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


Saturday, January 27, 2018

"What ho, Vitruvians!"

At our January stated meeting, I donated a gift to Indianapolis' Lodge Vitruvian 767 that in many ways brings us back full circle, to even before our beginnings. Back in 2000 or so, when the world was young and dinosaurs ruled the earth, discussion arose among a group of bored Indiana Masons about a more perfect world and the image of the sort of old London mens' clubs that inhabited fantasies from the 1930s or so. Wood paneled rooms filled with overstuffed armchairs and endlessly idle, impeccably dressed members snoring in the lounge as their cigar ash tumbled to the floor. Highballs at the bar. Afternoon races at the track. Five changes of clothes a day. Supper clubs with leggy singers and a full band making music worth listening to and dancing worth mastering. Everyone sexily framed by tendrils of cigarette smoke that never hurt anyone, because everyone including terriers and infants all smoked. You get the picture. I don't know if the 30s were really better to live in, but I'm perfectly willing to try the version MGM was peddling with all of that Cedric Gibbons art direction. 

Anyway, one recurring theme ran through all of us at that time: we were all enormous fans of P.G. Wodehouse, and especially his stack of Jeeves and Wooster stories. Jeeves was the all-knowing, all-seeing butler who always came through and saved the day in a pinch, while Bertie Wooster was the rich, idle young imbecile who employed him in his daily fight against mad aunts, loopy former college chums, hangovers, and scheming husband-hunters. If you've read them, you know. If you haven't, read one, and you'll be hooked. If you're the sort of non-reading prole who wants it puréed, spoon fed, on your smartphone, and only in color, at least watch the excellent series that starred Stephen Frye as Jeeves and Hugh Laurie as Bertie. It's almost like reading, but other people's lips move instead.

Bertie belonged to the Drones Club, one of the aforementioned fictional classic London gentlemans' clubs specifically populated by other equally rich, equally foolish young idlers. 

A typical practice at a Drones' Club meal was to pelt any offending interloper by hurling bread rolls at them. But one of the hallmarks of the Drones was to goad a new member into stealing a London policeman's distinctive "bobby" helmet from his head, and running back to the Drones with it in triumph, where drinks and huzzahs were had all around. 

And any angry plod who burst in searching for his stolen helmet was immediately pelted with bread rolls. And rightly so.

Our founding Worshipful Master, Jeff Naylor was especially fond of these tales, and I seem to recall his once briefly entertaining the notion of acquiring a London bobby's helmet for a Master's hat. Or perhaps several of us entertained such a notion for him.

In any case, on Tuesday night, I presented to the lodge this late 19th or early 20th century English military officer's traveling hat case, and accompanying wooden stand. At the time my family bought it in the 1970s, it was pre-Internet, and knowledge was harder to find then. It was manufactured by the venerable Henry Heath Ltd. hat factory on Oxford Street, which has long gone out of business. But the building still stands today, topped by stone sculptures of beavers, once the favored material for creating quality hats. 

The antique dealer informed my mother it was, in fact, a policeman's hat box from London, and that was our family lore for 40 years. Since then, I looked more closely, and it is actually from the 22nd Regiment of Foot, the Cheshire Regiment, and alas not what I had thought. However, as far as I am concerned, close counts. 

I flatter myself to believe that it is at least the appropriate sort of case that a London MET officer might have safely stored his hat while off duty, anyway. And just the sort of unprepossessing box from which such a prize might have been snagged by a sufficiently inebriated and mischievous Drone who wasn't up to the actual danger of knocking it off the cop's bean while on duty.

So, until a Vitruvian member actually acquires a London bobby's helmet for our use, I have donated this case to the lodge for the safekeeping of the hats of our succeeding Masters in the coming years.

Congratulations to our new officers, welcome to our newest members, and many thanks to WBro. John Bizzack, who gave an outstanding speech at our Festive Board.

(Bonus point to those of you who know what Tom Jackson and Augustus Fink-Nottle share in common...)

Artwork at the top of this post is by Derek W. Hayes from his opening titles for the 1990 Jeeves and Wooster series. Check out The Art of the Title interview with him.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

HERITAGE ENDURES - New ordering information

Perspectives On 200 Years Of Indiana Freemasonry
by Christopher L. Hodapp

Freemasonry crossed the frontier into the Indiana Territory officially in 1809 when the Grand Lodge of Kentucky organized Vincennes Lodge No. 15 in that growing town along the banks of the Wabash River. It would take nine more years and the declaration of Indiana statehood before the formation of the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM on January 13, 1818 in Madison. Since that time, Indiana's Freemasons have been at the center of their communities, their state, and the nation.

Indiana has previously published two major works by Masonic historians about their first 150 years of existence, but Heritage Endures by Christopher Hodapp (Freemasons For Dummies) is a different type of grand lodge history book. It places the state's fraternity within the wider picture of American society and the outside Masonic world for the last two centuries. There is certainly a concentration on the last fifty years of changes and developments, but there are also major chapters on other aspects not covered by prior authors in the state. Heritage Endures explores some of the most fascinating, most heroic, most touching, and a few of the most unsettling moments of the state's Masonic history, with original research never attempted before.
  • The Jubilee Year of 1968 - Dwight Smith and Indiana's 150th Celebration 
  • Signposts of Masonic History - Indiana's Masonic Historical Markers
  • Before the Beginning - Freemasonry in Frontier Indiana
  • Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth - Harry Truman, Compass Park, and the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana
  • Indiana’s Freemasons Halls
  • Indiana Masons and the Ku Klux Klan
  • Indiana and E-Masonry - How Computers Changed Everything
  • Prince Hall Freemasonry and Recognition in Indiana
  • Masons and Membership Issues
  • What Comes Next?
Heritage Endures goes far beyond the borders of Indiana and tells a broader tale of Freemasonry as a fraternal and social force that has evolved and adapted to suit the times in which it has resided. It can be read as an adjunct to Dwight L. Smith's 1968 Goodly Heritage and Daniel McDonald's 1898 A History of Freemasonry In Indiana. But it also stands as a unique series of perspectives of the Masonic fraternity in America as a whole, using the Hoosier state's Masons as an example of the wider picture.

Publisher: Grand Lodge of Indiana, F&AM (January 13, 2018)
Hardback: 512 pages
Price: $25.00 (add $5.00 for U.S. shipping)
ISBN-13: 978-1-5136-2902-5
Shipping dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Shipping weight: 1.2 lbs

Books may now be purchased in person or by phone or mail from the 
Grand Secretary's office of the 
Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM

To order, contact: Wanda Smith 
Telephone: 317-634-7904 ext 202 

Books can also be ordered directly from the author by clicking the PayPal link below. Note that shipping costs are slightly higher with this direct link ($6.99). Personalized autograph inscriptions ordered this way MUST be entered in the "SPECIFIC INSCRIPTION" window below:


Shipped by Media Mail only (can take up to two weeks to arrive). 

Just be aware that because I cannot get these from the Grand Lodge at a discount, and because Amazon plops another $8.35 on top of the lowest list price I can provide these for,
Amazon is the most expensive way possible to order this book at this time. 

Please feel free to review the book in the comments section below:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Upcoming Masonic Education Seminars

It seems that there is a growing movement toward educating Freemasons in more and more U.S. jurisdictions lately. Or maybe it's just that brethren are getting more vocal about it. In any case, here are a few upcoming, noteworthy seminars and programs:

First off, on Saturday, January 27, 2018, the Grand Lodge of New Jersey will hold its Winter Seminar at the Trenton Masonic Temple, 100 Barrack Street, Trenton, NJ

Click to enlarge

Featured presentations:

  • The Founding of the First Grand Lodge in 1717 by Brother Ric Berman. the 2016 Prestonian Lecturer for the United Grand Lodge of England
  • Leadership and Power by Symbologists Michelle and Jay Snyder
  • The Importance of Initiation in Freemasonry by Piers Vaughan, Grand Lodge of New York
  • 12 guilty Men, a lesson in repentance by RW Michael Neuberger, GH, Grand Lodge of New Jersey

The Symposium is for Master Masons in good standing only, and tickets are $20. Hurry to register - registration ends January 24th! Visit the website HERE at Eventbrite.

Friday, March 9, and Saturday, March 10, 2018

Masonic Lodge Symposium at the Dayton Masonic Center, 525 West Riverview Avenue, Dayton, Ohio.

"This symposium is designed to offer the participants a look at how five lodges have approached the challenges of practicing Freemasonry in the Twenty-First Century. Each of these lodges have followed a path unique to them in exploring Freemasonry, its lessons, teachings, and past practices whereby to assemble a operating paradigm which meets the needs of their members. It is our hope that all who attend will gather ideas that they find helpful to the operation of their own lodges to launch them on the path to a more enlightened and rewarding practice of Freemasonry. The goal is not to create clones, but to inspire as we all learn from each other."


  • Dan Hrinko - author of The Craft Driven Lodge
  • Richard Frederick - Arts and Sciences Lodge
  • Clifford Nicol - Arts and Sciences Lodge
  • Brent Arnold - Immediate Past Master of Lodge Vitruvian No. 767, Indianapolis
  • James R. Dillman - PM Lodge Vitruvian No. 767, Indianapolis and former president of The Masonic Society
  • Steve Vedra - PM Lodge Vitruvian No. 767, and Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research U.D., Indiana
  • Richard Graeter - author of “Reform Freemasonry?”
  • Larry Solomon - PM Caliburn Lodge No. 785, Cincinnati
  • Jason Rogers - Caliburn Lodge No. 785, Cincinnati
  • Robert Miller - Caliburn Lodge No. 785, Cincinnati
  • Samuel Lawson - Lodge Vitruvian No. 767
  • Jeff Okrutny - Tippecanoe Lodge No. 174, Tipp City Ohio
  • Paul Bathgate - Tippecanoe Lodge No. 174, Tipp City Ohio
  • Zach Jacobs - Tippecanoe Lodge No. 174, Tipp City Ohio
  • John Bizzack - Lexington Lodge No. 1, author of Island Freemasonry

For more information, see the website: http://www.21stcenturyfreemason.org/

On Saturday April 28th 2018, Masonic Con 2018 will once again take place at Ezekiel Bates Lodge, 71 North Main Street, Attleboro, Massachusetts. This event just gets bigger and better year after year, and the organizers must be doing something right. Last year, nearly 700 attended this still-growing event.

One difference this year is that they are requesting a $5 donation to offset the costs of hosting this extravaganza. Children will be admitted free.

Attendees and speakers alike will be happy to know the Tower Lodge is now blessedly air-conditioned. There will not be a Grotto or Tall Cedar Degree this year. Instead, there will be an open festive board with speakers and a special concluding presentation by the Valley of Boston.

There will be food trucks on site for lunch, and an enormous collection of Masonic vendors as well. Free parking is located nearby.

For more information, see the website at: https://eb1870.org/masonic-con-2018/

And if you are coming to town the night before on Friday, April 27th, Ezekiel Bates Lodge and Bog Iron Brewery have teamed up to host the Masonic Con Pre-Party, complete with two specially brewed craft beers just for the occasion. See this separate page to reserve a spot: https://eb1870.org/bog-iron-night/

Be sure to keep these others on your calendars:

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania: March 17, 2018
Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge Spring Symposium
Speakers: 2016 Prestonian Lecturer Ric Berman - "Foundations: New Light on the Formation and Early Years of the Grand Lodge of England"
Adam Kendall - "The Geometry of Mystery: Ancient Egypt, Freemasonry, and Secret Societies"

Alexandria, Virginia (George Washington National Masonic Memorial): May 10-13, 2018.
Apollo 2018 World Festival of Masonic Arts.

The Apollo Festival of Masonic Arts is a world celebration of the symbolic culture of Freemasonry, organized by the Association of Masonic Arts (AMA), and hosted by different grand lodges around the world. The main purpose of the festival is to present the centuries old masterpieces of the Craft and contemporary art products, made by brethren from different cultures and countries.
Washington DC (The Whittemore House), May 18, 2018.
World Conference on Fraternalism Social Capital, and Civil Society 2018: Not Men Only - Sisters, Sororities, and Ritualistic Societies.  Speakers will include: Cécile Révauger, Olivia Chaumont, Emanuela Locci, Paul Rich, Guillermo de los Reyes, Nancy Theiss, Demetrio Xoccato, and Teresa Lynn.

Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada: April 6-8, 2018
53rd Spring Masonic Workshop

Istanbul, Turkey (Movenpick Hotel): April 14, 2018
Fifth International Symposium on Freemasonry will be held by the Grand Lodge of Turkey.

Speakers include Ric Berman, Susan M. Sommers, Yavuz Salim Agaoglu, and Okan Yunusoglu.
For information contact Bro Ahmet Senkut, the Grand Orator for the GL of Turkey at ahmetsenkut@gmail.com

Beirut, Lebanon: 
June 8-10, 2018
A “Masonic Discovery Travel to Lebanon” is offered by the District Grand Lodge of Lebanon (Scottish Constitution) in conjunction with the installation of Bro Rabih Jarmakini as District Grand Master. In conjunction with thus event, organizers will be offering a tour to Hiram’s Tomb in Tyre and to the Temples of Baalbek.
Check out www.dgll.org or email to dgm@dgll.org for further information

Camp Masonry, Toledo, Ohio: August 9-12, 2018

Alexandria, Virginia (George Washington National Masonic Memorial): 
September 14-16, 2018
Quatuor Coronati Lodge of Research will host a rare North American Conference for 2018 with a program of research papers and debates.

Texas MasoniCon in Fort Worth: September 15-16, 2018

Saturday, January 20, 2018

John Bizzack Speaking at Indiana's Lodge Vitruvian 1/23

Lodge Vitruvian No. 767 will hold its January Stated Meeting this coming Tuesday, January 23, 2018, at 7:00PM at the Temple of Broad Ripple Lodge, located at 1716 Broad Ripple Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Lodge will open at 7:00PM, and we will hold our traditional officers' installation as part of our usual brief business meeting. 

“In the style of European Lodges, members are expected to dress in tuxedo for all Communications of the Lodge. Members also purchase their own regalia, (apron, collar, gloves, case), according to Lodge Vitruvian specifications.” Visitors' dress should be tuxedo, or business attire.

Our guest speaker for the evening will be Dr. John Bizzack, Past Master of Lexington Lodge No. 1 in Kentucky, and one of the strong voices behind the Rubicon Masonic Society in Lexington. 

John is the author of the outstanding 2017 book, Island Freemasonry, and he will be presenting his topic entitled "Learning What We Didn’t Even Know We Didn’t Know."  He will speak at our Festive Board after we change locations. 

Our Festive Board this month will begin at approximately 8:30PM at:
Sahm's Ale House & Barrel Room
1435 East 86th Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46240
This is located on the south side of 86th Street in the Monon Center (across from the entrance to Nora Plaza), and next to the Big Lug Canteen. Each attendee will be responsible for the cost of his and their guest’s meal.
Lodge Vitruvian turned 15 years old last May, and we are as strong as ever. So, we must be doing something right. Read about our founding and our philosophy HERE.

(For those of you who have asked, I will have a LIMITED number of Heritage Endures with me for sale at $25. Still waiting for more from the printer.)

Guard Your Nostrils: Deathly Effluvium For Sale

And then there is the occasional stroke of genius in the marketing world. Submit for your approval this ad from Occult Collections in Illinois on the Etsy online sales platform this week. It at first appears to be a common, run of the mill, Ball Brothers Mason Jar.

Au contraire:

Masonic air taken during a Freemason Meeting
This jar holds within it the very air collected during a a closed door meeting of the Blue Lodge of Master Freemasons of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons.

For over 300 years, the Secret Society known as the Freemasons have been around and included men from many walks of life. They count among their number figures such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Byzz Aldrin, John Wayne, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and Gerald R. Ford and many others.
Take now with you a part of their solemn secrets in this jar, held tight with their whispers.
I wont ask why you need it if you dont ask how I got it.
A bargain at a paltry CA$38.00 (US$31.40). 

While I applaud the seller for perhaps hitting upon a scheme that could be mined indefinitely for Masonic temple fund raising from the gullible,  I must nevertheless call bogus perfidy with this tactic. It is clear chicanery, as it is not a genuine Ball Brothers "Perfect Mason" jar, as these are. 

Further, mine contain authentic air from the Muncie Masonic Temple, which was built by the Ball Brothers themselves for our secret rites. And these contain the true classic air from the Masonic period, from before the building was, alas, sold off and lost to profanes.

No. No. Mine are not for sale. At ANY price.

H/T: 1dle-prince and the Redditors

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Tall Tales of Leo Taxil

"The public made me what I am, the arch-liar of the period, for when I first commenced to write against the Masons my object was amusement pure and simple. The crimes laid at their door were so grotesque, so impossible, so widely exaggerated, I thought everybody would see the joke and give me credit for originating a new line of humour. But my readers wouldn't have it so; they accepted my fables as gospel truth, and the more I lied for the purpose of showing that I lied, the more convinced became they that I was a paragon of veracity." 
— Marie Joseph Gabriel Antoine Jogand-Pagès, aka Leo Taxil

At some point in your Masonic life, you'll hear anti-Masons prattling about Freemasonry being linked to Lucifer or Satanism, and they'll quickly get around to hauling out Albert Pike quotes—both real and completely imaginary ones, as well as contorted re-wording of authentic ones. Here's a favorite phony:

Utter crap that was never ever said by Pike. I promise.

And more than likely they'll finally drag out the hoary old figure of Baphomet.

The late religious tract cartoonist Jack Chick made this stupidity into a cottage industry, as you can see from this little rogue's gallery of favorites. But he was, and is, far from alone. He's had plenty of company.

So as a Mason, you've gone and joined every possible obscure appendant organization imaginable, from the Royal Order of Scotland, the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests, and the Commemorative Order of St. Thomas of Acon, right down to Ye Antiente Order of Corks. You've witnessed every single degree you've ever heard of, and scores more that you hadn't known of before. You've even been coroneted with the so-called "highest" degree of all, the 33° of the Scottish Rite (yes, I know, that "high ranking" Mason nonsense dazzles the non-Masons every time, when we all know it's nothing of the kind). And you've gone so far as to read all of the old degrees of the Allied Masonic Degrees, and all of the decades of back copies of the Grand College of Rites' collections of defunct degrees from the past. 

Yet try as you might, there's nary a Satanic, Luciferian, 'Baphometian' image, symbol, reference, utterance, hint, suggestion, or lapel pin to be found anywhere. So where the hell did this stupidity come from?

Blame it on the French. At least one Frenchman, in particular.

If you've never heard of Leo Taxil and The Taxil Hoax, you need to. Masons really should have at least a passing knowledge of the episode, if only to calm the occasional aunt or pastor who gets the jitters in the presence of your Masonic ring. 

The elevator explanation is that Leo Taxil (born as Marie Joseph Gabriel Antoine Jogand-Pagès) was a 19th century French practical joker and con artist who couldn't stand Catholics or Masons. After dabbling in anti-Catholic porn for a few years, he started pumping out out lurid and increasingly ridiculous stories about the bizarre goings on in Masonic lodges, hoping to dig at Masons (who mostly wouldn't respond publicly, at least in Europe at the time) and to make incredulous Catholics look foolish. To his good fortune, he came to the attention of anti-Masonic Catholic Church leaders who didn't get the joke and swallowed the whole gag as serious, including Pope Leo XIII. The pontiff had just issued his anti-Masonic encyclical, Humanum Genus, in 1884, and Taxil had started madly writing the next year. With this Pope, he had an enthusiastic fan and promoter, who never even seemed to notice that this new author's nom de plume looked astonishingly similar to his own name (Leo TaXiI vs. Leo XIII).

Every succeeding book got sillier and more outrageous. Masons made tables float in the air, slaughtered animals, transformed into liquids and passed through walls. As the gags got more elaborate and preposterous, Taxil created an imaginary female Masonic wing and a fictitious heroine named Diana Vaughan (who was his typist in real life), so that he could then introduce lascivious details about sexual initiations into a non-existant type of sexual-satanic-magickal Masonry called the Palladian Rite. Can't sell a really juicy scandal without sex, you know. And of course there was the Satanic stuff, so he could invent Black Masses and sex orgies going on in "Satan's Synagogue" (thereby using Masonry to take a swipe at Judaism). And as a cherry on top, he headquartered the whole affair in Charleston, South Carolina with "General" Albert Pike named as the "Supreme Pontiff of Universal Freemasonry of the 23 Supreme Councils of the World." It was easy to do because Pike died in 1891, so Taxil could eventually allege anything he liked without fear of direct rebuttal from the old, dead lawyer.

Don't think these were just broadsheets and pamplets, either. Just one of Taxil's many anti-Masonic tomes ran to 2,000 pages. In 1886, the Bishop of Charleston had written directly to Leo XIII to say he was acquainted with Albert Pike and and that Taxil's stories were fables, but by then the pontiff was so deeply committed to the anti-Masonic cause that nothing would dissuade his support—the Bishop was officially reprimanded for being a doubter. Taxil, meanwhile, was invited in 1887 to an audience with the Pope.

Pope Leo and the Church as a whole were so alarmed by it all that in 1896, an anti-Masonic Congress was assembled in Trent, Austria with over 1,000 attendees and 36 bishops. But after twelve years of this, along with increasing catcalls from America, some in the Catholic press finally caught on that they were being duped and called Taxil out on it. He assembled an audience together in Paris in 1897 at the Geographical Society to speak of his latest "revelation," and then gleefully admitted onstage to the audience that it had all been a fabulous lie. The crowd went nuts, newspapers all over France published his confession, and Taxil ducked out and retired to Switzerland. Since then, Taxil has vanished as the source of the story from most who peddle it today, but the lunatic Satanic accusations have remained.

One of Taxil's early book is fairly typical of his style and substance. Here's the way he described a Masonic initiation into those mysterious "higher degrees" you've never managed to be invited to join:
"Before a man is admitted to the higher degrees he is blindfolded & taken into a room where a live sheep is lying on the floor. The animal's mouth and feet are secured and it is clean shaven, so that its skin feels to the touch like that of a human being.

"Next to the animal a man is placed, who breathes heavily, feigning to struggle against imaginary enemies. The candidate is given to understand that the sheep's body is that of a disloyal Mason who gave away the secrets of the order and must die according to some ancient law, the candidate being made executioner, as a warning to him.

"Then he is given a big knife, and after some ceremonial is persuaded to 'kill the traitor,' that is, plunge the knife repeatedly into the body of the sheep, which he imagines to be that of an unknown human being, his brother.

"Thus every Mason is a murderer in spirit at least, if not actually, for sometimes treacherous Masons take the place of the animal."
Taxil was able to keep his gag going for so long because of Freemasonry's very structure: it seems at first that there's always another appendant body to join, always another degree to experience. Maybe you piddling proles in the Blue Lodges just never saw the HIGHEST ones, the sooper secret ones that the really high, HIGH degree Masons practice. Of course, modern believers in this bilge allege the very same thing even today.

Of course, the Roman Catholic Church was licking a serious chest wound at that point in history. Bear in mind that the Vatican had just lost control of Italy and the last of the Papal States in 1870. From 800 until 1808, the Vatican controlled central and a eventually a chunk of northern Italy as a sovereign possession. Napoleon's exploits severely altered the map, but the eventual unification of Italy finally stripped the Church of all but the few square blocks in Rome known today as Vatican City. 

Pope Leo was desperate to regain the sort of widespread cultural and political influence the Church had largely enjoyed for over 1,000 years, and Freemasons and other "free-thinkers" represented a major threat to that influence. In the previous hundred years or so, high-profile Freemasons had been identified with revolutions in both North and South America, France, and Italy that had all sought to separate the state from the Church, to offer public education instead of religiously controlled schools, democratically electing leaders instead of relying on Divine Rights of Kings (or popes), "freedom of religion," and more. As a result, Pope Leo saw Masons as fighting against all the Church represented. It's almost unbelievable that the current pontiff, Pope Francis apparently thinks the very same thing today.

The reason I'm posting this today is that an excellent look at Taxil's actual writings and contemporary reactions has appeared in the unlikeliest spot you could imagine. The Cannibis Connection website Tuesday posted a long article by Chris Bennett: The Devil’s Weed and The Luciferian Freemasonry Hoax of Leo Taxil. It is truly a terrific article that is worth your time, especially if you've only had a superficial acquaintance with the story. It includes excerpts from A.E. Waite (who should have known better—but then again, maybe not) actually attempting to take the whole Palladian business seriously, at least briefly.

If you're fortunate enough to belong to the Bristol Masonic Society, S. Brent Morris also presented an outstanding talk of his own, The Pope and the Pornographer in March 2016, and it is published in their 2015-2016 volume of Corona Gladiorum. And the entire text of The Confession of Leo Taxil in which he exposed his hoax, was translated for the 1996 Volume 5 of the Scottish Rite Research Society's Heredom by Alain Bernheim, A. William Samii, and Eric Serejski. It is available online HERE.

H/T to Luke Stark

Monday, January 15, 2018

New Book: "Heritage Endures"

Saturday, January 13th, 2018 was officially Founders' Day for the Grand Lodge of Indiana, kicking off our Bicentennial year. Thank you to all who braved the snow and ice from Friday night's shifting weather patterns and made it. I had a double honor for this event. I was asked to speak to the 800+ members at the Scottish Rite Cathedral that morning, and my new book was officially released. 

Heritage Endures: Perspectives On 200 Years of Indiana Freemasonry is finally real, it's in print, and is available—but only in limited quantities right at the moment. The printer didn't fulfill the whole order we placed back in November, and by the end of the day, the Grand Lodge only had about 40 copies left.

Because of that shortfall, the Grand Secretary's office isn't widely pushing sales just yet until we can get another delivery. And because we didn't have a physical book in hand until Friday evening, we haven't opened up mail or online orders yet. As soon as all of that gets solved, I'll shamelessly plug it with my usual brazen tubthumping behavior. The cover price if you buy it in person from me or at the office in Indianapolis is $25, and I'll know shipping costs in the next few days once the Post Office reopens. 

Just so you know, it will not be immediately available on Amazon, as it is a Grand Lodge publication. That will happen eventually.

Grand photographer Steve Kroman snapped me looking "emphatic" 
(although I'll swear I look more like I was singing "Glücklich ist, wer vergisst" 
from Die Fledermaus than anything else).

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Secret Societies, Lapel Pins and Tacos

So tonight, Alice and I are absent-mindedly monitoring a truly silly TV series on the Science Channel about Nikola Tesla and his experiments at wirelessly transmitting electricity. Naturally, they have chosen to tart it up as a multi-part series postulating that  TESLA WAS MURDERED OVER A DEATH RAY!!! And they keep promising to get around to talking about supposedly newly declassified FBI investigation documents looking into his death in 1943 and the files stolen from his safe before police arrived. We keep an eye on these programs just because a while back, we wrote Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies. As a result of that, we still get the occasional call from producers over the damndest topics, like Tesla for instance. We had zero to do with this one, but it follows the standard  "Episode 4: Still Nothing To Show You, But Did We Mention The Death Ray Again?" format, complete with the handheld footage of three guys exclaiming "OMIGOD!" over nothing. What one producer described to me as "the woo-woo factor."

Anyway, a commercial popped up that reminded me of something. Seven years ago, I was traveling in Ohio and posted a photo and blog entry. It was of a light fixture at the doors to a Taco Bell that clearly portrayed a square and compass (photo above), which obviously demonstrated "More proof we Masons rule the world." 

So, imagine my surprise when Taco Bell's new TV campaign portrays a secret society, called the "Belluminati." 

I'm obviously way too late discovering this, as they are already sold out of the tie-in hats, hoodies, tee-shirts, and yes, lapel pins. 

Can't be a secret society without lapel pins. 

Freemasonry can't escape being linked to the Illuminati in the public perception, no matter what. But I'm just more than a little depressed that, instead of the 20th century image we once had as something to be aspired to, then as sinister in the 1980s, then vanishing into obscurity for two decades, then resurrected by Dan Brown and his imitators as something spooky, today we've just become the punchline to a taco commercial.

My old post might have been the inspiration for this ad campaign, even if only accidentally. Or maybe it wasn't. But oh, how I wish I had thought up their description of the reason for their lapel pin:

"Forged in secrecy, this pin allows members to exchange silent nods of acknowledgement without actually having to spend energy nodding."

Friday, January 12, 2018

January 12, 1818: "A New Constellation in the Firmament of Masonry"

Today's post is one for my home team here in Indiana. We kick off a big party here as of this morning: the Bicentennial celebration of the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM.

Two hundred years ago today on a cold, wintery Monday, Freemasons representing nine widely scattered and isolated Masonic lodges assembled at the prospering river town of Madison, Indiana. There that week, legendarily in a second floor room of what we know today as Schofield House, they exchanged their original Ohio and Kentucky charters for new ones, and officially organized and constituted the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Indiana.

To the English mind in the mid-18th century, the word “Indiana” was touched with romance and the echoes of a faraway Utopia. Like India, it was a fanciful product of bungled Latin for the farthermost eastern shore of the Orient that might be reached by sailing far enough west. Clever land speculators latched on to it as the perfect word for a rich wilderness that beckoned, as they’d done with other land deals, like “Transylvania” in Kentucky, or “Vandalia” in West Virginia and Illinois. It even came into vogue as a woman’s name, and novelists like Fanny Burney and George Sand christened their wild, beautiful heroines as Indiana. 
Out here in the West, we were batted around between the French, the English, and even Spain for a bit. And the Indians, of course. Indiana had clung to the far northwestern end of Virginia under the English. Then we were declared part of the Northwest Territory after 1787. By 1800, Ohio was split off from us and became its own state to our east.  But the Indiana Territory was still a rough, rugged, unsettled and dangerous place to be out on the edge of Western civilization. 

After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, impatient potential settlers who had been stopped all along the Appalachian Mountains by the British troops and England's territorial claims began hotfooting it toward the West and the Indiana Territory. The Indians here soon had enough of white encroachment. Led by the legendary chief Tecumseh and his brother, 'The Prophet,' they weren't going to give up northwest Indiana without a putting up a significant fight, culminating at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. But with their final defeat, the settlers began to arrive in greater numbers. 

And so did Freemasonry.

After the end of what we Americans think of as the 'War of 1812' (really 1811-1815), white immigrants finally felt it was safe to settle in the Wabash Valley. 

By the summer of 1816, the lands along the Wabash River and many miles to its east had been surveyed and officially put up for sale from a land agent in Vincennes. The other major land sales office was at the Falls of the Ohio in Jeffersonville, across from Louisville, and it was doing a booming business as well, partially because Indiana offered even cheaper land prices than Ohio. So a huge flood of pioneers roared into Indiana. Fifty settlers’ wagons were recorded crossing the Muskingum River at Zanesville, Ohio on a single November day in 1816, all bound westward for Indiana. It was estimated that 42,000 people came to Indiana just in 1816 alone. Population rose enough between 1814-1816 to enable the Indiana Territory to officially become its own state on December 11, 1816.

In more than a few early towns and settlements at the time, the formal or informal establishment of a Masonic lodge often predated the arrival of the organization of a local church. Settlers were usually self-educated, and a Bible was their most commonly available reading material. Without a church, these isolated people received their religious and moral training, understanding, and reinforcement almost entirely from interpreting the family Bible on their own, discussing its various passages among their own family members or with the rare neighbor. Yet, any church coming into the area frequently brought with it disagreements over denomination differences. 

A Masonic lodge forming was a uniquely civilizing force on the edges of the frontier, unlike any other. If a settler was recognized as a man of honor and trust, and was made a Freemason, men of all classes, all political persuasions, and all religious denominations surrounded him, without descending into arguments. The lodge taught the basic tools of organizing and administering a democratic body, preparing members for civic responsibility, whether they knew it or not. Masons learned tolerance, benevolence, charity, prudence, justice, public speaking, cooperation, and more. And despite the altruistic, nonsectarian philosophy of lodge meetings, Masonic degrees were nonetheless centered around Old Testament themes—albeit filtered through its Enlightenment-era lens. Early frontier Masons could be forgiven for coming to regard their lodge meetings almost as a combination village meeting and a non-denominational religious service all its own.

And so, Masons from the nine lodges already at work in the new State of Indiana assembled in “Freemasons’ Hall” at Madison that Monday, January 12, 1818 and spent four days at labor. There were fourteen official representatives in all, eventually with thirteen visitors. They had come through the wilderness on horseback or by river, from as far as Vincennes, 150 miles away, and Brookville, 96 miles. 

By evening candle-lighting, they formally agreed to "proceed immediately to organize a Grand Lodge for the State of Indiana."  

The organizational meeting continued for four days. Alexander A. Meek, of Madison, presided over the organization of the new Grand Lodge. On Tuesday January 13th, they elected officers with Alexander Buckner, of Charlestown elected as the first Grand Master. Then they came forward and gave up their original charters, requesting new ones under the new authority, and adopted Webb's Illustrations of Masonry as their official ritualistic work. 

On the 14th, the attorneys in the group drafted their constitution and by-laws, and Buckner ordered the preparation of the new charters. Remembering the old Masonic admonition, at 4 PM, the twenty-seven brethren processed down the muddy streets of Madison, clad in their aprons, and assembled in divine worship at the nearby log-built Methodist church to ask the blessings of the Great Architect of the Universe on the work of their hands. 

On January 15th, they issued a formal address to the other existing grand lodges requesting recognition, and beginning life with five chartered lodges: Vincennes Lodge No.1; Madison's Union Lodge No. 2; Charlestown's Blazing Star Lodge No. 3; Lawrenceburg Lodge No. 4; and Corydon's Pisgah Lodge No. 5.

To the surprise of the assembled brethren, a sixth lodge already at work in Indiana did not give up its original heritage that week. Melchizidek Lodge’s large, colorful, and bombastic representative, Colonel Marston G. Clark of Salem, held out for reasons known only to himself, refusing just yet to officially turn in his lodge’s existing Kentucky charter in exchange for a new Indiana one. That lodge would close, and it would be 1822 before Salem Lodge No. 21 would be chartered.

Three more U.D. lodges were granted Indiana dispensations at that January meeting: Rising Sun Lodge, Vevay's Switzerland Lodge, and Brookville's Harmony Lodge.

The Grand Lodge of Kentucky was the first jurisdiction to extend formal, written, fraternal recognition of Indiana that September, declaring us to be "a new constellation in the firmament of Masonry."

Indiana began life with 176 known Freemasons associated with the lodges across the new state. The Grand Lodge recorded 37 'additions' by the end of its first year of labors, for a total of 214 members in its nine lodges. It was an auspicious beginning for what would eventually become the fifth largest grand lodge in the United States.

And so it is that Indiana officially enters its third century of Masonic labors and celebrations today.

Vivat! Vivat! Vivat!