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

Sunday, June 16, 2019

PHA Mason Presides Over GL of Michigan Research Lodge

I've been meaning to post this for several months now, but it got swallowed up in what passes for my filing system. Brother Rob Moore in Detroit sent the following information to me way back in February:
On January 26th, WB Harry Weaver, a member of Redeemer Lodge No. 53, PHA in Detroit became Worshipful Master of the Michigan Lodge of Research and Information No. 1.
This is the first time in Michigan history that a Prince Hall Brother is presiding over a Lodge within the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Michigan. It may be the first such case ever anywhere. In Michigan, as I'm sure is the case in most jurisdictions, membership in Research Lodges is open to any regular Master Mason in good standing in a Lodge within or in amity with the Grand Lodge of Michigan.
Speaking of Research Lodges, Michigan now has a fourth one. Fiat Lux Lodge of Research and Education U.D. in Marquette recently received its dispensation. It joins Michigan Lodge of Research and Information No. 1 in Detroit, Alexandria Lodge of Research and Study No. 2 in Grand Rapids, and Pythagoras Lodge of Research and Information No. 3 in Lansing.
I believe that Michigan is now tied with Georgia at four a piece, and exceeded only by New York and California. Masonic education is alive and well here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

MasonicCon 2019 in Los Angeles 7/12-14

The 2019 South Pasadena Masonic Lodge MasonicCon has announced its full lineup of speakers and events for July 12-14 in Los Angeles.
  • Arturo De Hoyos
  • Charles Fisher
  • Michael Jarzabek
  • Robert Johnson
  • Adam Kendall
  • Angel Millar
  • Bryan Simmons (Mastermind of the original MasonicCon in Massachusetts)
  • Josef Wages

Plus the premiere of filmmaker Johnny Royal's new documentary, Illuminated, about the history, influence, importance, and relevance of the once very real Bavarian Illuminati.

The weekend will also feature a seven course Festive Board open to Masons, non-Masons, and significant others.

General admission is $125, and a $165 Executive Pass also gets you a pile of extra MasonicCon tchotchkes to lord over the proles. Act now and they are offering some early bird specials that drop the prices to $95 and $145 respectively.

For reservations and more information, visit the MasonicCon website HERE.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Of Friends and Stones and the Undiscovered Country

It was, I believe, Iago in Othello who once said, “If you don’t go to a guy’s funeral, he won’t come to yours.”

Or perhaps it was Yogi Berra.

Alice and I drove to western Pennsylvania last weekend for the funeral service of Brother Richard Finch. I've known Dick and his wife Ingrid and their two daughters since I was about twelve years old. They were a bit younger than me, but my sister grew up with the Finch girls as especially close, lifelong friends. All of us are almost five decades years older now, and our two families have been as one all this time, despite time and distance. Even when lots of mileage separated us all, we found more than our share of reasons to get together on a regular basis.

When I told my family and friends that I was joining the Freemasons in 1998, Dick Finch was one of those men among my parents' friends who told me they were Masons, too. Dick was disappointed that he missed my EA degree, but he made sure to be at my FC and MM one day event at Calvin Prather Lodge in March 1999. And the moment it was concluded, Dick went from being that parent from my parents' generation who undoubtedly always had a snapshot in his head of me at 12-years old, to Brother Dick. In fact, he went out of his way every time I saw him afterwards or spoke on the phone to say "Brother Christopher,” and he’d always say it with that infectious, cheerful flourish that was pure Dick Finch.

Dick had left Western Pennsylvania and joined the Air Force in the 1950s, served in Korea, got married, and settled down to raise a family in Indiana, where he spent many years as a police officer. After retirement, he didn't really retire, and he became part of the Target racing team staff. He had an ebullient, outgoing manner, and the sort of instantly memorable personality you’d chuckle about in the car after first meeting him at a party. Dick never once met a stranger, and he was just as much at home joshing with the state's governor or the kitchen staff at a gala event.

Choices were simpler 50 years ago when families rarely strayed from their close, extended families. Even though they had spent most of their adult lives in Indianapolis, Dick and Ingrid moved to Hawaii a couple of years ago to be with their oldest daughter. He actually passed away the day before they were all due to fly to California for my own mother's 90th birthday party in January. Dick was 89 himself.

So, as always in these days of families moving far from their birthplaces and scattering across the country, there was a brief conundrum over where to lay Brother Dick to his final resting place. He was born near Graysville, Pennsylvania; lived most of his married life in Indianapolis, Indiana, where the bulk of their lifetime friends were; relocated to Louisville, Kentucky to be near their youngest daughter and grandkids; and finally to Hawaii in their most senior years where the weather was always perfect, and their oldest daughter lived. 

In the end, it was decided that Brother Dick’s earthly remains should repose in the small Methodist churchyard cemetery in Graysville from whence he came, at the end of a little hillside of countless other Finches who had first settled there in the 1800s, raised families, passed away, and left their mark on the landscape, their community, and the character of their descendants.

Brother Dick first joined North Park Lodge 646 in Indianapolis back in 1969 when he was a police officer for the Indianapolis Police Department. And because he had been a Freemason for 50 years, that mystic tie that binds us all reached all the way across from Hawaii to Indiana to Pennsylvania. 

And that’s how this full circle was completed for me that Saturday.

We all descended on tiny Graysville on Saturday morning. His widow Ingrid and daughters and son-in-law and grand children all came from Hawaii and Louisville. Alice and I represented Indianapolis, while my sister flew in from California. Brother Dick’s extended Finch relatives also came from Pennsylvania where they had never left. Despite the storms and tornadoes that had blown all across Ohio and into Pennsylvania all week long, the sky miraculously cleared, and it was a quiet and perfect morning. Even the Veterans Administration managed to deliver his veteran’s headstone three months ahead of their own prediction. That alone was a miracle all by itself.

I had contacted the Grand Secretary’s office in Pennsylvania for the family, and 29th District Deputy Grand Master David Moore and brethren from Waynesburg Lodge 123 and their Worshipful Master Charles A. Lemley, Jr. came to perform Dick’s Masonic service. WB Jason Craig, Past Master of Valley Lodge 459 was also there, and it was one of those bizarre cases of fate or coincidence or Providence that seems to happen among Freemasons. Jason was the first Master of the first lodge to ask me to travel out of Indiana and speak at his Pennsylvania lodge way back in 2006 when my Dumb Book was first published, and it was the oddest irony that that first speech was appropriately in “Masontown.” Thirteen years melted away as we again greeted each other as though it had been last week.

Pennsylvania’s Masonic Craft rituals are very different from any other jurisdiction in the U.S., and the same is true of their funeral ritual. So, even though I joined the fraternity because of the Masonic service I witnessed in Texas 20 years ago, and despite the fact that I’ve been to dozens of Masonic funerals ever since, this one was entirely new for me. It was as though I was discovering it for the first time all over again, but this time standing beside Brethren and facing the family I had known most of my life. Placing that sprig of evergreen next to the little wooden box of Dick’s ashes was the toughest dozen steps I’ve taken in a very long time.

After we had concluded, Ute read a wonderful tribute to her father, and I’d like to reprint part of it here:
"It seems fitting that we are gathered in this part of the country. This area is where my father grew up and this is where his character was shaped... his morals, values and beliefs instilled.

"My father was born as the only child to Lulu Finch, who as a single mom raised Dad in a loving home in the tiny village of Nineveh that included his grand dad James, grandma Maude and his uncle Bob, whom he considered a brother. The family home had no indoor plumbing. They had an outhouse and used gas lamps for lights. There was no furnace, instead they used a heating stone in the living room. Dad often reminisced with Elke and me that his childhood was in a simpler time, with little possessions and manual labor performed by all. Dad's chores included bringing coal in from coal shed, mowing, gardening, shoveling snow. He worked in the corn, hay, wheat and oat fields in the summer making 75 cents per day. He recalled he loved the smell of alfalfa.

"His family went to Waynesburg on Saturday nights for a cheap movie. And he loved sitting at the restaurant at the GC Murphy to drink chocolate sodas. The only family road trips he could remember was to Fort Necessity and a jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia in the rumble-seat of his grand dad's car.

"Once they got electricity, the family would sit in the living room and listen to the radio. Hence my dad's love of old time songs. In the winter, he sled the nearby hills on a Yankee Jumper he had made, fished in the creek behind his house, and with the other kids made a swimming hole by building a dam in the creek. Elementary school was in a two-room building in Nineveh. One of his greatest childhood days was when a friend's dad took a bunch of kids up to Pittsburgh to a real swimming pool. It was 50 cents to swim all day…
When dad was 18, he and two friends went to join the Navy. But one of his friends had bad teeth, so they joined the Air Force instead—they weren’t so picky! From there, dad's world opened up as he traveled to places like South Dakota, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas, Hawaii, Korea and Germany.
 "I share all this to point out that during these childhood years, the foundation was being set for the man whose life we celebrate today… Dad lived to the principles taught to him with generosity, good humor and an everlasting positivity on life. He was grateful for everything, even if is was just a meal I cooked for him. He didn't want to complain or have anyone worry about him. You could always count on my dad to walk in the door with a smile on his face and give a cheerful greeting. He was Mr. Aloha…
"I am my father's daughter. I carry his DNA, as does my sister Elke, and his grandchildren Nik and Ali. But really, Dad left his DNA, his heart print, on all of us and we are all better people for having him in our lives…"
Funeral services happen every day, and everyday people read stories just like this every day to a grieving group of friends and families hundreds of times all over the country. Every single day. Sometimes it’s enlightening to hear them about someone you never knew. They aren’t famous, their town wasn’t named after them, they never had a statue, or published a book, or even had their picture in the paper their hometown doesn’t publish anymore.

Yet, the Brother Dick Finches of this world who lived through the last two-thirds of the 20th century inhabited a world that changed more and faster than at any other time in history. They changed it. And that is a trick of the Ages that may never happen again. Far beyond a mere onslaught of inventions or technological breakthroughs that altered peoples’ day-to-day living, nearly every single aspect of daily life, community, society has almost completely changed since Brother Dick’s boyhood. And yet, it was arguably his family’s lack of prosperity and near total deprivation of 'things' we don’t even think of today that built his character, instilled his principles, and made him the sort of eternally cheerful, loving and generous man he was. And a Freemason.

After everyone else departed, my wife and I remained at that little Methodist churchyard for a time and looked out at the field of silent stones. I said to Alice, “They were better than us. They were better, stronger, more resilient, more responsible, more compassionate, more giving than we are today.” Maybe that’s true. Or maybe that was just maudlin, post-funeral, funereal wistfulness for a friend now gone. It’s hard to say. But I can’t help but feel that the generation that fought WWII and the Korean War was the last one that still reached for “nobler deeds, higher thoughts, and greater achievements,” instead of just grabbing instead. Nothing was impossible for them, because they had seen so much change in their lifetimes. Many had been born in the sort of home Dick had been, with no electricity and a shack out back, watched Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon, and now had a super computer in their pockets. So nothing was out of reach for them.

As we walked back to the car, I looked back at the grassy field where Brother Dick had now taken his place among the many Finches who had all traveled to that Undiscovered Country before him, and I was struck by a very different thought. The neat rows of low, aging stones lose their individuality from a distance, and in many ways, they resemble the beginnings of what almost looks like the foundation of a building that hasn’t quite been completed yet. There are still empty spaces that need filling in before the actual structure can rise above it, but they will come eventually.

Too many of us today say as we walk away from funerals, “Hey, just dump my ashes in the ocean or scatter them in the backyard.” But that’s such an immature notion, because it partially robs the future of those necessary foundation stones. When Ute spoke of her father, the word that kept coming up was “principles.” And that is why Freemasonry has been, and will remain so vital, no matter how large or small it may become. We still teach those principles to our brethren in a world that has turned its collective backs on them. We speak of being "living stones for that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." But once we are gone, if we depart this Earth without leaving even a single mark upon it, those who follow us will have nothing to learn from, and no foundation to continue building better than ourselves. It implies that our own lives have no meaning. 

Of course, we all leave our imprint on the people around us. Brother Dick's legacies were sitting around the table at Applebee's after the service was over that Saturday. All of us are the temples that rose from his foundation. But three generations, or five, or ten from now, need to be able to look back and be reminded of where they came from, and who built the world they are briefly inhabiting.

When speculative Freemasonry was still evolving in the 18th century, the Master Mason degree became a lesson that countless other fraternal groups throughout the world later sought to immitate. Namely, to live each day as if it were your last on Earth; that Death is the great leveler; and to fully understand the importance of virtues and tenets and responsibilities, contemplate the grave.

To paraphrase that great American philosopher Sheldon Leonard, the men who designed this fraternity sure knew their potatoes.

His column is broken, and all of us mourn.

Requiescat in pace, my old friend and Brother.

French 'Yellow Vests' Attack Rennes Masonic Temple

On Saturday, June 1, a group of French 'Gilets Jaunes' (Yellow Vest) demonstrators attacked a Masonic Temple in Rennes, France. According to the Ouest-France.fr website, about a hundred Yellow Vest supporters in Rennes were ending their weekly demonstration when about a dozen of them broke off and headed for the Masonic Temple on Rue Theirs. A lodge meeting was going on inside at the time.

According to Jean-Pierre Planckaert, a member of the Grand Orient de France, the group had obviously been drinking. "They started to kick the entry door. They were almost all drunken. They broke the door, then threw bottles of beer on the ground floor. The guardian of the Temple (Tyler) was very scared." 

Planckaert is worried. "The Freemasons are often the target of some Yellow Vests, particularly on social networks. They regularly denounce the great 'Judeo-Masonic conspiracy' who control the world... We'd already had the [grafitti] tags on our Temple in Rennes, but never this type of attack. We condemn it with the utmost firmness. The guardian is still very [shaken]." 

The female Tyler was able to prevent the vandals from barging into the meeting going on in the lodge room next door. Fortunately, the Temple itself sits beside a police station, and they intervened immediately.

The Masonic Temple of Rennes, which dates from 1932, hosts between 24 and 25 meetings each month of several lodges in the city. An official complaint was filed with the authorities by the Lodge of Perfect Union, which is affiliated with the Grande Orient de France, owner of the building. The Grand Orient de France is the largest Masonic obedience in that country, but is not recognized as regular by the majority of Freemasons throughout the world. They permit women to join their lodges, as do several other French jurisdictions, and by some estimates, nearly one quarter of the Masons in France are women.

In March, a group of Yellow Vest protesters attacked a Masonic Temple in the southwest town of Tarbes, near the Spanish border.

This past weekend marks the 29th straight weekend of Yellow Vest protests in France. Since the very first high-visibility demonstrations on Paris' Champs Elysées in November of last year, increasing reports of vandalism against Jews, Jewish business, and generic 'anti-Zionism' sloganeering have appeared in the press. Anti-Masonic sentiments have been less reported, and seem to be less frequent. Masons don't appear to a widespread target. The overall movement itself is remarkably impartial and politically and socially ecumenical. But because the Yellow Vests are seen widely as a backlash against growing globalism and a more distant government out of touch with the public, they have attracted a small gaggle of believers in conspiracy theories with the same old usual suspects: Jews, world bankers, New World Order elites closeted in their secret societies like the Bilderbergers, the Trilateral Commission, and of course, the Freemasons.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

What Come We Here To Do?

"All human beings have a sense of dignity regardless of class, status or title. When our dignity is not acknowledged, feelings are hurt and offense is sometimes taken. This, if left unchecked, can lead to detrimental thoughts and feelings of sadness, anger, spite, grudges, resentment, vengeance, hate and fear. Fear being the root of all these.
"There is no place for any of these in our Temple, therefore in our lives. If these negatives are not allowed in our Temples, then they should consciously not be allowed in our homes, or as  a whole, in our minds and hearts. For we are Masons amongst Masons. Love Masonry. Although it is impossible to love every Mason, it is however important to hate none."
Brother B— R—  
Every Masonic lodge is different. Every single time I visit and sit in a Masonic lodge meeting I learn something new. I never know if it will be a ritual difference, or local custom, or a bit of education from a Brother,  or even some new decorative item I've never seen before. It could just be an offhand comment by a Brother that jogs my thinking in some new way.

I visited Spes Novum Lodge U.D. in Libertyville, Illinois on Friday night to speak at their stated meeting and to enjoy their fellowship. Many thanks to WM Scott Dueball and my friend WB Robert Johnson for their kind invitation. Their new lodge has its own differences that give it a unique flavor and personality, with a small, dedicated membership that truly knows and cares for each other. I know in my heart that these small lodges of less than 30 members are the way to our future by following our past.

Almost 20 years ago, I read in early online Masonic chat rooms and BBSs of a practice conducted in European lodges that few in the U.S. followed. They required their Entered Apprentices and Fellow Craft Masons to write down their thoughts about their degrees and to present them in open lodge as part of their proficiency requirements. Some foreign jurisdictions call this "submitting a piece of architecture." The goal is to make a new member reflect on the lessons of each degree in a way that is more meaningful than just memorization of a catechism (which is important, too) before moving on to the next. We brought this up when we wrote Laudable Pursuit as the Knights of the North back in 2003. The Masonic Restoration Foundation also encouraged the practice about the same time. 

Well, it's been a while, but the practice is still rare in the U.S., and that's a damned shame.

The quote above is not from some deep thinking, grizzled old Past Master with a PhD in Philosophy. It came from a paper read by a new Fellow Craft at Spes Novum Lodge on Friday night. They were his thoughts on the lessons of the Entered Apprentice degree. For the last fifteen years, I've said to Masonic audiences that you'd be amazed at the way new Masons see this fraternity and the lessons we can learn from them by asking their thoughts after experiencing the degrees for the first time. More of us need to see the fraternity through the eyes of new members, if only to remind us occasionally what we're all supposed to be doing here.  

My own jurisdiction forbids me from publicly naming a Brother until he is a Master Mason, so for the time being I will merely identify him as Brother B.R. He knows who he is, and so do the Brethren in lodge Friday night. 

I thank him for reminding all of us what come we here to do. All over again.

'Hiram's Rangers' Masonic Western Action Shooters

After twenty years of thinking I had my finger on the pulse and my ear to the ground (a startlingly vulnerable position to find oneself, to be sure), I just discovered a new group that's gotten sizable enough nationwide to be newsworthy. I never cease to be amazed at the boundless diversity of interests within this fraternity that manages to find enough kindred spirits to band together into a new and inventive Masonic group. 

Meet Hiram's Rangers. As described on one Facebook page, Hiram's Rangers is a Masonic club comprised of brothers who have a passion for 'The Old Bang 'N' Clang,' Western Action Shooters. To receive the degree you must be a Western action shooter, be clad in 19th century clothing, and preferably be attending an event associated with western action shooting. Much like numerous other smaller associative or informal Masonic groups, once you become a Ranger, you are empowered to transmit the degree to others who meet the requirements – sort of like the Turtles, or the Grand College of Memes. And, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention The Invisible Lodge for Master Mason magicians, or the National Camping Travelers for Masonic RVers.

Freemasonry attracts more than its share of brethren with an active interest in history, and within that group there are numerous Masons who engage in historical reenacting. There's the Sword of Bunker Hill, tied to the Revolutionary War period. There's the National Order of the Beaver degree (or "Buck Skinners' Degree”) for Masons who participate in historical Rendezvous as fur traders. The medieval Knight Templar group Levant Preceptory in Indiana grew in part from a Mason who heavily participated in the Society for Creative Anachronism. And there are countless others all over the country with various regional levels of awareness.

So if you're an active Western shooter and a Mason, ask around. Something tells me this will grow quickly.

(H/T MW Kenneth Roy, Jr.)

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Speaking at Spes Novum Lodge in Chicago 6/7

After months of rearranging, canceling, rescheduling and much general mucking about on my part, I am at long last going to be traveling to Chicago and speaking to the brethren of Spes Novum Lodge tomorrow evening - Friday, June 7th. Many thanks to Brother Robert Johnson for his kind invitation.

Granted dispensation in 2017 and chartered by the Grand lodge of Illinois, Spes Novum is a different kind of lodge, one that values education and makes it a centerpiece to all of their meetings. 

With that in mind, I chose to ignore their guideline to speak about charity this month. Because it's June and the Feast of St. John will be sneaking up on us in a couple of weeks, I will instead be exploring the endless range of symbolic concepts to be found jam packed into one of the simplest symbols we find in Masonic ritual: the lowly point within a circle, with its parallel lines.

Why they'd want a Dummy to address them, I can't imagine. Perhaps in deference to my age. 

And that I'm only a tank of gas away.

For more information about visiting Spes Novum Lodge, see their website at www.spesnovum.com and contact their Secretary.

New NBC TV Series Will Feature Dan Brown's 'The Lost Symbol' At Last

Before Dan Brown's Masonic thriller The Lost Symbol was released in 2009, public and mercenary interest in the unpublished novel and all things Freemasonry were as close to a fever pitch as anything could get in the shrinking publishing and pop culture world. Brown himself had let the cat out of the bag five years ahead of schedule by letting it be known he was going to write about the Freemasons in Washington, D.C. as the sequel to the sixth most popular book in the English language - The Da Vinci Code. After  years worth of delays on Brown's part, the marketplace and the airwaves were flooded with Masonic related books, TV shows, and even National Treasure, all trying to cash in on Dan Brown mania. 

And Freemasonry itself was a big beneficiary of all of the renewed attention. 

If you heard me speak starting about a dozen years ago, you might recall that I told Masonic audiences everywhere that our membership problems would soon be over. The Lost Symbol and its inevitable big bloated Robert Langdon movie with Tom Hanks were going to be so popular that floods of eager petitioners would be pounding on the doors and taking battering rams to our West Gates. Guys would be handing over their pants in such huge numbers we'd all have to build new closets. Lines for new degree conferrals were going to be longer than trying to get into a Miley Cyrus concert. Heck, grand lodges were going to have to rent NFL domed football stadiums for all of those one-day classes packed with Lost Symbol devotees who suddenly decided that Freemasonry was for them. 

Yeah, well, didn't happen.

After The Lost Symbol's release, my own book, Deciphering The Lost Symbol, was designed as a Masonic guidebook to help Masons make sense of what was true or imaginary regarding the fraternity in Brown's fanciful chase across Washington and its Masonic landmarks. But while the new novel was decent enough, it didn't capture the public imagination the way Brown's two prior ones had - The Da Vinci Code, and Angels & Demons

As much as we like to think we're an important audience, Masons who buy books and read them are a minuscule sparrow fart in the great pop culture demographic these days. But even before the novel's release, it was pre-determined that a movie would soon be made of it. 

While Freemasons certainly salivated over the potential of two hours of big screen Masonic good guys and the House of the Temple onscreen for the final, inevitable big showdown, the reading public had the same sort of reaction to the book itself that Star Trek fans had for the big budget flopbuster Star Trek: The Motion Picture back in 1979. "Um, yeah, it's really good," was the sort of tepid response. And movie producers were pretty underwhelmed.

Worse, after four different screenplay writers and even Brown himself attempted to make a filmable script out of it (since 20% of the novel takes place in pitch darkness), Ron Howard's production team decided to leapfrog The Lost Symbol and went for Brown's NEXT novel, Inferno. The Lost Symbol became, well, lost.

Well, it's back.

The Deadline website is reporting that NBC has just given a production commitment to Langdon, a TV drama based on Dan Brown’s Masonic novel The Lost Symbol, from Daniel Cerone (Motive, Constantine), Imagine Television Studios (the TV division of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment), CBS TV Studios, and Universal Television. So, we might at least start checking the rental rates on high school stadiums, just in case...

From the story:

Written and executive produced by Cerone, Langdon follows the early adventures of famed Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who finds himself pulled into a series of deadly puzzles when his mentor is kidnapped. The CIA forces him onto a task force where he uncovers a chilling conspiracy.
Brown executive produces with Imagine TV Studios’ Grazer, Howard, Francie Calfo, Samie Falvey and Anna Culp. Imagine TV Studios, CBS TV Studios and Universal TV co-produce.
The Last Symbol is the third Brown novel featuring the character of Langdon, following Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, and is set after the events of The Da Vinci Code.

The Langdon TV series is a natural extension to the Robert Langdon universe Imagine Entertainment had built on the feature side at Columbia Pictures with three movies produced by the company and directed by principal Ron Howard, which starred Tom Hanks as Langdon: The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons and Inferno, based on the fourth book in the series. The company also had developed a movie adaptation of The Lost Symbol at Sony as a follow-up to Angels & Demons before the studio went with Inferno instead.

The Langdon TV series is a natural extension to the Robert Langdon universe Imagine Entertainment had built on the feature side at Columbia Pictures with three movies produced by the company and directed by principal Ron Howard, which starred Tom Hanks as Langdon: The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons and Inferno, based on the fourth book in the series. The company also had developed a movie adaptation of The Lost Symbol at Sony as a follow-up to Angels & Demons before the studio went with Inferno instead.
Just like the Angels & Demons movie took place after the events in The Da Vinci Code, opposite to the chronological order in the books, Langdon has been conceived as a prequel, focusing on a younger Robert Langdon to change the timeline in the novels. Imagine TV set the project at CBS TV Studios through the companies’ first-look deal. The series had been in development at the studio at least since last September.

No time frame given. Looks like Tom Hanks is out, as is his odd haircut, and it'll be a younger Langdon symbologist on the trail. And plenty of these type of early announcements go nowhere - this has actually been underway for nine months. But you never know. 

My guess is this was suddenly resurrected as a TV project based on high ratings from Lodge 49 and the Sky TV UGLE five parter that Hulu aired last Fall.

NBC Exec: "These Freemason guys are hot again. Call somebody. Get somebody. And get me somebody while I'm waiting."

You might want to start renovating that closet.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

UPDATED: Grand Master of Florida Passes Away


MW John Elias Karroum, the sitting Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Florida F&AM, passed away on Friday night, after collapsing at their Annual Communication last week. 

It was under Karroum's leadership in 2018-19 that Florida restored fraternal relations with Cuba, and after almost fifteen years of attempts, finally achieved joint recognition with its Prince Hall counterpart, the MW Union Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons, Florida, Belize, Central America & Jurisdiction, Incorporated, PHA.

The Florida Lodge of Research posted the following tragic message early Saturday morning on its Facebook page:

It is with a heavy heart that we must inform you all that M:.W:. John E. Karroum, Past Grand Master of Masons of Florida, has passed to the Celestial Lodge on High. 
As most of you know, M:.W:. Bro. Karroum collapsed during the annual Grand Lodge Communication in Orlando this past week. He never left the hospital following this event.
The Grand Lodge of Florida has asked that we do not attempt to contact the Karroum family at this time as they are grieving and need their privacy.
Please keep the Karroum family in your prayers as they grieve the loss of a great family man. 
Information regarding M:.W:. Bro. Karroum's funeral arrangements will be forthcoming for those who are interested in paying their respects. 
Alas, My Brother....

M∴W∴ John Elias Karroum was born in Damascus Syria. He attended and graduated from College de Peres Lazaristes and Damascus University Medical School and then graduated as a Medical Doctor in 1974. 
M∴W∴ Karroum received the Three Symbolic Degrees of Freemasonry as a member of Zahle Lodge No 1047, Chartered by The Grand Lodge of Scotland in Zahle, Lebanon, in 1977. He is a life member of his mother Lodge. He then immigrated to Venezuela, where his family lived and where he worked as a General Practitioner for two years. In 1979 he moved to the United States to pursue a higher education in Medicine. He became Board Certified in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology and in Dermatopathology. He practices his specialty and has been the Medical Director of Broward Medical Lab in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, since 1997.
M∴W∴ Karroum joined Boynton Lodge No 236, F. & A.M., in 2001 and served as Junior Steward, Senior Deacon, Senior Warden, and as Worshipful Master. He also served as Secretary of his Lodge from 2007 through 2015. He has served his District in various Committee Chairmanships from 2004 through 2014. He served as District Deputy Grand Master for M∴W∴ Jim J Harris in 2011 and as District Instructor in 2007. He also served on the Board of Trustees of the Masonic Home for five years. He served as Admissions and Relief Committee Chairman for one year and Chairman of the Budget Committee of the Masonic Home for the past three years. He was elected to the Office of Junior Grand Warden on May 26, 2015 at the 186th Annual Grand Communication.
M∴W∴ Karroum is a 32° KCCH Scottish Rite Mason in the Valley of Lake Worth, Lake Worth, Florida, and continues to be an active supporter of the Scottish Rite. He is also a proud member of the Palm Beach York Rite Bodies, Mahi Shriners, AAONMS, and is a member of the Royal Order of Scotland. He is Gold Card Perpetual Member of Boynton Lodge No. 236 F. & A.M. and Apalachicola Lodge No. 76 F. & A.M.
His column is broken, and his brethren mourn.

Requiescat in pace.

UPDATE: JUNE 4, 2019:

The Grand Lodge of Florida has issued Brother Karroum's funeral service arrangements. A Masonic memorial service will be held on Saturday, June 15th at Boynton Lodge 236 in Boynton Beach.

For details, click image to enlarge.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Female Lodge Consecrated in Washington, DC: America No. 57

Various Masonic Facebook pages have been lit up all week over an announcement that a female Masonic lodge has been chartered in Washington, D.C. by the Honorable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF) of the United Kingdom. 

The officers of the newly created America Lodge No. 57 of Women Freemasons  were installed with Mrs. Lourdes (“Lou”) P. Elias as the Lodge’s first Worshipful Master. She is the wife of Akram Elias, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia.

The Chaplain of America Lodge, CDR Lynn Chow, USN, Ret. gave the Invocation.

Chaplain Lynn Chow and WM Lou Elias at the Memorial Day event

The new lodge was officially consecrated on May 25th, Memorial Day, in honor of the women in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the United States and Freedom. It was also the Centennial of the 19th Amendment giving women in the United States the right to vote.

A gala celebration for the lodge officers, members and guests was held at the Almas Shrine Center in Washington, D.C. as an open event that included a traditional Masonic Festive Board, and was attended by the Grand Master of Free And Accepted Masons of the District of Columbia along with several former Grand Masters.

A press release widely distributed by the lodge describes it as "the first Women's Regular Masonic Lodge in the United States." Indeed, the story was circulated on the Internet by the United Grand Lodge of England, and in 1999, the UGLE stated the following about the HFAF and the Order of Women Freemasons: 
There exist in England and Wales at least two Grand Lodges solely for women. Except that these bodies admit women, they are, so far as can be ascertained, otherwise regular in their practice. There is also one which admits both men and women to membership. They are not recognised by this Grand Lodge and intervisitation may not take place. There are, however, discussions from time to time with the women’s Grand Lodges on matters of mutual concern. Brethren are therefore free to explain to non-Masons, if asked, that Freemasonry is not confined to men (even though this Grand Lodge does not itself admit women). Further information about these bodies may be obtained by writing to the Grand Secretary. 
The Board is also aware that there exist other bodies not directly imitative of pure antient Masonry, but which by implication introduce Freemasonry, such as the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership of such bodies, attendance at their meetings, or participation in their ceremonies is incompatible with membership of this Grand Lodge.

U.S. male Masons will continue to register their shock and awe over the very notion of female Master Masons, dragging out their tired gags about breasts and Senior Deacons, while loudly reciting their obligations as though they wearing garlic to ward off vampires. Many U.S. Masons will indignantly shriek, "There's no such thing as female Freemasons." 

Of course, women can be Freemasons. There have been female Masons (and not the just ones who listen at keyholes or fall out of wardrobes into meetings while spying) since the mid-1700s. 
Regular, recognized male Freemasonry doesn't recognize them, they can't attend our meetings, we can't attend theirs. But they do exist, and in decent enough numbers to be taken seriously. Between 20-25% of the Masons in France are women right now, and Belgium has a substantial number as well. I don't have figures for the HFAM in England, but the OWF was founded in 1908, and they have some 6,000 members today in over 300 Craft lodges operating in the UK and overseas. Tellingly, different grand lodges we deem irregular in the U.S. have consecrated both female and mixed lodges in this country — with several, in fact, in Washington, D.C. Others have been in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and sprinkled throughout the country.

The UGLE has long had a far more pragmatic official position concerning women and Freemasonry than our U.S. grand lodges. When women show up at Freemasons Hall in London and ask about membership, they are cheerfully directed down the street to one of these two female Grand Lodges. In UGLE's view, they ARE completely regular - apart from admitting female members. They don't condemn the practice, they simply inform disappointed women Masons that they can't officially sit in each others' open lodge meetings. And as the statement clearly says, they have never accepted the Eastern Star in England.

HFAF Grand Lodge officers and members in London
UGLE invited the female grand masters of both the HFAF and OWF to their 300th anniversary gala in London in 2017. They even cooperate with each other with their University Scheme program, which seeks to introduce Freemasonry to college students by establishing lodges connected to college and university campuses. Interestingly, UGLE and the HFAF conferred with each other when they crafted their recent transgender policies in 2017, which were forced upon them by changes in English laws.

All of this is a lesson U.S. grand lodges need to pay attention to as the society shifts around us. Just as American grand lodges ignored Prince Hall Freemasonry for more than two hundred years, we have done the very same with female Freemasonry in this country. The Grand Master of the HFAF said in an interview last December that they are expanding and chartering lodges in India, Spain, Gibraltar, along with the new one in Washington this year. There are numerous other female lodges already at work across the U.S. that almost none of us are even remotely aware of.

American Masons have been able to pretend that the Order of the Eastern Star was sufficient for women to join as a panacea for legitimate Freemasonry, with suitable male Masonic lifeguards on hand to make sure they weren't actually conferring Masonic degrees. The internet, combined with societal upheavals and a shifting gender role landscape, is going to make the future very different. Female and mixed Freemasonry has never been at all popular in the U.S. historically, and these groups have remained quite small here. But that may change in the next decade. 

Nothing says our male-only fraternity has to begin admitting women, or even to extend recognition to the female grand lodge jurisdictions. Nothing says we have to violate our existing obligations, or even change them in the future. But there is no reason for American Masons to stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that there is a world of women who are not satisfied by weak substitutes like the OES and are every bit as dedicated to the Craft of Freemasonry as we are. 

As the UGLE has clearly demonstrated for the last 20 years, doing so neither "breaks my leg nor picks my pocket."

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Albert Pike's Civil War Era Sword Donated to House of the Temple

Arturo De Hoyos at the Scottish Rite SJ House of the Temple in Washington, D.C. reports that an incredible artifact has just been rescued thanks to the due diligence of Louisiana Freemasons, particularly in the New Orleans area:

In August 1861, a month after the beginning of the Civil War, Albert Pike was commissioned a Brigadier General in the Confederate States of America.
M.W. Bro. Benjamin B. French, Past Grand Master of Washington DC (who also served as Commissioner of Public Buildings, under Presidents Franklin Pierce and Abraham Lincoln) presented his friend Albert Pike with this beautiful sword in commemoration. It's a testament of the powerful bonds of fraternal esteem, in spite of political differences (if only we all had that type of mutual respect today).

The sword was recently purchased at an auction by the Freemasons of Louisiana (and in particular New Orleans) and was donated to the House of the Temple on Thursday, May 23, 2019.

Albert Pike was born and raised in Boston, but he 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, but resigned March 1862 in disgust, disgraced by 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.

Benjamin Brown French (1800–1870) was originally born in New Hampshire, and serve in the New hampshire Legislature. Ultimately, he would relocate to D.C. for nearly 40 years, holding several appointed positions in the government. He was appointed and served as Clerk of the United States House of Representatives from 1845-1847. From 1847-1850, he served as president of Samuel B. Morse's Magnetic Telegraph Company overseeing the expansion of telegraph communications throughout the United States. And in 1853, he was appointed Commissioner of Public Buildings By President Franklin Pierce. During his time as Commissioner under both Pierce and Abraham Lincoln, he played a major role in extending the U.S. Capitol and building the Capitol Dome. He also oversaw a number of historical events including the Gettysburg Address and the funeral of Abraham Lincoln. 

Republican Lincoln and his Vice Presidential running mate, Tennessee Democrat Andrew Johnson, had hoped their combined National Unity Party would heal the divided nation as the war ended. But after Lincoln's assassination in 1867, angry Reconstruction Republicans in the Senate decided to impeach President Johnson. As a sympathetic member of both Lincoln and Johnson administration's vision for reunification, French was punished by the Republicans for standing by Johnson. They dissolved the Commissioner of Public Buildings office and created what we have today, the office of Architect of the Capitol. 

French was an incredibly enthusiastic Freemason. He joined the fraternity in New Hampshire in 1826, serving three years as Master of his lodge. He then affiliated in National Lodge 12 in D.C. in 1846. In that same year, he was elected as Grand Master of the Grand lodge of the District of Columbia, a position he would hold for seven years. As Grand Master, French laid cornerstones of the Smithsonian Institution, the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol extension, and countless churches and other public buildings. 

He also served as the Grand Recorder for the Grand Encampment of the Knights Templar. Brother French became a Scottish Rite Mason and on September 15, 1859 he became the first 33rd Degree Mason from the District of Columbia. He was elected Grand Chancellor of the Supreme Council for the Southern Jurisdiction.

Benjamin B. French Lodge No. 15 of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia was chartered in 1852, and is thought to be the only U.S. Masonic lodge named after a sitting Grand Master. Benjamin Brown French, Grand Master of the District of Columbia from 1846 to 1853, reluctantly signed the charter establishing his namesake lodge in late 1852.

Pike's VERY brief time in the CSA frequently gets trotted out by anti-Masons in an effort to gin up controversy over him. And the ebb and flow of political fashion usually erupts every two decades or so over his statue in Washington D.C. For much, much more than you'll ever want to know about Albert Pike, his statue in Judiciary Square, his time in the Confederate Army, and of course, his views on slavery and its related topics, see Albert Pike, Statues, History and Hysteria from 2017.

But what makes the story of Benjamin B. French's gift of the sword to Pike so poignant is that it was such a deliberate act of Masonic Brotherhood and honor. Here was a Yankee Republican, from an anti-slavery party and part of the country, giving his Masonic Brother a sword as he went off to battle against his own nation for a cause both men knew to be wrong. And the sword was Masonically decorated with the All Seeing Eye of the Grand Architect, and the 'Lion of the Tribe of Judah.' Both men were following the code of defending their homes and the honor of their respective sides in the conflict that was tearing the country in two. 

And then, when the war ended and Pike was found to be a traitor against the Union for his six weeks as a brigadier general, Benjamin B. French himself, the man who gave him that sword, would draft an appeal in July of 1865 for acquittal from President Andrew Johnson. Numerous other Brethren across the country did the same, and Albert Pike was granted a presidential pardon on April 23, 1866.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"In My Mother Lodge Out There..."

My Mother Lodge, Broad Ripple Lodge 643 in Indianapolis was chartered on this date 117 years ago in 1902. 

A lot has changed over the years, and we're in our third official location (fourth, if you count the organizational UD meetings in 1901 in the old Broad Ripple school building that's long gone). 

The first was in what was then called 'Light's Eldorado Hall,' where the Broad Ripple Starbucks resides today in that same old building.

The next was stalwart Mustard Hall, built and furnished entirely by the generosity of Brother Mustard and his wife. Upon his death, he willed property to be sold to raise money to erect a permanent home for his lodge, and his wife Cassandra added to the bequest. 
Who within the ranks of our fraternity today thinks enough of it to bequeath a substantial portion of their estate solely for the purpose of erecting a grand home for his lodge?

Mustard Hall still stands in the middle of broad Ripple Village today, still towering over everything on the Boulevard. Plenty of folks still call it the Masonic Hall, but few know why anymore. The lodge stayed there until 1993, but in an act of sheer negligence and short-sightedness, the Trustees sold the temple while the lodge was dark over the summer, and the members were suddenly informed and given 30 days to leave and find a new home. Which is how we ended up with our present, unassuming, 1960s former real estate office building at 1716 Broad Ripple Avenue at the top of this post. 

Nevertheless, we've been there 25 years now, and despite its many shortcomings, our brethren have made lemonade out of lemons with our present Temple. Once inside, it is every bit as special as the old Mustard Hall. And better, in many ways. Today, it is home to both Broad Ripple 643 and Lodge Vitruvian 767.

Curiously, an ad appeared today on Ebay selling the first of three commemorative pins I designed back in 2000 running up to our 100th anniversary that depicted our first meeting spaces. They're asking a whopping 8 smackers for this bit of Chinese pot metal, which they are describing as "vintage." 

I'd like to go on record as saying I resent anything I've created in my lifetime as being "vintage." 
It's far too close to the word "antique."

Which is only a stone's throw from "relic."

Issue 45 of the Journal of the Masonic Society

"The ultimate success of Masonry depends on the intelligence of her disciples." - Albert Mackey

Hard to believe The Masonic Society turned eleven years old last month.

Editor Michael Poll reports that Issue 45 of the Journal of The Masonic Society is in production and will soon go to press. Before long it will be showing up in the mailboxes of members and subscribers. This issue has 40 pages of true reading enjoyment and Masonic education. 

Papers in this issue include:
  • Charity and Philanthropy: The Masonic Role from its European Roots to the Americas By Michael C. Sachs
  • Are you an Educated Man by Francis R. Fritz
  • Tales of Tam o’Shanter by Martin Bogardus
  • The Potential Contribution of Freemasonry to Global Dialogue: International Theosophy Conference (2008) By Tom Jackson
  • Tyled Lodge By James F. Stephens
  • What do Tarot Cards have to do with Freemasonry? By Jaime Paul Lamb 
  • National Security and Freemasonry: Extrapolating Concepts to Prevent the Death of the Fraternity By Mason Shuya 
  • The Foundation of Happiness By David A. McCuistion 
The great collection of reading in this issue will also include the regular book reviews, Editor's Corner, Greg Knott's Camera's Lens feature and John Bridegroom's Masonic Treasures. 

If you are not a member or subscriber, you should be! 

To join online, visit the Masonic Society website at www.themasonicsociety.com