet weather, why would they go that way? Why not a direct route? Because they were intent on putting themselves on display. They were showing that they were gentlemen of consequence."

This is exemplary of what he terms the Second Order Questions. "The incidental value" of history, or the Why. "The ripples go wider and wider. There are now more different and problematic questions of contextual matters," Stewart said. "What was going on in other lodges at this time? Were others being ordered back to their native lands? What did Austrian lodges do with British brethren?"

(When I say you could have heard a pin drop during Trevor's entire presentation, believe me there wasn't another voice or sound to be heard but the speaker.)

"This brings us to the Third Order Questions," he said. "These are much more problematic and difficult to solve. They are 'de rigeur' in post graduate research, and they're really interesting, but they are not going to get to the answers. They are philosophic context."

"What if the Austrian brother had said 'No, I'm not going.' What is the relationship between the individual and the state? Is the state always right in requiring things of its citizens? What are the duties of the citizen to the state? What if the state is wrong, and goes against your conscience?"

"There was furious debate in Grand Lodge" over this, he added. Minutes showed the meeting ran from 4 p.m. to 10:10 with "potent arguments." This Provincial Grand Master, it turns out, had lost a son in France and another was still in combat, Stewart explained. But the Grand Lodge ruled against him on the grounds that "the GL could not tell a private lodge who could be members."

"There was no Masonic crime," he added. "Even Benedict Arnold was not expelled (from the fraternity) because he wasn't found guilty of a Masonic crime."

Fast forward to 1920: The Austrian brother "returned to England and the lodge he helped found, and was welcomed in a fraternal fashion. Think of the tension of 'the enemy' walking into a room where nearly everybody had lost a son, a brother, a nephew...."

"This restores my faith in this naughty world," Stewart concluded. "The brethren opened their arms in welcome."

With the evening's program thus ended on that high note, it was time for the discussion panel. But it also was late in the evening, which may explain the small number of questions posed to the group. It had been mentioned earlier that Trevor Stewart and Charles Lawrence had inadvertently realized they were researching the same topic and then decided to write together. Your correspondent, fearing the work was still in progress and that its topic was still secret, timidly asked about the subject.

"It's 'that thing' that unites us," Lawrence said. "In the 1720s, science took us from the dogma of religious belief into rational belief. Masonry brings reason. We want to understand science, but also to have faith." Stewart approached this topic from the philosophic and literary angles, while Lawrence, an engineer by profession, took the scientific side. (If I understood correctly, the paper is published and had been presented to St. John's Lodge in NYC earlier in their visit.)

I hope this account of the evening helps bring a taste of its memorable events to you. Any inaccuracies in the histories and anecdotes reported above are entirely attributable to me. (Like I mentioned, there was a lot of wine.)

(A still glowing) Jay Hochberg
New Jersey, USA

Photos of the event at: http://ph.groups.yahoo.com/group/masoniclight/photos/browse/ad5e

Politics and Freemasons

Get that guy up on charges!

There's a dust-up going on over at the Burning Taper – again. It seems that blog owner Widow's Son posted a political endorsement of Dr. Ron Paul's presidential candidacy, which turned into a somewhat bewildering flurry of negative reactions from brother Masons. In the midst of all of the caterwaul, the sentiment seemed to be that such a blatant political statement had no place on a blog site that featured the square and compasses of Freemasonry on its masthead. In fact, any association with politics and the symbols of the fraternity are considered by some of the posters to be un-Masonic.

Masonic rules about politics are usually pretty uniform from one jurisdiction to the next. While a lodge meeting is open, no talking about religion and politics. Once the gavel falls, however, there is generally nothing to hinder the discussion among brothers of the issues of the day, over the festive board, over cards or while cleaning up the kitchen. Grand Lodges have rules, generally, that prevent Masons from using the square and compasses as part of their business or political advertising. But what of a Mason's car that sports a Masonic license plate and a political bumper sticker next to it? Does that imply an official Masonic endorsement of the candidate, or just that Mason's opinion?

Likewise, are Masons supposed to slip off their rings, belt buckles, watches and pins before having a political discussion, lest any non-Mason in the room think he's "speaking for Masonry?"

What about Masonic lodges that are used as polling places? What about lodge buildings that allow politicians to speak from their stages? And what of our Brother George Washington, who had the temerity to appear in public - as president mind you - togged up in all of his Masonic kit at a blatantly political event like the cornerstone ceremony for the Capitol? Was Wbro. Elisha Cullen Dick napping through the ceremony and to be posthumously castigated for not hauling George up on charges? Or are some of our modern brethren just looking for things to fret about when the fraternity faces far greater challenges than this non-issue?

Brother Widow's Son plainly states on his blog site that
This website is the personal site of a Master Mason. It is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or paid for by any particular lodge, grand lodge or other Masonic organization, nor do the opinions expressed on this site reflect the opinions of any Masonic organization.

I doubt anyone believes he's representing the site as anything but his own opinion.

Sorry, but until Brother Widow's Son starts hauling homeless winos to the polls in the Masonic Home bus or buying jello shots for the OES ladies who agree to pull the handle for "the right candidate", I don't think the fraternity is in any danger from him being Ron Paul's Sancho Panza.

And while we're at it, what of this item from the 1904 elections?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Congrats to Mt. Zion No. 266 in Topeka

The blog Aude, Vide, Tace is announcing the formation of a new Traditional Observance lodge in Kansas (the state's second one, I believe). Congratulations to the brethren of Mount Zion Lodge No. 266 in Topeka.

The Traditional Observance and European Concept movements are growing across the US. I am proud to have served twice as the WM of Indiana's first EC lodge, Lodge Vitruvian No. 767. I don't have the delusion of believing that either type is a magical formula that will "save" US Freemasonry (whatever that means). Admittedly, not every Mason wants to have expensive, formal lodges that have dress codes, high dues, a concentration on Masonic scholarship and long, lavish festive boards. But what is an interesting phenomenon is the influence they have on other lodges. Most TO and EC lodges aren't choked with throngs of members (they are small in size, by design). But they are attracting lots of visitors who see many things they like and carry the practices home to their own lodges.

That's where the biggest success of TO and EC lodges will be.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stephen Dafoe's Nobly Born

I'm way behind on author review on the new manuscript; last week was a mess that kept us away from home three days longer than anticipated; and I'm neglecting much that needs to be done this week.

That said, the last thing I need to be doing is reading a book that is not research on the current project, since Friday is my drop-dead cutoff for revisions. Nevertheless, my new copy of Brother Stephen Dafoe's Nobly Born: An Illustrated History of the Knights Templar arrived while we were gone, and I haven't been able to stay away from it. So, this is no formal review, but a last-minute bid to recommend it for your Christmas list. (I mean, provided that you have already ordered The Templar Code For Dummies first.)

Stephen (publisher of Templar History magazine) has managed to do something fresh in the Templar book universe, and beginners and those thoroughly versed in Templar lore alike will find much to like about this book. Dreamers and "speculators" take note: this is no "Templars found treasure, sailed to Scotland, saved Robert the Bruce, started Freemasonry and hid their loot at Oak Island" waste of time. What it IS is a concise (deceptively thin-looking), historical examination of what is truly known about the Knights Templar, going back to medieval sources. Their formation, rise, organization, battles, failures and fall — all here, presented with Stephen's skill as a reporter, combined with his flair for making complex concepts easy to understand, and frankly, fun to read. A cursory flip through Nobly Born rewards you with an abundance of illustrations, many of them newly created by Stephen, showing battles, preceptories, troop movements, uniforms, hierarchy and more. All packaged in a truly beautiful edition by Lewis Masonic.

The book also features original artwork from Templar author and artist Gordon Napier and Indiana Masonic artist Brother Stephen McKim.

This is truly unlike any other Templar book on the market, and well worth its £19.99 ($33) cover price.

Stephen Dafoe is well-known in the electronic Masonic universe as the founder of the (now closed) forum, TheLodgeRoom.com, as well as being the publisher of Masonic Magazine. He has written for numerous publications, and his 2005 paper, Reading, Writing, and Apathy: The Rise and Fall of Masonic Education, first presented at Lodge Vitruvian No. 767, was published in the 2006 edition of the Scottish Rite Research Society's Heredom. Masonic Templars take note — Stephen's next book, due in 2008, The Compasses and the Cross, will be a history of the Templar Order and the development of Chivalric Masonry.

Winston Smith At Work In West Virginia?

Some new wrinkles have appeared in the ongoing troubles in West Virginia.

First, the Grand Lodge of West Virginia's website is apparently engaging in the rewriting of history by removing MWBro. Frank Hass from its list of Past Grand Masters. While it is one thing for a Grand Master to expel a Mason from the fraternity (and sources conflict over whether the GM in WVa has the power to do that legally without a trial), it is quite another to then erase him from the published history of the fraternity.

Apparently, Haas is doubleplus ungood and a potential Goldstein. So he has been made an un-person. Can the two-minute hate be far behind?

Second, the Philalethes Society has announced that PGM Haas will be the keynote speaker at the Society's annual Feast and Forum in Washington DC on February 8th, 2008.

Backchannel, I have received messages that the Grand Lodge of West Virginia is the only mainstream U.S. Grand Lodge that does not participate in the George Washington Masonic National Memorial; the Masonic Service Association; or the North American Conference of Grand Masters. It does not recognize its Prince Hall counterpart, nor does it consider the Scottish Rite, York Rite, or Eastern Star to be appendant Masonic organizations. And it does not support the Masonic youth groups in any way. WVa Masons must join the closest geographical lodge to their residence, may not be plural members, and if they move out of state, they must relinquish their WVa membership if they wish to join a lodge in their new home state.

West Virginia continues to isolate itself from the rest of the Masonic world, and its leadership seems to be committed to that path of isolation for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cuban Symposium on Freemasonry

Torres Cuevas, president of the Department of Historic Studies of Cuban Freemasonry at Havana University has announced an international academic symposium on the influence of Masonry in Latin America. Taking place December 5th-8th, researchers from Latin America and Europe will explore the role of the fraternity in the region's independence movement. Speakers will include director of the Center of Historic Studies of Spanish Freemasonry José Antonio Benemelis, and Italian Masonic historian Aldo Mola.

Freemasonry, according to Cuevas, “is a non political institution. It is not religious, but it is ethical, therefore their projection joins together religious and politicians and is the nucleus to understand the intellectual, social, political and cultural world of Latin America.” The goal of the conference is to create a Center for the Study of Latin American Freemasonry.

Freemasonry in Cuba was founded in 1859 by Spanish colonial plantation owners fleeing a slave revolt in Haiti, and the fraternity was quite popular in Cuba prior to the 1959 revolution. After many years of decline and friction with the Castro government, Cuban Masonry has rebounded from a low of 14,000 members to 30,000 today, in 341 lodges.

Masonry occupies a unique position in Cuban society, where most civic groups are closely allied with, or monitored by, the government. They do not take a confrontational stance with authorities, yet they welcome dissidents as members. Mark Falcoff, a Latin American scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, said in 2003 that the Masons' non-confrontational approach toward authorities has allowed them to survive independently in a system where most civic groups are affiliated with the government.

"It's a tactic to attract people who do not want to get into trouble but at the same time wish to be free," Falcoff said. "It's an attempt to split the difference."

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba's principal trading partner, the government eased restrictions on Freemasonry, allowing them limited ability to participate in public ceremonies and to charter the first new lodges since 1967. Still, anything more than holding regular meetings requires government permission. And the publishing of Masonic books and even pamphlets is severely restricted. But what makes Freemasonry unique in Cuba is the role it played in the three decade struggle for independence from Spain between 1868 and 1895, with many Cuban revolutionaries like Joseph Marti, Antonia Maceo and "father of the nation" Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. Those national heros and their Masonic affiliation are hard for Communist authorities to sweep under the carpet. The result is Masonry's unusual ability to straddle the line between an oppressive state and freedom.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

On The Road

Cory Siegler and me at new Jersey's Feast of St. John
(I'm the bigger guy on the right, the one with no sleep)

The Feast of St. John dinner on Saturday was a phenomenal evening, and I owe many thanks to everyone who helped make it so memorable. It was great to meet brothers Jay Hochberg, Steve Schilling and Cory Sigler in person, and as is getting to be a regular occurrence, putting a face to brethren I have only known via the Internet.

Saturday's event was held at the Grand Lodge of New Jersey's Fellowship Hall next to their Masonic Home campus. New Jersey has an outstanding, modern and up to date facility, and they have much to be proud of.

RW:. Alan Hayden has a unique talent for woodworking, and is renowned in New Jersey for his custom gavels. I am honored that he created one for Grand Master Ryan to present to me. It was only later that I was told the significance of the numbers stamped into the base of the handle. At first, I believed it was the number of gavels Brother Hayden had made, 245. But it turns out to be the date, February 1945, that a friend of Brother Hayden's was shot. The men were standing side by side, and Alan believes his friend took a bullet that was meant for him. Alan spent the rest of the war in a german POW camp. He has made many of these gavels, all stamped with the same date, as a memorial to his friend.

Getting to stay in the Grand Master's suite at the home was a welcome, homey respite from the typical motel room, and Alice, Wiley and I were all very comfortable. Many, many thanks to MW:. John Ryan, Grand Master, Brian Johnson, Grand Lodge Administrator, their charming ladies, and all of the New Jersey Masons who made this a terrific night.

We're still on the road, and I'd like to take this opportunity to remind myself how much I hate driving in the northeast in winter. The 5 hour drive from Burlington, NJ to Boston on Sunday night came to 10 hours, thanks to the snow and ice storm that plagued us the whole way. Like our upside down schedule at home, we're sleeping in the daytime and driving at night, so tomorrow I will hopefully get switched around so we can get our daytime trip to Salem while it is still light.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

But Who's Counting?

Amidst of all of November's brouhaha over new lodges, breakaways, and a new "Grand Orient," it is only fair to point out that there are over 315 grand lodges regarded as irregular, unrecognized, clandestine by the mainstream currently working in the US right now. The new group has generated lots of press. Others don't, but they still exist (including here in Indiana — my Hoosier brethren will be shocked to discover) unknown to almost all of us.

The indefatigable Paul M. Bessel has undertaken the incredible job of attempting to list them. Have a look at http://bessel.org/glsusa.htm