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


Sunday, May 24, 2009


Alice and I are in Paris this week, then on to Edinburgh for the International Conference on the History of Freemasonry.

So far, Alice has cracked her laptop screen, I got in a fight with a waiter over being served Whiskas en croûte (if you're going to serve me cat food, at least don't burn the crust to a crisp), and we're both doubled over this afternoon after having mistakenly purchased mineral water with a "micro-dose" of Magnesia and drinking it all day yesterday (what marketing genius thought up THIS stupid product?). Trying to wash it out of our systems now with copious amounts of St. Julien bordeaux.

Saturday, I picked up a wonderful print of the Knights Templar tower in 1793 shortly before it was torn down, and a porcelain Limoges Masonic box. Almost made up for the dinner.

Yes, I know. If you want home cooking, stay home.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Grand Lodge of Indiana - Alcohol Amendment, and Degree of Choice Enacted

I couldn't be there today, but congratulations and many thanks to Jeffrey P. Zaring, the immediate Past Grand Master of Indiana, for an outstanding year in the East. Indiana Masons have accomplished many things under his watch this past year, and it has truly been exciting.

Including this. News just in from the floor of the annual communication: the amendment allowing temple associations to rent their facilities to groups with proper licensing to serve alcohol at their events has PASSED. Sanity is slowly returning to Indiana Freemasonry, and this marks an historic move forward. Our temples now have the opportunity to rent their facilities to wedding receptions, fundraisers and other gatherings that properly serve liquor at their functions, and we now have the chance to become a stronger, more vibrant and more visible part of our communities. And the increased use of our buildings means more income to save struggling temples.

This has been a long uphill struggle for those of us involved in saving our architectural treasures.

Additionally, Indiana lodges may now open their business meetings on the degree of their choice, so EAs and FCs may attend. This, too, is a huge leap forward (or backward, as the case may be, to the days prior to 1843).

Congratulations are in order for our new Grand Master Charles F. Marlowe, who is being installed in the auditorium of Indiana Freemasons' Hall. This is the first installation of a Grand Master in that historic hall since 1963. I am truly looking forward to a fantastic year with Chuck at the helm.

It's another great day for Freemasonry in Indiana.
Grand Lodge is dead.
Long live Grand Lodge!

Masonic Education in the Canadian Rockies in April 2010

Brother Randy Williams of Jasper Lodge No. 14 in Edmonton, Alberta and workshop chairman Ed Jakubowsky have announced the program for next year's Masonic Spring Workshop April 23-24, 2010.

The theme is "Enlightenment: The Soul of Freemasonry" and the program will feature UCLA professor and author Margaret Jacob ("Living The Enlightenment")as the keynote speaker.

  • Stephen Dafoe on "Masonic Myths in the 21st century"
  • David Roth on "Architecture, Metaphysics and Freemasonry"
  • "Bringing Enlightenment to the Lodge" with Randy Williams and John Hayes
  • Montana PGM Eric Anderson "Accessing the Purple: Does the Grand Lodge Model still work?"
  • Garth Cochran on Lodge Training Programs
  • Plus, Tobias Churton's films, "The True Story of the Rosicrucians" and "A Mighty Good man: Elias Ashmole and the Initiation"

All in the beautiful Kananaskis, Alberta Delta Lodge resort.

This is tempting me. A lot.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Grand Lodge of Indiana Meets Today

The annual comunication of the Grand Lodge of Indiana meets today at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis. Nathan Brindle and I will be manning the Masonic Society table, and Jim Dillman will be selling commemorative pins for the 100th anniversary of Indiana Freemasons' Hall.

Stop by and say hello!

Issue #4 of the Journal of The Masonic Society Coming Soon

Issue #3 still has yet to arrive for many Masonic Society members, but hot on its heels is Issue #4, Spring 2009. It is at the printer now and should begin hitting mailboxes by the end of the month.

* "The New Recruit" President's Message by Roger VanGorden
* "The Real Illuminati" by Chris Hodapp
* "Did he Do It?" the story of George Washington and the Oath of Office by Jay Hochberg
* "Philosophy and Freemasonry" by John Bridegroom
* "A Masonic Baptism Ceremony" edited by Michael Poll
* "All In A Day's Labor," poetry by Kevin Noel Olson
* Masonic Treasures: Indiana's Vincennes Lodge No. 1, and the 1904 Temple of Fraternalism in St. Louis
•"Pondering the Sublime" by Chris Hodapp

Due in mailboxes at the end of May.

Many, many thanks to all of our authors for their contributions, and especially to Jay Hochberg and Shawn Eyer for their ongoing assistance and good cheer!

Monday, May 18, 2009

GL of New Hampshire Closing Masonic Home

The UnionLeader.com is reporting that the Grand Lodge of new Hampshire is closing its Masonic Home in Manchester. Grand Secretary John C. Marden is quoted as saying, "We lost a huge sum of money out of our portfolio in a very short time." He said it costs between $1.5-$1.75 million a year to keep the facility open.

The Masonic Home opened its doors 105 years ago, but the 52 bed facility is down to just 20 residents these days. This is even with a recent change that allowed non-Masonic related residents to use the facility. Masons and their families make up only a fraction of the residents.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Grand Lodge Library & Museum Returns To Indianapolis

PGM Roger Van Gorden, Grand Master Jeffrey P. Zaring and
Indianapolis Masonic Temple Board President James Dillman cut the ribbon
to the new Indiana Masonic Library and Museum.

The story of the Prodigal came to mind today as I drove to the downtown Temple in Indianapolis.

After more than a decade, the Indiana Grand Lodge Library and Museum is at last returning to Indiana Freemasons' Hall in Indianapolis. The majority of Indiana's Grand Lodge officers, along with family and friends, were on hand today as Grand Master of Indiana Jeffrey P. Zaring, Past Grand Master and Masonic Society president Roger S. Van Gorden, and Indianapolis Masonic Temple Association president James Dillman cut the ceremonial ribbon to the new Grand Lodge Library and Museum room.

When the Indianapolis Masonic Temple opened in 1909, it featured a large ground-floor social room and library, along with a coat-check area. By the 1920s, so many men arrived at the Temple with coats and hats that a new check area was literally dug out into a new basement area under the entry hall. This allowed the library to expand into the old coat room.

When Dwight L. Smith became Grand Secretary, he expanded the Library. The Grand Lodge also accumulated much memorabilia over the years, and a small museum area was set aside for displays. When Smith passed away, his family donated his personal library collection, which was of considerable size, to the Grand Lodge of Indiana. By the mid-1980s, the space was clearly outgrown, so it was packed up and moved to Franklin, on the campus of the Indiana Masonic Home, and housed in the former DeMolay dormitory.

While the location at the Home was large, it was also hard to visit and access. A steam pipe leak resulted in much damage to the museum artifacts, and while the library was catalogued, the museum suffered from neglect and lack of regular supervision.

Thanks to the continued financial support by Indiana's grand masters over the years, the Library and Museum's budget was added to, with the plan of moving it to a new, safer, permanent site. That opportunity came this year with the renewed commitment of the Indianapolis Masonic Temple Board to preserving and improving Indiana Freemasons' Hall. With the 100th anniversary of the building's construction coming this June 13th, along with festivities connected to that event, 2009 seemed to be the perfect year for the move to take place. Grand Master Jeff Zaring charged the Library and Museum board with getting the job underway before the rededication.

The north social room located on the 5th floor seemed like the perfect location, since the south social room had undergone a beautiful transformation by Ancient Landmarks Lodge four years ago. Nearly $30,000 has been spent to refurbish the plaster, repaint and install modern wiring to accommodate the Library and Museum's needs. The move will be done in stages, beginning with artifacts and display cases. The Library will be installed later in the year, once the Museum's pieces are unpacked and in their new locations. Security and climate control are top priorities to protect the collection, and a separate area is being set aside for the most valuable and fragile items.

In the long term, plans are being considered to photograph or scan the Museum's collection to a digital archive that will be accessible over the Internet. Likewise, Masonic books that are rarely seen outside of Indiana will be digitized so researchers from around the world may access them. And its catalog will also be Internet friendly, so researchers can know what is available in the Library.

But what is most important is that this tremendous resource will again be available to the Freemasons of Indiana, back again in the home of its Grand Lodge. The Board of the Library and Museum, the Temple Board, and the Grand Lodge of Indiana are all pulling together to make this dream a reality. The prodigal has returned, and it is good.

Somebody find a fatted calf.

(BTW, a very big thanks to Lisa and all the Van Gorden girls for their help with the food and reception!)

Toronto's Lost Masonic Halls

The May 16th Toronto Bulletin features an interesting article about the Masonic Temples that have come and gone in the downtown area over the years:

Also there was the astonishing Masonic Temple that at one time stood at 20 Toronto St., built in 1858 by William Kaufman.

This impressive little gem was originally built to be a concert hall for A&S Nordheimer, the foremost piano makers and music sellers in Toronto.

Initially it was to have stores and a reception hall on the main floor, offices on the second and third floors and on the top floor a new music hall rising up two storeys.

In 1857, when it was decided that Ottawa and not Toronto was to be the nation’s capital, there occurred an economic slowdown and plans for Toronto’s newest music hall were scaled back.

At the same time Albert Nordheimer, the building’s owner, was becoming involved with the growing and highly enigmatic Masonic movement that was sweeping through North America. So he decided to convert the former upper floor music hall into the various homes to the nine Masonic Lodges then in Toronto.

The Masons have been in Toronto since the late 1700s with one of their first permanent lodge homes standing where the entrance to 35 Church St. is today. Back then it was the site of Russell’s Hotel (c.1848) of which the upper floor was built especially for the St. Andrew’s Lodge of Freemasons.

It was de rigueur for men in early York (and later Toronto) society to belong to this mysterious and beneficent organization with its constitutional declaration of a belief in a Supreme Being. It was the only way to get ahead in business or to climb the social ladder (today there are about 5 million members worldwide of the Masons).

Those early men of York had as their grandmaster none other than the Duke of Kent who lived here in York from 1799 till 1806. As well as being the fourth son of King George III, he is best known to history as the father of Queen Victoria.

In 1860 the Masons moved out of their Church Street Lodge and into the much more opulent Toronto Street Temple.

That same year the publication, “Handbook to Toronto—A City Guide” wrote of the imposing new building: “Its elaborately finished exterior façade calls to mind somewhat the exterior of the stately Munich Cathedral. The richness, variety and beauty of its numberless perpendicular lines carry the eye at once upward to its entire height, and give lightness and elegance to the whole structure.”

Inside it was a whole different look with a gilted Chapter Room complete with a throne underneath. A crimson canopy topped off with a crown finial greeted members of the chapter as they went about their rituals secure with the knowledge that all who entered had sworn an oath of secrecy.

In 1876 the Canada Permanent Co. acquired the Toronto Street Masonic Temple, however the Masons stayed on in their Lodge rooms until 1901 when the upper floors were converted over to office space.

At that time the various Mason Lodges began to move into separate and more spacious premises like the massive Temple Building (1896-1970) at Bay and Richmond-one of the largest buildings in Toronto at the time-and the still-standing Masonic Temple on Yonge at Davenport (1918), now a CTV studio. [Now home of MTV Canada]

In 1930 Canada Permanent moved out of the former Toronto Street Masonic Temple and the Excelsior Life Insurance Co. moved in. In 1964 they demolished it, replacing it with the present office tower at 20 Toronto St. (a very bland building but not nearly as offensive as some).

Friday, May 15, 2009

UGLE Museum: "Freemasonry and the French Revolution"

If you have the opportunity to visit London this year, the Library & Museum at Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street is presenting an exhibit on "Freemasonry and the French Revolution."

From their website:

The French Revolution which began in 1789 changed forever the relationship between freemasonry and the state. In England, freemasonry was non-political and the discussion of politics at Masonic meetings was forbidden (as continues to be the situation today) but after 1789 English freemasons had to deal with the consequences of revolutionary politics and Masonic lodges avoided closure only by agreeing to register lists of their members with local authorities. This remained a legal requirement until 1967 when the Labour Government led by Harold Wilson abolished the Unlawful Societies Act. Freemasonry had spread from Britain across continental Europe in the early 1700s and there freemasons were blamed for causing the Revolution and the subsequent political and social unrest which many countries experienced.
The suspicion of freemasonry which arose at that time has had a longlasting impact on politics and society. The ‘Freemasonry and the French Revolution’ exhibition at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry traces the impact of the Revolution on freemasonry in England and Europe.

Exhibition dates: Wednesday 1st July - Friday 18th December 2009.

Exhibition free of charge to all visitors

Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm. Museum closed at weekends.
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5AZ

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

South Bend Anti-Masonic Lecture

From the South Bend Tribune (thanks to Tim Bryce for seeing this):

Catholic and pro-life speaker and writer Gerry Matatics will be giving a six-talk seminar titled “Wake Up, America: The Hidden Roots of Our Country’s Current Crisis” from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday May 18th at the Hilton Garden Inn, 53995 Indiana 933, South Bend.

The seminar is free and open to the public. People of all faiths or none are welcome.

Talk topics include: Land of the Feathered Serpent: The Struggle for the Soul of Ancient America; Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Founding of the Republic; The Secret Architecture of Washington, D.C.: The Occult Configuration of Our Nation’s Capital; New Age, New Atlantis, New World Order: The Globalists’ God-like Grand Design; 4:45: dinner break; Abortion as Satanic Sacrifice: The True Toll of Our Country’s Greatest Horror; A-Mary-ca’s Apostasy and Apocalypse: Our Land’s Unpaid Debt to Our Lady.

Matatics is a Presbyterian minister who converted to Catholicism, and has since taken the path of the so-called Traditionalist Catholic. or Sedevacantist, movement. Just to get a sense of where he is coming from, he has recently given speeches that question whether Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) is a "true pope". Sedevacantists believe that there has not been a true pope since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, and they reject the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II). It is a common thread through these groups that the Freemasons corrupted the papacy.

I REALLY wish I didn't have 50 things to accomplish before next Tuesday, or I'd go to this. Anybody in South Bend planning on going to add some balance to this nonsense?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Mayor of High Wycombe, Councillor Julie Pritchard

According to an article in the Bucks Free Press ("Mayor's Charity 'Favours Masons' Controversey"), Julie Pritchard, the newly elected Mayor of High Wycombe in England, is in hot water for directing money from the annual Mayor's Appeal to the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. Britain being Britain, the accusation is that money is "improperly" helping Freemasons, who are naturally treated in a pejorative manner.

Mayor Pritchard, a Conservative, is allowed to name her charity of choice, but several Liberal Democrat Party members of the ceremonial body of charter trustees are crying foul. “I will need assurances that all the funds raised are finding their way to everybody that could benefit and not just a few,” proclaims Councillor Trevor Snaith.

Past charities named by former mayors have included hospices and air ambulance services.

From the United Grand Lodge of England website:
In 1982 the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls (formed in 1788) and the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys (formed in 1798) were combined to form the MasonicTrust for Girls and Boys to continue nearly two hundred years of care for the children of poor families. On 1 May 2003, the Trust became the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.

The prime object of the Trust is support for the children of distressed or deceased Freemasons, the aim being to give them the start in life they would have received had distress not befallen their families. The second objective is to provide help to children not connected to Masonic families and to support charities connected with children.

Here are the Evil Schemes performed by the Royal Masonic Trust. In looking over their annual report from 2007-2008, yes it is true, the Trust does indeed first provide grants and scholarships to the children of deceased or destitute Freemasons. Hmmm. Sounds perfectly awful, doesn't it? I suppose such children should be cast aside because of their Masonic connection, or be solely dependent upon the UK's national welfare programs.

The other program the Trust engages in the "Choral Bursary scheme," which gives grant money to choristers at cathedrals and other choral foundations. This has absolutely zero to do with any kind of Masonic connection. It is done so underprivileged children can take part in church choirs all over the country.

Yes, I can see clearly now. Another dastardly Masonic plot to both snatch money from High Wycombe's unsuspecting public and corrupt more than just Masonic-related children. "Excellent."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Henry W. Coil Library & Museum Launches Website

WBro. Adam Kendall sends the message that the new website for the Henry W. Coil Library & Museum, housed at the Grand Lodge of F. & A.M. of California, has been launched at www.masonicheritage.org. It contains links to view the museum and library collection, which will grow as more objects are added to the database. Also included is the present exhibit, as well as other information. A video that accompanies the "Builders of the Dream" exhibit will also be posted in the next week or so.

Adam is the Collections Manager of the library and museum.

The Henry Wilson Coil Library & Museum of Freemasonry is named after noted California attorney and Masonic author Henry Wilson Coil, whose most notable work is Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia (1961, revised and updated by Allen E. Roberts in 1996). Founded in 1996 with a generous contribution from Henry Wilson Coil, Jr., the library and museum collections and archives cover centuries of Masonic history and more than 150 years of Freemasonry in California.

I had the honor to visit and speak at the Library and Museum in San Francisco two years ago, in conjunction with the Museum's hosting of the traveling Initiated Eye exhibit. California Masons have a facility of which they can be proud, that is helmed by a talented and enthusiastic Brother. If you can't visit in person, stop by the website.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thanks to Lewistown Lodge #104

I just got home after a beautiful drive home under a full moon, complete with a magnificent deep red moonrise.

Thanks to WBro. Glen Stine and the brethren of Lewistown Lodge #104 in Lewistown, Illinois, and to all the folks who showed up last night for dinner and The Dummy onstage. I appreciate your warm hospitality.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Illustrious Brother Ernest Borgnine 33°

The Scotsman has a wonderful interview("Importance of being Ernest") with Illustrious Brother Ernest Borgnine 33° today. At 92, he is the oldest living Oscar winner, for his starring role in 1955's "Marty". The words were by the incomparable Paddy Chayefsky, and Borgnine gives him great credit ("Let's blame the writer, Paddy Chayefsky," he says, reminding me without spelling it out that the playwright's name is synonymous with "kitchen sink realism". "A lot of people have tried to do it and can't. It's a thing of heart, you've got to have a lot of heart for it and love for it.").

But Borgnine made Marty (like so many other of his characterizations) real. You stand up and cheer in the last scene when he tells his deadbeat buddies, who can't get a date, but ridicule him because his isn't pretty enough: "You don't like her. My mother don't like her. She's a dog. And I'm a fat, ugly man. Well, all I know is I had a good time last night. I'm gonna have a good time tonight. If we have enough good times together, I'm gonna get down on my knees. I'm gonna beg that girl to marry me. If we make a party on New Year's, I got a date for that party. You don't like her? That's too bad."

The article is noteworthy for Freemasons, not just because Borgnine is a Mason, but because of a question posed by the reporter. He has just published his autobiography in the UK with the drop-dead great title, "Ernest Borgnine: I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire, I Just Want to Keep My Nuts Warm." (It's been blandly titled in the US simply "Ernie: The Autobiography"). The reporter, Lee Randall, remarks that Borgnine mentions God frequently in the book, and asks if he is a religious man.

"I'm not, and this is how it came about. My mother's family had their own church in Italy. Her father was a count, the financial advisor to King Victor Emmanuel. My mother never told me this, it came from my father. I wanted to be an altar boy and she said, 'No! Period!' I wanted to know why but nobody was saying a word.

"One day my father told me that this priest in the family's church attempted to rape her. She turned against the church like a madwoman. To make a long story short, when we used to go to church with my uncle she'd say, 'You see those trees out there: that's your church. See those beautiful fields and those flowers: that's your church. This is what you worship.' "

His religion now, he says, is Freemasonry. "I am very happy to say that I'm a 33rd degree Grand Cross Master Mason in the Scottish Rite. We believe in one thing, God. We believe in another thing: to help your fellow man. Be as kind as you can be to everybody. We support and take care of our own hospitals; we have a retirement plan, charities. You don't have to go to church. If you can do good like that, what's better?"

Brother Borgnine is a member of Abingdon Lodge No. 48, Abingdon, Virginia, and, I believe, Hollywood Lodge No. 355 in Los Angeles.

(BTW, while Brother Borgnine has had over 200 screen credits to his name, plus untold theatre roles, he has recently done voice over parts in animated programs—Mermaid Man in SpongeBob SquarePants, for example. Masons take note: this year he voiced a part in the animated film "The Lion of Judah.")

The Journal of the Masonic Society, Issue #3 In Transit Now

The remainders of Issue #3, Winter 2008/2009 of The Journal of The Masonic Society landed with a 150 pound thud on my doorstep, and the rest are flying into mailboxes this week.

Yes, I know it's late.
We're assembling issue #4 now.
The schedule will be caught up by Issue #5 this summer.

Meanwhile, in the new issue, we feature:

  • RW Roger VanGorden on "Masonic Kaizen."
  • Bro. Will Highsmith of North Carolina on the Masonic influences on the Boy Scouts' Order of the Arrow.
  • RW Marc Conrad of Louisiana on the Masonic symbolism in Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
  • WBro. Cory Sigler of New Jersey on making “Designs Upon the Trestleboard.”
  • WBro. Nathan Brindle of Indiana on “Dues That Don't.”
  • RW Yasha Beresiner from London on the August Order of Light.
  • February's Masonic Week in Alexandria, reported by WBro. Jay Hochberg.
  • WBro. Chris Hodapp on the story of William Morgan that won't go away.
  • News of the Masonic Society, including annual reports.
  • Masonic News from around the globe.
News is coming soon on the Semi-Annual First Circle gathering to be held in October!

Many thanks to our contributors, members, and advertisers.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Masonic Central Podcast May 17: Masonic Conspiracy Theories

Masonic Central Pod Cast
May 17, 2009
9 PM, Eastern Time

The "truth" on Conspiracies with Chris Hodapp, author of Freemasons for Dummies, and Conspiracy Theories And Secret Societies For Dummies.
Join us as we host Chris Hodapp of Freemasons for Dummies as we talk about the pervasive conspiracy theories that surround the fraternity of Freemasonry. The Freemasons, the Illuminati, Skull and Bones, Trilateral Commission, The Bilderberg Group, and so on...
We want to take these ideas head on with the release of the recent film based on Dan Brown's book "Angel's and Demons". We want to ask if there are really any conspiracies out there that are seriously bent on control of the world?
Find out in this special hour and a half program on Masonic Central with Chris Hodapp, starting at 6pm PST/9pm EST!

Masonic Central - the pod cast for Freemasons by Freemasons. This show is a weekly talk show on the wide world of all things Masonic, from movies and books to academia and notables. The goal of the program is to create a heightened both within and without of the Fraternity.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Speaking at Lewistown Lodge #104, Lewistown, Illinois This Weekend

I will be speaking in Illinois as the guest of Lewistown Lodge No. 104 this Saturday, May 9th. Doors open at 5:00PM for the chicken and noodle supper, and I'll speak at 7:00PM. This event will be at the Lewistown High School at 1551 N. Main Street. Family, friends and non-Masons are all welcome.

Tickets for the dinner are $5.00. Call 309-547-2988 for reservations, or contact their Master, WBro. Glen Stine at gstine@astoriail.net

Lewistown is just south of Peoria. Looking forward to seeing western Illinois brethren!

BBC's "Ashes To Ashes" and the Freemasons

The BBC dramatic series "Ashes To Ashes" takes a Masonic turn on its most recent episode. The Sun reports:

ASHES to Ashes hardman Gene Hunt stuns DI Alex Drake — by becoming a freemason. The no-nonsense cop, played by Philip Glenister, joins the secretive fraternity for a case in next week’s episode.

An insider said: “Gene would normally feel it was all a bit dodgy — blokes giving secret handshakes. But he has a change of heart, surprising some.”

The show is set in the 1980s.

Note that the British Press cannot resist mentioning "dodgy handshakes." They just can't help themselves. I do, however, admire their restraint in not using the usual snarky companion swipe, "rolled-up trouser leg."

See an excerpt here.

Indianapolis' Murat Shrine Celebrates 125th

With 8,000 members, Indianapolis' Murat Shrine, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, is the largest Shrine Temple in the world. It's magnificent building downtown is a city landmark, and its enthusiastic membership has done much to support the Shriners Hospitals.

Murat was chartered on June 4th, 1884, just twelve years after the Shrine was founded in New York by Walter Fleming.

This year, Murat will celebrate its 125th anniversary. One June 6th, a Masonic parade will start at 11 a.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, stopping to lay a wreath at the Indiana War Memorial, then onward to the Shrine Temple. (The following weekend, on June 13th, another will go in the opposite direction to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Indiana Freemasons' Hall!). After lunch, the Shrine will hold a ceremonial and initiate new members.

Murat is the only Shrine Temple with a French name. When Napoleon's armies were in Egypt between 1798 and 1800, the general in charge was Marshal Murat, who later became King of Naples. One of the Nubian desert water holes, called "Bir Murat," quenched the thirst of those armies of Napoleon, and the Indianapolis Temple bears its name.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Brother Jack Kemp, 33° R.I.P.

Illustrious Brother Jack Kemp has been called to the Celestial Lodge above. Brother Kemp was born on July 13, 1935.

Prior to his political career, Kemp played as quarterback for 13 years for both the San Diego Chargers and the Buffalo Bills, and helped to found the American Football League Players Association. When he retired from the game, he held three all-time AFL career records (3,055 pass attempts, 1,428 completions, and 21,130 yards gained passing).

During his football years, he also served in the US Army Reserve. He served his country well as a member of the US House of Representatives from 1971 to 1989, as a senior economic advisor to President Reagan, and as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1993. He ran unsuccessfully for president in 1988, and became the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 1996 with Bob Dole.

Brother Kemp passed away Saturday from cancer at the age of 73. He was a member of Fraternal Lodge No. 625 F&AM, in Hamburg, New York, and a 33° Scottish Rite Mason.

His column is broken and his brethren mourn.

"Kryptos" Remains Un-Decoded

I mentioned the sculpture "Kryptos" in my book Solomon's Builders as being one of the clues to the story line of Dan Brown's next book. The longitude and latitude of the sculpture, which sits in front of the CIA building in Langley, Virginia, appears on the original cover of Brown's "The Da Vinci Code." No one knows whether Brown will stick to his guns from five years ago about his next novel's plot involving Washington DC and the Masons (he just announced the name change, from "The Solomon Key" to the new "The Lost Symbol," due in stores September 15th).

Nevertheless, the Kryptos sculpture is intriguing. Wired magazine has a new article about it by Steven Levy on their website. Levy was able to do better than I did at getting in the gate to see the enigmatic, code-filled art in person. I was detained at the gate, had my car searched, and told never to set foot on the property again in my natural life, by very unsympathetic guards wielding machine guns. I didn't think it was the time or place to try the "I'm a taxpayer and want to see what my money went for" line. Nor did saying, "Hi, I'm an author" get me out of detention, even though I'm guessing Tom Clancey has his own damn parking space at Langley.

Check out Elanka Dunin's extensive website with background information and ongoing news about Kryptos.

(Thanks, Nathan, for the heads up.)

Federal Probe of Jesters Expands

The Royal Order of Jesters just can't seem to get out of hot water. Former State Supreme Court Justice Ronald Tills and two other members of the ROJ have plead guilty in Buffalo, New York in connection with organizing prostitution parties for Jesters meetings, and are awaiting sentencing. Another chapter in Big Sandy, Kentucky has been placed on probation by the national organization, and is being looked into by the feds.

A lengthy article appeared today in the Buffalo News, after reporter Dan Herbeck spent weeks seeking interviews. Many of those interviewed (myself included) echo similar sentiments—that the Jesters need to clean up their act. Officials, including Jesters' president Gary N. Martin, say that gatherings with hookers and other illegal activities are, to his knowledge, "extremely isolated," and is engaged in by "a small fraction" of their 22,000 members.

From the article:

But sources close to the investigation and former Jesters from other parts of the country tell a different story, one of bizarre activities — including routinely hiring prostitutes for gatherings, sex competitions and degrading initiation rites for new members — at many Jesters outings, with off-duty police hired to keep nonmembers away.

“I quit the Jesters more than 20 years ago, and this kind of thing has been going on at least 40 or 50 years,” said Malcolm “Mutt” Herring, 90, of Montgomery, Ala. “I quit because I don’t drink, and I don’t mess around with other women, other than my wife. Going to one of their events was like going to a whorehouse.”

None of this would be notable as far as Masonry is concerned if the Jesters were not connected to the Shrine, and the Shrine to Freemasonry. Face it. For over a hundred years, the Shrine has been the playground of Masonry, and has reveled in, and encouraged, its public image as a bunch of big-drinking, stripper-slapping, fez-wearing party animals, who engage in such behavior for the good cause of the hospitals. AND THAT'S FINE. The Shrine is what it is. But to tell a man, on the one hand, that the Shrine is one more logical step for a Freemason to take, and then, on the other hand, to bring on the hookers, absolutely flies in the face of Masonic obligations. To fill the Blue Lodge with lofty lectures of morality and virtue, then to guard the door of the Shrine with off-duty cops and tell new candidates, "What happens here stays here," is the worst kind of hypocrisy. It throws mud on Freemasonry.

Judge Tills, who faces prison time now at the age of 75, once prided himself as being one of the toughest sentencing judges in western New York state. I'd be curious how many prostitution cases came before him on the bench, and how he sentenced them. His actions—hauling hookers across state lines, and even into Canada, not once, but at least on six occasions—belies the claim that such practices within the Jesters are not widespread. The FBI has been involved since last year. And this is in addition to the story from last May about Jesters' "fishing trips" to Brazil that involved at least 19 members and hookers as young as 13.

So why haven't the Shrine's national leadership thrown the Jesters under the bus and severed ties with them? Why haven't state grand masters put the Jesters on notice, or yanked dues cards of the most offensive individuals?

No, I do not believe that 22,000 members of the Jesters condone this behavior. It may very well be that the overwhelming majority of them don't. I have known many brethren who are Jesters who would never in a million years engage in this type of behavior. But to claim that the ROJ doesn't know about this stuff on a widespread basis is sheer nonsense. They certainly look the other way. And if they didn't care about anything else, just from a mercenary point of view, they are risking their non-profit status.

I once had a friend who asked the question, "What good is it being a member of a secret society if you can't get out of traffic tickets or get serviced by a hooker with a cop watching the door for you?" If that's what a man is looking for, then the Jesters need to split from the Shrine and just go be a sex club. And if the Shrine condones it, perhaps the Shrine needs to split from Freemasonry, as well. I say that as a member of the Shrine, an organization I joined because of the work they do with their hospitals. I have noticed in the last year, my dues card no longer says I'm a member of the Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (the initials of which were rearranged to spell A MASON), but now of Shrine International. There have been calls for years to split from the Masonic fraternity. The Jesters are one more reason to head that direction.

A few months back, I purchased a collection of Jesters' pins off of Ebay. I didn't do it because I particularly wanted them in my home. I did it because these pins, which were created each year for the annual Jesters' national meetings, depicted the grinning Jesters' cartoon mascot, Billiken, engaged in a variety of unsavory activities—sexual, and worse, racially violent. Activities that would land Billiken into a cartoon jail. I bought the pins because I didn't want the pictures of them to show up all over the internet. I care passionately about the fraternity of Freemasonry, and when individuals throw dirt on it with their actions, they throw dirt on me too. The website of the Royal Order of Jesters proudly proclaims its connection to Masonry (In fact, the page's title says "Royal Order of Jesters - Masons, Shriners, Freemasons, Masonic Lodges, Grand Lodges"). The reporter from Buffalo called me, because he wanted to know how I felt about my brother Masons engaging in this activity. 22,000 out of 1.5 million US Masons is a small percentage, and of those 22,000 Jesters, I suspect a much smaller number of them are taking part in the "mirth." But it only takes one or two to make the national news.

I'm no prude, and I have no desire to be played by Margaret Hamilton in the movie. Frankly, I am a big proponent of making the Masonic lodge and its activities more fun, including relaxing Indiana's tintype prohibition of alcohol in Masonic buildings. A Mason shouldn't be made to feel that his lodge is some monastic cloister and that the only place he can behave like an adult and enjoy himself is the Shrine. But the Jesters are the image of the worst kind of excess, and their members either need to clean it up, or go their own way and sever the Masonic connection.

The New York case is connected to an FBI probe in human trafficking—in particular, a Chinese massage parlor that has young women kept as sex slaves. Such establishments are notorious for asking, "You want happy ending?"

Yes, I do. I want a happy ending to this whole sordid episode.

(BTW, I am quoted in the article as saying "The Masons are about family, community and faith-oriented activities that make good men better.” Mr. Herback paraphrased me. I've never in my life used the term "faith-oriented activities," and I loathe the catch phrase "we make good men better." But being misquoted goes with the territory, I suppose. And since when did I become a "co-author" of Freemasons For Dummies? Feh.)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

My Ebay/Broad Ripple Discovery

The joys of Ebay are many. Judging from my occasional intemperance and my checkbook balance, such joys can also, at times, be entirely too addictive. But there are gems that simply cannot be passed by.

The most recent case in point is a 55 year-old, self-winding, gold Hamilton wristwatch. On its face, nothing special. But on its back are Masonic symbols, including the compasses and quadrant of a Past Master. More important, it is inscribed to Wbro. Jesse Hodshire, Master of Broad Ripple Lodge #643, my mother lodge, in 1954.

After making its way to the distant shores of Oregon by a twisted route, it is now back home again in Indiana.

The Cup of Brotherly Love in Evanston, Illinois 5/12

On September 7, 1929, Norman B. Hickox, Master of Events Lodge No. 524, Illinois, formally presented a beautiful silver cup to the lodge, after raising his son as a Master Mason. The Cup of Brotherly Love, as it came to be known, was to be sent on a journey around the world, traveling always from West to East by land sea or air, and always in the custody of a Master Mason. The cup visited more than 150 host lodges as it circled the globe. On May 24, 1958, a homecoming celebration was held at Evans Lodge to commemorate the return of the cup to the lodge.

The Cup of Brotherly Love is still in the hands of Events Lodge No. 524 in Evanston, Illinois. On Tuesday, May 12th, the lodge will have a special evening and public presentation about the Cup and its incredible journey. It will be at Evanston Masonic Temple, 1453 Maple Ave. Evanston, IL Dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. Donation: $10 -Includes Dinner. Please RSVP by May 5th to cupevent@evanslodge524.org or call (312) 505-7550

From the January 1930 issue of "The Builder" magazine:

The "Cup of Brotherly Love" presented to Evans Lodge No. 524, Evanston, Illinois, on September 7th, 1929, A, L. 5929, is a marvelous example of artistic handiwork.

Fashioned of sterling silver, it is heavily over-laid with yellow gold. Interested members of the Craft carefully designed and executed the engravings, which are extremely elaborate and intricate, and which include many interesting features.

At the base of the goblet are found the lily-work, net-work and pomegranates so familiar to all Freemasons. Around the outer lip are inscribed the twelve zodiacal signs, each within its own triple circle, and which together make up the great Celestial Circle.

An added circle of All-seeing Eyes above, and a ring of emblems, including the Square and Compass, below, complete a Grand Circle of three.

Underneath this Grand Ring are a trinity of rings, or circles, forming an upper border for the space above the lily-work, in which may be found many familiar Masonic symbols together with other figures of ancient use and meaning, handed down to us from time immemorial.

Within the lip of the cup and completely encircling it, is engraved in old Anglo-Saxon script, the command, "Drink you from this cup of brotherly love." With this inscription included as a "ring," the piece becomes a "7-ringed cup" such as those of the Legends were encircled.

Conceived in deepest appreciation of the spiritual values in Freemasonry, made of precious metals in which have been wrought the most beautiful designs by highly skilled craftsmen, presented to the brethren as an earthly symbol of lofty ideals impossible of expression in mere words, dedicated to the mothers of all men, and consecrated to the continuance forever of brotherly love and affection between all men, but more especially our brethren in Freemasonry, may this cup ever remind us of our duties to God, our country, our families, our neighbors and ourselves.

With the cup will be carried a book in which a record will be made in each lodge which receives it, the date and details of its coming, and of its being sent on, with any remarks or reflections that the members of the Lodge may wish to make. There is also a letter, addressed to the Craft, which has been translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Swedish, Dutch and Italian. The letter is as follows:


To All and Every our Most Worshipful, Right Worshipful, Worshipful and Loving Brethren of the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons throughout the World to whom this message may come GREETINGS:

Know you that upon the Raising of his son to The Sublime Degree, a Brother has given to the Lodge this marvelously wrought token of Gold and Silver;

Receive from us this Cup, befittingly Dedicated to the Mothers of all Men and Consecrated forever to Brotherly Love and Affection between all Mankind, but more especially our Brethren in Freemasonry;

Drink you, all our Brethren, from this Cup in acceptance of the Fraternal Wishes for your Health, Prosperity and Continuance, of all whose lips have touched its brim;

Inscribe upon its golden surface as you choose, your Name, Time and Place in the endless Circle of Travel, and write upon a Page in the Book such Message as you consider appropriate, Posting to us by mail directly, news of your actions;

Hand on to our Brethren toward the East, Where and Whom as you may Desire, this Symbol of the Glorious and Mystic Tie, giving it Safe Conduct by the Hand of a true and trusted Brother, that it may Completely Encircle the Whole World and Return to us within Seven years, bearing Witness to the Universality of our Beloved Fraternity; Blessed be all you who shall Welcome this Cup of Brotherly Love and Expedite its Travels in Foreign Countries, and may your Names he forever Honored among Masons.

With our Brotherly Love and Affection, The Brethren of Evans Lodge No. 524, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Evanston, Illinois, U. S. A.


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Atlanta's Gate City #2: "The Catholic Church and Freemasonry"

On Tuesday, May 26th, Atlanta's Gate City Lodge #2 will present "The Catholic Church and Freemasonry." In a presentation approved by the Archbishop of Atlanta, Most Rev. Wilton D. Gregory, Catholic Deacon John J. McManus will speak on the historical relationship between the Catholic Church and Freemasonry. Among the topics covered in the presentation will be age old rifts, Papal Bulls and the Catholic Church's current stance on Freemasonry. Dinner 6:30PM. Presentation 7:30PM. Friends, family and the public are welcome to attend. They meet at the Atlanta Masonic Center (formerly The Atlanta Masonic Temple) 1690 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA 30309

The brethren of Gate City Lodge are putting on amazing programming this year. Their ongoing "Religion & Culture" series has presented programs on surviving the Holocaust, Hinduism, and classic Islamic poetry. Even a concert of Gypsy Jazz (and any lodge that promotes Django Reinhardt music zooms to the top of my list). This lodge is a true leader in making Freemasonry an important part of its community, and teaching its members. In case you think your own lodge can't come up with a way to have outstanding programming, look no further than Gate City #2's example.

The complete paper can be read HERE. Deacon McManus cites both historical and the most current Roman Catholic Canon Law on the matter of Catholicism and freemasonry, and this paper is an excellent resource for researching the issue.

Brent Morris at Connecticut's Lodge of Research 5/27

Bro. S. Brent Morris, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry, will speak at the Masonic Lodge of Research on Wednesday, May 27th, at the New Haven Masonic Temple, 285 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, CT. WB Morris, a Past Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 1076, London, the world’s oldest research lodge, will receive the James Royal Case Fellowship on the occasion of his visit.

MLR Worshipful Master and RW Bradley K. Cooney have invited all Connecticut Masons and their ladies to attend the presentation and dinner. The buffet dinner will begin at 6:15 p.m., at a cost of $20 per person. Reservations may be made through committee chairman RW Carl G. Ek at 203-469-0746, or by e-mail at ekscla-masons@sbcglobal.net.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Masonic Music: Freestone's "Temple of Humanity"

Freemasonry and music have long been intertwined. A large section of Anderson's Constitutions featured the lyrics to songs that were sung by the earliest members of the modern fraternity.

A new CD, "The Temple of Humanity" by the Dutch band Freestone, is the latest melding of Masonry and melody. Producer, composer, and Freemason Harm Timmerman wrote the twelve tracks, wrapped around Masonic symbolism, initiation, and mysticism, and even takes a stab at anti-Masons (Masonry Dissected). Vocalist Diederik Huisman, Alex Simu's flute, and the multi-talented Timmerman on guitar, bass and keyboards, have created a concept album with Freemasonry at its core, at times recalling Pink Floyd or Alan Parsons Project discs. At times progressive rock, at other times jazz, it is a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable collection of songs and ideas. These are not just occasional Masonic buzzwords grafted onto rambling studio tracks. They are contemplative lyrics that explore Masonic concepts, along with solid and enjoyable music. "Temple of Humanity" is well worth seeking out.

It can be purchased from Freestone's website, or from iTunes as a download.

The Masonic Society: Happy 1st Birthday

A year ago, I was flat on my back in the hospital having a goiter the size of a Plymouth Belvedere sawed out of my chest. It seemed like just the right time to announce the formation of a new research society dedicated to Freemasonry. Yes, to answer your question, I was on drugs.

Fortunately, the rest of the brethren involved were not.

In the year that has followed, The Masonic Society has grown from zero to almost 800 members from around the world.

Annual membership is just $39. Our magazine, The Journal, has been very well received, and it has fulfilled our promise that it wouldn't look or feel like any other publication in the marketplace (Yes, it's been late. Yes, that's been my fault. Yes, we are back on track.) The best Masonic authors from around the world have contributed to its contents, and we have been well supported by our advertisers. Our membership patent is hand sealed, and among the most beautiful documents you'll ever receive. Our private discussion forum is a community of brethren who freely (and respectfully) share their knowledge and camaraderie. Our first annual meeting in Alexandria, Virginia at Masonic Week was a roaring success. Our semi-annual meeting is coming up in October.

Many, many thanks to those brethren who signed on board with us based on nothing but a website and a promise, and to all of the members and fellows who have pulled together to make The Masonic Society an outstanding success. We said from the beginning that we were not just selling a subscription to a magazine, but that we wanted to create a community of friends and brothers. We believe we have created a valuable balance of knowledge, friendship and fun. We think you'll agree.

That can't just be done from "the top down." Our members have achieved that.

Happy birthday.

Birthday of the Real Illuminati

Today marks the founding of the Bavarian Illuminati on May 1st, 1776. It lasted less than eight years, and its membership was very, very small. Many other groups followed, even to the present day, claiming the mantle of the original Illuminati, or having that moniker stuck on them without their having asked for it. In fact, in the alternate universe of the Internet, accusations about the “vast influence” of this little-known secret society get thrown around constantly.

With the May 15th release of the big budget film of Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons, it's worth examining who the real Illuminati were, where they came from, and just why their legacy continues to capture the public imagination.

Click here for my story on the very real Illuminati.