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


Saturday, November 28, 2009

McClenachan's 'Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite' Reprinted

Michael Poll's Cornerstone Book Publishers keeps finding new ways to part Masons eager for education from their hard-earned cash. His newest item that dangles like a shiny dangly thing this Christmas is especially of interest to Scottish Rite Masons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. It is a facsimile reprint of Charles T. McClenachan's Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, originally published in 1884 (there was a later revision in 1914). It was the only real monitor published by the AASR-NMJ, which has altered and rearranged its degrees substantially ever since. At the time of its publication, the NMJ had adopted some of Albert Pike's revised rituals from the Southern Jurisdiction, and McClenachan gives Pike credit where it is due. But many of the degrees were very different from the SJ, even then.

The book also contains statutes of the period, along with curiosities like a Scottish Rite baptism ceremony (in case you thought only the SJ was circulating such rituals), a Hebrew calendar, Grand Constitutions of 1786, a Lodge of Sorrow ritual, and much more.

Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite
Charles T. McClenachan
616 pages
Cornerstone Book Publishers (November 7, 2009)
ISBN-10: 193493562X
Available from Amazon for $29.95

Midwest Conference on Masonic Education May 7-9, 2010

The 2010 Midwest Conference on Masonic Education will be in Independence, Missouri, May 7-9, at the Hilton Garden Inn. Few details are available at this time, but the website is now active at www.midwestmasoniceducation.com

There is a call for papers and recommendations for topics, and a tour of the nearby Truman Library is planned.

Friday, November 27, 2009

GL of DC Opens New Lodge: Maynilad Lodge U.D.

The Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia F&AM has granted a dispensation to a new lodge this past week for Masons with a Philippine background or interest: Maynilad Lodge U.D. "Maynilad" was the first recorded name of what is now Manila.

From the Grand Secretary:

Greetings Brethren:

Please be informed that our Grand Master, Most Worshipful Brother Kwame Acquaah, has issued a dispensation (No. 09-25) to a number of regular Freemasons to establish a Lodge in this jurisdiction, under the name of "MAYNILAD Lodge, U.D.", to work using the D.C. Ritual in English and in accordance with the laws, rules and regulations of the Grand Lodge, F.A.A.M., of the District of Columbia.

Alianza Fraternal Americana Lodge No. 92, at its Wednesday, November 18, 2009 stated communication, resolved to support the formation of said new lodge and recommended to the Grand Master that he give favorable consideration to the prayer of the petitioners.

Worshipful Brothers Teddy Villapando, PM; Generoso Calonge, PM; and Edward Usita, PM have been appointed to serve as the first Master, Senior Warden and Junior Warden respectively.

An announcement of the date, time and place for the organizational meeting and installation of the officers of MAYNILAD Lodge, U.D. will be forthcoming.

Cordially and fraternally,

Mansour Hatefi, PGM
Grand Secretary

Worshipful Brother Ken Gibala, Secretary of the new lodge, reports they have 23 members so far, and expect to have 40 charter members by the end of the year. Congratulations to the brethren of Maynilad Lodge U.D.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to eftablish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpofitions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have fince enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our fafety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in moft humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind fuch a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington

Source: The Massachusetts Centinel, Wednesday, October 14, 1789
From the Archiving Early America website.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Casting for New History Channel Series

DECODED, a new series from the History Channel, is searching for a "Lead Investigator."

From the casting page website:

This series is going to uncover the hidden or little known origins of iconic American symbols with an active investigative approach. To do this we need somebody with a strong background in history and symbology who looks past the obvious and is excited to delve into the mysterious. These investigations will be IMMERSIVE, ACTIVE, PHYSICAL and ACADEMIC. We are looking for a real-life Robert Langdon.

Our investigator needs to have great interview skills, a lust for the subject matter and the desire to explore both each subject matter both physically and mentally.

The program is being produced for HISTORY by Go Go Luckey Entertainment.

2009 Thanksgiving Day in Indianapolis

My home lodge, Broad Ripple No. 643 will again take part in the Indianapolis Prince Hall Thanksgiving dinner program tomorrow. The program serves several hundred meals to the homeless, shut-ins and others who would otherwise not have a Thanksgiving dinner.

This event is a collaboration of the Indianapolis area Prince Hall lodges going back to 1983, and Broad Ripple #643 is honored to again be a part of it.

To my Indianapolis brethren, if you find yourself with a little bit of extra time that you can spare away from your family on Thanksgiving morning between about 9 AM and 11:30 AM, stop in at the Prince Hall Temple at 22nd and Central Avenue, and just pick up one sack of dinners to deliver. You'll find appreciative brethren there, and a cheerful chaos of cooks, servers, drivers and interested bystanders.

And you'll find a grateful stranger on the other side of a door, truly thankful for your brief effort. And believe me, it will give you much to thank the GAOTU for when you sit down at your own table tomorrow afternoon.

Coming to Bulgarian Bookstores: "The Menace Dan Brown"

Then there are the truly bizarre stories that pop up on occasion that you just blink at and ask the perfectly legitimate question, "Huh?"

Take this story today, about a new book being published in Bulgaria that is sure to take the literary world by storm: "33 -The Menace Dan Brown"

Bulgaria could have lost its chances to become a EU and NATOmember because a Bulgarian PM wanted to ban the masons in this country, shockingly unveils one of the highest standing masons, Dimitar Nedkov, in his novel "33 - The Menace Dan Brown". A mason speaks out for the first time and brings to light secret operations of the Brotherhood. The book is a real thriller. It will be on the market together with The Standart on December 1.

The novel tells how a Bulgarian PM once had a secret plan to put a ban on the Masons, Rotarians, Rosencrucians, Rotary and Lions clubs. During a meeting in his office with the then director of the FBI, the Bulgarian PM asked for a blessing for the ban on the organizations.

Instead of that, the Bulgarian PM received a warning. If Bulgaria wanted to remain a friend of the USA, the Bulgarian
PM had to give up his plan.

Dan Brown doesn't know the whole truth about the lost symbol, but he can discover it in Bulgaria, says Nedkov. Nedkov is the author of four documentary books on the Freemasons. Now the great expert in freemasonry is going to plunge into fiction - for the first time he is writing a novel. In it Nedkov unveils secrets and rituals of the masons, initiation oaths and real events from the life of Bulgarian brotherhood.

The novel starts with a sitting of the Supreme Council of the masons in the USA on Dan Brown and his scandalous novel "The Lost Symbol". There was a special item on the agenda of the sitting whether to permit Dan Brown to publish his book or not.
Dimitar Nedkov's novel will stir great interest, critics believe. In their opinion, there is no other person in Bulgaria who knows more about the role of freemasons in Bulgaria. Nedkov participated in the restoration of the Masonic lodge in Bulgaria after 1989. He is a co-founder of the Supreme Council, 33C of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. Dimitar Nedkov is member of the International Academy of the Illuminati in Rome.

Freemasonry returned to Bulgaria in the 1980s, and there has been a schism between two grand lodges. Nedkov is a former Grand Orator of the Grand Lodge AF&AM of Bulgaria. According to the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons of North America's Commission on Recognition, the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria is the most recognized Masonic body in the country, although the Commission has attempted to reconcile the two groups for several years with no result. The 2009 report reads:

Little progress has been made in unifying Freemasonry in Bulgaria, as it continues to function under two Grand Lodge structures, namely the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria (UGLB) and the Grand Lodge AF&AM of Bulgaria (GLAFAMB). Last year, the Commission again strongly encouraged the two Grand Lodges to actively meet and work toward the resolution of their differences. The services of several impartial mediators were offered to facilitate the process. These attempts have not been [accepted]. The UGLB offered to relax the requirements of the “regularization procedure”, but later rescinded the offer. Most members of the GLAFAMB are unwilling to be subjected to the requirements of the procedure as defined. Several options have been offered by the GLAFAMB, but none are seriously being considered. The UGLB states they believe the GLAFAMB is irregular and they therefore cannot communicate with them. After five years of unsuccessfully urging the two organizations to actively pursue avenues of unification, the Commission will not receive any additional presentations from either Grand Lodge until there is substantive evidence of progress in resolving their differences.

As for the "International Academy of the Illuminati in Rome", I have no clue. But then, you know I wouldn't tell you if I did.

Memento Mori Mementos

Brother Justin Lovorn has a passion for skulls. Not just a Halloweeny, fair-weather, furtive nod, either. Justin has been posting a memento mori memento almost every single day since 2007 at the appropriately titled "Skull-A-Day" blog. His fan base contributes a wild range of images, and has found vanitas imagery in everything from snow drifts to canned beets.

Justin doesn't just post other people's images. He is an artist himself, and has started to venture into Masonic art. His site at www.tatmanglass.tripod.com features the item above, as well as (what else?) skull-themed etched glassware.

Cheers from my Lord Byron goblet.

"Start not - nor deem my spirit fled
In me behold the only skull,
From which unlike a living head,
Whatever flows is never dull.

"I lived, I loved, I quaffed like thee
I died ; let earth my bones resign
Fill up - thou canst not injure me ;
The worm has fouler lips than thine.

"Better to hold the sparkling grape,
Than nurse the earth - worm's slimy brood
And circle in the goblet's shape
The drink of Gods, than reptile's food.

"Where once my wit, perchance, hath shone,
In aid of others let me shine ;
And when, alas ! our brains are gone,
What nobler substitute than wine ? " - (Byron, 1808.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our Kentucky Brethren

A good brother from Kentucky passed this message along this morning.

At last month's Grand Lodge of Kentucky's Annual Communication, a delegation from the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Kentucky were well received (a standing ovation from reports I received) and were gladly seated. The PHGLofKY presented a resolution formally recognizing the GLofKY and asked for recognition in return.

As is customary in these matters as I'm sure you well know, a vote was then held by the GLofKY on whether or not to hold it the request for recognition over until the next Annual Communication, and the vote came back in favor of doing so. From reports that I have received, there has for some time been some background chatter regarding this, so their appearance wasn't a surprise to very many in attendance. We have a wonderful new Grand Master, who I suspect follow in the footsteps in the last few we've had and do what he can to assist to push this to a successful resolution at next year's GL Communication.

It is my hope that the long archaic rules that has not permitted Masonic communication with our Prince Hall Brethren will be sent to the passages of time to be lost forever, and we can finally say with one voice that we truly are a Brotherhood of men, under the Fatherhood of God.

Huzzahs to both grand lodges for taking this step, and to Most Worshipful Grand Masters L. Todd Eastham and Hugh R. Harlan Jr., and especially to Past Grand Master Herman M. Forrester, for leading their brethren forward. This fraternity makes great changes with each passing day, as we all strive to live by the precepts and teachings we share around Masonry's altars.

After I received this note, I looked up the history of Prince Hall Freemasonry in Kentucky, and discovered that it originally met across the Ohio River from Louisville in New Albany, Indiana.

A petition was forwarded to the Grand Master of Ohio for a Warrant. It was granted, and on June 12, 1850, in the city of New Albany, Indiana, Mt. Moriah Lodge No.1, F & A. M., was duly organized. The Lodge room was leased for three years from the Caucasian Masons, they having built a new hall and moved into it. Their furniture was also turned over to M. Moriah. For three years, the Lodge remained at New Albany. The members labored under many disadvantages, such as crossing the Ohio River in skiffs at mid-night, sometimes amid high waters and heavy drifts, at the risk of their lives, and then walking five miles up to the city.

At the expiration of the three-year lease, the Lodge moved to Louisville, Kentucky. A house was rented from Washington Spradling, Sr., on Walnut Street, between Ninth and Tenth Streets. The roll of Mt. Moriah increased to over 100 members. Finally, the group divided and organized St. Thomas and Meriwether Lodges.

Noble Lodge No. 684, St. Louis 12/1

St. Louis brethren, I will be speaking at Noble Lodge No. 684 next Tuesday, December 1st. This will be the very first meeting of the lodge in its new home at Moolah Shrine. Dinner is at 6:00PM, and the stated meeting begins at 7:00PM. Contact Secretary Charlie Wiegert at charlie @ fanball.com

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Paris Museum of Freemasonry to Open in February

In spite of its recent fire, the Grand Orient of France will open its newly refurbished museum on February 10, 2010 in Paris at its 16 rue Cadet headquarters. Helped by a grant from the Ministry of Culture, Region Ile de France and the City of Paris, the new facility will not be strictly dedicated to the Grand Orient, but will simply be called the Museum of Freemasonry.

See a virtual tour here.

(Beret tip to Blog Maconique)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ft. Wayne, Indiana Temple Has A Plan For the Future

The Freemasons of Ft. Wayne, Indiana made the news today, showing off painting and renovations to the beautiful downtown Temple building.

See FW Masonic Temple has plan to stay open.

See their website here: http://www.thefreemasonshall.com/

Thursday, November 19, 2009

3,000 Visit Salt Lake City Masonic Temple Open House

Utah's Past Grand Master Glen Cook in Salt Lake City news program about their Temple's open house last week. They had 3,000 people turn out for the open house.

Nicely edited piece by local CBS channel 2. (Go get a cup of coffee. It's slow-loading.)

First report referenced in the piece is here.

Incoming Grand Master of India: Women and Co-Masonry In A Decade?

Balaram Biswakumar will be installed this Saturday, November 21st, as the new Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of India AF&AM.

From today's Times of India:

In Dan Brown's latest thriller The Lost Symbol', Freemason Mal'akh gazes down the human skull cradled in his palms and looks into the crimson wine before drinking it in long deep, swallows to the last drop. After the installation of Dr B Biswakumar as the grandmaster of Freemasons India on Saturday in Chennai, there will be wine, but champagne flutes will replace human skulls.

If Brown has rekindled curiosity about the age-old secret society' of Freemasons often associated with occult and witchcraft, the latest grandmaster of the fraternity in India is all set to demolish the shields of what he calls non-existent secrecy. For the first time, the installation ceremony will be open to people an invited few other than Freemasons. This, he says in an interview with TOI in his modest clinic in Madaveli, is part of an ongoing trend to slowly open up the fraternity steeped in furtiveness in popular imagination. More radical changes in the all-male community could be in the offing, as he says women Freemasonry and co-Freemasonry could be a reality in a decade.

More about the new Grand Master here.The Hindu Times.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Deciphering The Lost Symbol

Coming December 2009
Freemasonry and the founding of the United States have been intertwined since the very beginning. Now discover the secretive brotherhood of Freemasons at the center of Dan Brown’s novel, The Lost Symbol. Follow fictional symbologist Robert Langdon’s factual trail through the streets and monuments of Washington D.C., and into the innermost lodge rooms and temples of the Masons.

Best-selling author of
Solomon’s Builders and Freemasons For Dummies Christopher Hodapp has created the definitive guide to the symbols, legends, and mysteries of The Lost Symbol. Take an insider’s trip to uncover the true stories behind the Freemasons and the nation’s capital, and interpret the clues and claims of Brown’s book.

· Discover the meaning of “The Lost Word”

· Decode Masonic and alchemical symbolism

· Explore the innermost rooms of Washington D.C.’s Masonic temples

· Visit the restricted areas of the U.S. Capitol and other landmarks

· Uncover the myths in the maps and monuments of the nation’s capital

· Crack the codes buried in The Lost Symbol’s artwork and puzzles

· Examine how noetic science may change the way we perceive life, existence and the universe

From Masonic presidents, secret codes, and esoteric rituals, to curious cornerstones, monuments, and symbols,
Deciphering The Lost Symbol is the only key you need to unlock the secrets and the truth behind Dan Brown’s fiction.

Preorder now from Amazon.com

ISBN: 978-1569757739
Ulysses Press
Paperback, 208 pages,
November 2009
US $12.95 by Christopher L. Hodapp

Rosslyn Chapel Soon To Be Unwrapped

For more than a decade, visitors to Scotland's Rosslyn Chapel have been disappointed to discover the building swathed in scaffolding and covered by a sheet metal roof. The image of the chapel on a hillside seen in the movie version of The Da Vinci Code was a cunning computer-generated special effect, a shot impossible to achieve since the 1990s. The culprit was a 1950s asphalt roof that had been designed to protect the building, but in reality leaked like a colander, eventually covering interior walls and ceilings with green alge.

The steel cover has at last done its job of drying out the porous stone building, so the second phase of the project can now begin: a new roof that doesn't leak, and the cleaning and restoration of its interior details. Helping the bank account has been the rise from 40,000 annual visitors before the Dan Brown effect, to 175,000 at the height of Da Vinci Code fever.

A new visitor's center is being constructed, and the entire project is expected to cost £13 million. The chapel will remain open to visitors while the work progresses.

See an article in todays The Scotsman.

The Rosslyn Chapel Trust must still raise over £1 million, and is seeking donations. Donors may sponsor a star carving in the chapel's roof for £250.

Prometheus Lodge No. 851 Chartered in San Francisco

Congratulations to the brethren of Prometheus Lodge No. 851, the newest lodge to be chartered in California. Prometheus is a Traditional Observance Lodge, and its charter Master is Dennis Chornenky, known to many Masons from his work with the Masonic Restoration Foundation.

The lodge meets once a month at the University Club on Nob Hill in San Francisco, across from the Fairmont Hotel, and marks the return of a regularly meeting lodge to the area.

The new lodge's formation made the San Francisco Business Times:

Dennis Chornenky, who is Master of the new lodge, said the downtown area hasn’t had a lodge for about 50 years. The nearest lodges in the city are in the Mission and in the Outer Sunset area.

Half a century ago, San Francisco had 45 lodges, Chornenky said. Today, there are eight lodges listed in the city on the web site of the Grand Lodge of California, with three in Oakland, one in Alameda, and others in Mill Valley, Larkspur, South San Francisco, Daly City, Pacifica, Richmond and Orinda.

Many of the new lodge’s members, including Chornenky himself, are in their 20s, and he said this reflects a resurgent interest in Freemasonry among young men.


It took two years of work to get the lodge officially chartered, Chornenky said, starting with the formation of the “Prometheus Club” in the summer of 2007, followed by a probationary period called “dispensation.” Monday night’s ceremony, led by Ken Nagel, Grand Master of Masons in California, gives the new lodge its official charter and allows it to send members as delegates to vote on state issues.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

CNN: Inside The Freemasons

CNN rehashed its Lost Symbol week footage with new interviews featuring the Masonic Service Association of North America's Dick Fletcher and Revolutionary Brotherhood author Steven Bullock. The disgusting metaphor notwithstanding, have a look "Inside The Freemasons."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lodge Carpets

Brother Loyd Caldwell, PM and Secretary of Dalton Lodge in Dalton, Georgia has for several years offered a unique visual aid for the "Winding Staircase Lecture" that appears in most US Fellow Craft rituals (Pennsylvania brethren will be asking "What winding staircase lecture?"). It is a 6' x 9' custom carpet with the proper visual cues for each step.

I haven't seen one in person, but the photo looks absolutely beautiful.

Check their website at www.masonicstairwayrug.com/

Which brings up another question. Is there a US or Canadian manufacturer of lodge carpets, with a checkered floor, a blazing star and tessellated border? The English companies have beautiful carpets, but the exchange rate and shipping makes them too expensive for most of us to comfortably suggest to our lodges.

When Technology Fails

Thanks so very much to Comcast for trashing my phone and internet service for two days. They couldn't have picked a worse 48 hour period. You know, I was just facing deadlines with chapter reviews requiring massive files batted back and forth on two projects between two publishers. Nothing trivial. Nothing like sitting in the Hilton parking lot with the laptop at 5AM, upload files, download the next batch. Then back home to work, then back to the Hilton.

The third Comcast tech finally admitted the whole section of town is down because of a fiber optic "upgrade issue."

On the good side, I have taken delivery of a case of Arran Robert Burns scotch.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sgt. Kimberly Munley, Former Rainbow Girl

(I am taking the liberty of quoting this entire post from Neil Neddermeyer's e-mail newsletter, Cinosam that just arrived today. Sign up for Neil's informative postings by visiting the Cinosam website here.)

Former Rainbow girl Kimberly Munley is being hailed as a hero for bringing down the Fort Hood shooter while taking three bullets herself, and her former partner isn't a bit surprised. Shaun Appler, who worked with her years ago in North Carolina, says that he began calling her "Mighty Mouse" after she leaped through the air to free him from an assailant choking him and trying to grab his gun.

"She saved my life that night," Appler says. "When I found out the female officer at Fort Hood was Kim, I wasn't surprised. Kim not only has the training, I know she was mentally prepared to know what to do when you get into that situation." He spoke to her by phone yesterday. "She is in good spirits, although she is obviously saddled with the loss of life that occurred there."

All of us were horrified by the terrorist attack at Ft. Hood last week. We were equally thankful for the heroic actions taken by the civilian policewoman who ended the attack by shooting the terrorist and bringing him down.

Officer Kimberly Barbour Munley was a member of North Carolina Wilmington Assembly 29, now Goldenrod Assembly 29, where she served as Worthy Advisor, and also as the North Carolina Rainbow Grand Musician. She was also a member of the Grand Cross of Color.

I know that each of you join me in praying for the family of Mrs. Munley as she recovers from her injuries, and for all of the families of Ft. Hood.

Kay Letterman, Supreme Inspector in North Carolina, said, "We are very proud of the courage that this young lady displayed to save so many lives.

Sgt. Munley has had two surgeries, but she has survived a shot in the hand and two in her thighs, and without her brave actions, the Ft. Hood shootings would have been far worse. An update on her condition appeared in an article by Samuel Goldsmith in todays New York Daily News.

Today Is Veteran's Day

'Thank you' is not enough.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Grand Secretary of Indiana, Max Carpenter, To Retire

The Grand Lodge of Indiana has officially announced the retirement of longtime Grand Secretary Max L. Carpenter, PGM, effective January 1, 2010. Max has served as Grand Secretary in Indiana for 17 years, and was president of the Conference of Grand Secretaries in 2008-09.

In honor of Max's many years of service, there will be an informal reception for brethren, guests, and the general public immediately following Founders Day, Saturday, January 16th, 2010, in the Grand Ballroom at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis.

Grand Master Charles F. Marlowe has appointed MWBro. Richard J. Elman, PGM, to fill Max's position until Grand Lodge in May 2010. Rick served as Grand Master in 2004-2005.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Robert Lomas, Elias Ashmole and the World's Oldest Museum

"Hiram Key" author Brother Robert Lomas is featured in an article in Saturday's Yorkshire Evening Post. In the article it is revealed that Dan Brown has admitted his character of Robert Langdon is partially based on Lomas, even if he hasn't ever jumped out of a helicopter in a tweed jacket.

Despite his ongoing "Hiram Key/Solomon Key/Templar key" series of books, I have to say my favorite of his books is Freemasonry and the Birth of Modern Science, which he admitted to me a couple of years ago was his personal favorite, as well. It discusses the formation of the Royal Society and the roles played by Robert Moray and Elias Ashmole. Freemasons in the U.S. have rarely heard of Morey, and usually only know the name of Ashmole because he is erroneously thought to be the first known speculative Freemason initiated in 1646. Moray's initiation was in Newcastle on May 20th, 1641.

Ashmole's accomplishments were far greater than simply being initiated into a lodge. He eventually went to Oxford and in 1660, he started acquiring a collection that became what is regarded today as the world's oldest museum, known simply enough as the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology.

This week the Ashmoliean Museum reopened after a major renovation and construction of a new wing. Read about it here:

Stories from the Ashmolean Museum

The reopening of The Ashmolean, review

The reopening of the Ashmolean: infinite riches in a larger room

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Jack Straw Rescinds England's Anti-Masonic Judiciary Rule

Well, it's about bloody time.

England's former Home Secretary, Jack Straw, announced today that he is rescinding a rule he introduced in 1997 requiring judges in the U.K. to declare their membership in Freemasonry. Not in a stamp collecting circle, or a rugby club, or the Manchester and Sheffield Anarchist Federation, or an al-Qaeda sleeper cell, or a country club. Just the Freemasons.

Why was this again, exactly?

There was an investigation twelve years ago that made headlines, purporting to expose the dark and secret role Freemasonry was playing in law enforcement and the judiciary. The nebulous accusation was that Britain's plods were letting Masonic buddies get away with crimes, and that criminals only needed to stroll into court and make "Masonic gestures," and their brother judges would be required by our blood-soaked Masonic oaths to drop all charges and send them skipping on their Masonic way.

Anti-Masonic author Martin Short was out in front, tub-thumping over the issue, convinced the Masons had somehow caused a brain tumor to grow in the head of fellow anti-Masonic writer, Stephen Knight. To this day, Short is the BBC's go-to guy on Masonic stories. When a report on Freemasonry gets ready to air something kind about the fraternity, the Beeb rings up Short for his "on the other hand" take on it, you know, in the interest of "balance." Interestingly, they don't bring in a Holocaust denier when running Auschwitz stories for the sake of balance and compelling reporting. But I digress.

There was just one problem back in 1997. After spending months of investigative effort and a stack of the taxpayers' cash on an investigation, Jack Straw found precisely zero evidence there was any widespread Masonic influence in the courts or police stations. But that was okay, it was simply the accusation that was serious enough to warrant a new rule requiring Masons in these powerful positions to disclose their private membership in a perfectly legal organization for which there was no evidence of any impropriety.

Straw is a Member of Parliament for Blackburn, and currently is the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice these days under Gordon Brown. The onrushing elections may finally portend the end of the Labor Party's long reign. But what motivated Straw to rescinding the rule was the threat of a lawsuit by the United Grand Lodge of England. Citing a recent decision in a European Union Court of Human Rights anti-discimination case involving similar rules against Masons in Italy, Straw announced today that he'd had a change of heart.

From an article in The Guardian, Straw was quoted as saying,

"The review of the policy operating since 1998 has shown no evidence of impropriety or malpractice within the judiciary as a result of a judge being a freemason and in my judgment, therefore, it would be disproportionate to continue the collection or retention of this information."

According to the Ministry of Justice, there are 3,808 judges in England and Wales and 5.4% of them (205) are masons. There are also 29,702 magistrates, of whom 6.4% (1,900) are masons.

The government introduced the declaration rule after it was recommended by the Commons home affairs committee in a report published in March 1997. The committee said that "nothing so much undermines public confidence in public institutions as the knowledge that some public servants are members of a secret society one of whose aims is mutual self-advancement". At the time Straw said Labour supported the recommendation.

But, in his statement today, Straw stressed that the 1997 report "made no finding of impropriety in the conduct of the judiciary arising from membership of individual members of the judiciary of the freemasons".

He also said the existing safeguards, such as the oath, the availability of a complaints procedure and the independent appointments commission, were enough to support "the proper performance of judicial functions".

Note this only affects judges. The Home Office still has a rule in place which requires potential police officers and anyone working for the probation or prison service to declare whether they are Freemasons. Hopefully, this one will fall, as well.

Read Jack Straw scraps rule saying judges must declare if they are masons and Freemasons shake off ruling on judiciary.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

"Is Dan Brown a Freemason?"

I am almost finished with the manuscript to Deciphering The Lost Symbol, which was due to the publisher Monday.

My apologies to Masonic Society members for the tardiness of the Autumn Journal, and especially to everyone who has sent an email or called who believes I am purposely ignoring them. The way the schedule goes, I sleep for five hours, get up, type, pass out for two hours, wake up, type some more, and pass out. That's just the way it goes at the end of a project around here. Alice shovels up the Diet Dr. Pepper cans around my desk when I can't see over them anymore.

Recently on several Masonic forums I have seen the question asked, "Is Dan Brown a Freemason?"

In a September 15th, 2009 Associated Press article, Freemasons await Dan Brown novel 'The Lost Symbol' by Hillel Italie, it was stated:

Brown is not a Mason, but said that working on the novel helped him imagine a time when religious prejudice would disappear and added that he found the Masonic philosophy a "beautiful blueprint for human spirituality."

He was tempted to join, but, "If you join the Masons you take a vow of secrecy. I could not have written this book if I were a Mason," he says.

And now?

"They've let me know the door is always open."

Some have suggested that Brown be made a "Mason at sight," which is a rare, and in most jurisdictions illegal, way for a grand master to take a man and make him a Freemason without the required waiting periods, investigations, or even voting on his membership. It has happened, but not often.

Dan Brown is a shy man who has more fame than he knows what to do with. He does not like attention, and actually lives a very private and almost reclusive life.

Unless I see an announcement from the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire that Brown has been made a Freemason "at sight" (not "on sight" or "on site"), I will continue to believe that, if he has any interest at all, it is far more likely that he will quietly petition a lodge in or near Essex, New Hampshire and go through the degrees the way he is supposed to. And if he eventually does join, I suspect, given his personal habits, he would ask any lodge he petitions, and the grand lodge, to not make him into a public poster child. Just a hunch.

In any case, I believe the effect on the fraternity in the long run because of the publicity (note, I do not say quality) of the book will be enormous, over a long period of time. If 50 million people read his book over the next five or six years, and just 1% are good men who become motivated to join the fraternity, that's a half million new Masons who might never have given us a second glance. He pulled off more than any grand lodge could ever dream of doing. All Brown has done is given us the opportunity to not disappoint these men when they come knocking. What they find when we let them in is totally up to us.

In the meantime, perhaps we should see if he decides that we are worth joining and live up to his expectations before we go commissioning a painting of his apotheosis.