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


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Masonic Cowboy Boots

The weather wizards are already predicting snow here in Indiana on Halloween night, which is usually the point at which the few responsible people in the world start thinking they're behind on considering Christmas presents. So I occasionally spot things others might consider to be proper Masonic gift items.

Despite the fact that my in-laws all relocated to Texas in the 1980s, cowboy hats and cowboy boots fall into the category of stuff I don't own. Horses and I have never mixed well (all of them I have ever ridden have decidedly been diabolical and unholy escorts of Beelzebub himself, and entirely untrustworthy to invest my life upon for any length of time). Thus, I classify personally owning the associated apparel to be fraudulent. 

That's as may be - the world is nevertheless filled with folks who never punched a single head of cattle who cheerfully have closets full of cowboy headgear and footwear. Masons included. And so...

Teskey's saddle shop in Weatherford, Texas is offering online a line of both Freemason and Past Master cowboy boots, in round and square toe design, priced at $399 a pair. These have been made by the Anderson Bean Boot Company, in Texas. They are described as having 10" tops, hand-tooled, with leather soles, double-stitched. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Tri-State Masonic Degree Exemplification in Grand Rapids, MI: 11/23

On Saturday, November 23, 2019 three midwestern U.S. Grand Lodges will come together for a Tri-State Masonic Degree Exemplification. This is a rare opportunity to see how the three Craft Lodge degrees are conferred in these sister jurisdictions. The Grand Lodge of Michigan F&AM will be hosting the Tri-State Degree Day at the Grand Rapids Masonic Center. 

Grand Rapids Masonic Center
The three Blue Lodge degrees will each be presented by the grand officers of the Grand Lodges of Ohio, Indiana and Michigan respectively, without lectures and charges. 

The Entered Apprentice Degree will be performed by the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana; the Fellow Craft Degree by the Grand Lodge F&AM of Michigan; and the Master Mason Degree by the Grand Lodge F&AM of Ohio. 

All Master Masons in amity with the Grand Lodge of Michigan are welcome to attend this demonstration of the degrees. 

Obviously this is a tyled event, so be sure you bring your current dues card - Membership will be verified. And if last year's gathering in Indianapolis was any barometer, it wouldn't hurt to toss in an apron if you have one, just in case the supply is tight.

This event begins promptly at 1:00 PM. Please know that the schedule for the day is full and they will be moving from one degree right into the next.   
  • Entered Apprentice Degree - presented by the Grand Lodge F&AM of Ohio 
  • Followed by the Fellow Craft Degree - presented by the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana
  • Followed by the Master Mason Degree - presented by the Grand Lodge F&AM of Michigan
3:45 PM (Estimated) - Light Reception with Cash Bar

Registration with payment of $20 is due by Friday, November 15, 2019. This may be paid via PayPal or check payable to Grand Lodge of Michigan mailed to 1204 Wright Ave., Alma, MI 48801.

Wreath Laying Ceremony To Follow at President Gerald Ford's Gravesite

At 5:00 PM that Saturday there will be a wreath laying ceremony at President Gerald R. Ford's gravesite presented by the Grand Lodge Officers of Ohio, Indiana & Michigan.  The Ford grave is located at 303 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Because of the tumultuous twists of history, Gerald Ford is the only person ever to have served as both Vice President and President without being elected to either office. 

Brother Gerald Rudolph Ford served as the 38th President of the United States between 1974-77 after the resignation of Richard M. Nixon. Ford had been appointed as Nixon's Vice President in December 1973 following the resignation of Spiro T. Agnew. He lost the presidential election of 1976 to Jimmy Carter, and his was the shortest term in history for an American  president who did not die in office. But Ford's steady, affable nature combined with his moderate political views and policies helped to calm a nation at one of the most fraught political periods in U.S. history.

To date, Gerald Ford is the last U.S. President to have been a Freemason. 

Brother Gerald Ford was initiated as an Entered Apprentice on September 30, 1949 in Malta Lodge No. 465 in Grand Rapids Michigan, along with his three half-brothers Thomas Gardner Ford, Richard Addison Ford, and James Francis Ford. Brother Gerald's Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees were conferred by Columbia Lodge No. 3, Washington, D.C., on April 20 and May 18, 1951 as a courtesy to Malta Lodge. He was also a member of the Scottish Rite and the Shrine.

In 1975, Ford was made an honorary grand master of the Order of DeMolay. That same year, he visited the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia for the unveiling of a plaque in the auditorium marking his own presidency. Ford's speech at the event was later published in his public papers, and in it he spoke of his own Masonic journey.

"When I took my obligation as a master mason — incidentally, with my three younger brothers — I recalled the value my own father attached to that Order. But I had no idea that I would ever be added to the company of the Father of our country and 12 other members of the order who also served as Presidents of the United States. Masonic principles — internal, not external — and our order's vision of duty to country and acceptance of God as Supreme Being and guiding light have sustained me during my years of government service. Today especially, the guidelines by which I strive to become an upright man in Masonry give me great personal strength.
"Masonic precepts can help America retain our inspiring aspirations while adapting to a new age. It is apparent to me that the Supreme Architect has set out the duties each of us has to perform, and I have trusted in His will with the knowledge that my trust is well-founded...
"Let us today rededicate ourselves to new efforts--as Masons and as Americans. Let us demonstrate our confidence in our beloved Nation and a future that will flow from the glory of the past. When I think of the things right about America, I think of this order with its sense of duty to country, its esteem for brotherhood and traditional values, its spiritual high principles, and its humble acceptance of God as the Supreme Being..."
After the post-degree reception at the Masonic Center, the grand officers will depart for the Ford gravesite at 4:30PM. 

If you require overnight accommodations in Grand Rapids, there is a limited block of rooms available at the Amway Grand Plaza. Feel free to use the link below:

Amway Hotel Booking Website:

If you have any questions, feel free to contact a representative directly at 989-466-3091

Saturday, October 26, 2019

"We're going on an adventure, buddy!"

"We're going on an adventure, buddy!"

For fifteen years now, this is what I've said to Wiley whenever it was time to pile into the car for another road trip. And he's gone everywhere with us, from coast to coast. If you went to Masonic Week back in the last years at the Hotel Washington or when it was at the Hilton in Alexandria, you probably met him.

We picked him out from a goofy puppy photo on the Internet back in 2005. We had just put three elderly dogs to sleep in three months, and suddenly found ourselves dogless for the first time in our entire lives. Alice declared she wanted a poodle, but there were none to be found in the dead of winter in Indiana that year. I had to make a last minute drive to Washington DC to take photos for my first book, Freemasons For Dummies, so I told her "Find a poodle breeder along I-70 or I-64 between here and DC." 

She did.

She found a French couple raising poodles in the wilds of Warsaw, Virginia. They lived so far out in the woods that I joked they must be in the witness protection program. It was already dark when we got there. The wife brought out this curly-haired, squirming pup, and plopped him into Alice's arms, and he was immediately ours. As he wiggled and nibbled on Alice's forefinger, the wife said in a thick accent, "No, no, no! Eee iz trying to dominate!"

Madame, you said a mouthful. He was indeed. And he succeeded.

The poodle was really supposed to be Alice's dog, but that first night, he picked me as his favorite. When it came time to come up with a name, we spent days picking the perfect one. One morning, my editor Tracy called, and the caller ID on the phone simply said the name of the publishing company - "Wiley." It was perfect, and we knew he couldn't be called anything but Wiley after that. In return, a box came from Tracy one day with a copy of every book on raising puppies that they published. I always hated to tell Tracy that reading wasn't his long suit, and he ignored everything in them.

Wiley was a truly French French-poodle, sometimes with the personality of a haughty waiter in a Paris cafe you can't afford, and he had us responding to basic commands pretty quickly. When I sat at the desk, he insisted on being on my shoulder at first, then in my lap, then right under my chair. 

When I was in the hospital one Christmas Eve, he slept in the bed with me and startled the nurses. When we drove, he had a throne more comfortable than our seats. When we stayed in hotels, they had to be dog friendly - or we'd convince the clerk that we'd sooner make a mess on the floor than he would. When we bought the Airstream, the biggest decision was where his perch was going to be. When I had to be gone and he couldn't go along, he'd sit by the front door and whine non-stop for days until I got back. For days.

Wiley came down with Lyme disease eight years ago, and it caused early onset arthritis that aged him prematurely. It dramatically slowed him down, made it hard for him to walk. So he got carried a lot in the last two years. The last six months have been rough as we watched him deteriorate - he went blind and deaf, and finally his hips and back legs failed this week. But he always insisted on being with us at all times, and he was.

We said good-bye to our little French tyrant this weekend, and I can't regret doing it. It was past time, and we were selfish to wait as long as we did. Still and all, it's not fair for us to have to decide their fate for them. They trust us and love us, and we repay that trust and love by ending their lives when we think it's time. There's no way to make that a fair exchange.

Just before the vet came in to administer the second shot that would take him from us, I leaned over and said my final goodbye, and left him with the last words he would ever hear me say.

"We're going on an adventure, buddy!"

He got there before we have, but I'm sure when we follow him, he'll be hogging the bed.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Maryland's PHA Masons Perform Funeral Service for Elijah Cummings

CSPAN viewers Wednesday saw something rarely televised. The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Maryland conducted a Masonic funeral service for their fallen Brother, the late Elijah E. Cummings, Congressman for Maryland's 7th Congressional District. 

Brother Cummings passed to the Celestial Lodge on October 17th at the age of 68. He was a member of Baltimore's Corinthian Lodge No. 62.

Grand Lecturer Randolph S. Smith performed the solemn funeral ritual, followed by a tribute by Grand Master Emmanuel J. Stanley.

Grand Master Emmanuel J. Stanley (far right)
Cummings' body was laying in repose on Thursday at historically black Morgan State University in Baltimore. He was a Prince Hall Mason in Baltimore, and his casket was flanked by an honor guard of Prince Hall Masonic Knights Templar for the duration of the memorial service. 

In addition to the many members of the MWPHGL of Maryland, Prince Hall Brethren came from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii to take part in this ceremony.

If you have a Facebook account, a video excerpt from the broadcast showing the Prince Hall ceremony can be seen HERE.

Elijah Cummings served on Morgan University's Board of Regents for 19 years, and it was one of his final wishes to lie in repose there. On Thursday, his casket was moved to Washington D.C. where he lay in state at the U.S. Capitol.

Born in 1951, Brother Cummings served twelve terms in Congress for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District beginning in 1996 and most recently in the 2018 election. He represented portions of Baltimore and Baltimore County, and was popular with his constituents, typically receiving more than 70 percent of the vote and once running entirely unopposed. In Congress, he served as chair of the Committee of Oversight and Government Reform. Prior to his service in Congress, Cummings was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates for 14 years, where he was the first African American in the state’s history to serve as Speaker Pro Tempore. He is survived by his widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.

His column is broken, and his brethren mourn.

Requiescat in pace.

(The Youtube of the Live Stream begins after the Masonic service had started, and can be seen below.)

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Trial of Would-Be Anti-Masonic Terrorist Delayed Again

The Associated Press reported today that the trial of Samy Hamzeh in Milwaukee has been delayed again. Hamzeh was originally arrested by Federal agents in January 2016 for plotting a mass shooting terrorist attack at the Humphrey Masonic Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He discussed his plans in detail and purchased two fully automatic machine guns from Federal informants and agents.

Unfortunately, the AP deliberately chose language to paper over the anti-Masonic motivation for Hamzeh's plot by choosing their words very carefully:

MILWAUKEE — The trial for a man accused of plotting a mass shooting in defense of Islam at a Masonic temple in downtown Milwaukee has been delayed.
The trial was set to begin Wednesday in federal court in Milwaukee, but prosecutors have appealed a judge’s decisions to exclude evidence...
Nice try. Hamzeh was NOT "plotting a mass shooting in defense of Islam." Freemasons had not—and were not—attacking, insulting or besmirching Islam in any way, shape or form. But today's AP story lede has attempted to ascribe some onus onto the Masonic fraternity instead of the would-be terrorist. 

Hamzeh's actual plan was to open fire with multiple automatic weapons deliberately at a large Masonic event in the Humphrey Masonic Center (photo) and bar the doors to prevent escapes. His motivation was a conspiracy theory fueled by fundamentalist and extremist ideology that brands Masons as enemies of the Muslim faith. 

That's a big shift in interpretation from the AP story published on Tuesday of this week. At least that one explained the crackpot theory that Hamzeh was espousing - that Freemasons were somehow secretly supporting the terrorist group ISIS in order to discredit Islam in world opinion. Without seeing the actual material from the case, it's a pretty good guess that this absurd notion was tied in with the standard "Jewish-Masonic Worldwide Conspiracy Theory.®" 

But a trial jury will never hear a whiff of it.

Hamzeh is claiming entrapment by Federal agents, a defense tactic that almost never succeeds. But because numerous terrorism charges sought by government prosecutors have been thrown out by the judge, a jury will never hear many of their actual recorded conversations in which he discussed his motives for wanting to buy fully automatic machine guns. Despite Hamzeh's fully documented conversations in which he detailed his planned slaughter of Masons and their families, the charges have been reduced merely to the illegal acquisition of machine guns. 

From Tuesday's story, 'Man accused of plan to attack Milwaukee temple goes on trial':
Attorneys for 26-year-old Samy Hamzeh plan to argue that the FBI entrapped their client, who they say never owned a gun, has no criminal record, and was incapable of mass murder. The FBI has said their agents thwarted an act of terrorism when they arrested Hamzeh in January 2016.
The Journal Sentinel reports that Hamzeh, an American citizen who spent his childhood in Jordan, was ultimately only charged with possessing two machine guns and a silencer, all of which he bought from undercover FBI agents who had informants set up the deal.


The case against Hamzeh began when a longtime friend identified in court records only as Steve, who was in the country illegally, told FBI agents in September 2015 that Hamzeh talked of going to Egypt to get a gun and terrorist training. That’s when the FBI planted a professional informant, identified only as Mike, to work at the same restaurant as Hamzeh and Steve, according to court documents.
Mike introduced Hamzeh to YouTube videos espousing the belief that Masons secretly support the Islamic State, which through its terrorism was discrediting all Muslims, according to court records. That’s how Hamzeh and the informants settled on Milwaukee’s Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Temple as a target. Defense attorneys argue the FBI induced Hamzeh to buy weapons by offering them at cheaper price and after months of indoctrination.
Mike recorded his conversations with Hamzeh, but not all are being allowed as evidence. U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper, who will oversee the trial, ruled that some were prejudicial.

Included among the recorded conversations with Mike and Steve are Hamzeh’s cancellation of the attack after he said he consulted with two imams who told him what he was planning was wrong.
But a magistrate judge who heard a request from Hamzeh to be released on bail in 2017 did not see that conversation as evidence that Hamzeh wasn’t really committed to violence.
“It comes down to this,” wrote then-U.S. Magistrate Judge David E. Jones. “It should not take the spiritual guidance of two religious leaders to dissuade a person from committing mass murder.”
U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper 
(Photo: Journal Sentinel)

Even this AP story eliminates almost all of the evidence being excluded from the trial because of court rulings by U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper (photo).

Reporter Bruce Vielmetti of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a far more detailed account of the legal battles that have been waged to throw out all of the anti-Masonic terrorism charges against Hamzeh, or even any mention of his planned attack. 

From his article, "Entrapment defense in 2016 Masonic Center shooting plot will have to wait as prosecutors appeal judge's rulings" :
In pre-trial rulings, [Judge] Pepper barred prosecutors' use of about 70 statements or discussions between Hamzeh and the informants.

Motive is not an element of the crimes, so Hamzeh's early talk of going to Israel is not relevant to him buying the guns, Pepper found, though his comments about wanting to take guns from Israeli soldiers and spraying other people with bullets can be admitted as possibly relevant to his desire to obtain a machine gun.
Much of Hamzeh and the informants' chilling, detailed discussions about how an attack on the Masonic Center would take place will not be allowed either. Pepper again found them irrelevant to buying the guns and highly prejudicial.
In a 51-page order, Pepper lays out, passage by passage, which of more than 100 exchanges between Hamzeh and the informants will be admissible and which will not.

For example, Hamzeh's statements about going to Israel to fight with Hamas against Jews or how his martyrdom might inspire others don't help prove whether he was inclined to get a machine gun in Milwaukee, Pepper found, and excluded them.
But she allowed Hamzeh's talk of taking Kalashnikov rifles from Jewish soldiers and spraying innocent people because it's arguably related to an interest in machine guns.
She also excluded testimony from a government expert about the Middle East and whether conspiracy theories about the Masons exist in that region.
According to court records, at some point Hamzeh watched YouTube videos espousing the belief that Masons secretly support the Islamic State, which through its terrorism was discrediting all Muslims, which purportedly led Hamzeh and the informants to settle on the Milwaukee center as a target.
Hamzeh and the informants discussed who would be shot first, whether children would be spared and other details. But those talks "raise the risk that the jury will convict the defendant for his cold, calculating and chilling words, and not because he possessed the charged items," Pepper ruled, and blocked them from use as evidence at trial...
I'm reminded of a situation many years ago. My wife and I were confronted very late one evening by a drunken driver who leapt from his car, pointed a pistol into my face, and screamed over and over that he was going to blow my head off, before suddenly jumping back into his truck and driving off. When I attempted to file charges against him after identifying his vehicle, a weary cop shook his head and said, "You'd have had a better case if he pulled the trigger." I always pitied some future convenience store clerk who handed that guy the wrong change one night when he might be on a similar bender, similarly armed, and in a similarly unhinged frame of mind. 

Let's all hope Mr. Hamzeh has sufficiently learned not to believe moronic conspiracy theories from the Internet the next time he spots a square and compass on a Masonic hall, because it seems that any outcome of this watered down trial will result in little actual punishment. Or deterrent for anyone similarly inspired.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

New York Police Release New Footage of Masonic Hall Attack Suspect

New York City police have released more video surveillance footage of the unidentified man who threw a Molotov cocktail at the entrance of the city’s landmark Masonic Hall on 23rd Street on October 9th. 

The new and more detailed video shows the moment he threw the glass firebomb, and its brief ignition. The bearded man, wearing a gray sweatshirt and dark track pants, then walked away from the scene after the arson and is seen entering a nearby subway station.

The complete video can be seen HERE on the New York Post's website.

Firefighters were called, but the flames had been extinguished by the time they arrived. There were no injuries and there is still no word yet from the Grand lodge on any damage, but I'm told it was minimal.

This famous Masonic Hall is the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of New York, and home to numerous lodges and appendant groups.

The suspect may have deliberately chosen that specific date for his attack to coincide with holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. If so, it's likely this was an anti-Masonic attack based on the commonly circulated "Jewish/Masonic Conspiracy" theory. Believers in that mythical nonsense are all too commonplace, I'm afraid. Fortunately  these types of attacks aren't very common. Unfortunately, police departments aren't always well versed in that connection, and often ignore it as a motive.

New York Crime Stoppers is seeking tips on this suspect at 800-577-8477. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Video: Nazis vs. Freemasons

Finding a decent Masonic program at random on Amazon Prime's leviathan on-demand streaming service is frequently an exercise in futility, given the abundance of lurid video nonsense about our fraternity choking the marketplace. But I stumbled into an outstanding documentary last week - Nazis vs. Freemasons: the Robbing of the Lodges (La Mémoire Volée des Francs-Maçons).
(NOTE: The Amazon version is dubbed into English and also has English subtitles for the French interviews. The title listed on Amazon is ‘Nazis and the Freemasons’ but the onscreen title on the program itself is ‘Nazis vs. the Freemasons.’ And yes I know, that Nazi swastika in the poster above is backwards - not my artwork.)
Over the last few decades, much attention has been given to the far sexier topic of art treasures stolen by the invading forces of the Nazi regime as they tore across Europe. But it's difficult to find much when it comes to the subject of their sacking of Masonic temples in Germany and in the occupied countries. Few historians outside of the fraternity are even aware this was done, and almost no one even talked about it before the mid-1980s or so. 

Of course, there was Hitler's well-known philosophy that the Freemasons and the Jews were in cahoots to "take over the world," and that "all Jews are Freemasons; all Freemasons are Jews." So there was a direct anti-semitic aspect to the destruction of the lodges. Then there was the longstanding European claim that French Masons had started the French Revolution, and that Masons had essentially designed and controlled the entire government of France's Third Republic in the late 19th century. 

Alfred Rosenberg
Heinrich Himmler
A certain clot of influential Nazis like Alfred Rosenberg (one of the chief architects of Nazi ideology and its top "racial theorist") and SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler had their own reasons for wanting their hands on Masonic archives. Rosenberg created an entire institute for pursuing cultural, historical and anthropological "proofs" of Nazism's racial theories and especially the "Judeo-Masonic Conspiracy." His Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (or ERR) had an entire division devoted just to Masonic archives. Meanwhile, Himmler really was a full-throated devotee of occultism, and had a longstanding inkling that the secretive Masons really might be secretly hiding the the secrets to Life, the Universe and Everything in our secretive secret secrets. 

Once Hitler came to power and shuttered Germany's lodges, the ERR set up their Masonic division in the basement of Berlin's largest former Masonic Temple, while upstairs was turned into the national headquarters of the SS. They made odd housemates: Rosenberg's ERR and Himmler's SS were in direct competition with each other to see who could confiscate more cultural and artistic treasures. 

Rosenberg stored the ERR's loot at Neuschwanstein Castle, while Himmler's best finds got hauled off to Wewelsburg Castle, which became his own virtual crypto-religious shrine for the SS' most elite officers. But the invading Germans weren't just interested in stripping expensive Masonic decor or spooky props. They also gutted Masonic libraries wherever they found them. By the end of the war, Himmler had amassed the world's largest library of esoteric books made up of more than 13,000 stolen volumes from across Europe. A huge portion of them came from Masonic libraries.

Most of all, the Nazis desperately wanted the detailed membership records from the various grand lodges and lodge secretaries (along with trade unions and other voluntary associations) from every country they advanced into. The Nazis removed Masonic records and libraries across France, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, the Baltic States, Greece, and Italy.

Those records - frequently consisting of lodge petitions and other personal information - were a treasure trove for the Gestapo and other security forces and their quislings for tracking down men through their Masonic memberships, sponsors, occupations, known residences, spouses and families, and much more. France's various competing grand lodges, whether male, female or co-Masonic, made no idealogical difference to the Nazi security apparatus. Notions of regularity that Masons might obsess over were meaningless distinctions, and every grand lodge and individual lodge room was looted, regardless of whose it was. The files and confiscated libraries were ultimately sent back to Berlin where the Gestapo, the SS, and their cooperative collaborators pored over them. This was the way that an estimated 250,000 Freemasons wound up being systematically arrested and sent to the camps throughout Europe. 

Because of U.S. and British bombing campaigns on Berlin as early as 1942, the archives began getting shipped eastward into Poland and Czechoslovakia by the Nazis to avoid destruction - only to be captured when the Russians marched in from the opposite direction. Russia's Red Army were the first of the allied forces to roll into Berlin and seize control of the Nazi's centralized record keeping infrastructure. But the story didn't conclude in 1945. When the war ended, the Masonic records never returned. 

The Soviets under Stalin were every bit as obsessive about spying on private citizens as their defeated Nazi enemies had been, and just as ruthless when it came to stuffing their ideological foes into the dark hole of the gulags. The leaders of the Russian Revolution and their successors had been every bit as anti-Masonic as Hitler's Germany, for many of the very same reasons, just without the grim efficiency. So Stalin was happy to capitalize on the Nazi's diligence - those very same Masonic records were packed up from Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia and shipped farther eastward as fast as the Russians could find boxcars and trucks. And they remained behind the Iron Curtain for the duration of the Cold War. Because the Soviets had taken all of the former Nazi territories east of Berlin, all of those former Masons still alive throughout the Warsaw Pact countries could still be traced by Moscow through their old lodge records.

All of this is partially why this very topic today brings out heated fights in, for instance, Italy, when government prosecutors periodically demand that grand lodges turn over their membership records in their regular-as-clockwork anti-Mafia investigations. European Masons have the past as a grim example of how their own private information can be used against them, and it's a large part of the reason they aren't as publicly showy over their Masonic memberships as we are in the U.S. The wartime experience is also why European Masons on the continent are far less consumed by discussions of regularity and recognition at the local lodge level — they know from experience that the enemies and persecutors and would-be destroyers of our fraternity make no such distinctions.

Another reason for Moscow's desire to pore over the Masonic archives was strategic, once the Cold War was in full swing. A large proportion of the military and political leaders of the Allied forces, the post-war Marshall Plan administrators and officers, and leading NATO figures were Freemasons. Many of them were quite public about it (especially the Americans), so the Russians clung to the Masonic information in case it could be used for their own purposes. After Stalin's death, that particular obsession fell by the wayside, but the lost Masonic archives simply disappeared into the massive maw of Soviet bureaucratic detritus. 

Think of the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Patricia Grimsted
It wasn't until 1999 after the fall of the USSR that those decades-old Masonic archives began turning up in forgotten warehouses dotted all across the fallen Soviet empire. That was thanks to the detective work of the redoubtable Patricia Grimsted, an American historian who has specialized in investigating confiscated Nazi treasures, files and other lost cultural material. She is quite literally the hero of this detective story.

This video was originally a French program, but dubbed into English. At 51 minutes, it would make an excellent presentation for a lodge's Masonic education. It features Pierre Mollier, the Director of the Grand Orient de France's incredible Museum of Freemasonry in Paris; historians Andre Combs and Sophie Coeure; Philippe Charuel, Grand Master of the Grande Loge de France; Marc Menschaert, Grand Master of the Grand Orient de Belgique; Philippe Gugliemi, Past GM of the Grand Orient de France; and Patricia Grimsted, whose dogged investigation of Nazi plunder over the years led to the ultimate return of these archives.

Reimagining the Modern Masonic Lodge Room

New lodge room at the Grand Lodge of California
Brother Bryan Godwin over on Reddit recently posted a photo (top of this page) of a newly constructed lodge room now available for use at the San Francisco headquarters of the Grand Lodge of California. This is a terrific contemporary design, and so rarely found in the U.S. Click the photo above to enlarge it - there's an awful lot of sacred geometry ingeniously packed into that space.

(UPDATE: The room was designed by architect and Brother David Hackett. The Grand Lodge also added a dining area with bar, study and lounge with a functioning fireplace. in their remodel. Here are two more angles of the lodge room itself that brethren posted on my Facebook page since I first put up this story.)

Let's be honest. Too many American lodge rooms have a tendency to either look stuck in 1929 (16-foot plaster walls painted in powder blue), or were covered from stem to stern back in 1958 with cheap, phony walnut panelling as though there had been a massive, nationwide closeout sale on the stuff at Ace Hardware that got pimped one summer to the entire fraternity in a Short Talk Bulletin. There's a certain uniform basement rec room feel to them.

Don't get me wrong - while I hate the cheap paneling nailed up in thousands of lodges like so many church recreation halls, insurance offices, garages, and basements throughout the fruited plain, I'm AM a big fan of the late 50s and early 60s contemporary architecture. 

There's a gulf of difference between cheap junk nailed up to cover up a problem versus thoughtful design. For instance, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania's Masonic Village in Elizabethtown has one of the very coolest 1960s A-frame lodge rooms I've ever been in.

Lodge room at the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
But not this...

Be honest - isn't it time to redecorate?
Maybe the time has come to personalize your lodge room, or at least admit that our parsimonious Brethren from the Eisenhower Administration years sufficiently got their money's worth from all that mud brown panelling and blue shag carpeting. Maybe at long last it's finally time to redecorate again. 

If you are interested in reimagining your lodge room with a more contemporary approach, take a look at some modern French and Belgian lodge rooms. Many of their older rooms were wrecked during WWII under Nazi occupation throughout the country, so they had to build brand new ones or redecorate destroyed older ones. Plus, they are often in densely packed, tiny urban locations. They have MANY contemporary designs throughout those two nations. And their lodge rooms are designed for far fewer members than most of our older temples were.

For inspiration, I highly recommend two large format photo books packed full of their lodge room images:

Temples Maçonniques de France et de Belgique by Serge Moati and François Nussbaumer

A La Découverte des Temples Maçonniques de France by Ludovic Marcos and Ronan Loaëc

While expensive (the larger Marcos/Loaëc one has more examples), both are worth having. Both books contain new and older rooms with a huge variety of decor, plus many older rooms with updated contemporary designs. 

Here are a couple of random examples.

Not every design appeals to every taste. One man's idea of impressive is another man's idea of a hotel lobby. But in earlier times, our brethren were not shy about personalizing their lodge buildings and meeting rooms with artwork, custom furniture, unique detailing, and innovative designs. That festive, decorative spirit generally did not flourish in the mid- and late-20th century throughout the US. 

(Maybe it's because we pitched the booze out of so many jurisdictions...)

Notice how so very much in all of these examples is accomplished with lighting. Even plain white walls can become dramatic or soothing or otherwise evocative just with new, modern light sources and alternatives.

Think about the first time you actually walked into your current lodge room. Did it feel "special"? Did it feel like you were in a very different sort of place than anywhere else?

Didn't you WANT it to be?

Our lodge rooms are supposed to be a sanctuary from the outside world. They are supposed to make you feel like you are in a place that cannot be invaded by the problems outside the Tyler's door. They are supposed to make you feel like this is a unique place where important, comforting, reflective, and sometimes transformative things take place. All of the above examples accomplish that in a way that baby blue paint or basement paneling lit with flickering fluorescent tubes while a ceiling fan ticks overhead cannot.

Then, of course, there's another way to accomplish this besides paint, lights and furniture. The Scottish Rite Valley of Houston a few years ago built what amounts to a holodeck - a room surrounded on three sides by projection screens so that quite literally any backdrop or artwork can be displayed. Sixteen hi-def laser projectors are combined with computer generated wraparound imagery and a huge surround sound system. Virtual Reality Solomon's Temple anyone?

Just different ways of looking at it. Next time you walk in, try looking at your own lodge room with different eyes. And then make the most of it.