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


Thursday, August 20, 2020

Journal of the Masonic Society 50th Issue: Twelve Years and 24,000 Pages Ago

by Christopher Hodapp

It began in a bar, as only the finest, dazzlingly harebrained schemes should, over watery glasses of well-brand scotch. It was predictably frigid in Washington, D.C. that February on the Saturday night of Masonic Week, too cold to sit outside and smoke pipes and cigars while weaving plans within plans with fellow plotters and organizers of secret cabals. 

Masonic Week of 2008 was one of those moments you can look back on and say that right then was when things changed. There was everything that weekend; shake ups, controversies, new books, exciting speakers, fresh new faces and wise old ones with fresh new ideas, the realization that some of those ideas were bearing fruit around North American Freemasonry, and the sort of intense frustration with the status quo that such a toxic combination inevitably leads to. Devious plans are usually deserving of lowered voices in dimly lit, book-lined studies, with cut glass ashtrays shared by Unnamed Superiors. But the Hilton Mark Center’s 80’s-chic lobby bar would have to do...

This coming issue of the Journal of The Masonic Society will be #50 and will feature papers from a few of the Brethren who founded The Masonic Society. These papers will recount the early days and actions taken by a handful of Masons with the goal of doing something different, something better, and something very needed in U.S. Freemasonry. It is a success story of doing what so many said could not be done — and setting a new standard for all Masonic publications and societies.

TMS President 
Jay Höckberg, Past President Roger S. VanGorden, Secretary/Treasurer Nathan Brindle, Journal Editor Michael Poll, Art Director John Bridegroom, and myself will share thoughts, opinions, plans, and actions that ended up being the revolution in how to create a - The - Masonic Society.

From our very first conversation, the Masonic Society was conceived with a strong eye on the thousands of dedicated Masons who read and write about Masonic history, symbolism, philosophy and more, but are never heard from outside of their local area. We wanted our society's publications and programs to feature the best from the world’s numerous Masonic research lodges and groups that would otherwise vanish into obscurity after being read at one of their too infrequent meetings, or possibly printed in some collection of papers no one would ever open again. Too much great, interesting, insightful, inspirational work is done locally that deserves a bigger audience. And we wanted to create a magazine that had at least three articles or features in every issue that interested you or me, a Grand Master or a new Mason, and everybody in between.

With that mission in mind, our little group stayed up through the wee hours of the morning engaging in the sort of “We can put on a Big Show in the barn and you can make the costumes!” conversation usually reserved for business startups and Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movies. Fifty issues and 2,400 jam-packed pages later, the Masonic Society has indeed put on quite the Big Show in that little barn, and it came out pretty darned good, I must say. As the founding editor of the Journal, I can say with great satisfaction that it accomplished what we all had hoped it would do from the start — a rising tide raises all boats. Numerous Masonic magazines and journals across the country have stepped up their game to improve their looks, quality and content, and increase their value to their readers after we set the bar higher. That’s been good for all of us. 

To this day, the Masonic Society still publishes the most valuable, useful and beautiful Masonic magazine of original research, artwork, photography and essays anywhere.
After I was compelled to bow out as Editor in our fifth year to deal with health issues, I was ably succeeded at the editor's desk by my friend Michael Halleran, and my fellow Indiana Mason John Bridegroom shouldered the huge job of Art Director. When Michael also withdrew after a few years, Mike Poll brought his many years of editorial experience as a Masonic book publisher to the Journal, and all of us have been the beneficiaries of John and Mike’s unbeatable combination of talents ever since. This milestone issue provides a good excuse to look back and survey the fruits of twelve years of labor and devotion.

In its first dozen years, the Masonic Society has served the entire fraternity worldwide by preserving vital Internet resources like Paul M. Bessel's indispensable research site; created media references about Masonry for the press during the height of Da Vinci Code/Lost Symbol/Dan Brown mania; hosted seminars and symposia all across the country and in the U.K., and much more.

Over the years TMS conferences and symposia have been outstanding experiences (see this report from the 2017 conference in Lexington, Kentucky). And we continue to hold our annual meeting with a speaker at Masonic Week each year, true to our origins.

The Masonic Society's Quarry Project Masonic Writer's Guide established widely-adopted writing style guidelines for Masonic authors, historians, researchers, libraries and museums to achieve some sense of uniformity to abbreviations and capitalization questions involving our peculiar and specialized nomenclature. If you aren't sure whether to type Masonry or masonry; Grand Lodge or  grand lodge; St. or Saint; thirty-second degree or 32°; fellow craft or fellowcraft; Brethren, bretheren, or botheren; whether or not to use lodge numbers and how; whether to use honorific titles (like Most or Right Worshipful, Illustrious, PGM, WB, KT, WM, etc.), or just how to structure a Masonic footnote or citation, check out the Quarry Project Masonic style guide.

Not a member of The Masonic Society, or has your membership lapsed? Annual dues are a paltry $45 and include four quarterly issues of the Journal, a dazzlingly splendiferous certificate of membership, dues card and pin. Institutions, non-Masons and non-qualifying members of unrecognized Masonic organizations may also subscribe to the Journal at the same rate. For membership requirements and applications, CLICK HERE.

*One caveat about these full issues of the Journal being available electronically at this time - you cannot download or print from them, they are read-only. TMS has a reprint policy, and physical copies of almost every issue from the last twelve years can be purchased from the website. That policy is for the protection of  our authors to prevent wholesale piracy of their hard work, which is, sadly, a very real concern in this electronic age.

1 comment:

  1. During 23 years as a Master Mason, I have enjoyed a number of enthralling highs, and endured a few crushing lows in Freemasonry, but being part of The Masonic Society has been a singular privilege. I always felt a little out of place among the impressive talent that has been in the leadership these 12 years, and I'm bothered at not having accomplished much in my first six months as President, but I'll leave my successor in 2022 an enduring mortar to spread into the future.

    Chris, thanks for always being there! For starters, your support via the Dummies blog is invaluable publicity. Of course, your herculean labors in those early years makes it possible for us to be here today. "We stand on the shoulders of giants," so, if your back hurts, that's why. I look forward to reading your complete recollections when No. 50 reaches my mailbox.



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