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


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Leicestershire's Freemason Hall Open House Video

by Christopher Hodapp

The stunning Freemasons Hall in Leicestershire, England (pronounced "Lester") opened its doors to the public on November 13th for an annual open house. Built as two houses in the 19th century, the Masons purchased the properties in 1909 and combined them into the large Masonic hall that is home to many lodges. The plain white facade hides a stunning interior. The vaulted-ceilinged Holmes Lodge Room is truly breathtaking.

Holmes Lodge Room

Holmes Lodge Room

The story appeared on the LeicestershireLive website HERE.

In addition to the main lodge room, there are several others throughout the building used by the many blue lodges in the Leicestershire and Rutland area.

Corah Lodge Room

Morley Lodge Room

Oliver Lodge Room

If you have a Facebook account, you can see a video tour at this link. The 30 minute video includes the lodge room and the hall's outstanding Masonic museum.

For more information, see the website for the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons HERE.

(Images from LeicestershireMercury.co.uk)

Sunday, November 21, 2021

New Book: 'Freemasonry By Questions and Answers' by Kamel Oussayef

by Christopher Hodapp

Illus. Kamel Oussayef 33° has been volunteering for almost 20 years at the Scottish Rite (NMJ) Museum & Library working on a series of very special projects. The archives of the Museum contain a priceless collection of handwritten 18th and 19th century French manuscripts that have languished in the vaults for a century or more without ever having been translated into English. His previous books include: Saint Edoüard: A 1748 Masonic Scottish Lodge During the French EnlightenmentThe Spirit of Freemasonry; and The Book of Wisdom - all of which have been published in beautiful editions by the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction

His new book is the latest in that series. Freemasonry By Questions and Answers is a translation of a 1761 French manuscript made up of a series of notebooks, plus several additional documents up through 1806. If you have any interest in the development of Masonic ritual — both in the Craft lodge and in what became the Scottish Rite — this book is remarkable. French and so-called continental Freemasonry veered off into both major and minor differences from the Preston-Webb rituals we work in the U.S. or the Emulation rituals in Britain. Also, bear in mind that a year after the first notebook in the collection was written down, Etienne (Stephan) Morin carried a patent to the Caribbean and the Americas to establish a Supreme Council of the Rectified Scottish Rite. The degrees in the notebooks reflect the words and rubric of the Rectified Rite at that time. There are also notes concerning English and Scottish rituals demonstrated to the French brethren from visitors across the Channel. There is even a suggested series of toasts for table lodge/festive boards included. If you are a U.S. jurisdiction that uses a particular odd-sounding "table lodge" format that includes the line "To erect Temples to Virtue, and to dig dungeons for vices," that wording doesn't exist in Preston-Webb. It originally came from French ritual in this formative period.

Many of the early French Masonic lodges were extensions of salons of the period, where influential and learned men and women would gather to discuss philosophy, the arts, social and political issues and other topics of the day. Consequently, a special treasure in this manuscript is the inclusion of the Q/A lectures from a French female "lodge of adoption." That term comes from the male lodges that would sponsor or "adopt" a lodge for women, with substantially different rituals and wording. And as a final bonus item, a letter is included from 1806 that explains how and why Napoleon Bonaparte became "protector of Freemasonry" without ever actually joining himself, why he encouraged his sister Caroline, his brothers, and his military officers to become Masons, and how he encouraged his wife, the Empress Josephine, to become Venerable Maîtresse of a female Masonic lodge that attracted influential women to join with her. In addition to the translations, the entire manuscript is heavily annotated to provide insights about the Masons involved, noteworthy historical contexts, ritualistic variations, and more.

Like his other books, Freemasonry By Questions and Answers is presented in a photographic facsimile manner, with a color photo of each manuscript page on the left side, and the English translation on the right. 

Studying the changes in Masonic ritual from one country to another in the first century of grand lodge speculative Masonry is fascinating. It should be noted that French writing in the 18th century is not the same French you might have taken classes in or what you find in "French phrases for tourists" guidebooks. It's more complex, and occasionally obscure. Having these French Masonic records and notebooks translated into English opens them up to wider study by more scholars. 

By the way, Kamel's books make excellent companions to a rare, out of print work published back in 1971 by Quatuor Coronati Lodge of Research No. 2076 in London. Track down The Early French Exposures, edited by the legendary Masonic author, Harry Carr.

In 2020, Illus. Kamel Oussayef 33° became the 110th author to be admitted into the Society of Blue Friars, a very special group of Masonic writers. Friar Oussayef was born in Sétif, Algeria and attended school in France, where he lived for many years. He holds an MA from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and an MS from the School of Public Communications at Boston University.

Kamel is a Past Master of William Parkman Lodge and Converse Lodge. He has been awarded the prestigious Henry Price and Joseph Warren medals for distinguished service to Freemasonry in Massachusetts. In the AASR, he is an Assistant Master of Ceremonies with the Massachusetts Consistory of the Valley of Boston.

At the moment, Freemasonry By Questions and Answers is only available as a Kindle download for $9.99 from Amazon.com. The Scottish Rite NMJ Supreme Council website is in the process of being updated following their change in leadership a couple of months ago. Once the print version of book is added to the NMJ's online Marketplace, be aware that a limited number of the hard copy, paperback are being printed in its first run. It is expected to be in the $50 price range. If that initial printing is popular enough to sell out, an additional print run will be considered. I'll update this post when that comes available.

UPDATE 12/13/2021
Paperback edition now available.
The oversized paperback edition of the book is now available from the Scottish Rite NMJ Marketplace website for $52. CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Thursday, November 18, 2021

UPDATED: Illus. Michael D. Smith, Lt. Grand Commander of AASR-SJ, Passes Away

by Christopher Hodapp

UPDATE: This story has been updated on November 18, 2021 at 10:00AM with information regarding funeral services.

News came this morning that Ill. Brother Michael Duane Smith, Sr. 33°, Lt. Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite SJ, SGIG and Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina (2017-19), passed away last night. He was 63 years old.

His accomplishments and honors, both in and outside of the fraternity, are many. (Michael's lengthy list of achievements can be seen in his obituary HERE.) Over the years, I know of countless Masons all across the country who have said that Mike Smith exemplified the very best that Freemasonry teaches and that he lived his life by the precepts of our fraternity. His death is a tragic loss to us all. Please keep Michael's wife Lynn, his sons, Worshipful Brothers Duane and Chris, and the rest of his family in your prayers.

His column is broken, and his brethren mourn.

Requiescat in Pace.

UPDATE: RW Jerry Carver, Grand Secretary of the GL of South Carolina has circulated information regarding Michael Smith's funeral arrangements:


The Visitation and Funeral Service for Most Worshipful Brother Michael D. Smith, Sr. PGM will be held on Friday, November 19, 2021, at Floyd's Greenlawn Chapel located at 2075 E. Main Street, Spartanburg, SC 29307.
Visitation will be from 12:00 pm until 1:45 pm. The Funeral Service will begin at 2:00 pm in the Chapel. Interment will follow in the adjacent Greenlawn Memorial Gardens with Masonic Rites conducted by the Officers and Brethren of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina and Landrum Lodge No. 278 AFM. 

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Scottish Rite Foundation of SC, P. O. Box 30006, Charleston, SC 29417 " In Memory of Most Worshipful Michael D. Smith, Sr. PGM". The Grand Master has asked that all Lodge Charters be draped for a 30 day period in memory of Most Worshipful Brother Mike. 


Jerry Carver, PGM, Grand Secretary


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

2021 World Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges Opens Today in Berlin

by Christopher Hodapp

The World Conference of Regular Grand Lodges is opening today in Berlin. This four-day gathering of Masons from all over the world is being sponsored this year by the five United Grand Lodges of Germany.

The agenda includes:

Main Keynote Presentations:

Christoph Bosbach: Freemasonry needs future – future needs freemasonry?

Karl-Heinz Land: Stagnation as an accelerator – Covid-19 as a necessary creative destruction? 

Ranko Vujacic: Freemasonry and the 21st century

A. Kabèlè Camara: Freemasonry – an alternative to understand the world

Arthur Bill Beardmore: To Do or not to Be – Adapting to Life in a Changing Society

Iskren Yotov: The perspectives of Freemasonry in Eastern Europe

Radu Balanescu: The importance of maintaining and respecting the old landmarks of freemasonry in the context of a dynamic development of technology and the increasing needs of communication

Antje Hansen: Reflections by a free woman on the tradition and future of Freemasonry

Translations will be done in the main needed languages.

BreakOut Sessions:

Deadlock & Stagnancy as Catalyst & Accelerator --> Covid 19 as necessary & creative Disruption

Digitalization in Freemasonry --> Future of a virtual Freemasonry?

Adapting to Life in a Changing Society

The global Future: Do we need new Ethics?

Opening up to Society --> Where is the line?

The Conference will conclude on Saturday night. On Sunday, November 21st, the official installation of the Grand Master and officers will take place.

For more information, see the event website in both German and English at: https://www.freimaurer.org/wcrmgl

Germany's Masonic governing structure is unique in the fraternity. More than 16,500 German Freemasons are organized into five different grand lodges that cooperate under the banner of the United Grand Lodges of Germany. In total, there are currently around 500 craft lodges in Germany that are chartered by these five grand lodges.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Masonic Temples on Staten Island, New York

Huguenot Lodge 381 Masonic Temple on Main Street in Tottenville, Staten Island

by Christopher Hodapp

The Staten Island Live website posted a pictorial survey this weekend of several current and former Masonic temples that still stand today, a century or so after most of them were first built. 

See Masonic Temples Across Staten Island by Jan Somma-Hammel

If you don't live in New York, Staten Island one of the five boroughs of New York City and sits on the southwestern edge of the metropolis. (Most Americans have at least heard of the Staten Island Ferry that gives great views of the Statue of Liberty. You take the ferry because the subway can't get to the island.) In fact, Staten Island is the southernmost tip of New York State - chuck George Washington across the bay and you'll whack New Jersey on the other side.

The Tompkins Lodge 471 Temple in Stapleton, built in 1901.

Tompkins lodge hall when originally built in 1901.
The corner turrets were later removed.

Back in the day when people didn't drive everywhere, big cities were especially planted thick with local establishments that were within walking distance or a streetcar ride away. That period between the end of the Civil War and the Great Depression was marked with an incredible boom of building, especially for fraternal groups that were all competing with each other for members. When strong neighborhoods developed in larger cities, it was common that men walked to their local factory or office jobs, the kids took their wagons to the corner store to pick up mom's usual order, and no air conditioning meant folks sat on their front porches to cool off and chat with passing neighbors.

Lodge room of Tompkins Lodge.

Detail of painted glass ceiling dome, Tompkins Lodge

This was the important half century during which the most incredible Masonic temples were constructed. Whether they were huge halls that were home to several lodges and appendant groups, or small single-lodge temples, the Masons wanted the very best for their clubhouses. And the temples on Staten Island are a good example. Lodges made use of the skills and professions of their membership - one of the architects of Huguenot Lodge was a designer for the local terra cotta factory, and the building features terra cotta details inside and out.

Not all of Staten Island's Masonic temples have remained in the hands of the fraternity. In 1993, the 1926 lodge hall of Great Kills Lodge 912 was sold to a congregation of Coptic Christians, who enlarged it and added a new sanctuary in 2007.

The modified hall is now home to the 
Coptic Orthodox Church of Archangel Michael & St. Mena

Staten Island today is still home to six Masonic lodges, within the Grand Lodge of New York's Richmond District. They cooperate on charitable programs for the local community.
  • Staten Island Lodge 66
  • Huguenot Lodge 381
  • Tompkins Lodge 471
  • Beason Light lodge 701
  • Great Kills Lodge 912
  • LaGuardia Lodge 1130

Monday, November 08, 2021

Canadian Masonic Hall Arsonist Sentenced to Three Years in Prison

by Christopher Hodapp

A Vancouver man has been sentenced to three years in prison in British Columbia, Canada after pleading guilty to setting three arson fires in Masonic halls on March 30th this year.

According to a story today on the Alaska Highway News website, 43-year-old Benjamin Orion Carlson Kohlman claimed to hear voices in his head last spring telling him to burn down the Masonic halls because the Masons and the Illuminati were engaging in mind control of other people. Kohlman, who suffers from drug addiction and emotional issues, believed the buildings were used by “dark souls and evil.” 

The fires were all set within a 45-minute period on the morning of March 30th, and combined damages to the three buildings were in excess of $2.5 million. Fortunately, no one was injured. The targeted lodges were: Lynn Valley Lodge 122; Lonsdale Masonic Temple, home of Duke of Connaught Lodge 64; and Park Masonic Hall, home of Heritage Lodge 23. The 110-year-old Lonsdale building was a total loss and had to be demolished after fire crews extinguished the flames. 

While the first two halls were still burning, Kohlman was spotted that morning carrying a gasoline can and leaving the scene of the Park temple just as a fire began burning near its entrance. An off-duty police officer attempted to take him into custody, but Kohlman knocked the officer down and drove away. The officer broadcast Kohlman's license plate and vehicle description, and he was arrested shortly afterwards.

After the last fire was set, a Facebook post appeared from a 'Ben Kohlman' of Vancouver boasting that he had "just cleaned three Satanic club houses, and nobody could stop me." His home page was loaded with conspiracy theories, mind control paranoia, and anti-Masonic sentiments.

Kohlman claimed to police that he had set the fires to call attention to the Masons and Illuminati in order to "stop their mind control." He also claimed that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had implanted a tracking device in his head. 

Kohlman expressed his regrets for the crimes and apologized to the community, admitting that on the day of the crime, he was under the influence of ecstasy and marijuana. His defense attorney told the court that he had deliberately started the fires in the early hours of the day because it was less likely anyone would be inside.