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


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dan Brown To Speak In Hartford, CT

Dan Brown, who thrilled readers worldwide with "The Da Vinci Code" and whose latest novel, "Inferno," was Amazon.com's No. 1 seller for 2013, will appear at the The Bushnell in Hartford in conversation with WNPR radio personality John Dankosky on June 7, presented by The Mark Twain House & Museum.
Tickets are $25 to $75 and will go on sale Friday, Jan. 10 at 10 a.m. for the general public and on Tuesday, Jan. 7 at 10 a.m. for Twain House & Museum members. VIP tickets are $250 and include a pre-event reception with Brown, premium seating and a pre-signed copy of "Inferno." Brown's novels, which explore symbolism and conflicts between science and religion, have 200 million copies in print, in 52 languages.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

St. Louis Feast of St. John Friday December 27th

I will be in St. Louis tomorrow for the Tuscan Lodge #360/Crestwood-Anchor Lodge # 443 Feast of St. John Festive Board at 6PM at the Missouri Athletic Club Friday evening. Cost is $65. For more information, see the Eventbrite page here. Looking forward to being there!

Friday, December 20, 2013

First Black Master in Kentucky

From the Messenger Inquirer in Kentucky, Searcy voted first black Masonic master in Kentucky:

A local lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons of Kentucky, known as Freemasons, will welcome a new leader.

Rick Searcy will become the first black master of a Freemason lodge in Kentucky and, possibly, in the Southeast, he said. He will be installed Saturday at Ensor Lodge No. 729. Seating will begin at 1 p.m., and the ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. The lodge, with 140 registered members, is at Kentucky 142 and Kentucky 144. The ceremony and dinner are free and open to the public.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Indiana Library & Museum

I had the honor of being elected as Associate Director of the Grand Lodge of Indiana Masonic Library and Museum today. Many thanks to the Board. I'm looking forward to greater involvement in the Library & Museum this year, and we have great plans in store. First on the agenda is to purchase $1000 worth of books to help get caught up in modernizing the Library. New exhibits are coming, and new video projects are on the agenda, as well. Many thanks to Mike Brumback, our Director, and our IUPUI intern Kelby Dolan, for their hard work over the past year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Martha's Heart Pin from GL of Maryland

Safely tucked away in the Grand Lodge of Maryland’s museum is a true treasure—a special pin that Martha Washington gave to her husband as a token of her affection. The family tradition is that George wore this pin on the inside of his jacket for nearly 30 years while serving his beloved country.

Gifted to the museum in 1897 by a direct descendant of Martha Washington, it is there displayed as a striking memorial to Brother Washington.

 Now YOU can own a unique piece of history! For the first time ever, the museum has issued an official reproduction—the “Martha’s Heart” pin. Crafted in the United States by master goldsmiths, and hand-enameled, these pins faithfully duplicate the priceless original. Offered in solid 14 karat gold or in sterling silver layered in 14 karat gold, the pin would become a valuable addition to your patriotic collection or as a meaningful symbol of your love and devotion. Approved by the curators of Mount Vernon for sale in their gift shop, the pin is being offered directly to Freemasons and their families at a substantial savings from the regular retail price.

 Martha’s Heart Pin in sterling silver layered with 14k gold with hand enameling $98.50 + shipping & handling.

To order, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wednesday at Illinois' Aurora Commandery

I'll be speaking tomorrow night at Aurora Commandery of Knights Templar in Aurora, Illinois, at Jerusalem Temple, 710 N. Highland Avenue. Doors open at 7:00PM. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

CBS Sunday Morning to air segment on Freemasonry

From my friend Piers Vaughan in New York:

CBS Sunday Morning to air segment on Freemasonry this Sunday (December .

CBS have just confirmed that, barring major breaking news, the story on Freemasonry by Mo Rocca will be aired this Sunday between 9:00-10:30am EST. This was put together a few months ago, and will feature members of the Grand Lodge of New York, the House of the Temple and other contributors. The intention was to present a fair and accurate view of Freemasonry, rather than the 'shock horror' interpretations aired in recent years.

Fingers crossed.

UPDATE: See the segment here.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Tuesday at Logan Lodge No. 575

I will be speaking Tuesday evening, December 3rd, at Logan Lodge No. 575 in downtown Indianapolis. They meet on the third floor in the beautiful Ionic Room of Freemasons Hall at 525 North Illinois Street. Lodge opens at 6:30PM. I will be speaking on the strange case of Egyptian influence on Freemasonry throughout our history. I'm looking forward to being there.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Masonic Week Schedule Is Up And Running

The tentative schedule for Masonic Week 2014 has been posted. Events begin on Wednesday, February 12 and conclude on Sunday, February 16. The host hotel is once again the Hyatt Regency Reston in Reston, VA. Unlike the former venue in Alexandria, there are many choices for breakfast, lunch, and dining within easy walking distance of the hotel. There is also shopping for the ladies.

The Masonic Society annual meeting and banquet will be held on Friday, February 14, at 6:00 P.M. The event is open to members and non-members alike. As always, the ladies are invited to join us as well. Banquet reservation information will be posted on the website soon. Our speaker this year will be W. Bro. Robert Davis, Executive Secretary of the Scottish Rite Valley of Guthrie, OK, SJ. Bro. Davis is well known throughout the Masonic community as an author and writer. His newly published book is The Mason's Words: The History and Evolution of the American Masonic Ritual. He is among the most sought after speakers in the fraternity and is sure to deliver a message that will inspire, educate, and entertain you. Please plan to join us.

Don't forget to stop by The Masonic Society hospitality suite, noted for our fine selection of single malt scotches and great fellowship. We'll be open on Friday and Saturday nights for certain and probably after dinner on Thursday as well. The room number will be posted in the hotel lobby and on our Facebook page.

Event homepage:http://www.yorkrite.com/MasonicWeek/index.html

H/T Jim Dillman

Monday, November 25, 2013

New Scupltures Adorn Indiana's Ellettsville Lodge

From "New sculptures of saints adorn Ellettsville’s Masonic lodge"
By Rachel Bunn in the Bloomington Herald Times today:

For years, after finishing his work as a cutter at Bybee Stone Co., Tom
Dixon would head to a corner of the parking lot near the Ellettsville
Masonic Lodge.

Inside a tent, he spent nearly a decade chipping away at blocks of
limestone, forming two figures — St. John the Baptist and St. John the
Evangelist — that are now proudly adorning the Masonic Lodge.

“I reached a major goal in my life to be able to do this,” Dixon said of
the sculptures. “I think everything worked out perfectly.”

In 2002, Dixon had just moved to town, renting an apartment near the
Ellettsville Masonic Lodge. The lodge was expanding its historic building
into the lot beside it, and he walked across the street to offer his help.

“I was looking for something to do, not for money or anything,” Dixon said.

His initial idea was to add to simple, sculpted panels to the building,
but lodge members worried that it would leave holes in the building’s
facade while they were being completed.

Members came up with the sculpture idea, leaving alcoves in the side of
the building for two statues: one of St. John the Baptist and the other of
St. John the Evangelist, the patron saints of the Masons.

Meeting over several Tuesdays, the Masons and Dixon developed ideas for
the building, sketching things on napkins at times. When it came to the
statues, it was decided that they would be large, standing at about 6 feet
tall, just slightly smaller than Dixon himself.

Though the Masons provided the subjects, they gave Dixon free rein over
the style for the saints, which he choose to complete in
Renaissance-style, with St. John the Evangelist styled after Italian
artist Donatello’s work.

The first drawings that Dixon made of the figures were what he worked from
for 10 years as he painstakingly carved details of the statues, including
the inner sleeves and lines on the palms of the figures’ hands.

For sculptures, the tools are still the same as they were thousands of
years ago, with Dixon forming the figures using chisels and files, though
getting the modern aid of an air hammer. By nature, sculpting anything
takes time, but other things kept the statues under construction while the
rest of the building was complete.

Work was delayed for several years when the Dixon family hit a rough
patch. First, Dixon’s father died, then his wife, Nancy, was diagnosed
with multiple sclerosis. And Dixon had an undiagnosed corn allergy, which
led to coughing so much he tore the retinas in both eyes, and a ruptured
appendix all in the span of about three years. In addition, Dixon was
donating his time to the statues, which became scarce when Bybee had
several large orders one summer.

Still, he pressed on, and two weeks ago, were placed in the frames facing
Sale Street in downtown Ellettsville.

“Every time I drive by there, I get a royal charge out of it,” Dixon said.

Dick Jacobs, trustee of the Ellettsville Masons, helped connect Dixon with
the Masons a decade ago, and seemed pleased to have the statues finally
out in the public.

“They’re absolutely beautiful,” Jacobs said. “Tom did a nice job. We’re
glad to have them in the position that they are in.”

Other Masons agree. Steven Devine, worshipful master of the Ellettsville
Masons, praised Dixon’s dedication and craftsman ship, calling the
attention to detail in the hands of the statues “awesome.”

“With him taking the time to do that, they came out phenomenal,” Devine said.

The statues are the last pieces of the expanded lodge, which laid its
cornerstone in 2004. For Devine, seeing the building in its complete state
is a reminder of the love and dedication to the Masons in Ellettsville.

“Anything we can do to beautify the street even more makes Ellettsville
that more attractive,” he said.

But for the artist, Dixon, there’s something even more special about
seeing his work finally on display.

Usually there is always something that you could have done better, but in
this case, Dixon there’s nothing he would have done differently.

“You want to do something really special — you know you can do it, you
just want the opportunity,” Dixon said. “Now, when I die, I can die

H/T Roger Neptune

Thursday, November 21, 2013

UGLE's Attempt To Bring In Young Men

An article today on CNBC about the UGLE's attempts to reach out to young men.
It's out with the old at the Freemasons as the international society looks to boost the numbers of young people joining its ranks as it works to survive in the modern world.
Founded in the 19th century in Europe before being exported to the U.S. and worldwide, freemasonry is also known as "the craft," in homage to its roots in stonemasonry.
It portrays itself as a "fraternal society" where its members support one another, providing a space for like-minded people to socialize at "lodges" and carry out charitable works, while enabling its six million members worldwide to improve themselves on a moral level.
Famous Freemasons have included presidents and prime ministers, from Winston Churchill in the U.K. and George Washington in the U.S. and famous businessmen such as Henry Ford and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Mozart and Buzz Aldrin were also members.
The group also has strong links to the British royal family, with the Queen's cousin, the Duke of Kent, the current patron, or "Grand Master," of the U.K.'s Freemasons.
However, the society is not without its detractors who accuse it of being a secret society, where its predominantly male-only lodges use "funny handshakes" and "secret symbols" to recognize one another. Furthermore, it has been accused frequently of being an "old boys network" where members use their connections for personal gain.
In a bid to quash what it calls the "myths" surrounding it as it heads towards its tercentenary in 2017, the United Grand Lodge of England and Wales (UGLE) - the governing body of the U.K. Freemasons which oversees around 8,000 lodges - has undergone something of a re-branding exercise.
"We want to be seen as a more relevant society," said Nigel Brown, Grand Secretary (or chief executive) of UGLE told CNBC.
"There's no doubt that the majority of our members are older but young people have a huge amount to offer to the mix within lodges - the older members might have more life experience but the younger ones have new ideas and it's the combination of that that's important."
The organisation has tried to raise awareness of its existence and activities among young people as its existing membership ages. In 2005, it set up a "universities scheme" to "establish and/or enhance arrangements and opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to enjoy Freemasonry," as the scheme's website says.
At its post war peak, there were in excess of 500,000 Freemasons in the U.K.. By November this year, there are 214,000 - which had fallen from 228,000 in 2011. But the latest figures give some promising reading for the society.
Although in November 2013, the 21-30 age group represented only 2.07 percent of the total membership of U.K. Freemasons while all other age groups have declined in numbers, the range of younger members has increased.
Membership among the 21 to 30 age group has increased 7.65 percent over the last two years while membership in all other age groups decreased; The 40 - 50 age group has declined just over 10 percent, around 7 percent among 50 to 60 year olds and is down almost 10 percent between 60 to 70 year olds.
University Lodges
Since the launch of the universities scheme, forty lodges that either operate in university towns or are attached to universities to cater mainly for students or alumni have become involved. Masons that CNBC spoke to insisted that the scheme was to "raise awareness" about the group and not to actively recruit more members - which is against the group's ethos.
Alistair Townsend has been a Freemason for 22 years and is the Secretary of Isaac Newton University Lodge (INUL), a lodge attached to Cambridge University principally made up of past and present students.
He told CNBC that there had definitely been an increase in younger members within his lodge of 200 members. "Older members within INUL are definitely aware of the importance of recruiting and retaining younger members," he said.
"Young people bring new ideas. We can get all the 60 year olds that we want but it's important to bring in people with new ideas. Unless we get that, the way we interact with the outside world, freemasonry is not going to change."
Membership costs around £100 a year for a regular member but students pay around a quarter of that figure. Asked what the organisation actually offered young people, Townsend said it enabled young people to feel connected to the past, a sense of tradition and formality which was "now missing from life and the world."
"We've got to find a way to show young people that we are inclusive, without losing those qualities," he added.
Claims of inclusivity and openness have been countered by accusations that the group is male-dominated, however. Women can become Freemasons, but can only join "orders" which are separate from the mainstream male-only lodges.
Interestingly, female members call each other "brother" and the head of the lodge is called the "Worshipful Master" like their male-only counterparts. The "International Order of Co-Freemasonry" - also known as "Le Droit Humain" - is open to men and women but is not widely approved of among many masons.
Secrets and Symbols
With the organisation's main entrance requirement hardly taxing -- the only pre-requisite for joining being that applicants have some belief in a higher being - there could be concerns that younger members don't take the group seriously.
Furthermore, the Freemasons have been dogged with an accusation that they operate as an "old boys network" in which members give each other an unfair advantage in the world of business or politics - something else that could attract some young people looking to get ahead in a more hostile world where the competition for jobs is rife.
INUL's Secretary Alistair Townsend said it was important to meet younger applicants before they were accepted into his - or any lodge - to make sure they were suitable for membership and were joining for the right reasons. UGLE's Nigel Brown, meanwhile, said that "if a member came to me expecting some kind of leg-up he'd be struck off immediately."
With thousands of other university societies operating in the U.K. that offer students the chance to socialise, practice a hobby or learn a new skill, joining the Freemasons might not be the obvious choice to engage in such activities - unless they did see some kind of personal advantage.
One active young Freemason conceded that some people did join for the wrong reason. "Some people make the fundamental mistake of believing that the freemasons are essentially a networking club," Sanjay Mody, a doctor who counts himself among the 21 to 35 age group of Freemasons, told CNBC on Monday. "But it's not all, it's about fellowship and camaraderie."
Mody joined the group in 2001 when he was a medical student in Scotland. Having lived and worked in the U.S. and Cayman islands, he's attended not only his "mother lodge" in Scotland ("Lodge Ancient No.49") but many abroad.
"As corny as it sounds, for me joining the masons was like a "calling". The masonic values matched what I was looking for and I found that a lot of my friends at university were in it already."
The latest event to harness the influx of younger members is the forthcoming "University Lodges Ball," a 150-year-old society event that has been resurrected by the "Apollo University Lodge" of Oxford and Townsend's Cambridge lodge to be held this weekend in London.
One of the organisers of the ball, which is open to members and non-members alike and being held to make money for a veterans' charity, said that it was a way for the organisation to promote itself among a wide range of young people.
"I think what's happened with freemasonry, like a lot of large companies or organisations, is that the world has changed around us and it's just taken us slightly longer to adapt and change with it," Freemason Daryn Hufton-Rees told CNBC.
"We're not some weird, secret society," he said. There are no Illuminati roaming about or funny handshakes involved -- although, by the way, it's a grip, not a handshake -- We're an organisation with moral codes and people join us for the sense of camaraderie, the opportunities to learn and charitable giving."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pennsylvania Lodge of Research

A Stated Meeting of Pennsylvania Lodge of Research, F.&A.M., will be held at the Masonic Temple, 910 S Market Street, Mechanicsburg, PA for the purpose of the presentation of research papers and Election of Officers on: Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 10:00 A.M.
Scholarly Papers on Masonic Topics will be presented:  (No word about what they are)
The Officers for 2014 will be Elected and Installed.
Dress: Officers: Tuxedo     Members: Coat, Tie and Jewel
A delicious Dutch Treat luncheon will be provided at a cost of only $ 10.00.
Kindly notify Bro. Aaron R. White, SW of your intention to dine so that proper preparation can be made.aaronrwhite@verizon.net 

Per the website at http://www.pagrandlodge.org/programs/lodgeofresearch/
The Meeting is open to all Lodge of Research members and all Master Masons.
Dress is jacket and tie. 

H/T to Richard F. Muth, PM

Shakespeare Lodge in New York

New York-area brethren are invited to join the brethren of Shakespeare Lodge No. 750 F&AM at its next regular communication on December 5th for R:.W:. Robert Barrows' talk, "Why We Build the Symbolic Temple."

Colonial Room, 10th Floor, 71 West 23rd Street, NY, NY
Tyled communication, open to Master Masons of GLNY and grand jurisdictions with which GLNY is in amity. Lodge opens at 7:00PM.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Thursday at Calvin Prather Lodge in Indy

I'll be speaking tomorrow, Thursday November 7th, at Calvin W. Prather Lodge No. 717 on Indianapolis' East side. I was passed and raised in 1999 on Prather's floor at a one day class in their former location, and I'm looking forward to being there. The lodge is located at 7502 East 56th Street in Lawrence. Dinner is at 6:00PM, and lodge opens at 7:00.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Boynton Lodge Esoteric Research Group Presents W.Chris McClintock

Boynton Lodge Esoteric Research Group Presents W.Chris McClintock from Ireland

Presented by Boynton Lodge No. 236 Free & Accepted Masons of the State of Florida

Saturday, November 16, 2013 from 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM (EST)

Boynton Beach, FL

W. Chris McClintock - Master Masons Only Event: Four hour seminar : Catered lunch : Dues Card and ID required for Entry (Suit and Tie) Tickets: 30

Chris McClintock is an author specializing in ancient symbolism. He became an Irish Freemason in 1991, joining Lodge No. 754 Coleraine in the Province of Londonderry/Donegal. He became Master of the lodge in 2005. From the very moment he first set foot in a lodge room he was intrigued by the curious symbolism and gestures used within the workings and felt they were not a hotchpotch of pseudo arcana coggled together at the emergence of the Craft in the 18th century, but alluded to a single spiritual principle. His intrigue built as the years passed and ten years ago he set about investigating those rituals in earnest to try to discover if they did indeed have an underlying meaning. The focus of his research was not the written records of the emergence of the Craft, rather it was the symbols and rituals themselves. Rather than look at them with ‘Masonic’ eyes and try to explain them from within the current view of the origin of the Craft, he cleared his mind of such things and simply contemplated what he saw. He looked in from outside as it were.  
What he saw carried him way beyond the Craft, into the realms of ancient astronomy and sun-veneration and the mythology that grew from those ancient studies. Many of the tales of ancient heroes, and more importantly the gods, were shown to be derived from the movements of the heavens - stellar myths - and were found to have remarkable resonance in the symbols and rites of the lodge room. The ancient myths had a very specific purpose, and that was to honour the sun and its part in the light and dark rhythm of the year. Many ancient myths contain the death, or temporary defeat, of an adversary followed by his later reappearance and rise to power - a notion that follows closely the rhythm of the sun, and finds very precise resonance in the 3rd Degree.
Beyond the Craft Chris McClintock has had an interest in the history of spirituality since his schooldays. In particular his interest was in the ancient veneration of the sun, and its absorption into Christianity as that new faith rose to prominence. In his working life he is a stained glass artist - a craft that continued his interest in spiritual symbolism. All helped to develop a profound interest in the symbolism of the Craft, and once he settled himself to make it his study he joined Lodge 200 the Irish Lodge of Research to further his studies and to seek assistance to ground his work within a framework that was ritualistically accurate. He delivered his first paper in 2006 and has since presented the lodge with two more. Those papers were the result of seven years research, and became the basis of his first book - The Craft and the Cross - which sought to show a common origin of the symbolism of both Freemasonry and Christianity in the ancient, sun-worshipping past. Finding his research growing into many fields - many beyond what would normally be termed Masonic - he parceled the various strands into four sections, which is intended to become four major books on the origin of the symbolism and rites of the Craft. 
The first of these was published in 2009 as The Craft and the Cross. A second, smaller book became the second published. This book was largely derived from the Craft and the Cross, and took a very specific part of it - the square of the sun in Ireland and its importance in pre-Christian religion - and developed its continuance into Christianity through the Celtic Church under the auspices of Saint Columba. The title of the book is ‘Columba - the last Irish Druid.’ It very specifically does not mention the word Freemasonry, though because it lays a basis for the veneration of the right-angle of the sun in ancient times, it has been described to the author by some of those who have read it as the most Masonic book that does not actually mention the Craft. This was deliberate, because the symbolism has importance in a much wider field, and he believes it important to tell the story of the square of the sun on its own without reference to modern Freemasonry - for those readers who have no interest in the Craft - because it has huge importance to Christianity in Western Europe. The lack of reference to Freemasonry does not, however, lessen its importance to the story of the Craft.
The second book of the main series will be ready for publishing later in 2013 under the title Rhythm of the Cosmos, and shows the birth of a spiritual path more than five thousand years ago - a path that comprehended the heavens, and therefore God, through Geometry. More specifically, the focus of that path was the right-angle of the sun, which even then had connotations of cosmic harmony. The path will be traced from the ancient British Isles to Egypt, and from there, ultimately, to Freemasonry, which will be shown to be the modern repository of knowledge of the cosmos that emerged five thousand years ago and still lies completely undimmed in the symbols of the Craft. 

Sunday, November 03, 2013

New Hampshire Master Mason Seminar

Master Mason Education Seminar
The One Day Mentoring Progrom every New Master Mason Needs 
Saturday, November  9, 2013
MasonicTemple, 53 lronworks Rd., Concord, NH
9:00am to 3:00pm 

Topics covered:

  • History of Freemasonry: Where did Masonry begin and how it has evolved in New Hampshire. 
  • How the system of Freemasonry functions and what it means to you.
  • How the ritual developed in New Hampshire.
  • Lodge Protocol and Etiquette: Understanding how to conduct yourself at a Lodge meeting. 
  • What is Grand Lodge and how it relates to the Master Mason in his own Lodge

 This is an ideal opportunity to begin to develop the foundation of your Masonic knowledge. This seminar is open to all Master Masons. The Grand Lodge Book Table will be available. Coffee,Donuts,& Lunch will be provided. Dress is Casual: Polo Shirt, Collared Shirt, and Slacks. NO Suit or Tie. Handouts and FlashDrive will be provided which include information from many Masonic writers such as Preston, Webb, and Anderson. 

Seating is limited, so register now! Cost: is $25.00 per person. Registration Deadline: Nov.1 Register After November 7, cost is $35.00. To secure your ticket, please mail your check to: Paul Gross, Ed Com, MM Education Seminar, P O Box128, Bradford, NH 03221. Make your Check payable to: "Grand Lodge of NH". Any Questions Email- PaulGross: pgross@tds.net OR Malcolm Woolf: mwoolf@gmail.com 

Northern MM Seminar: April 12, 2O14 at Parker Lodge #97, No. Woodstock, NH

Friday, November 01, 2013

Boston's Masonic Temple Opens Its Doors

For more than 100 years, the Grand Masonic Lodge of Massachusetts has towered over Boylston and Tremont streets.

Each day thousands of Bostonians, students and tourists pass the intimidating granite building with the blue tile murals that display symbols and objects important to the somewhat secretive fraternity. But few have explored the building’s mysterious interior halls.

Check out more photos of what's inside the Grand Masonic Lodge of Massachusetts.
Now that’s beginning to change. After centuries of clandestine, closed-doors activity, the Grand Masonic Lodge of Massachusetts is opening its doors -- at least on select occasions -- and sharing its historic meeting halls and lodges with the public.

“It’s more about awareness than anything else,” said Christopher Rooney, Grand Lodge associate director of communications and development. “We feel that it’s in the best interest of the fraternity itself to let the community interact with us and let them answer the questions for themselves.”

The freemasons, the oldest and largest all-male fraternity in the world, were formally established in 1717 in London, England. In 1733, Henry Price founded the first Grand Lodge in Boston, Mass. The freemasons, as stated by their mission, aim to make “good men even better” through the “belief that each man has a responsibility to improve himself while being devoted to his family, faith, country and fraternity.”

But just how this is done has remained something of a mystery to those outside the order.

In 2005, the Masons decided to open up their historic meeting rooms and chambers to public tours and, said Communications Development Director Robert Huke, the response has been positive.

“Basically [opening our doors to the public] started from a recognition by one of our past grand masters that we needed to do a better job of letting the community know who we are and what we are all about,” he said.

The 45-minute guided tour takes individuals through the hallways of the Grand Lodge. With a current member of the Masonic lodge as the tour guide, visitors walk through the large Masonic meeting halls, view portraits and artifacts of significant and historical freemasons including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, and learn about some of the secrets of the building and of the Masonic order.

“People who work in the area say they’ve passed by the building thousands of times but never could imagine what is really inside the building,” said Huke. “There is a point of pride for us to have [this building] to share with people”

Over the decades, the fraternity has been somewhat infamously seen as a secret society that shares very few details of its practices, rituals and order with the public. In recent years, the freemasons have garnered more attention in pop culture through the release of movies and books such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol, and Disney’s “National Treasure.”

Steven Bullock, professor of History at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and author of Revolutionary Brotherhood, said that it’s the recent resurgence of freemasonry in pop culture that has led the masons to be open about their history and practices.

“There was a lot of fear that the Dan Brown book --The Lost Symbol, was going to be something which was negative, and would sort of make freemasonry look bad,” said Bullock.

“As a historian, I recognize that there has been all sorts of periods when masonry has been seen as a dangerous kind of thing.”

In a response to Brown’s novel, which, noted one review noted, portrays the freemasons as something of an elite private boys’ club, the Masonic Society, The Masonic Service Association of North America, and the George Washington Masonic Memorial pushed back.

They released their own review of the novel and found, “Dan Brown’s treatment of Freemasonry is overwhelmingly positive in The Lost Symbol, but [that] he does engage in some dramatic license [about freemasonry] for the sake of his plot.”

Bullock said he doubts even the new “open-door” mindset of the freemasons will stop people from theorizing about the order.

“Clearly there will continue to be conspiracy-minded people who are deeply fearful of all sorts of things, and I don’t know if [opening their doors] will necessarily deal with these people, but people who don’t know much will come in and realize [the Masonic lodges] tend to be sort of friendly places.”

Aside from the general tours held during the week, the Freemasons held their 9th annual Square and Compass Day On Oct. 19. The event featured tours of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and one-on-one meetings with current Masonic members.
Taleen Lachinian, a 19-year-old finance student from Boston University didn’t know what to expect when she first came to the open house but left tour with a positive perspective.

“I think the facts [the tour guides] presented were awesome,” said Lachinian. “Obviously, I still don’t know what goes on in the meetings, but it’s just cool to know that it’s a place that isn’t completely secretive. It’s open to the public.”

Bryan Devissiere, 21, of Fairfield, Conn, drove up just for the open house having been a freemasons enthusiast for a long time.

“Twenty [or] thirty years ago, there would never be anything like this… open tours of their lodge,” said Devissiere.

“Now that there are so many bad things being said about them, within the media, like ‘devil worshippers’…They kind of want to clear things up and show people they’re not that secretive, nothing really makes them that different than your average human being.”

Rooney explained that if people or skeptics want to learn about the lodge and the freemasons, they should tour the building.

“When you look at the significant [historical] spaces here in Boston, you have the Old State House, Fenway Park, and then, in my viewpoint, you have the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts,” said Rooney.

“I think those are some of the mainstays for old buildings people should come out to see in Boston.”

Thursday, October 31, 2013

New TO Lodge in North Carolina

North Carolina has started a new Traditional Observance lodge, and the local press covered the event.
From the Salisbury Post today:

When you first hear about 18th century classical music playing, the burning of incense, the candlelight setting and the periods for meditation, you might ask whether the Masons’ new Sophia Lodge is filled with flower children.
Even the lodge’s meal after the regular meeting is called the “Agape,” the ancient Greek word for love, and it’s enjoyed within the backdrop of brotherly love.

But the Sophia Lodge — the first “Traditional Observance” lodge in North Carolina — is anything but laid-back. It actually offers its members a harder-core version of Freemasonry that Lodge Master Larry Thompson says isn’t for everyone.
The lodge dues are much higher. There’s a dress code in which tuxedos are encouraged — a minimum requirement is a black suit, white shirt and black tie.
The Agape, always catered and usually held at a local restaurant, is filled with formal toasts steeped in the tradition of Freemasonry and discussions of papers presented during the regular meeting.
Those papers might touch on topics such as symbolism, initiation, ritual, metaphysics, philosophy and art and their relationship to Masonry.
These are not lodge meetings devoted to the reading of minutes or payment of bills. There are no discussions about social activities or upcoming charity fundraisers.
Rather, the Traditional Observance lodge tries “to create an atmosphere where members can learn the lessons of Freemasonry and how they can be inculcated into their daily lives,” says Dennis V. Chornenky, president of the Masonic Restoration Foundation.
N.C. Grand Master Dewey Preslar says the Sophia Lodge could be for Masons who feel like they’re missing something at their local lodge.
Masons from across North Carolina — many of them high-ranking leaders within the fraternity — met in Salisbury last week for a ceremony signifying the Sophia Lodge’s establishment.
It is not yet considered among the state’s 371 chartered Masonic lodges, but Thompson says if everything goes as planned, North Carolina’s grand master will charter Sophia Lodge by September 2014.
The Masonic Restoration Foundation, which provides education and support for Traditional Observance lodges, lists only 39 of these kinds of lodges in the United States.
The name “Sophia” comes from a Greek word for “wisdom.”
As of now, Sophia Lodge has 34 members with another application in the works. Preslar — the state’s first grand master from Salisbury in 75 years — is a member, as are five of nine Grand Lodge officers in Raleigh.
North Carolina has roughly 44,500 Masons.
The ceremony last Thursday night drew 51 Masons, reflecting how important this kind of lodge is, Preslar says.
“It’s generating a lot more interest than we thought,” adds Thompson, who first became a Mason in 2000 as a member of Blackmer Lodge No. 12 in Mount Gilead.
Though all the current Sophia Lodge participants belong to lodges elsewhere, Sophia Lodge eventually will be initiating men new to the Masonic order.
“This could be your only lodge, if you wanted it to be,” Thompson says.
The Traditional Observance lodges are characterized by a much more solemn, ritualistic approach. Members and officers are quiet as they ceremoniously march into the lodge room and take their seats.
Traditional Observance calls for periods of silence and meditation. A Tibetan singing bowl resonates during one time of reflection, when the Masons are contemplative and trying to push their everyday thoughts and worries from their minds.
As part of the schedule, the classical music played is meant to reacquaint the members with its relationship to Masonic traditions.
Thompson says Traditional Observance emphasizes the use of the five senses — a reason, for example, for the singing bowl, music, low lighting and burning of incense. The focus also is on introspection, “trying to be the best we can be,” Thompson explains.
After the lodge meeting is formally closed, Traditional Observance calls for the members to gather at the altar for a ceremony known as the Chain of Union.
Chornenky says it is “meant to symbolize the common commitment to Masonic ideals and connection with other Masons from all over the world.”
Besides the presentation of papers at regular lodge meetings, Sophia Lodge will be scheduling guest speakers on other dates through the year.
Those speakers most likely will be authors and lecturers on Masonic observances, Thompson says.
The demographics behind Masons look to be getting older. The average age of Freemasons in North Carolina is 60.5.
Maybe surprisingly, a younger age group seems to be drawn to the Traditional Observance lodges such as Sophia, whose average age is 51. The youngest member is 33; the oldest, 72.
“This type of lodge is growing across the country,” Preslar says.
As grand master, Preslar has constituted two new lodges this year. Sophia is the second.
Preslar’s year as grand master winds up Dec. 7.
“We’ve had a great year,” he says. “It’s been a lot of fun.”