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


Thursday, May 27, 2021

History Channel: America's Book of Secrets

by Christopher Hodapp

So nobody tells me these things anymore. I didn't realize this was going to be aired this week until I got a flurry of "Hey, you were on TV" messages.

The History Channel (aka History®) has updated an older series entitled America's Book of Secrets with new episodes this season. Tuesday night, Season 4/Episode 3: The Freemason Factor aired and featured interviews with myself, Brothers Arturo De Hoyos, Akram Elias, Jeff Ballou, plus 
The Craft author John Dickie and others. We actually shot my stuff last October, but the show was delayed for several months due to the COVID shutdowns that prevented the production company from getting all the scenes they needed.

Close your mouth, stupid, before you swallow a fly.

The show airs on Tuesday nights, but it can be seen online at: https://play.history.com/shows/americas-book-of-secrets/season-4/episode-3

(Easter egg bonus for Indianapolis Masons: catch fleeting glimpses of the Scottish Rite Cathedral's stained glass of the letter G, and a glass scene of Solomon and Hiram from Calvin Prather Lodge.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Encouraging Local Volunteerism In Your Masonic Lodge

by Christopher Hodapp

Are members of your lodge especially active in volunteering in your community? Or are you looking for ways to get your lodge involved in local volunteer programs to help your town or neighborhood? For many years, Americorps and the Points of Light global network have jointly awarded the President's Volunteer Service Awards to hundreds of individuals and organizations all over the U.S. in recognition of their dedication and service to local communities. Masons and Masonic lodges are among the different types of civic, social, religious and non-profit organizations that qualify for the award.

From the program's website:
In 2003, the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation founded the President’s Volunteer Service Award to recognize the important role of volunteers in America’s strength and national identity. This award honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities in every corner of the nation and inspires those around them to take action, too.

The PVSA has continued under each administration since that time, honoring the volunteers who are using their time and talents to solve some of the toughest challenges facing our nation. Led by the AmeriCorps and managed in partnership with Points of Light, this program allows Certifying Organizations to recognize their most exceptional volunteers.
In order for a lodge to participate and make its members eligible, it must become a Certifying Organization by filling out an application and taking a short quiz to be sure you understand the program's requirements.
A Certifying Organization is an organization that has been granted authority through an application and review process to give out the PVSA to volunteers. Certifying Organizations verify and certify that a volunteer has met the requirements to receive a PVSA within a 12 month period specified by the Certifying Organization. Only Certifying Organizations can certify volunteers’ eligibility for the PVSA and order awards.

Certifying Organizations must be established and operate in the United States, its territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands), or on overseas U.S. military and state installations. Additionally, Certifying Organizations must receive or facilitate volunteer service.

The award has several different levels, depending upon how many hours in a 12-month period are provided by an individual or (Bronze, Silver, Gold and Lifetime) for "unpaid acts of volunteer service benefitting others." 

In the agreement, your lodge becomes a certifying organization that keeps careful track of how many hours are volunteered, who performed that service, and reporting them to the awards program. The lodge also agrees to cover the cost of the award package itself, which, if you go whole hog on the options, costs less than $30. The award can include the official President’s Volunteer Service Award pin, coin, or medallion; a personalized certificate of achievement; and letter signed by the President.

Once the proper level of hours is reached, the lodge nominates that member for the award, and confers it when it arrives. The award is also accompanied by a congratulatory letter from the sitting President of the United States. Before anyone starts caterwauling about presidential politics, understand that every president since George W. Bush has supported this program. It is a completely non-partisan program designed to recognize and reward volunteerism, and Americorps relies on you as their certifying organization to tabulate the hours and apply for the awards.

Also have a look at the Points Of Light Global Network website for ways to get your local lodge involved in civic volunteerism. Groups like United Way work with churches, lodges and other similar groups to pair volunteers with programs in the community.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Monday: Conversation With John Dickie, Author of 'The Craft'

by Christopher Hodapp

On Monday, May 24th, the Rubicon Masonic Society, Kentucky's William O. Ware Lodge of research, and Lexington lodge No. 1 will feature an online presentation with Mr. John Dickie, the author of the recent book, The Craft - How The Freemasons Made the Modern World. The program will begin at 7:00 p.m., EST.

I've been remiss for some time now in not mentioning the ongoing video presentations of Rubicon, the WOW LOR, and Lexington Lodge. There continues to be outstanding work and leadership coming out of Lexington, Kentucky, and they have been putting on outstanding video presentations since the COVID shutdowns began last year.

If you haven't read Dickie's The Craft, you should if you have any interest in learning about just how important Freemasonry has been throughout its centuries of existence.

The press' reaction to The Craft has been remarkably unusual for these days. When it was published last fall, English reviewers kept their usual anti-Masonic sniping to themselves and generally praised the book as being informative, evenhanded, and "eye-opening" (in a GOOD way). The book covers a pretty wide breadth, telling the history of the Craft since the 1500s by highlighting various individual Masons (and occasional non-Masons) who influenced its development. Considering the scope of the subject matter, Dickie does a good job of placing the fraternity in the context of the wider society surrounding it in different times and places. As Masons, we often have a bad case of tunnel vision by failing to look at the larger picture of what was happening in society in any given period that had big impact on the fraternity. 

To answer the obvious question, John Dickie is not a Mason — his grandfather was, but he is not a Mason himself. He is a University College of London Professor of Italian studies, and the author of several books about the Italian Mafia, most notably, The Cosa Nostra (2005) and Blood Brotherhoods (2014). 

UPDATE MAY 25, 2021

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Dan Brown's 'The Lost Symbol' First Trailer Lands

by Christopher Hodapp

Earlier this week, NBC/Universal released the first preview for Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol (formerly known as Langdon; formerly known as Dan Brown's Langdon) airing on their Peacock streaming service later this year. Based on the 2009 novel and Da Vinci Code sequel by Brown, the Masonic-themed story was one of the most hotly anticipated books in the publishing business. More than 1 million copies of The Lost Symbol were sold world-wide on the very first day when it was eventually released in 2009. But the long delay between his blockbuster books convinced the rest of the publishing and entertainment world to try to cash in on Brown-mania during the lull. The 2004 hit movie, National Treasure, never would have seen the light of day had Brown not let the cat out of the bag that his next Big Book would be about Freemasons in Washington, D.C., but took six years to actually publish it. For that matter, most of my earliest books would never have been published, either. Certainly not by mainstream publishers.

The Lost Symbol was the third novel to feature Brown's 'symbologist' character, Robert Langdon, who was portrayed by Tom Hanks in three big-budget, theatrical movies. This pilot film was initially planned to air on the NBC broadcast network, but now the subsequent series will be a flagship show for the fledgling Peacock pay streaming service, instead.

The original story line of the novel has been shifted to occur before The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons. Ashley Zuckerman (from Designated Survivor) portrays symbologist Robert Langdon shortly after his graduation from Harvard (and much younger than Tom Hanks' version in three previous theatrical films of Brown's novels). Langdon must solve a twisted mystery to save his university mentor, Peter Solomon (played by comedian and actor, Eddie Izzard) and prevent a mysterious nemesis from unleashing terrible destruction on Washington, D.C.

Brown's plot in The Lost Symbol revolved around many Masonic clues and landmarks in Washington, including the Scottish Rite SJ's House of the Temple headquarters. Masons everywhere enjoyed the novel and the public spotlight it brought to the fraternity, but were disappointed when Hollywood passed over it as a big-money picture to make Inferno instead. Because of certain plot points, the story as written wasn't exactly visually promising, since easily 20% of the story takes place in total darkness.

Unfortunately, there are no Masonic references or symbols onscreen in the trailer (although one sequence shows Langdon discovering a 'Chamber of Reflection' hidden deep in the basement under the U.S. Capitol building). However, I have it on good authority that Freemasonry is well represented in the film – or at least it was shot that way. We'll see how much survives the editorial process. A long production shutdown due to the pandemic last year put the crew and the whole project on ice for months. The show was largely shot in Canada, and yes, the crew actually reproduced the Capitol dome's rotunda and Statuary Hall on a soundstage. I haven't heard whether they also reproduced the Scottish Rite's House of the Temple, or of it even made it into the script. 

Sunday, May 09, 2021

'Bowling Alone' Author Robert Putnam Webinar May 21st

by Christopher Hodapp

Social science researcher Robert Putnam will be featured in a free webinar on May 21, 2021 between 10:00 am and 11:30 am. The author of Bowling Alone will be discussing his latest book, The Upswing: How American Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again.

Back in 2000 when Robert Putnam first published Bowling Alone, his landmark study of the decline of social and civic engagement over the previous 50 years, Masonic leaders jumped on it like ducks on a Junebug. His study began when he noticed that bowling alleys in the 1990s were doing a booming business, yet organized bowling clubs were vanishing. More Americans were bowling by themselves than ever before, but it was no longer the group-participation activity it had been for decades before. And the more Putnam and his Harvard team poked around, they found that pattern repeated over and over: Americans were turning in on themselves and choosing solitary pursuits, while shunning in-person groups, clubs, associations and group activities. People were more disconnected from family, neighbors, friends, and — perhaps most alarming of all — from civic participation in democratic institutions and activities than at any time before.

Putnam's study laid out the sobering truth in black and blue that nearly every in-person, voluntary associative organization — from the Red Cross and the Boy Scouts, to PTAs and card-playing clubs — had diminished in participation, size and influence. People were still technically joining clubs and groups, but they were most commonly distant, non-participation organizations like the Sierra Club, the National Rifle Association, the ASPCA, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, etc. Send them your credit card payment every year and you get an ID card, a bumper sticker, maybe a magazine subscription. But none of them place any demand on your time, effort or participation. And you sure don't get to know your fellow club members, much less go out for a beer with them.

Masonic leaders, in particular, could at least comfort themselves in knowing that our straight-line decline in membership ever since 1958 wasn't peculiar only to our fraternity. At least we weren't alone. And we still aren't. We're twenty years beyond Putnam's first examination of the issue, and our declining membership numbers have stayed on their same downward trajectory that started 63 years ago.

Putnam's book became a huge bestseller, and he popularized a social science concept called social capital: the shared values, norms, trust, and sense of belonging that make social interaction possible. Social capital is what binds people together for their mutual benefit. And when we share less and less in common with our neighbors and fellow citizens, society falls apart. (I also strongly recommend Charles Murray's outstanding book, Coming Apart.)

That brings us back to the mission of Freemasonry, which is to improve society by binding together men from all walks of life with shared concepts and philosophy, while avoiding sectarian and political differences that so frequently divide people, "to spread the cement of brotherly love and affection which unites us into one sacred band or society of friends and brothers, among whom should exist no contention, except that noble contention, or rather, emulation, of who best can work and best agree."

Last year, Putnam released a 20th anniversary edition of Bowling Alone with a new, additional data-filled chapter in the end that examines what has occurred since its initial publication. His new book, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again (2020), is a broad study of 20th century American economic, social, political, and cultural trends.

To join the May 21st webinar, see the Social Capital Research & Training website HERE. There is also a form to fill out in case you want to pose a question directly to Robert Putnam.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Six Arrested For Planning Terrorist Attacks on French Masonic Lodge and Past Grand Master

by Christopher Hodapp

The French press is reporting the Tuesday arrest of six members of what authorities are calling a "small neo-Nazi group" who were allegedly planning a violent attack on a Masonic lodge in Thionville. Thionville is located in Moselle, a department in Alsace-Lorraine in northeastern France. 

National anti-terrorism investigators have been observing the group since February. In a separate article reported yesterday, their plans also included an attack on the immediate Past Grand Master of the Grand Orient de France (2018-21), Jean-Philippe Hubsch, who is from Thionville.

From Franceinfo.fr and AFP:
Six members of a small neo-Nazi group, suspected of wanting to take violent action against a Masonic lodge, were arrested Tuesday, May 4 in the Doubs and Bas-Rhin, a judicial source confirmed on Friday to France Televisions. Three of them, two men and a woman aged 29 to 56, must be presented this Friday to a Parisian examining magistrate with a view to possible indictment for "criminal terrorist association", according to this source. The other three individuals were released.

According to BFMTV , this small group is called "Honor and Nation" and [their plans were] aimed at a Masonic lodge in Moselle. The national anti-terrorism prosecutor's office (Pnat) opened a preliminary investigation in February 2021 into the activities of this tiny ultra-right group. According to this judicial source, the [attack] was not imminent. These individuals were arrested following exchanges, and in particular because they were researching explosives. Searches have enabled the authorities to find weapons, but they could be legally detained, said the judicial source.

L'Est Republican reports:

The [current] Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of France Pierre-Marie Adam said he learned "with amazement" of this planned attack on a Masonic lodge in Moselle. In a statement, he congratulated "all the police services concerned, placed under the authority of the prefect Laurent Nuñez, national coordinator of intelligence and the fight against terrorism, for their speed and efficiency".
France Bleu posted a very brief statement from Past Grand Master Hubsch:
Jean-Philippe Hubsch has not received any threats lately, but says he is worried despite everything : "I was amazed when I learned this today, even more when I was told that I would have been the potential target. It's a semi-surprise because as a former Grand Master of the Grand Orient de France, I have been exposed throughout my tenure. But in the world we live in, with a resurgence of political or religious extremists, I am unfortunately not surprised "
According to the various reports, the anti-terrorism prosecutor's office has had the group under investigation since February. The suspects were conducting online research into explosives and weapons. Reportedly, they had been in contact with Rémy Daillet-Weidemann, who is notorious as a major French conspiracy peddler and currently lives in Malaysia, dodging an international arrest warrant. The former president of the MoDem political party in Haute-Garonne was recently ousted from his own party. Daillet-Weidemann frequently accuses Freemasonry of being a "pedo-satanic obedience." In October 2020, he gave a speech in which he said, "I will ban Masonry and all other dangerous sects that pass over the heads of citizens," and he regularly calls for the overthrow of France's government.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Video: UGLE Modernizing Freemasonry and Seeking New Members

by Christopher Hodapp

The Daily Mail posted a very positive video story on Thursday by reporter Jess King about the United Grand Lodge of England. Grand Secretary David Staples speaks about their efforts to seek new, younger members. Also featured are three young Brethren speaking about their own reasons for joining.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Masonic Sightseeing in Lafayette, Indiana with Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research

by Christopher Hodapp

On Saturday, the Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research spent the day exploring Masonic sites around Lafayette, Indiana: the Tippecanoe Battlefield where the Grand Lodge placed a historical marker in 1966; the beautiful Battle Ground Lodge (which has just been restored following a wintertime flood from the roof); and the one of a kind J. H. Rathbone Museum of fraternal order ephemera from the Golden Age of fraternalism.

Masonic marker memorializing the death of Kentucky Grand Master Joseph Hamilton Daveiss
and other Masons at the Tippecanoe Battlefield Park.

While at the park, we had the opportunity to tour the on-site museum. We had 27 Masons and guests in attendance, and the weather was absolutely perfect.

Next was a visit to the Masonic hall of Battle Ground Lodge 313.

WB Dave Hosler was our host for the day and gave a presentation at Battle Ground Lodge about a brother elected as Master of the lodge at age 24 who survived World War I, but tragically died in the flu pandemic of 1918 before he could be installed.

The lodge's entry features artwork by Indiana Masonic 
artist Steven McKim, originally a member of Octagon Lodge, 
which subsequently merged with Battle Ground lodge.

Our third stop for the day was at the J.H. Rathbone Museum. Located in a former Knights of Pythias meeting hall in Lafayette, the museum is one of the largest collections of costumes, regalia, artwork, medals, ephemera and rituals from literally hundreds of fraternal groups that flourished throughout the U.S. between the Civil War and the 1930s. Curator Ken Moder, members of the museum's board, and other local volunteers have been sorting and organizing in recent years, and there were several in our group who had been unaware of just how extensive the collection really is.

Joining us for the day was Heather Calloway, her husband Todd, and their son, Simon. Heather worked for many years at the Scottish Rite SJ House of the Temple in Washington DC, and she’s now teaching at IU in Bloomington in the Museum Studies department. A fascinating project is getting underway in Bloomington which will be of great interest to Masons and others interested in the subject of fraternal organizations, and Heather is spearheading it. News will be forthcoming.

My deepest thanks to WB Dave Hosler for handling the day’s arrangements and Ken Moder for opening the Museum for us. But I especially want to thank everyone who attended. The COVID pandemic and shutdowns hurled a large monkey wrench into our lodge plans over the last 14 months, and I was happy we were able to make this work out just before our Masonic year ends in mid-May. The consensus among everyone Saturday afternoon was that we should have other similar events like this in the coming years.

The Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research operates as a lodge under dispensation at the will and pleasure of the Grand Master, so we will have new appointed officers later this month. It has been my honor and pleasure to serve as Master of our research lodge over the last two years, and I thank all of our officers and members for their support.

For more information about the lodge, including membership or affiliation, visit our website at http://dlslodgeofresearch.net

Photos: Dave Hosler, Heather Calloway, Chris Hodapp