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


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Man Falls To Death Attempting To Climb Philadelphia Masonic Temple

An unidentified 26-year old man fell to his death before dawn Tuesday morning while attempting to climb the historic Philadelphia Masonic Temple.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the following:

A 26-year-old man fell to his death early Tuesday while climbing the Masonic Temple in the shadow of City Hall, police said.

The man was found about 2:40 a.m. by officers responding to a call for an injured person on Juniper Street near Filbert Street.

After reviewing surveillance video from the nearby Stout Center for Criminal Justice, police determined that the man fell while climbing the landmark building, CBS3 reported.

Officer Tanya Little, a police spokesperson, said it was not known from what height the man fell or whether the fall was accidental. The man’s name was not immediately released.

The investigation is continuing, police said.
The CBS affiliate Channel 3 had a live video report Tuesday morning HERE.

The 1873 Temple in downtown Philadelphia is the statewide headquarters for the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, their library and museum, and home to more than two dozen lodges and appendant groups.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

100th Anniversary of DeMolay International

Lessons of the knightly virtues of chivalry like bravery, honor, honesty, faith, charity and humility never go out of style, and they retain their attraction for every generation - especially when they are imparted with the idealistic romance of an earlier Age. The legendary order of the Knights Templar is unquestionably one of the very strongest and most enduring images of faith, honor and courage.

March 24, 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the official launch day in 1919 of DeMolay International (formerly the Order of DeMolay) by Freemason Frank S. Land in Kansas City, Missouri. Named after Jacques de Molay, the famed last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, DeMolay International is a chivalric youth group associated with Freemasonry, specifically for young men between 12 and 21. Based on the seven cardinal virtues of filial love, reverence, courtesy, comradeship, fidelity, cleanness and patriotism, DeMolay International has in its first century encouraged more than a million young men to become leaders of character, including many successful businessmen, public servants, entertainers and athletes. 

A century ago,  Frank Land was very concerned about boys who had lost their fathers during World War I. In 1919, 17-year-old Louis Lower and eight other boys gathered together in Kansas City, Missouri, to create an after-school club. Lower had recently lost his father, and Frank Land liked the boy and wanted to help. He suggested the boys meet in the local Scottish Rite temple building.

The boys were looking for inspiration for a name and structure for the club, and Frank Land was a member of the heroically named Ivanhoe Lodge 446 in Kansas City. He was also an officer in the local Knights Templar commandery, and told the boys the story of Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master of the original Knights Templar who had been imprisoned, falsely accused of heresy, tortured, and finally burned alive in 1314.

The nine boys were enthused by the story of de Molay’s bravery and sacrifice, and they decided to name the club DeMolay. By the second meeting, there were 31 boys. “Dad” Land, as he came to be known, contacted a Masonic brother named Frank Marshall and asked him to write an initiation ritual for them.

The Order of DeMolay spread like wildfire across the country. Marshall was careful not to make his degrees too close to those of Freemasonry, lest he be accused of trying to create Freemasonry for kids. DeMolay confers initiation and knighthood on boys, followed by awards of merit, such as Legion of Honor, Chevalier, Blue Honor awards, and Merit Medals. Its members hold office and conduct the ritual and business of the chapter, teaching boys leadership skills, financial responsibility, civic awareness, and public speaking. Like Masonry, it requires belief in a Supreme Being, but not in any specific religion. Today, membership is open to boys between the ages of 12 and 21.

A recent addition to DeMolay allows boys as young as 10 years old to become a Squire of the Round Table and attend DeMolay meetings and functions. It eliminates the pressure of learning ritual and softens the big age differences that can often intimidate a young boy in a group of older ones. A regular DeMolay member, who acts as the Squire Manor’s “big brother,” mentors the younger boys. As in the regular DeMolay meetings, an adult advisor (known as a Dad or a Mom) is always present.

Today, DeMolay has 15,000 active members in the United States and Canada. There are active chapters in Australia, Argentina, Aruba, Philippines, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Italy, Peru, Romania, France, Albania, Japan, Montenegro, and Serbia. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

GL of Nebraska Issues Disaster Relief Appeal

The Grand Lodge of Nebraska AF&AM has issued a disaster appeal for Masons and their families across the state. The following message was posted yesterday:

Nebraska has experienced historic flooding in the eastern part of the state and devastating blizzards in central and western Nebraska, with major loss of farm and ranching assets and income in the month of March 2019. Many of our Nebraska Masonic family members have no doubt been affected by these catastrophic events and will need assistance to get back on their feet. Here’s how you can help.
The Nebraska Masonic Relief Fund is collecting monetary donations that will be dispersed to Masonic family members affected by the floods and storms through an application process. If the donations exceed the needs of our Masonic family, the funds will be donated to other flood and storm relief efforts. Those interested in making a financial donation to support relief efforts can do so by clicking the Donate button below.

Donations can also be mailed to Grand Lodge of Nebraska, 301 N Cotner Blvd., Lincoln, NE 68505. Checks should be made payable to Grand Lodge Relief Fund, with flood/storm relief in the memo field.

Thank you so much for your support of this relief effort.
There is a direct Paypal link on their website to make donations online. CLICK HERE.

According to a report at noon today, the floods have affected 80% of the state of Nebraska, and the statewide estimates of damage exceed $1.3 billion so far. At this time, 89 cities and 77 counties have made emergency declarations. Many other parts of the Midwest, including South Dakota and Iowa, have also been affected by the disaster.
I spoke with the Grand Secretary's office in Nebraska this morning before posting this appeal, and I also checked with the Masonic Service Association. These types of fraternity-wide disaster appeals normally go through the MSA to take advantage of their international network and tax deductibility, but they haven't taken that step just yet. As of Tuesday night, the Grand Lodge of Nebraska had not yet determined that there was enough damage and need within the Masonic family to request assistance from outside of the state. However, the floodwaters keep rising across Nebraska today, and the GS office continues to receive new reports.

They will determine by Friday whether or not a full-throated MSA appeal is required.
H/T to Thomas L. Hauder, PGM

UPDATE 4/22/2019

This disaster appeal was, in fact, widened by the the Grand Lodge of Nebraska and the MSA in April. This notice was issued by the Masonic Service Association:

Nebraska Grand Master Robert W. Moninger has asked the Masonic Service Association to issue a Disaster Relief Appeal. Nebraska has experienced historic flooding in the eastern part of the state and devastating blizzards in central and western Nebraska with major loss of farm and ranching assets and income.

Rivers swollen by rain and dam breaches have left many bridges and roads impassable and triggered the evacuation of thousands of residents. The Nebraska Masonic family have been affected by these catastrophic events and will need assistance to get back on their feet. Please give what you can toward this Disaster Relief Appeal.

MSA deducts no part of your contribution for administrative expenses including charges by PayPal, bookkeeping, and cost of acknowledgment letters. Your entire gross donation is sent to the affected jurisdiction. Make donations online at www.msana.com.

Please forward any donations you feel appropriate to MSA. Checks should be payable to MSA Disaster Relief Fund and sent to 3905 National Drive, STE 280, Burtonsville, MD 20866. When remitting by check, please mark that your donation is intended for the Grand Lodge of Nebraska.

To donate online via credit card, visit the MSA Disaster Appeal website HERE.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Indiana Freemasonry and the KKK of the 1920s in Upcoming 'Heredom'

My home state of Indiana was at the center of a brief but explosive mania in the 1920s, America’s involvement with the Ku Klux Klan. The total national Klan membership is thought to have reached nearly six million in 1924, and eventually encompassed 30% of Indiana's white adult male population: an estimated 250,000 at its height in the Hoosier State alone.  It was perhaps inevitable that Masons and their lodges got swept up in its path. 
I've been reliably informed by the Editor for the Scottish Rite Research Society, Illus. S. Brent Morris, that my article Indiana Freemasonry and the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s will be appearing in the upcoming Volume 26 of Heredom, the annual collection of papers from the Scottish Rite Research Society (SRRS).

There was a reason why Indiana had more Klan members per capita than any other state in the country, including the states of the old Confederacy. Much of it swirled around one particular, notorious individual.

The Klan had first arrived in Indiana by way of a paid promoter named Joe Huffington in Evansville in late 1920. About the same time, a charismatic young coal salesman named David Curtis Stephenson and his wife appeared in town, after spending several years in Texas. A military veteran prone to exaggeration of his own accomplishments, the outgoing Stephenson soon attracted the attention of Huffington. He had become a Freemason in Isaac Parker Lodge in Waltham, Massachusetts several years before, and ‘Steve’ was fully conversant in the ways of fraternal orders at the time. At first, Stephenson had the same skepticism over the Klan’s original post-Civil War reputation that most Americans had, as an outdated racist bunch of hooded thugs who terrorized and lynched blacks, tarred and feathered perceived white race traitors, and burned down houses. But Huffington convinced him that this “new and improved Klan” was strictly about pure “100% Americanism,” patriotism, morality, and flushing perfidious immigrant agitators and traitors from the countryside, schoolrooms and government offices.

David Curtis Stephenson
Grand Dragon of Indiana

From that humble beginning, in just five years, D. C. Stephenson would take over and expand the Klan to its greatest heights throughout the North, most especially Indiana. Soon, Indiana would have more Ku Klux Klan members than any state in the Old South. In that brief time, he and the Klan became political powerbrokers and kingmakers. The Klan even put Stephenson on a certain greased path to become President of the United States.

The Klan of the 1920s cannot be compared to its other two incarnations that bookend it. There is today an instant association of anything called “the Ku Klux Klan” with the rampant violence of its post-Civil War period, or its third 1960s revival as a murderous group battling against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Klan of the 20s was largely seen in its day as little more than a nationalistic competitor with the numerous other fraternal societies of its era, and the massive growth of all of them in the years just after the end of World War I. Rather than hiding their Klan membership, numerous politicians, public officials and business leaders were not the least shy about including it in their roster of memberships, along with the Woodmen, the Red Men, the Knights of Pythias, the Odd Fellows and the rest. It was frequently a selling point for their careers, not a stain – at least until Stephenson and others made it so. 

The '100 per cent' phrase quickly became the well-known identifier
for pro-Klan sentiments, and it could be found everywhere in the 1920s

Of all of the Masonic lodges in the state that permitted KKK activities to take place or had an abundance of enthusiastic '100 Per cent American' Klan members in their ranks, the most notorious was Indianapolis' Irvington Lodge No. 666. And whether deliberate or not, Irvington's reputation was made almost impervious to any outside criticism nationwide because of a simple, unrelated tradition it had started originally to ward off the creepy association with its unfortunate '666' lodge number. 

Irvington Lodge started the national craze for gifting a Masonic Bible to new members - and suddenly, it was embraced throughout the country almost overnight. There could be no wrong coming out of Irvington, in the eyes of American Masons. And it was also the lodge Stephenson made his Masonic home base, along with several of his closest Kluxer lieutenants. He lived right next door.

With all of that preamble in mind, Brent Morris gave me the opportunity to slightly enlarge the 'Indiana Freemasonry and the Ku Klux Klan' chapter from my most recent book Heritage Endures, and to illustrate it with photos, which I couldn't really do in my volume. The Grand Lodge of Indiana bicentennial deadline in 2018 couldn't move and I had to stop wherever I was in time for it to be ready that January.

Heredom is due to be stuffed into mailboxes sometime this summer of thereabouts.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to buy a copy of Heritage Endures, see the order page HERE.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Piers Vaughan Speaking in South Bend, Indiana: 3/23

Click image to enlarge
Masons in northern Indiana and Ohio, southern Michigan, and the Chicago area take note.  Worshipful Brother Piers A. Vaughan will be speaking this coming Saturday, March 23rd, at the Scottish Rite Valley of South Bend, Indiana. 

His presentation in South Bend will be an exploration of the Archangel Raphaël from a Scottish Rite perspective. He has a unique way of thinking through and explaining complex (and simple) ideas, and I promise that you will discover surprises and connections you were never aware of before when seen through Piers' always fascinating viewpoint.

Piers is the most recently named Friar in the The Society of Blue Friars, an organization founded in 1932 for the express purpose of recognizing outstanding Masonic authors.

Piers Vaughan has one of the most diverse and fascinating backgrounds for the study and understanding (and explanation) of Masonic, appendant, and other esoteric orders you will ever encounter. Originally, he is from England, and he belongs to lodges in England, Canada, and the U.S. Throughout his life he has lived in several European countries, Canada, and now resides in New York. He has a Master's degree in Divinity and another in Experimental Psychology; experience in both the Anglican and Catholic denominations and traditions; an MBA in Business Studies; a teaching diploma in Music; and much, much more. 

Piers has made extensive studies in history, alchemy, language (he has translated many texts from French to English), symbolism, cultures—truly what anyone would acknowledge to be a "Renaissance Man." Appropriately, one of his most recent books is 2017's outstanding Renaissance Man & Mason
He is also is the proprietor of Rose Circle Publications that is a source of other fascinating books along similar explorations of esoteric thought that mirror his eclectic mind and interests. 

Originally initiated in Brighton, England, Piers has belonged to Masonic Orders in England, France, Belgium, Canada, and the United States> He is a Past Master, a 33° Scottish Rite Mason, a Past Grand High Priest in the Royal Arch, and one of the custodians of the famed George Washington Inaugural Bible owned by New York's St. Johns Lodge No. 1.

The Indiana event will be Saturday, March 23rd, 2019 at the Scottish Rite Valley of South Bend. The cost is $25, and includes dinner and an open bar. Doors open at 5:30PM; dinner at 6:00PM; and the presentation is at 7:00PM. Piers will have some of his books available and will be signing afterwards.

Register online at www.SouthBendScottishRite.org or by calling 574-233-3158.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Brother Birch Bayh Passes

Indiana Brother and former U.S. Senator Birch Evans Bayh has laid down his working tools and passed to the Celestial Lodge Above on Thursday. He was 91. Regardless of your political beliefs or affiliations, there is no question that Brother Bayh is considered one of the most significant American senators of the last half of the 20th century. During his 18 years in the Senate, he was widely regarded as a constitutional scholar, and is the only member of Congress since the founding fathers to author two successful constitutional amendments, and a third unsuccessful one.

Bayh was born in Terre Haute and grew up on a farm in Shirkieville, Indiana in Vigo County. He served four terms in the Indiana House of Representatives beginning in 1954, and at age 30, was the youngest House Speaker in Indiana history. He successfully ran for U.S. Senate in 1962 at age 34 and became the second youngest senator that year (only fellow Democrat Teddy Kennedy was younger). His surprise election was considered one of the most shocking political upsets of that year. He would win re-election against William D. Ruckelshaus in 1968 and Richard Lugar in 1974. He lost his seat in 1980 to Dan Quayle.

Bayh introduced an amendment shortly after the November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy that updated the order of succession in the presidency and vice presidency in the case of death, disability or resignation. The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in 1967. Bayh also authored the 26th Amendment, passed in 1971, which lowered the voting age across the nation from 21 to 18, a subject of hot debate at a time when 18-year-old Americans were being drafted into the Vietnam War. Its rapid adoption was the quickest ratification of a constitutional amendment in U.S. history. Bayh also authored the Equal Rights Amendment, which failed to be ratified.

He is perhaps best remembered as the principal author of the Title IX amendment to the Education Act in 1972, which granted all groups, but especially women, equal access to education opportunities, including sports. More than 40 years later, Title IX is one of the most commonly cited (and fought over) provisions of Federal education law.

Bayh helped craft and pass the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and he was the architect of the groundbreaking Juvenile Justice Act, which required the separation of juveniles from adults in prison and introduced rehabilitation programs for young offenders. And in 1980, he and fellow Freemason Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, co-sponsored the Bayh-Dole Act that enabled universities and small businesses to take ownership of inventions that came from federally funded research. The 1980 bill motivated universities to take inventions from the lab to the marketplace, and resulted in a huge technology and industrial surge at that time.

Bayh was swept out of office with 11 other Democratic senators by Republicans and the election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980.

In 2003, Indianapolis' Federal Building at 46 E. Ohio St. was renamed in his honor.

He is the father of former Indiana Governor and Senator Evan Bayh.

His wife Marvella died of cancer in 1979. In 1981, Bayh married Katherine “Kitty” Halpin, who survives him, along with his son Evan, a son from his second marriage, Christopher Bayh, and four grandchildren.

Brother Birch Bayh had been a Freemason for 63 years. He joined back in the days when other great men joined the fraternity, or they often became great men after they joined. Such men were influential on society, and their Masonic membership was symbolic of the esteem in which the fraternity was held until just the last two decades. He 
was initiated February 25th, 1956 in New Goshen Lodge 557; passed as a Fellow Craft March 24th, 1956; and raised as a Master Mason on April 14th, 1956. He demitted from that lodge and affiliated with West Terre Haute Lodge 687 on August 7, 2000. In March 1966, he received the degrees of the York Rite at a class of nearly 300 in Muncie that also included then-Indiana Governor Roger D. Branigin. He received his Award of Gold as a 50 year Mason October 17, 2006.

His column is broken, and his brethren mourn.

Requiescat In Pace.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Rochester, NY: College of Freemasonry 3/30

In 2006, the Scottish Rite Valley of Rochester, New York (NMJ) established their College of Freemasonry educational symposium, and it has been held bi-annually for the last eight years. Each event has an over-arching theme, and past speakers have explored Masonic history, symbolism, and issues facing the current and future craft.

The 2019 College of Freemasonry will take place on Saturday, March 30 at Genesee Community College in Batavia, New York. (The Masonic irony of that infamous location is not lost on the organizers. Be sure to stop by the cemetery and see the monument to William Morgan.)

This year's theme will is "The Mysteries of Freemasonry." Speakers this year will be: 

Arturo de Hoyos - “The Mystery of Masonry: Albert Pike’s Esoterika.”
Grand Archivist and Grand Historian of the Scottish Rite SJ House of the Temple, and author, editor or translator of more than 50 books and articles, including the massively annotated edition of Pike's Morals and Dogma. Art has also just been named as the new Grand Abbott of the Society of Blue Friars.

Piers Vaughan - "The Magician, The Mystic and The Mason"
Past Master of St. John's Lodge No. 1 in New York City and Past Grand High Priest Royal Arch Masons of New York State. Piers is a Masonic and esoteric lecturer and writer, a translator of old French texts, and the publisher of Rose Circle Books. He is the author of Renaissance Man and Mason.

Chuck Dunning - "Gnothi Seauton -- You are the Mysteries!"
A member of Blue Lodges and Scottish Rite Valleys in both Texas and Oklahoma, Chuck is the author of the recently published book Contemplative Masonry: Basic Applications of Mindfulness, Meditation, and Imagery for the Craft.

• Round table panel discussion exploring the mysteries of Freemasonry facilitated by R.W. Oscar Alleyne 32°

• Presentation of the Thomas W. Jackson 33° Award for Excellence in Masonic Education

Cost of the event is $30, which includes continental breakfast and lunch. Check in begins at 8:30AM, and the event starts at 9:30AM.

There is no online registration, so the mail-in form is below. Click images to enlarge. Lacking that, contact the Secretary directly to reserve at secretary@valleyofrochester.org

My Twentieth Anniversary as a Freemason

I remember the day. Vividly. Every Freemason does.

Twenty years ago today — it was a Saturday, and two days short of the 'Ides of March' — my longtime friend Nathan Brindle and I were passed to the degree of Fellow Craft, and raised as Master Masons at an 'All Degree Day' at Calvin W. Prather Lodge 717 on Haverstick Road in Indianapolis. Presiding over our degrees was WB Donald C. Seeley from our Mother lodge, Broad Ripple Lodge 643, where we had both petitioned together the previous autumn. 

Former temple of Calvin Prather Lodge
I had just turned forty that prior November when Nathan and I joined. I later found out that's almost exactly the average age at which most Masons decide to join. I frequently joked that forty must be some huge bellwether life boundary. For the first time in my life, I had just bought my first Chrysler (deemed Old Folks Cars in the 80s and 90s); it had two sets of golf clubs in the trunk that was big enough to hide bodies in; and then I joined the Masons.

I despise the term, but if one day classes make "McMasons," then Nathan and I were special grill orders.

We looked enough alike that Masons just referred
to us interchangeably as Brindapp.
It was a very long day for all involved, as Don insisted that his two Broad Ripple candidates (the two of us) would have our MM work done individually, not in a large group of candidates. That was his price, in return for conferring all of the degrees that day. Such was his reputation as an outstanding ritualist. He would sit in the East and go through the entire Master Mason degree separately for us both, then all over again for a third time for the other candidates in a bunch. The Prather organizers reluctantly agreed, because they didn't have anyone at the time as proficient as Don to replace him. So Nathan and I are sort of one-day hybrids. 

My family friend of many years, Richard Finch, who hadn't been inside of a Masonic lodge for a very long time, made it a point to be there for me that day. It was amazing how many of my parents' friends turned out to be Freemasons, something I wasn't aware of until after I joined. So, too, were countless men I had admired as a child and a teenager. I would discover so many of them to be brethren decades after first encountering them. Most Masons will tell you the very same thing.

Prather's old lodge building (actually their second one) is gone today. So is James Lindsey, who acted as the Senior Deacon for the day. So is Dave Bosworth, who cooked breakfast and gave all of us candidates crash courses in Masonic education between the breaks. 
PGM Bob Hancock

So is the gregarious Grand Master Robert E. Hancock (photo), who was promoting this one-day class program at the time, along with a lot of other 'crazy ideas,' to the chagrin of many disgruntled Indiana Masons. Little things like permitting business meetings on the EA degree. Reasonable outreach to honorable men instead of hoping they would ask someday. Encouraging mutual cooperation with Prince Hall brethren. And once the lodge was closed, reopening the Bible at all times to the passage, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." He was right on so many things, and the rank and file despised him for it at the time. And then, ironically, so many of his policies came to fruition after he was gone.

So is David King, Prather's oldest living Past Master at the time. David gave the Middle Chamber lecture so movingly, so perfectly, and with such demonstrable understanding of the words of that complex ritual. I was astonished throughout the degree to hear it for the first time that day. I was even more shocked to discover afterwards that David was already blind at the time. 

So is then-Secretary Jerry Cowley, the ever cheerful, always optimistic, always outgoing promoter, defender and champion of Broad Ripple Lodge, who greeted every petitioner like a long-lost relative and was a constant fountain of suggestions to retain members. Nothing phased him, and he was always the first to volunteer. Jerry made sure that the rest of us understood that we are all connected to each other, and to never stop inviting and welcoming every Mason we met. When our lodge was teetering on closing, he always found a way to involve other lodges' members in our activities. And as we rebuilt, those visitors wound up enjoying our lodge more than their own. And that wouldn't have happened without Jerry.

So is then-Treasurer Irv Sacks, the wise old Jewish uncle I never had, and whose counsel I valued to the very end.

So is then-Senior Steward 'Big John' Gillis, whose friendly, folksy voice the whole city knew from his many years on radio stations WIBC and WNAP. How shocked I was when it was him who appeared with his big mustache and lamb chop sideburns to "propound three important questions" to me.

Past Master Don Seeley is gone, too. I really never thought that would happen, because he was King Solomon for all eternity in my mind's eyes and ears. 

And old friend Richard Finch just passed away this January. He was maybe hardest of all, because Dick and his family have been part of my family for almost 50 years now.

I fully realize that this sounds like a long parade of the dead, and maybe even that Freemasonry is nothing more than a slow march to the graveyard. Or the tar pit. Or both.

Quite the contrary. It teaches us to live and celebrate each day as if it were our last one, to learn from and to cherish each other, young and old. To put aside whatever petty nonsense divides us as individuals, and instead unite to become something larger than ourselves.

The lodge room that day was packed with Masons of all ages. And lots of them went on to remain active and to become leaders in the fraternity in the coming years. But it was a function of the demographics of a fraternity of mature men who overwhelmingly did as I did, and didn't join until their 40s and later. Yes, there were plenty of young men that day too, but the wise, older Past Masters who were running the show had more than twenty years of Masonic experience on me then. And it's two decades later now.

My friend Jeff Naylor once lamented, “When you're young, all you ever want to be is older. No one ever explains that the price you pay for that is in the numbers of people you lose who were important in your life.”

And yet, with all of those friends and brothers who were there that day now gone, you would think this is some maudlin, weepy lament over the past. 
It's not. Every single one of those men now gone taught me important lessons about Masonry, and people, and life itself. Each of us is the sum total of our experiences and those who shaped our character. Lessons I never would have learned in a hundred years on my own without men like these and countless others. 

The central metaphor of Freemasonry is its very premise. Each one of us is a Temple to God, and we choose to make our Temple worthy or not. But that Temple isn't built by us alone. It's built, stone by stone, with the help of all those around us, everyone we encounter. Especially Brother Masons. Fellow craftsmen engaged in building, not tearing down.

Joining the fraternity of Freemasonry has been the greatest life-changing experience of my 60 years on Earth, and I say that without exaggeration. In two decades of membership, I have traveled all over the world and met and gotten to know quite literally thousands of Masons from every walk of life. Every sort of profession. Every economic level. Every race, color, nationality, education, personality, temperament, religion, and every other sort of classification people can dream up to categorize and file away strangers we normally don't know or would never otherwise associate with on a bet. Those tribal distinctions that we arbitrarily use to ignore the people around us are all meaningless when it comes to basic human coexistence. That's what being "on the level" is all about, which has been one of the primary purposes of Freemasonry from its very beginning. 

Funny how that Undiscovered Country always seems just out of reach. Yes, as Hamlet said, it "puzzles the will." But such an amazing journey it has all been so far, with the greatest crowd of traveling companions it's ever been my privilege to know.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

French 'Yellow Vests' Vandalize Masonic Temple

Police inspect ransacked Masonic temple in Tarbes.
For the last four months, the 'Gilets Jaunes' (Yellow Vests) protest movement against the Macron government in France has continued unabated. Saturday marked the seventeenth straight weekend of street protests across the country, and the mostly spontaneous popular movement still has not coalesced around any sort of strong national leadership who might have some guiding influence. Even well-regarded national spokesmen are few. Like any sort of mob action, in addition to the true believers in their initial cause of government reform and anti-globalism, it has also sadly attracted all sorts of far-right, far-left, and freelance malefactors who just want to break things and attack their favorite boogeymen. Or whatever is handy. Consequently, there are many angry participants who are able to hang any sort of grievances, hatreds and conspiracies around the neck of what began as a populist fight against excessive taxation and government overreach. 

Sooner or later, someone was bound to decide both Jews and Masons ought to be a target. It's what bored anti-establishment delinquents do.

A group of 'Gilets Jaunes' street protesters in the southwest French town of Tarbes near the Spanish border broke windows and ransacked a Masonic lodge Saturday night. The otherwise peaceful weekend protest there by a crowd of about 450 took a destructive turn around midnight when a masked and unidentified man in a vest suddenly highjacked the march, grabbed a megaphone and yelled, "Let's go get the police and the Freemasons!"

According to a story in Ladepeche.fr, the same man then led around a hundred followers to a local Masonic temple of the Grande Loge Mixte de France (a co-Masonic order) and began pelting the windows with rocks. As some in the crowd followed suit, he climbed the gate and several protesters smashed the door and entered the building. Once inside, they ransacked the lodge room, overturned furniture, and made off with four ceremonial swords. 
Masked, unidentified instigator seen leaving the lodge with ceremonial swords
It did not take 3 minutes for them to retreat, alarmed by a light on the first floor, which they had themselves turned on: "Be careful, there is someone inside, get out!"
The leader came out with four swords that he left on the windows of the nearby Bank of France before another protester changed his mind and returned the objects.
Alerted, [lodge] officials went there to see the damage with the police. Inside, [they found] broken glass, overturned furniture, and twisted and broken objects.
"I can only denounce this degradation" lamented [a lodge officer], noting the damage. "We've had projectiles already, but this is the first time anyone has come back to vandalize. There is material damage, degraded furniture, broken windows, the sound system torn off, theft, breakage, traces of black paint. We will have to secure our premises more dependably." A complaint has been filed and an investigation is underway.
A pro-Yellow Vest Masonic cartoon:
"Fed up with the head tax increases?
Join the 'Yellow Aprons"
Gratifying that some kind-hearted soul so quickly returned the swords. It appears that the actual troublemakers were quite few in number. 

Since the very first high-visibility Gilets Jaunes protests on Paris' Champs Elysées in December, 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. 

Nevertheless, some individual Masons in France have demonstrated their solidarity with the movement by calling themselves "Yellow Aprons." France's Grand Orient Masons in particular frequently take strong institutional stands on political issues, unlike Anglo-American Masons. As a large organizational clot, we're forbidden from taking public political stands.

(RT.com has a video of police inspecting the lodge damage HERE)

H/T Josef Wäges and Yves Polin

UPDATE 3/11/2019 11:00am:

A video tour of the lodge before it was ransacked can be seen HERE.

The Grande Loge Mixte de France has issued the following press release concerning the vandalism (apologies for translation errors via Bing and my own imprecise efforts):
Masonic Temple of Tarbes ransacked

On the night of Saturday, March 9 to Sunday, March 10, the premises of the Masonic Temple of Tarbes, which is one of the flagships of the French Masonic heritage, were ransacked by several individuals.
These unspeakable acts are in the context of a surge of threats and hateful remarks against the Freemasons in the nation.
The sacralization of violence and attempts to create, within the country, enemies of all sorts by differentiating the human species, are not acceptable.
Is it necessary to remember, with Voltaire, that intolerance has covered the land with carnage?
In the face of this unleashing of noise and fury, the fight must be even more ardent against anything that contributes to eroding the social pact: questioning Republican values and principles, social regressions, precariousness, self-withdrawal and drifts Communitarianism.
Giving to the world what the French-Freemasons and the Freemasons really are, beyond fantasies and myths of all kinds, has become vital, while keeping in mind that if there is a bit of mystery, it proceeds from the initiation journey of each and every one, and falls within the Inner sphere of each Freemason.
In this context of disaggregation of the social body, more than ever, [bringing] our message of brotherhood, to the attention of all and all, must be doubled in a daily struggle in the service of the values and principles of the indivisible, secular, democratic and social.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Nazi 'Buried Treasure' Diary Found in Masonic Lodge

There's a curious story today in the Daily Mail, and I'm hoping a blog reader actually living in Germany can fill in some missing details. The story claims that the Masonic lodge in the German town of Quedlinburg has been in posession of a former Nazi SS officer's private diary, and it has been donated to a local foundation for safekeeping and publicizing its contents. 

In it, SS standartenführer Egon Ollenhauer recounted purported plans of officers of the Waffen SS to hide 250 truckloads of stolen gold and artwork in eleven different locations in lower Silesia as Red Army troops advanced near the war's end. One location is said to contain 28 tons of gold from a branch of the Reichsbank in what was then Breslau, now the Polish city of Wroclaw.

The diary also says one cache contains 47 works of art thought to be stolen from collections in France, including works by Botticelli, Rubens, Cezanne, Carravagio, Monet, Dürer, Raffael and Rembrandt.
And another stash is said to contain religious objects stolen from around the world in an attempt to find evidence for Hitler's racial theories.

It is the Daily Mail, after all. They can't go for a month without printing a 'hidden Nazi treasure' story. They're a staple of cable TV channels, too. But the Masonic lodge's connection adds a different twist.

As the Red Army started to bear down on ethnically German territory, Hitler’s SS undertook a large-scale operation involving around 260 trucks to hide Nazi gold, valuables held by the local population and treasures looted from throughout Nazi-German occupied Europe. Ollenhauer was the link between senior SS officers and local aristocrats who wanted help to protect their property from the Soviets.
The diary offers detailed lists of each of the eleven treasure caches. One is said to contain 28 tonnes of gold from the Breslau branch of the Reichsbank. Others contain gold coins, medals, jewellery and other valuables deposited by wealthy people in Wrocław to the local Nazi police for safekeeping.

The diary describes one cache as containing 47 works of art of international importance, believed to be stolen from collections in France, including works by Botticelli, Rubens, Cezanne, Carravagio, Monet, Dürer, Raffael and Rembrandt.

Yet another treasure stash is supposed to contain religious objects gathered by Himmler’s Ahnenerbe, which hoovered up sacral items from around the world in an attempt to find evidence for Hitler’s racial theories.

The diary is in the possession of the foundation Schlesische Brücke (Silesian Bridge), which was set up by a businessman, Darius Franz Dziewiatek, from the Silesian city of Opole. Dziewiatek says that he received the war diary from a 1,100-year-old [sic] Christian lodge from Quedlinburger, Germany...
The original Logenhaus of Zur Goldenen Waage
Obviously, the lodge isn't 1,100 years old. It is Zur Beständigen Freiheit N. 987 ("Of Perennial Freedom") in Quedlinburg, part of the United Grand Lodges of Germany. According to the lodge's history on its website, the current lodge was actually not chartered until April 1991, which makes enormous sense. Quedlinburg had been behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and Masonic lodges were forbidden.

Its much earlier pre-war precursor had been Zur Goldenen Waage ("Golden Scales") chartered June 6, 1846. Like the rest of the Masonic lodges in Germany, it was forced to disband under the Nazi's anti-Masonic laws in 1935, and their building became the county library. It was demolished in 2009, but the Masonic temple portion of that original building survives and the room preserved as a display for the public.

The lodge room of Zur Goldenen Waage survives
and has been opened as a public display
The new lodge has been rebuilding a much older cottage nearby in Quedlinburg's Old Town, which escaped damage during World War II. I am presuming that this SS officer's diary was discovered at this location during their renovation.

Renovation of Zur Beständigen Freiheit N. 987's Logenhaus in Quedlinburg's Old Town
Roman Furmaniak, who represents the foundation told TFN: “About ten years ago, after many discussions, the Quedlinburger lodge decided to hand the diary to the foundation.
“We are releasing information about the diary now as we wanted to wait until all persons who could be connected to the events and the diary had passed away, particularly officers of the Waffen SS. This was the wish of the Quedlinburger lodge.”
The foundation claims that the authenticity of the diary has been checked by five institutions in Germany, including the Department of Art History at the University of Göttingen, and these tests show that the diary is real.

In October last year, the foundation informed the Polish authorities of what they had.

Furmaniak said: “We wanted to release the information to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence and also the 1,100th anniversary of the establishment of the lodge in Quedlinburger.”

And if any of the treasures listed in the diary are ever unearthed? Furmaniak says, “It is the wish of the lodge that possessions found are reunited with their heirs if this is possible.
“However, this probably won’t be possible in every case. But it is our intention that the property is returned to its rightful owners.”
A very real cache of Nazi gold, buried in a salt mine and
discovered by Allied Forces after the war.
The reason why Nazi buried loot stories are so tantalizing is because Hitler's various military, security and intelligence agencies really did confiscate such treasures in astonishing amounts. They really did bury it, especially near the end, to hide it from advancing Russian troops. Some of it really has been found over the years. The Nazis were meticulous about their accounting for everything movable and immovable, with obsessive record keeping. And most of all, so much of what was stolen has never been found to this day.

In this particular case, the Masonic connection seems to be purely accidental. But I am reaching out to area Masons there to get some clarity over this purported 1,100 year claim, along with perhaps more detail about this story.

Freemasons For Dummies 
(Freimaurer für Dummies
is available in German from Amazon.de