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


Friday, August 25, 2017

Arkansas Update...Sort Of

I have deliberately steered clear of the situation in the Grand Lodge of Arkansas for many months. That's not because everything is fine and dandy there now, but for a variety of reasons. Brethren from both inside and outside of the jurisdiction keep contacting me privately and asking what's happening there. I have shut up about it publicly and hoped Arkansas' Freemasons could solve their own internal problems internally. If they have no desire to storm the Little Rock Bastille, I have no real desire to be their Jean-Paul Marat from five states away, and nor should anyone else. I was also giving their current Grand Master Carl Nelson his opportunity to sweep up the shattered glass and patch up the wounded, or just go on shooting even more on his own, or something in between. Finally, Arkansas brethren should have the opportunity to find their own voice and either demand transparency and open honesty, or to create it on their own without my further unneeded carping.

That has happened to a small extent. For the contra side, there is the spoof 'Arkansas Grand Lodge' Facebook page, which has kept up a steady stream of expulsion and suspension news, court documents, and inside information unavailable anywhere else. It's the one with the Popeye profile photo, NOT the Grand Lodge seal. The page seems to be the principal gathering point for those watching things unfold. (Not to be confused with the authentic, official The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Arkansas FB page, which mostly just posts degree and meeting announcements—but strangely, NOT any reminder or announcement of an emergency, tyled "emergent" meeting at a North Little Rock Baptist church, scheduled for September 9th, which only lodge Masters, Wardens, and Secretaries will be permitted to attend.)

Another newer website, Arkansas Grand Lodge F&AM Awareness, seems to be primarily dedicated to releasing the public court and state government documents.

Be aware that both of these sites are run by detractors of the Grand Lodge and are, for obvious reasons, hosted anonymously by their authors. It's up to you as to where you decide to get your information from, but Arkansas Masons should at least be aware they exist. They both appear to be run by current, not expelled, members of the fraternity in Arkansas and have not as yet posted incorrect or false documents that I have been made aware of.

It's up to Arkansas Masons to decide on their own whether things have improved there or not. I have no real bead on it from here and no vested interest either way. However, I will simply say that the spoof Arkansas Grand Lodge Facebook page yesterday morning posted the above photograph. He pointed out that it comes directly from the official Grand Lodge of Arkansas website, under the topic heading, "What Is A Mason?" The photo is still there as of this afternoon.

According to the post, approximately 50% of the Masons in the photograph have currently been suspended or expelled.

What IS a Mason, anyway?

UPDATE 8/28/2016:
Just as an observation, that photo above? It vanished from the official Grand Lodge of Arkansas F&AM  "What Is A Mason?" web page two days after this posting.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

'The Masonic Pageant': Guide to AASR-NMJ Degrees Now Shipping

Well. Looky what Al, our friendly UPS man, delivered today along with his usual daily present of a Milk-Bone biscuit for Wiley. 

After more than a century of being largely ignored in print, Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the U.S. can at last rejoice. After a year and a half's long and twisted path to publication, The Masonic Pageant: The Scottish Rite Degrees of the Supreme Council, NMJ by Illustrious Brother Frank Conway, 33° is finally being shipped by Cornerstone Publishing and can be ordered directly from the publisher HERE. 

From the website:
The Masonic Pageant is a clearly written and easy to understand explanation of the Scottish Rite Degrees as worked by the Supreme Council 33º, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Frank Conway, Ph.D., 33º, MSA provides a long needed and extremely valuable resource to all Scottish Rite Masons of the NMJ. This is a must have book for all NMJ SR Masons and bodies of the NMJ.
"Dr. Frank Conway has done a great service for Scottish Rite Freemasons with this book. His volume is far more than just a simple, up-to-date guide to the degrees of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Each chapter contains a synopsis of the stage presentation of the degree itself, along with a brief description of its counterpart in the Southern Jurisdiction. But it is in the center of each chapter where you will find the heart and soul of this work. The historic origins, symbols, and myths behind each degree are thoroughly explored, whether it is a story based largely on biblical accounts, medieval sources, or more recent events. Conway draws upon a vast wealth of knowledge, covering more than 2,500 years of history and legends that have gone into the creation of these degrees, and he provides much in the way of background and context. The eager Brother will find much here to enlighten his journey through the degrees." ~ Christopher L. Hodapp, 33°
"Freemasonry encourages its members to engage in a search for light – knowledge and understanding – and this search requires access to accurate information. The Masonic Pageant provides the searcher with up-to-date information on the Scottish Rite degrees of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA. It is a boon to all who seek to understand the complex symbolism and ritual themes of these degrees." ~ S. Brent Morris, Ph.D., 33°, Grand Cross
The last serious attempt to publish a guidebook to the NMJ degrees was the continuously revised Book of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite by Charles T. McClenachan last released in 1907. In the ensuing 110 years, NMJ members have been left in the dark regarding the background, symbolism, history, and any other information about the degrees that make up their own distinctive system of rituals that differ completely from their Southern Jurisdiction counterparts (and the rest of the world's). Illus. Brother Conway has finally addressed this gaping lack of access to knowledge and performed an incalculable service to the more than 200,000 members of the NMJ who have been starved for information for so long, and to the rest of the world that knows almost nothing of the differences.

In all honesty and sincerity, this book should be adopted by each and every NMJ Valley and placed in the hands of every single new Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret on the day of their degree conferral, as well as offered to existing members at every stated meeting. It's that invaluable and well written.

The book is 320 pages long and the list price is $29.95, plus shipping. 

It is well worth the investment. Today, the website still shows a reduced pre-order price of $26.95, but it could pop up to its regular $29.95 list price at any second, so he who hesitates is out 3 smackers.

And no, as some have wryly suggested, it's NOT in loose-leaf format for regular revision...

(Please note: In full disclosure, I was deeply honored to be asked to pre-read and write the foreword to this book, and I did so because I felt it was such a vital work that needed to be actively supported. But it is Frank Conway who has done the very heavy lifting of authoring this incredible resource, and the sole credit belongs to him and to Michael Poll at Cornerstone for bringing it to life.)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

HURRY! Masonic Society Conference, Lexington, KY September 7-10, 2017

The Masonic Society's 2017 Conference on September 7-10th in Lexington, Kentucky is just two and a half weeks away, and you don't want to miss it! This promises to be one of the best of these the Society has ever hosted, and the organizers have done an outstanding job. An amazing list of speakers, panelists, and presenters will be on hand for a VERY intensive program.

PLEASE NOTE: You do NOT have to be a Masonic Society member to attend this event. We'd love for you to join TMS, but anyone may sign up for the Conference regardless.

Speakers and panelists will include:

Thomas W. Jackson
Mark Tabbert
Jordan Yelinek
Dr. Elquemedo Oscar Alleyne
Patrick Craddock
Allan Casalou
Andrew Hammer
Jon T. Ruark
Dr. John Bizzack
Cameron C. Poe
Richard A. Graeter
A certain Dummy

Early check-in begins at noon on Thursday September 7th, with a Welcome Reception at 6PM. The main Conference events kick off at 9AM on Friday with introductions, followed by Tom Jackson's opening presentation of The History of the Future of Freemasonry. Speakers and panels will take place throughout Friday and Saturday, with a closing panel discussion on Sunday morning from 9-11AM. The current program may be seen HERE.

Lexington is a fascinating city with a very storied history of its own. Included with the Conference fee are optional tours to Kentucky Horse Park and Henry Clay's historic home in nearby Ashland. Please sign up for these on the registration so the organizers know how many people to expect to accommodate. (Note: spouses or friends not attending the Conference itself can sign up for the tours for $20 apiece.)

The Conference website is available HERE.  Registration is $125 for the Conference only, plus $45 per person for the Festive Board on Friday evening (this dinner is for Masons only - back tie or business suit, please). If you happen to be a member of Lexington Lodge 1, there is no charge for the Festive Board, as you are the local hosts.

All events will be held at the Embassy Suites in Lexington. For online reservations using the Masonic Society Conference code, CLICK HERE.

To become a member of TMS, visit the website at http://www.themasonicsociety.com

Albert Pike, Statues, History and Hysteria

The current hysterics over the removal of public statuary seem to be continuing unabated across the U.S., and so it was inevitable that the decades-old controversies over the 11-foot tall bronze lump of Albert Pike on a pedestal in Washington D.C.'s Judiciary Square would once again capture the hearts and fury of the area scolds. One. More. Time. After all, it's been a while, and society has the collective and institutional memory of a fruit bat these days. Seems like the 1990s when political hack, noted "Fascist demagogue," and lunatic asylum escapee Lyndon LaRouche was on everybody's lips when the last big flap over this statue erupted and faded.

In case you haven't heard of this before, Italian sculptor Gaetano Trentanove created the statue at the behest of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction in 1901 for their Centennial year celebration. As the National Parks Service describes it, Pike is portrayed: “...in civilian dress and presented as a Masonic leader rather than a military man. Pike stands 11 feet tall upon a high granite pedestal. Below his feet about halfway down the west face of the pedestal, sitting on a ledge, is the allegorical Goddess of Masonry, holding the banner of the Scottish Rite. The figure is in Greek dress and posed as looking down. Pike holds a book in his left hand, perhaps his popular Morals and Dogma of Scottish Rite Masonry.”

It does not show him as a Confederate soldier (he was briefly a brigadier general for the CSA Army), there are zero references to the Confederacy, and the banner in the hand of the Grecian figure is not a Confederate flag or symbol, but a Scottish Rite one featuring the double-headed eagle. There are eight inscriptions around the corners of its granite base: Author, Poet, Scholar, Soldier, Philanthropist, Philosopher, Jurist, and Orator. On the front is a Latin phrase, Vixit Laborum Ejus Super Stites Sunt Fructus. ("He has lived. The fruits of his labors live after him.")

The statue was created ten years after Pike's death for the Scottish Rite's 100th anniversary. Out of its first 90 years, Albert Pike had served as Sovereign Grand Commander for (appropriately) 32 of them—over a third of the Supreme Council's entire lifespan at that time. Prior to the construction of the current House of the Temple we all know and love today, starting in 1870, the 'House of the Temple' was actually a row of three interconnected brownstone buildings located at 433 Third Street, NW (between E and D Streets, where Indiana melds into D Street today). If you don't know DC, that's the southeast corner of what is now Judiciary Square where, Lo! and Behold!, good ol' Albert Pike's statue was placed. Actually, it was in a slightly different spot that was directly south of their onetime headquarters originally. The streets in the area were reconfigured in 1975. There was originally an empty triangle-shaped sliver of land at the intersection of Third and D where it first sat, and the statue was relocated across the intersection when the roads got rejiggered for the building of I-395 and the new city Municipal Center.

The original Scottish Rite House of the Temple at 3rd and D Streets NW
(There was a big auditorium hiding in there.)

That's WHY Pike stands there now. And the Scottish Rite paid for it all (a whopping $15,000 at the time). The corner held their headquarters, their auditorium for putting on degrees, their vast and growing library, and Albert Pike lived there. And he died there. So did his TWO successors. And because DC is not an actual city per se, but a Federal district owned and legislated by the United States Congress, and since the essentially worthless land the statue was proposed for—and remains—District property, putting up a statue required an Act of Congress in 1898. It will also, therefore, require another such Act to order or even authorize its removal, if things get that far. Additionally, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 20, 1978.

Back in 1992, the LaRouchies made a brief national stink over it, proclaiming that Pike had been the "chief founder" of the Ku Klux Klan in Arkansas, and their group asserted that Albert founded the Klan as a terrorist arm of the Scottish Rite in a Masonic conspiracy to keep the South in Confederate hands. The lurid nonsense wouldn't be bothersome, except that the same crank theory gets trotted out to this day in as far reaching places as a recent National Review article, and even by alleged "expert" academics (as in a recent book about Prince Hall Freemasonry by an otherwise respected French professor who once breezily waved off criticism over her 'Pike was a Kluxer' assertion by proclaiming "It is a well known fact." It's no such thing.)

Anyway, the latest mass demonstration over Pike's statue got bubbling earlier this week and was first reported on the blog site DCist HERE. It reads, in part:
The mayor, more than half of the D.C. Council, and the D.C. attorney general have joined activists in calling for the removal of a statue of a Confederate general from federal land in Judiciary Square.

"Albert Pike was a strong proponent of slavery and fought to try to preserve that in this country. Regardless of what he did in other parts of his life, it's inappropriate to honor him," says At-large Councilmember David Grosso, who sent a letter today to the acting director of the National Park Service calling for a statue of Pike at 3rd and D streets NW to be taken down.

Mayor Muriel Bowser agrees that the statue should be removed and replaced.

"Across the South, cities are removing outdoor statues of Confederate leaders. Here in the nation's capital, there is one on National Park Service land. We believe the National Park Service should remove the Pike statue and seek public input on which historical figure should replace it," said LaToya Foster, Bowser's press secretary, in an emailed statement.

Fellow At-large councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Anita Bonds, and Robert White, Ward 1's Brianne Nadeau, Ward 5's Kenyan McDuffie, Ward 6's Charles Allen, and Attorney General Karl Racine co-signed the letter sent by Grosso.

"We in the District of Columbia hold dear the values of equality, diversity, and inclusion, which are in direct conflict with the values embodied by the statue," it reads. "In a time when these values are under constant attack by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and far-right terrorists, the presence of a statue honoring Albert Pike only serves to perpetuate and incite hate, violence, and oppression."

Activists drew attention to the Pike statue this weekend in the wake of the white nationalist gathering and terrorist attack in Charlottesville. At vigils on Sunday and Monday nights, hundreds of people marched from the White House to Judiciary Square to protest its continued presence in D.C.

"[Pike] is a guy who loved slavery so much that he quit two political parties. He wrote pamphlets about it, and then when the civil war started, he raised three regiments of troops," Eugene Puryear of the Stop Police Terror Project told a crowd of protesters on Sunday. "The Richard Spencers of the world, they want to invoke fear in people, they want people to fear their fascist movement. This [vigil] is a sign that people are not going to let that genie out of that bottle, that people are going to fight back."

Grosso says that he learned about the Pike's Confederate ties through activists, because the statue doesn't have any visible reference to them. Pike was honored for his work with the Freemasons, who paid for the sculpture, rather than his failed tenure as a general.
Pike convinced and led a number of Native American tribes into battle on behalf of the Southern cause, losing badly at Pea Ridge. Facing charges of misappropriating funds and allowing his troops to scalp Union soldiers, he fled the Confederate Army and mailed in his resignation. Eventually, Pike was arrested and charged with treason. Later, he was tried for the same crime by the United States—making Pike an accused traitor in the eyes of both governments. The Confederates essentially let it go, and Andrew Johnson gave him a pardon.

After the war, Pike spent time in Tennessee, where some allege he fell in with the Klu Klux Klan and helped form their rituals, though hard evidence does not exist for the claim. Whether or not he was a bona fide KKK member, Pike was certainly once a member of the nativist Know-Nothing American Party and an avowed racist.


The Freemasons—who generally neglect to mention racism and treason in literature that extols Pike as a "jurist, orator, philosopher, scholar, soldier, and poet [whose renown] extends throughout the world"—sponsored and paid for the 11-foot bronze statue, which sits on a pedestal at 3rd and D streets NW. But it took an act of Congress in 1898 to approve its placement on land administered by the National Park Service. (For a more detailed account on Pike's life and a history of the statue, see this 2005 DCist story)
It goes on, but that's the gist of it. A copy of Grosso and Racine's letter appears below. (Click to enlarge.)

The brouhaha was immediately picked up by Huffington Post, so now that site's readership has also been treated to the "Pike=Confederate=Klan=Freemason=Racists" canard. I attempted to comment on the DCist story and to contact its author Rachel Sadon, as well as Grosso's office. It was met with silence from the latter, and my comment was immediately removed and marked as spam by the former. No dissenters allowed, I guess. That seems to be the way things go these days. Since this got its initial coverage on Tuesday, Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.'s delegate to Congress, has decided to weigh in and issued a statement suggesting that the statue be boxed up and shipped to Arkansas, where Pike once lived. (He was actually born in Boston, but I'm guessing those folks don't want him there either, since they're busy trying to tamp down their own statuary problems at the moment.)

The ongoing flap since then has been reported and commented on Arturo De Hoyos' Facebook page all week long. I bring up Art for a very pragmatic reason. The "DCist" author, the D.C. Council, and Norton herself are all right there in D.C. The Supreme Council's House of the Temple which contains virtually all of Pike's major and minor writings and his vast personal library, along with at least two of the world's leading scholars about him—Art and Brent Morris—are sitting right there in a great big, high visibility building in their hometown with them. But neither Ms. Sadon nor the Council could just go there and ask to see what is being claimed about Pike instead of just parroting old Lyndon LaRouche idiocy and other agitprop. 

Pike was born and raised in Boston, but Pike and his family were living in Arkansas before and during the Civil War. He had lived among Indian tribes in the West in prior years with whom he was sympathetic. That's why he was compelled by the Confederacy to enlist and command Indian troops. 
He was commissioned in November 1861 and resigned March 1862 in disgust and felt disgraced specifically BECAUSE of their savagery in the wake of the Pea Ridge catastrophe that he had been unable to control. He was a Confederate officer for less than six months.

Pike’s purported membership in the early Ku Klux Klan can neither be categorically proved nor disproved, but since neither organization ever once attempted to cash in on his alleged position, membership, or any other supposed role in the Klan’s formation at any time, before or after his death, there is no evidence to perpetuate such a tale anyway. However the single unattributed source of the initial false assertion has been known by legitimate researchers for more than 25 years. There is zero proof.

The persistent accusation that Pike wrote the Klan’s rituals has also never had any basis in fact. Rituals of the Klan versus a respectable study of Pike’s own voluminous works make it instantly obvious that they are not the work of the same pen. Even a casual comparison would render the assertion absurd on its face. While Pike quite openly admitted that he had no desire to socialize or intermingle with blacks on a personal basis—which was FAR from an unusual position throughout ALL of America at that time—nothing in the stacks of his books and private writings has ever been found that would support the open race hatred one would expect to find in a man posthumously accused of having been so intimately involved in the Klan’s original Reconstruction-era formation. 

According to an article in the Philalethes from August 1993 by Gary Scott (reprinted on Ed King's MasonicInfo.com website HERE):
There are no records extant from the late 1860s - early 1870s period which connect Pike with the Klan. A Congressional investigation (U.S. House of Representatives, Report No. 2, 42nd Congress, 2nd Session, Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States Washington, D.C., U. S. Printing Office, 1872) into the activities of the Reconstruction Era Klan includes material from 1868 to 1871. There are references to alleged Klan leaders in several states, but no mention of Pike.
Further, during additional extensive (13 volumes) Congressional investigations into the Klan and the subsequent report of their findings published in 1921, Albert Pike’s name shows up precisely once, only indirectly as being a speaker in a public park at a totally unrelated event that did not involve any Klan activity or organizers at all. His name was simply mentioned casually by an attendee who was describing a flag dedication ceremony at the time. Pike was a near legendary figure during his life, and even more lionized in death by the Scottish Rite. He was NEVER mentioned in the Congressional inquiries and investigations in the 1870s into the "Ku Klux problem." By the early 1920s during the massive period of increase in Masonic membership, if the United States Congress had EVER connected Pike’s name to the Klan, it would have been international news among Masons, who made up a substantial portion of that period's swelling KKK membership. And given the way the Simmons/Evans/Stephenson era Klan of the 1920s was so enthusiastically promoted across the country by traveling, commissioned salesmen to millions of members in other fraternities, they certainly would have actively played up any possible association with Pike posthumously if it existed. It did not. Even the Washington Post, the African-American paper The Washington Informer, AND the DCist website itself came to this very same conclusion in 1995 and 2005 when this silliness was all trotted out before.

Pike wrote only ONE known editorial immediately after the war even referring to the Klan. He wrote that he thought there was a need for some kind of fraternal organization for disenfranchised Southerners who, like Pike himself, had their property confiscated in the Reconstruction period, and that such a group might exercise an organized political opposition that was "mutual, peaceful, lawful self-defense" over what he felt were unduly punitive and illegal measures by the North. (His land holdings were seized and sold at a tax sale, preventing him from even bequeathing them to his family after his death, even if he couldn't profit from them in life.) However, he felt the Ku Klux Klan itself was nothing but a disorganized mess that would never amount to much of any value. This was during its earliest formative days before the KKK became just shorthand for almost any night-riding vigilante group that began terrorizing Northerners, "scalawag" Southerners, school teachers, administrators, and certainly the newly freed blacks.

Pike WAS a supporter of social segregation, just as probably 85% of all Americans were in that age, North or South. He also recognized the immediate post-war problem with suddenly inserting freed slaves, kept in deliberate general ignorance by the slave holding system of the time, suddenly being thrust into positions of government or administrative offices. All Southerners at the time undoubtedly noticed that purportedly more "enlightened" Northern legislatures and city halls and Congressional staff offices (to say nothing of elected officials) weren't exactly packed with educated blacks themselves, and they became openly hostile over the blatant hypocrisy that Reconstruction was forcing on them. Northerners who sought to forcibly change the South were scarcely leading by their example, and were no quicker to embrace integration at any level. The end of slavery merely stopped the industry and the institution. But even in states where no actual Jim Crow laws were eventually passed, the practices and the mindset were almost every bit as widespread north of the Mason-Dixon line for decades after the Civil War.

So, were Pike's views on race for his time and place "repugnant?" Or was he approaching it as Pike approached just about everything else in his life, by studying the prior civilizations and societies that had dealt with enslaved populations to see how they evolved in order to shape his own beliefs as the post war period unfolded? Depending on exactly when he was writing, he certainly believed American blacks were ignorant. Earlier in his life, he clearly ascribed that to an inherited trait. Later in life, that didn't seem to be the case. Possibly because of his encounters with erudite Negro Masons, both in letters and in person, often from foreign countries. There's no way to tell now, but human beings evolve through their experiences, and Pike was no different in that respect.

He DID indeed disapprove of any compelled race mixing in Freemasonry. So did the overwhelming majority of American society in almost every walk of life. Even the "Negro" grand lodges spreading westward after 1856 and into the South did not advocate for full integration on a widespread, practical basis. While Pike was decidedly against co-mingling with black Freemasons, he defended the separate Prince Hall-descended Masonic organizations as perfectly legitimate. Pike happily shared personal, autographed copies of his Scottish Rite Masonic degree rituals with his counterpart in the parallel Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction for black Prince Hall Masons, Thornton A. Jackson, in order to assist their fledgling organization sometime between 1887 and 1891. In writings of the period, Jackson described Pike as his friend. Curious attitude towards a man who is supposed to have been just a plain old, white, garden-variety, Protestant hater of blacks, and supposed cornerstone of the Ku Klux Klan.

Pike's statue in DC commemorates his position in the Scottish Rite and NOT his very brief role in the Confederate Army, nor even his pre-war life, during which he defended Southern slave owners' Constitutional property rights as their attorney in several cases. He was a lawyer, the Constitution and the Supreme Court declared slaves to be "property," and Pike argued his cases on that basis. Abstractly, he knew slavery to be wrong morally, and had studied the subject as an historical issue. He wrote that slavery in advanced civilizations was always a doomed system that would fail given time, and he believed the same would come to pass in America, for moral, practical, and financial reasons. He didn't approve of slavery or embrace it, he simply recognized it as a fact at the time. Legally, he defended clients according to the law until the law was changed otherwise. Lawyers today are rarely neither any more nor less principled. If the statue depicted Pike in uniform and was celebrating him as some hero of the Confederacy, the current detractors might have a leg to stand on. But it does not and they don't.

Nevertheless, it can be argued that if this is going to be an ongoing controversy and not blow over this time as it did in the 1990s (when it was much, much worse), the last thing Freemasonry wants or needs is a symbolic lightening rod of criticism and ire attached to it. Especially if it becomes a national focal point for the current frenzy on the 24-hour cable networks. I suspect they've been scouting around the parking lot out back of the 
House of the Temple this week for the best setting for it, should it come down to being relocated. The National Parks Service is currently reviewing the request. In the 90s, a bill was actually introduced in Congress to remove it, so it may get more intense again. But the question may become not what the Scottish Rite is FORCED to do, but what they will find themselves COMPELLED to do.

Yesterday, D.C. radio station WTOP actually DID have reporter Amanda Iacone drive up 16th Street to the HOT and interviewed Art de Hoyos for a follow up story. This exchange was reported:

“I think that people have misunderstood the intent of that statue,” said Arturo de Hoyos, grand archivist for the Scottish Rite in D.C.
The Scottish Rite is the largest branch of Freemasonry in the world. And the regional headquarters for the southern half of the United States is based on 16th Street at the House of the Temple, where Pike is interred.
His statue, erected at the dawn of the 20th Century by the Scottish Rite, celebrates his contributions to Freemasonry and his life as a civilian after the war, de Hoyos said.
Still, the organization will support whatever decision is made regarding the statue’s future, he said.
“We certainly don’t want a monument, which was really placed there to honor the fraternity, to be a divisive point within the community on racial matters,” de Hoyos said.
De Hoyos described Pike as a “man of his times,” who was known to abandon ideas and views over the course of his life. That included his views on slavery and he later developed a friendship with a leader of Prince Hall, a black Freemason society.
“Before and during the Civil War, he accepted slavery as a social institution …. He was a person who actually looked forward to a time when slaves would be free men,” de Hoyos said.
Finally, on the aforementioned website of Ed King's, he reprinted a piece that appeared in the February 1993 issue of the Philalethes. It was written by the Reverend Howard L. Woods, a Christian minister who served for ten years as the Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas F&AM. In 1991, he was invited as the Lecturer for the Philalethes Society, the first Prince Hall Mason ever asked to do so, and still many years before Prince Hall recognition became widespread:
The Albert Pike Statue: Let It Stand
There is no love lost between Prince Hall Masons and the memory of the late Albert Pike, Masonic Historian, writer, alleged ritualist for the Ku Klux Klan, but, if Freemasonry is to remain the bulwark of free-thinking people, then, "Let the statue remain!"
Like the natures he wrote about, Albert Pike showed the light and dark sides of his own soul, when with one breath he spoke of his willingness to give up his Freemasonry rather than recognize the Negro as a 'Masonic Brother' and with another breath, declared that every man should be free, for a free man is an asset, while a slave is a liability. Mankind is that way, and as long as the statue stands, America and Freemasonry will survive.
Let the statue be torn down and America and Freemasonry will be in jeopardy, for one would have to wonder, "What would be next?" As a Prince Hall Mason, an African American and supposedly free-thinker, I can see a higher power than the mortal mind of Albert Pike guiding his pen as he wrote such beautiful words of life without an occasional helping hand from someone "bigger than you or I."
Let the statue stand, even if it is proven that Albert Pike did write ritual for the Ku Klux Klan; more ignoble deeds have been done by others without sacrifice of their historic heroism.
Let the statue stand as a reminder that the good and evil of men are in equilibrium within us, and we all should strive for perfection now and in the future, not in the past. Let the statue stand !
--Rev. Howard L. Woods, Grand Master, Prince Hall Masons of Arkansas.
I'll just add, with absolutely no sense of irony whatsoever, that out of the 51 U.S. jurisdictions and 10 Canadian ones, the Grand Lodge of Arkansas still doesn't recognize their Prince Hall counterparts, along with eight other Southern grand lodges. But that's a different post for another day. Woods nevertheless defended the Pike statue at a time when just a mere handful of predominantly white grand lodges recognized Prince Hall Masons as legitimate anywhere. As both a minister and a grand master, he saw the value in being able to hold aloft what is best in men, and drape a mantle of charity and forgiveness around faults. That wisdom is as valid today as it was in 1993, if not more so.

I'm all for being offended over statues and advocating their removal, but only on artistic grounds as an offense against the eye. You can start with this one of Nathan Bedford Forrest that offends tens of thousands on a daily basis as they drive past it in Nashville, Tennessee. No one can possibly argue that it wouldn't be of greater service to mankind as a submerged artificial coral reef off Key Biscayne. 

Don't advocate for the removal of statues over some reevaluation of past repugnant behavior or attitudes from an earlier era, no matter how real or imagined. Use them teach with, however you may choose to do that. That's what they're there for, no matter when or why they were first erected. Your own hero today may become the next generation's villain who may be scraped from the statehouse lawn and paved over so that person's memory is forever removed from the collective consciousness, too. Whom we honor and when becomes its own textbook from which to learn, and toppling statues is no less abhorrent than book burning. The reason that so many knee-jerk comparisons to Orwell quotes or equivalencies with the Taliban blowing up Afghan Buddhas or ISIS leveling Palmyra have been so frequent this week is because they are so true. It IS the same thing.

There are way too many people running loose these days with a mission dedicated to stopping debate, discussion, conversation—IDEAS. I never would have believed Americans would voluntarily line up for that kind of intellectual circular firing squad, but it's happening now. Don't fall for it, and for the love of all that is decent in the world, don't let your children fall for it, either. And if you're a Freemason, you should be the first guy in line to put a stop to it. This fraternity got its real start by being a crucible for the Enlightenment. It's high time we start defending it and encouraging it again.

UPDATE: On Friday night 8/19/2017, somebody tossed a bottle of red paint on the statue during what the media reported as a "peaceful demonstration." A spokeswoman during the demonstration declared it to be one of "these racist statues" that has to be removed.

Right on cue.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tristan Bourlard's Film, 'Terra Masonica'

I've been remiss about writing about something very important for some time. Back in mid-May, my friend and brother Al McClelland from up in Fort Wayne passed along a DVD that is an incredible feat of documentary filmmaking: Belgian Freemason Tristan Bourlard's Terra Masonica. If you haven't seen it, waste no time and get it. Brother Bourlard is an award-winning director, photographer, author, and creator of scientific and historical documentaries, including the 2007 film, The Scottish Key.

I've considered myself extraordinarily blessed to have been able to visit numerous lodges across the United States, as well as in a handful of foreign countries. I've had Masonic experiences over the last almost 19 years that I've written about and shared, plus numerous others I cannot and will not write or speak of. But the Masonic world is filled with brethren who have traveled much, much farther and wider than I have, and I can't hold a candle to their accomplishments. In the 19th century, Rob Morris famously spent years raising money to fund his Masonic trip to the Holy Land to explore the Biblical origins of fraternity. Then, he spent more than two years writing a book about what he found, and the rest of his life speaking at lodges across the U.S., recounting his adventures. In the modern Masonic world, Pennsylvania's Tom Jackson may be the most well traveled Mason on Earth in his 16 years as the Executive Secretary for the World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges, hitting all 50 states and Canadian provinces, and an untold number of foreign countries. And I know Oscar Alleyne is doing his best to try to catch up with him eventually. It's very telling that both of these worldly brethren acted as advisors on Terra Masonica, as did Mark Tabbert and many others from around the world.

However, Brother Bourlard has achieved what only a very tiny portion of Masons have ever done themselves. Across two years, he traveled the globe and visited some 80 lodges in at least 14 different jurisdictions with his camera and drone. The result is a beautifully shot, two hour documentary of his epic journey. He visited lodges as far to the north as the tip of Hammerfest, Norway, one of the northernmost towns in the world in the region of Finnmark (St. Joanneslogen Ultima Thule 146), and as far to the south as Cape Horn on Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of South America in Ushuaia, Argentina (1st Vigilant Fin del Mundo Lodge 496). He met Masons on almost every continent (almost) and toured lodges of every size, from the most magnificent like the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania's Philadelphia Masonic Temple, to the most humble surroundings of Mali and India. You will see the Mother Lodge Kilwinning "Number Nuthin'" in Scotland where our Masonic traditions first took the semblance of its modern form; the Prince Hall Masonic Temple in Columbus, Georgia where Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in 1959 because the area churches were too afraid to host him; lodges in Israel where the seal of their grand lodge contains the square and compass, the Christian cross, the Crescent of Islam, and the Star of David intertwined; a lodge along the Niger River where they keep their location discretely hidden, where it flourishes nevertheless with both Muslim and Catholic members; several lodges throughout India where a Mason can find five books of Sacred Law on their altars; the underground vaults beneath Solomon's Temple deep within the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where Freemasons have met countless times; and much, much more in between.

Bourlard's ambitious goal is to show both the universal spirit and material culture of Freemasonry from all over the world, so as it unspools, overlook whatever gaffes you might detect—or think you detect—in order to soak in the wider message and experience. Members who know only the "regular, recognized" world of Masonry may occasionally chafe over references to women in some French, South American, or Indian lodges, for instance. Or his misunderstanding of Prince Hall related Shriners in New York. And some grand masters may choke over spotlighting the Widows Sons in Georgia (never mind that they raise a million dollars each year for Shriners Hospital in Atlanta). Please get past that which you may find foreign or what you may personally object to and take in what exactly he has accomplished with this outstanding program. Terra Masonica demonstrates the worldwide reach and success of Freemasonry as a philosophy for bringing men of all faiths and walks of life together, and truly making the world a better place by building temples in the hearts of men. If you ever doubted it, or just didn't realize exactly to what extent it is true, these two hours will open your eyes. 

The shame of it is that this film is what the series that was done in England for SkyTV in cooperation with the UGLE should have been for the 300th anniversary of Freemasonry this year. It's that good. This program is well worth acquiring and showing as the Masonic education for your very next lodge meeting, wherever you may be. With luck, it will set off a spark of Masonic wanderlust in you and encourage you to travel far and wide, outside of your lodge, jurisdiction, state, country, and continent. Take advantage of that ability to go almost anywhere on Earth, where you will always find a society of friends and Brothers who can best work and best agree.

Terra Masonica is available in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazil), and Dutch. It can be had on DVD or as an On-Demand video download (iTunes).

In the U.S., it is available through the Masonry At The Speed Of Light website for $28.50 + $7.95 domestic shipping. 

For the rest of the world, check out the Terra Masonica website under DVD+VOD heading HERE.

Here's hoping it eventually gets picked up for wider release by a TV network or two around the world, as it is a huge cut above most of the shows done for History, Discovery, AHC, and others.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

When Supporting Columns Break

Illus. Brother Walter P. Worland passed to the Celestial Lodge on Thursday. He was 94 and passed away in his own bed at home. Walter spent 14 years as the editor of the Indiana Freemason magazine, after Dwight Smith stopped and before Bill Bissey started.

I spent time with Walter back in February at his impeccably kept house in Greenfield. Since he had to stop driving a while back, his garage had been converted into something of a private den and a personal museum of his past achievements. In his life, he was in the U.S. Army Air Force (and I'll swear the Navy at one point, as well), got married, served his community as a city councilman for many years, ran for mayor of his small town, eventually published a local newspaper—the Greenfield Daily Reporter—served on numerous town boards including the hospital board and led fundraising and planning commissions, and became a political party leader. 

As a Mason, he edited our magazine when it was monthly for all those years, was a Past Master of his lodge, headed his Templar Commandery, served as the state’s Grand Commander, was coroneted a 33° Scottish Rite Sovereign Grand Inspector General, and was on the Masonic Home Board committees. His gold-plated Commander's sword is still proudly hanging over his mantlepiece.

Oh, and it took him until 2014 to get around to graduating high school, because he had been too busy actually accomplishing things, since he joined the military before he finished school.

All Masonry is local, and all Masons once were local, too.

We once either attracted men who were the pillars of the communities, or we taught the ones who would become those leaders. Masons didn’t need to beg those guys to join, they were attracted to us because of our reputation—a reputation we’ve been living off of for over half a century now, that we don’t earn or even deserve any more. Where are our Masonic mayors and councilmen and school principals, and sheriffs and judges and business leaders, and congressmen and senators and presidents today? Much less, our philosophers who debated the issues of the Enlightenment that we were once living out within the walls of our lodge meetings? Not many of them can be found in our lodges now. The truth is that when we circulate lists of famous Freemasons, we’re lying. Those lists are like some phantom limb that our brain remembers from before it got blown off in our more recent past. We once demanded the very best in our membership, but we also created the best, too. The guys like Walter Worland didn’t start off his life out of the USAAF as a high school dropout being a great man. But he became one over time, in his family, his town, his state, his fraternity.

A Masonic service has been scheduled for 2:45PM on Tuesday, August 15 at Stillinger Family Funeral Home, Pasco Chapel, 1780 W Main Street, Greenfield. His public visitation lasts from 3 to 8PM. His funeral service will be held at 10AM Wednesday at the funeral home with calling one hour before the service. Burial is immediately following at Park Cemetery with Military rites provided by the Greenfield Veterans Honor Guard.

Whenever a column like this one is broken, we brethren need to mourn very deeply indeed. His was a load-bearing one, not merely decorative. Then we need to get to work making damn sure we step up to stand in their place, in our fraternity and more important, in the world we are briefly inhabiting.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Knights of Columbus Finally Giving Up Their Chapeaux

Not to niggle an old tooth or anything, but fellow Knights Templar take note: our friends in the Knights of Columbus have made the decision at long last to make a major change to their Fourth Degree 'Patriotic Degree' dress uniforms (photo above). The KofC got sold essentially the same uniform that we did over a century ago based on Civil War-era military patterns with the incongruous naval-influenced 'fore-and-aft' chapeaux, complete with ostrich plume (known derisively in some circles as the "chicken hats"), along with similar ceremonial swords, just perfect for marching in drill team formations. In many cases, with the exception of different colored plumes and the addition of a cape, the KofC uniform looks from a distance virtually identical to the primary 'Class A' uniform worn in the majority of U.S. Knights Templar Commanderies.

Knights of Columbus

Knights Templar

Well, it seems the KofC has finally decided it's time to move on from the feathery past, give up their chapeaux, and adopt an all new look. And it sounds like the internal bickering is already raging, with a VERY familiar ring to it. Sounds remarkably like Masons...

From the Catholic Sun on 8/2/17:
The Knights of Columbus, long associated with swords, capes and chapeaus, will be going through a significant uniform change.
The traditional regalia worn by the Knights’ Fourth Degree members will be replaced, announced Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson during the Knights of Columbus 135th Supreme Convention being held in St. Louis Aug. 1. The address was available via livestream on EWTN.

In place of a tuxedo with a black bow tie, members will be wearing a blue blazer, an official Knights of Columbus tie and a beret, all with the Fourth Degree emblem on them, along with a white shirt and dark gray slacks. There was no mention as to whether the swords would remain a part of the uniform.
“The Board of Directors has decided that the time is right for a modernization of the Fourth Degree Uniform,” Anderson said. “On a limited basis, Assemblies may choose to continue using the traditional cape and chapeau for Color Corps at public events and Honor Guards in Liturgical Processions. However the preferred dress for the Fourth Degree, including Color Corps and Honor Guards, is the new Uniform of jacket and beret.”
Throughout the years, the regalia of the Fourth Degree, known as the patriotic degree, has gone through changes, Anderson said. When the Fourth Degree was first established, the uniform included white ties, top hats and tails.
Robert Earl, a member of Father Novatus Assembly 23, which serves Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Daniel the Prophet parishes in Scottsdale, welcomes the new changes.
“I feel it is significant that the Order changes to respond to changing times. The new uniform evokes an image of elite military corpsmen in my mind, and I believe this is the intent behind the change,” Earl said.
“Our former regalia was reminiscent of Navy officers and consistent with the nautical theme in the Patriotic degree, but it perhaps did not have currency in the minds of the general public,” he added, noting that in addition to the tuxedo, the other items collectively could cost approximately $500. “I think the new uniform creates a positive and striking image of ‘soldiers for Christ,’ which is, after all, what we are meant to be.”
Many members are not as thrilled about the pending changes which has generated some controversy among the membership. Joseph Meyer from Msgr. Bernard G. Collins Assembly 2899, which serves St. Bridget and Christ the King parishes in Mesa, said the new uniforms lose a sense of the pageantry associated with the Fourth Degree.
“I have been a Fourth Degree knight since 1978 and we have always had this regalia,” said Meyer, who was a color corps commander in Toledo, Ohio for 13 years before moving to Arizona. “We all looked great in the Fourth Degree outfits. These [new] outfits look bad.”
Meyer also expressed concern for members who own the current uniform and have to spend money on the new one.
“If we get a new uniform like this you will see a lot of knights leave the degree. A lot of your knights are retired and don’t have over $500 to spend,” he said.
Paul Lee, a member of the Iowa delegation who spoke to The Catholic Sun from St. Louis, said the reaction on the ground was “mixed.”

“The largest concern is people don’t feel that they have answers for the question of why the need for the change. They want something beyond a more modern look,” said Lee.

Lee said many members he’s interacted with are excited about the changes because it brings the uniform “more in line with other military service organizations because it connects us as patriotic organizations.” There are also members who “don’t like change, so they’re already up in arms.
In the 1870s and 80s, the old military uniform companies realized they were all out of a lucrative gig once the armies were largely sent home, and sent their salesmen forth into the hills, hinterlands, and cities to dig up new business. Either through deliberate coaxing or by happy accident, the war veterans and their sons were hankering for a whole new fad in fraternalism: the marching drill team. The Grand Army of the Republic didn't need any coaxing to jump back into uniform, and the Masons had the Knights Templar—we just needed some tinkering with our former outfits (then white suits and black, triangular memento mori aprons) to add swords and make it more military-esque; the Odd Fellows invented their Partiarchs Militant; both the Knights of Pythias and the Knights of the Macabees each developed their Uniformed Rank. And the Prince Hall Affiliated Knights Templar teams followed the same practice.
Knights of Macabees Uniformed Rank

Odd Fellows Patriarchs Militant

Knights of Pythias Uniformed Rank

Prince Hall Affiliated Knights Templar

The Red Men had a problem going all martial, since their highest degree, the Chieftan, literally culminated with "burying the hatchet," making it tough to rationalize the whole "carrying swords" business in a parade... but rationalize they did, and created their Chieftan's League drill teams. (Somebody send me a good photo - I can't track one down.)

The Forester's Team of the Modern Woodmen of America

The Modern Woodmen of America decided to ditch the moldy, old army uniforms, navy hats and swords, dressed their teams instead as forestry workers, and drilled in formation with long-handled axes. And so on...

Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree Team

The Catholic Knights of Columbus were late climbing on board the 'marching in fraternal formation' train, and didn't get around to developing their Fourth Degree with its patriotic theme and matching drill teams until around 1898 or so. But that didn't stop them from buying out of the very same supply houses and ostrich plume farms. A couple of decades later, they made an alteration in the actual uniform itself by ditching the Civil War-era long coats and replacing them with simple tuxedos, white shirt, and black bowties, with colored sashes. It at least cut down on the expense a bit, since tuxes can be had for $99 online or from Kohl's these days. Now that they are abandoning their longtime uniform altogether, I think that might leave only our Masonic-derived Knights Templar Commanderies who still wear the Class A style, and not all of them do.

Raper Commandery No. 1, Knights Templar, Indianapolis

My home team, Raper Commandery No. 1 in Indianapolis, has retained the right as the sole KT group in the state of Indiana permitted to wear the older style long-coat, instead of the shorter one the rest of U.S. Templars now favor (as well as others that use the optional 'cap and mantle' uniform). Our guys have earned it—Raper No. 1 is the most decorated drill team of Knights Templar in the U.S. (an achievement I have had zero to do with accomplishing in any way), and we predate the founding of the Grand Commandery of Indiana, being chartered by the General Grand Encampment, K. T., U. S. A. on October 16, 1850.

But for effect, we also occasionally go totally old school...

Levant Preceptory of Raper Commandery 1