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


Sunday, December 18, 2022

UPDATED 1/6/2023: Illus. Dr. Rex R. Hutchens Passes Away; Celebration of Life Announced

by Christopher Hodapp

Freemasonry has lost another of our legendary giants. Word has come today that Illus. Rex R. Hutchens, 33°, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arizona in 2006, and author of A Bridge To Light, has passed away. 

I first met Rex in person back in 2010 at the Rocky Mountain Masonic Conference in Albuquerque when Art DeHoyos, Rex and I were the speakers for the program – you can see from this group photo of the three of us that I was at least allowed to be in the same room with this powerhouse pair of brain boxes. 

Rex's reputation for speaking exactly what was on his mind was well-deserved: after my presentation, he observed, "Well, I guess you really aren't a dumbass, after all."

Praise indeed from Rex. 

I have no obituary or details of funeral arrangements yet, but I will attempt to update this post as I receive them – I'm guessing Monday at the soonest when businesses reopen. We are currently sitting in Shamrock, Texas with spotty Internet access as we head for our annual Christmas gathering in Southern California, but I will post details as soon as possible.

His column is broken and his brethren mourn.

Requiescat in pace.


I've still not come across any death announcement, obituary or funeral arrangements for Rex Hutchens. However, MW James Baker, Grand Master for the Grand Lodge of Arizona posted the following message back on December 19th announcing Rex's death:

To: Grand Lodge of F. & A.M. of Arizona
RE: WM Rex Hutchens enters Celestial Lodge
It is my sad duty to announce officially the death of M.W. Rex R. Hutchens, the 2006 Grand Master of the Grand Lodge
F. & A.M. of Arizona, on December 17, 2022. We are blessed to Jive in a jurisdiction, a Nation, and a world, that have been shaped by, and the vision of M.W. Rex Hutchens.
In 1982, Rex was Initiated, Passed, and Raised in Epes Randolph Lodge No. 32 and went on to serve that lodge in l 989 as its Master. He joined Adobe Lodge No. 41 in 1988, serving that Lodge as Master in I989, 2008, and 2011.
M.W. Hutchens has served the Craft in more ways than could ever be limited to a list. He served as Grand Representative to the Grand Lodge of Cuba, Grand Orator in 1992, Grand Chaplain in 1993, and was in numerous committees over the years. He was appointed to the Grand Line in 1999 by M.W. Donald Monson and served as Grand Master F. & A.M. of Arizona in 2006.
He was Deputy for Arizona of the Supreme Council of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, USA, Past Grand High Priest of Royal Arch Masons of Arizona (1997), Past Grand Master of Royal & Select Masters of Arizona (2004), and Past Grand Commander of Knights Templar of Arizona (2007). He was in the Knights of the York Cross of Honor and recipient of the Knight of the York Grand Cross of Honor (Four Quadrants), a Knight Companion of the Red Cross of Constantine, a Board Member for the Scottish Rite Research Society, a Fellow of the Philalethes Society, a Founding Fellow of the Masonic Society, a Friar of the Society of Blue Friars, and recipient of the Knight Grand Cross in the Grand College of Rites.
M.W. Hutchens was a philosopher, a researcher and writer, authoring many papers and books including A Bridge To Light, A Study in Masonic Ritual & Philosophy. He was known to say that the greatest gift that one man could bestow upon another was knowledge.
As a mark of respect for M.W. Hutchens and his life of service to our Craft, I hereby order. by the authority vested in me as Grand Master of F. &A.M. of Arizona by the Constitution of the Grand Lodge that each Lodge in our Jurisdiction observes a moment of silence m his memory at their January Stated meeting.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF. I have hereunto set my band this seventeenth day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-two, and Anno Lucis 6022.
Fraternally and sincerely,
Jim Baker
Grand Master, 2022-2023
Grand Lodge of Arizona, F&AM



The Grand Master of Arizona has officially announced that a Celebration of Life for Rex Hutchens will be held January 22nd, 2023 in the Red Room of the Tucson Scottish Rite Cathedral, 160 S. Scott Avenue, Tucson, Arizona, beginning at 1:00PM.


Saturday, December 17, 2022

Masonic Week Feb 8-12, 2023

by Christopher Hodapp

The website for making reservations for the 2023 AMD Masonic Week is up and running. This year's festivities will be held February 8th -12th, once again at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia (a mere cocktail glass' throw from Reagan International Airport, across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.).

Eighteen Masonic appendant bodies, invitational groups, research organizations, and others will be holding their annual meetings, degree conferrals, elections, banquets, speeches, and other assorted sundry activities. There is also always a healthy dose of Masonic product vendors on hand. 

The direct link to reserve a room at the Hyatt with the convention rate is HERE.

If you've never been to Masonic Week before, the real benefit of going is that it is the largest concentration of seriously proactive Masons from across the country and around the world you'll find on an annual basis, along with many of the best known Masonic researchers, authors, editors, and other personalities. While the bulk of the groups holding their meetings and ceremonies require existing York Rite membership as a precondition for their own admission (and some are invitational only), you will still find plenty to keep you more than occupied for these three and a half days, even if you're not a member of any of those groups. And there is as much to be absorbed in the hallways, at the bar, or in the hospitality rooms as in the meetings themselves. Make new friendships from around the world, and rekindle old ones. Be sure to bring plenty of filthy lucre as there will be numerous vendors on hand to separate you from your hard-earned simoleons.

On a selfish note, I'll announce the annual Masonic Society Dinner on Friday, February 10th, 2023. Our guest speaker will be Brother Robert Dupel who is the Sovereign Grand Master of the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees of Canada as well as the Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Quebec. The tantalizing title of his talk is “It’s About Me” which promises to be a refreshing approach to a tantalizing subject.

If you've never been to the Washington, D.C. area before, this is the perfect excuse to go. I will tell you from experience that there is a 50/50 chance of the weather either bringing three feet of blowing snow, or 70 degree sun-drenched days. Sometimes both. That's just Washington in February. (Pack your toothbrush and an extra set of underwear in your carry-on bag in case your flights get canceled. Old hands know this.) But add a day to your trip to sightsee, and be sure you visit the Scottish Rite's House of the Temple no later than Thursday, because it is CLOSED Fridays and weekends. Visit the Capitol, the monuments, the Smithsonian, the unique Egyptian-themed Potomac Lodge, and much more. Have drinks and cigars at the Old Ebbitt Grill around the corner from the White House (you'll find Masons there nearly any night that week). Or go the other direction to Alexandria and visit the George Washington National Masonic Memorial, and have dinner at Gadsby's Tavern. There's no shortage of historic sites tied to Masons concentrated in the area.

Historically, Masonic Week was long tied to the scheduling of the annual Conference of Grand Masters (COGMMNA), which was scheduled, in turn, to coincide with George Washington's Birthday. That was back in the days when the Grand Masters met every year in Washington D.C. at this time. Consequently, Masonic Week would happen the weekend before at the venerable Hotel Washington, which sat in the shadow of the White House. But sometime in the early 1990s, that connection got frayed by the Grand Masters taking their annual meetings on the road and cycling around the country. Still, Masonic Week has always tried to arrange itself to happen the weekend before, or thereabouts. Weather in D.C., the Super Bowl, and other factors have put pressure on organizers over the years, but after this year's Masonic Week, the COGMMNA will return to the Washington area, at the nearby Crystal Gateway Marriott, also in Arlington.

Coinciding with THAT event, the George Washington National Masonic Memorial will also be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the laying of its cornerstone on Monday, February 20th.

Indiana Masons are excited to know that one of our own members, Brother Tyler Whittaker, is an operative mason from Muncie, and he has created a new cornerstone to celebrate the occasion that will be dedicated at that Monday event. (Tyler will be making a live presentation at the Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research in Indianapolis following the Grand Lodge of Indiana's annual Founder's Day festivities on January 14th.)

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Oregon Lodge Has New Mural

by Christopher Hodapp

The Freemasons of Washington Lodge 46 in Portland, Oregon dedicated a stunning outdoor mural at the Washington Masonic Center on September 14th during their Past Masters Dinner. 

Mural design and artwork was done over the summer by artist Joe Riso. In a recent post by Senior Warden Dave Munson, he said, "It looks nice and doesn’t 'shout' but draws positive attention to who we are."

The city of Portland is planted thick with all sorts of murals painted on community buildings, and they're often mentioned on travel websites and in tourism articles. But I'll freely admit I'm pretty partial to this one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I'm certain they meant absinthe.

by Christopher Hodapp

My deepest fraternal apologies for the long silence on this site. We've had road trips, medical issues, family challenges, roofers, and other episodes at Hodapphäus that have kept me preoccupied for some time now. Plus, Alice and I are currently engaged in some actual paid employment from the For Dummies folks at Wiley Publishing, for which we are grateful.

Thanks to Indianapolis Valley of the Scottish Rite

A belated thanks to the kind brethren who invited me to speak at the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis' annual bean supper night on September 9th. Hat tip especially to Tom Fallis who has just been named as the new Executive Secretary of the Valley and who saw that the evening went off flawlessly. 

As Homer Simpson once said, "If I could say a few words... I'd be a better public speaker." 

I leave it to the audience to decide whether my speech was rousing, or just a dreadful abuse of a wind instrument.

Another Outstanding Festive Board at Rubicon Masonic Society

From a similar Festive Board evening in Spindletop Mansion

I had the pleasure of being a guest of the Rubicon Masonic Society in Lexington, Kentucky on August 26th for their annual Festive Board at the magnificent Spindletop Mansion. Speaker for the evening was dear friend and Brother S. Brent Morris. There's always a certain level of galactic concern when a Dummy and a Complete Idiot come into contact with each other (sort of like the Lazarus episode of Star Trek, but totally different), but it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces again. 

A previous Festive Board
crowd at Spindletop

If you haven't been to one of Rubicon's Festive Boards, have a look at their film The Masonic Table (streams on Amazon Prime), which is a detailed, how-to guide to hosting the sort of event they put on.

Rubicon has been creating videos of Masonic education for quite some time now, starting when COVID shutdowns became ubiquitous. There are currently 24 episodes and they can be seen online HERE.

Hat tip to Brian Evans, Worshipful Master of Lexington Lodge 1, and WB John Bizzack, who seems more like an unstoppable force of nature every time I see him. 

Kentucky's historic Lexington Lodge 1 is one of the top observant-style lodges in the U.S. today, and if you're interested in belonging to a lodge such as this, you owe it to yourself to attend their meetings and events. It's a very different experience than you're probably used to in your local, neighborhood lodge.

New Book Project: RV Vacations For Dummies

Finally, our current project, RV Vacations For Dummies, just popped up for pre-sale on Amazon and is due out on April 11, 2023, so we're busily pounding our faces into the keyboard. 

This one also acts as a companion piece to our 2021 RVs & Campers For Dummies so we can do the old Chico Marx sales job:

"No, itsa not in thata book. Itsa not in thata one, either. You haven't GOT thata book."

"I don't, huh? I'll bet I'm going to get it in a minute, though."

"One'sa no good. Ya gotta have the whole set..."

Unlike our first RV book, RVs & Campers For Dummies, this one's more about planning an actual itinerary for RV road trips, and we've got sixteen different ones to recommend. This one is not a completely original work from us—it was first published in 2003 in conjunction with the Frommer's travel book people, and it is generally revised every few years. Ours will be the seventh edition, and a lot has changed across the fruited plains just since the COVID closures. 

Friday, September 09, 2022

Grand Lodges of England and Scotland Issue Statements and Directives Over Queen's Mourning Period

by Christopher Hodapp

Following the death of Her Majesty The Queen, the United Grand Lodge of England has issued a statement to the press (photo above - click it to enlarge).

The UGLE's Metropolitan Grand Lodge in London issued the following directives to their members:
Brethren & Companions,
Following the death of Her Majesty on 8 September, the following measures will apply:
  • There will be a period of Masonic mourning coinciding with the period of national mourning, and black ties will be worn at all Craft and Royal Arch meetings held during that period. No black rosettes will be worn.
  • There will be no suspension of Masonic meetings during the period.
  • The summons for the first meeting of each Lodge or Chapter sent out from today should be printed in black. At the meeting, immediately after the opening (and the reading of any necessary dispensation), a short period of silence should be observed.
  • The first toast at dinner is now The King and the Craft / The King and Royal Arch Masonry

The Grand Lodge of Scotland has issued the following statement Friday morning:

Dear Sir and Brother
I am writing to you following the passing of Her Majesty The Queen. Our thoughts and prayers are with The Royal Family at this sad time.
I wish to inform you that a period of national mourning has now commenced and will continue until the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. The funeral, I understand, will take place on Monday 19 September 2022.
As a mark of respect the Grand Master Mason has directed that all Masonic activity will cease during this period of national mourning.
Further details will be circulated on Friday 9 September 2022.
Yours Sincerely and Fraternally,
William M S Semple
Grand Secretary
Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II: Requiescat In Pace

by Christopher Hodapp

I was in the midst of composing a message tonight about the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96. But I just saw this Facebook post by RW Glen Cook, Past Grand Master of Utah, and I think he stated it perfectly:

On the passing of Her Majesty:
From a general sense, she was likely the most well known daughter and wife of a Mason; a family member of grand masters. A Mason crowned her. A Mason will be present at the Accession Council of King Charles. She was a friend of the fraternity, and intimately connected with the fraternity.
Masons throughout the world are members in the national grand lodges of the nations over which she reigned. I suspect she has been the ruler for more Masons than any person in history. We have toasted her innumerable times after our convocations. We have asked God to bless her in song.
Now, we shall do so with a new sovereign.
It is for many of us, a signal event in our lives as Masons.
It is also a personal grief. We have lost someone for whom we had great affection. Many have served in her armed forces and held honours at her approval. A senior English Mason and RN officer texted me this morning expressing his grief. We had both already lowered our flags to half mast in respect.
It is an end to a constant in our individual lives.
It is, indeed. Consider that you have to be over the age of 74 to have known a world without her as the sovereign of Great Britain. For our Canadian brethren, consider that she reigned for almost half of that nation's history after its official creation in 1867.

I wonder if we will begin referring to her time on the throne as the Second Elizabethan Period. Even stranger, I wonder if when the new King Charles ascends to the throne if we'll begin referring to a new Carolean Age.

How curious it is that news reports and commentators all day kept using terms like timeless, honor, faith, strength, responsibility, service, selflessness, devotion to duty, prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance — all those qualities it's been so fashionable to mock in Western society over the last 30 or so years that suddenly seem so important, so admirable, so needed, now that we abruptly live in a world without her example.

Requiescat In Pace. 

And long live the King.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Freemasons At Work in the Quarries

In 1898, English Masons conferred the first known Master Mason degree 
 to be held in 'Solomon's Quarry' (Zedekiah’s Cave) 
below the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

by Christopher Hodapp

This coming Saturday,  September 10th, 2022, Eden Lodge No. 477 in Greenfield, Indiana will perform its annual Master Mason degree in a stone quarry east of Indianapolis, and there will be a hog roast beforehand. Contact the lodge for more information.

*   *   *

Because of Freemasonry's stonemason-guild beginnings, the symbolism of cutting, dressing and assembling perfect stones from a rock quarry to build a sacred temple is the central theme that runs throughout Masonic ritual. The rough ashlar stone symbolizes our own rough character, and our desire to smooth and perfect that ashlar and be worthy to become a 'living stone' to as part of a 'House not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.' And because we use the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem as that ideal symbol, Masons have had an interest in occasionally enacting the ritual in an actual quarry to mix a little more realism with the symbolism. 

After Napoleon's failed mission of stomping around in Egypt in the early 1800s, the administration of Palestine and the Holy Land was taken over by the Ottoman Turks. But it's not like that part of the world has ever had a stable history. After World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations appointed England to superintend the "Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan" and transition the region to create a Jewish homeland and hopefully keep the peace. But the English had already been poking around the Holy Land and Jerusalem for quite some time.

In the late 1860s, England's Sir Charles Warren was hired by the Palestine Exploration Fund to make surveys of the ancient biblically-related sites in and around Jerusalem. They were especially interested in the Old City and the Temple Mount – onetime location of King Solomon's Temple – and Warren conducted excavations that revealed a long-buried cave deep within the complex. The subterranean entrance, known as Zedekiah's Cave, led to an ancient stone quarry underneath the Temple complex, and it was quickly dubbed by Biblical archeologists as 'Solomon's Quarry,' the source of the stones used to construct the sacred Temple three thousand years ago.

Warren would become best known in modern times as the chief of London's Metropolitan Police between 1886-88, specifically because of his role in the investigation of the infamous Jack the Ripper murders. But he was also an enthusiastic Freemason, and he developed a keen interest in the physical sites connected with Masonic ritual. 

Warren was initiated into UGLE's Royal Lodge of Friendship No. 278 in Gibraltar in 1859. He would serve as the District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago from 1891 to 1895. And he served as Grand Deacon in 1887 for the United Grand Lodge of England. Perhaps most important was that in 1884 he was elected as the founding Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076. 

In addition to his papers presented to that lodge and printed in its transactions, he penned two important books on the subject of his biblical archeology work in and around the Temple complex: The Temple or the Tomb in 1880, and The Survey of Western Palestine-Jerusalem in 1884.

Meanwhile in America, Kentucky Freemason and founder of the Order of the Eastern Star, Rob Morris, had made a famous Masonic pilgrimage to the Holy Land himself to see the Temple Mount, 'Solomon's Quarry' and many other sites connected with our ritual, and wrote a book of his travels in 1875 that inspired members of the fraternity all over the world. Between Warren's and Morris' books, articles and speeches, Victorian-era Masons became more and more fascinated with the history and remains of the historical sites referred to in the Hiram legend and subsequent 'higher degrees' of the York and Scottish Rites.

Enthusiastic English Masons who had enough money to get there themselves organized the first degree conferral inside of Solomon's Quarry in 1898. 

A popular Holy Land souvenir for decades was a Masonic gavel set made from stone cut from the Solomon's Quarry site, with a handle and wooden carrying case made from olive wood. But Masons who couldn't make the trip to the Middle East themselves found substitutes closer to home — performing 'quarry degrees' outdoors in a still functioning operative stonemason's rock quarry.

You don't hear all that very often these days about quarry degrees. They're not totally unheard of anymore, but they're nowhere near as popular as they were during the early and mid-20th century. The combination of shrinking memberships, the fraternity's lack of enthusiasm as a whole, and legal liability all seem to have conspired together to make these ceremonies in such incredibly symbolic surroundings much rarer today.

Which brings me to Indiana, home of some of the greatest limestone deposits and quarries anywhere in the United States. Indiana celebrated its 150th Masonic anniversary, its Jubilee Year, between 1967-68. On August 19th, 1967, the nine original founding lodges of the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM, or their direct successors assembled under a full moon and reunited in a stone quarry near Salem, Indiana to jointly confer a Master Mason degree. Then Grand Secretary Dwight L. Smith had deemed the evening to be "Freemasonry's Link With Antiquity," and it was perhaps the event dearest to his heart because of the historic symbolism. 

Dwight was not just a Grand Secretary, he was a force of Nature. He began planning the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Grand Lodge of Indiana a full decade before it kicked off. Dwight was a trained journalist. He became editor of his local newspaper in Salem, Indiana in 1934, at the age of just 25, and he had grown up living and breathing Indiana history. He brought that same zeal for Indiana and its founders into Freemasonry when he became a very active young member, also at 25. He would soon take on editing the Indiana Freemason magazine, a position he held more than 40 years. He took an ordinary monthly Masonic newsletter and transformed it into an internationally acclaimed, informative Masonic magazine that was subscribed to by even more readers outside of the state than in it. Every issue contained thought-provoking Masonic education and historical articles, at Dwight's insistence. He demanded it. At the time, it was considered one of the very best and most informative Masonic magazines anywhere in the world.

Dwight was determined to get Indiana’s Masons sufficiently enthusiastic by 1967, and many of the traditions he and his committee started have continued every single year ever since. In my new book Heritage Endures, I devote a big section up front describing the monumental celebration Dwight Smith and the Grand Lodge pulled off for those twelve months between the Mays of 1967-68. Dwight had 250 Indiana Masons working as part of his enormous Sesquicentennial Commission in every corner of the state, and what they did was truly monumental,arranging major events for every month. Sure, Indiana had 175,000 or so members around those years, as opposed to our 50,000 today, so we had a lot more warm bodies then, and more money perhaps. But consider something else. 

We had far more enthusiasm about ourselves as Masons, too. It was an age when we believed just about anything was possible, so we thought and expected the very best of ourselves.

Things don't happen in a vacuum. The world was in enormous turmoil at that precise time in history. A contentious presidential election. The expansion of the military draft and the Vietnam War. The still powerful Soviet Union behind the Iron Curtain, with constant threat of nuclear confrontation. The mysterious nation of Communist China had just exploded their first hydrogen bomb. The Six-Day Arab-Israeli War that we are living with the ramifications of today. Nightly news coverage of race riots, and war dead no one had seen unfold in their living rooms in living color before. The U.S. space program had just lost its first human casualties in the race to the Moon – three astronauts, including Indiana Freemason Gus Grissom perished in the Apollo 1 fire. A breakdown in traditions and morals. Social and racial strife. A sudden national loss of religious faith and the 'God is Dead' movement. Technological changes happening so fast that people were unnerved by the ways their own lives were affected. 

It all sounds so remarkably like the world we are living in right now, doesn't it?

Indiana's Sesquicentennial Masonic celebration was deliberately designed by Dwight Smith to show the world that Freemasonry was the inverse opposite of all of that chaos and turmoil. If society was a wreck, Masonry was a rock. The very day after China exploded their H-Bomb, Indiana Freemasonry was on television all over the state, telling its story instead.

Dwight’s plan all along was to use the 150th anniversary to plant seeds all over Indiana, and the quarry degree in Salem on that August 1967 evening was just one of them.

Site of operative quarry Masonic degree at Salem, Indiana in 1967

Of the original nine founding lodges in Indiana, only Vincennes No. 1 and Brookville’s Harmony No. 11 remained that had enjoyed an uninterrupted existence since January 13, 1818. Three more, Madison’s Union Lodge 2, Lawrenceburg Lodge 4, and Rising Sun Lodge 6, had ceased for a time, but new lodges had been permitted to form again with their same historic names and numbers. The remaining four had dissolved, but were succeeded by new lodges with new numbers: Melchizidek Lodge at Salem was replaced by Salem Lodge 21; Corydon’s Pisgah Lodge 5 was succeeded by Pisgah Lodge 32; Vevay Lodge 7 by Switzerland Lodge 122; and Charlestown’s Blazing Star Lodge 3 by Blazing Star No. 226. The Masonic Heritage Program for the 150th Jubilee Year branded this event as one of the most significant of the entire twelve-month celebration, as it was the only time these historic lodges had ever met together for such a purpose. 

Before the meeting convened, dinner was served to nearly a thousand guests at the local school in Salem. Following the meal, 1,800 Freemasons from Indiana, Kentucky, Florida, California, Canada, and other jurisdictions all marched down Quarry Street and descended deep into the stone pit a mile away for the degree. It took forty-five appointed Tylers stationed around the perimeter of the area just to guard against any approaching cowans and eavesdroppers. A brief period of rainfall caused some panic, as the Masons fled for cover before the opening gavel could be struck. But the rain quickly stopped—Dwight simply wouldn’t permit it. The bleachers installed for the occasion were dried, and by nightfall the full moon peeked over the rim of the high, sheer pit walls from a clear sky. It fell to the officers of Dwight Smith’s own lodge, Salem No. 21, to open the lodge under the star decked canopy in this “low dell,” and the Sublime Degree was conferred by a cast made up of members of all nine of the historic lodges assembled. 

The Grand Secretary had been determined this night would be central to the celebration from almost the first discussions of the Sesquicentennial Commission back in 1960. He even had specially ‘illuminated’ scrolls created by hand as a tribute for each of the nine lodges by artist and calligrapher Arthur G. Duvall, Past Master of Evansville’s Lessing Lodge 464. The individualized certificates duly noted the names of each lodge’s own “Pioneer Freemasons” who had taken part in the formation of the Grand Lodge in January 1818—23 in all. As the meeting was opened, Smith read an introduction to the crowd, giving the historical background of the occasion. In noting that only two of the founding nine lodges had actually survived intact for a century and a half to witness the Jubilee year, he remarked, 
“In a very real sense this assembly is like unto human life: those who lay the foundations seldom live to place the capstone. One generation puts down the working tools: another generation takes them up and carries on.”
The quarry degree was just one single event that year. With erecting almost thirty permanent bronze historical markers all over the state, television programming, countless local and statewide occasions and gatherings, plays, endless press releases, Dwight's new book Goodly Heritage, and all the rest of the “bread and circuses” he and his committee cooked up, what he wanted to do was pass along the IDEA of Freemasonry, to members young and old, and to curious onlookers who might see a spark of light and knock at the door of a lodge someday. That passion was contagious.

Today we have Indiana’s own Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research U.D. in his memory, but there seems to be a feeling among those who knew him personally that he would never have approved of such a thing at all, let alone one named after him. Dwight felt that it was the role of
everyMason and every lodge everywhere to do research, and to study the history and heritage and symbolism and philosophy of the fraternity, not cloistered away in a single lodge that meets twice a year. You shouldn’t need an excuse to think and work and achieve.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery was a famous world aviator and journalist, and reputed by many to have been a French Freemason. He was the author of The Little Prince, if any of you took French classes and had to read it. He once wrote:
“If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood, and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”  
And that’s what Dwight and his committee and the Grand Lodge were really doing — inspiring their brethren 'to long for the endless immensity of the sea' that is Freemasonry. Dwight didn’t do it alone, he had lots of help. But he saw it all, it was his vision years before. And he dragged all of Indiana's Masons along with him on that voyage. He expected better, and he got it in return from his equally enthusiastic brethren.

It's long past time that we started demanding better of ourselves once again, and living up to the same expectations that Dwight had for himself and for this fraternity, and to once again teach others 'to long for that endless immensity of the sea' that is Freemasonry. Nobody is going to do it for us and there’s nobody else to blame now. And guilt is a lousy motivator anyway.

Men don’t join a club called Freemasonry. They join to BECOME Freemasons. They join because of the IDEA of what becoming a Freemason is to them. I certainly did. I suspect you did too. I hope so, anyway. Everybody fixates on the mantra that we need more new members all the time. Well, we've got far bigger troubles than just plumping up our numbers. We can get all the new members we want, if that's all we want. But those new members will never stay, and keep coming back, and they will never come to truly love Freemasonry as an idea until our own existing members truly love it first. Until we all rekindle the passion we all had for the fraternity on the night of our Entered Apprentice degrees. 

We have no business obligating another new Mason until then.

And until every single one of us longs for that endless immensity of the sea that is Freemasonry. 

*   *   *   

With that in mind, if you are in or near Indiana this coming Saturday, you will have an opportunity to experience what those 1,800 Masons did in 1967 in Salem, or those English brethren did in Jerusalem in 1898 — to imagine Hiram walking among the stones in the quarry, surrounded by the workmen all hard at work. 

On September 10th, 2022, Eden Lodge No. 477 in Greenfield, Indiana will perform its annual Master Mason degree in a stone quarry east of Indianapolis, and there will be a hog roast beforehand. Contact the lodge for more information.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Pennsylvania Grand Master Reacts to Fox Nation's Freemason Program

by Christopher Hodapp

The Right Worshipful Grand Master of Pennsylvania, Jeffrey M. Wonderling, has posted a message on Facebook following the airing of the Fox Nation streaming network's program, Freemasons: A Society of Secrets with Tom Shillue. The show premiered this week, featuring interviews with Grand Master Wonderling, Pennsylvania Mason Salmon Sheikh, and Scottish Rite SJ's Grand Archivist, Arturo De Hoyos.

(NOTE: Many Masons have been commenting online without actually having seen the whole program, and several have seen only a 2- or 5-minute promo for it that's laden with all the conspiratorial comments they could manage to squeeze in. The complete 25-minute show can ONLY be seen with a subscription to FoxNation.)

It's enormously frustrating to sit and talk on camera for an hour or more with an interviewer, only to have a total of two or three minutes appear in the show – if that. From the tenor of his note below, it would appear that this was the GM's first experience with a media interview, and he was less than enthused with the result:

Foxnation is airing a piece on Freemasonry. I was interviewed at the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia in June and the 25 minute piece was released yesterday. I understand it was on Fox News nationally this morning. The piece Tom Sillhue and their crew put together is the same old, same old, talking about the “conspiracy theories”, “new world order” and “cultism”. My friends, if were (sic) any of the above were true and we were in control, the World would mirror our integrity and values, and be a much better place. Tom didn’t mention that we kneel before GOD and stand for the flag. He didn’t mention that you must be able to be trusted with our wives, sisters, daughters, mothers, and wallets to gain admission into our organization. He didn’t mention the 2 million dollars PER DAY we contribute various charities in the USA that in no way benefits our organization. He didn’t mention that you must have a servant’s heart to gain admission.

Can you guess why?


It may also be important to note that a member of the production crew who saw the 90% of the interview you didn’t see asked for direction on petitioning a Long Island NY Lodge.

Respectfully submitted,

After having been in more than a few of these types of programs over the last two decades or so, I sympathize with the Grand Master. 

Permit me an illustrative anecdote. The very first History Channel show I was in was about the so-called 'secrets of the founding fathers.' At one point, the offscreen interviewer asked me an offhanded question about the history of England's infamous Hellfire Club in the 1700s, a topic I was totally unprepared to discuss at the time. He wanted to know if I knew anything about Ben Franklin being a member, but I really didn't. And I told him so.

"Wow, the Hellfire Club. I actually don't know that much detail about them, apart from the basics. You know, Sir Francis Dashwood and his buddies, dressing up like monks, getting blasted on weekends, and running a creepy sex club down in some cave under his mansion..." 

And that was the end of it.

When the show aired six months later, the Hellfire Club part of the show began with creepy lettering, creepy photos, creepy music, and a creepy announcer giving creepy narration. Suddenly out of nowhere, they cut to a shot of me saying just three words: 

"Creepy sex club."

Not even a full sentence. A sentence fragment. I wasn't entirely surprised, because I'd been a film editor for much of my adult life. I even try very hard with these interviews to talk in short, complete sentences instead of the usual pause-filled, comma-laden, run-on sentences that end in a different zip code which normally characterize my conversations. (Rambling answers are deadly in video and audio interviews.) But even that didn't protect me from the editor.

Creepy sex club? Three words? Seriously?

Unfortunately, the reaction of lots of Masons online today immediately took on the usual reflexive partisan venom that characterizes so much of anti-social media conversations these days on Twitbook, Facegram and Instatwit: "Whaddya expect from Fox News? Only an idiot would talk to those clowns! They're in cahoots with the far-right conspiracy mongers!" Etcetera, etcetera, et.al. They hate the messenger, so there's no reason to actually watch it, because it must be trash.


Rest assured: History, AHC, Discovery, PBS, NPR, CNN, MSNBC – every one of them has done the very same thing. And the print world is no better. The NY Times and the Wall Street Journal have reduced hour-long interviews with me to a single sentence in superficial Masonic stories (and I promise, we're not special). By the way, just to answer a point that several brethren have tried to bring up, no news organization is ever likely to let you see the final edit of a program before it airs, and NO ONE is going to let you have final approval of their edit.

Admittedly, one possible lapse in judgement was in not being familiar with the interviewer's past work – Tom Shillue thinks he's a laugh riot, so all of his interviews have an air of sarcasm to them, not serious curiosity or even a desire to inform. It's kind of like watching a bad Catskills comic giggle while telling his own jokes because he knows the punch lines and just can't contain himself.

But in fairness to the program itself, Art DeHoyos actually did get the $2 million a day figure into the show, and the Grand Master is being much too hard on himself. Overall, the show did no harm, the three brethren onscreen were perfectly fine spokesmen for the fraternity. The GM's remark that "Masons stand for the flag and kneel before God" was an incredibly succinct way to diffuse allegations that we are somehow secret traitors and Satan worshipers. Brother Sheikh talking about being a Muslim Mason was ultimately an effective shorthand for explaining our religious diversity in a positive way. Art proved that a Catholic rosary wouldn't burst into flames if a Mason held it in his hand. And Tom Shillue clearly demonstrated why he can't get a better gig than an occasional, obscure Fox Nation assignment that few will actually watch.

There are lots of Masons who criticize brethren who appear in TV and print interviews, saying the world was a better place back in the days when Masons shut the hell up in public and kept the whole fraternity mysterious. But the reason why Masons like Art, Brent Morris, Akram Elias, myself and others agree to be on these programs is because if we don't, the producers will find someone else who may not be as enthusiastic or truthful about the fraternity. The world has enough disgruntled, and downright angry, former Masons with a bone to pick against their former brethren, or who nurse a desire to present us in the worst possible light. Notorious conspiracy peddler Alex Jones has spent two decades making up absurdities about Freemasonry, and he got plenty of air time for a long while dishing nonsense until producers finally figured out his lucrative motives. (You might have seen him several years back manage to get cast members of Brad Meltzer's Decoded arrested on camera after sneaking them onto the property of the Bohemian Grove, then fleeing before cops could collar him.)

Dr. David Staples served as the CEO, Grand Secretary, and chief spokesman for the United Grand Lodge of England for several years, and he was quite forceful about demanding fair and honest coverage of the fraternity by the media, answering every critical story immediately, and doing his level best to take back control of the narrative. You might recall his '#Enough Is Enough' campaign in the light of a wave of anti-Masonic stories in the press.

The truth today is that we are now almost three generations away from when a typical man's father or grandfather was a Freemason. The combination of time, smaller and smaller families, fatherless households, the generational loss of respect for longstanding institutions, the plunging rates of believers in organized religious traditions, unstable adult careers, and the growing isolation of men working in an online environment with little or no personal contact – all of this and more has broken the traditional ways Freemasonry was historically passed from one generation to the next. We're not special — all voluntary associative organizations have taken a painful spear to the gut in a straight-line decline now for 60+ years. So when the media gives us a chance to beat on the coffin lid and let the world know who and what we are, we have got to seize that opportunity when we can, and communicate our story within the confines of their storytelling. Or make our own.

So, kudos to the Brethren who appeared in the Fox Nation program for answering the call and presenting us in a positive light on camera. If it piques the interest of even a single man in every state enough to knock on the door of a lodge, it was a resounding success.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Fox Nation Network Premieres 'Freemasons - A Society of Secrets'

by Christopher Hodapp

The Fox Nation streaming service today premiered a new 30-minute program, Freemasons: A Society of Secrets, featuring Fox personality (and barbershop quartet singer) Tom Shillue.

The show features interviews with Pennsylvania Brother Salmon Sheikh and Grand Master Jeff Wonderling at the Philadelphia Masonic Temple, and Grand Archivist Arturo DeHoyos at the Scottish Rite SJ's House of the Temple. 

(Curiously, either the time period was too short or the editors didn't think it was important to point out just what the Scottish Rite is and how it's different from the local lodge brand of Masonry, so the audience is left baffled about Masonry and Supreme Commanders and the House of the Temple's sanctum of its Temple Room.)

It's mostly benign, superficial ('C'mon, show me the handshake!'), and apart from a brief attempt to gin up a little controversy over Brother Sheikh's short period of resignation over anti-Muslim insults in his first lodge, the show ultimately does no harm. 

Not really worth signing up for a month of Fox Nation just to see this one, but it's at least good natured. Or to borrow the expression from the Encyclopaedia Galactica, "mostly harmless."

Friday, August 12, 2022

Indiana Grand Lodge Vault Yields Buried Treasure

by Christopher Hodapp

On Thursday, Indiana Past Grand Master Mike Brumback let it slip that he had the combination to the massive Grand Lodge vault in the basement of Indiana Freemasons Hall. Such a revelation could not go unchallenged, and when he opened it, sure enough, it yielded up treasures. 

Treasures, at least, for history nerds.

The room somehow seemed to have escaped any flooding over the years. It's packed with hundreds of printed copies of old Indiana annual proceedings, but it looks like the last things put inside were in 2012. 

The paw prints of Dwight L. Smith are evident. At some point on or before the GL's 150th anniversary in 1968-69, Dwight had apparently put out the word that he wanted to collect and protect copies or originals of the oldest physical documents he could find from lodges around the state. 
There's an entire shelf of early 19th century handwritten minute books with notes inside stating they had been microfilmed by the Indiana Historical Society in 1969. 

In the top photo by Bill Sassman, Mike and I peer into the Grand Lodge December 24, 1838 handwritten minutes. They were written by then-Grand Secretary Abraham Harrison, and probably not been looked since at least the 1960s, and likely even before that. 

GL used to meet twice a year, and this was just fifteen years after the City of Indianapolis was created in the wilderness. They used to meet the day before Christmas (I'll bet wives were thrilled over that) and then a second time in May. The minutes noted that the May meeting was to be held on the Thursday before the General Assembly convened (since many of our early members were also part of state government).

These minutes also predate the first purpose-built Masonic hall in the city by about thirteen years. They were usually meeting in the public room of a local inn and tavern, Blake and Henderson's Washington Hall, which was also the usual meeting spot for Centre Lodge 23, the first Masonic lodge chartered in the new capital city. 

Indiana's first official Grand Lodge Masonic Hall was finally built in 1850 and opened the next year. It would be deliberately built on the corner of Washington and Tennessee (now Capitol Avenue), diagonally from the statehouse. Before the Masons even moved in, we turned the use of the hall over to the State of Indiana to use for the delegates to the constitutional convention who were writing the new Indiana State Constitution at the beginning of 1851. The statehouse across the street was too small to accommodate both the General Assembly and the convention at the same time.

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Reading, Pennsylvania Scottish Rite Cathedral Damaged By Fire

by Christopher Hodapp

West Reading fire officials are investigating a suspicious overnight blaze at the Scottish Rite Valley of Reading, Pennsylvania. The Scottish Rite Cathedral suffered extensive smoke damage from the fire that was confined to the lobby. It is currently being investigated as arson.

According to a story in the Reading Eagle by reporter Steven Henshaw, West Reading police and fire departments were dispatched at 1:20 a.m. Tuesday to the Cathedral at 430 S. Seventh Avenue when smoke was spotted pouring out of several windows. The fire was located in the west end of the lobby, and most of the furniture was ablaze when fire fighters arrived.

Thankfully, there were no injuries, but damage to the Cathedral is expected to be significant. 
According to WB Seth Anthony, the fire fortunately did not reach the offices or the Children's Dyslexia Center.

The Reading Scottish Rite's lobby before the fire 
{Photo from their website)

The Scottish Rite Valley of Reading was established in 1906. Their current Cathedral was built in phases, beginning in 1983 and completed in 1988. The auditorium seats 1,300, and it is an important venue in the community for theatrical presentations, music, seminars, and community events like high school graduations.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call West Reading police at 610-373-0111 and talk to Criminal Investigator Karie Good.

Photos: Bill Uhrich for the Reading Eagle
H/T to WB Seth Anthony - alas, this is his home Valley.