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


Monday, March 31, 2008

Paris Perambulations Part 2

Templars may be hard to find in Paris, but Masons aren't, in spite of the clammy hands the French press often get over Freemasonry.

There are at least fourteen grand lodges at work across France, of male, female and co-ed composition.

The Grande Loge Nationale Française (left) is located at 12 rue Christine-de-Pisan. The GLNF (35,000 members, 1,487 Lodges) is the one most US grand lodges recognize as being regular, and the only French grand lodge most US Masons can visit without risking their dues card.

The location is tricky to find, and not on most of the free maps handed out by hotels. Trust me, the overwhelming majority of Paris taxi drivers WON'T knnow where this is, and almost none will be able to find it. The Wagram Metro station is the closest. Inside you'll find a museum, library, a bar, and several lodge rooms, including the massive Grand Lodge room.

Grand lodge Room, GLNF

What is striking about this particular temple complex is the modern design that extends to the architecture, the furniture, even the lighting and artwork - proof that a modern facility can be every bit as impressive as an older one.

There are at least two lodges that meet at the GLNF Paris complex that work in English. Stability-Concorde, No. 29/42 meets on the 1st Wednesday, from September through June (except January and September when it meets on the 2nd Wednesday). Contact their Secretary at stability-concorde@paris.com

Phoenix Lodge, No. 30 meets on the 4th Monday of January, March, May, September, and November. Phoenix is a research lodge, and lectures are given in English or in French (translation to the other language is provided at each meeting). Contact their Secretary at phoenix3012000@yahoo.fr

• Several years ago, I had dispensation to visit brother Mike Segall's lodge at the Grande Loge de France, at 8 rue Puteaux (26,300 members, 753 Lodges). It's a half block north of the Rome Metro station. Their building houses the grand lodge room (left), a slightly smaller Franklin D. Roosevelt lodge room (named after the US president, even though we don't bother to recognize them, but probably named back when we did), plus a handful of very small, intimate lodge rooms for no more than 20 or so members. There's a massive dining facility with private rooms, and a VERY well-stocked wine cave.

In spite of the disastrous stink that came and went in the US when the Grand Lodge of Minnesota briefly granted recognition to the GLdF, and the subsequent fiasco at the Conference of Grand Masters of North America, there was nothing irregular going on in their lodge. It is male only, works to the glory of the Grand Architect of the Universe, and opens the Volume of sacred Law (the Bible, in this case) on its altar.

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt lodge room (GLdF)

Masonic politics being what they are, I am unable to legally sit in the same lodge with Brother Phillipe Benhamou, the co-author of the French version of Freemasons for Dummies, La Franc-Maconnerie Pour Les Nuls, which is, for a fraternity supposedly about universal brotherhood, pretty dumb. And pretty sad.

• The Grand Orient de France, makes its home at 16 rue Cadet (46,000 members, 1,052 Lodges), behind an anachronistic aluminum-façade that looks bizarrely out of place, like the international terminal from Charles De Gaulle Airport got plopped down in an otherwise charming street. The Cadet Metro is the closest.

I have been here three times and been told every time they are fermé to visitors 'today.' Maybe it's just to me they are closed. But then again, I've had the same situation at Les Invalides.

Two other large grand lodges are at work in France that also make their headquarters in Paris.

Le Droit Humain, at 49 Boulevard de Port-Royal (15,000 members, 550 Lodges), is a "mixte," or co-Masonic grand lodge. Maybe it's fitting that their grand lodge building is in Montparnasse, where Kiki hung out and the wildest part of the roaring 20s were happening. There's no need to have an Order of the Eastern Star in France, since feminine and mixed lodges have been around since the 1740s. (Likewise, there's no need for the Shrine in France because the French never punted the booze out of the lodge buildings the way only the Americans have done.)

• The largest female-only grand lodge in France is theGrande Loge Feminine de France, at 60 rue Vitruve (11,600 members, 351 Lodges). Again, female Masons have been in France almost since Freemasonry appeared. Often called "adoptive rites," Napoleon's empress Josephine was a Mason, as was American expatriate, dirty-dancer, singer and Allied spy, Josephine Baker.

• There are at least nine other grand lodges in France, and probably more.

(Membership figures are according to the 2006 numbers from Quid, an online French almanac, and are based on reports from the grand lodges.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Paris Perambulations Part 1

"Wonderful country, France. Pity about the French." - Andrew Hussey

Paris' Home Plazza Jardins du Marais at 74 Rue Amelot in the 11e is our hotel in the Marais. Its façade from the street gives no clue to the massive complex of buildings inside, built around a central courtyard. The lobby décor is a little like Erté meets Space 1999 (lexan chairs? How goofy is THAT?), but you don’t live in the lobby. You DO live in the room.

We have learned over the years that the word “charme” in the description of a Paris hotel is always a code for a room the size of a bus station toilet stall festooned with cute wallpaper and a print of the Eiffel Tower. At this stage in our lives, what the Hodapps desire is square footage. We haul enough bags to require litter bearers, coolies and fan boys, so the trick is to find a hotel room big enough for both of us to be in the place at the same time with our luggage. Our room at the Jardins du Marais is in building Rodin, room 315, and is a Junior Suite.

There is the standard European marble-slab-king-size-bed-made-from-two-singles, carved from the very living rock (sort of a 'bundling bed' arrangement that deters couples interested in l'amour by slipping apart at the inopportune moment), plus an additional day-bed in its own alcove. Like the Citadines chain we have stayed at before, the Home Plazza hotels have a kitchenette in every room, which can save you a small fortune in food costs if you have no desire to dine out for every meal (yes, there's a dishwasher, a stove, and fridge and a toaster oven, but oddly no microwave). There is a Shoppi grocery about a block away, another across Blvd. Beaumarchais, two late night and Sunday markets with libertine prices, and even two pharmacies, which makes the daily trek for provisions very simple.

The St. Sebastien-Froissart Metro station is about 50 yards away. And yes, the Franco-Italian restaurent across the strret is microscopic but tasty.

If you are hunting remnants of the Templars in Paris, there's little of them left, apart from street names.

Follow Blvd. Beaumarchais north a few blocks, it changes names twice and becomes Blvd. du Temple. Hang a left at Place de la Republique and you'll stumble across Rue du Temple and a small park. The Templar's Paris preceptory stood here until after the Revolution. There's no sign of it today.

Jacques de Molay and Geoffroy de Charnay were sentenced in front of Notre Dame Cathedral on the Isle de la Cité, and were burned at the stake on what was then the tiny Ile aux Juifs (Island of the Jews) on the evening of March 18, 1314. It has since been connected to the Isle de la Cité, The spot is marked with two historical markers.

Yeah, we went to Disneyland Paris. Go ahead. Make something of it.

On the way while attempting to purchase tickets for the RER train to Marne Le Vallee, my ATM card refused to work in the automated ticket machine. France being France, there was no actual live human in the ticket window, and this only way to purchase a train ticket from Gare de Lyon to the top tourist attraction in Europe wouldn't take a US credit card or even paper Euros, as all the Metro machines would. Behind me was a Welsh expatriot who has lived in Paris for 15 years, who graciously offered to buy our tickets with his credit card.

What are the odds that a UK Freemason was in line ready to help us?

There is a Grand Architect of the Universe.

Have dinner at Le Procope, off of Blvd. St Germaine in the Rue de L'Ancienne Comedie. Founded in 1686, it is the oldest cafe in Paris, and where Voltaire, Danton, Robespierre, Marat and Benjamin Franklin hung out. It is said early Paris Masonic lodge meetings were held here. In fact, there's a Napoleon-style hat in a display case that has dangling from it a medal that looks awfully like a Master's square.

Friend and Brother Nathan will be amused to know I got flummoxed when daylight savings time occurred here Saturday night, when the rest of the world scheduled it properly as in past years, instead of the US doing it three weeks ago. Now we're back to being six hours ahead of home.

More as I think of it.

Illuminati Documents?

Looking for some help - or an idea for a graduate student in search of a project.

Does anyone know - have the published documents exposing Weishaupt and Knigge's Illuminati in Austria ever been translated into English? The Bavarian government exposed their writings when the order was busted in 1787 under the title Einige Originalschriften des Illuminaten Ordens. But I can't seem to find an English version - sort of remarkable, given all of the caterwaul over the Illuminati ever since Robison's and the Abbé Barruel's wild-eyed claims, and the subsequent hysteria that has found new vigour on the Intertubes.

The Trouble With Jesters

There has been much "who-shot-john" going on over at The Burning Taper for the last few weeks over the reporting of scandals involving the Shrine's Royal Order of Jesters. The Jesters are an invitation-only group within Shrinedom whose motto is "mirth is king," and is considered by some to be an inner circle within the organization. I'll leave you to discover the BTs blog entries on your own for the details, but there are at least two major investigations going on concerning the group involving prostitution and violation of the federal Mann Act.

On the one hand, for anyone to say they are shocked - shocked! - to discover Shriners having anything to do with prostitutes is intellectually disingenuous. Shriners, strippers and hookers have been keeping each other company for over a century. And while some of us can sit in the parlor and tsk over it being antithetical to the tenets of Freemasonry (which it is), the Babbitry of the past, combined with the Shrine's post-WWII excesses, has been institutionalized by both the Shrine and the public's perception. Lest anyone forget George Carlin's punctuating 1976 punch line, "Drink up, Shriners." Or 1960's "Bye Bye Birdie's" musical number in which a group of Shriners think a young lady straying into their dinner is the stripper for the evening. There is no wonder that a certain percentage of men who join the Shrine have specifically come looking for the Shrine they've heard about. They are looking for the secret society that has the strippers and the hookers and the county sheriff guarding the door who sees they get home okay. Not all men join the Shrine out of the altruism of helping crippled kids. I actually had a man try to sell me on Shrine membership by saying, "You can drink all night for five bucks, and besides, we un-f***-up the crippled kids!"

Something slightly less than the Masonic ideal.

After the Shrine parade in Salt Lake City on St. Patrick's day, about a dozen of us fez-wearing loud-mouths (all perfectly sober, I might add) drove to the suburbs to get their 1939 Yellowstone tour bus weighed at the local truck stop. Some Shrines get drunk and bring in the strippers. Salt Lake City guys get their bus weighed. It was bitter cold, and we drove through town acting like, well, Shriners, with the top down, yelling what we thought were zingers to pedestrians, and generally lowering the property values. You know, the stuff guys generally do as teenagers, and living up to the mission of putting some of the boy back into the man. At the truck stop, I had one of those defining moments, curiously. A man perhaps in his twenties came out and said he wanted to shake the hand of every Shriner in that bus. He had received free care from the Salt Lake Shrine Hospital as a child that had allowed him to walk.

So the Shrine is a conundrum to me. The hospitals are among the finest philanthropic missions in this country. And if they get paid for by grownups who sometimes act like high school imbeciles, well, maybe society needs to loosen its corset a bit.

On the other hand, I don't disagree with the sentiment of those who say that some of the Shrine's institutionalized excesses are at odds with Freemasonry's tenets of morality. I suspect that argument has gone on since the 1870s when the teetotalers found out the Knickerbocker boys were sopping it up in town because the Methodists threw the booze out of the lodge.

But on a larger level, these guys are living in the past. The stock 1920-50s characters of sad-faced George Babbitts, Willy Lomans and Crazy Guggenheims lined up at the bar, comparing lodge pins, pinching waitresses and sneaking out on the wife have largely passed on to the choir invisible. Such outlets of middle-class frustrations may have been a staple of the pre- and post-WWII culture, but it has not been embraced by the children of the Baby Boomers. It is arguable that men don't step out on their wives as much anymore, they just get divorced - or don't get married to begin with. Online porn and the Playboy Channel have brought voyeurism and private personal prurient gratification into the home. And STDs have helped to make the regular practice of playing rumpy-pumpy with professional girlz a less than harmless indiscretion. That hasn't stopped the business entirely, as Elliot Spitzer proved in New York by dropping 80-large to have his clock cleaned. But it's just not a wink-wink-nudge-nudge kind of activity in US society anymore. Which makes the activities of the Jesters not just un-masonic and illegal, but a sort of creepy anachronism for a group to be engaging in.

I don't have a problem with Brother Widow's Son posting the lurid details of the Jesters on his blog site. Thomas Hardy said, "If a way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst." And if a clot of idiots want to drag Freemasonry into the whorehouse by association and besmirch the fraternity by whoring it up with underage girls, they need to be exposed loudly, and their local Grand Master needs to give them the Order of the Boot. I'm not a Jester, and couldn't tell you what goes on at their gatherings with any degree of certainty. But I find it especially moronic and irresponsible for the Jesters to have an online shop selling tee-shirts featuring a cartoon Jester climbing a well endowed woman and burying his face in her ample balcony, in light of the current state and federal investigations into their behavior. If nothing else, it's a little like Bruno Hauptmann leaving the ladder outside of the Lindbergh house.

I keep coming back to the same conclusion over and over. The Shrine needs to split from Freemasonry. The two groups need to go their own way. I know there has been shrieking on both sides that such a split will kill membership on both sides, but I don't agree with that anymore. Men who believe in the aims of both organizations will continue to belong to both. The Shrine will be able to draw from a larger pool of potential recruits. And if Freemasonry returns to its pre-1843 roots, the way the rest of the Masonic universe has remained, combining its tavern-hall, social origins with its Enlightenment-era philosophy of tolerance and brotherhood, the two groups will get along just fine. The rest of the Masonic world never barred alcohol from the post-lodge experience, so they never had any need to create Shrines and Grottos to begin with. Outside of the US, it's common and perfectly respectable for the Master to announce, "the lodge is closed and the bar is open." There's no need to act like idiot children because they treat Masons like adults.

On another mailing list a Mason made the remark that those who were criticizing the Jesters had
"determined the length of another Brothers Cable Tow. I didn't realize that becoming a Mason meant that Christian Morality governed the fraternity. I believe that the then King David had many Concubines and for that matter plural wives. . . Did the brothers do something that in the 20th and 21st century is considered in inappropriate? Well according to the laws of the United States yes. When I used to hire a lot of Mexican workers many of these workers claimed that they were married. These workers were usually found out to be minors and yet they had children of their own with a young woman who was underage and they claimed to be husband and wife. Some of these young people were under the age of 16, now who's morality are you going to condemn these people with..."

If ever there was an argument for the Shrine to clean up its act, or to move away from Freemasonry, it's right there, in a sociopath's relativistic defense of hiring 13 year old prostitutes to live by the motto "mirth is king."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Save $$ During Last Days Of Dummies Month

I just looked on Amazon.com and noticed there are just a few days left in "Dummies Month." Sometimes the author is the last to know, but I don't mind tubthumping for the brand. And it's a way to save some cash from your book budget. Five bucks a book is a pretty sweet deal. But it's only good through March 31st.

Now's the time to spring for all of those Dummies books you've been needing, on every subject from scuba diving to Photoshop. Or in our case, multi-family housing management. Through March 31, 2008, you can receive a $5 mail-in manufacturer's rebate with the purchase of any Dummies book from Amazon priced $6.99 or higher. Choose from over 1,000 For Dummies books on hundreds of subjects in their Dummies store.

Here endeth the shameless plug.

Utah GM Glen Cook

On the heels of visiting Salt Lake City's Wasatch Lodge earlier this month, I noticed a long and complimentary article today in the Deseret Morning News about MWBro. Glen Cook, the 137th Grand Master of Utah, and the first Mormon GM of that state in a century.

The Grand Lodge of Utah prohibited LDS members from becoming Masons in 1925, and tensions between the two groups existed for decades. The ban was lifted in 1984.

From the article:

Cook said the fact that membership requires belief in a supreme being and a willingness to make obligations to fellow Masons through Masonic rituals and symbols that bear some limited similarity to LDS temple ceremonies also foster a misunderstanding of what the fraternity is, and is not.
"There is no question that elements of the (LDS temple) endowment and Masonic ritual are similar," Cook said. "The question for faithful Latter-day Saints is whether that makes a difference. I tend to be a rather concrete thinker."
For those who accept Joseph Smith as a prophet and believe he actually saw God and Jesus Christ in vision as a precursor to restoration of Christ's ancient church, "then the rest, I would suggest, should be a corollary" of that belief.
"I think sometimes we spend too much time worrying about issues that don't really matter to our salvation."
Nothing in LDS faith or practice precludes Latter-day Saints from becoming Masons, he said, though family and church obligations may limit the amount of time Mormon men can spend in other pursuits like Masonry.
"Freemasonry should be an adjunct to your faith and not a barrier to its exercise," Cook said. "I tell people that the only secrets we have are modes of recognition and the passwords. For those, you have to look on the Internet."
The "Encyclopedia of Mormonism" addresses questions about the faith's view of the fraternity, noting "the philosophy and major tenets of Freemasonry are not fundamentally incompatible with the teaching, theology and doctrines of the Latter-day Saints. Both emphasize morality, sacrifice, consecration and service, and both condemn selfishness, sin and greed. Furthermore, the aim of Masonic ritual is to instruct — to make truth available so that man can follow it."
The ritual resemblances between the two "are limited to a small proportion of actions and words," according to the encyclopedia, and "where the two rituals share symbolism, the fabric of meanings is different."
Cook said he sees signs within the Utah fraternity that a new openness is developing toward the community at large, and toward Latter-day Saints in particular, evidenced not only by his recent installation in ceremonies that were open to the public, but also in a willingness to acknowledge the faith in ways it hasn't previously been recognized.

Friday, March 28, 2008

National Association of Masonic Scouters

WBro. Jim Costello from Michigan reports the formation of the National Association of Masonic Scouters, which was first organized at the May 2007 Boy Scouts of America annual meeting in Atlanta. It is a national affinity group of Freemasons who are also registered Scouters.

They are developing a website, but they have set up a Yahoo group site here. Or contact Jim Costello by e-mail.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hodapps Attempt To Mitigate Gaul

Now that the new book is out, Alice and I will be swanning around France this week. Back on April 2nd so Alice doesn't miss her massive dental surgery the next morning.

My apologies to Tippecanoe Lodge in Lafayette, where I was supposed to speak April 3rd. - dentists move in their own time frame. I'll reschedule with you guys, I promise.

Shout out to friend, brother and Sir Knight Robert Coleman, one of the organizers of Levent Preceptory in Indianapolis, and our unit's armorer. There has apparently been a sale on massive thyroid blobs this year. Unlike mine, his was wrapped around his windpipe and had to be taken care of ASAP. He went through surgery yesterday, which gives me a coming attractions preview of mine next month. He reports 70 staples across his neck (great - we'll both look like a couple of EAs who couldn't keep from squealing), a three week recovery, and three months of discomfort. But the good news was his vocal cords weren't nicked. I'm hoping for the same kind of success.

Get well soon, Robert!

The bad news was they shaved his rather epic mustache and beard.

That's very bad news for this goiter boy. I haven't seen the skin on my chin for more than 25 years, and my upper lip for 30.

Here's your French tidbit of the day. If you first learned much of what you know of the world as I did, from Warner Brothers cartoons, you've undoubtedly heard the catchy tune that showed up anytime anything or anyone French made an entrance. Pepe le Pew usually was humming it as he strode into view. Well, it's a song from 1938 show, Gold Diggers In Paris, called "The Latin Quarter," sung by Rudy Vallee. Zow-ie!

So this is gay Paree ! Come on along with me
We're stepping out to see - the Latin Quarter
Put on your old beret - let's sing the Marseillaise
And put our wine away like water

We'll call on Medelon - she may be dead and gone,
But we can call upon - her darling daughter.
A lady named Diane - will do the French Can-Can,
If she don't use a fan, she ought'er

We'll watch an artist paint - He'll take a gal who ain't
And paint her as a saint - for just a quarter
She poses just for art - She does it from the heart
She does it à la carte - He taught'er

That gal from Armentières - Who's been around for years
Will show you souvenirs - the soldiers brought'er
Her postal cards they say - Were quite a bit risqué
They're not so hot today - they caught 'er.

Come on and
(Oo-la-la-la-la-la-la-la, Oo-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
(Par --------- lez -------
(Oo-la-la-la-la-la-la-la, Oo-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
(Fran --------- çais -------
(Oo-la-la-la-la-la-la-la, Oo-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
(Their --------- way -------
Oo-la-la-la. Comme si and comme c'a)
Cum si and cum s'ah)
That's all the Frenchmen sing - that's how they have their fling
That's how the Frenchmen swing - The Latin Quarter
They're fifty million strong - And they can't all be wrong
Let's all - oo-la-la-la - oo-la-la-la
Oo-la-la-la - Oo-la-la-la.

Monday, March 24, 2008

To The Brethren of Lawrenceville, Illinois

I had a fantastic Saturday in Bridgeport and Lawrenceville, Illinois with the southeastern Illinois York Rite. Many thanks to everyone who came out to Bridgeport Lodge, and dinner at Callahan's in the Lawrenceville Elk's Club.

Thanks especially to Bill Hussey, Most Excellent Grand High Priest Bruce Rhinehart, and John and Brad Koehler for their invitation and their warm welcome. And thanks of course to Ed Oliver for his Harry S Truman story...

It was great to see Chris and Toni Kimmel, and Burnell from Vincennes No. 1.

I also had the extraordinary honor of being made an honorary member of Henry Godeke Chapter No. 38 Royal Arch Masons.

Thanks to everyone for a wonderful evening.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Make Masonry A Conspiracy Again!

Author Paul Spinrad has a decidedly unorthodox outsider's view of Freemasonry's origins, changes and future. His article, Masonic Conspiracy Revealed! in the latest online issue of Make Magazine makes some observations I've never seen anywhere else.

"Occult institutions evolve out of professional guilds after they stop caring about how to actually build things. In every age, geeks gravitate to where the interesting action is, and in medieval Europe, this was the cathedral – the structure itself, the art, and the pipe organ inside."

Spinrad draws from Jean Gimpel's fascinating (and long out of print), The Cathedral Builders to explain how the "space race" during the High Gothic period that resulted in higher and higher vaults gave way to the uninventive Low Gothic period, when the speculative Masons lost the knowledge they once had to create the masterpieces of before (much the same way that NASA couldn't build another Saturn V rocket today). As the secret knowledge of the building trade slipped away, only the "secret" part remained - the signs, grips, words and rituals.

"Let's say you're an insider who knows some secret mumbo-jumbo. Promoting the belief to outsiders that your secrets have great power makes this belief self-fulfilling because it makes outsiders think you have something on them. The more mysterious and powerful these inside secrets seem, the more effective the hype becomes. Now, if you imagine running this secrets-as-status dynamic recursively, you get concentrically nested levels of power, a hierarchy that runs from complete outsider to innermost circle. Add the human imagination on both sides, and you spawn a thousand occult rituals and a thousand conspiracy theories."

Consider that everything from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Crowley's OTO, college fraternities, literally hundreds of fraternities that popped up in the 1800s, right down to the text messaging abbreviation for "secret (s33krit), all descended from the Masonic model.

Spinrad compares the "geeks" who became master masons during the Gothic period to the modern "makers" - the geeks who craft, invent and dabble in all things gizmotic like electronics, computers, and even hackers.

"Cities across America have beautiful Masonic lodge buildings sitting on prime downtown real estate. Lodge membership is graying, and many chapters have closed due to the lack of new members. I think this presents a grand opportunity. Let's start a new masonic Conspiracy! Let's take masonry back and convert it from speculative back to operative! Let's get all the 'makers' we know to become masons, and turn all those gorgeous, unused lodge buildings into temples of geekdom! Who's with me?"

West Virginia: The Saga Continues

West Virginia's PGM Frank Haas' address to the Philalethes Society Feast at Masonic Week in February has been published by the Society on its Yahoo mailing list, and I presume in the upcoming issue of the magazine.

Both The Burning Taper and Theron Dunn's Beacon Of Masonic Light have posted the speech, so I won't repeat it by taking up more bandwidth. Little needs to be added, as it speaks for itself.

Frank Haas is a gentle, kind man whose motives in trying to make changes in West Virginia were an effort to make things right in his state. The rules he sought to change were largely passed in the 1950s when, by simply reading them, it is clear there was a turf war going on between the Grand Lodge and the appendant bodies. Those were very different times. Frank tried to drag West Virginia Freemasonry into the new century, or at least up to the back end of the last one.

West Virginia Masons who are sharing their stories on the Masonic Crusade website are telling tales of secret letters to Masters warning them not to so much as allow the topics of Haas and his reforms to be spoken of in lodge, along with unannounced surprise visits by the GM. Sad days indeed for the greatest, oldest and most respected gentlemen's fraternity in the world.

Nelson King, editor of the Philalethes Society magazine, has sent Grand Master Montgomery three letters asking if he wished to rebut or respond to PGM Haas' remarks. So far, no response has been made. That is classic, old school, old fashioned grand lodge style, not to air dirty linen in public. I don't expect GM Montgomery will ever respond publicly to the situation. But the world is a very different place now, and you're sitting way too close and staring into the glowing lavender reason why. What Grand Masters do is no longer kept secret anymore, and their actions - along with incidents in individual lodges - are shot round the world in no time flat.

As young Masons, older ones, and most important, the men who will be leading their lodges now or in the future get more and more connected to the Internet, the Masonic world gets tinier and tinier. Electronic friendships get made, stories get circulated, and suddenly a GM's edicts and actions get scrutinized more thoroughly than ever before. So getting leadership right is more important than ever. Masons are now, and will continue, holding their leaders to a higher standard than ever before. And more and more young Masters of lodges are grumbling and working to make sure grand lodge elections really are elections, and not just the advancement of hand-picked anointed appointments. Jurisdictions that have operated as advancing freight trains may not have such a certain future when Masons across a state can converse privately and instantly.

In the end, that will be good for Freemasonry. We need to be selecting the best leadership we can find, and not just rewarding buddies for knowing the right people.

I continue to hope that MWBro. Montgomery has the honor to bring legislation to the floor in West Virginia to propose Frank Haas' 2006 agenda with individual votes, and let those issues pass or fail on their own merits. We shall see. October is not far off.

New Mexico Masons Take Over Clovis, NM

Remember back when Grand Lodge annual communications were big enough news to actually be covered in the local paper?

Well, not in my hometown, and not in my memory.

But the Grand Lodge of New Mexico's meeting in Clovis on Friday will be the biggest convention they've ever had in the Clovis Civic Center, according to cnjonline.com

(Photo: Grand Master Arthur Tunnell)

Monday, March 17, 2008

The "X" Zone Radio Show March 17th

Tuesday, March 18th will be the anniversary of the burning of Jacques de Molay at the stake in Paris in 1314, and the end of the medieval Order of the Knights Templar.

Brother Stephen Dafoe ("Nobly Born") and I will be joining host Rob McConnell on the 'X' Zone Radio Show, Monday March 17th, between 9PM and 10PM, Pacific Time (midnight to 1 AM Eastern)

The show is heard on the TalkStar Radio Network throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. The 'X' Zone is also available via TalkStar Radio streaming audio at www.xzone-radio.com and then clicking on the red flashing "ON AIR."

New UGLE Recognitions and University Lodges

At its Quarterly Communication held on 12 March 2008, the United Grand Lodge of England resolved that recognition be accorded to:

* The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas (That's Squire Bentley's GL)
* The National Grand Lodge of Romania
* The Grand Lodge of Congo
* The Grand Lodge of Bosnia and Herzegovina

In looking at the UGLE site today, another item caught my eye. The United Grand Lodge of England runs a program promoting and encouraging Freemasonry among students and staff at universities around the country.

Bath: St Alphege Lodge No. 4095

Birmingham: University of Birmingham Lodge No. 5268

Bristol: Saint Vincent Lodge No. 1404

Cambridge: Isaac Newton University Lodge No. 859

Durham: Universities Lodge No. 2352

Exeter: Lodge of St Peter in Exeter No. 5806

Manchester: Old Mancunians' Lodge No. 3140

Oxford: Apollo University Lodge No. 357

Sheffield: University Lodge, Sheffield No. 3911

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Visit To Wasatch lodge No. 1, Salt Lake City

I had a fantastic time in Salt Lake City. The brethren of Wasatch Lodge No. 1, the officers of the Grand Lodge of Utah and MWBro. Glen Cook were more than generous, and extremely courteous to this Dummy. Most important, they are having fun, educating their members, getting along with each other, and practicing their Masonic principles every day. When I visit a lodge like this, I feel like I'm preaching to the choir, because they are getting it right.

Wasatch Lodge itself has an energetic and eclectic group. I was encouraged by the large percentage of brethren under 40, along with the older brethren who were every bit as excited, dedicated, and engaged.

The Salt Lake City Masonic Temple is a magnificent facility, built in 1929. The brethren have cared for it and have much to be proud of.

Brother Jason Varner was an outstanding guide and host, who took me on a tour of the Mormon Temple Square, along with pointing out the many other sights of the city. I'd never been to Salt lake City, and highly recommend it.

One of the unusual locations was Gilgal, a local park that was once a private sculpture garden. Local sculptor John Childs Jr. had created this unusual garden in his backyard, featuring biblical and Book of Mormon quotes, religious and inspirational scenes carved from massive stones. The centerpiece is a large sculpture of himself, complete with pants made of brick. And there's a massive stone sculpture of Prophet Joseph Smith's head on the body of a sphinx. There's a peculiar "Elvis on black velvet" kitschiness to the whole thing, made especially mind boggling by the fact that just moving these giant boulders around his backyard took the help of ten guys and a crane before he could even get started carving his, er, vision.

Saturday was my first participation in a Shrine Parade, much less a St. Patrick's Day parade. I chose to forego driving a little car, opting instead for riding in the biggest one I could find: the El Kalah Shrine's 1939 Yellowstone Park tour bus, with an open canvas roof. A Yellowstone bus wouldn't be complete without its own big fuzzy bear waving from the back, but it was also packed beyond its capacity with waving, screaming, fez-headed Shriners, looking like we were just seconds from a tragic bus plunge accident. It also wasn't a heat wave in Salt Lake City. John rode all the way back from the parade route on the top of the roof ledge, and I suspect won't be able to feel his face for weeks to come. Kudos to brother Adam Weiss, who was, in the words of Rainman, "an excellent driver."

Accommodations at the Alta Club were outstanding. Lunch at Lamb's Grill was fantastic. I've never in my life heard of beer called Polygamy Porter before. It was great being with brethren like Reed Fanning, who I never get to see except when we're both in Washington for Masonic Week. And everyone, from the lodge and the Shrine, to the terrific kids from the Job's Daughters who served up corned beef and cabbage after the parade, was great fun to be with.

Again, many, many thanks to Bros. Jason Varner, John Liley, Jason Mitchell, MWBro. Glen Cook and all of the brethren. And a special note of thanks to Brother Lucky Tuck for the gifts you created. You are a true treasure within Wasatch Lodge and Utah Freemasonry.

I hope all of our paths will cross again soon.

Templar Commandery Not Responsible For Soldier's Death, But Questions Remain

U.S. Army Specialist Donald Anthony Wilder was found dead in his barracks in January 8, 2006, after a night of severe hazing while joining a Prince Hall Knights Templar Commandery in Mannheim, Germany. Today, more than two years later, the Army has released the details of its investigation. The story is spread across four articles in Stars and Stripes. Stars and Stripes has a paid circulation of more than 200,000 in 37 countries, plus its presence on the Internet.

At the time, Wilder was a member Perfect Square Lodge No. 88 in Mannheim, chartered by the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington and Jurisdiction.

On Jan. 7, 2006, three soldiers — one of whom was Spc. Donald Anthony Wilder — were initiated into the Knights Templar group in Mannheim. The soldiers were blindfolded and consented to being paddled on their buttocks during the ceremony. After the ceremony and celebratory drinking at Mannheim bars, Wilder was found dead in a barracks shower. His cause of death was deemed alcohol poisoning.

Andrew Morgan Commandery #9 Officers in November 2005 - from their website

According to one article, Andrew Morgan Commandery No. 9 of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington and Jurisdiction, had its officers removed from their positions as a result of the incident.

Prior to the incident, Wilder had told his parents that he had been warned of the beatings, and that it was his intention to get so drunk beforehand that he would either not feel it, or be so drunk that others might take the brunt of the hazing. Details of the Templar initiation are given in another article outlining the timeline of Wilder's activities up to his death.
7 p.m.: The ceremony starts when nine Masons and the three initiates, including Wilder, are present.

7-10 p.m.: The candidates are taught about the Knights Templar. At some point in the ceremony, the initiates go outside the gym to drink the “five libations,” which involves sipping liquor from a cup. The initiates are outside in front of the high school and asked by a civilian Mason if they want to leave or not be paddled. All three say they would be hit. They are blindfolded, told to take off their shirts, pants and shoes and brought inside the gym to “walk a line.”

The line consists of Masons paddling or “touching” the initiates with wooden paddles, ranging in size from 6-by-8 inches to 4-by-15 inches.

“I think (Wilder) was hit about 20 times,” according to the statement of a sergeant in Wilder’s unit whose name was redacted from the investigation report. “I know one time he was hit one (sic) in the right leg. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but I think he saw it coming and moved out of the way.”

A specialist from Wilder’s unit said he hit him a few times along with other people.

“The line was sort of like a staggered line — you walk down one line, turn and walk down another line,” according to the specialist’s statement to investigators. “As the person walks down the line, he is hit with the paddle two times. Spc. Wilder walked through the line and was hit with the paddle. Only four or five people hit Spc. Wilder with the paddle.”

The paddling lasts three to four minutes, after which Wilder says his last obligation, finishing the ceremony.

10 p.m.: The ceremony ends.

“After the ceremony was over, Spc. Wilder was happy he finished, happy he was a Sir Knight, but at the same time, he seemed a little sad he was leaving Germany,” according to the statement of a staff sergeant present at the ceremony. “He was giving everyone his e-mail address so we could stay in touch with him. Spc. Wilder even hugged most everyone who was there.”

Ten days later, the staff sergeant is shown a photograph of Wilder’s injuries and asked by investigators if the paddling was excessive. The staff sergeant replies: “A little, yeah.”

The investigator then asks the staff sergeant, based on the photo, how many times he thought Wilder was hit.

“More than 10,” the staff sergeant answers. “It also depends on your complexion. It does look bad.”

Photos taken of Wilder’s body in the barracks where he was found show large bruises and scrapes to his buttocks, thighs and scrotum. An autopsy report confirmed the injuries were present, but that they did not contribute to his death.

Instead, the Army ruled that Brother Wilder died of alcohol poisoning the next morning, after a night of drinking in downtown Mannheim, celebrating his initiation. Apparently, he had a past history of binge drinking and had referred himself for alcohol treatment several months befpre. Wilder drank so much that he passed out more than once in the course of the evening, and when he returned to the barracks, he passed out again in the shower. He was found in the same position the next morning, dead.

According to another article,
Based on their knowledge of what happened during the nearly two-year investigation, CID agents sought charges of aggravated assault, cruelty, maltreatment and dereliction of duty for those involved.

Army lawyers ruled out charges of negligent homicide and aggravated assault because Wilder consented to the paddling and the paddling injuries did not lead to his death. Officers also ruled out charging those involved with conspiracy, obstruction of justice or false official statement because those offenses were linked to the Masonic initiation and not Wilder’s death. . .

Among the three soldiers punished, on Aug. 16, 2006, the staff sergeant was reduced to sergeant, which was suspended; ordered to forfeit $1,385 a month for two months, which was suspended; restricted for 45 days, which was suspended; ordered to perform extra duties for 45 days; and received a written reprimand.

On Aug. 9, 2006, the sergeant was reduced to specialist, which was suspended; ordered to forfeit $1,136 a month for two months, which was suspended; restricted for 45 days, which was suspended; ordered to perform extra duty for 45 days; and received a written reprimand.

On the same day, the specialist was reduced to private first class, ordered to forfeit $846, restricted for 45 days and ordered to perform extra duty for 45 days. His fine of $846 was suspended.

Wilder's family does not believe the investigation exonerates the Templar group, which is still operating. His parents are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved in the incident. They have set up an e-mail address to receive tips in the case.

His mother Diana Wilder is quoted as saying, “If this is the last thing I do, I’m going to find out what happened.”

Members and officers of Perfect Square Lodge No. 88 in Manheim, Germany, shown in 2005-6.

According to its website, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington and Jurisdiction includes Canada, England, Germany, Iceland, Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey, Guam, Republic of Korea, Okinawa and Mainland Japan and the Republic of Philippines. With very few exceptions (the GL of Massachusetts being a notable one, with lodges in the Panama Canal zone, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and elsewhere), mainstream grand lodges have not established military lodges in foreign countries. Masonry that is often discovered by US servicemen overseas are the PHA military lodges, such as those established by the MWPHGL of Washington. Perfect Square Lodge was chartered in 1991.

In a letter issued January 18, 2006 by MWBro. Wendell O. Hutchings, then Grand Master of the MNWPHGL of Washington, he stated the following:

"Be it hereby known and acknowledged that there will be no hazing or un-Masonic conduct of any sort tolerated during degree work within the Jurisdiction of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington and Jurisdiction. Any such behavior that is determined to be inappropriate will be dealt with swiftly and unequivocally per our code on un-Masonic conduct."

I hope MWBro. Harden M. Keys, Jr., current Grand Master of the MWPHGL of Washington takes the opportunity of the release of the Army's investigation to again deal sternly and publicy with the issue.

While I cannot speak to the ceremonies practiced in Prince Hall Commanderies, I can say without hesitation that the above account in no way describes what goes on in a mainstream Knights Templar ceremony. Perhaps it is a culture that has sprung up in some Prince Hall military lodges, or perhaps it is peculiar to some Prince Hall jurisdictions. I have seen online ads for Masonic, and even Eastern Star (!) paddles, and there is no place for anything of the kind in mainstream Freemasonry. Men shouldn't get beaten to become Masons or Templars, and I can't think of a reasonable excuse why any Master or Commander would condone it. In mainstream Freemasonry, it would be a punishable offense.

That said, I've seen firsthand during a PHA EA degree the notion that the candidate was "duly and truly prepared" meant he was punched in the chest full blast by the WM while blindfolded, after he had been told to fear no danger. And after the obligation, he had his face ground into the Holy Bible by the SD, the friend and brother he was told to trust, and was cheered on by the brethren to "kiss it like you love it, kiss it like its your ho'!" I frankly found the the situation offensive in the extreme. I can't for the life of me figure out just what lessons these acts are supposed to be teaching.

If it is a rare circumstance, that needs to be addressed. But if hazing is widespread in Prince Hall Masonry, I think that needs to be revealed as well. Freemasonry is not some college-style 'puking and paddling' fraternity. And even though the Commandery in question has been legally exonerated from responsibility for Brother Wilder's tragic and unnecessary death, the stain on the whole fraternity remains.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

One Vote Can Make A Difference

Today's lesson in civics and community involvement. And perhaps best illustrating how 'all politics is local.' From the Associated Press:
No voters showed up Wednesday night to cast a ballot in an annexation referendum for an unincorporated Broward County community.

There are 68 registered voters in the 200-person Prospect Bend neighborhood. Tamarac officials have proposed annexing the neighborhood.

Details were mailed to registered voters. If just one voter had shown up, that one vote would have decided the neighborhood's fate.

The cost of keeping a polling site open for 12 hours with no voters: $2,500.

New NY Governor David Paterson A Freemason

The situation involving New York's resigning governor Eliot Spitzer and his $80,000 traipse through Eros' garden gives way to a new beginning for the state.

Far more optimistic hopes are had for soon-to-be Governor, David Paterson. Along with becoming New York's first African-American governor, and being legally blind, Brother David Paterson is a member of Boyer Lodge #1, of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York. Thanks to Brother Rashied Sharrieff-Al-Bey for the news.

While the circumstances are most unfortunate, it is encouraging for New Yorkers that Bro. Paterson is well respected by Democrats and Republicans alike.

From the Lt. Governor's site:

Elected to represent Harlem in the New York State Senate in 1985, David Paterson has demanded and achieved change at every level, not simply by what he stands for but by who he is.

In 2002, David Paterson was elected minority leader of the New York State Senate, the first non-white legislative leader in New York’s history. In 2004 in Boston, he became the first visually impaired person to address a Democratic National Convention. And 2006 saw Mr. Paterson make history again by being elected New York’s first African-American lieutenant governor.

As New York State Senate minority leader, David Paterson led the charge on several crucial issues for New York’s future, proposing legislation for a $1 billion voter-approved stem cell research initiative, demanding a statewide alternative energy strategy, insisting on strong action to fight against domestic violence, and serving as the primary champion for minority- and women-owned businesses in New York. As a result, Governor Spitzer asked Mr. Paterson to continue to lead New York State on these issues as lieutenant governor.

Lt. Governor Paterson, who is legally blind, is also nationally recognized as a leading advocate for the visually and physically impaired. A graduate of Columbia University and Hofstra Law School, Mr. Paterson also currently serves as an adjunct professor at Columbia’s School for International and Public Affairs. David Paterson lives in Harlem with his wife, Michelle, and their two children, Ashley and Alex, and he is the son of Basil Paterson, the first non-white secretary of state of New York and the first African-American vice-chair of the national Democratic Party.

Congratulations to our brother, and best wishes for the job ahead.

Boyer Lodge No. 1 was established in 1812 and is the oldest continuously operating Prince Hall lodge in the world. Located in Harlem, the lodge is named in honor of Haitian soldier-statesman Jean Pierre Boyer, who later became the first president of Haiti after their war of liberation from France. In the 1820s, Boyer Lodge and two others for free blacks in New York that had been chartered by Prince Hall's African Lodge in Massachusetts, formed what was then called the "Boyer Grand Lodge," for the state of New York. After the schism over the National Compact in the 1840s, the lodges descended from, or aligned with, Boyer Lodge eventually came together to form what is today the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York.

WBro. Walter S. Cook III, Past Master of Apollo-King Solomon's Lodge No. 13 of the Grand Lodge of New York has reported that Brother Paterson has requested the use of St. John's Lodge No. 1's famous "Washington Bible" for his swearing in ceremony, and that the request was granted.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Indiana Medieval Recreation Group To Confer Templar Orders April 12th

From the Indiana supplement to the March 2008 Knight Templar Magazine:

Fourteenth-century Europe comes to Indiana Orders in period costume at Indiana Masonic Home
by Ed Sebring

All Sir Knights are invited to see the Orders of Knights Templary conferred “in the fullest possible form” by members of Levant Preceptory dressed in the arms and armor of the 13th and 14th centuries.

The “Knight Templar Festival” will begin with the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross at 10 a.m. EST on Satur-day, April 12, in back by the barn at the Indiana Masonic Home in Franklin. Lunch will be served at noon at the shelter house with grills, followed by the Order of Malta and the Mediterranean Pass at 1 p.m. The Order of the Temple is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.

Finally, a “medieval feast” will be served at 6 p.m. Total cost for both meals is $25, a portion of which will go toward a project for Masonic Home residents. Reservations should be made through SK Mike Ritter, Deputy Battalion Commander, mdritter@comcast.net, or 4504 N. Ball Ave, Muncie, IN 47304

So why is the Grand Commandery of Indiana sponsoring such a conferral?

“Last year the York Rite did a one-day class in April and it was a success,” said Grand Commander Andrew R. Jackson. “I wanted something special for this year and we have the Levant folks up to speed and they wished to confer the Order of the Temple.

“I’ve served on the IMH Board for many years and my wife works there, and I thought it only fitting to bring Templary to our Home. I have the petition from the IMH Chaplain and have been promised one from the new IMH CEO, John Rose.

“Indiana Templary can grow with fine events such as this one. Keeping the interest of the times and changing ages of our current and new members should be at the forefront of our Grand Commandery leadership. The York Rite is on the move with the many programs and members working to increase our member-ship This event has good basic entertainment for all who will attend.”

The “Levant folks” are the members of Levant Preceptory, a group of Hoo-sier Sir Knights who haves invested hundreds of dollars of their own money to acquire Norman-style helmets, chain mail, swords and clothing as the crusading Knights Templar would have worn 700 years ago. The Levant is the crescent of land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, and “preceptory” is the name our Canadian brethren use for their local units instead of “commandery.” The reenactors adopted that name to indicate the time and place they are trying to re-enact, and to indicate they are an organized group but not a separate commandery.

Members of Levant Preceptory marched in costume during this past IMH pilgrimage. Their first performance was Oct. 13 in Shelbyville, a day that was precisely 700 years after the arrest of the crusading Knights Templar on trumped- up charges of heresy. In a darkened room, the Levantines spoke as our spiritual Knight Templar ancestors might have spoken, about their fears for their future and how they would react personally to the news of the arrests. But in previous interviews, officials of Levant Preceptory said it was their dearest wish to get to portray the Orders on candidates in period costume. Now they have that chance.

"We're very excited about finally having a firm date to confer the Order of the Temple for the first time as a group,” said SK James Dillman, director of work for Levant Preceptory. “I wouldn't describe what I'm feeling as pressure and we're certainly not scared; responsibility is probably a better word. We owe it to the candidates to properly convey the lessons of the Order of the Temple and I'm confident that we'll do just that. We're taking our work very seriously. Our experience in Shelbyville taught
us that people are very excited about seeing us in the period costumes, so that adds an element of fun for us as well.” At this point, Dillman expects 17 Sir Knights to appear in period costume to confer the Orders on April 12.

“We're going to have to make a few very minor adjustments because of the broadswords and the equipment we'll be wearing,” Dillman said. “We'll be rehearsing a couple of times in March and will do a full dress rehearsal on Friday night before the festival.”

Monday, March 10, 2008

Grand Lodge of the Czech Republic

The Grand Lodge of the Czech Republic has released the following announcement.

Prague, 8th March 2008

Grand Lodge of the Czech Republic

During an impressive festive Grand Lodge meeting which took place on 8 th March 2008 at the historical site of the Strahov monastery, attended by the Grand Masters of Germany, Austria and Poland and eleven official delegations from foreign Grand Lodges, the Brethren and Lodges previously under the Czech Grand Orient (Veliký Orient Èeský) were formally integrated into the Grand Lodge of the Czech Republic. Lodge Humanizmus, in Bratislava until now directly under the Grand Orient of France was also included.

A District Grand Lodge of Slovakia was constituted during the same meeting, being the final step before the constitution of the Grand Lodge of Slovakia

Freemasonry in the Czech and Slovak Republics counts now about 450 members spread over 20 lodges.

The Masonic Order was first introduced in Bohemia during the mid 18th century, but remained prohibited during the entire 19th century under the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. After World War I and the creation of the Czechoslovak state, Freemasonry developped rapidly during the 1st Republic period counting prominent members such as the painter A. Mucha, President Edward Benes and Minister Jan Masaryk.

Freemasonry was again banned and its members persecuted under the Nazi and Communist regimes.

The 1989 Velvet Revolution was the beginning of a new era of freedom and development. This date coincides with the rebirth of Freemasonry in Czechoslovakia.

The Grand Lodge of the Czech Republic is in amity with 155 masonic Grand Lodges worldwide.

West Virginia: The Continuing Crisis

More troubles (if that's possible) are turning up in West Virginia, it seems. According to the Masonic Crusade website, brethren who present papers in open lodge that so much as echo the perspectives of suspended Past Grand Master Frank Haas are engaging in un-Masonic conduct. Further, a letter sent to Worshipful Masters by current Grand Master Charles Montgomery warns them of his view concerning such papers, but admonishes that Masters are forbidden to read this warning letter in open lodge or to show it to anyone. Masters around the state are reportedly afraid to even mention the letter to their lodges.

It is difficult to divine the truth from WV Masons at this point, as many feel threatened over any internet communication whatsoever. But it is clear that the standoff between the GM and supporters of Frank Haas has not cooled. In the end, that's bad for Freemasonry in West Virginia. The old school belief that what happens behind a GM's closed office doors stays there is no longer true, and the Internet can send details of such situations around the world in seconds. Likewise, when WV Masons compare their laws to the jurisdictions across the country and seek to make changes, ignoring or threatening them won't work forever.

A vow to the Masons of West Virginia to reintroduce the rule changes of MWBro. Haas individually so proper votes can be taken in October would go a long way to start re-building bridges. Such action would take bravery and the abandonment of some ego for the greater good. Such are the qualities of strong leadership. The Masonic world continues to watch.

Andreas Önnerfors' Inaugural lecture at Sheffield Freemasonry Centre

The Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the UK's University of Sheffield will host a public lecture on Thursday, March 13, 2008 by Dr. Andreas Önnerfors. The lecture will take place at 5:15 pm at the Douglas Knoop Centre, 34 Gell Street, Sheffield, England.

The Centre was established in 2001, with Professor Andrew Prescott as its founding director. This lecture will be Dr. Önnerfors' first as the Centre's new director.

The establishment of freemasonry in Great Britain and Europe runs parallel to the development of Enlightenment culture. As many historians have pointed out, this period is characterised by the emerge of new forms of sociability and social space. Reinhart Koselleck speaks about 'the secret' and 'the public' as a 'twin pair' of Enlightenment. The secret in the sense of a new private space (where freemasonry and other fraternal organisations have a given place) and the public (especially the press) have been analysed as two fields with few interrelations. But when it comes to the analysis of freemasonry, this distinction is
blurred. Not only is freemasonry vastly treated in the very special and popular genre of exposures, it emerged also as a standard topic of 18th century journals, magazines and newspapers both in the centres and peripheries of European enlightenment. How private was the secret and how secret was the public? At the end of the 18th century there is even the development towards the first purely masonic journals in Europe with 'Journal für Freymaurer' (Vienna, 1784-1787) as the pioneer and 'Freemason?s Magazine'(London, 1793-1797) as the second example. This lecture will for the first time ever explore the content of these two major journals in a comparative perspective. Despite of the differences in time, language and place of their edition, these two journals have many features in common. They are also an interesting source for the analysis of European thought at the dawn of the French revolution and in its direct aftermath. Freemasonry as a topic in 18th-Century journals is on the interface between the private and the public.

For further information and registration please contact:
crf@sheffield.ac.uk or call 0114-222 9890

New World Order Comic

It was, I suppose, inevitable. New World Order is a new 3-book set of comics from Image Comics/Shadowline, and from the descriptions, it pulls in every conspiracy theory under the sun: alien spacecraft, shape-shifting lizards, a shadowy secret society fronted by the Masons that controls world government, banking, media and who gets to park in all of the handicapped spaces. It appears the author, Gustavo Higuera, has mined everything from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and David Icke's hallucinations to Freemasonrywatch and PrisonPlanet.

According to Newsarama.com,
The main character of Max is based upon the real life Jordan Maxwell, a lecturer and documentary filmmaker who is referred to as the Godfather of Secret Societies. Maxwell has led a movement to expose the so-called New World Order and its leaders.

In the comic, this revolutionary movement takes the form of the Third Army who engages in non-violent acts against these bureaucracies which gets them labeled as terrorists. Writer Gustavo Higuera also uses real life characters in his story such as Dr. Roger Leir, a Surgeon and UFO researcher who claims to have removed implants from alien abductees. Higuera throws so much at the reader in the first issue; many characters, different time periods that the story ends up being somewhat fragmented.

Image Comics/Shadowline are the same folks who brought you The Mice Templar and Goatsucker, in case you were wondering.

I wasn't.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Buckingham Palace Bedlam Over "Royal Household Lodge"

Masons who are members of Britain's Royal Household – the staff and security members of Buckingham Palace – are forming a new Masonic Lodge, but it seems Her Majesty has a bee under her crown over it.

The Daily Mail reports that the intention to call it The Royal Household Lodge, and to adapt the royal cipher EIIR for use on the lodge's regalia has caused some heartburn around the palace. They intend to draw Masons from Royal residences including Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Clarence House and St James's Palace.

The Queen's cousin, the Duke of Kent, is the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, but Freemasonry is still regarded with great suspicion by much of British society. As a result, the palace is determined to prevent the lodge from using Queen Elizabeth's EIIR and from calling itself the "royal" anything, since use of the Royal Household title and any related symbols require official permission.

Angry officials clearly feel the new lodge's proposed name is the last thing the Palace needs at a time when it is trying to be seen as more modern and open.

Last night, a spokesman for the Queen said: “Buckingham Palace has not, and would not, endorse this sort of arrangement. No permission has been given by the Palace for a Buckingham Palace lodge or anything similar.

“If permission is sought, it will be declined.”

The founding of the lodge has also alarmed some Royal staff who do not wish to be associated with the fraternity famed for bizarre initiation rites, mystical regalia and mysterious codes of conduct.

It is also likely to cause consternation among career women in the Palace, as it is a men-only organisation.

Non-members in Royal service are said to be fearful they will be overlooked for prestigious promotions and left unsupported in any below-stairs clashes.

The usual hysteria is flacked by the article. The BBC's go-to guy on all matters anti-Masonic, Martin Short, author of the sensationalistic screed 1998's Inside The Brotherhood, is quoted as saying, "It's a catastrophic time to start such a lodge, given all the problems facing the Royal Family at present." His book is cited in the article as having "exposed Masonic practices in the U.K." Well, I suppose, in the same way Clifford Irving "exposed" Howard Hughes. Except that Short's tripe wound up coinciding with a high-profile investigation by Home Secretary Jack Straw into the supposed influence of Masonry on the police and judiciary that spent lots of money, spilled a lot of ink, and found essentially nothing. THAT kind of exposure. The difference was Irving did two and a half years in the slammer for his lies, while Short got a regular BBC consulting gig every time the topic of the Masons comes up. But I digress.

A "Palace Insider" is quoted,
“There's a lot of consternation and rightly so. People fear a lot of business will now be conducted behind closed doors so that those who don't sign up to Freemasonry can't have any effect on it.

“They are concerned that Masons will be preferred and those who aren't Masons will be written out of the script.

“Backstairs life is already complicated enough – there are all sorts of allegiances and cliques and cabals. People fall in and out of favour and there's a lot of whispering in ears.

“The last thing the household needs is a secret society, especially one with the reputation of Freemasonry.”

The "reputation" of Freemasonry? Oh come now. I guess that makes the Duke of Kent a nefarious underworld kingpin.

Royal Household Lodge was granted a warrant by the UGLE last June, and barring regal pronouncements to the contrary, will be consecrated May 19th at London's Freemason Hall. The notion was conceived by current and past members of the Royalty Protection Squad, and the lodge is estimated to have approximately 70 members. The May celebration will involve 300 brethren, followed by dinner at London's spectacular Lincoln's Inn, one of the four ancient Inns of Court.