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


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

SC Lodge Takes Battle With Town Public

Lexington Lodge 152 in Lexington, South Carolina took its battle with their town public this week. In recent months, the Town of Lexington has been attempting to acquire the lodge's property to use as an overflow parking lot for a proposed downtown Springhill Suites by Marriott hotel. The story originally came to light in September when the first sabers were rattled by the mention of the use of eminent domain by the town to seize the property at or below market price. Lexington originally offered $300,000 for the lodge property, which was immediately laughed out of the park by lodge officers and trustees. (See SC Lodge Battling Over Eminent Domain HERE)

On October 28th, Lexington Lodge's Secretary, Charles D. (Dick) Keyser posted a public letter (read it HERE) revealing details of discussions with the town and their current position. According to his letter, the the town attempted to hide its initial purpose by offering out of the blue to "pave the lodge parking lot for free" without disclosing the Marriott deal. When news of the Marriott development leaked, the lodge seemed to be in the way of bigger forces.

Lexington lodge 152 has owned and been located on the same property for almost 150 years. It was chartered at this location in 1869, eight years before the town itself was officially established. They intend to stay there "for Eternity."

The lodge has estimated a replacement cost to relocate and build a new temple of approximately $1.5 million, while the City has counter offered just $450,000. Keyser wrote that the lodge has told the town council that, "if the relocation cost were less than $1,500,000, any money left, minus $20,000, would be returned to the Town of Lexington. The $20,000 would be donated equally between Lexington Interfaith Community Services (LICS) and the Shriner’s Hospital for Children by the Town of Lexington and Lexington Masonic Lodge 152." 

In response, the town's mayor, Steve MacDougall reportedly said in an executive session of the town council, "Condemn it."

MacDougall denied the account on Facebook, and has now dragged the lodge negotiations into the heated local political race for Mayor. 

From today's The State article, "Could a 149-year-old Mason lodge become a parking lot?":

That prompted MacDougall to post a statement on Facebook denying the Masons’ accusation. He also accused Town Council member Ron Williams, who is challenging MacDougall in Tuesday’s mayoral election, of sharing private council discussions with the Masons and advising them to sue the town.
Williams said he does not remember any conversation during which he advised the Masons to sue the town. However, Williams said he did tell them that if the town tried to take the lodge, he would be on their side. 
“My job is to represent the citizens of the town, not the town interests,” Williams said. “If I feel any citizen of the town is being taken advantage of by the town, I’m going to defend that citizen.” 
Williams wrote in an email that he has hired an attorney “to verify I have done nothing wrong.” 
“Steve MacDougall wants me out of the race and he’s shown publicly and in private that he is willing to do anything to keep his seat,” he said.
Randy Browning, a member and past master of the lodge, which houses one of the longest-standing charitable organizations in Lexington, told The State the town was trying to use the lodge property in one way or another to benefit an incoming Marriott hotel that is slated for a nearby plot of land. Williams said that when the lodge conversation first came up in council, he did not have knowledge of the incoming hotel, though MacDougall had been in talks with developers. 
MacDougall would not say if he generally supports using eminent domain — the right of government to take over property in the interest of public use — for economic development. Most council members said they would not support use of eminent domain.
Though it has been in the same spot since 1869 — eight years after the town was founded — the lodge is not protected by a historic or preservation designation, Browning said, because the organization didn’t think it was necessary.
“Who would expect that somebody would want to come in and just take over your facility?” he said.
MacDougall said in an interview this week that the Masons have not responded to the town’s latest offer: to pave the parking lot, plus a piece of a neighboring lot to be used for hotel parking and allowing the members to use select spaces. The Masons set a deadline to respond by Dec. 31, MacDougall said. Yet in the open letter on the watchdog blog, the offer is called “unacceptable.”

MacDougall, in his Facebook post published Oct. 30, said that taking the property through eminent domain has been discussed, but that option always is considered when town officials negotiate a land deal. The post said the council agreed that condemning the property “was NOT an option.”
The mayor went on to say Williams “broke his oath” of office by telling the Masons after a closed-door town council meeting that they should “sue the town.”
MacDougall said he learned about Williams’ conversation with the Masons from one of their members, and that the conversation was the reason for the Masons questioning the town’s motives, which led to tense discussions.

The Masons could not be reached for comment about negotiations.

2019 Masonic Week Schedule Available Now

The 2019 Masonic Week schedule has been published. This annual event will run from February 20-24 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Crystal City, Virginia (a stone's throw from Washington DC, the Reagan International Airport, and the Pentagon). Masonic Week traditionally hosts annual meetings and degree conferrals of lesser known Masonic organizations, many of which are invitational bodies.

The following groups will be represented this year: 

  • Commemorative Order of St. Thomas of Acon
  • Masonic Order of Athelstan
  • Grand Council of Universal Craftsmen
  • Allied Masonic Degrees
  • Order of Knight Masons
  • Society of Blue Friars
  • Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests
  • The Royal Order Masonic Knights of the Scarlet Cord of the United States of America
  • The Masonic Society
  • Philalethes Society
  • Rectified Scottish Rite (CBCS)
  • Ye Antiente Order of Corks
  • Noble Order of Muscovites
  • Grand College of Rites
  • York Rite Sovereign College
  • Sovereign Order of Knights Preceptor
  • Masonic Order of the Bath
  • Worshipful Society of Free Masons, Rough Masons, Wallers, Slaters, Paviors, Plaisteres and Bricklayers (aka “The Operatives”)
The official registration form has not been posted yet, but the hotel reservation form is up and running. So keep an eye on the page for upcoming updates.

Monday, October 29, 2018

What's In a Building?

Our Past vs. our Present.
“In an age in which we travel from private houses in little enclosed metal boxes on wheels into private office cubicles and then back again…there is precious little sense of shared experience in our lives, or at least precious few times in which shared experience is expressed in terms of a common physical place.”
– architectural critic Paul Goldberger
What's In A Building?

Freemasonry is a fraternity constructed around the allegory of the architecture and building trade. Our prior brethren had a pretty good understanding of that allegory and how it related to the building of character in Man. Because of that, many of them were inspired to take that allegory a step further and apply it to our Masonic Temples beginning in the last decades of the 19th century.

My post earlier this month about an unnamed Masonic Temple that was recently sold to non-Masons (see 'Once Upon A Time') attracted an enormous number of readers. Obviously it struck a chord with many Brethren around the U.S. and Canada. Unfortunately, the Brethren who are members of the two lodges that moved out of that unnamed building were upset that I turned attention on them, even anonymously. 'You just don't understand,' they said. It was an albatross around their necks and wallets, they love their new surroundings now, "and a lodge is not a building," goes the familiar refrain. And they have better parking. 

All very true. 

I understand these problems better than they can possibly know. Not just anecdotally or academically, either. I've been in the trenches of historic preservation since I was nine years old. I've lived in two very historic homes in my life (the Burd Patterson house in Pottsville, Pennsylvania; and the Dunlora Farm House in Charlottesville, Virginia, originally designed by Jefferson for his friend Dabney Carr). The very first money I made in a job as a teenager went to help preserve the past. I was on the Board of Directors for a railroad museum when I was 16. As an adult, in my job of 25 years I helped maintain an historic mansion that had cultural significance which housed our offices and studio. I served on the Temple Board for our massive downtown Masonic Temple that was neglected for decades, had a brief revival, and now sadly again faces abandonment because they lost their vision all over again. And I also served for many years as a Trustee for a suburban lodge that previously shoved its aging early-1900s temple overboard in favor of an ugly, anonymous 1960s office building. So I'm not just talking out of my hat. I know the problems, the costs, and the challenges.

Masonic lodges don't need a building at all, and it's arguable that we began losing our way when we started going into the real estate business. Frankly, there are a thousand times more fights and arguments and lost friendships over building problems than almost anything else in this fraternity. I can make a convincing argument for dumping every one of them and meeting solely in private hotel spaces and dining rooms, if all we want to be is Kiwanis with aprons. Perhaps that setup would be ideal, if every lodge had just 36 members with at least a 50% participation rate each meeting. But we all know the 'back to the tavern movement' isn't really an answer for most of us in mid-sized and large lodges in America. And no U.S. grand lodge is ever going to voluntarily enact rules demanding and enforcing lodges of no more than three dozen members.

I don't argue for a BIG building, nor do I argue for a building that solely exists for its age or its monumental bigness. I DO argue that preserving a significant cultural, historic, and architectural treasure is a duty that has been thrust on many Freemasons, like it or not. And  we as Masons and our communities suffer when we allow them to crumble, fail or be destroyed.

But more to the point, I am arguing for important Masonic Temples, whether they are a huge antique marble barn on the corner of Main and State Streets, or a brand new steel barn in a cornfield. Or anything in between.

I. Our Alabaster Albatrosses

Why did we all do it? Why did the Masons and all of the other major fraternal groups of the late 19th and early 20th centuries erect so many enormous stone piles across America between 1900 and 1929 that we are now fleeing at an ever faster clip?

Detroit Masonic Temple
Part of it has to do with wanting our special clubhouses to contain what we regard as a 'sacred space.' When our great-grandfathers built these enormous Temples, they weren't just creating an elaborate tree fort to play in. They regarded them no less important than a statehouse building or a large church. They understood architectural theory then, or they had members who were architects themselves, and they believed a sacred space should look like one, inside and out. That's why they called them Temples, and not merely halls.

Ocean Lodge 89, New Jersey
When the doors of the lodge room are closed and the meeting is opened, the room itself is deliberately designed to be a sanctuary from the chaotic maelstrom of the world outside. It contains imagery that appears nowhere else in the rest of the world and sets the mood conducive to introspection and concentration. Or it should. In lodge, all arguments and differences are to be set aside and brethren meet on the level, without question. 

Sure, that may be a utopian version of Freemasonry, but in practice, it actually works pretty well. And proper surroundings reinforce that psychologically.

Knights of Pythias Castle, Indianapolis
The other reason was simple competition. The larger fraternal organizations in our towns were in head to head competition with each other, so they built these bigger and more majestic buildings to impress: to impress visitors, their towns, potential petitioners, and instill pride in their own members. 

Daniel Burnham's Chicago Masonic Temple 1891 -
Freemasons had erected the tallest skyscraper in the world at the time
The big building boom happened during the time of the City Beautiful Movement that had begun with Chicago's Columbian Exposition in 1893. That famed architectural period preached the gospel that you didn't erect a major, significant building in a city or town unless it was artistically beautiful, substantial, and most important, that it contributed to the overall beautification and improvement of your entire community. 

1893 Columbian Exposition and the White City
That world's fair was dominated by the vision of superstar Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, who had designed the tallest skyscraper in the world erected two years before, in 1891 - the dazzling Chicago Masonic Temple. But the centerpiece of the Fair was the 'White City,' named for the gleaming temporary structures made of plaster that depicted a majestic city of classical designs, surrounding its central lagoon. It was a celebration inspired by the overarching theme of John Ruskin's famed 1846 essay, The Seven Lamps of Architecture"When we build, let us think that we build forever," (even if Ruskin favored Gothic over Neo-Classical...).

In the fashion of the Fair, classical architecture with bright limestone and Grecian columns replaced the dark, foreboding, red brick Romanesque style favored in the post-Civil War, pre-1900 era. Ugly buildings and haphazard development depresses people, went the theory. Planned communities, on a huge scale, would be the answer to creating tranquil cities that would silently help to quell social unrest and blunt the tumult of the Industrial Age. Happy people would achieve better things, and so the city was to reflect art and learning and the Classics. In other words, build big, build beautiful, build for the Ages To Come, or don't bother to build at all. Anything less was bad for the whole community. 

Companies, institutions, and even architects don't really ascribe to that philosophy anymore. And we can save the argument over whether that is good or bad for our communities for another day. The point is that American Freemasons of the early 1900s grabbed the bull by the horns and started building majestic and significant temples. 
It became a nationwide embrace of the Pillar of Beauty that Freemasons enshrined in our own ritual.

II. He Speaketh Treason: Appearances Do Matter

The Danish language has a word: aerekaer. It’s a combination of both honor and pride. It's an expression of concern about your own honor, and about how other people will see and regard you.

When you drive through the average town in America, it's usually pretty easy to spot the distinctive pre-1940s Masonic Temple, if it is still standing. Until the end of WWII, you could generally spot the Masons' location in any given town just by driving around within a few blocks of City Hall and looking at the façades. 

What goes on in there?

Not today. The bulk of those downtown locations have been abandoned, and the Masons have moved to cheaper land, with bigger parking lots, and generic meeting halls.

There is no doubt that the overriding sense of price-driven cheapness and instant gratification of pre-fabricated steel buildings that can be ordered over the Internet have taken their toll on the architecture business (that, combined with the practical demand that our roofs not leak). Even huge corporations – outside of Apple and arguably Bass Pro/Cabala's – don't build 'important,' distinctive buildings anymore. But the truth is that the deterioration of our older Masonic buildings today, combined with the construction of new lodges resembling tool sheds in corn fields — featureless on the outside and horrifically planned on the inside – no longer impress anyone. More and more lodge buildings since the 1960s are strictly generic, utilitarian sheds for the conferral of degrees, the holding of business meetings, and the dishing up of bad food in the sterile looking dining hall. They are no more significant or distinctive than a garage for farm implements or boats, storing auto parts, or a veterinary office.

There's no wonder that Grand Lodges have dissuaded the use of the term 'Temple' over the last three decades, because these types of buildings seem to be anything but that. The sadder truth is that we have no reason to impress anyone anymore because we have outlived our competition. The result is that, like an old, abandoned Bonanza steakhouse, we are now looking shabby as a fraternity. 

Behold! The Pillar of Beauty?!
But it's cheap to heat and roof doesn't leak.

I'm going to say something that is anathema to many Masons these days: appearances really do matter. You know that it matters to you in your daily life and interactions with others, so there's no sense in denying it when it comes to our own fraternity. Or as the comedian Jerry Seinfeld recently said about appearing before his audience, "That’s why I wear a suit. It’s a signal: I’m not loafing here."

When we say we "make good men better," don't we mean 'better' in EVERY sense of the word? Why doesn't that start with better surroundings and a better outward appearance?

Put it another way: when Freemasonry looked impressive to the outside world, we looked significant to the public and to ourselves, and we attracted the most influential members in our entire history. We thought we were the best of the best, and we treated ourselves accordingly.  We expected better, and we got it. No longer. Today, the world drives right past our generic sheds without a second glance. They don't even notice we're here.

Apple Store, New York City

Apple Park, Cupertino, California

Since I brought up Apple, take note of their architectural philosophy, from their huge new 'space ship' corporate headquarters, to their individual retail stores: there's no misconstruing who's in those buildings and what goes on inside. They spend an enormous amount of money and thought to make sure no one mistakes their buildings for anything but an Apple store. You notice them, and can almost spot all of their store facades from low Earth orbit. Why? Because they have aerekaer. They have bags of it, and they care very much how they appear to the world. Apple's products are not overwhelmingly superior to Samsung's in terms of the tasks they accomplish, but they have created an aura about their company, their wares, and consequently, their customers themselves. And they have much higher standards below which they will not go. There's a vital lesson to be learned there.

III. A Masonic Lodge is Sacred Space

Ste. Chappelle, Paris
Impressive buildings, both inside and outside, inspire people and put them in a different mindset. The medieval cathedrals that our forebears constructed were designed to awe all who entered, making them feel as though they were surrounded by a majestic force far greater than themselves. In short, they were built to impress and they were deliberately designed to create a psychological mindset. Everywhere your eye falls inside of a medieval cathedral is supposed to transport you into another spiritual plane. The congregant or penitent feels that he is in the presence of God. The stone walls fall away, the ceiling soars to heaven, and all of the colors of the world and the universe beam down upon you, bathing you in the light of God and His creation. That was a deliberate vision of the architects, because sacred architecture was supposed to be different from anything else on Earth.

It's special.

We have a plaque over our lodge room entrance that says in Latin, "Bidden or unbidden, God is present." Like a church (whether your lodge members realize it or not), a lodge room also represents a sacred space - a non-sectarian one, with its own peculiar symbolism, to be sure - but a sacred space nonetheless.  It's not a place of worship, but a sanctuary. And its goal should be to place your fellow Masons in a psychologically different space than the outside world. Just like a church is deliberately designed to do.

That isn't done with threadbare furniture, peeling paint, rotten carpet, faulty lighting, and walls covered in faux pine hardware store panelling, or a a vast expanse of powder blue cinder blocks.

So, let's say the argument is long over. Let's say that you don't have an old magnificent temple to save anymore, because your lodge made that decision long before you got there, and now you're currently gathering in a bland, faceless, anonymous building today. 

Even in cases where a building's exterior is ugly, an opportunity exists to use that in your favor, from a design standpoint. You can still impress in a cinder block warehouse or a pole barn if the Masonic Temple itself inside of it that the candidate or Mason enters is beautiful, inspiring, maybe even startling, or in some other way incredibly distinctive on the inside. 
In fact, when a lodge room is situated inside of an anonymous warehouse or office building on the outside, encountering a surprisingly atmospheric Masonic space on the inside is like opening a beautiful and unexpected gift. In short, a room that puts that candidate or those members into a different place spiritually, philosophically, or psychologically. Or just plain makes them feel better when they enter. 

This has absolutely nothing to do with money, age or size of a building, or even size of a lodge's membership. Consider that even the famed 1880 'Lodge Room Over Simpkin's Store' in Colorado managed to convey this sense of atmosphere and sanctuary in an attic room with the barest of resources. In fact, it's actually heightened by the closeness of the tiny room. It plays a subtle trick on the mind as you climb the steps: "There's a Masonic Lodge in here?!"

IV. 'Sacred' Doesn't Equal Big or 'Old'

Lexington Lodge 1, Kentucky
Bear one last thing in mind. When I argue for the deliberate design of sacred space in a Masonic lodge, that does not automatically mean hang on with a death grip to everything old in your Temple building. Even in a pole barn lodge building, there's no reason why a Mason shouldn't find an inspiring Temple. 

John Ruskin wrote, “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.” 

In the coming weeks, I will share some images to try to jumpstart your thoughts about how to make your own lodge room into more of a sanctuary from the outside world than it perhaps may be now. The examples will be from around the world, and may be very, very unlike what you are used to finding in the average American Masonic Temple. And in almost every case, I will ignore the exterior entirely. 

Because it's the internal, you know...

Riom, France
In most cases, they will be contemporary designs, and nearly all of them look VERY different from the average U.S. lodge room. And each and every one of them looks very distinct from the others. Money isn't the deciding factor – imagination, ingenuity, and love and understanding of the fraternity and its symbols is the real answer. And a little artistic flair helps. 

Paris, France

Broad Ripple Lodge 645, Indiana
Regardless, whether your lodge is in an old building or a new one, a huge temple or an anonymous office park, the time is long past to be rid of ugly, uninspiring, and downright embarrassing lodge rooms in America. It's long past time to get to work. 

Because to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, 'It’s a signal. We're not loafing here.'

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Tri-State Masonic Degree Exemplification This Saturday 11/3

This coming Saturday, November 3rd, three midwestern U.S. Grand Lodges will come together for an all-day Masonic Degree Exemplification. The Entered Apprentice Degree will be performed by the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana; the Fellow Craft Degree by the Grand Lodge of Michigan; and the Master Mason Degree by the Grand Lodge of Ohio. 

This is a great chance to see how the three Craft lodge degrees are conferred in our sister jurisdictions. and it's part of our 200th anniversary of the founding of the Grand Lodge of Indiana this year.

This event will take place in the auditorium of the incredible Indianapolis Scottish Rite Cathedral. If you've never visited it before, take this excellent opportunity.

This event is FREE and open to all MASTER MASONS from all jurisdictions in amity with the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana. Please bring your dues card.

Doors of the Cathedral open at noon, and degrees begin at 1:00PM. Following the degrees, there will be a reception at the Cathedral for a small cost of $10.

Register today for this fantastic and unique event, and take advantage of this unique opportunity during our Bicentennial year of Freemasonry here in Indiana!

To register, visit the website at: https://is.gd/TriStateDegree

Saturday, October 27, 2018

MSA Issues Disaster Appeal for Florida

2018 has been an especially destructive year in the United States for hurricanes. North and South Carolina both sustained heavy damage last month from Hurricane Florence. Then right on its heels, Hurricane Michael roared out of the Gulf and whacked Florida, completely obliterating several towns in the panhandle.

This morning, Simon LaPlace of the Masonic Service Association has announced that Grand Master John E. Karroum of the Grand Lodge of Florida has requested the MSA issue a Disaster Relief Appeal in consequence of Hurricane Michael and its massive destruction across the panhandle of Florida.

As always, Grand Lodge secretaries and lodges are encouraged to circulate this message.

The Masonic Service Association of North America has received a request from the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Florida, MW John E. Karroum for MSA to issue a Disaster Relief Appeal.
"Hurricane Michael made landfall on October 10, 2018, and caused heavy destruction in its path. A week later the death toll is still rising... Clean up from the hurricane has begun and we have been receiving many phone calls requesting assistance. We have started to distribute monetary donations, but the balance in our Hurricane Fund is rapidly depleting."
As you know, the town of Mexico Beach is virtually destroyed. The cities of Panama City and Port St. Joe were among the hardest hit. People are living without utilities and in many cases without their homes. There is an immediate need for help. Kindly distribute this Appeal to as many as possible.
MSA deducts no part of your contribution to administrative expenses. All expenses, charges by PayPal, bookkeeping, or cost of acknowledgment letters, everything, is absorbed by MSA in its operating budget. Your entire gross donation is sent to the affected jurisdiction. That's the way it's always been, and that's the way it will continue.
Donations can be made online at www.msana.com.
Please forward any donations you feel appropriate to help in this stricken jurisdiction to MSA. Please make checks payable to MSA Disaster Relief Fund and send to 3905 National Drive, STE 280, Burtonsville, MD 20866. When remitting by check, please clearly mark that you wish the funds to go to the Florida Disaster Appeal.
MSA is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
Click image to enlarge
Finally, please bear in mind that the Disaster Appeals from Grand Lodges in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Guatemala are all still active, along with Florida at this time. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

New Grand Lodge of Lebanon Chartered By GL of New York


The Grand Lodge F&AM of New York has issued the following official statement on Wednesday, October 24th, 2018:

The Grand Lodge of New York, F. & A.M., with MW William M. Sardone presiding as the Most Worshipful Grand Master, has authorized and empowered the formation of the “Grand Lodge of the Free & Accepted Masons of Lebanon” in the Republic of Lebanon.
The Grand Lodge of New York gives its blessings to the new Grand Lodge of Lebanon for a successful continuance of its Grand Lodge forever.

The new Grand Lodge of Lebanon is made up of three lodges previously affiliated with the District Grand Lodge of Syria-Lebanon under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. Nine remaining New York-chartered lodges in the area remain under New York's District Grand Lodge authority at this moment in time. That may change.

Additionally, there are other lodges at work in the region: ten are chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and two by the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia (and perhaps others as well). It does not appear that these non-New York lodges have joined the newly established jurisdiction at this time.

Lodges from these differing foreign grand lodges all at work in Lebanon have been involved in friction between their governing bodies over the years. At various times, New York has suspended amity with both D.C. (in 2008) and Scotland (in 2017) over jurisdictional and other conflicts concerning Lebanon lodges. I believe that situation still currently exists with Scotland (someone correct me if I'm wrong). Perhaps this newly established grand lodge will help to calm those waters in time.

A video was also released last night of the charter being issued and can be seen at this Facebook link.


I have been forwarded a copy of the charter issued by New York.

Click to enlarge

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Poll: Recent Interest in Freemasonry By The Public

Please click this post to take a poll about recent public interest in Freemasonry.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

PA Academy of Masonic Knowledge Fall Symposium Oct 27th

Twice a year, the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge meets in Elizabethtown, PA, usually presenting two outstanding speakers at each meeting. The Academy meetings are open to any Mason who wishes to attend.
This coming Saturday, October 27th, the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge will host its Fall Symposium in the Deike Auditorium of the Freemasons Cultural Center on the campus of the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, PA.

 A couple of years back, they began live-streaming these events so that Masons from around their state (and around the world) could participate. The event will begin at 9 AM EST and will run until about 3 PM EST (with plenty of breaks along the way.)

The speakers for this event are Bro. John Michael Greer, noted Druidic and esoteric philosopher speaking of Freemasonry and Secret Societies, and Bro. Tyler Anderson, Grand Historian of the Grand Lodge of New Mexico, speaking on Freemasonry's historical opposition to the KKK. Information on their presentations can be found at:

If you'd like to tune in for the live stream, you can do so at the address below. Note, the live stream will appear the morning of the event.

If you can't participate Saturday, they will post the videos of the lectures immediately following the event at the link below. Also, you can view previous speakers at that link as well.

Florida Lodge Destruction After Hurricane

Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle on October 10th, causing enormous damage. Several news sites today carried new photos of some of the local devastation. 

Port St. Joe Lodge No. 111 at 214 Reid Avenue, in the town of Port St. Joe, is largely in ruins after its roof was torn off when the storm made landfall. 

Located in the Florida panhandle, Port St. Joe sits right on the southern coast, east of Panama City Beach, and just west of the Apalachicola National Forest.

Happy New Year - It's 6022 AM!

In the 1650s, Archbishop James Ussher of the Church of Ireland, set out to calculate the exact date of God's creation of the world. Using the biblical account along with a comparison of Middle Eastern histories, Hebrew genealogy, and other known events, he determined that the Earth was created on Sunday, October 23, 4004 B.C. 

That makes today New Years Day. It's 6022 A.M. (Anno Mundi).

At about the same time, John Lightfoot, vice chancellor of Cambridge University, went on to further clarify that the Creation actually happened at about 9 a.m. Ussher disagreed, pegging the time as 1 a.m. 

No, Daylight Saving Time was not specified.

Ussher's claim was detailed in his massive volume, Annals of the World, which was published in 1658, two years after his death. A meticulous researcher, compiler and Bible scholar, Ussher used the date of Nebuchadnezzar as a historical reference point, and traced the biblical genealogies backward from there to arrive at a date for creation. He spent five years traveling Europe, seeking historical documents and other writings to aid in his research. He then compiled his collection of world events and biblical events in chronological order.

Master Books published a beautiful hardback edition of Ussher's Annals back in 2003. Few modern readers have had the opportunity to read the book, which sets out Ussher's determination of exact dates and times of every major and minor event depicted in the Old and New Testaments.

Ussher was an intensely devout man in a turbulent time, and daring to calculate the date of the Creation was deemed heretical by some theologians at the time. It was an uneasy transition period as the scientific preoccupations of the Enlightenment were frequently clashing with the established religious dogma of the past. So it made sense that Ussher's work was posthumously released. Nevertheless, his establishment of this important date was eagerly accepted by the Christian world in a remarkably short period of time.

Ussher called his dated calendar Anno Mundi, the 'Year of the World.' Ussher and Lightfoot’s calculations of the exact date and time of the Creation were soon widely accepted as fact by most Christian denominations. Beginning in 1701, new editions of the King James Bible clearly stated it right up front in an added introduction that was not part of the biblical text, but might as well have been as far as readers were concerned. Up until the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin were popularized, many Christians (and Jewish scholars as well) were firmly convinced that the Earth was no more than about 6,000 years old.

Because Ussher’s Creation date was so strongly believed by the time of modern Freemasonry’s origin in 1717, Masons began dating documents using 4004 B.C. as their beginning year . . . sort of. 4004 was an inconvenient number to remember, so Masons simply took the current year and added 4,000 to it. So, 1717 became 5717, and today 2018 becomes 6018 Anno Lucis, or A.L., since Anno Lucis means “Year of Light” in Latin. Masons called it that to coincide with the Genesis passage, “And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” They did this early on to lend the fraternity an air of greater, more solemn antiquity. If they dated their documents as being 5,717 years old, they’d certainly sound more respectable and impressive than some newly formed London drinking club. Thus, today you will often see two dates on Masonic cornerstones—both A.D. and A.L.

Meanwhile, the Royal Arch, Cryptic Masons, Knights Templar, and the Scottish Rite all have their own different calendars and dating systems. But that's a different post. For more about the many differing calendars you will encounter throughout Masonic appendant bodies, have a look at my earlier entry, Happy A.D. 2018 - A.L. 6018! 

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Morgan Affair of 1826 and Anti-Masonic Politics

As an election season is again upon us, it's worth repeating the story of the founding of the first third-party in America, the Anti-Masonic Party. If you're a Mason and don't know about the Morgan Affair of 1826, with the subsequent anti-Masonic mania that followed it across America throughout the 1830s, there is an excellent summary article in yesterday's Washington Post. Have a look at How an abduction by the mysterious Freemasons led to a third political party — the nation’s first by  Robert Mitchell.

William Morgan
In September 1826, the disappearance of a man in a remote corner of upstate New York set off 25 years of anti-Masonic hysteria. In the little town of Batavia, a disgruntled and down-on-his-luck purported Freemason named William Morgan announced his intentions to write a book exposing all the “secrets” of the Masons. A group of local Masons decided that Morgan was something of a scoundrel and, by exposing the rituals of the lodge, he was breaking his Masonic vows. They abducted Morgan and carried him off to Fort Niagara on Lake Ontario, along the Canadian border. The conspirators claimed they paid Morgan $500, gave him a horse, pointed him north, and told him never to come back. Whatever the truth may have been, Morgan was never seen again, and some evidence suggested that the men might very well have drowned him in the lake. Allegations quickly arose that the Freemasons had executed Morgan for breaking his Masonic obligation using bloody penalties of Masonic ritual.

It's entirely arguable that the enthusiasm to rapidly expand Masonic membership into the American frontier without any serious oversight between the period of the Revolution through the 1820s undoubtedly produced Masons ignorant of the aim, purpose, and heritage of the Craft. 

Fifty-four men were indicted in connection with his disappearance, but only thirty-nine were ever tried, and none were convicted on murder charges. It was discovered that the prosecutor and many of the jurors were Freemasons, and the trial resulted in very lenient sentences. The result was a firestorm of protest that quickly spread across New York, and then the country. 

The public believed that the Masons had killed Morgan “according to Masonic ritual” and then cheated justice by receiving short sentences from their Masonic friends who controlled the courts and the government, including Governor and Freemason Dewitt Clinton. What began as a small-town crime became a nationwide outrage, and it certainly sold lots of newspapers. It remains the only authentic case in history of Freemasons seriously accused of murdering a member who had broken his Masonic vows.

In his outstanding book Island Freemasonry, author John Bizzack writes:
"Batavia Lodge 433, chartered by the Grand Lodge of New York, was a new lodge chartered only thirteen months before Morgan’s abduction. Batavia is located more than three hundred miles from the grand lodge, and as roads at the time were far less accommodating of travel, its creation suggests a repeat of what occurred in 1788 when the Grand Lodge of Virginia chartered Lexington Lodge 25, more than 250 miles from the nearest existing lodge in that state. That is, it could be presumed that there would be little to no assurance of appropriate Masonic instruction or regular oversight to better assure adherence to practices. From 1773 through 1826, New York admitted an average of 1,754 new Masons each year.  It is impracticable to accept that all members in those 432 lodges, particularly those in the far reaches of the state, were properly instructed, much less acculturated to have a strict adherence to rules and regulations during that period...
Batavia Lodge 433, the newest of the twenty-seven lodges chartered in that region from 1812 to 1825—is an example of the rapid expansion in just one county over a thirteen-year period. By 1830, thirteen of the twenty-seven had ceased operations suggesting that many warrants were likely not needed in the first place.
There was disharmony in the new Batavia lodge well before Morgan was kidnapped. While records of the depth of those tensions do not exist, there are enough details available to offer new insight into the discord present in the lodge from its inception.
In 1830, after twenty grand jury hearings, fifty-four Freemasons were indicted for the offense. Fifteen trials of thirty-nine Freemasons ensued, resulting in ten convictions for the abduction, but no convictions for murder, as Morgan’s body was never found.  The multiple trials saw some of the leading attorneys of the state defending the accused. As Michael A. Davis writes, “Given the evidence of jury tampering, the light sentences, and the repeatedly blocked investigations, it was reasonable for anti- Masons to see something deeply amiss with the Masonic narrative of Morgan’s vanishing.”

William Morgan’s Masonic ritual exposé was published after his death, and it was an instant bestseller. Over one hundred anti-Masonry meetings were held in New York in 1827. On St. John’s Day that year, 3,000 protesters marched to the lodge in Batavia, attacked the Masons inside, and looted the building. The next year, a statewide anti-Masonic convention was held in Utica, and over the next five years, the anti-Masonic movement went national.

By 1829, over 100 anti-Masonic newspapers were being published, mostly in the north. Almost as quickly, anti-Masonic political parties formed in several states, and in 1831, the Anti-Masonic Party became the first third-party movement in the United States, running former Freemason William Wirt for president, carrying the state of Vermont, and receiving 8% of the national vote. The party elected governors in Pennsylvania and Vermont, as well as a number of U.S. congressmen. Their platform was simple: Masonry was antidemocratic and anti-American, and it opposed Christianity. Therefore, Masonry must be driven out of the country. One of the party's most high-profile supporters was was President John Quincy Adams, who was had been defeated for re-election in 1828 by Andrew Jackson, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee.
Another supporter was future Secretary of State William H. Seward. The Anti-Masonic Party holds the distinction of being the first political party in the U.S. to hold a national convention.

Anti-Masonic hysteria was so bad that for nearly two decades, a toddler couldn’t get sick in the United States without someone claiming the Masons had poisoned the kid’s porridge. Lodges went underground or closed all over the country as men renounced their membership, and several Grand Lodges shut down as well. Nationwide, Masonic membership dropped from 100,000 in 1827 to less than 40,000 ten years later. It would be the mid-1840s before American Freemasonry would begin to recover.

In  the decades that followed, there was an enormous amount of misinformation – both pro and con – that was circulated about William Morgan and the disastrous period following it. One of the very best modern books available to understand the Morgan Affair and its after effects is Stephen Dafoe's definitive Morgan: The Scandal That Shook Freemasonry (2009). Highly recommended whether you think you are familiar with it, or if you are new to the story. Stephen's book tackles the topic with the benefit of 190 years of distance and modern research methods. Plus, it is written in a partially novelistic manner that avoids the textbook dryness that 19th century authors favored. Read this one first.

Dafoe put it best when he wrote, 
"It is the story of how a handful of young, impetuous members of the Masonic fraternity took matters into their own hands to prevent its publication and how their plans took a deadly fork in the road, nearly exterminating the very organization they sought to protect."