I'm back from my trips, and had a great time speaking and chatting with the brethren of Cincinnati Lodge No. 3 in Morristown, NJ, and Alcyone Lodge No. 695 in Northport, NY. I made lots of new friends and had great evenings at both lodges. I truly have great hope for the future of the fraternity when I meet men who are as dedicated and excited as these brothers were. Many thanks to everyone - and a special shout out to Brother Moises Gomez, who has turned into my East Coast booking agent at this point...
While I was gone, a few stories crossed the wires.
First, the Sky1 network in Britain announced a four part series about Freemasonry, being made to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the formation of the premiere Grand Lodge in London. According to TV Wise:
,' which will air this Winter in the run up to the 300th anniversary of the group in 2017, will uncover the truth behind the ancient rituals and closely-guarded practices of the organisation, featuring footage of ceremonies, which have never been seen before on television. Viewers will also learn the truth behind the regalia, the jewels, the handshakes and the symbolic working tools as they get to know Masons from all walks of life.
The four-part documentary series is being produced by independent production company Emporium Productions, who have secured unprecedented access to the United Grand Lodge of England and its Lodges all over the country. Emma Read is the executive producer.
“With over 200,000 members across England and Wales, the Freemasons is a fascinating organisation that the general public don’t really know much about”, said Siobhan Mulholland, Sky’s Commissioning Editor for Factual. “We can’t wait to use this unique access to show Sky customers the real Freemasons as we look at little known history and traditions,determining myth from truth.”
“We’re thrilled to have been given such unprecedented access to the hidden world of the Freemasons to make a documentary series”, added Emma Read, executive producer for Emporium Productions. “Most people are familiar with Freemasons as an organisation, but few actually know who they are, what ‘Lodge life’ is really like and why men join in the 21st Century.”The handshake thing really seems to niggle at the Brits for some reason.
The show really is being produced with the cooperation and blessing of the UGLE. Brother John Hamill was quoted on the ATV Today website saying:
“As we approach our Tercentenary it is fitting that we mark this auspicious occasion by very openly sharing a look at who we are, what we do and what we stand for. We hope the programme will help inform, educate and even surprise, providing a genuine insight and understanding into Freemasonry and Freemasons today.”
Speaking of the UGLE Tercentenary, an official jewel has been created for the celebration and is available in several versions (depending on the size of your wallet) from Toye Kenning & Spencer.
According to a flyer issued by the Grand Lodge, the jewel may officially be worn any time between June 24th, 2016 and December 31st, 2017 by any member of a UGLE lodge (although after stating those dates, it somewhat confusingly goes on to say that their MW Grand Master has approved it as a "permanent jewel" and that it may be "worn in perpetuity by qualified brethren.")
This was rumored about by several brethren who were present at the event, but a story on NPR just made it official. Remember the protesters over the homosexual issue that came up over Georgia and Tennessee who pestered the attendees at the World Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges in San Francisco last November? It turns out they were really just hired help, not dedicated activists.
From an interview on NPR's All Things Considered on June 9th with host Ari Shapiro:
An article from the island nation of Fiji in the South Pacific appeared on June 6th about the fate of the lodge in the town of Levuka. Just 16 years ago, the local lodge was destroyed because of idiotic anti-Masonic myths.
From the Fiji Times:
In 1875, a sailing captain named Alexander Barrack established Freemasonry in Levuka and later built the Masonic Lodge in classic Greek style.
Businessmen, top government officials and distinguished gentlemen quickly became members.
Historian at Levuka's Department of National Heritage, Culture and Arts Suliana Sandys said there were a lot of misconceptions about the practices of the Freemasons.
"It was nothing more than a club. A place where successful people came together to discuss issues including progress of the society they were in," she said.
"Their practices were nothing as what is rumoured to be. In fact, the Freemasons were responsible for the development of Levuka.
"They had organised funds for needy school children and have played an important role in shaping Levuka.
"I fear that people who did not know or were ignorant not to find out and understand came up with ideas and theories contrary of what was happening in Masonic Lodge."
The Masonic Lodge was burnt in 2000 by some villagers on Ovalau. Their action provoked by the thought that the Freemasons were a Satanic cult.In fact, the word in town was that Freemasons were satanic and held strange rituals inside the Lodge.
Conversations with nearby villagers brought many different types of responses.
Saula Waqanalagi from Waitovu claimed that human blood was a favourite cocktail at the lodge.
Meli Tukai from Baba claimed there were secret tunnels beneath the Masonic Lodge leading to the Royal Hotel or to Nasova House, near the cession monument, south of town.
Timoci Nasilasila from Nasinu claimed that human sacrifices were done to appease the Prince of Darkness.
There are many theories told by some members of the public as to what used to happen but none proven. But sometimes people assume that those who do not discuss their affairs openly must have something to hide.
Perhaps this was what led to the angry mob in 2000 shouting "Out with devil" and they burnt the lodge.
The lodge still stands or rather what remains of it but there has never been any evidence of Satanic practices, artefact or the tunnels for that matter.
Levuka as a town also prospered when the Masonic Lodge was still intact. The second half of the year would see scores of tourists, mostly touring Freemasons, coming to the Masonic Lodge as part of trips organised by their Freemason group in their country.
Many of Fiji's statesmen and chiefs were members of the Freemasons. A Masonic Lodge still stood in Suva.
"Because of the private nature of the Freemasons practice, the people may have developed their own ideas as to what happened inside the Masonic Lodge," [Sandys] said
"And in a small island community, moles could become mountains because there were no answers proving that otherwise were happening. There was no attempt made to find the truth and the Freemasons saw no reasons in disclosing their practice to those outside of their organisation.
"But at the end of the day, a beautiful building in Levuka was destroyed which could have contributed to its National Heritage."Regardless of the destruction of the Lekuva lodge, Masonry still survives elsewhere on the island. According to the Freemasonry Fiji website, the UGLE chartered Lodge of Fiji, No.1931 at ‘Suva Na Viti Levu in the Colony of Fiji’ in 1881. The Warrant was signed and sealed by the Grand Master, M. W. Bro. Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.
For the first half the life of the lodge the membership was almost exclusively European. Since independence many things have changed and the Lodge of Fiji has changed as well. To an increasing extent in the past few decades those seeking initiation have been locally born. All barriers whether overt or covert, arising from race or religion or national origin or from suspicion that Freemasonry is an exclusive, elite or a sinister secret organisation have vanished, and they will not reappear.
It goes forward, therefore, into its second century with confidence – a Lodge not only in, but of Fiji.
And finally, a lodge in Charlotte, North Carolina is building a new Masonic Temple with a unique design for the property. From the Charlotte Observer back on May 26th:
A Masonic lodge is seeking to build a new meeting place in north Charlotte, and the building layout has an unusual twist: It’s designed in the shape of a Masonry symbol.
Derita Masonic Lodge is seeking to rezone 4.4 acres along DeArmon Road, near Interstate 485 and Prosperity Church Road. The land is currently zoned for single-family residential use and is occupied by a house.
Under the lodge’s rezoning request, the land use would be changed to institutional, and a 5,600-square-foot building would be constructed on the site. The grounds would be laid out to reflect one of Masonry’s main symbols, a square and compass.
You can see the similarity in the building design (above, from the rezoning documents) and the symbol pictured here. Charlotte City Council will hold a hearing in the coming months and vote on the plan.Actually, while the parking lot seems to be inspired by the S&C, the building itself more resembles the 47th problem of Euclid.
Dare I say, "Eureka." Somebody round up those guys a hecatomb.
Bravo to the brethren at Derita Lodge for putting real thought into their new home, instead of just erecting a steel pole barn in a cornfield.
Of course, not every Masonic styled building is entirely successful as tasteful architecture. An example was just sent to me by a brother who spotted this one. It's now the home of a church, which is stuck with a massive Masonic symbol you can spot from low earth orbit...