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


Monday, May 30, 2016

Baby Boom Retirees and Freemasonry

An article today on the Motley Fool website points to a possible reason why we should be looking at an older group of men for future Masons, and not just a myopic over-facination with only those under 30.
A recent study by Merrill Lynch sought opinions from retirees about the realities of life without a job: namely, what they actually missed most about their work lives after they have left the job market. The overwhelming plurality [34%] most miss the "social connections" they had in the workplace.
Which sounds like more fun in retirement: going golfing everyday, or cleaning up trash on the side of the road?
According to [a Merrill Lynch and Age Wave] study -- Leisure in Retirement: Beyond the Bucket List -- it could surprisingly be the latter. That's because the majority of retirees say their enjoyment depends more on who they do an activity with than what they are doing. If the choice is between golfing alone or cleaning up trash with your kids and grandkids -- most retirees will gladly throw on a pair of gloves and collect the garbage.
That's one aspect of what MLAW defines as "The New Social Security": "the value [that] social relationships [add] to mental and even physical health, [which] has been shown through numerous studies." 
There were two other findings of significance for soon-to-be retirees regarding this "New Social Security" offered by one's friends and family.
First, if you are married, you're likely to get the most pleasure out of being with family -- including your kids and grandkids. 
However -- and this is a key difference -- for those who were single (divorced, separated, widowed, or never married), it is time with friends [a whopping 42%] and time alone [39%] that is most valued.
Even when you factor in those retirees who are married, almost 30% of them say they most prefer being with friends:

This article actually points to something Masons already discovered - at least with a VERY healthy dose of generalization - that older members tend to seek the fraternalism, the pancake breakfasts, the card nights, etc. of the lodge, while the younger members are the Masons who tend to be more interested in the symbolism, the philosophy, the study courses, etc. of the organization. 

Now (before I get a stack of hate mail), of course, there are WIDE variations in this observation. There are plenty of members in their 60s, 70s, and 80s who still read and write papers and books, give lectures, curate Masonic museums, and plenty of other more intellectual pursuits. And we have all met Masons in their 20s and 30s who mostly want to get together on Tuesdays, smoke cigars, drink a little scotch, and just hang out with each other. 

But what makes Freemasonry a unique creation is the essential construct of all Masons being on the level. While we concentrate on the religious and economic equality fostered by our rituals, the Ancient Charges, and customs of the lodge, that equality extends to age as well. In his book, Millennial Apprentices, Brother Samuel Friedman cites a study that showed 8 out of 10 millennials tend to believe that older generations have "higher morals," and 60% of them say they consult their parents for advice about adulthood. Being around men of all ages benefits everybody involved. 

The walls of a lodge are elastic, and in the best ones anyway, Masons across all age groups work together, govern their organization, assist each other, seek spiritual awakening, and socialize. The broader definition of the Masonic family has enough variation and sub-interests within it to appeal to just about anyone, as long as they satisfy the most general requirements of a good character, a belief in a Supreme Being of their own conceptualization, and the agreement to tolerate their fellow Masons' beliefs. That is a message that perhaps the onrushing mob of 75 million baby boomers in the U.S. who have - or will - reach their retirement years soon may have missed in their younger days (statistically, they certainly did). Even though we live in tough economic times, most retirees won't be working into their 70s to make ends meet, unless they really want to. They will, as a group, have plenty of spare time, along with having enough spendable money to be comfortable. And as Robert Putnam's groundbreaking book Bowling Alone demonstrated, socializing actually makes your life last longer.

So, it could just be that joining a Masonic lodge might turn out to be the very best thing that could happen to the baby boom generation. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Speaking in Ohio and DC This Week

I'll be traveling this week. 

First, on Tuesday, May 31st, I will be speaking at Hugh L. Bates Lodge 686 in Hamilton, Ohio, near Cincinnati. It is their "More Light Night," and all Masons are welcome to attend.  Dinner will be at 6:30 PM, and the presentation will be at 7:30 PM. The Hamilton Masonic Temple is located at 724 High Street, and I'm looking forward to seeing my Ohio and northern Kentucky brethren there. Please RSVP to: hughlbates@aol.com They are asking for a donation of $10 for the evening. Also see their Facebook page for the event.

Then on Saturday, June 4th, I will be in Washington, D.C. as part of Union Lodge No. 6's annual barbecue and meeting. The lodge will hold their brief quarterly meeting at noon, followed by the picnic at 2:30 PM. After everyone is suitably stuffed (expected to be about 4:00 PM or so), Brother Pierre "Pete" Normand and I will be discussing the ups and downs, prizes and perils of the Masonic publishing world. In the early 1990s, Pete edited and published the American Masonic Review, the renowned national publication of the St. Alban's Research Society. He went on to edit The Plumbline, the quarterly publication of the Scottish Rite Research Society. And most of you probably know what I've been up to over the years, between books, blogs, and the Journal of the Masonic Society. As a result (or in spite) of our respective scribblings, Pete and I are both members of the Society of Blue Friars.

The event will be held outdoors at 1734 Lamont Street Northwest in Washington. Tickets for the barbecue and presentation are $75, and should be purchased online via Eventbrite HERESomething tells me with Pete there, cigars will be involved somewhere along the line.

And just as a reminder, I'll be in New Jersey and New York  June 13th and 14th. Details HERE.

Masons Dedicate Historic Monument in North Dakota

RWs Charles Snardgrass and Jim Salvoija at Ft. Buford, ND

Historic Ft. Buford in North Dakota is located at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. Lewis and Clark camped here in their exploration of the West. And it was here that Sitting Bull and his decimated Sioux followers surrendered in 1881. The fort itself closed in 1895, and is partially restored and run as an historic site by the North Dakota State Historical Society.

The first Masonic charter issued to Prince Hall Masons in North Dakota was carried by the Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Infantry, in 1892. The 25th Infantry was one of just four all-black units in the U.S. military at that time. Eureka Lodge No. 135 PHA was chartered as a military lodge by the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri when the soldiers were stationed at Ft. Apache in the Arizona Territory in 1891.

On Saturday, Masons of North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, and other visitors assembled at Ft. Buford to unveil a monument dedicated to the Buffalo Soldiers.

From the WillistonHerald.com website today:
The site at Fort Buford is owned by the Grand Lodge Foundation. On this location, two Masonic Lodges were once utilized. The Buffalo Soldier Units began their residence at Fort Buford in 1891, and the Eureka Lodge No. 135 was chartered in that same year. At that point in time, the two Masonic lodges located at Fort Buford where segregated by race... This mirrors the 9th Cavalry very closely. The 9th Cavalry was dubbed ‘The Buffalo Soldiers’ and continued to be racially segregated during World War II. 
The tie between the Masons and the Buffalo Soldiers at Fort Buford is rooted back in the 1890’s but extends to present day. Charles Snargrass is a prime example of this. Snargrass, a 93 year-old veteran of the 9th Cavalry and Grand Secretary of the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in Minnesota, was present and participated in the ceremony on Saturday. 
Snargrass served in the Cavalry during World War II and could identify the historical accuracies which the artist of the monument portrayed. 
“It’s very impressive,” Snargrass said. “It’s unbelievable that his imagination went that far. He got all the details. With the halter around his neck and the reins. We didn’t tie the horses by the reigns. We used the rope that was around their neck. That’s what we would tie them around the posts with.”
He could see the connection between the Masons and the Buffalo Soldiers easily. Not only by being the living, breathing, example of this, he felt that history was the tie that binds. 
“When this lodge [Eureka Lodge] was first chartered in North Dakota, the Buffalo Soldiers delivered them their first charter,” Snargrass said. “That person from the 9th Cavalry was the first Grand Master that this lodge had. It gives it a lot of background and a lot of heritage.”
The Monument itself was designed and built by Bozeman artist Jim Dolan and named ‘Our Work Is Done’. Masked in a white canvas sheet until the unveiling, it stood at an impressive height. 
The statue is a athletic looking horse with all the trappings of a Cavalry soldier. It took Dolan 6 months to complete his work. “I pretty much worked straight through,” Dolan said. “I finished on Monday, and we brought it here on Tuesday.” 
Dolan also found a connection to the history of the Buffalo Soldiers within his own lineage. “My great uncle was in the Calvary and rode with General Pershing,” Dolan recounted. “As I understand it, he was the one of was in charge of the Buffalo Soldiers. It was kind of fun to have a connection with the Buffalo Soldiers through family.” 
According to Jim Salvoija, Past Grand Master for North Dakota and state historian for the Masons, the statue was bought and paid for by a singular individual. “We had a benefactor that came into the picture and actually supplied the monument,” Salvoija said. “It’s an undisclosed source. It’s an individual that wasn’t a Mason but now is. He became so involved in the history and the real story of what it is.” 
From as far away as Missouri, Minneapolis, and Minot, Masons came from across the country to witness the dedication. The connection to the state of Missouri is that the Eureka Lodge was chartered by what is now known as the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri. Ed Johnson is a Past Grand Master Mason who made the hike from the ‘Show-Me State’.

(Article and photos by Alexa Althoff) 

Rumblings From New Jersey

Last month I received a massive stack of information from an anonymous Mason in New Jersey, detailing an ongoing series of disquieting episodes in that state. It took a while to read through all of the information, and even after I read it, I was uncomfortable with posting it here. The problems were internal and complex.

The person spreading the details from New Jersey goes by the moniker the "Lone Ranger," and he seems to have inside access to internal documents that chronicle some of the problems. 

On Saturday, Fred Milliken over on the Freemason Information blog site made the story public outside of New Jersey. 

The current imbroglio has been going on at least since 2014, and the Lone Ranger claims to have a growing mailing list of 3,600 "Deputies" who are following the situation so far - largely New Jersey brethren. 

I have hesitated to post anything about this until now, because of the strictly internal nature of the issues involved. And I am not generally fond of anonymous disagreements, particularly when they are lodged against an advancing line of duly elected (and subsequently re-elected) GL officers. Earlier this month, a disgruntled Indiana Mason circulated a letter to all of the sitting Masters in the state laying out a series of complaints he had before our annual communication in an effort to influence the voting and cause trouble. The accusations were baseless, and it was not the way Freemasons should act. Very good and honorable men were besmirched, but after a fiery address at the very beginning of the annual communication by a respected Past Grand Master denouncing the anonymous scrivener, he received a standing ovation. The letter wound up accomplishing precisely nothing, apart from setting off a parlor game to deduce whose work it was. But those of us in Indiana resented the interference of outsiders when the letter was posted on Facebook. 

As I say, I'm not generally fond of anonymous accusers in Masonry. At the very least, it's un-Masonic behavior. I understand that similar anonymous messages of this kind have been circulated in Kansas, Connecticut, and elsewhere. In each case, they have not had the kind of effect their authors have hoped for. That said, back in 2004, I myself was part of an anonymous group that went by the name "Knights of the North" who wrote a booklet called Laudable Pursuit. While its contents seem tame today, at the time, certain members within our grand lodge wanted us all to be hunted down and expelled for questioning the status quo. So I am perhaps being hypocritical.  

On the one hand, given the apparent powers granted to New Jersey Grand Masters, it is understandable that these ongoing information leaks probably must remain anonymous. They appear to be coming from someone well placed within the GL officer or committee structure, given the nature of the documents, and that person is walking a very dangerous line by circulating them.  

On the other hand, those 3.600 New Jersey Masons on the Lone Ranger's mailing list aren't all necessarily sympathizers to his cause. They are just names on a listserv. If all 3,600 agreed with his estimation of their lineup of leadership over the last two years or more, there would have been open insurrection at their annual communication, the grand officers' line would have been disrupted, and these allegations would have crept beyond New Jersey's borders a long time ago.

This situation is not like other circumstances that smear the rest of the fraternity outside of their state by dragging the rest of the Masonic world 's reputation through the mud, or by violating the Ancient Charges, or even by affecting issues like recognition. This isn't remotely like the Georgia/Tennessee issue. 

I don't live there, I don't know any of the men involved, and I don't pretend to understand their situation. Most important, it''s not within the scope of anyone outside of the voting members of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey to solve. 

Every family has its problems, but that doesn't always give all of the neighbors the right to interfere. Sure, sometimes you have to call the cops, or even just knock on the door to make sure everybody's alright. But it's ultimately their business, and sometimes you have to just let them yell at each other.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Two US Scottish Rite Jurisdictions

Brother Robert H. Johnson over on the Midnight Freemasons blog has a long post today outlining the basic, general differences between the U.S. systems of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, versus the Southern Jurisdiction. There are VERY big differences. 

Robert's post is a good primer for anyone who is interested in joining the Scottish Rite and is encountering this subject for the first time. It is not a critique of either jurisdiction - it is merely the observations of a Brother who has experienced degrees in both. 

Give it a look HERE.

Many Masons often ask why there is so much difference between the philosophy of the two jurisdictions in the US regarding their rituals. It can best be summarized by the late Melvin Maynard Johnson, the NMJ's former Sovereign Grand Commander, in his Allocution from 1943: 
 “If the time ever comes when the Scottish Rite determines to remain static, when its philosophy may not be adjusted to the needs of a chang- ing world, then is the time for its obsequies. Until then, its leaders should never abandon study of the philosophy of its ritualistic teachings that, by recast and revision, it may keep in the van of advancing civilization.” 

From "The Degree Rituals of The Supreme Council, 33°, AASR for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction United States of America" (2008) by C. DeForrest Trexler, 33°:
"It is of passing interest that in 1960 the Supreme Councils of the Northern and Southern Jurisdictions of the United States agreed to joint meetings of their respective Committees on Rituals for the purpose of promoting greater uniformity in degree work. Before any meetings were held, however, the Southern Jurisdiction withdrew from the venture on the grounds that its ritual, written by Albert Pike, already “was as perfect as humanly possible.” Hence, there was no reason to discuss change, notwithstanding that Pike himself had been the greatest innovator of Masonic ritual and, over a period of 30 years to 1884, had revised the initial versions of his own rituals. Perfect or not, the reality was that Valleys across the Southern Jurisdiction routinely were abridging and adapting the Pike ritual to suit their individual situations. Perhaps it was inevitable that, starting in 1985, the Southern Jurisdiction began to soften its stance by undertaking to modify and simplify, i.e., abridge, the Pike ritual. This process culminated in 2000 with issuance of The Revised Standard Pike Ritual." 
Illus. Bro. Trexler's work is the only relatively up to date document that even discusses the NMJ degrees, while the SJ has published a stream of books over the years to explain or explore the rituals Pike wrote between 1857-70. Trexler's book does not disclose any of the actual rituals, signs, symbols, etc. It is merely a history of the changes the NMJ degrees have undergone over the last century or more. But it is of interest to those who have wondered about the subject. To my knowledge, it exists only online, and then as an archived file on the Wayback Machine archive.

A new book has been written by a NMJ Mason, and it covers the newest versions of the NMJ degrees, explains each one, tells its history, the background of each story told in the ritual, and also adds a brief description of its SJ counterpart just for good measure. This promises to be a boon to NMJ Masons who have been begging for something similar for years, and it frankly should have been published officially by the Supreme Council. It is due to be released later this year by Starr Publishing, a print on demand imprint that has published Cliff Porter's books.

MSA Executive Secretary To Retire

From the Masonic Service Association of North America website
George O. Braatz, Executive Secretary of the Masonic Service Association of North America, has announced his upcoming retirement.
A Past Grand Master and Past Grand Secretary of Ohio, Brother Braatz is completing five years as the full-time Executive Secretary for MSA.
Thomas H. Galyen, Chairman of MSA, said that the organization is seeking applications from individuals to fill the position.  More information on the position and application instructions can be obtained by writing or calling the MSA office.  He said the MSA Board of Commissioners is interested in filling the position in the next several months.

Friday, May 27, 2016

PGM of Hawaii Killed In Accident

I received a message today from Brother Tim Yuen in Hawaii:

Most Worshipful Brother Charles Wegener, Jr. Past Grand Master 2010, was taken from this earthly plane by a horrible traffic accident in California on Wednesday. A car crossed into his lane on the opposite side causing a head on collision at 60 mph. Charles was a model Mason who was always giving of his time and service. May the Almighty grant him peace.
The accident happened Wednesday, May 25th.



From TheTribuneNews.com website in San Luis Obisbo, California on May 26th:
Charles Wegener, 71, of Kailua, Hawaii, was killed at around 2:20 p.m. while driving a 2016 Ford Focus northbound on Highway 1 north of Arroyo De La Cruz, according to a Templeton CHP news release.
German Castro, 57, of San Salvador, El Salvador, was headed southbound on the same road in a 2015 Mazda 3 when he drifted directly in front of Wegener’s vehicle in the northbound lane.
The vehicles, both traveling at around 60 mph, collided near their left front sides. Wegener was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, Stella Carter, 77, also of Kailua was taken to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center to be treated for moderate injuries. 
German Castro was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, but was released to the hospital due to his injuries. Castro will be taken to San Luis Obispo County Jail after his recovery.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

2016 Masonic Restoration Foundation Symposium in Asheville, NC 8/19-21

The 7th annual Masonic Restoration Foundation Symposium has been announced, and will take place  from August 19-21, 2016 at the Asheville Masonic Temple in Asheville, North Carolina. Meetings will be held in both the Lodge Room and the Theatre. 

Since 2001, the Masonic Restoration Foundation (MRF) has been examining the issues facing North American Freemasonry, identifying successful both current and historical practices, and offering realistic solutions aimed at improving the experience of Masonic labor. The annual MRF Symposium is a meeting place for Masons who are seeking the highest form of Masonic experience they can attain within their lodges, while strictly conforming to the laws, resolutions, and edicts of their respective grand lodges. It is a gathering for those who pursue quality in the Craft to share ideas and discuss their work. 

This year's Symposium will kick off with a Festive Board in the Temple Dining Hall on Friday night, conducted by Sophia Lodge No. 767, North Carolina's first observant lodge, located in Salisbury, NC. The evening will feature Keynote Speaker, Robert L. D. Cooper, Curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.  Robert is a Past Master of Lodge Edinburgh Castle No. 1764, and a Past Master of England's Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076. He is a renowned Masonic historian, and author of Cracking the Freemason's Code and The Rosslyn Hoax. He is a principal organizer of the International Conference on the History of Freemasonry [ICHF], and he has written a number of articles on how Freemasonry is practiced in Scotland. Dress code for the evening will be tuxedo (preferred), or dark suit.

Speakers presenting on Saturday will include: Don Barrier, John Bizzack, John Burchfield, Douglas Caudle, Robert L.D. Cooper, Patrick Craddock, Shawn Eyer, Milton B. Fitch , Andrew Hammer, Joseph Kindoll, Christopher Murphy, Chad Simpson, Ben Wallace, and MW Bryant Webster, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to see a Master Mason degree conferred by the two N.C. observant lodges, Veritas Lodge No. 769 (from Asheville), and Sophia Lodge No. 767. 

Registration for the complete Symposium is $125.00, and $75.00 for Saturday's session only.

For a complete program of this event, presenter bios, registration info, and lodging suggestions, visit the Symposium website HERE.

Tunisian Tattoo Artist's Unfortunate Choice Of Logo

A Tunisian tattoo artist has wound up breaking two taboos in his own country, and got the crap beat out of him over the weekend for his efforts. 

Apparently, some Muslims believe that tattoos are forbidden by Islam. At least in Tunisia, Fawez Zahmoul's customers have usually had their designs applied in inconspicuous places on their bodies where they can be easily hidden in public.

But even though he's been inking eager countrymen and women since 2010, it was the design of his business' logo (right) that brought out new rage from the locals.

From the Tunisia-Live.net website today:

Fawez Zahmoul, owner of an establishment marketed as “Tunisia’s first tattoo parlor” was attacked and beaten over the weekend by a group of unidentified individuals, the apparent motive being the belief that tattoos are forbidden by Islam.
Zahmoul reports having been the target of attempts at intimidation for weeks as he planned the grand opening of Wachem Tattoo in Marsa. “My fault for not taking the threats seriously,” he said in a Facebook post on Sunday tagged as “at Clinique Pasteur” in which he also shared a picture of himself wearing bandages with bruises and abrasions showing on the top of his head.
The opening of the shop was scheduled for late April but was delayed several times due to resistance from the community, according to Zahmoul. He reports that religious figures have spoken out against him during Friday prayers and that there have been pressure campaigns against him and his shop on Facebook. “With all of this I don’t have a clear idea on when I’ll open the shop,” Zahmoul told Tunisia Live prior being attacked.
The attack reportedly took place on Friday afternoon, according to a Facebook page called “Tous contre ‘Fawez le tatouer’” (“All Opposed to Fawez the Tattoo Artist”). On Saturday the page posted a blurry picture of what appears to be a physical dispute along with the comment, “Friday, May 20, at 2 p.m., Fawez the tattoo artist was badly beaten. Tunisia is no longer a Muslim country[.] There is no place for people like him.” Zahmoul could not be reached for details following the attack.
In addition to the fact that tattoos are taboo for certain segments of Tunisian society, Zahmoul’s shop appears to have drawn criticism for its logo, which depicts an eye beneath a folding tattoo tool [sic] making the shape of a triangle. A number of Facebook resistance groups have pointed out the similarities between the logo and one of the symbols of Freemasonry, a secretive organization that some believe is anti-Islam.
Several of these Facebook pages have pointed to the first article of the Tunisian constitution, which stipulates that the country’s religion is Islam, and said that the Zahmoul’s use of freemason imagery is a violation of this. Commenters responding to such posts have condemned Zahmoul, sometimes violently. A commenter named Makram Mahmoud said, “It has to be burned or closed,” referring to the shop.
Sociologist Foued Ghorbali told Tunisia Live that the controversy around tattoos is an example of broader tensions in Tunisian society and the ways in which values are changing, adding that not all Tunisian’s who identify as Muslim are against tattoos. “There are people who are getting tattoos, but at the same time still think about [the need to keep one’s] virginity [prior to marriage,]” he said.
Ghorbali added that tattoos in Tunisia were once an indication of a person’s tribal or regional origins as well as a part of religious practice, but are now almost exclusively aesthetic. 
To read the rest of the article, CLICK HERE.

According to Brother Kent Henderson, Freemasonry came to Tunisia as it did with so many other African and Middle Eastern countries with the European colonial expansion of the 19th century. In 1879, the Grand Orient of Italy assembled eight French-speaking lodges in the country and formed the Grand Orient of Tunisia. By the time of WWI, lodges also proliferated from the Grand Orient de France, the Grande Loge de France, as well as French co-Masonic obediences.

Habib Bourguiba became Tunisia's first president from 1957 to 1983, and was accused by critics of being a French Freemason. His attempts to create a pro-Western, non-Islamic dominated government, much like Kamal Ataturk in Turkey, were criticized by a growing Islamist population, and his purported Masonic connection became added baggage to that criticism. Yet, Bourguiba passed a Law on Associations in 1959 that forced the closure of all but one lodge in the country, and it finally shut down in 1964. (See Realities magazine, "La Franc- maçonnerie en Tunisie : Bourguiba était-il franc-maçon?" 19-01-2009)

In a 2007 paper, Henderson mentioned a lodge that opened in 1998, Loggia Italia No. 16, meeting quarterly at a Tunis hotel, but little is known about it, and the lodge may in fact no longer exist.

H/T Angel Millar

Monday, May 23, 2016

Historic Richmond, VA Lodge

Richmond Randolph Lodge #19
From the CBS affiliate station, WTVR website in Richmond, Virginia on Saturday: 
Construction on the Masonic Lodge Richmond Randolph Lodge #19 on E. Franklin Street at N. 18th Street in Shockoe Bottom began in 1785 and was finished in 1787.
It is believed to be the oldest existing Masonic hall in continuous use in North America, if not the western hemisphere, members said proudly."This is very much a national - and international - treasure," said Senior Warden Charles Hundley.
This list of member Masons - and special guests - who have been inside these walls is long and prestigious. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice and Secretary of State John Marshall was a signature member and had an office inside the building.
King Edward VII, the Prince of Wales, and the Marquis de Lafayette have been among international visitors.
Locally, "Some of the most important people in the history of Richmond have been in this building, and many of them were members," said Michael Joyner, Worshipful Master of this historic hall.
And now, they're opening their doors so non-Masons can get a peek at this largely secret society that has become a pop culture sensation of sorts, thanks to a long list of books, TV shows and movies building on some of the history and conspiracies surrounding the Freemasons.[SNIP]Joyner said the collective power that the Masons wielded was more significant in the 18th and 19th centuries, and many of the conspiracies involving the occult are based on people's imaginations running wild because of the secret nature of the group.
"You have to believe in a supreme being," he said. "There are no atheists . . . A lot of masonry is about not only the mortality of man, but the immortality of the soul. Basically, masonry is a spiritual journey."
It's been about growing as an individual and collectively growing the nation. "There was a vision of having a country that was freer than what they left in Europe," Joyner said while giving us a very detailed and surprisingly candid tour of the building and many of its rare artifacts and documents.
This particular lodge, which is growing and now has more than 100 members, is building and banking on its history. It has attracted new members at a time when many fraternal organizations are seeing their membership’s age and decline.
The building also has some structural problems and is in need of expensive rehabbing, so they're asking for help.
"There's a lot of activities associated with the founding fathers and important people, not only within the city of Richmond, but internationally, that came through this building," Hundley said.
He said when the Union troops came in after the burning of Richmond at the end of the Civil War, this Masonic Lodge was one of three buildings that were guarded and protected.
"The next night a regular lodge meeting was held," Hundley said. "Members of the Union army were present as Masons."
You too, can have a look through this historic and fascinating building filled with the symbols and structures of Freemasonry.
The next open house is Saturday, June 18, with two showings of "Eliza Poe in Performance," recreating Edgar Allen Poe's mother's dramatic and musical performance in the lodge. Tickets can be bought at the Poe Museum or at the door and will benefit the Masons Hall Preservation fund and the Richmond Poe Museum.
For more information about the building click here

Lodge Building On City Seal Causes Friction

From the Daily Commercial website by Miller Ives on Saturday:

The temple building of Florida's Mount Dora Lodge 238
You can’t miss it — it’s a giant yellow house adorned with a tin cupola and several ornamental lightning-arrest rods set on the roof. A wrap-around porch and brick columns surround a huge Masonic Lodge sign in the front yard — all of which make the structure look more like a real-life gingerbread house.
One of two examples of this type of Queen Ann architecture left in the state. The Donnelly House (also known as the Mount Dora Lodge No. 238 F&AM), was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
“It is the most photographed house in the state,” said Keith Potter, Worshipful Master of the Masonic Lodge, as he hung a picture back on the wall Saturday morning.
And lodge members are hoping to keep it that way.
Potter was among a number of lodge members, city council members, business leaders and residents who came together Saturday to start renovating the house.
Bob Swiger, a past Worshipful Master of the lodge, said many of the group’s 214 members have grown older so upkeep of the building has declined.“Something this nice you want to keep up,” said Swiger.
The renovation comes as friction between the lodge and the city council builds over whether the group should be compensated because the city uses the building’s image on its official seal.
Members made an unsuccessful attempt to get the city to pay $300 a month for some of the lodge’s utility bills because the structure was deemed iconic.In a recent 4-3 vote, the city council rejected that request and another one to pay to the lodge as compensation for using the image.
Potter said with more than 200 lodge members it’s not difficult for them to pay the bills, but it’s the principle.
Former Mount Dora city Council member Glenna Burch agreed.
“The city council twice voted down any kind of help, even though the Donnelly House is prominent during many city festivals, such as the Christmas walk, light up Mount Dora, Forth of July, and is the image used as the city’s official seal for which the Masons had never been compensated,” said Burch in a press release.
At least one lodge member said the group may try to get the city to remove the building’s image from its seal.
Councilman Denny Wood has provided financial and business guidance for the lodge.
Burch has been contacting residents about making regular monthly pledges. And according to Mason Erick Forholt, the lodge is finalizing a non-profit “Friends of the Donnelly House” fund for ongoing maintenance to preserve the historic structure.
On Saturday evening, Leigh Love, of PizzAmore, was expected to lead a raffle in hopes of raising more money for the lodge.
“This is a state icon, we want to keep it looking nice,” Potter said.
According to a press release, John P. Donnelly, a entrepreneur from Pittsburgh, Pa., was the builder of the Donnelly House. He moved to Mount Dora 130 years ago. Upon his death, the home was sold to the Gorham family, who in turn sold the building to the Mount Dora Masonic Lodge in 1939.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Masonic City

A post today on the Scottish Rite NMJ's Facebook page was intriguing, but unfortunately didn't include enough information. So I went and looked.

The city of Apopka, Florida (near Orlando) has an unusual feature as part of its official city seal - a Masonic square and compass (just after the word "of" in the image above). According to a Wiki entry (sorry, but it's what I could find):

[E]arly American settlers built a major trading center on the foundations of [an] earlier Indian settlement. Their population was large enough by 1857 to support the establishment of a Masonic lodge. In 1859 the lodge erected a permanent meeting place at what is now the intersection of Main Street (U.S. Highway 441) and Alabama Avenue...
The settlers in the vicinity of "The Lodge" were largely isolated during the Civil War, but the area rebounded once peace was re-established, and a population boom followed the construction of railroad lines through the region.
In 1882 the one square mile surrounding "The Lodge" was officially incorporated under the name "Apopka".

According to the website of Orange Lodge 36 in Apopka, theirs is the oldest surviving Masonic lodge building in continuous use in the state of Florida. It goes on:
Orange Lodge was established in 1856 and is still serving under a warrant issued that year by the Grand Lodge of Florida. This building was erected here in 1859, the upper story has been continually used for lodge meetings. The original lower floor was used as a post office, school, church and general store.  Masons from miles around visited the community, which was known as   “The Lodge” until the town of Apopka was chartered in1882.
They were summoned to Lodge by three blasts of a trumpet.
Orange Lodge No. 36 is a “moon lodge” and meets on the Friday on or before the full moon and two weeks there after, and to this day the sound of the trumpet can still be heard signaling the opening of meetings.

Tonight - "Celebrating The Craft" Live Webcast

The entire Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction website has been shut down for a day to clear the decks in preparation for tonight's live webcast, Celebrating The Craft, to support the "House of the Temple Preservation Fund."

If the previous programs were similar, this show will feature rarely seen footage from the House of the Temple, musical performances by participants in the Scottish Rite Has Talent search (vote for the best tonight),  video entries highlighting local Valleys and their members, Masonic scholars, leaders, and celebrities, and more.

Watch live online tonight between 6 PM and midnight (ET) at www.scottishrite.org and please donate to preserve the HOT.


Here's a little bit of what to expect from Brent Morris and Art de Hoyos...

Friday, May 20, 2016

A New Royal Arch Chapter? Yes, Really.

Most Excellent Grand High Priest of Illinois, Sean McBride holding old Homer Royal Arch sign

Brother Todd Creason, author of Famous American Freemasons, has a short piece over on the Midnight Freemasons site today about something that is rarely heard of in the U.S. anymore - the organization and chartering of a new Royal Arch Chapter. Admiration Chapter in Homer, Illinois is on its way to receiving a charter and redefining what an American Royal Arch chapter might be.

In the UK, the Royal Arch degree is seen as an essential and direct adjunct to the Master Mason degree, and it was once conferred in the same lodge. That same attitude was not transported to the U.S., and what we call the York Rite here is not really known in other countries.

The York Rite in America is in serious trouble. When the Shrine removed their former requirement that men had to not only be Masons, but also had to go through the degrees of the Scottish or York Rites before then qualifying for Shrine membership, both of those organizations got a swift kick in the pants. The Scottish Rite dealt with this in different ways. The AASR in the Southern Jurisdiction concentrated on creating stacks of new and revived research and study material available for their members, and clung to Pike. The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction feverishly rewrote degrees, and has resorted to presenting more and more on video.

But the York Rite did little to respond to the situation over the last dozen or so years. Part of this is simply because of their decentralized, three-body state-wide, AND national, governance system. There is no single organization that directs the York Rite as a whole, which prevents any sort of combined direction or large scale cooperation.  In addition, many states have slowly realized that there are just, plain and simple, too many scattered Chapters, Councils, and Commanderies anymore for the number of new members they are getting and keeping. Those individual groups have experienced an even more alarming plummet in active (or even just paying) members than the Blue Lodges have, and only the most dedicated candidates for degrees come back and participate after their experiences. If Blue Lodges have trouble filling their seven-member primary officer lines, Chapters, Councils, and Commanderies are often struggling even worse, partially because they have so many officer stations required, and also because of the increased memory work needed for degrees.

I once asked a national office holder in the General Grand Chapter why a Mason should join the York Rite. He didn't tell me about the beautiful degrees or their historic part in the larger picture of Masonry, or even how they affected him personally. He answered, "Well, there's only ONE opportunity to become an officer and Worshipful Master in a Blue Lodge. But there are THREE in the York Rite bodies!"

Nobody EVER became a Freemason because they wanted to be a lodge officer. I promise.

The degrees of the York Rite are extremely moving. (I happen to think the Order of the Temple conferred by the Knights Templar is the drop-dead, coolest degree in all of Masonry. But maybe that's just me.) They are more personal, in that they are conferred in a more intimate lodge-type setting than the Scottish Rite degrees, and they specifically continue the story thread of Solomon's Temple first encountered in the Craft Lodge. It is a degree system well worth continuing and preventing its extinction. 

So, Admiration Chapter is taking the tack of making sure business meetings are streamlined, but more important, that they are providing some kind of education or research material at their gatherings. They are trying to make their Chapter more interesting, more memorable, more special, and more enjoyable than what they have seen elsewhere, besides just conferring degrees on men who don't come back. They are stressing quality over quantity. I wish them all the best, and hope they succeed. 


We're currently having an argument in Indianapolis about lodge dues, temple rental prices, per capita payments, and other similar topics. It compelled me to go back and update some of what the Knights of the North examined in 2004 in Laudable Pursuit:
"In 1897, the North American Review estimated that the average lodge member spent fifty dollars annually on dues and insurance, and two hundred dollars on initiation fees, ritualistic paraphernalia, banquets and travel; this at a time when the average factory worker earned just four hundred to five hundred dollars a year. "

-- Mark C. Carnes, Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America (Yale University Press, 1989).

In 2015, $50 dues would be equal to $1436. And that $200 initiation, paraphernalia, banquet and travel budget would cost $5744 today. On an adjusted salary of $11,488 a year.

Consider this from author Price Pritchett's 'Firing Up Commitment For Organizational Change' (Pritchett & Hull Associates, 1994). He wasn't writing about Masonry, but he might as well have been:

"The harder we have to struggle for something, the more precious it becomes. Somehow, in sacrificing, we prove to ourselves that what we're seeking is valuable.

"Initiation rites - like high walls and narrow gates of entry - build commitment to the group through making acceptance hard to come by. Being allowed to join becomes something special. An achievement. A privilege. And it creates a sense of exclusiveness.

"Belonging doesn't count much if almost anybody can drift in or drift out of your group at will. If it's easy to join up, then leave and return, only to leave again, commitment can be hard to find.

"Initiation rites also create a common bond of experience that unites all who make it through the ordeal. A strong sense of "we-ness" comes from having gone through a common struggle. This identification with the group feeds commitment.

"Finally, stiff criteria for admission cause the weak-hearted to de-select themselves. They opt out after weighing the costs. For them, the rights of membership aren't worth going through the rites of Initiation. The benefit? People with low commitment never get inside.

"The greater the personal investment in getting accepted, the more one builds a stake in the organization. This means you should make membership a big deal. Let people pay a price to join. That guarantees commitment at the outset, and also makes it easier to build commitment later on.

"Make membership hard to come by, and commitment comes naturally."

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Whither 'The Lost Symbol' Movie?

Since its release in 2009, Freemasons have been especially interested in the highly publicized plan by Sony Pictures to being Dan Brown's novel, The Lost Symbol , to the big screen. The fraternity is at the heart of Brown's story that features "symbologist" Robert Langdon, the primary character of his first two colossal hits, Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.  And Masonic landmarks in Washington, DC like the House of the Temple and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial play roles in the story's location. Both of Brown's previous books were made into big budget films, and most of us believed that a Lost Symbol film would be the next project tackled by the production team.

Unfortunately, despite more than two years of announcements and conflicting news stories about the script and the film's development, Brown's fourth Langdon novel, Inferno, was released in the interim, and Sony quickly announced that it would be the next Langdon film they would tackle instead. Inferno will be released in October.

From the Inquisitr.com website today:

Currently, it isn’t known if the producers plan to release The Lost Symbol. It was originally in production after Angels & Demons. The producers feel confident that The Lost Symbol will eventually be released. Sony felt Inferno was a better fit to be released this year, with the option to release The Lost Symbol in 2017.
Dan Brown fans feel Inferno may be the best Robert Langdon movie to date. If this movie can outshine the success of The Da Vinci Code, the release of The Lost Symbol would be guaranteed. Angels & Demons wasn’t as successful as they thought it was going to be. Sony is giving it one more shot and felt hopeful that Inferno will make the fans fall in love with Robert Langdon all over again.
Readers of The Lost Symbol should be able to recognize some of the problems with transforming it into a film. As anyone who has ever been involved with filming locations in the city knows, Washington DC is one of the toughest places on earth to shoot in, with miserable traffic, security, permitting, and other challenges. Also, at the present time, the US Capitol is covered in scaffolding as part of a major restoration project of the building's dome. That is a visual hurdle for the story, as the Capitol is central to the book's opening chapters. But that could easily be remedied with some CGI work, or just by waiting until the contractors finish.

More challenging is the story itself, which has bedeviled several scripters so far, including Brown himself.  Extended portions of the plot take place in total darkness - not exactly visually exciting for a multi-million dollar picture, and the IMAX release could be a bit tedious after a while. That could be changed and solved. But tougher to deal with is Brown's central plot point: that if the American public saw a Youtube video of high-ranking elected federal officials and other government bigwigs actually engaging in creepy Masonic ritual, (especially the ultra-secret 33rd degree!) it would shake the country to its very core, and maybe even cause a national crisis. Exclamation point.


Actually, it's a shame for us as a fraternity, because the underlying message of the book is that we're really a pretty decent and admirable little clot of men, all the way through the story. And one of the characters at the end of the novel recounts an explanation of the "lost word" that is truly more nuanced, symbolic, and satisfying than what we actually impart in our degrees.  If made eventually, I continue to believe it would be a wonderful method by which millions of people would be introduced in a relatively sane manner to the underlying message and philosophy of the Craft. At least in the U.S., there was a time when the overwhelming majority of the population respected us and knew who and what we represented. These days, not so much. 

But that might not really sell too many movie tickets.

Because of its international locations and globe trotting plot, Inferno was judged by Sony to be a potentially more exciting story to tell onscreen, so we will all have to wait and see how it does before a decision gets revisited on The Lost Symbol. That's sad news for us as Freemasons, just from a purely selfish public relations point of view. But it might be better news for rest of the moviegoing public.

While we wait, if you are a Mason who has read The Lost Symbol already (or plan to), forgive me the absolutely shameless conceit of reminding everybody that my own book, Deciphering the Lost Symbol: Freemasons, Myths and the Mysteries of Washington, D.C., is specifically a Masonic guide to the origins, symbols, philosophy, and locations in Brown's novel...