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


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Morals & Dogma For The 21st Century Interview 8pm Tuesday

Cory Sigler is interviewing the authors of Morals & Dogma For The 21st Century – "JJ" Miller, Brian Chaput, Bill Goodell, and Kevin K. Main – on Talkshoe's The Working Tools Masonic Magazine Show. Co-host is Tom Accousti, and a certain dummy phoned in to pester all concerned.

Live 8PM Tuesday night, EST

Archived at http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/11669

Mount Vernon's Secret Tunnel

Life imitates art once again. A "secret tunnel" under George Washington's estate, Mount Vernon, has been opened to the public after it was depicted in National Treasure: Book Of Secrets.
History buffs have another reason to head to Mount Vernon soon: The cellar where Nicolas Cage kidnaps the president in “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” is open for the curious to inspect. The decision to open the basement to public tours was made when Mount Vernon staffers saw the movie. “When we saw what a pivotal scene it was, we knew the public would want to know about the secret tunnel,” said Emily Coleman Dibella, Mount Vernon’s director of public affairs. “For those of us who love history so much, it’s great to see it up on the big screen in such an exciting way.” The decision was a popular one. Visitor numbers for a mid-January weekend were up nearly 300 percent over a typical second weekend in January, Dibella said. If interest remains high, the basement might be opened to the public again. For now it will be open weekends through Feb. 10.

English Lodge in Sussex Shares With Female Masons

The brethren of Lewes Lodge in Sussex, under the jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodge of England, have agreed to allow meetings of the female Sussex Lodge No. 17 of the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons to share their lodge facilities. The report today is in the Rye & Battle Observer.
Freemasons Hall in Lewes was built in 1747, up against the historic walls of Lewes Castle, and has been an all-male stalwart for 260 years. The female lodge in Sussex met for many years in Hove Town hall, but recent rent increases forced them to flee, homeless.

Lewes lodge room

Christine Chapman, preceptor of the newly reformed women's lodge, said: 'It all came about because one of our members went out for a bacon butty* and bumped into someone she knew from the Lewes Freemason's lodge.

'He asked her how it was going and she said not particularly well don't suppose there's any chance of using your building is there?

'They put it to the members and management committee, and they invited us to give a talk about what we do and to our surprise told us we could use the hall.

'We're absolutely delighted and can't wait to start a new chapter in the lodge's history.'

The two lodges will meet separately - there is no discussion of mixed gender meetings.
Robert Lewis, provincial grand secretary for Sussex, said: 'The rule is if the ladies meet the men don't.

'There is no objections to the ladies using the facilities and we have given our approval.

'The women's group is going from strength-to-strength which is why this has happened and I say good for them.'

Christine Chapman said there were many misconceptions about the Freemasons attitude to the women's groups but also sounded a note of defiance.

She said: 'It's wrong to say the Freemasons don't get on with women or recognise the groups.

'There is an awful lot of acceptance of what we do and we have been around for nearly a 100 years.

'We take it every bit as seriously as the men and we are not going away!'

It bears reprinting the United Grand lodge of England's policy statement on female Freemasonry, made March 10, 1999:

Statement issued by UGLE - 10th March 1999

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.

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.

Photo above is Most Worshipful Sheila Norden, Grand Master of the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons.

*And in case you weren't wondering – a "bacon butty" is a bacon and butter sandwich.

Only the English could create such a heart clogging concoction.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Raper Commandery March

My Templar Commandery, Raper Commandery No. 1 in Indianapolis, has had a long and glorious history. I was poking around the Indiana University website the other night and came across a piece of sheet music published in 1913, called The Raper Commandery March, written by Sir Knight Louis G. Buddenbaum. Intrigued, I posted the links on Indiana's Masonic forum, Hiram's Forum.

In almost no time flat, Sir Knight Albert L. Lilly III, a music professor at Indiana Wesleyan College, transcribed the music into a midi file, which can be heard here. Albert became so enthused over it that he is now arranging the march for a concert band.

UGLE's Internet Lodge No. 9659

A small article appeared in The Guardian today about UGLE's Internet Lodge No. 9659. Reporter William Shaw was true to his word when he spoke to me last week - he just couldn't resist the "rolled up trouser leg" reference.

In the quote from me that he used, I was actually talking about Levant Preceptory, Indiana's medieval recreation Knights Templar unit, and not the Masonic lodge.

Yes, I know, remarks taken out of context by a reporter? Color me astonished.

Still and all, nice to be quoted in the same piece with John Hamill.

Interestingly, two internationally known special purpose lodges in Britain are currently in the hands of Yanks: WBro. S. Brent Morris is the current Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, UGLE's premiere lodge of research; and Internet Lodge No. 9659 is currently under the leadership of MWBro. Charles A. Lewis Jr., Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina. PGM Lewis fought hard in North Carolina in 2003 for recognition of Prince Hall Masonry.

Br. John Ford's Thoughts On The Third Degree

Brother John Ford is a Steward at Piable Lodge No.192 in Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia. Brother Ford recently posted a series of responses to a paper presented online by Brother Phillip Carter, entitled The Desaguliers Code, on The Checkered Pavement Masonic Forum. Br. Carter's paper is worth an extended scrutiny itself, but Br. Ford's response makes a unique series of connections concerning the development of the 3rd degree in the 1720's.

It reads, in part:

If one is to take a holistic and more meaningful view of the geopolitical issues of the early 18th Century, the Brethren associated with the early days of GL would, I contend, be more concerned perhaps with what 'is not said' - in other words, with concepts and perceptions - that which is not written down on some obscure parchment. That they were so concerned is evidenced by the act of gaining the support of the Duke of Montagu who became fifth GM. The effect of his becoming Grand Master, a fact advertised in the daily press of the period, was that the Craft leaped into popularity, its numbers increased, and new lodges were rapidly constituted (1923; Bro. Lionel Vibert, Past Master Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, England http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/history/
). All of which adequately demonstrates how perceptions may be manipulated through the power of the printed word.

So, the question may be asked - what was the impetus behind the adoption of the 3rd Degree and the Solomonic myth? Almost certainly such adoption had to do with concepts and perceptions.

The Hiramic legend, which encompasses the story of the building of KST and the columns, is not a new invention dreamed up by our ancient Brethren. The literature is replete with stories about some extraordinary man who rises above the mundane existence of life and death only to usher in a more glorious existence (Jones, 1950: 318). Indeed, the universality of this myth all but guarantee its inclusion in any new adventure - and, given the constraints imposed by the geopolitical climate of the 17th and 18th Centuries - almost a natural progression. Having gone down the path of Deism, and to escape the religious intolerance of their day, a legend was needed to do what the Christian Bible could achieve - to impress upon others, the uninitiated, the truth of some future existence and the moral imperatives attached thereto. It was also obvious that the two degrees, Apprentice and FC, could not achieve this end - something more was needed.

What I am suggesting here is that having moved away from the turmoil of conflicting religious beliefs our ancient Brethren adopted a myth of their own to explain what they had now left out - they had to replace the words on the page left out when they embraced Deism. Quoting from Jones again - The Candidate, invited to reflect on the peculiar objects of the Third Degree, is taught that death has no terrors equal to the stain of falsehood and dishonour (1950: 319).

My hypothesis is that a myth inculcating ethical concepts had to be included as the Order moved away from Operative Masonry towards Accepted or Speculative Masonry. Without access to 'Christianity' per se a new myth had to be created to support the pillar of morality - a pillar that required no particular link to 'Religion' when the era was not conducive to a participation in religious debate being perhaps the most irreligious of times. Yet, the Order had to impose some form of moral order - a moral order without appealing to some 'Religion' - yet such moral order, or code, had to be free standing without inferring some religiousity.

Without some type of moral code anyone could have joined the Order - and that's what our ancient Brethren decided not to facilitate - the space for some opportunist to turn the order into a religious or political assembly - their aim was provide the atmosphere where men or high morals could meet without feeling threated from the antogonist in that bellicose age.

The Hiramic legend does this rather well. Such a legend not only connects with a common inherentance, the stories found in the Bible, but with something outside of the doctrine and dogma of the prevailing religion of their day - Christianity.

Hence, it is of no surprise that they are many roads that lead towards the adoption of the legend of Hiram - the myth achieves what all myths set out to achieve - a metaphor by which the inculcation of moral and ethical beliefs though reading the words of the page - or, in the case of FM, through enacting the ritual of the Third Degree.

If I am anywhere near right then I stand in awe at the skill of those ancient Brethren who saw so clearly their task ahead."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Colorado GL Alcohol Ban Lifted

Preliminary reports just in from the annual communication of the Grand Lodge of Colorado, held this weekend in Colorado Springs, say that a resolution to eliminate the ban on alcohol in Masonic buildings has passed.

Common sense has arrived in Colorado.

More details as I get them.

Update: The new rule allows for the consumption of alcoholic beverages at Agapes, Festive Boards, ceremonies, or tyled table lodges. At tyled table lodges, degrees may not be conferred and business may not be transacted if drinking is occurring.

Otherwise, the only prohibition in Colorado now is that Masons may not drink intemperately.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

War & Peace & Freemasonry

From War and Peace, Chapter 2, by Leo Tolstoy:

"Allow me to ask," he said, "are you a Mason?"

"Yes, I belong to the Brotherhood of the Freemasons," said the stranger, looking deeper and deeper into Pierre's eyes. "And in their name and my own I hold out a brotherly hand to you."

"I am afraid," said Pierre, smiling, and wavering between the confidence the personality of the Freemason inspired in him and his own habit of ridiculing the Masonic beliefs- "I am afraid I am very far from understanding- how am I to put it?- I am afraid my way of looking at the world is so opposed to yours that we shall not understand one another."

"I know your outlook," said the Mason, "and the view of life you mention, and which you think is the result of your own mental efforts, is the one held by the majority of people, and is the invariable fruit of pride, indolence, and ignorance. Forgive me, my dear sir, but if I had not known it I should not have addressed you. Your view of life is a regrettable delusion."

"Just as I may suppose you to be deluded," said Pierre, with a faint smile.

"I should never dare to say that I know the truth," said the Mason, whose words struck Pierre more and more by their precision and firmness. "No one can attain to truth by himself. Only by laying stone on stone with the cooperation of all, by the millions of generations from our forefather Adam to our own times, is that temple reared which is to be a worthy dwelling place of the Great God," he added, and closed his eyes.

"I ought to tell you that I do not believe... do not believe in God, said Pierre, regretfully and with an effort, feeling it essential to speak the whole truth.

The Mason looked intently at Pierre and smiled as a rich man with millions in hand might smile at a poor fellow who told him that he, poor man, had not the five rubles that would make him happy.

"Yes, you do not know Him, my dear sir," said the Mason. "You cannot know Him. You do not know Him and that is why you are unhappy."

"Yes, yes, I am unhappy," assented Pierre. "But what am I to do?"

"You know Him not, my dear sir, and so you are very unhappy. You do not know Him, but He is here, He is in me, He is in my words, He is in thee, and even in those blasphemous words thou hast just uttered!" pronounced the Mason in a stern and tremulous voice.

He paused and sighed, evidently trying to calm himself.

"If He were not," he said quietly, "you and I would not be speaking of Him, my dear sir. Of what, of whom, are we speaking? Whom hast thou denied?" he suddenly asked with exulting austerity and authority in his voice. "Who invented Him, if He did not exist? Whence came thy conception of the existence of such an incomprehensible Being? Didst thou, and why did the whole world, conceive the idea of the existence of such an incomprehensible Being, a Being all-powerful, eternal, and infinite in all His attributes?..."

He stopped and remained silent for a long time.

Pierre could not and did not wish to break this silence.

"He exists, but to understand Him is hard," the Mason began again, looking not at Pierre but straight before him, and turning the leaves of his book with his old hands which from excitement he could not keep still. "If it were a man whose existence thou didst doubt I could bring him to thee, could take him by the hand and show him to thee. But how can I, an insignificant mortal, show His omnipotence, His infinity, and all His mercy to one who is blind, or who shuts his eyes that he may not see or understand Him and may not see or understand his own vileness and sinfulness?" He paused again. "Who art thou? Thou dreamest that thou art wise because thou couldst utter those blasphemous words," he went on, with a somber and scornful smile. "And thou art more foolish and unreasonable than a little child, who, playing with the parts of a skillfully made watch, dares to say that, as he does not understand its use, he does not believe in the master who made it. To know Him is hard.... For ages, from our forefather Adam to our own day, we labor to attain that knowledge and are still infinitely far from our aim; but in our lack of understanding we see only our weakness and His greatness...."

Pierre listened with swelling heart, gazing into the Mason's face with shining eyes, not interrupting or questioning him, but believing with his whole soul what the stranger said. Whether he accepted the wise reasoning contained in the Mason's words, or believed as a child believes, in the speaker's tone of conviction and earnestness, or the tremor of the speaker's voice- which sometimes almost broke- or those brilliant aged eyes grown old in this conviction, or the calm firmness and certainty of his vocation, which radiated from his whole being (and which struck Pierre especially by contrast with his own dejection and hopelessness)- at any rate, Pierre longed with his whole soul to believe and he did believe, and felt a joyful sense of comfort, regeneration, and return to life.

"He is not to be apprehended by reason, but by life," said the Mason.

"I do not understand," said Pierre, feeling with dismay doubts reawakening. He was afraid of any want of clearness, any weakness, in the Mason's arguments; he dreaded not to be able to believe in him. "I don't understand," he said, "how it is that the mind of man cannot attain the knowledge of which you speak."

The Mason smiled with his gentle fatherly smile.

"The highest wisdom and truth are like the purest liquid we may wish to imbibe," he said. "Can I receive that pure liquid into an impure vessel and judge of its purity? Only by the inner purification of myself can I retain in some degree of purity the liquid I receive."

"Yes, yes, that is so," said Pierre joyfully.

"The highest wisdom is not founded on reason alone, not on those worldly sciences of physics, history, chemistry, and the like, into which intellectual knowledge is divided. The highest wisdom is one. The highest wisdom has but one science- the science of the whole- the science explaining the whole creation and man's place in it. To receive that science it is necessary to purify and renew one's inner self, and so before one can know, it is necessary to believe and to perfect one's self. And to attain this end, we have the light called conscience that God has implanted in our souls."

"Yes, yes," assented Pierre.

"Look then at thy inner self with the eyes of the spirit, and ask thyself whether thou art content with thyself. What hast thou attained relying on reason only? What art thou? You are young, you are rich, you are clever, you are well educated. And what have you done with all these good gifts? Are you content with yourself and with your life?"

"No, I hate my life," Pierre muttered, wincing.

"Thou hatest it. Then change it, purify thyself; and as thou art purified, thou wilt gain wisdom. Look at your life, my dear sir. How have you spent it? In riotous orgies and debauchery, receiving everything from society and giving nothing in return. You have become the possessor of wealth. How have you used it? What have you done for your neighbor? Have you ever thought of your tens of thousands of slaves? Have you helped them physically and morally? No! You have profited by their toil to lead a profligate life. That is what you have done. Have you chosen a post in which you might be of service to your neighbor? No! You have spent your life in idleness. Then you married, my dear sir- took on yourself responsibility for the guidance of a young woman; and what have you done? You have not helped her to find the way of truth, my dear sir, but have thrust her into an abyss of deceit and misery. A man offended you and you shot him, and you say you do not know God and hate your life. There is nothing strange in that, my dear sir!"

Friday, January 25, 2008

"Freemasonry will survive Dan Brown"

The Wall Street Journal has an article today about the world wide wait for Dan Brown's sequel to The Da Vinci Code, which everyone is still saying will be called The Solomon Key, and will presumably still involve the Freemasons and Washington DC. The entire publishing world is impatient, since book sales are down, and the Harry Potter franchise is supposedly now dead and buried. This was the first year since DVC debuted in 2002 without some kind of sales bump from Brown's book.
Now, the publisher is hinting that a manuscript is close. "Dan Brown has a very specific release date for the publication of his new book, and when the book is published, his readers will see why," says Stephen Rubin, president of Bertelsmann's Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group, whose Doubleday imprint publishes Mr. Brown. Mr. Rubin declined further comment.

What date could that be? Since some of the leaders of the American Revolution were masons, including George Washington, an obvious reference point would be July Fourth. In addition to it being Independence Day, the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on July 4, 1848 in a ceremony hosted by the Freemasons.

There are other more obscure dates that could be significant, however: On Sept. 18, 1793, President Washington led a Masonic parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to lay the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol. It is considered one of the most important events in Masonic history. A third choice? The cornerstone of the White House was laid on Oct. 13, 1792, during a Masonic celebration. (On that date in 1307, the King of France ordered the arrest of Knights Templar. There has been speculation connecting the Knights and the origins of the Masons, although the matter is in question.)


Mr. Brown's income from all four books, including "The Da Vinci Code" and revenue from the film, has made him a rich man. Forbes magazine estimated Mr. Brown earned $88 million between June 2005 and June 2006, minus management, agent and attorney fees. Dan Burstein, editor of the best-seller "Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind The Da Vinci Code," thinks Mr. Brown may have earned as much as $250 million to $300 million from all related properties.


"The Da Vinci Code" was also criticized for factual miscues; this time, he may be taking particular care. "He has toured a number of Masonic temples to get the historical facts correct," says Akram Elias, grand master of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the District of Columbia.

The Masons are a fraternal society dedicated to self-improvement and charitable works. Membership is open to all religions and political parties. Although Mr. Brown portrayed the secretive Roman Catholic group Opus Dei in a negative light in "The Da Vinci Code," Mr. Elias says he isn't worried. "Freemasonry will survive Dan Brown," he says.

One of the Masonic Temples Brown toured was the one in Salt Lake City. But the Mormons better watch it, because he made an extensive tour of the Mormon Temple there as well, noting the great similarity between Masonic and Mormon symbolism.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hammond, Indiana Temple To Be Demolished

Another magnificent temple will soon bite the dust. Hammond Indiana's Masonic Temple, affectionately known in the city as "the Grand Old Lady" will soon be demolished to make way for a new city charter school. Once home to blue lodges, the York Rite and the Shrine, the temple was abandoned in the 1990s.

From the Northwest Indiana Times:

The mammoth cornerstone to the ornately elegant three-story red brick building on Muenich Court was laid May 1, 1907, to great fanfare. Speaker for the day was none other than Charles Fairbanks, vice president under U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1921, the Masonic Building Association enhanced the building to the tune of $440,000. By the 1970s, its replacement cost was estimated at $4.8 million. Today, it is estimated its restoration could top $20 million.

Patrick Swibes, chairman of the Hammond Historic Preservation Commission, said the building was once a candidate for preservation.

"The building has been terribly compromised over the last 12 to 15 years," Swibes said. "Once the roof goes, it lets water into the building, which disintegrates a building pretty quickly."

Swibes said most of the damage is to the theater. The stage in the building's enormous auditorium once showcased Shrine circuses, basketball games, theater plays, miniature golf and concerts.

One of Hammond's most ornate buildings, it is heavily customized with terra-cotta designs. The Muenich Court entryway contains leaded glass windows, glazed multicolored Egyptian heads and arched, hooded door surrounds.

Sadly, a look at the Masonic list in Indiana reveals surrounding that there are lodges in nearby Griffith, East Chicago, Gary, Highland and Schererville, but there are no Masonic lodges left in Hammond.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Quiet Change in North Carolina

From the Winston-Salem Journal, the day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day:

In the annals of landmarks in race relations, the Jan. 5 installation of Joseph Adegboyega as the new Worshipful Master at an Ancient Free and Accepted Mason Lodge in Winston-Salem won’t rival Brown vs. The Topeka Board of Education or President Eisenhower sending the 101st Airborne to desegregate Central High in Little Rock.

Perhaps that’s a good thing, a sign that nearly 44 years after the Civil Rights Act, race relations continue to improve and artificial barriers continue to fall.

That’s the way Adegboyega wants to look at his accomplishment. While he’s rightfully proud that he is the first black man to hold high office in a traditionally white AF&AM lodge in North Carolina, he also thinks that it’s about time.

It is indeed.

Congratulations to Wbro. Adegboyega and the brethren of Piedmont-Pioneer Lodge #685. According to their website, the lodge began in 1945 as Pioneer Lodge No. 685. A fitting name and heritage.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"When's the last time you heard Freemason, Pythagorean and Carl's Jr. in the same sentence?"

Right here.

Accident or Masonic Plot?

A Welsh truck driver was convicted yesterday of causing the deaths of two other drivers by his own reckless driving. But that didn't stop him from claiming he was framed by a Masonic plot.

Roy Morrissey was driving a tractor-trailer in December 2006, when he attempted to pass a car on a two-lane road. Apparently, Morrissey misjudged the speed of an oncoming car in the other lane, swerved back into his own lane, clipping the car he was passing. It spun out of control and collided with the oncoming car.

The oncoming car was driven by a cardiologist, Dr. Carl Brooks. After the crash, he managed to pull himself out of his wrecked car and rushed to try to help the driver and passenger of the other vehicle. The driver, Lee Makepeace, had been killed instantly, and his girlfriend, Emma-Louise Jobson, died within a few minutes (that's their photo above).

Here's where the "conspiracy" comes in. It seems that Dr. Brooks is a Freemason. Morrissey claimed that Brooks "frequents the same lodge as several high ranking-officers from Hampshire Constabulary." He alleged that Brooks caused the accident and was shielded from prosecution by his Freemason cop brethren.

The jury was unimpressed. I guess they were all Masons, too.

I had the opportunity to be interviewed by a reporter from Britain's The Guardian a few days ago. While we spoke, he made an interesting observation. He believs that, while both fearing and ridiculing Freemasonry was a regular pastime in the British press for the last 15 or 20 years, that seems to be coming to an end. Perhaps he's right. This article was among the few that mentioned the Masons that didn't bring up funny handshakes or rolled up trouser legs (or, for that matter, give Morrissey's idiotic allegation any credence).

Then again, when I said that to the reporter, he immediately laughed, "Oh, well, now that you mention it, I HAVE to say 'funny handshakes' and 'rolled-up trouser legs.'"

Friday, January 18, 2008

The New Freemasonry Today

The first issue of the newly merged MQ and Freemasonry Today magazines is now up on the Freemasonry Today website. It is now the official magazine of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Freemasonry Today has recently made is past issues accessible online for free.

Past issues of MQ will remain archived online at http://www.mqmagazine.co.uk

Another Masonic Week Upheaval

It was enough of an upheaval that Masonic Week in Washington DC has, after almost four decades, been moved from the venerable Washington Hotel (now closed) down the road to a chrome and glass Hilton in Alexandria. Change is certainly inevitable, but the move brings an end to the many traditional gatherings in around the old haunt that had become so comfortable.

And I'm not happy that Wiley is not welcome at the Hilton. He was quite fond of his daily romps on Pennsylvania Avenue by the southeast gate of the White House. Frankly, with the medication I'm on now, I'm more likely to pee on the floor than he is.

Now comes word that yet another tradition has been lost. Tom Sarris' Orleans House was the annual dining location for the Indiana contingent for many, many years.

Tom Sarris' Orleans House was the kind of "theme" restaurant no one builds anymore - a massive, barn of a place, decorated like the French Quarter, with Disney-ish excess, a massive showboat-shaped salad bar, and prime rib portions bigger than a '66 Pontiac Bonneville. They claimed to sell more prime rib than any other restaurant in the world.

Of note to Masonic Templars, it was located just around the corner from the evocatively named Rosslyn Metro station, where Solomon's Builders readers know that I discovered the secrets of a modern-day Rosslyn Chapel...

Alas, word has come that the Orleans House closed January 15th, for good, the victim of real estate prices too high to ignore. Its funky, idiosyncratic charms were just too unsophisticated for modern DC, so it will be bulldozed to make way for another anonymous highrise.

True fans may wish to peruse the auction site and snap up a memento.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bad News For Shriners - Coulrophobia Widespread

In what is clearly bad news for Shrine clowns, a University of Sheffield study says that, universally, children can't stand clowns. The study was made during a hospital redecoration program:

The study, reported in the Nursing Standard magazine, found all the 250 patients aged between four and 16 they quizzed disliked the use of clowns, with even the older ones finding them scary.

Some experts believe that as many as one in seven people experience some level of coulrophobia, a fear of clowns.

No reaction yet from the International Shrine Clown Association.

Suspected Anti-Masonic Terrorist Plotter On Trial

The Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting this week on the trial of terrorism suspect Syed Haris Ahmed, a Pakistani-born former Georgia Tech student arrested in March 2006. Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee stand accused of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

Ahmed admitted to FBI agents that he had taken "casing videos" of Washington landmarks, including the U.S. Capitol and the Scottish Rite House of the Temple, that wound up on the computer of a London terrorist. The casing videos were discovered on the computer of Younis Tsouli, an al-Qaeda-inspired computer expert from London who is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

Ahmed admitted the videos would be helpful to "plan something," according to transcripts of his FBI interviews. He and Sadequee took the videos and placed them on the internet to attract the attention of terrorists, in the hopes they would be recruited. Ahmed acknowledged meeting with extremists in Toronto and going to Pakistan in 2005 for jihadist military training, where he intended to join Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (Soldiers Of The Pure), a Kashmir based terrorist group.

Ahmed told agents that his jihadist thoughts led him to contemplate attacks on Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, the Masonic Temple in Washington and oil refineries in Texas. Ahmed said he contemplated attacking Dobbins because he once lived near there. He said he believed Freemasons were like the "devil."


Freemasonry doesn't have the corner on the market for its symbolism, but when more than a few of same images show up in one place, you have to wonder if Freemasons were involved. Given the large influx of Methodists into Freemasonry in the mid 1800's, have a look at the stained glass windows in the Chappell Hill, Texas United Methodist Church, built in 1901 by Henry Brandt: All Seeing Eye, corn (wheat), wine, handshake, beehive, anchor, crown and cross.


Conference: Can Freemasonry be Secular?

Members of the Grand Orient of France operating in Britain are holding a London conference on Saturday, February 2nd on a topic that has been discussed here: Can Freemasonry be Secular?

‘Priest-wrought and law-protected’? Approaches to the History of Secularism and Laïcité in Great Britain by Dr Andrew Prescott, Founding Director of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the University of Sheffield, and now currently Librarian and Director of the Roderic Bowen Research Centre at the University of Wales Lampeter.

History of Belgium's Freemasonry Progress and Secularism by Jeffrey Tyssens. author of 'La Sagesse dans l’Allégresse. Deux siècles de franc-maçonnerie à Gand et à Anvers' (2003) and 'Les Trésors du Temple. Le Musée belge de la Franc-maçonnerie' (2006), and director of the Interdisciplinary Research Group Freemasonry at Brussels University.

The social impact of French Freemasonry over three centuries: a global approach by Pierre Mollier, editor of the Masonic historical journal Renaissance Traditionnelle and deputy general-secretary of Institut d’Etudes et de Recherches Maçonniques (IDERM), the French academic centre for Masonic researches.

Saturday 2nd February, 10am to 12pm at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL (Holburn Tube Station)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

An Historic Scottish Rite Event in New Orleans

Historic news from the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Valley of New Orleans. On April 4th - 6th, 2008, the Orient of Louisiana will host a joint Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ) & Southern Jurisdiction (SJ) Scottish Rite reunion class.

The NMJ's Valley of Chicago and its degree teams will travel to the Valley of New Orleans bringing with them a class of their own candidates. They will be joined by SJ candidates from the Orient of Louisiana and others. The two degree teams will confer the required degrees from both jurisdictions upon the class.

Almost as unusual, attendees will have the rare opportunity to witness an exemplification of the Scottish Rite Entered Apprentice degree by Louisiana's 16th Masonic District Degree Team with the permission of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, F&AM. Louisiana is the only Masonic jurisdiction in the U.S. where the Scottish Rite Craft degrees (sometimes known as "red lodge" degrees) are regularly worked in a small handful of lodges that are descended from French predecessors.

According to a 1949 article from J. Chris Nungesser, PGM,

Because Louisiana Masonry was born of a diverse parentage, its origin and early history had a marked effect on the esoteric work. Although Charters were granted Lodges in Louisiana by Grand Lodges working in the York Rite, nevertheless, the new Lodges continued to work in the Mother tongue and used Rituals largely derived from the French or Modern Rite. When the Grand Lodge of Louisiana was organized, there were Lodges working in the York Rite, the French or Modern Rite and one in the Scotch Rite under a Charter from the Grand Consistory of Jamaica.

The divergent views held because of the several Rites during the early period of Masonry in Louisiana was the cause of much strife and dissension. In an effort to give each Rite proper recognition, the Grand Lodge was made up of Symbolic Chambers, one for the York Rite, one for the Scottish Rite and one for the French Rite. This chapter of the history of Louisiana Masonry is most interesting, and perhaps might well be the subject of a future article.

After the adoption of the Constitution in 1850, the York Rite was the only official Rite recognized, but the old Lodges adhered to forms of the Scotch Rite and the French or Modern Rite. Even after 1885 when, through the work of R.W. Brother John C. Gordy, the esoteric work was made uniform, the Lodges mentioned continued to use the same rituals and have done so to this day with the permission of the Grand Lodge. It was not until 1921 that the Grand Lodge passed a resolution prohibiting any new Lodges except those working in the York Rite in which same year the last of the Scottish Rite Lodges was chartered.

The ten Lodges in the City of New Orleans which do not use the York Rite and are commonly referred to as the
"Scottish Rite Lodges" are as follows:

Etoile Polaire No. 1 .(1794) (French)
Perserverance No. 4 (1810) (English, formerly French)
Cervantes No. 5 (1842) (Spanish)
Germania No. 46 (1844) (English, formerly German)
Kosmos No. 171 .(1864) (English, formerly German)
Union No. 172 (1865) (English)
Dante No. 174 (1866) (Italian)
Galileo Mazzini No. 368 (1917) (English, formerly Italian)
Albert Pike No. 376 .(1919) (English)
Paul M. Schneidau No. 391 (1921) (English)

The Lodges now working in English use the same Ritual but it is different from the ones they formerly used before converting to English. Neither is this Ritual a translation of either the French, Italian or Spanish Ritual and, therefore, there is no uniformity in Ritual among these ten so called Scottish Rite Lodges.

Suffice it to say that the continuation of these various Rituals in Louisiana is unique, and Masons from other Jurisdictions who have witnessed the Degrees here, or in their own Jurisdictions when the work was exemplified by visiting teams, had naught but praise for their beauty, eloquence and profoundness of meaning.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Busy Week

Doctors told me to take it easy over the last couple of weeks. I cooperated by getting reelected to the Indianapolis Masonic Temple Board, appointed as Sword Bearer in Raper Commandery No. 1, Knights Templar, and elected as Sovereign Master of Allied Masonic Degrees Imhotep Council No. 434.

So much for cutting back.

Saturday was tremendous fun, as the Grand Lodge of Indiana hosted its annual Founder's Day program. The weather was great for possibly the first time in the nine years I've been going, and the programming was outstanding. Congratulations to Grand Master Duane Vaught, DGM Jeff Zaring and SGW Chuck Marlowe for their roles in putting together the perfect combination of information, entertainment and education.

MWBro. Roger Van Gordon's skit about misconceptions in Grand Lodge rules, and especially his role as "Old Timer" to SGD Greg Walbridge's Young Whippersnapper was a high point of the day. ("Old Timer, I'll bet you've seen a whole lotta changes over the years." "Yep, and I've been against every one of 'em!")

As a side note, I have to say it was a great thrill to at last be able to say Freemasons' Hall was finally accessible to my friend and brother, WBro. Chris Kimmell, thanks to our new ramp.

I had the very distinct honor of speaking to the January meeting of the Masonic Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis (MSRICF), Indianapolis College on Saturday night at the Murat Shrine. The meal was outstanding and the assembled Fratres were most warm and generous. Many, many thanks to George Proctor, Chief Adept of the College, for his kind invitation, and to all of the Fratres.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Goiters Interruptus

Thanks again to the many, many folks who have written and called with thoughts,prayers, good wishes and dirty jokes over my Christmas week health issues. To bore everyone with an update on my health scare, I went to a head and neck guy last Wednesday who looked at all of the CT scans, the radioactive iodine scan, blood work and x-rays, and said he's 95% certain what I have is a sub-sternal goiter. I have a 4 cm "mass" on my left thyroid lobe, and then this massive blob down behind my sternum. Only surgery will tell if it's got any cancer in it, but he tells me that only a small percentage of goiters become cancerous. And even if they do, they are thyroid tissue and so react great to being nuked, since thyroid absorbs radiation like mother's milk. They should be able to remove the whole mess by slitting my throat from ear to ear (!) and not having to crack my sternum. They tilt my head back, and out it slips, like a life-size Pez dispenser.

So, we have a tentative sigh of possible relief, apart from the disquieting imagery.

Goiters are, in part, coaxed along by deficiencies in iodine in the diet, which iodized salt is supposed to solve. Which means I didn't consume enough salt before, and now I can't touch the damned stuff.

As for sleep apnea, high blood sugar, high BP, fluid in the lungs and the rest perhaps being affected, or even caused, by a thyroid gone mad? "Lose the weight and stop looking for external excuses," the doctor said. "Lose the weight and the rest of your problems will most likely go away in time."

So much for instantly absolving myself of blame. Again, if I can act as a bad example that encourages all of you to reexamine your waistline and personal dietary and stress-related habits, please do as I say, not as I do.

I chatted with a Masonic brother who has gout this week. I've got a goiter. All we need are two guys with the ague and lumbago, and for Alice to come down with the vapours, and we'll have a full-fledged panoply of Victorian ailments.

Damian Thompson's Counterknowledge

"Has anyone revealed that after Jesus married the notorious Freemason Mary Magdalene in a ceremony on top of the Great Pyramid of Giza, she spirited him off to the south of France in one of the FBI's black helicopters? If not, it can only be a matter of time. We are living in a golden age of fake history and archaeology – historical counterknowledge, . . . some of which is easily identifiable as rubbish and some of which is pseudo-scholarship carefully dressed up to look authentic. And you do not have to root around the internet to discover it: every major bookshop in Britain stocks bogus history."

The Telegraph.co.uk ran a two-part excerpt over the weekend from their correspondent Damian Thompson's new book, 'Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science and False History' (Part 1 is here; Part 2 is here.) It's possibly one of the best and most succinct overviews of the conspiratorial mindset that has crept into the world's collective consciousness, and continues to spread.

He covers lots of ground in a short stretch (and hits on many topics that are in our forthcoming Conspiracy Theories And Secret Societies For Dummies). Not that he'll convince anyone to change their minds. Or to stop publishing this drivel year after year that feeds the international appetite for "Lost!" "Secrets!" that "Reveal!" "Hidden!" "Facts About The Truth!", replete with the requisite exclamation marks. As he points out, Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln wrote Holy Blood, Holy Grail, trumpeting Pierre Plantard's fairy tales about the Priory of Sion, and found out not long afterwards they had been the subject of a hoax. That didn't prompt them to change subsequent editions of the book or publicly deny their own claims - in fact, Baigent and Leigh took Dan Brown to court for using their material (if you can't have an exclusive copyright on history, then one can only presume they were in fact protecting the intellectual property of fiction). And after discovering Plantard's hoax, they didn't seem too terribly upset at selling 6 million copies of their book anyway. Aw, I'll fess up. I wouldn't have minded either.

(Funniest sidebar to the Holy Blood, Holy Grail is that Plantard, after reading it, was more than a little baffled by the book's assertion that he was, as a supposed Merovingian King of France, descended from Jesus. He never made that claim at all. Ken Mondschein, quoted in Thompson's article, said, "Keep the children of Christ marrying each other . . . and eventually they'd be so inbred that the sons of God would have flippers for feet.")

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Rabbi's Song by Rudyard Kipling

IF THOUGHT can reach to Heaven,
On Heaven let it dwell,
For fear that Thought be given
Like power to reach to Hell.
For fear the desolation
And darkness of thy mind,
Perplex an habitation
Which thou hast left behind.

Let nothing linger after--
No whispering ghost remain,
In wall, or beam, or rafter,
Of any hate or pain:
Cleanse and call home thy spirit,
Deny her leave to cast,
On aught thy heirs inherit,
The shadow of her past.

For think, in all thy sadness,
What road our griefs may take;
Whose brain reflect our madness,
Or whom our terrors shake.
For think, lest any languish
By cause of thy distress
The arrows of our anguish
Fly farther than we guess.

Our lives, our tears, as water,
Are spilled upon the ground;
God giveth no man quarter,
Yet God a means hath found;
Though faith and hope have vanished,
And even love grows dim;
A means whereby His banished
Be not expelled from Him!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

French President To Meet With Grand Orient Over Church and State

U.S. Freemasons often seem perplexed over the public and press reactions against Masons in Europe, and especially by the Roman Catholic Church's anti-Masonic stance. What we don't see here are the very public actions of Masonic groups like the Grand Orient de France. Take this article from the Liberation.fr website:

Sarkozy Holds to the Separation of Church and State
by Catherine Coroller
Wednesday January 9, 2008

Nicolas Sarkozy will shortly travel to the Grand Orient of France (GOF), where he will meet with various French Masonic obediences. He made this agreement yesterday with a delegation of Freemasons led by Jean-Michel Quillardet, Grand Master of the GOF. The brothers sought an appointment after Sarkozy's visit to the Vatican on December 20. He had supported a "positive secularity" and had expressed doubts about "moral secularity," saying that it is "always in danger of exhausting itself or changing into fanaticism when it is not associated with a longing which is filled with an aspiration for the infinite."

According to Jean-Michel Quillardet, Sarkozy said yesterday that he would give as much respect to secular morals as to religious morals, and assured that the 1905 law on the separation of church and state would not be touched except for a few "technical adjustments." "He wanted to reassure us about his intentions, but we will be watching him very, very carefully," Quillardet warned at the end of the interview. The visit of the Head of State to the GOF has been agreed to in principle, it only awaits a "formal invitation" to set a date.

It would be inconceivable in the US for a delegation from a Grand Lodge to demand a meeting with the president in reaction to an official visit with the pope in order to make sure national policy wasn't getting too religious – and especially to make sure the government wasn't getting too chummy with Rome. Now, I'm not a complete dull wit about France's historical grappling with the power the Church had over a vast amount of the citizens' daily lives, at several times throughout their history. Don't get me wrong — the WASP-y U.S. has been through several phases of getting in a lather over the supposed influence of "monkery" and "popery." (At one point, the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana was convinced that the Church was buying land in rural Ohio and Indiana along the National Road to build a new Vatican, so they sent out vigilante groups to guard the roads from anyone who looked suspiciously like a carload of Cardinals on a real estate scouting tour.)

But is it the place of Freemasonry to be a public watchdog that seeks to influence the government? Is that really what we want our Grand Lodge officers to be doing?

This is just one of several reasons why mainstream Freemasonry will not recognize the Grand Orient de France as a regular Masonic obedience. With their strict "don't ask, don't tell" policy on religion, they have decided it is their duty to make certain France itself adheres to that same policy. Some would say they are simply taking Masonic philosophies and putting them into action. But isn't Freemasonry's role to teach its lessons to its members and then let them go forth to act on their own? Is it really the job of a grand lodge to try to extend its influence politically outside of its lodge rooms?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

UK Press: Chimps Are Masonic Role-Models?

Ah, you have to love stories in the British press, especially when a completely anachronistic Masonic reference sneaks in:

Differences in the way various communities of chimpanzees eat, dance and court are "cultural" and down to what they have learned from fellow chimps, according to the new work.

The research showed that chimpanzee role models influence their culture. Historically, scientists believed that differences in behaviour between communities of chimpanzees were due to variations in genetics.

More recently, there has been debate about whether they copy each other or instead figure out how to do something desirable themselves.

Now scientists have discovered that variations in behaviour in the cultures, such as Masonic-style handshakes, are down to having a chimpanzee role model. . .

This is significant, says Prof Whiten, because imitation is more likely to produce a community of apes that all do a job the same way than is emulation. It will thus preserve features of ape culture more faithfully.

"...or rather, emulation, of who best can work and best agree."

New Masonic Museum in Missouri

The Missouri Masonic Library and Museum, on the campus of the Masonic Home of Missouri in Columbia, will open officially on February 25th. It will be housed in the building that is home to the Grand Lodge of Missouri. According to an article in the Missourian:
Exhibits include five themed galleries that focus on different individuals throughout history who have contributed to the Masonic Fraternity and its charity.

The library portion of the museum has not been thoroughly developed yet.

A few recognizable Masons of the area who will be honored are historical figures Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Omar Bradley, Harry S. Truman and Laura Ingalls Wilder, who was involved the Order of the Eastern Star. She will be the subject of a gallery that shows how education and music are important in Masonry.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Film: The Scottish Key

A new film on the origins of Freemasonry has just recently been released in Europe, with a US/NTSC version promised soon. Written by Belgian researchers Tristan Bourlard and François De Smet, The Scottish Key assembles quite a lineup of Masonic scholars in its interviews: Andrew Prescott, Keith Moore, Roger Dachez, Jessica Harland-Jacobs, David Stevenson, Ewan Rutherford, John Hamill and Robert L.D. Cooper all appear in the film.

A glance through the Gallery section of the site shows a tantilizing selection of period reenactments and attention to detail, with images about the Craft you haven't seen a thousand times.

Anxiously awaiting a US compatible release.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

WVa PGM Frank Haas At Philalethes Feast

The Philalethes Society's Annual Assembly, Feast and Forum
February 8, 2008

Hilton Alexandria Mark Center -- Alexandria VA

Time: 7:00 p.m Sharp

Lecturer: M.W, Frank J. Haas PGM Grand Lodge of West Virginia MPS
Assembly: Executive Board Reports
Forum: Open Questions Concerning Freemasonry
Feast: Investment $65.00, which includes a collectible "Firing Glass"
Ladies Are Invited

Send checks in US Funds to

The Philalethes Society
800 S. 15th Street #1803
Sebring OH 44672

or on-line at http://freemasonry.org

In case you do not know who M.W, Frank J. Haas is go to http://www.masonic-crusade.com/

Tim Bryce's The Freethinking Freemason

If you're a Freemason and have trawled around the Internet for more than a few weeks, you have undoubtedly come across the writings of Wbro. Tim Bryce, a Freemason from Florida. His weekly column is regularly posted at the Freemason Information website.

Cornerstone Books has now collected 85 of his articles in The Freethinking Freemason.

Louisville Leadership Training Course

This message was posted on the Mased Yahoo list.

If you are headed for Louisville for COGMNA in February, this may interest you.

Soon Kentucky will be hosting the Conference of Grand Master's of North America. The Committee on Masonic Education will also be hosting one of their Leadership Training Conferences on Saturday, February 16th, at the Scottish Rite Temple in Louisville. The Temple is just down the street from the Marriott, where most will be staying.

As the Chairman of the Committee on Masonic Education, I would like to extend an invitation to all Master Masons that will be in the Louisville Area on that date. We are very proud of what we have developed for the Craft of our state and would love to share it with you.

I know that there are several events planned that day for some of those attending the Grand Masters' Conference so I will not extend an invite to those individuals. (Sorry, I don't want to upset my GM.) But if you are otherwise uncommitted we would love to have you.

We will start at 9:00 AM and finish prior to 1:00 PM. If you have any questions please email me. If you can not arrange for transportation from the hotel we will be happy to come get you.

Fraternally thine,
John Cauley, Chairman
Committee on Masonic Education
Grand Lodge of Kentucky, F&AM

Brent Morris: 1st American Master of Quatuor Coronati

The latest Scottish Rite Journal reminded me that I never got around to publicly acknowleding the November 8th installation of WBro. S. Brent Morris as the new Worshipful Master of London's Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, the world's premiere lodge of research. It is a measure of Brent's great respect within the Masonic scholarship community, but it is also symbolic in another way: he is the first American to hold such a position.

When Brent joined the lodge in 1993, he was only the 4th American to do so in its history. Who was the first? Indiana's own Dwight L. Smith. Author W. Kirk MacNulty of Virginia, is the only other living American member of the lodge. Full membership in the lodge is limited to just 40, although membership is not restricted in the Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle, which has on the order of 6,000.

If you are planning a visit to London (take half the clothes and twice the money), sojourning Masons may visit the lodge's quarterly meetings: February 21 (program and dinner open to non-Masons), May 8, June 26, and September 11, 2008.

Belated congratulations to Wbro. Morris on this incredible honor and achievement.

(Don't know why the Quatuor Coronati website has been down for weeks.)

"Freemasonry Is?" by Tom Jackson

Interesting passage in an article by Pennsylvania's Tom Jackson in the Scottish Rite Journal this month, called "Freemasonry Is?"

In trying to classify Freemasonry into “operational styles,” I have observed what I perceive to be four distinctive styles. They are philosophical, sociological, political, and charitable. These styles are based upon the emphasis placed on them by the jurisdictions where they are found and in turn the jurisdictions have evolved into that particular approach as a result of societal pressures. The tenets of Freemasonry were ever present, but the forces driving the fraternity made it relevant to the social structure in which it existed. In almost all environments where Freemasonry is found, its character has been shaped by the society it’s in. (The only exception that I have found was in early Russian Freemasonry prior to Catherine the Great where the fraternity tended more to shape its society.)

European Freemasonry, for example, operates in more of what I refer to as the “philosophical style,” retaining much of the philosophical and intellectual approach to the Craft from the age of the Enlightenment. South and Central America, although retaining much of the philosophical style, are more idealistic as a result of the pressures of their societies, hence I have termed it a “sociological style.” Mexico, on the other hand, has a tendency to be more involved politically, and for lack of a better term I refer to Mexican Freemasonry as a “political style.”

The character of Freemasonry is almost paradoxical in the sense that even as it changes it remains the same. North American Freemasonry has probably deviated more from its roots than any other form of Freemasonry and has developed into an almost pure “charitable style” to the neglect of much of the philosophical character for which it is known over most of the world. Dr. E. Scott Ryan in his book, The Theology of Crime and the Paradox of Freedom, observed, “The wonderful work of Masonic charities is by no means synonymous with the wonderment of Masonic spirituality—and that’s a shame, when one considers how many fine charities there are and how few fine spiritualities there are”. Although we do not normally regard Freemasonry as spirituality, much of its character tends to edge it close to that niche. Any attempt, however, at a universal definition of Freemasonry based upon North America’s charitable style could not be successful, and yet even as it is different, it remains the same; it continues to be Freemasonry.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

New Article in The Messenger

The new issue of The Messenger is up on the website of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.

The Memorial is making a fresh commitment to present accurate and comprehensive information about Freemasonry to the public. Mark Tabbert reveals plans for an updated, permanent exhibit that tell the story of Freemasonry in the formation and ongoing history of the United States (image above - I like the 47th Problem in the ceiling).

There will also be new displays that tell the story of the Memorial and Alexandria. And more new displays are under development for the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Memorial Association in 2010. According to the story by Executive Director George Seghers, the Appendant Body exhibits will be updated for the first time in decades.

And I'd like to remind my Indiana brethren that June 2008 is the Grand lodge of Indiana month at the Memorial. (So why is it again the Grand Lodge of West Virginia is the only US GL that doesn'r support the Memorial?)

Check out my latest article, Let’s Be Legendary—Again, on page 5.

How Masonic PR Backfires

First the NY Times accused the Masons of entering a "Spin Zone."

Comes now a snarky blurb about the Grand Lodge of New York hiring PR firm Dan Klores Communications on New York Magazine's website.

Freemasons Make a Deal With the Devil

Of the PR variety, that is. After literally centuries of mystery and subterfuge, the Freemasons have done the unthinkable: They've hired a publicist. According to the Times, a flack from Dan Klores Communications has been calling around trying to advertise Masonic locations in New York, in conjunction with the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets. (Seriously.)

“We’ve gotten a lot of bad press over the years,” explained Thomas Savini, the librarian at the Grand Lodge of New York. “We reached a point we saw ourselves being represented as conspirators or useless old men, neither of which is an accurate representation of Freemasonry. For a couple of centuries, we sat back and stayed quiet and let our actions speak for themselves. But we decided to open up our mouths a little bit more and draw some attention to the positive role that Masons play in the public world.”

The magazine need not go all pissy-bitch about flacks, seeing as how the publishing business depends on those self-same flacks for leads on their hard-hitting coverage of Oscar hopefuls, the Wu Tang Clan, and the Giambattista Valli spring trunk show. Hiring a PR firm scarcely makes us out to be media whores. And as PR agencies go, it's tough to pick a better one than Dan Klores.

But just what is the right balance on the scale between carnival barking and public education for us? On the one hand, we're a bloody secret society! It's no longer like the old Howard Da Silva line about his friend being asked if he was a Communist: "Sorry, we're not allowed to tell." But we are supposed to have a certain discretion - says the guy who wrote a Dummies book about it.

On the other hand, we are living in a time when the world at large doesn't know who or what the Freemasons are. We get our aprons in a bunch worried about anti-masons, when poll after poll shows that the public has NO opinion of the fraternity. They don't know who we are, what we do, what we stand for, or why anyone should join (or how, for that matter). By the early 1800s, virtually everybody in America knew about the Freemasons, and that was true all the way up until about 1975. But it's not true anymore.

Unfortunately, in an age where sophistication is measured by how many cynical welts are raised in a column inch of pithy punches, our message seems anachronistic and creaky to editors and writers desperate to out-hip each other in "knowing" tones. And there's no getting around the fumes of desperation that hang around when a society as storied as ours tries to compete with Ashlee Simpson and Brad Pitt in the PR business. As the troubled Spears family will attest, such attempts at tooting one's own horn can backfire quickly.

And suddenly you're on the 6 o'clock news, strapped to a gurney.

Grand Lodge of Ohio Bicentennial in Chillicothe

The Grand Lodge of Ohio's bicentennial celebration continues to roll on in Chillicothe, which was the original state capital. From today's Chillicothe Gazette:

Masons from throughout Ohio descended on Chillicothe Friday to kick off the bicentennial celebration of the founding of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ohio.

The masons, including past state officers, met in a private banquet and meeting at the Masonic Temple where members got the chance to see the original Statehouse cornerstone laid by the masons here in Chillicothe. The Chillicothe Gazette building is a replica of the first Statehouse.

Members also got to review several 7-by-3 foot panels that depicted a timeline of the founding of the Grand Lodge of Ohio, said member William Bennett. . . The Grand Lodge was created over four days in January 1808 when members of the Scioto Lodge and others around the state met in a tavern on the site of Oak Hill Bank on Water Street today.

In the early days, members often met in taverns because they were the only meeting places available, but the Scioto Lodge 6 moved to the Majestic Theatre, now known as the Majestic Performing Arts Center, where murals on upstairs walls remain today that various Masonic bodies used during their meetings.

What? Masons drinking? In taverns?

Ah, would that we could all meet in taverns again as our fore-fraters did.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Washington's Key Of All Keys

Dan Brown has got to be pulling his hair out.

After telling everybody that his next book would be about the Freemasons and Washington DC, and probably called The Solomon Key, then not publishing anything for almost five years, the world has had way too much time to second guess every possible plot point, landmark and potential clue he might use. And I suspect every time a National Treasure movie comes out, his wife has to spend three days talking him off of the window ledge.

So as I'm doing research this week, for recreation I'm also reading Bob Arnebeck's Through A Fiery Trial, which is a mind-numbingly detailed account of the building of Washington DC, the subject of my book Solomon's Builders. As I hit the stories of 1793 and the building of the White House and the Capitol Building, I came across a reference that leapt off the page, screaming Dan Brown Alert. It talks about a large rock outcropping in the Potomac River called, of all things, The Key Of All Keys.

A little digging discovered this passage in BUILDING STONES OF OUR NATION'S CAPITAL by Washington's late historical geologist, Jim O’Connor:

In colonial days the first solid ground on the marshy north shore of the Potomac, just north of where the Lincoln Memorial is now, was an outcrop of Piedmont rocks which jutted out into the river. This promontory served as the starting point for surveys establishing property lines for the early settlers. On several old maps it is labeled "Key of All Keys," and for many years it bore a surveyor's benchmark. Its more popular name was Braddock's Rock reportedly because General Braddock and his red-coated soldiers accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel George Washington landed there in 1755 on their ill-fated journey to Fort Duquesne.

In time Braddock's Rock became a quarry. It is said to have furnished stone for the foundations of both the White House and the Capitol. Later, stone from Braddock's Rock was used in the construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. About 1832, when the canal was extended below Georgetown to connect with the Washington City Canal, nearly all that was left of the original outcrop of Braddock's Rock was blasted away. The riverside swamps have long since been filled and the land raised above the level of the original surface.

All that remains of Braddock's Rock can still be seen enclosed in a circular granite-lined well south of the grounds of the old Naval Hospital, amidst the approach ramps to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. An iron grill covers the top of the well, and a ladder leads down to the rock, which is about 16 feet below the present land surface and is usually covered by several inches of water.

O'Connor refers to the Old Naval Hospital, but the same property was home to an earlier building, the Old Naval Observatory, which was built on what was known in the Colonial times as "Observatory Hill." British Navy ships frequently docked here to offload troops and supplies. And it's location is directly east of what was Mason's Island (now Roosevelt Island, named after Freemason Teddy Roosevelt).

So, if the rock was chipped away and used as foundation stones by Freemason and Washington architect james Hoban for both the White House and the Capitol Building – both of which had cornerstones laid by the Freemasons - that means both buildings contain pieces of the Key Of All Keys.

These days, all that remains of the rock itself is at the bottom of a well on the access ramp from Constitution Avenue to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge on the way to Virginia.

Now, if you are a believer in David Ovasson's book The Secret Architecture of Our Nation's Capital then all this observatory business does make a Masonic connection, since Ovason contends that the Masonic designers of Washington were all obsessed with the zodiac, star charts and other such stellar stuff. The Old Observatory still stands in what is now the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery complex, just north of the Lincoln Memorial and just up the hill from the Key of All Keys. The original dome can still be seen and a larger telescope was used in what is now called the Old Transit House. Two notable links with the Old Observatory - it was located very close to what was to be the so-called "Washington Meridian," (16th Street) a somewhat ballsy contender for the Prime Meridian for about ten seconds in the late 1700's; and in 1877, astronomer Asaph Hall discovered the moons of Mars from here.

In 1889, the Daughters of the American Revolution published a long article by Marcus Benjamin in the American Monthly Magazine detailing the tradition of calling the rock Braddock's Rock, but also notes that it was known before the 1750s as The Key Of All Keys. But in a somewhat anti-climactic explanation of a potentially intriguing name, Wilhelmus Bogart Bryan suggests in his 1914 History of the National Capital that it was simply a variation of "quay of all quays." Boring. There has to be more to it than that.

To go from the sublime to the esoteric, 1923's The Royal Secret by I. Edward Clark devotes a chapter to the swastika, which he calls the "key of all keys" (even if linking the swastika and the "key to the House of David" now seems anachronistic, given the symbol's later unfortunate association)."There is a key to every Mystery, and every such key has been so effectively hidden that centuries have elapsed, in some cases, before its discovery. . . . The swastika cross is the key of all keys, and a knowledge of the numerals of the Hebrew alphabet is necessary to unravel the Mysteries attached therein."

Great. A Hebrew swastika.

There you go, Dan. Knock yourself out.