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


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Starting A Masonic Library

A brother on a Masonic forum was starting a library for his Indiana lodge, and was looking for a list of books to start with (I mean, once you have exhausted the obvious and the equally excellent, if only slightly less obvious).

Here were my first-round suggestions, in no particular order. Undoubtedly I've left off someone's favorite. Most can be had from Amazon or Abebooks, but I've linked to a couple that you should order directly from the publisher.

  • Coil's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, the 1996 revision.
  • James Anderson's Constitutions of both 1723 and 1738
  • Samuel Pritchard's Masonry Dissected
  • William Preston's Illustrations of Masonry
  • Freemasons Monitor by Thomas Smith Webb - very important, as it set US Masons (except Pennsylvania) onto a standardized path for ritual.
  • Harry L. Haywood's Newly Made Mason
  • Joseph Fort Newton's The Builders and The Men's House
  • The Little Masonic Library
  • Masonic Enlightenment edited by Michael Poll
  • Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland's Century by David Stevenson
  • Denslow's 10,000 Famous Freemasons is flawed and dated, but a good starting point.
  • Pike's Morals & Dogma (remember we're in the North here, and our AASR degrees don't have Pike anywhere near them, so M&D generally baffles our new 32° Masons here). Better for a Blue Lodge is his Esoterika, which discusses the first three lodge degrees at length.
  • Stephen Bullock's Revolutionary Brotherhood
  • Mark Tabbert's American Freemasons
  • Jasper Ridley's The Freemasons
  • Allen Roberts' The Craft and Its Symbols
  • Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol by Kirk MacNulty. Another fascinating volume is the French work Symbols of Freemasonry, which is influenced by the Grand Orient of France.
  • Harry Carr's informative The Freemason at Work
  • Is It True What They Say About Freemasonry? by S. Brent Morris and Art de Hoyos
  • Robert Cooper's The Rosslyn Hoax
  • Mark C. Carnes' Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America
  • John Robinson's A Pilgrim's Path and Born In Blood (bearing in mind that the latter is largely untrue).
  • The Mythology of the Secret Societies by J.M. Roberts
  • International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Fraternal Orders by Axelrod
  • Morgan, the Scandal That Shook Freemasonry by Stephen Dafoe
  • The Enlightenment Reader by Viking Press
  • Hermetica translated by Walter Scott
  • Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation by Henrik Bogdan
  • Eliphas Levi and the Kabbalah by Robert L. Uzzel
  • The Magus of Freemasonry by Tobias Churton
  • Builders of Empire by Jessica Harland-Jacobs
  • Living The Enlightenment by Margaret Jacob
  • Masonic Odes and Poems by Rob Morris
  • Out of the Shadows by Roundtree and Bessel (most recent scholarship on Prince Hall recognition)
  • Black Square and Compasses by Joseph Walkes



  • Goodly Heritage by Dwight L. Smith, written for the 150th anniversary of Freemasonry in Indiana
  • A History of Freemasonry in Indiana from 1806-1898‎ by Daniel McDonald.
  • Bittersweet by Betty Kaufman Stover (the story of the Indiana Masonic Home's orphans)
  • Indianapolis lodges should also look for William English's History of Freemasonry in Indianapolis (1901), and History of the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis 1863-1924 by Charles E. Crawford.
And while you're ordering books, pick up Brad Miner's thoughtful and provocative The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man's Guide to Chivalry, and John Bridges' How to Be a Gentleman: A Contemporary Guide to Common Courtesy, since no one seems to know this stuff anymore.

A Brief Rant About Kindles, iPads and Ebooks

The iPad with Kindle editions of Freemason Symbols & Ceremonies For Dummies by Christopher Hodapp ($3.99), and Brent Morris' The Complete Idiot's Guide To The Essentials of Freemasonry ($2.99)

On Friday, Amazon abruptly dropped all books from publisher Macmillan from their active lists. This is huge for authors of books by that publishing giant (fortunately, I am not one). This story came in the wake of Apple's Wednesday debut of the iPad and its new online bookstore. The gist of the battle with Amazon has to do with Apple giving better terms to publishers for listing books on their new service.

This is normally boring, eye-glazing stuff, and there is undoubtedly a cadre of consumers who demand that all products be as cheap as possible, and publishers and authors be damned. But if you have any interest in the technical details of the book business, take the time to read author Charles Stross' blog entry Amazon, Macmillan: an outsider's guide to the fight. Amazon may be cheap and easy for you as a consumer, but they screw the creators of books, as well as traditional bookstores and wholesalers, to the wall, and make money coming and going. That ultimately harms the book business all the way around. As Stross points out, "book publishing is notoriously, uniquely unprofitable," and Amazon's model of e-books via Kindle is even less profitable to everyone but Amazon.

Consider that Apple announced its cut from e-book sales would be just 30%, compared with Amazon's whopping 70% of the sale price. Whoops, then Amazon suddenly announced late Friday they'd match Apple's deal, now that competition has arrived, with a device that will undoubtedly eviscerate Kindle reader sales.

There are those who argue that authors no longer need publishers in this wik'd kool age of the Intertubes and on-demand publishing. Balderdash. It's true that, if all you desire is to see your name in print, then Lulu yourself till the cows come home. No pesky editors to bother you with deadlines and silly nonsense like proofreading, third-party objectivity about your subject matter, layout, indexing, cover art, or marketing. But if you want to get as many copies of your book in front of as many pairs of eyeballs as possible, as well as getting some kind of partial remuneration for the months or years you spent researching and creating the work, publishers are still a pretty effective group of experts on the subject.

In the specialized world of Masonic books, mainstream publishers are no substitute for the niche publishers like Lewis Masonic, Mike Poll's Cornerstone Book Publishers, venerable Macoy's and a tiny handful of others. Screwing them out of a sizable portion of their profits only ensures they won't survive.

Amazon has been touting "millions" of Kindle readers sold over the last couple of years (that plural word could mean no more than "two" millions), but the company refuses to give out specifics. I will simply say from personal experience that any author who thinks a Kindle deal is the first stop on the publishing gravy train is kidding himself. I can say that, so far, Kindle sales of my own books have been an infinitesimal blip, compared to old fashioned, murdered tree versions. The iPad may turn out to be a game changer in that, but that's yet to be seen.

Meanwhile, publishers, in an effort to provide cheaper Kindle editions that don't detract sales from the full-sized, full-price versions, are looking for creative ways to package existing books, as seen above. Think of them as gateway drugs.

Dan Brown on Faith, Science and Freemasonry

Dan Brown was interviewed by Columbia-based Vive.in and talks about science, faith, and increased interest in Freemasonry.

And a better, longer German TV interview in the same location with more Masonic content.

MWB Charles E. Jones, PHA GM of Missouri, Passes Away

Most Worshipful Brother Charles E. Jones, Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri F&AM, passed to the celestial lodge on Friday morning. MWB Jones lived in Hayti, Missouri.

Visitation will be Friday, Feb. 5, 2010 starting at 5 P.M. at the Divine Holiness Outreach Ministries, 1109 E. 18th Street, Cauthersville, MO. The family has requested Masonic services. Assembly time is 5:30 P.M. with services starting at 6 P.M.

The funeral will be Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010 at the same church starting at 12 noon. Flowers can be sent to Williams Funeral Homes, 304 Vine St., Charleston, Mo. 63834.

Deepest condolences to the family, friends and brethren of Grand Master Jones. His column is broken, and his brethren mourn.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Montreal Masonic Temple Receives C$425,000 Preservation Grant

The Canadian government will be contributing C$425,000 to support a conservation project at the Masonic Memorial Temple, in Montreal, Quebec, which is considered one of the finest examples of Beaux-Arts style in Canada. It is the home of the Grand Lodge of Quebec, and includes meeting rooms for lodges and appendant organizations, the grand lodge library, and a series of historic murals. The Temple was designed by Scottish-born architect John Smith Archibald. Dedicated and officially opened June 22, 1929, it was added to the register of National Historic Sites of Canada in 2006.

The investment in the Temple is part of Canada's Economic Action Plan, which includes major investments in national historic sites to encourage growth in tourism. The announcement was made by Senator W. David Angus, on behalf of Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada.

According to a release on the Parks Canada website:

Brian Dillon, Heritage Vice President of the Masonic Memorial Temple declared, “We are most appreciative of Parks Canada for their interest in preserving the architectural heritage of Montreal. Their technical and financial support are very encouraging in our efforts to preserve this unique historical treasure: The Montreal Memorial Masonic Temple.”

“This project will help the Masonic Memorial Temple be a destination of choice for travellers,” said Minister Prentice. “In our Economic Action Plan, we recognize just how important history, heritage and tourism are to the economy, and the important role that our Cost-Sharing Program will play supporting local economies, as well as to the fabric of national historic sites.

National historic sites contribute to tourism in over 400 communities across Canada through direct spending, visitor spending and spin-off economic activity. The National Historic Sites Cost-Sharing Program, with a budget of $20 million provided in part by Canada’s Economic Action Plan, reflects the government’s desire to support job creation by providing funding for conservation of national historic sites. This Program provides opportunities for skilled construction and conservation professionals to work on national historic sites across the country.

The National Historic Sites Cost-Sharing Program is a contribution program that can pay up to 50% of eligible costs incurred by the owner to conserve a national historic site and present it to Canadians for their enjoyment and appreciation. Eligible recipients include other levels of government, not-for-profit organizations and not-for-profit aboriginal organizations.

Oh, Canada!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Montana's Deer Lodge #14 Damaged By Arson

The building of Deer Lodge #14 in Deer Lodge, Montana was damaged by an arson fire in the early hours of Wednesday.

According to a story in the Montana Standard:

Ron Marler, a resident in the building, heard the alarm shortly after 1 a.m. on that Wednesday and called 911. He then reportedly grabbed a fire extinguisher to fight the blaze until firemen arrived, authorities said.

Sheriff's deputies Austin Micu and Gary Bender awakened other residents n including a 4-year-old boy — on the second floor and evacuated them through thick smoke.

Sheriff Scott Howard said the arson or arsonists entered through the front door. An accelerant was poured in the elevator, and along the floor in the entryway to the doorway where it was ignited. It burned along the floor and into the elevator. Burning rubber matting caused a thick pall of smoke throughout the first and second floors.

"No one had to move out, but some residents on the second floor are in poor health, and this could have been very bad," said county attorney Lewis Smith.

The Masonic building is home to Territorial Antiques, several offices, apartments and the Masonic Lodge. Fire damage was confined to the entryway and elevator, with smoke damage on the second floor.

Sheriff Howard and deputy fire marshal Pat Clinch are working on the investigation.

"We are hoping from samples and other evidence taken at the crime scene we can develop a suspect and continue the investigation," Howard said.

People with information are asked to call authorities at (406) 846-2711.

Apparently, there is an office in which mandatory drug and alcohol testing and programs are held in the building, and some have speculated that it might be a disgruntled patron of that establishment.

Deer Lodge was chartered in 1869. Brother Lewis Smith, quoted in the article, is the Senior Grand Steward of the Grand Lodge of Montana.

Treasures Uncovered in New Zealand

Here is why cheap hardware store paneling should be banished from the Earth.

The brethren of Lodge Arrow Kilwinning No. 86 in Arrowtown, New Zealand were poking around under a remodeling job done back in the 1950s, yanked off some paneling, and discovered incredible artwork that was painted 110 years ago.

The building was completed and consecrated on January 23, 1888. According to an article in The Southland Times:

A large set square and compass motif hand painted on to a chimney flue was revealed behind stone that the pinex board had covered.

A tessellated pavement, which is a freemason's lodge floor feature was discovered beneath pinex floorboards.

A frieze of billowing curtains painted around the ceiling was also uncovered.

The discovery is exciting for Freemasons, who will reveal the features to members on February 13.

Interested non-Freemasons will have to wait until the Arrowtown Autumn Festival in April to view the revamped features, when the lodge would be open for viewing.

The tessellated pavement is a square laid into the lodge floor that is believed to be painted on the remains of a tent used in Arrowtown's early goldmining days.

"There's a lot of history here," Mr Wilson said.

"The Arrowtown lodge used to have its meetings on the Monday nearest the full moon so that gold-miners travelling from Macetown would have moonlight to travel by."

An article appeared last April that details the restoration work. See it here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rocky Mountain Masonic Conference, Albuquerque July 15-17

I regularly tell anyone who will listen that I consider myself one of the luckiest guys in Freemasonry, to be given the opportunity to travel and speak to brethren literally all around the world. On occasion, I get to be in the company of men whose works influenced my own writing and thoughts, and I find myself truly humbled.

Such an event will be the Rocky Mountain Masonic Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, July 15-17th, 2010.

The hotel is the Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North.

This annual event stresses what is positive and working in its member jurisdictions, a philosophy that is reinforced by the program's scheduled presentations. Regardless of the grand officers who may be in attendance, no lavish bling is allowed, dress is strictly casual, and the object is to share ideas. Guest speakers scheduled are Art de Hoyos, Neil Neddermeyer (PGM of Minnesota, and now North Dakota's Grand Orator), Arizona PGM Rex Hutchens, and myself.

Many thanks to Nate Calloway (and his sister Heather) for extending the kind invitation.

Rex and I will be easy to spot. We'll be out behind the hotel smacking each other with copies of The Lost Symbol.

Karl Grube from the Bonisteel Masonic Library on Masonic Central

Dr. Karl Grube from the Bonisteel Masonic Library in Detroit will be the guest on Masonic Central this Sunday evening, January 31st.

From the Masonic Central website:

Motor City Masonry has quite a tale to tell. In the shadow of the automotive decline the memories of a Masonic hey day still stand as testament of the fraternities grandeur in the not so distant past.

Memories tend to be short when the immediate effect of the past is spread out over decades worth of events. But if you're in Minnesota, its hard to forget the legacy of the past that reminds you of what once was and what could be again, especially in the physical being of the temple and the spiritual investiture of it. Truly, at some point, the heavens touched the earth in the creation of the Detroit Masonic Cathedral and in the will expressed through Br. Roscoe Bonisteel and his endeavors to endow the state of Michigan with an enduring Masonic legacy.

Br. Bonisteel, in his day, was an advocate for civil rights, a developer of commercial properties, a philanthropist of libraries and museums, a war veteran, and a believer in the enduring quality of Freemasonry. He was raised in 1914, served as Worshipful Master in 1920, and, following regular advancement, became the Grand Master of Michigan in 1929. Outside of his Masonic career, Br. Bonisteel was an active philanthropist contributing much to higher education, the construction of their libraries, and their book collections. What makes this resume stand out in such relief are the enduring monuments to which he dedicated so much of his energy to. Truly, a testament of what each of us is capable of.

Today Bonisteel is remembered through the museum named in his honor, the Bonisteel Masonic Library.

Of equal measure, and just down the highway, is a silent jewel of American Masonry. If ever there were a head office, the Detroit Masonic Temple could not only house it, but would have ample room to do what it does today, which is engage relevantly and intelligently with the local community. At its height it could provision 50 Masonic bodies, included drilling halls. auditoriums with capacity of 1600, and a main theater with room for 5000+. It was truly an American Cathedral to the Fraternity. Today, it is where you can catch the latest rock show, watch a few rounds of roller derby, and get married, all within the confines of the city and all under the roof of one of the largest Masonic lodges in the world?

What links these two venues is the passion fueled by Br. Bonisteel and kept alive through the works of brothers like him to keep these silent treasures relevant and active in both the Masonic and public community.

Join us this Sunday on the Masonic Central pod cast as Karl Grube who is the President of the Bonisteel Masonic Library in Ann Arbor Michigan and a member of the board of trustees for the Detroit Masonic Temple to talk to us about Michigan Masonry, the life and legacy of the Bonisteel Library, and the jewel of the American Masonic edifice, the Detroit Masonic Temple.

The live program starts promptly at 9pm EST / 6pm PST at Masonic Central on Blog Talk Radio where you can listen live and join our interactive chat at during the program. Remember, the show goes live promptly at the hour!

We encourage your questions and comments to the show by calling (347) 677-0936 during the program.

You can listen here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/masonic-central
or from our home on http://www.freemasoninformation.com

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Philalethes Society Feast & Forum in Minneapolis on March 5-6, 2010

The Philalethes Society Feast and Forum will be Friday and Saturday, March 5-6, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Featured speakers for the event will be: Robert Davis, from Oklahoma; Scott Wolter, petrologist and author of “The Hooked X” – a new study on the Kensington Runestone and Masonic connections to the early history of North America; John Belton of England speaking on European Continent and Recognition Issues; Jose’ Siexus, speaking on Freemasonry’s influence in Brazil and South America; and Minnesota's Thomas C. Jackson, speaking on Fraternities and the Fraternity: Places of Dialogue and Opportunity. The evening banquet speaker will be Trevor Stewart of Scotland, member of Quator Coronati Lodge and former Prestonian lecturer, presenting “The Curious Case of Bro. Gustav Petrie’.”

Then event will be at the Park Plaza Hotel in Bloomington, Minnesota. For more information and registration, see here: http://www.freemasonry.org/newcontent/2010Assembly.pdf

Monday, January 25, 2010

2011 Intl Conference on the History of Freemasonry in Alexandria, VA

The planning for the third International Conference on the History of Freemasonry in 2011 is underway, and will be held at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia May 26-30th, 2011.

The first two bi-annual conferences were held in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2007 and 2009, but it was always the plan for the conference to move around the world. The 2011 event being held in Alexandria, just a few miles from Washington D.C., gives Freemasons and those with an academic interest in the fraternity an outstanding opportunity to explore the rich Masonic heritage that can be found there.

The first official announcement of the event has come today. Click the image at left to enlarge. The call for papers will undoubtedly arrive soon, so start working on yours now. Hope to see you there.

For updates, see the conference website at: http://www.ichfonline.org

Old Master's Freemason Whisky To Be Imported to US

Over the weekend, I posted the image of Lombard's Old Master's Freemason Whisky in a story about Colorado relaxing its alcohol rules simply as an image to remind brethren of Masonry's long tradition of enjoying tasty adult beverages outside of the US. Little did I realize it would touch off a flurry of backchannel and Facebook posts expressing interest in this product.

I wrote to two representatives of Lombard's, Vici Wine and Spirits located in Florida, asking about availability in the US, and both said it was unavailable here. Vici's Chuck Squires responded, "Unfortunately, it is illegal for us to Import that product. There was a lawsuit started by the Free Mason Society." I find that explanation questionable, since there is no national Masonic group that could do that, and courts have long held that the square and compasses, as a generic symbol and not a specific copyrighted piece of artwork, is much like a cross in its ubiquity.

Brother Ruben J. Levy in Panama contacted Mr. Richard Lombard-Chibnall at Lombard's in Scotland, and was given this somewhat more encouraging response:

"Old Masters gain(ed) USA Federal label approval on Friday, so we are certainly looking to move forward in a positive direction.

You may be interested to know, the whisky itself was reviewed in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2008. It received a fabulous review - here is copy of what was written:

"Old Masters “Freemason Whisky”(92 points)
nose: The perfect nose to experience blindfolded (how else ….?) as the depth of the fruit and grain – and their happy intermingling – is astonishing. A few under-ripe gooseberries here; taste: Light, graceful arrival with the early emphasis on a Speyside malt theme before some grain and oak kinks in; finish: pretty long with touches of cocoa though the fresh malt lingers; balance: a high quality blend that doesn’t stint on the malt. The nose, in particular, is sublime.

For those inclined to bite the bullet and spend a lot of cash on shipping, the Whisky Exchange offers Old Masters and will ship to the US, starting at £53 total for the first bottle. Obviously the cost drops the more you buy. Let's just say I'll have some at Masonic Week in the Masonic Society's hospitality suite, along with some Arran's Robert Burns blend.

The new US export bottle.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Solomon's Builders featured in U.S. News & World Report: Secrets of the Lost Symbol

I was pleasantly surprised to see the new special publication U.S. News & World Report: Secrets of the Lost Symbol features a lengthy excerpt of chapters from Solomon's Builders: Freemasons, Founding Fathers and the Secrets of Washington D.C.

Also featured are portions of Mark Tabbert's American Freemasons, and articles by Art De Hoyos, Simon Cox, Mitch Horowitz, Michael Parkes, and more.

From the US News website:


In The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown's blockbuster sequel to The Da Vinci Code, world-famous symbologist Robert Langdon once again finds himself in the midst of murder and mayhem—this time in the heart of the nation's capital in Washington, D.C.

This unauthorized guide to the novel, by the editors of the best-selling Secrets of the Da Vinci Code, unravels all the history and mysteries of the novel from the codes, secrets and unseen truths to the mystical rituals and hidden past of the Masons, the secret society whose clandestine world is at the heart of Brown's lurid tale.

This special collector's edition from U.S. News & World Report includes:

  • The hidden Masonic connections behind many of Washington's most famous buildings.
  • An inside look at America's most famous Masons, including Presidents George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
  • The real story behind the Ancient Mysteries and the Bible that are the key to understanding the novel.
  • In-depth coverage of the many mysterious and esoteric Masonic symbols, from the double-headed Phoenix to the Akedah Knife.
  • The true story of the CIA's Kryptos sculpture, whose code has confounded even the super-sleuths at the Agency.

Starting to show up in bookstores now, or available online.

GL of Colorado Relaxes Alcohol Rules

The Grand Lodge of Colorado voted yesterday to relax restrictions on alcohol in their Temples. Colorado Masons have been allowed to serve alcohol in their table lodges, as well as before or after lodge during festive boards, etc. However, there was a restriction that prevented a lodge from renting to outside, non-Masonic groups serving hootch within two hours before or after lodge opened and closed in the same building.

The rule was overturned yesterday. Colorado Masonic Temple Boards and building societies are now given the freedom to rent rooms in their buildings to any group serving alcohol, even if a lodge meeting is occurring elsewhere in the building at the same time.

Great Caesar's Ghost!
Masons treating Masons like adults!
Masonic buildings given the opportunity to generate cash flow by renting to the community!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Grand Lodge of Scotland: Message About Haiti Relief

The Grand Master of Scotland, M:.W:.B:. Charles Iain Wolrige Gordon, has issued the following message (see the Grand Lodge of Scotland's web page about the Haiti earthquake here):

Brethren, we have all been horrified by the devastating earthquake that has struck the Republic of Haiti and the scenes of suffering and desolation on our television screens. Many Brethren have been enquiring how we, as Scottish Freemasons, can best assist in aiding the suffering of the people of that land.

Whilst the natural reaction of many is to contribute immediately to the International Aid Agencies seeking funding I have today consulted with the heads of all Masonic Bodies in Scotland with whom we are in Amity as well as with Grand Almoner and Grand Secretary and we are unanimous in our opinion that this may not be the long term best use of Masonic generated funds. In our opinion, considering that the funds generated by appeals to our Brethren are liable to be insignificant to the total of the International Appeals, any Masonic generated monies should be retained centrally and used for specific reconstruction or social projects once the country has achieved a measure of stability.

Whilst Provinces, Districts and Lodges are of course at liberty to contribute to disaster relief in any manner they wish all should be aware that the Grand Lodge of Scotland will co-ordinate the receipt of contributions from Scottish Freemasons worldwide. Any funds received will be retained in a designated account for Haiti Earthquake Relief and will be utilised entirely for identifiable projects in Haiti.

Brethren, Scottish Freemasons have always prided themselves in their generosity to those less fortunate than themselves. Charity is one of the foundations of our Craft and I do not need to emphasise the terrible situation in Haiti. I would urge all Scottish Freemasons to support this initiative and contribute as your circumstances allow to this most worthy cause.
All cheques, money orders etc should be payable to the 'Grand Lodge of Scotland' and clearly marked on the back or by accompanying letter - Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund.

By necessity, this is an urgent appeal and further information as to how funds will be ultimately utilised and controlled will be given later, but I can assure you that every penny / cent received will go directly to those in need.

Charles Iain Wolrige Gordon of Esslemont Grand Master Mason
January 2010

Grand Lodge of Colorado Meeting in Pueblo

(Photo from the Pueblo Chieftan)

The Grand Lodge of Colorado is gathering this week in Pueblo for their annual communication. Grand Master Brian L. Cotter is enthusiastically quoted in an article by Jeff Tucker in the Pueblo Chieftan ("Masons rebuilding ranks"):
"We're in a great place right now," Cotter said. "The beauty of it is they're coming back because we haven't changed anything we've taught in 300 years."
According to the article, in 2008, just 67 people contacted the Colorado Freemasons through its website, seeking information on joining the fraternity. In 2009, that number jumped to 497. It could be that Freemasonry has turned a corner. It could be the Dan Brown effect, the explosion of social media, or just an unprecedented amount of exposure in media to Masonry that has resulted in these kinds of increased contacts. Maybe the Grand Lodge of Colorado simply improved its website last year. But whatever the reason, everywhere I go, every lodge I talk to tells me initiations are up all over the country.

We stand on the edge of a unique period in time. Men knock on the doors of our lodges for a thousand different reasons, but it is up to the individual Masons in our lodges to make sure they get the best possible experience and keep coming back. That can only happen at the local lodge level, from brother to brother. Grand lodges don't keep members from coming to lodge next Thursday. It's what you and I say and do, what goes on before, during and after the meeting, that makes a man decide whether lodge is worth attending next week.

The Robert Burns Night

A portrait of Scottish poet Robert Burns

Ian Jack in the Guardian offers a fond examination of the phenomenon of the Burns Night Supper in It's Burns Night – sae let the Lord be thankit

The temptation here is to mock Burns Suppers as an example of what historian Hugh Trevor-Roper called "invented traditions", a ritual that like Druidism, clan tartans and eisteddfods is essentially a Victorian reimagining of the past. But the historical record demolishes that idea. The memorialisation of Burns began only a few years after his death in 1796. There were Burns Clubs in the west of Scotland by 1805, a mausoleum in Dumfries by 1817, a monument (the foundation stone was laid by James Boswell's son with "full Masonic honours") started at his birthplace in Alloway, Ayrshire, in 1820. As to Burns Suppers, the first was held at his old Alloway cottage in 1801 and for several years commemorated his July death as well as his January birth. From the beginning, speeches were made to the poet's "immortal memory" – many guests had known him – and haggis featured on the menu as well as sheep's head.

The cottage, which the Burns family quit long before, had been converted to an alehouse and soon began to attract literary pilgrims. Keats, visiting in 1818, wrote to a friend: "We went to the cottage and took some whiskey … The man at the cottage was a great bore with his anecdotes – I hate the rascal – his life consists in fuz, fuzzy, fuzziest – he drinks glasses five for the quarter and twelve for the hour, – he is a mahogany faced old jackass who knew Burns – he ought to be kicked for having spoken to him."

As an after-death cult, Burns's was almost instant, and like all successful cults it had objects and places that followers could visit and feel attached to.

Lodge Vitruvian is forgoing its semi-regular Burns Night Supper this year—twice we've been snowed out, and our ranks have been shrinking as of late. So we'll have a year off. But if you are in search of material, recipes, and poetry for your own lodge's Burns celebration, visit the most comprehensive Burns Supper Guide at Burns Country.

See also What makes a Burns Supper? by the World Burns Club.

If you have a hankering for a haggis, see Haggis Guide: Buying & Cooking Haggis for Burns Day Supper

Friday, January 22, 2010

Indiana Grand Lodge Library Museum Move Pt. 2

Fifth floor at Indiana Freemasons Hall in Indianapolis, before the chaos began.

The bookshelves arrived.

Shelving takes shape.

Over 1,000 boxes of books and archive material arrived. Sort of a "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" moment.

The Museum end of the room has a long way to go.

Seeing books on shelves makes me happy. Not properly sorted, mind you, but in close locations, anyway.

The bemused Goat watches the activity.
Charters, proclamations, artwork, photos and more await unboxing.

500 book and archive boxes still left to sort. And there's another couple of hundred on the 6th floor I haven't even looked at. Lest you think the job is done.

An inkling of organization.

BTW, kudos to the crew from Greenwood Moving and Storage who did a great job.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Indiana Freemasons' Hall: Library & Museum Relocation

Phase II of the relocation of the Grand Lodge of Indiana Library & Museum from Franklin to Indianapolis is underway this week. Last summer, a portion of the museum artifacts were moved from the Indiana Masonic Home to the 5th floor of Indiana Freemasons' Hall in Indianapolis, and temporarily set up to give brethren some idea of the collection's scope. This week, a moving crew is bringing the shelving, books and archives to their new home. While it will take time, patience and effort to reorganize the collection, the important news is that the library will soon be accessible. The Library/Museum board will be scheduling regular work days each month. But the biggest benefit is that the collection will now be in a safe, secure location that will receive regular attention, and back home again in the headquarters of Indiana Freemasonry.

Indiana Freemasons' Hall is not an Indianapolis institution, it belongs to every Freemason in the state of Indiana. Improvements are being made to the building, and the Temple Board is dedicated to making it a place we are all proud of, as well as a destination for Indiana Masons to visit, tour, perform degree work, and make use of its facilities.

In other areas, Centre Lodge has made great strides with the redecoration of their 3rd floor social room. Hundreds of old steel lockers have been removed from the Raper Commandery No. 1 Armory on the 7th floor to create a massive new space that is being adapted for offices, storage, and a social area for the Indianapolis DeMolay Chapter. New offices are being built for the Masonic relief Board and the Indiana Masonic Scholarship Board. Generous contributions by the Indianapolis Valley of the Scottish Rite have purchased an electronic event kiosk for the lobby, and soon, new chairs and round tables for the 2nd floor Reception Hall. We have entered into an agreement with the Scottish Rite Cathedral that will allow their event planner to book weddings, reunions, meetings, etc. in our building, giving us a growing presence in the community, as well as an increasing stream of revenue. And we have undertaken an extensive engineering study to determine the most feasible way to air condition the building, which will stabilize the interior plaster and furnishings, along with the most important benefit, making the building habitable year-round for the first time since it was built a century ago.

If you are an Indiana Mason and didn't have the chance to visit the building during Founder's Day, don't be a stranger. Take the opportunity to visit YOUR Indiana Freemasons' Hall this year!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Speaking At Houston Table Lodge February 26th

On Friday February 26th 2010, Gray Lodge No. 329 and Jacques DeMolay Lodge No. 1390 A.F. & A. M. are hosting a city-wide table lodge in Houston, Texas. Any Mason ( EA, FC , MM) in recognition with the Grand Lodge of Texas is invited to attend.

Dinner begins at 7 pm at Arabia Shrine Center, 10510 Harwin Drive, Houston, TX 77036

I will have the honor of being the speaker for the evening.

From the official notice for the event:

The Table Lodge is one of the oldest Masonic traditions. This modern practice of Masonry was first perfected in the taverns and inns of Scotland and England, where early Lodges met and celebrated the social virtues of the Craft at the table. A Table Lodge should be an extravaganza of Masonic fellowship, of feasts, lectures and togetherness. Come join the festivities of one of Masonry's greatest traditions.

Tickets are $50, including meal, drinks and parting gift. Contact Roberto Sanchez or Tony Bass for tickets.

Officers of Jacques DeMolay Lodge No. 1390, Houston, TX

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Masonic Foundation of Utah Grants $10K For Haitian Relief

Most Worshipful Brother Glen A. Cook, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Utah, has posted that the Masonic Foundation of Utah has announced a $10,000US grant to the Red Cross for Haitian Relief.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

UGLE Grand Charity Sends £30,000 To Haiti

The United Grand Lodge of England's Freemasons' Grand Charity has made the following announcement:

£30,000 issued for Haiti Earthquake Relief

Following the devastating earthquake which took place in Haiti on Tuesday 12th January 2010, the President of the Freemasons' Grand Charity has approved two emergency grants totalling £30,000.

The 7.3-magnitude quake, Haiti's worst in two centuries, struck at 1653 local time (2153 GMT) on Tuesday. The epicentre was within 10 miles of the centre of the densely-populated capital, where around one million people live, more than 50,000 people are feared dead.

The Red Cross have pre-positioned relief supplies for 3,000 families in Haiti. These emergency supplies consist of kitchen kits, shelter kits and tarpaulins, personal hygiene kits, blankets and containers for storing drinking water. Red Cross volunteers in Haiti are currently assisting the injured and supporting hospitals who do not have enough capacity to deal with this emergency. The most urgent needs at this time are search and rescue, field hospitals, emergency health, water purification, emergency shelter, logistics and telecommunications.

A group of experts in disaster response, health in emergency and logistics have been sent to support the Haitian Red Cross in the relief efforts and to begin to coordinate international assistance from members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as well as other organisations. In addition, a Red Cross team will lead a damage assessment together with the Humanitarian Aid Office of the European Union.

Plan have also been granted £10,000 in support of their efforts in dealing with the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Plan's priorities are assisting children and their families and getting people into safe accommodation wherever possible, as well as working with survivors to help ease their psychological trauma.

For further information about the grant please contact Siobhan McCarthy via email at smccarthy@the-grand-charity.org or telephone 020 7395 9385.

MSA: Haiti Appeal For Relief

Received today from the Masonic Service Association:

Logo of the MSA
January 14, 2010

CONTACT: Richard E. Fletcher, 301-588-4010


You’ve seen the destruction vividly portrayed by TV coverage. Much of Haiti is in ruins. All Haitians need assistance. Our Brothers in the Grand Orient D’Haiti desperately need assistance as they work with their communities in trying to rebuild their shattered lives.

Please forward to the MSA such funds as you feel appropriate to help our devastated Brethren and their families in this stricken jurisdiction. Please make checks payable to the MSA Disaster Relief Fund and send to 8120 Fenton Street, Ste. 203, Silver Spring, MD 20910-4785.

Thank you very much for your help!

Most sincerely and fraternally,

Executive Secretary

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Freemasonry in Ukrainian History

Interesting article today about Freemasonry's history in Ukraine.

See Masonic Project Ukraine here.

It wasn't all that long ago (2004) that there was a movement in Ukraine to pass mandatory jail sentences against Masons found in the government. Fortunately, such laws were never enacted.

According to the Conference of Grand Masters of North America's Commission on Information for Recognition's 2006 report, the Grand Lodge of Ukraine was consecrated on September 24, 2005 by the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise and the Grand Lodge of Austria.

Last Saturday Was A Very Good Day

This past Saturday was one of those days in my Masonic life that I will never forget.

Saturday morning was the installation of the new officers for my mother lodge, Broad Ripple Lodge No. 643. I remain as proud as I can be of this lodge, especially when I remember that this lodge was ready to vote to close and move away from this unique village within Indianapolis just nine years ago. Congratulations to Worshipful Master Matthew Davis and his officers. I am honored to serve again as a trustee for my lodge.

Saturday evening Alice and I attended the 111th Annual Newby-Avery Banquet for the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Indiana. The event is named for the two Indiana Sir Knights who have served as Most Eminent Grand Masters of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States, Sir Knight Leonidas Perry Newby (1922-25), and Sir Knight Willard Meredith Avery (1976-79). Sir Knight Avery is still alive and will be turning 103 this February.

The annual dinner is held for the purpose of recognizing contributors to the Newby-Avery Foundation, which was originally formed to raise money for the permanent fund of the Grand Commandery of Indiana. The event is also an opportunity to make other awards of merit and appreciation to individual Knights Templar from around Indiana.

I had the distinct and humbling honor of standing with three other outstanding Indiana Freemasons this particular evening: Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Indiana, Charles Marlowe; Indiana's Right Eminent Grand Commander, Larry W. Brown; the editor of Indiana's Knight Templar Magazine supplement, former Grand Prelate, Edward L. Sebring; and myself. The four of us were invested with the rank and dignity of Knight Commander of the Temple by order of Most Eminent Grand Master William H. Koon II of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the USA, and conferred by Indiana's own Duane L. Vaught, Right Eminent Grand Captain General of the Grand Encampment.

Knight Commander of the Temple (abbreviated KCT) is the second highest decoration of the Grand Encampment, and was adopted in the 1991-1994 Triennium. It is a beautiful jewel, and one I will be proud to wear the rest of my life. I am humbled and a little bewildered to be honored with these august gentlemen and Sir Knights who have toiled far longer than I in the service of the Masonic Knights Templar. My deepest and fondest thanks go to those who felt I was worthy of such an honor. It was an evening I will not soon forget, and was especially happy to share it with so many friends whom I admire.

When conferred, it is explained that it does not mean that your work is done, but that it also stands for the work you are expected to do in future for the Knights Templar, as well. I hope to earn it every day.

UPDATE: See the story in the Knight Templar Magazine here.

The same Saturday was a scheduling nightmare, and I had to miss the installation of Raper Commandery No. 1, where I have again been asked to serve as Sword Bearer, in spite of my infrequent attendance. My friend and brother Carson Smith served last year as both Master of Indianapolis' Century Lodge No. 764 and Eminent Commander of Raper Commandery No. 1. Stepping into his Templar position is Jim Dillman, with whom I am proud to serve on the Indianapolis Masonic Temple Board. At Century Lodge, the new Master is Bob Rini, who also participates with the Temple Board, and has brought new theatre productions to the Freemasons' Hall stage.

I would have known none of these fine gentlemen I spent my Saturday with had it not been for membership in this fraternity, and I am proud to call each of them my friend and brother. The dedicated work of all of these brethren means another great year for Indiana Freemasonry in 2010.