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


Sunday, May 31, 2020

Lazy Sunday

by Christopher Hodapp

Alice and I went downtown today to check the condition of the Indianapolis Masonic Temple after several nights of mayhem and vandalism came too close to it for comfort. We made it a Sunday family outing, since the building was empty and Alice hadn't seen the Museum in a while. Fortunately none of the three big Indianapolis Masonic buildings have been hit with any damage.

But Sophie didn't care for her first encounter with our antique De Moulin Brothers' Odd Fellows novelty lodge goat.

Not one bit.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Check In Regularly With Your Masonic Brothers: Suicide Rates Rising Under COVID

Photo: @chantaldgarcia via Twenty20

by Christopher Hodapp

Back in March, I wrote an article, Rising Farmer Suicides: Are These Your Brethren? It talked about the alarming increase in self-inflicted deaths among the American farmer population and why that should be important to the Masonic fraternity. Many Masonic lodges (arguably the majority in the U.S.) are in rural areas, and these incidents strike very close to home.

Now the COVID-19 enforced lockdowns have had their own damaging effects on people everywhere, not just in rural areas. Case in point: an article on May 21st reported that San Francisco Bay area hospitals had already clocked more suicide attempts in just four weeks than in all of 2019. That means that more people in their region had died by suicide at the time than from the COVID virus.

From ABC-7 in San Francisco: 'Suicides on the rise amid stay-at-home order, Bay Area medical professionals say' by Amy Hollyfield:

"Doctors at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek say they have seen more deaths by suicide during this quarantine period than deaths from the COVID-19 virus.
"The doctor in charge of a Bay Area, Calif. trauma center said the state should end its lockdown orders after an “unprecedented” spike in suicide attempts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve never seen numbers like this, in such a short period of time,” Dr. Mike de Boisblanc, head of trauma at John Muir Medical Center, told local station ABC7... “I mean, we’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.” He added that he thinks “it’s time” to end the state shutdown. Trauma nurse Kacey Hansen, who has worked at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek for over three decades, said she had “never seen” so many attempts, most being young adults. “I have never seen so much intentional injury . . . it’s upsetting.”
"I think people have found themselves disconnected from the normal supportive networks that they have, churches and schools and book clubs, you name it," Tamura said.
Whether these suicides are rooted in economic uncertainty caused by loss of jobs, livelihoods and businesses, or media-stoked fears of viral infection, or the inability to confront their own mortality for the first time, or just plain loneliness, it's far too early to say. But what is clear is that the isolation from human contact and near total lack of social interaction is contributing greatly to the dramatic rise in self-inflicted deaths.

Even before the COVID virus came along, the Centers for Disease Control reported that between 1999 and 2016, the second leading cause of death in Americans aged 15-34 was suicide. The report at the time was authored in 2018, and their statistics ran out at 2016. There were nearly 45,000 suicides in 2016. Middle-aged adults between 45-64 had the largest rate increase, rising to 19.2 per 100,000 in 2016 from 13.2 per 100,000 in 1999. Twenty-five states saw percentage rate increases of more than 30% over the 17 years that were studied. 

The report also looked at the underlying reasons surrounding suicides and found that the effects of economic downturns like job loss, career upheavals, business failures, and financial catastrophes were major causes of the increases, especially during the Great Recession of 2008. And suicides don't just happen to people with pre-existing mental problems - more than half of suicides in 2015 in a subgroup of 27 states were among people with no known mental health condition.

This should be one more wake-up call to Masons everywhere to find ways to communicate and contact our lodge brethren more regularly. Be especially attentive if a Brother is in danger of losing (or already has lost) a child, spouse or parent over the last few months. Business failures are already going up steadily, and job losses have hit records not seen since the 1930s. During the lockdowns, families have been denied the traditional ceremonies and customs we have required for centuries to purge ourselves of the grief from death, as mortuaries are essentially shut down for even small funerals for the duration. All of these situations can have corrosive effects on people who might otherwise appear outwardly fine. Generic e-mails or Facebook posts to grieving friends and Masonic brothers aren't sufficient.

Consider another aspect of the current societal trends that affect Freemasonry today. One of the most fundamental lessons that Masonic rituals teach us is to live each day with the awareness that Death can happen at any instant. In earlier ages, death was an omni-present spectre for most of the world. Americans and Europeans have fewer children today which results in smaller and smaller families that are spread out nationwide by instant mobility. Ease of divorce, live-in relationships and single parenthood all have conspired to fray extended family connections and support networks to the thinnest level in history. Having many children was the rule in prior centuries, in part as a guard against infant mortality and premature deaths from disease, war, or accident. Extended families cared for their elderly relatives at home, not in distant retirement communities by anonymous healthcare workers. So it was not uncommon for children to lose their siblings, grandparents or parents who died under the same roof. Death was a regular visitor.

(The very term 'living room' was promoted after the turn of the last century as a substitute for 'parlor' to blunt the 'dying room' association between death and the home's parlor where funerals were often held for a family member.) 

Up until about 50 years ago, the vast majority of men seeking Masonic membership had some rooting in a religious, faith-based tradition. Most of those religions offered their adherents and congregants hope of some form of 'eternal life' once we shuffled off this mortal coil. Masonic rituals reinforced that belief in an afterlife and a hope of eternal reward for leading a virtuous life on Earth. The most common American rituals feature as part of the Entered Apprentice degree a lecture accompanying the bestowing of the new Mason's apron upon him that says, in part,
"When at last your weary feet shall have come to the end of life's toilsome journey, and from your nerveless grasp shall have dropped forever the working tools of life, may the record of your life be as pure and spotless as this fair emblem which I place in your hands. And when your soul shall stand, naked and alone, before the Great White Throne, may it be your portion to hear from Him who sitteth as the Judge Supreme, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of thy Lord."
It's unfortunate that anti-Masonic fundamentalist Christian critics almost always point to this very passage as 'proof' that Freemasonry offers a false promise of eternal salvation based upon good works on Earth, not faith and redemption in Christ. It's one of the top reasons many Christian critics wrongly allege that Freemasonry is a false religion. That argument actually goes much farther back to a longstanding theological battle that still rages today in Christian denominational feuds between Faith vs. Acts. Interestingly, it didn't get added to American Masonic ritual throughout the country until sometime after the Civil War. And I don't even find references to it in print until Thornburgh's Monitor out of Arkansas in 1903.

But Masonry doesn't 'promise' anything of the sort. Freemasonry is concerned with improving life on Earth, for its members and the wider world around us. Masonry doesn't concern itself with the afterlife, apart from an everlasting expression of hope for one, and it has always ceded that role to each members' own religious faith tradition. 
You don't need to be suicidal yourself to call a prevention hotline. It could be someone you are worried about. You can explain what the person is going through and see what the counselor suggests to intervene, since they are an expert on suicide.
If you need help or know of someone in need, the National Suicide Hotline is there for you: 800-273-8255 or suicide and crisis hotline (855) 278-4204.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Shriners Hospitals Rebranding As 'Shriners Children's'

by Christopher Hodapp

Bill Hosler over on the On The Square blog is reporting today that 'Shriners Hospitals for Children' has just announced that they are uniformly rebranding their network of 22 hospitals as 'Shriners Children's.' The name change is intended to unify and do away with a handful of different facility and corporate entity names of several Shriners children's hospitals and programs throughout North America.

The rebranding does away with different facility
names in the Shriners Hospital system
An email today signed by Imperial Potentate Jeff Sowder and Jeffery Gant, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, explains that the new name better reflects the present and future for of the organization. It reads, in part:
For nearly 100 years, Shriners Hospitals for Children has expanded, changed and adapted to meet the needs of children and families. As we have changed, we have added different terms to describe our locations, which is, quite honestly, a confusing distraction. We have grown so much, and do so much – “Shriners Hospitals for Children”– no longer adequately tells the public who we are. We are all part of Shriners and our concern is children, but we are more than hospitals.
As we look forward to a new century of caring for kids, the world is a far different place than it was in 1922, when we opened our first hospital. And Shriners Hospitals for Children is equally different.
We have become far more than a collection, or even a system, of hospitals. We have become leaders in care, research and medical education. We are known for innovation, expertise, compassion, generosity and a strength and determination to improve lives, no matter the complexity, that is stunning and respected throughout the world. We give our patients and families so much more than medical care. We help them build confidence and self-esteem. We provide as many resources as we have available – from custom prosthetics to adaptive sports opportunities, to assistive devices that encourage personal independence.
We are so much more than hospitals – and we need to share that fact – shout that message – clearly – to help us be recognized for all we are, live our mission and reach more children and families who need us.
The announcement hasn't gone wide yet - there are no press releases or news articles available about the rebranding. I suspect Tampa wanted to alert the membership and donors first.  

However, a video is available online HERE that announces and explains the name change. 

The over-aching name of the parent fraternal organization itself is NOT changing, and will remain Shriners International. In the 140+ years since its official formation, the Shriners have had a couple of official corporate names. The Shriners were established in 1878 with the appropriately bilious name of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, and if you rearranged its initials AAONMS, it quite deliberately spelled 'A MASON.' Sometime after the mid-20th century, they rebranded themselves as 'Shriners North America, ' after expanding into Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the hemisphere. But as they opened more Shrine Clubs and Shrine Oases in other parts of the world, it was decided that the name should reflect its more global reach. The name officially changed again in 2010 to Shriners International.

The principal philanthropy of the Shrine - its now 22 children's hospitals - began life in 1922 as Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children in Shreveport, Louisiana, and was established to treat orthopedic injuries and conditions, diseases, burns, spinal cord injuries, plus birth defects, such as cleft lip and palate, in children. By the time the Depression hit in 1929, they had constructed a total of 13 hospitals, and provided care at no charge to patients and their families. Their mission has expanded from there and continues to this day.

All Masons are not Shriners, but all Shriners are Masons. Shriners International is an appendant organization of American Freemasonry. To become a Shriner, a man must join a Masonic lodge first.  Some 200 local Shrine Temples and their members support the network of 22 Shriners' pediatric burn and orthopedic hospitals in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
To donate to Shriners Children's, visit their website HERE.

Monday, May 25, 2020

GL of Japan Suspends Recognition of Prince Hall GL of Oklahoma

by Christopher Hodapp

The Grand Lodge of Japan F&AM has just suspended recognition with the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge F&AM of Oklahoma for conducting Masonic activities within its sovereign territory without permission. 

Japan's Grand Master Jeremy Entwistle issued the following notice earlier today:
Notice of Suspension of Recognition of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oklahoma
Dear Brothers,
One of the principle [sic] foundations for the establishment of fraternal relations between Grand Lodges is the recognition and respect of each Grand Lodge's sovereignty over its territorial jurisdiction. That includes not issuing charters establishing lodges or otherwise carrying out masonic activities within each other's sovereign territory unless specifically allowed by authorization, agreement or treaty between the two Grand Lodges.
Unfortunately, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oklahoma has been conducting masonic activities within the sovereign territory of Japan without such authorization from our Grand Lodge.
Therefore, and with immediate effect, acting upon a decision by the Executive Committee of the Grand Lodge of Japan, I hereby suspend recognition of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oklahoma until further notice. If the situation is resolved I will issue further guidance at that time.
Sincerely and fraternally yours,
Jeremy C. R. Entwisle
Grand Master

From what I have been able to find, the MWPHGL of Oklahoma established Cypress Military Lodge 206 in 2009 at Yokota Air Base in Fussa, Tokyo. They also chartered New Beginnings Military Lodge 199 at Yokosuka. I'm unsure when the GL of Japan and the MWPHGL of Oklahoma established mutual recognition, but these particular military lodges have been no secret to anyone. But something happened to raise the hackles of Japan recently, setting this action in motion.

Such, I'm afraid, are among the many obstacles when trying to operate military lodges in foreign nations, especially in the modern communication era. Between accusations of Masonic territorial invasion and the delicate diplomatic dance required for any private clubs meeting on military bases, to say nothing of the strictures of military protocol (lodges can't have 'officers,' they have 'staff'), the potential for problems are numerous. Which is why very few grand lodges anywhere attempt to charter them in the first place anymore.

Hopefully, they will work out their issues quickly.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Driver Rams Salt Lake City Masonic Temple

by Christopher Hodapp

UPDATE 5/21/20 at 6:25PM:

The Salt Lake City Masonic Temple was damaged Monday night when a man rammed his car into the rear entrance of the building. Police ticketed the driver for 'trespassing', not related to the crash. He told police it was accidental, but preliminary reports indicate he is an expelled Mason, originally from Missouri, who has had "past history" with Masons in Utah. Leadership representatives from the Temple Association and Grand Lodge are working with police, and additional charges may be filed.

According to a notice on the Grand Lodge of Utah Facebook page from Grand Master Clay G. Hamblen, their legal counsel is pursuing steps to protect the fraternity from future attacks and harassment by him.

GM Hamblen goes on to say,
It does serve as a reminder, that each of us must be aware of our surroundings and that there are individuals that have an unusual fascination with our organization. Be aware of who attempts to gain entrance into one of our buildings. Are you regularly checking on your building? Is your building being maintained?
Once the buildings are reopened, I would encourage you to lock the exterior door when going into a meeting. I would discourage inviting [someone] to a before-meeting meal [and to first] meet people and get to know them. I completely understand the reasons for doing this, but from a safety standpoint, it should not be done.
It is unfortunate that we have to think about safety in simply going to a lodge meeting, but safety is everyone’s responsibility and we must be aware of who is coming to our buildings not only for our own safety, but that of every member of our Masonic Family.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

From the Grand Architect of the Bakery

I visited my regular, recognized grocery today and picked up an All Seeing Eye pastry.

Yes, we control the bakeries, too.

Lodge Donates Computer Pads To Isolated Patients and Seniors

by Christopher Hodapp

Masons around the world are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown by helping their local communities any way they can. Some lodges have hosted blood drives or assisted neighborhood food banks to collect or pass out food. But brethren in Inverclyde, Scotland are making sure isolated people in their area can still communicate with the outside world during the lockdown. 

Robin McIntyre, Provincial Grand Master for Renfrewshire West in Scotland, reported that the province had lost some of their brethren and family members to coronavirus in recent weeks, and that the lodges wanted to do something to help families who are living with the impact of the virus. 
So, Masonic lodges in the area teamed up to purchase eight Android tablets and fourteen iPads for people who are unable to receive visits from friends and family. 

According to a report on the GreenockTelegraph.co.uk website, Lodge Firth of Clyde Gourock 626 presented the Android tablets to the local hospice, and the iPads will be donated across Inverclyde Royal, the Larkfield Unit and the Marcus Humphrey House Quarriers care home in Bridge of Weir. Masons in that area also donated money and supplies to Inverclyde Food Bank.

Robin is very proud that the lodges have been able to make a difference during lockdown.

He said: "Visiting restrictions make it very difficult for people in hospital to see their families.
"We just thought that this would allow them to keep in touch using Facetime or Skype.
"We're very happy to be able to provide something for the community which will help people keep in touch with their families at this very difficult time.
"Everyone in the brethren has really rallied round since the idea was first mooted.
"The response has been phenomenal."
Malcolm Sinclair of lodge Crawfurdsburn 1121 came up with the idea of donating the equipment and the nine lodges across Inverclyde have all been involved.
Iain Hair at IT Computer Products in Shore Street, Gourock, sourced the iPads, which now have to go to the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde IT team to install approved software.
Robin hopes that the equipment will help older people feel less isolated.
He added: "It's so important for people to talk to their family, especially at this time.
"We're happy that we can do something to help."

Twelve years ago, in 2008, Lodge Firth of Clyde Gourock 626 had to overcome the almost complete loss of their 1896 lodge hall when a fire destroyed it. They rose quite literally from the ashes and rebuilt their home in just eighteen months. Today, they remain a vital part of their local community.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Fire Destroys Hejaz Shrine in South Carolina

by Christopher Hodapp

A devastating fire on Tuesday morning has destroyed the Hejaz Shrine Temple in Mauldin, South Carolina, near Greenville. According to multiple news reports, the entire facility that included the Shrine and the Legacy Pines Golf Club clubhouse is a total loss. The golf club leased its facility from the Shrine.

Investigators say the fire started just after midnight near the kitchen in the rear of the building. Fortunately, no one was in the building at the time, and no firefighters were injured battling the blaze. No word yet on cause.

Hejaz Shrine is extremely popular and home to about 4,000 Shriners. Their temple sits in the middle of the Legacy Pines golf course and boasted a 250-seat capacity banquet hall and Old English style pub.The Hejaz Shrine is a popular local venue for banquets and is well known in the community. The present Temple and golf clubhouse were built in 1984.

From better days
Hejaz Shrine has been celebrating its 100th anniversary during this insane COVID shutdown year, which postponed or canceled so many activities. Doubly heartbreaking, aside from the loss of their facility, is the incalculable loss of artifacts inside from Hejaz' full century of life that are now destroyed. This is a helluva way to mark the passing of such an auspicious anniversary.

Deepest condolences to Potentate Wayne Bragg and all of the fellow Nobles of Hejaz Shrine, with the hope that they will rise again soon from the ashes.

All Masons are not Shriners, but all Shriners are Masons. Shriners International is an appendant organization of American Freemasonry. To become a Shriner, a man must join a Masonic lodge first.  Some 200 local Shrine Temples and their members support the network of 22 Shriners' pediatric burn and orthopedic hospitals in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

'Curse of Oak Island - Drilling Down: Founding Fathers'

by Christopher Hodapp

I was featured on 'Curse of Oak Island - Drilling Down: Founding Fathers'  (Season 7/Ep 6) last night on History™. You'd think the producers might have told me when it would air, but no. 

Brothers Akram Elias, Mark Koltko-Rivera, Tobias Churton, Robert W. Sullivan IV and a surprisingly large list of other interviewees made it on the air.  We actually shot my segment last fall when I was briefly in the Los Angeles area. They did use more than a three-word sentence fragment (yes, it's been done) and I sounded at least vaguely rational this time. 

And no, I did not meet William Shatner. But I do a dandy impression of him.

So DID the fleeing and persecuted Knights Templar sail from Scotland to the 'New Scotland' of Nova Scotia, bury their loot at the bottom of a deep, multi-chambered pit that resembles the Book of Enoch and the Masonic Royal Arch degree, which was then resurrected with French allies from Paris' legendary Lodge of Nine Sisters (Muses) by Freemasons George Washington and Ben Franklin to pay for the American Revolution?

It's almost like it's 2005 all over again. 

But you may get tired of the phrase "there ARE those who believe..." uttered as a breathy Shatnerism. 

This show has strayed far from just being a strung out tale of Nova Scotia's intriguing hole in the ground and what may or may not have ever been in it. In its seventh season, it is an enormously popular program for the network, and it now is more of an excuse to stray and tell some actual history while dressing it up in mystery. And that's okay. This particular episode tells the Knights Templar story, the Masonic founding fathers like Franklin and Washington, French Masons like Duc de la Rochefoucauld d’Enville, and even Rosslyn Chapel (natch). If the only part of this you've encountered before were the opening two minutes of National Treasure, this is a dandy introduction to the speculative theories. And no, Bob Cooper will not approve.

This episode is not yet available for streaming as it is still in active airing rotation.

Thanks to Rob Holderbaum for the screen shot off his TV. It looked better on the air.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Minnesota Masons Donate $35 Million for Brain Research at University of Minnesota

by Christopher Hodapp

Minnesota Masonic Charities is the charitable giving foundation of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, and their principal support is for the University of Minnesota's medical facilities. In the midst of the COVID-19 shutdown, the Masons of that state have just announced a $35 million gift to the University to establish the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain, described as "an interdisciplinary initiative focused on the early diagnosis, prevention and treatment of neuro-developmental disorders in early childhood and adolescence."

Led by the University’s Medical School and College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), this unique institute will bring together teams of researchers and clinicians who study how the brain grows and develops during early childhood and adolescence—formative years when the brain is most receptive to positive intervention.
Working together under one roof at the site of the former Shriners Healthcare for Children campus in Minneapolis, an array of experts will tackle such disorders as autism, ADHD, cognitive delays, drug addiction and severe depression, conditions that can often be identified early and have lifelong consequences.
“Our long-standing partnership with the University of Minnesota aligns with our mission to make meaningful contributions to society,” said Eric Neetenbeek, president and CEO of Minnesota Masonic Charities. “The Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain is another example of how we can unite the incredible expertise of the University with the capacity of Minnesota Masonry to benefit our entire state and, indeed, the world.”
University of Minnesota President Joan T. A. Gabel, who has made student mental health one of her top priorities, believes the support will improve lives when it matters most. “Early support of brain health sets the stage for everything to come in life,” she said. “Thanks to the Masons’ transformative gift, the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain will help ensure that children have the strongest start for a safe, happy and productive life.”
The Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain will form a research campus with M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and the University’s Biomedical Discovery District. The 10.2-acre property includes a two-level building with a hospital, clinic, and support area, as well as conference space and an attached parking lot. It is expected to open in Fall 2021 at the East River Parkway location.

This is by no means the only massive donation the state's fraternity has made to the University. With its latest gift of $35 million to establish and name the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain, Minnesota Masonic Charities has contributed more than $160 million to the University of Minnesota to accelerate research discoveries in cancer and children’s health.

The University built the 80-bed Masonic Memorial Hospital in 1958 and the Masonic Cancer Research Building in the mid-’90s with support from Minnesota Masons. A $65 million pledge in 2008 to name the Masonic Cancer Center continues to advance major research discoveries. A $10 million gift from the Masons built the Masonic Cancer Clinic, which provides premier cancer care in the M Health Fairview Clinics and Surgery Center on the Twin Cities campus. In addition, a $25 million gift made in 2014 to enhance pediatric research and care led to the renaming of M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

H/T: Douglas Campbell

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Another One Gone: Savannah Scottish Rite Moves Out

by Christopher Hodapp

Freemasonry's White Elephant hunters continue to divest themselves of our historic architecture. Almost a year ago, the Scottish Rite Valley in Savannah, Georgia voted to unload their unique landmark 1923 building at 341 Bull Street just off Madison Square in the historic downtown area of town. It has been sold for $12 million to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), which has leased space in the building for several years and operated the popular Gryphon Tea Room restaurant. So at least it won't meet the wrecking ball.

The elegant Gryphon Tea Room restaurant in the current Scottish Rite temple
When the sale of the building was announced last year, news stories said the Valley would turn the keys over to the new owners in June of 2020. The one year move-out period was to give the Scottish Rite time to build their new facility, and they had anticipated holding a final reunion in the old temple last month. The COVID-19 Wuhan virus shutdown has undoubtedly thrown a monkey wrench into those plans briefly, as the most recent update I can find was from February and the building is closed. 

They just broke ground on their new property in March.

James Johns, General Secretary for Scottish Rite in the Valley of Savannah, says the building downtown was difficult for members to access, with issues like parking restrictions, and says the new center will be easier to access.
"Our membership will now be able to access the building with more of an ease. What that allows us to do is serve the community and serve masonry in general easily, and allow new members to come and be a part of it, where that was restricted downtown," said Johns.
They have a target completion date of November.

The new location is about three miles west of downtown in an office park just off the interstate, far from Savannah's hugely popular, distinctive and historic tourist-friendly streets. I'm sure the new building will be nice and modern, with wheelchair ramps and plenty of parking. Looks like it's all one story, so no pesky elevators, either. But take a look at the architectural rendering and ask yourself how it compares aesthetically to what they are leaving behind. 

Will their new Scottish Rite Masonic Center be considered part of the fabric of Savannah, as its present one is? Will anyone a hundred years from today regard the new center as fondly, significantly or admiringly as they do the present one? Will anyone even notice it, nestled in amongst the generic FedEx and insurance offices, as they rocket past it on I-16? Will it dominate the skyline or cause anyone to even stop and explore it? Will anyone be itching to locate their own business inside a corner of it because they desperately want to share in its grandeur, charm, beauty and mystery, as the current Gryphon tea room restaurant does in their present home? Will anyone EVER pull off the highway and be inspired to explain to their bewildered family, "THAT'S where the Freemasons are! The Masons built that!" Or say to their sons, "Great things go on there!"

Will any future starry-eyed non-Mason ever look at it, feel a spark in his heart, and say, "I've got to be a part of THAT organization!"

I'm only asking the question, because our forefathers did before us. Inspiration was important to Freemasons until the late 20th century. It took Savannah's Masons more than thirty years to complete their first historic Scottish Rite Temple as they raised money and slowly erected it. The Valley's own website today (which contains not a single architectural image of the present Temple's magnificent three-story lodge room and intimate auditorium) says, "...the Dreamers who saw in their visions a new and handsome home for Savannah Masonry were ready to proceed with what would be a source of pride for the fraternity and an ornament to the city of Savannah."

What will Masonic architecture of today inspire the next generations to say when we are gone? 

"Great parking!" 

And are we really going to continue to accept mediocrity and bland steel toolshed temples under the lazy excuse that "a lodge is not a building?"

The Scottish Rite Masons of Savannah didn't just consider their OWN membership's needs between 1896 and their temple's completion in 1928, but also what its place in their city was and whether it would inspire future generations to also join us in our fraternal mission. Masons used to build for the Ages. All they asked us to do was either care for what they left us, or build even better. 

Where be our Dreamers now?

Masons and the Media: 'Langdon' and 'National Treasure' Updates

by Christopher Hodapp

It's almost like the heady days of 2004 all over again, with both Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code sequel The Lost Symbol AND National Treasure back in the media news. 

As reported over the last several months, NBC is adapting Dan Brown's novel The Lost Symbol as a TV series for the fall season (although heaven only knows how the COVID shutdown will affect production schedules). The six-year delay in the original book release helped to set off a flurry of Masonic-related books and TV documentaries in the mid-to late 2000s, and the novel turned out to be a 500+ page love letter to the fraternity. Masons everywhere hoped it would be made into a full-length, big-budget Tom Hanks feature after The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, but were disappointed when Sony Pictures skipped it over to film Inferno instead. 

Now The Lost Symbol is being resurrected as a TV series instead, re-framing the story around a younger, freshly-graduated Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon and set as a prequel to the first three films. 

The new series is entitled Langdon, and American-born Australian actor Ashley Zukerman (who recently played Nate Sofrelli on HBO's Succession) takes on the title role.

Producer Ron Howard's Imagine Television and NBC have brought in Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie to write the script for the pilot film. The two writing partners created ABC's The Crossing, and most recently served as consulting producers on Star Trek: Discovery and American Horror Story. Past credits also include the Scream TV series, Revenge, Scorpion, Criminal Minds and Netflix's new teen adventure drama Outer Banks.

The Primetimer.com website somehow obtained a copy of the Dworkin/Beattie synopsis of the pilot episode for Langdon and posted it on their website yesterday. It reads, in part:
We open on shots of bazaars, mosques and ancient ruins. We're in Turkey, where we ultimately settle on the Patnos prison, an aged facilty surrounded by the high moutains of what used to be Armenia. In the yard, we focus on a chain with a guard pulling at one end, and an American inmate on the other. Meet ZACHARY SOLOMON (25), skinny, dirty and scared. A second guard approaches with a thin wooden cane. He smashes it hard on Zachary's feet. Other inmates are watching the spectacle, apparently learning a lesson. Zachary has tried to escape. As the camera pans over the cell windows, we push in through the bars of one, where an inmate seems to be in some sort of trance, not bothered by the sounds of despair outside. As the camera rises, it's revealed that he's seated upon a symbol drawn in ash on the floor. It's a TRISKELION. Then we hear ROBERT LANGDON (33) in voice over.
He's in Harvard, teaching. He's a bit cocky, but his students seem to love him. His class is about symbolism, as all sorts of symbols of the past and present appear on a screen behind him. He explains how what was relevant then is revelant now, and how people on the internet sometimes use these symbols to push an agenda, creating fake news and conspiracy theories. He says we have a responsibilty to distinguish fact from fiction. Later that day, Langdon is in a bar with a fellow professor, STAN. His phone vibrates with a text from PETER SOLOMON (50) who asks him to call him back ASAP. Peter is the director of the Smithsonian, and Langdon's mentor. Outside, he makes the call, and it's Peter's assistant who answers. He says Peter needs Langdon's help in D.C. right now.
The next day, as he settles into Peter's private jet, Langdon calls KATHERINE SOLOMON, Peter's sister. She's in Cambodia, in a Buddhist Temple. She's surprised by the call and doesn"t know anything about what's happening with her brother. What Langdon really wants to know is if she's available for dinner. There's history here. But she can't, she's buried in an important project. Once in Washington D.C., Langdon has a sweet memory that's shared with us in flashback. It's three years earlier and he's at Princeton, defending his thesis to a room full of faculty heads, including Peter. As Langdon arrives at the Capitol Building, he quickly realizes the hall where a gala is supposed to be happening is empty. That's where he was supposed to meet Peter. A JANITOR confirms no such event was scheduled that day. Langdon reaches to his phone to call Peter and it's his assistant's voice again on the other end of the line. But his tone is different now. Turns out it's not his assistant, it's someone who calls himself MAL'AKH. He tells him Peter is not here, he's in Araf, which means Purgatory.
Not far from Langdon, a family of visitors are wandering. One child seems to be bored... until he stumbles upon a HAND. His mom's face fills with terror as she sees it too. Meanwhile, Mal'akh tells Langdon he has to find an ancient portal in the city and unlock it. Only then Peter will returned from the in-between realm. Click. The line goes dead. Langdon wonders if it's a joke. He takes notice of a chaotic crowd that has gathered around what is now fully revealed to us as a severed hand propped up on a wooden base, with three fingers curled down and index finger pointing up. There are tattoos on the fingertips, and a ring on the middle-finger. Langdon knows exactly what it means...
If you read the novel, you can already see it's sticking fairly close to the source, but you can expect more deviations as it progresses. The book had some major problematic visual plot points that won't transfer well to film, but it seems that the core of the story will be the same. If so, chances are pretty good that the Masons will still come off well. Let's hope so. NBC and producers need to bear in mind that the guaranteed worldwide Masonic audience (and swath of potential cheerleaders) for Langdon runs into the millions. The Scottish Rite NMJ's recent in-depth surveys show that most of the population in the U.S. has a very positive image of the Masons. It would be foolish to disappoint us or treat us badly onscreen in order to satisfy the juvenile conspiracy theory/world takeover/Masons are Satanic/alien abduction crowd. Dan Brown didn't go that way, so let's hope NBC doesn't, either.

No word yet as to whether producers have contacted the Scottish Rite SJ's House of the Temple to ask where to park the grip trucks, catering vans and honey wagons. While everyone waits, I'll shamelessly hurl out a reminder that I wrote an entire Masonic guidebook to The Lost Symbol back in 2009 when the novel was released. Check out Deciphering the Lost Symbol.

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Meanwhile, as reported here last November, Jerry Bruckheimer's production company is hard at work on new National Treasure projects for the Mouse House. That's plural now.
The first two National Treasure movies, premiering in 2004 and 2007, starred Nicolas Cage as historian and treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates and made a surprisingly tidy fortune for Disney. According to another piece on the Primetimer.com website, not only is a third NT film now in the works, but so is a separate Disney+ streaming TV series with a different cast. 
"We’re certainly working on one (National Treasure) for streaming and we’re working on one for the big screen," says Bruckheimer. "Hopefully, they’ll both come together and we’ll bring you another National Treasure, but they’re both very active….The one for Disney+ is a much younger cast. It’s the same concept but a young cast. The one for theatrical would be the same cast.”
Take all that for what it's worth, which sounds more like ballyhoo and hot air than definite deals. No casts, no dates, no scripts. Not yet, anyway. But if either or both do come off, the  first NT film was noteworthy for its day by being among the first to treat the Masons as the good guys instead of bald-headed, cat-stroking super-villains. It would be nice if they picked up that thread again.

In any case, it sounds like Hollywood is interested in Freemasons again, for a little while anyway. Heck - the History Channel has even been re-running Book of Secrets from 2012 with Alice and me yakking about the Freemasons for the past month. 

We live forever youthful in reruns.

All of this new bit of Masonic-related showbiz development doesn't happen in a vacuum. These stories started popping up last summer in the wake of success of AMC's Lodge 49 and the Hulu airing of the Sky TV series Inside the FreemasonsOne thing Hollywood is filled with are band wagoneers who are terrified to go first with a new idea, but fall all over themselves in a rush to capitalize on territory someone else staked out ahead of them. The announcement of the Langdon project in late 2018 directly led to a sudden interest in another National Treasure project. That makes the irony of the connection between these two projects come full circle just as it did in 2004, and once again set up another competition to see who gets their 'Masonic' project onscreen first.

Meanwhile, if Knights Templars are your thing, History's planned third season of Knightfall  has just been axed as of yesterday. The last episode of season two aired nearly a year ago, and the viewership of 625,000 was down almost 50% from the first season, even with Mark Hamill on board. Knightfall was History‘s lowest-rated series, so you York Rite guys just weren't loyal enough I guess. 

Shoulda made them all Masons and put them in Rosslyn Chapel...