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


Friday, January 18, 2019

New Temple in Christchurch, New Zealand

A new Masonic temple has opened in Woolston in Christchurch, New Zealand and was favorably covered by the local press. 

From a video report on  the 1NewsNow website yesterday:
"To say that we're speaking up for freemasonry I think is understating the measure, we are right into being transparent," Grand Master Mark Winger told 1 NEWS.

"We donated ten million dollars to society, we should be proud of that and we should tell the world of the good work that we're doing."

The Christchurch lodge is one of four new lodges that will open in New Zealand this year, with membership increasing to over 6000 Kiwi men, an increase they put down to the change in policy.

"We've been approached by grand lodges in Australia and America and other parts of the world who have seen the value of what we're doing," Grand Master Winger said.
Far be it for me to argue with grand masters anywhere, but figures I have show that membership has dropped in the Grand lodge of New Zealand from over 9,000 in 2011. I'm not sure what increases they are seeing, but perhaps they have gotten some slight uptick in the last year or so. Nevertheless, it's always gratifying to see optimism combined with new Masonic temples being built anywhere, and they are opening four in New Zealand this year.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

2019 UCLA International Conference on Freemasonry 3/2

Each year, UCLA hosts an academic conference about Freemasonry, centered around a general theme for the program, and chaired by Dr. Margaret C. Jacob (author of Living the Enlightenment). This conference has been the result of a longstanding sponsorship by the California Masonic Foundation and the Grand Lodge of California. The Program's chair is Dr. Susan Mitchell Somers of Saint Vincent College in Pennsylvania, and General Editor of the Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism. 

The 8th International Conference on Freemasonry at UCLA will be held this year on On March 2, 2019.  The topic is 'Diversity and Exclusivity in 18th Century Freemasonry' and explores how Masons in the 1700s forged connections with those from outside their own cultural traditions. 

This year's presentations will include:
•“A Safe Haven for a Scandalous Man? The Strange Career of Mathieu-Noël Rioust, (ex-) Priest, (ex-) Revolutionary, (ex-) Journalist and (ex-) Freemason.” Jeffrey Tyssens, Ph.D., shares the story of a French journalist whose life trajectory wound a brilliant, scandalous, and volatile path through the French Revolution, Catholic priesthood, Freemasonry, and international politics.

•“Freemasonry, Tolerance, and Images of Inquisition Persecutions: Crossing the Protestant-Catholic Divide.” Reva Wolf, Ph.D., reveals how Masonic artwork raised awareness of the horrors of the Catholic Church’s Inquisition, leading to an interdenominational condemnation of its discriminatory campaign.

•“The Stone That the Builders Refused: How Jews Came to Lead Freemasonry in Rhode Island.”Samuel Biagetti, Ph.D. explains how a small congregation of Jewish Masons played a pivotal social role in colonial Rhode Island, cultivating reunification of their diverse community following the tumultuous American Revolution.

•“Critical Analysis of the Start and Origin of African Lodge No. 1” Bro. John L. Hairston Bey reveals deep insight into the creation of Prince Hall Freemasonry, showing how its founders intended to be part of “mainstream” Freemasonry rather than forming a parallel fraternity.

The conference will be held March 2, 2019 from 8:30AM - 5:30PM at:

University of California, Los Angeles
1200 De Neve Drive
Covell Commons, Grand Horizon Ballroom

Cost is $30 for the Conference, plus an optional $20 for a buffet lunch.

Daylong parking is available for $12. The parking lot is located beneath the building where the conference will take place. The conference location is not easily accessible to off-campus parking. Driving or carpooling is strongly recommended.

For reservations (required) and more information, see the Eventbrite page HERE.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

2019 Mid-Atlantic Esotericon in Virginia: 6/15

This summer, Virginia Freemasons will be hosting the inaugural 2019 Mid-Atlantic Esotericon on Saturday, June 15th, 2019, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm at Manasseh Lodge No. 182, A.F. & A.M, in Manassas, Virginia. The preliminary lineup includes a full schedule of Masonic esoterica, vendors, and presentations from the following speakers;
• Jon Ruark 
• Frater O
• RJ Johnson
• Greg Kaminsky
• PD Newman
• Piers Vaughn
• Jamie Lamb
• Donald McAndrews

Manasseh Lodge No. 182 is located at 9810 Cockrell Road in historic Manassas, Virginia. There will also be a social event the night before, Friday, June 14th at Sinistral Brewing Company in Manassas for those arriving early.

For tickets, visit the Eventbrite reservation page HERE. Organizers are offering early bird pricing at $65.00 per ticket through February 9th.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Masonic Week in Arlington, VA: 2/21-24

The website for making reservations for the 2019 AMD Masonic Week has been up and running for a while now, and it's just about a month away. This annual event will be held a little later this year than in the past: February 21-24, 2018, once again at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia (a mere cocktail glass' throw from Reagan International Airport, across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.). 

Eighteen Masonic appendant bodies, invitational groups, research organizations, and others will be holding their annual meetings, degree conferrals, elections, banquets, speeches, and other assorted sundry activities. There is also always a healthy dose of Masonic product vendors on hand.

The direct link to reserve a room at the Hyatt with the convention rate is HERE.

If you've never been to Masonic Week before, the real benefit of going is that it is the largest concentration of seriously proactive Masons from across the country and around the world you'll find on an annual basis, along with many of the best known Masonic researchers, authors, editors, and other personalities. While the bulk of the groups require existing York Rite membership as a precondition for their own admission (and a few are invitational only), you will still find plenty to keep you more than occupied for these three and a half days. And there is as much to be absorbed in the hallways, at the bar, or in the hospitality rooms as in the meetings themselves. Make new friendships from around the world, and rekindle old ones.

Plus, if you've never been to Washington, D.C. before, this is the perfect excuse to go. I will tell you from experience that there is a 50/50 chance of the weather either bringing three feet of blowing snow, or 70 degree sun-drenched days. Sometimes both. That's just Washington in February. (Pack an extra set of underwear in your carryon bag in case your flights get canceled. Old hands know this.) But add a day to your trip to sightsee, and be sure you visit the Scottish Rite's House of the Temple no later than Thursday, because it is CLOSED Fridays and weekends. Visit the Capitol, the monuments, the Smithsonian, the unique Egyptian-themed Potomac Lodge, and much more. Have drinks and cigars at the Old Ebbitt Grill around the corner from the White House (you'll find Masons there nearly any night that week). Or go the other direction to Alexandria and visit the George Washington National Masonic Memorial, and have dinner at Gadsby's Tavern. There's no shortage of historic sites tied to Masons concentrated in the area.

Historically, Masonic Week was long tied to the scheduling of the annual Conference of Grand Masters (COGMMNA), which was scheduled, in turn, to coincide with George Washington's Birthday. That was back in the days when the Grand Masters met every year in Washington D.C. at this time. Consequently, Masonic Week would happen the weekend before at the venerable Hotel Washington, which sat in the shadow of the White House. But sometime in the early 1990s, that connection got frayed by the Grand Masers taking their annual meetings on the road and cycling around the country. Still, Masonic Week always tried to arrange itself to happen the weekend before, or thereabouts. Weather in D.C., the Super Bowl, and other factors have put pressure on organizers over the years, so this year's event will actually follow the Grand Masters' Conference in Rapid City, South Dakota that happens February 16-20th.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

"Public Servants Wanted: Joiners and Theists Need Not Apply"

Something sinister must be going on here
With some noteworthy exceptions like the Morgan period, membership in long-established fraternal groups really hasn't come under fire in America the way it has in Europe and other countries when it comes to public life. Americans have historically been proud of our voluntary associations and admired for them ever since Alexis de Tocqueville wrote so glowingly about them in the early 1800s. Associations have been vital to the functioning of our democratic society almost from the start - they are, in fact, classrooms where Americans learn the basics of running our republic. But the culture is shifting around us now to a startling degree, and what affects one or two fraternal groups today may become a larger issue for us all in the very near future. Which is why I've been wrestling for two weeks over how to report this story.

In December, a nominee for the U.S. District Court in the District of Nebraska, Brian Buescher of Omaha, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his conformation hearing. In the course of being questioned by the various senators over his past judicial record, Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) specifically called into question Buescher's membership in the Catholic fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus. Specifically citing the KofC and the Catholic Church's official positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, these two senators demanded to know if his membership in this male-only club would prevent him from hearing cases “fairly and impartially.” 

And they wanted his assurance that he would resign his membership if confirmed as a justice of the court.

Think about that for a minute. 

It's not a perfect analogy to Masonic membership for a whole raft of reasons, but it's close enough to ring some alarms for us. Up until just a few years ago, citizens involved in civic life were proud of their voluntary associations (arguably, at times, obsessively so, back when Babbitry was all the rage). Harry Truman often said his greatest honor in life was not being president, but being Past Grand Master of Missouri. As for the Knights of Columbus, John F. Kennedy, Teddy Kennedy and Jeb Bush have all been proud members who weren't shy about their memberships. But now, fraternalism itself seems to be one more item on the chopping block when it comes to scrutinizing the resumés of potential public servants.

The Knights of Columbus, a voluntary men's fraternal group for Catholics, was started in 1885 at the height of the Golden Age of Fraternalism. One of the reasons for their formation was that so many other fraternal groups at that time would not admit Catholics as members (or the Church would not permit parishioners to join them, as with Masonry). Late 19th century America was overwhelmingly Protestant, and Catholicism was considered a religious minority that was paired with a huge influx of Irish and Italian immigration. Like so many other fraternal groups, the KofC patterned itself after Freemasonry's basic structure, with three principal degree ceremonies (along with a fourth that was optional, similar to the Knights Templar of Masonry, complete with their own patriotic drill teams featuring similar uniforms, swords, and plumed chapeaux). In time, they also created an insurance benefit program (like the Woodmen of America), their own women's auxiliary, and youth groups for boys and girls. Today they have over two million members worldwide. And unlike Freemasonry, their membership since the 1960s has only increased, while other older groups like ours have plunged in size. They seem to be doing something right.

The grotesque rise of instantaneous social (or really anti-social) media shines a spotlight on the minutest of subjects these days, and this back and forth exchange between the senators and Buescher is no exception. As soon as the session ended on CSPAN and their written questions were made public, the story went out across the web. Various Cathlolic groups decried it as a return to the anti-Catholic discrimination of the 1920s. Abortion rights and LGBT groups declared Buescher unfit for the bench because of his Catholic faith. Truly horrific (and totally uninformed) knee-jerk commentary spewed forth on news sites and discussion groups, amping up the level of hatred for one point of view or the other, and naturally degenerating into "What if he belonged to the Nazis?! Huh? Huh?!" And when the week was over and the dust finally settled on the story, the average American was once again left with the exasperated feeling that only an escapee from a madhouse should ever bother to take part in public life. Normal men and women with any shred of civic duty left rattling around in their heads should apply only at their peril. But certainly not if they had any sort of openly declared religious conviction of any kind, attended a church or synagogue, or belonged to any private clubs.

I made several starts and stops and retries of this post over the holidays, beginning with the very imperfect feeling that Masons should speak up and show some solidarity with the Knights of Columbus in this, because it could be a Brother Mason getting grilled next week. My feeling when the story first broke was that, if fraternal groups don't stand by each other, we're in danger of reenacting the tragic, old Martin Niemöller poem, "First they came for the socialists... but I was not a socialist." I still feel that way. Quite honestly, single-sex associations like the Freemasons are being not-so quietly assaulted all over the Western world these days, and we are foolish to ignore it (read up on the latest activities attempting to wipe out single-sex clubs, fraternities and 'secret societies' at Harvard University, and the surprising reactions of sororities in response). But the real truth is that, in the current hyper-sensitive atmosphere of today, no one can adequately plan or defend against being blindsided by a concerted effort to seek and destroy a juicy target. Not controversial? No worries — controversies will be provided at the door.

(But then, our own members do it too. I actually read a long exchange on a Masonic forum this week that was excoriating a Brother Mason for daring to appear on a platform behind the duly elected President of the United States this week while wearing a visible square and compasses lapel pin—as though there was something shameful, controversial, or humiliating in that.)

Just as I was taking another stab at the story this morning, Brent Morris passed along an opinion piece from yesterday's Washington Post about the Knights of Columbus written by Kevin Butterfield, who is the director of George Washington’s presidential library at Mount Vernon (and author of the book, The Making of Tocqueville’s America). In his Post article, 'Senators shouldn’t be afraid of the Knights of Columbus,' HERE he gives an excellent thumbnail sketch of the history of voluntary associations like Freemasonry and the rest, the flareups against them that have waxed and waned over the centuries, and why Senators Harris and Hirono really don't need to bark up this dead horse.

In a related vein, a report came out this week by the Pew Research Group concerning the religious beliefs and affiliations of the new members of the House of Representatives for 2019. At any other time in the history of this country, the headline that accompanied it would have brought down the rage, wrath and disgust of the overwhelming majority of the population over its blatant bias and implication. Now, it's just one more screaming bit of clickbait: 'Christians Overrepresented in Congress.' The chart from their survey can be seen below (click to enlarge).

The implication is that rational Americans should be appalled — or something — by all of those religious people in government. It's just gotta be wrong! It's just gotta! Even if you really believe that, the part everyone seems to be looking past is that joiners of clubs and active members of religious congregations are the most likely sort of people, on average, to step up and take part in governing. They volunteer, contribute, show up, take part, vote, and do everything else needed to operate a democratic society far more consistently and dependably than the teeming masses of apathetic spiritual-not-religious-I'm-not-a-joiners that are growing in numbers every day. Of course there are exceptions, but the statistics are what they are. If you want an effective democratic society to be run efficiently, ask the busy and successful people who are already working hard in their clubs, fraternal groups, churches, and companies. They show up, and keep showing up. They keep shoveling coal when the briefly dazzling activists and noisemakers get tired and go home.

Of course the demographics of the new Congress have changed to reflect the huge changes in the country's population, and they were sworn in yesterday. I found it quite interesting that the dais of the House of representatives looked very much like an altar in many Masonic lodges these days, filled with the various books deemed to be sacred by the assembled members, upon which they took their oaths office.

Sacred books prepared for the Congressional oaths of office:
Multiple Bibles, Hebrew Tenach, Islamic Qur'an, Hindu Veda, Buddhist Sutra,
plus two U.S. Constitutions for any atheists or agnostics. 
Front and center were news stories celebrating the swearing in of Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) as "the first bisexual and only religiously unaffiliated member in Congress" (her oath of office was taken on copies of the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions, a practice started when John Quincy Adams swore on a law book instead of a Bible). I have no opinion whatsoever of Rep. Sinema's abilities or zeal for governance, and wish her all the best. But I did find it a bizarre Ying to the Yang of the historical perspective of Judge Buescher's conformation, when it comes to the current crop of Robespierres like Senators Harris and Hirono, and what are and are not not considered disqualifying traits in public service these days. 

I know I'm crossing into political (or maybe 'Get Off My Lawn') territory here, but the Masons of the Enlightenment who transformed Freemasonry into a speculative order for instructing men in a code of morals would be blowing their collective stacks right now. On the one hand, it is apparently deemed vitally important (or at least fashionable) that a person's private sexual proclivities are publicly bannered and declared important qualifications for governing the country, while not fessing up to having any sort of organized moral code beyond the written (and always changeable) civil law. On the other hand, the moral and religious beliefs of a man headed for the judicial bench that are held by what is still a vast majority of the country are deemed discriminatory, dangerous, probably ignorant, and definitely unsuitable by a noisy contingent of elected officials. It's no longer bombast to ask how much longer it will be before anyone who espouses any religious faith — Christian, Jew, and yes, eventually even Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu in due time — will be written off as either sinister, an ignoramus, or both, for daring to believe in the very first Charge of all Freemasonry, as set down in Anderson's Constitutions:
"A Mason is oblig’d by his Tenure, to obey the moral Law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient Times Masons were charg’d in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ’tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish’d; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must else have remain’d at a perpetual Distance."
And that's why it's important for us to stick up for the Knights of Columbus and never forget Martin Niemöller's poem when it comes to observing the treatment of religious and fraternal groups on the public stage.

First they came for the Knights of Columbus...

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Dr. William Moore's 2018 Sandkey Lecture Now Online

The Grand Lodge of AF&AM of Canada in the Province of Ontario has a unique relationship with the part of the academic world that studies our fraternity. The annual Dr. Charles A. Sankey Lecture in Masonic Studies at Brock University, St. Catharines is presented each year through a unique partnership with the Grand Lodge. Since 2010, the Sankey Lecture has presented significant academic scholars who specialize in Freemasonry or fraternalism, and in recent years, these have been recorded and made available online HERE.

William D. Moore
The 2018 Sankey Lecture was presented by Dr. William D. Moore on Sunday September 9, 2018, and was entitled Catechism, Spectacle, Burlesque: American Fraternal Ritual Performance, 1733-1933. The complete lecture has just been made available online HERE.

Dr. Moore is the Director of the American and New England Studies Program, and Associate Professor of American Material Culture, Department of History of Art and Architecture at Boston University in Massachusetts. Professor Moore teaches courses on American material culture and vernacular landscapes. He is the author of the excellent book, Masonic Temples: Freemasonry, Ritual Architecture, and Masculine Archetypes (2006). He also co-edited (with Mark Tabbert) the outstanding collection of indispensable essays, Secret Societies in America: Foundational Studies of Fraternalism (2011). Any library about fraternalism needs copies of both.

Dr. Charles Sankey, for whom the lecture series is named, served as Chancellor of Brock University from 1969 to 1974. A renowned Masonic scholar, he was active in all the concordant bodies of Masonry including the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, the Royal Order of Scotland, and Royal Arch Masons. His extensive collection of rare Masonic books and papers is in the Special Collections of the James Gibson Library at Brock, providing a rich resource for research scholars and students — the Masonic collection in the James A. Gibson Library, and the online collection of Proceedings of Grand Lodge from 1855 to 2010.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

The Boys

There's a wonderful poem written by Oliver Wendall Holmes Sr. (not the Supreme Court Justice) from back at the beginning of the Golden Age of Fraternalism, when every American man would join a whole clot of fraternal groups. It was also an age when every educated man and woman considered themselves to be poets, and went on to attempt to prove it, with varying levels of successes and failures. Kentucky Past Grand Master Rob Morris, for instance, became known as American Freemasonry's poet laureate, not necessarily because his poems were all outstanding. but because he wrote a truckload of them.

This one in particular was penned by Oliver W. Holmes in 1859 for the 30th reunion of his Harvard University graduating class of 1829. If ever you encounter a critic of our fraternity who demands to know why we don't openly welcome women into our lodges as fellow Masons, explain that, with all of the various demands for 'safe spaces' going around these days, men demand and are entitled to such safe havens, too, thank you very much. With neither reproach nor apology.

Then have them read Holmes' poem:

The Boys

HAS there any old fellow got mixed with the boys?
If there has, take him out, without making a noise.
Hang the Almanac's cheat and the Catalogue's spite!
Old Time is a liar! We're twenty to-night!

We're twenty! We're twenty! Who says we are more?
He's tipsy,-- young jackanapes!-- show him the door!
"Gray temples at twenty?"-- Yes ! white if we please;
Where the snow-flakes fall thickest there's nothing can freeze!

Was it snowing I spoke of? Excuse the mistake!
Look close,-- you will see not a sign of a flake!
We want some new garlands for those we have shed,--
And these are white roses in place of the red.

We've a trick, we young fellows, you may have been told,
Of talking (in public) as if we were old:--
That boy we call "Doctor," and this we call "Judge;"
It's a neat little fiction,-- of course it's all fudge.

That fellow's the "Speaker,"-- the one on the right;
"Mr. Mayor," my young one, how are you to-night?
That's our "Member of Congress," we say when we chaff;
There's the "Reverend" What's his name?-- don't make me laugh.

That boy with the grave mathematical look
Made believe he had written a wonderful book,
And the ROYAL SOCIETY thought it was true!
So they chose him right in; a good joke it was, too!

There's a boy, we pretend, with a three-decker brain,
That could harness a team with a logical chain;
When he spoke for our manhood in syllabled fire,
We called him "The Justice," but now he's "The Squire."

And there's a nice youngster of excellent pith,--
Fate tried to conceal him by naming him Smith;
But he shouted a song for the brave and the free,
Just read on his medal, "My country," "of thee!"

You hear that boy laughing?-- You think he's all fun;
But the angels laugh, too, at the good he has done;
The children laugh loud as they troop to his call,
And the poor man that knows him laughs loudest of all!

Yes, we're boys, --always playing with tongue or with pen,--
And I sometimes have asked,-- Shall we ever be men?
Shall we always be youthful, and laughing, and gay,
Till the last dear companion drops smiling away?

Then here's to our boyhood, its gold and its gray!
The stars of its winter, the dews of its May!
And when we have done with our life-lasting toys,
Dear Father, take care of thy children, THE BOYS!