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

BE A FREEMASON

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Louisiana Grand Master's Edict Requires Bible Readings For Meetings: Internet Masons Go Crazy



by Christopher Hodapp

The brand new Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, MW Jay B. McCallum, kicked off his first week in the Grand East yesterday by issuing Edict 2022-1, and Masonic social media immediately erupted into a divisive public donnybrook. 


The edict reads, in part: 

Whereas the Holy Bible is the Great Light in Masonry; and
Whereas the Holy Bible is the rule and guide to our faith and practice; and
Whereas Freemasonry opens this Book upon its alters, with the command to each of its votaries that he diligently study therein to learn the way to everlasting life;

Therefore, by the authority vested in me as Grand Master of the grand Lodge of Louisiana, Free & Accepted Masons, I do hereby issue and proclaim the following edict:

“Effective upon the date hereof, the  Worshipful Master of each lodge shall cause a verse or passage of Scripture from the Holy Bible to be read aloud immediately after the lodge has been opened and before the reading of the minutes or any other business of the lodge shall be transacted.”

(Click image to enlarge.) 

When I first joined the fraternity in 1998, our Grand Master Robert E. Hancock issued an edict that added a new bit of business to the rubric. As the lodge was closing, instead of closing the Bible and placing the square and compass on the closed cover, the Chaplain was to turn the book to Matthew 5:16:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

It was to remain open to that passage at all times until the next lodge meeting, when it would be turned to the degree-appropriate pages. Hancock wasn't attempting to shoehorn a deliberately Christian New Testament message into the lodge. He simply felt that the words themselves succinctly described Freemasonry's mission, along with a charge to each of us to spread Masonic Light as an example to others. It wasn't so much a religious message as it was a reminder to us as Masons about our conduct, and it was to remain visible at all times as a symbol of the duty we all have as Masons. Nevertheless, when the annual Grand Lodge session came around in May 1999, Hancock's edict went down in flames, in part because many Masons voting that day couldn't see anything beyond the fact that it was a New Testament quotation, and therefore automatically an overt Christian message.

What disturbs me about the online reaction to GM McCallum's edict is that it has resulted in a toxic wave of insults and accusations between purported Masons who seem to have a lopsided hatred of anything that even smells like Christianity creeping into lodge business. Suggestions for readings from the steamier parts of Song of Solomon or giggly recommendations of passages referring to Biblical figures "sitting on an ass" and other idiocy that was worn out in third grade Sunday Bible School all came tumbling out. Yet, many of these same online commentators are the first to whip out "Whattabout the Koran? Or the Veda? Huh? Huh?" And then, of course, comes the wave of "Can I read out of Harry Potter?" "I'm a pastafarian - can I read the ingredients off of a Creamettes angel hair pasta packsge? Huh? Huh?"

It's sort of like being trapped into sitting at a bar next to a drunk who won't shut up until you hate his ex-wife as much as he does.

And then there are the characters who actually say with a straight face (or a straight keyboard, in this case) that "If this edict is allowed to stand, I'm not setting foot in lodge ever again! I didn't join a Christian church!" 

No, you didn't. But it's been astonishing to encounter Masons who honestly claim that passages from the Bible have no business being read in open lodge. Moreover, they contend that reading scripture from the Bible means excluding Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and all other non-Christian members. A bizarre claim for members of an organization that bases its entire structure on the symbolism of Solomon's Temple as described in two books of the Old Testament, which is made up of the Hebrew Tenach. Yes, I know, there are currently more than 4,000 religious varients in the world today. But Solomon's Temple is a shared icon of the three Abrahamic religions that comprise the vast, VAST majority of the religious believers on the globe.

Put it another way: I don't see a further demands from the Grand Master that passages from the Qur'an, the Veda, the Tao Te Ching, the Bahagavad Gita, the Book of Common Prayer, Khordeh Avesta, the Tripitaka  may NOT be read in a Louisiana lodge.

Partially wrapped up in these exchanges are clear situations of Masons believing that all jurisdictions, grand lodge rules, and degree rituals are exactly the same as their own. In the case of Louisiana in particular, the history of the development and growth of Freemasonry in that state  is dramatically different than the rest of the U.S. because of its early French influences. Because of their pre-1800 French origin, ten Louisiana lodges are permitted to use English translations of Craft rituals for EAs, FCs and MMs that are not worked elsewhere in the U.S. (with a couple of noteworthy exceptions in New York and Washington DC, and – I think – California). These are sometimes referred to, somewhat improperly, as the "red lodge degrees" or "Scottish Rite Craft degrees."

It's been a long time since I've seen these degrees performed in person, but Louisiana Masons have told me that there are no biblical passages read during their degree rituals. That's a MAJOR difference in their ceremonies. With the exception of Louisiana and the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, the majority of U.S. Masonic lodges all use slight variations of Preston-Webb rituals of English origin. In each of the three Craft degrees, the circumambulation of the candidate is accompanied by the reading of a specific Old Testament Bible verse:

Entered Apprentice: Psalm 133
Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessings, even life for evermore.

Fellowcraft Degree: Amos 7: 7,8
Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand.
And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then, said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them anymore.

Master Mason Degree: Ecclesiastes 12: 1-7
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain;
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of a bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

But lest you think the whole Masonic world uniformly includes these verses in their ritual work, that's simply not the case. Even in the U.S. I'm told some state grand lodges, including Idaho and Mississippi, do not use them. On the other hand, some states include the 133rd Psalm as an official part of their opening of all meetings. So, like so much else in Freemasonry, differences in rituals and customs are entirely jurisdictional.

The Grand Lodge of Louisiana has a different pedigree than any other grand lodge in the U.S. From the time of its formation and growth (partially by English and Irish expats in France in the late 1720s), French Freemasonry was populated by Roman Catholic members. Even the early emigres from the British Isles were Stuart supporters desperate to place James on the throne(s) back home and return the monarchy to Catholic rule. Roman Catholicism was the state religion for centuries in France, a situation that wouldn't change until the outbreak of the Revolution. By 1773 when the Grand Orient de France was officially established, there were more than 600 Masonic lodges at work in France. By the time of the French Revolution in 1789, almost 1,000 lodges had been chartered. 

The Revolution aimed to bring an end to monarchial rule in France, and almost as vehemently, the removal of Catholicism from its positions of power over government and its monopoly over the education of French children. Equally hated were the vast properties held by the Church which were untaxed by the state. And there was the usual hatred of the elite nobility that festers in almost every social uprising. The Abbé Barreul capitalized on the involvement - real and imaginary - of Freemasons in fomenting the Revolution in his book,  that helped create the modern conspiracy theory (but that's another conversation).

At the the formation of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana in 1812, numerous Masons from post-revolutionary France had turned anti-Catholic. And back in France, the Grand Orient itself would become quite politically active throughout the 19th century. In the late 1800s, Grand Orient Masons in the military brewed up a huge scandal when they went on an anti-Catholic purge of the ranks by using Grand Orient membership files to weed them out. And Grand Orient members were deeply involved in drafting France's laicité laws that vehemently banned any open show or support of any religion by government or government employees. (Laicité laws today are still in full force in France, and have been used to prevent teachers and government workers from wearing religious head scarves or veils, or crucifix jewelry on the job.  So, the early founders of Louisiana Freemasonry came from that kind of background.)

Not every grand lodge ever officially adopted a specific list of "unchangeable landmarks" (mine never did, while those who have them have a huge variety and number of them, lest anyone be under the misapprehension that The Landmarks are in any way universal). The GL of Louisiana officially adopted 24 Landmarks of the Order. Number 24 reads:

Healing Day – June 24,1813.

Moderns and Ancients had separated and formed separate Grand Lodges over one question: The religious belief of a candidate.

They agreed – June 24, 1813 on this statement:

“Let a man’s religion or mode of worship be what it may, he is not excluded from the order, provided he believes in the Glorious Architect of Heaven and Earth and practices the sacred duties of Morality.”

Many other grand lodges have differences in stated or implied policies concerning the Bible. For instance: the Grand Lodge of Texas Monitor published in 1922 contains this notation :

[The first section of the Entered Apprentice] degree teaches the candidate, by Symbols, many important lessons, and among other things, that Masonry is a moral institution, founded upon the morality as taught in the Bible, and that he has to take the Holy Bible as the rule and guide to his faith and practice; it being the great light in Masonry and the source whence we, as Masons, derive all our ethics.

Texas' Charge to the Entered Apprentice includes this:

As a Mason, you are to regard the Holy Scriptures as the great light in your profession; they are the unerring standard of truth and justice; and you are to regulate your life and actions by the divine precepts therein contained. No institution was ever raised on better principles, or a more solid foundation than that of ours, which takes the Holy Bible as its corner-stone; nor were ever more excellent rules or useful maxims laid down, than are inculcated in the several Masonic Lectures, which you will learn at your leisure, by conversing with well-informed Brethren, who will be always as ready to give as you will to receive instruction.

 The 2013 revision of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky's Constitutions has this to say:

The Supreme Being.
Masons believe that there is one God and that people employ many different ways to seek and to express what they know of God. Masonry primarily uses the appellation, “Grand Architect of the Universe”, and other non-sectarian titles, to address Deity. In this way, persons of different faiths may join together in prayer, concentrating on God, rather than differences among themselves. Masonry believes in religious freedom and that the relationship between the individual and God is personal, private and sacred.

Volume of the Sacred Law.
An open volume of the Sacred Law, “The rule and guide of life,” is an essential part of every Masonic meeting. The Volume of the Sacred Law in the Judeo/Christian tradition is the Bible, to Freemasons of other faiths, it is the book held holy by them. (2000)

The Oath of Freemasonry.
The obligations taken by Freemasons are sworn on the Volume of the Sacred Law. They are undertakings to follow the principles of Freemasonry and to keep confidential a Freemason’s means of recognition. The much discussed “penalties”, judicial remnants from an earlier era, are symbolic, not literal. They refer only to the pain any honest man should feel at the thought of violating his word.

Freemasonry Compared with Religion.
Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of religion:
(A) It has no dogma or theology, no wish or means to enforce religious orthodoxy.
(B) It offers no sacraments.
(C) It does not claim to lead to salvation by works, by secret knowledge, or by any other means. The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with modes of recognition, not with the means of salvation.

Freemasonry Supports Religion.
Freemasonry is far from indifferent toward reli- gion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith and to place his Duty to God above all other duties. Its moral teachings are acceptable to all religions.

By the way, since I'm on the subject of VSL readings, I'll pass this along. More than 20 years ago, this subject was being debated on the old Philalethes Society mailing list. WB Rashied K. Sharrieff Al Bey (who, 20 years later, is now the current president of that esteemed society) gave these recommendations if the Holy Qur'an was being used on the Altar during a Muslim's circumambulations:

Entered Apprentice - Surah 3: 103
And hold fast all together, by the Rope which G-d stretches out for you, and be not divided amongst yourselves; and remember with gratitude G-d's favor on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in Love, so that by His Grace, ye became Brethren; and ye were on the brink of the Pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth G-d make clear His Signs to you: that ye may be guided. 

Fellowcraft - Surah 2: 255
G-d! There is no god but He, -- the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him, nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there that can intercede except as He permitteth? He knoweth what (appeareth to His creatures as) before or after or behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He willeth. His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory).

Master Mason - Surah 85: 12-16
Truly Strong is the grip of thy Lord. It is He Who creates from the very beginning, and He can restore (life). And He is the Oft-Forgiving, full of loving-kindness, Lord of the Throne of Glory, Doer (without let) of all that He intends.

The more you read from the past, the more you learn from it. Our Founding Brethren could have picked any symbols or sources they liked when crafting our rituals. I suppose one could argue that you could just as effectively teach "wise and serious truths" using Gulliver's Travels instead of the Book of Kings (the mind reels - think of THAT initiation!)

But the greatest lesson Freemasonry was designed to teach was NOT that Freemasonry must be blanched of any whiff of religious-sounding influences. Nor must Freemasonry as an institution be dramatically changed so that MY religious faith or YOUR's (or our lack of it) get accommodated so neither you nor I be offended. No, the lesson is that YOU and I must accept its methods of teachings, and be tolerant of our brethren's beliefs, while ALL of us find the universal truths in Masonic teachings themselves. The Founders wanted lodge to be a place where men who had been quite literally killing each other for seventy years over whether they believed in seven sacraments, or three, or two could sit in the same room, break bread together, and celebrate their commonality, while happily accepting their differences. Masonic philosophy had no equal at that moment in time.

Somewhere, somehow, modern Masons got mixed up into thinking that religious faith, questions of the soul and eternity, can't be talked about in lodge. On the contrary – lodge is EXACTLY where men should be able to openly and unashamedly discuss their own beliefs with each other without reproach or scorn. Even goldfish desperately want to know who changes the water in the bowl. These are questions that have haunted every single one of us since the Dawn of Man. And if we can't freely exchange our thoughts and fears and joys and heartbreaks with our Brothers, we're a piss-poor excuse for the dream our Founders expected us to fulfill.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Midwest Conference on Masonic Education in Kansas City, MO: April 29 - May 1, 2022




by Christopher Hodapp

The 73rd annual Midwest Conference on Masonic Education will be held April 29th through May 1st, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri.

From their website:
The Midwest Conference on Masonic Education 2022 promises to be an excellent event that offers excellent resources for Masonic Educators at all levels. Whether you are the chair of Masonic Education in your jurisdiction, a local Lodge Education Officer, or just a Brother interested in contributing to Masonic Education in your local lodge, we welcome you to join us. We look forward to great presentations, useful workshops and interaction, plenty of good fellowship, and an unmatched opportunity to see what's new and exciting in Masonic Education across jurisdictions.

By the end of the weekend, you will have many new tools and ideas to take back to your jurisdiction for Masonic Education!
This year's conference will be at the Hampton Inn and Suites Kansas City - Country Club Plaza, 4600 Summit Street, Kansas City, MO 64112.

General Registration fee of $150 includes all presentations, Friday night dinner and hospitality suite; Saturday breakfast, lunch and dinner; and Sunday breakfast.

Can't attend in person? A Virtual Program is also being offered via Zoom. The $50 fee gives you online access to several of the presentations (see the website for more details about this option).


CLICK HERE FOR HOTEL RESERVATIONS


Bro. Josef Wäges - “Finding La Candeur: A Guide to Masonic Research”
Josef Wäges, 32°, is a member of the Blue Friars, a member of Plano Lodge No. 768, the Valley of Dallas (AASR SJ), a Fellow of the Grand College of Rites, a full member of the Texas Lodge of Research, Michigan Lodge of Research, and a life member of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Additionaly he is the editor of The Secret School of Wisdom, the Authentic Rituals and Doctrines of the Illumanati, L’École secrète de sagesse, Rituels et doctrines authentiques des Illuminati: Une école secrète de Sagesse, On Materialism and Idealism, and A Treasury of Coën Texts in Two Volumes.

• Bro. Dan Hrinko - “The Purple of the Fraternity”, Masonic Leadership and Training
Bro. Hrinko has been a Mason since 1977. He served as Master of Clark Lodge 101 in 1983 and again in 2005. He was the Master of Arts & Sciences 792 serving one year under dispensation in 2009-10 and a second year as the Charter Master in 2010-11. He served as a DEO from 2013-14 and as a DDGM from 2015-17. Bro. Hrinko has authored two books published by Macoy Masonic Publishers. The Craft Driven Lodge chronicles the principles and process of the formation and operation of the Arts & Sciences Lodge as the Brothers of that lodge strive for the best Masonic experiences and the pursuit of Masonic Education. The Purple of the Fraternity describes how the servant leadership model aligns with Masonic teachings and principles and offers a template for effective leadership within Freemasonry regardless of the level at which you are serving the Craft.

• Bro. Shawn Eyer - “Architecture, Geometry, and Aesthetics” Encountering Freemasonry’s Central Metaphor of the Craft”
Shawn Eyer is a Masonic writer whose work emphasizes the careful reading of early Masonic literature, with special attention to intertextuality, themes, symbols, and ritualistic practice. He holds advanced degrees from Hebrew College and Harvard University. He is a member of the Lodge of the Nine Muses No. 1776 in the District of Columbia, and a Past Master of Academia Lodge No. 847 in California.

• Bro. Jacob W. Thompson - “Wardens and Masters Training”: The Grand Lodge of Missouri’s newest Masonic Education Resource
RWB Jacob Thompson is the Grand Historian of the Grand Lodge of Missouri AF&AM and currently serves as the chariman of the jurisdiction’s Masonic Education Online Learning Subcommittee. He is a tireless researcher of the history of the Grand Lodge of Missouri, most recently curating and facilitating Missouri’s Bicentennial Lecture Series. He is also passionate about creating and providing useful and effective Masonic education resources for local lodges and was the driving force behind the creation and delivery of Missouri’s new Masters and Wardens training program.

• Bro. James Buckhorn (IN), Facilitator - Grand Lodge Education Officers/Committee Chairs Roundtable Q&A 
This is your opportunity to pick the brains of the top minds in Masonic Education across jurisdictions as we welcome Grand Lodge Education Officers and Chairmen of Masonic Education Committees present to answer your questions on Masonic Education in their respective jurisdictions.

Never heard of the Midwest Conference on Masonic Education before? Or maybe you did, but didn't know what it was about or if you could attend. 

Who We Are

The Midwest Conference on Masonic Education was formed in 1949 at a gathering of interested Masons from Illinois (including Alphonse Cerza) and Iowa.

The outcome was to continue getting together by establishing its first Annual Meeting which was held in December 1950 in Cedar Rapids IA. The organization is comprised of a loose and ever-changing collection of Masonic educators from Grand Lodge jurisdictions located in 12 north central States and the Province of Manitoba. Other participants frequently include chairs of Masonic Education as well as Grand Lodge officers.

What We Are About

The aim of the Conference is to promote Masonic Education, in part by providing a forum for educators to gather, freely discuss Masonic issues, socialize, and learn from sharing experiences while building beneficial relationships.

In addition, the Conference initiates special projects such as collecting data on educational practices across all North American jurisdictions, as well as encouraging Masonic research and writing by individual educators.

How We Function

The Conference meets once a year, usually in late April or early May, in one of the member jurisdictions. Responsibility for conducting the Annual Meeting rotates each year, eventually being hosted by all member jurisdictions before repeating.

A typical program schedule includes presentations by well-known Masonic speakers, experiential as well as scholarly participant presentations, roundtable discussions, and jurisdiction reports. Sufficient time is also arranged to provide informal chats among attendees. For more than a half century, our participants have expressed the view that our Conference is well worth the time, effort and cost in order to gain the many benefits from attending and participating.


Video presentations from the 2019 and 2021 Conferences are available online HERE.

All Master Masons from recognized Masonic jurisdictions in the United States, Canada, or worldwide are encouraged to attend and become part of this annual Conference on Masonic Education.

All regular, recognized Masonic Jurisdictions are invited to enquire about becoming a member jurisdiction of the MCME.

For more information about this conference, visit the website at http://www.mcme1949.org

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Flash! GL of Louisiana Votes in Favor of Prince Hall Recognition... Sort Of


by Christopher Hodapp

NOTE: This story will be updated as more details are received.


This afternoon at its 211th Annual Communication in Lake Charles, the Grand Lodge of the State of Louisiana F&AM successfully voted in favor of joint recognition with a Prince Hall (PHA) grand lodge, which reduces the number of states without reciprocity of recognition down to just four now.

Sort of.

It seems that the mainstream Grand Lodge of Louisiana (established in 1812) has passed joint recognition of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge F&AM of Maryland (PHA, established in 1876), NOT Louisiana. I think this may be the first time this has happened in the history of American Freemasonry regarding Prince Hall amity agreements.

However, the voting members of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana decided NOT to recognize their own state's Prince Hall counterpart at this time. Their decision was based upon the preponderance of evidence of ongoing irregular activities carried out by the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge F&AM of Louisiana (established in 1869) and its MW Grand Master Ralph Slaughter. 

I've been told that GM Slaughter has allegedly issued charters outside of Louisiana in jurisdictions of other existing regular grand lodges with already established territories, which violates Masonic ground rules involving regularity and recognition. I'm still seeking clarifications of that. Slaughter was also involved in a coup that split apart the MW Prince Hall's Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction* into two parallel groups and resulted in lawsuits over legitimacy and ownership of the organization.

With this development in mind, I can't really say "And then there were four..." regarding amity agreements between mainstream grand lodges and their Prince Hall counterparts, but I can take them off the list of the last holdouts in the U.S. So I made Louisiana a neutral gray color on the map for the moment.

The last four remaining states without any recognition between mainstream and Prince Hall (PHA) grand lodges whatsoever are: Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

This story will be updated.


*Th actual legal name of their legitimate Scottish Rite SJ is the United Supreme Council, 33 Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Prince Hall Affiliation, Southern Jurisdiction of the United States.

Slaughter's illegitimate group is ALSO calling itself the United Supreme Council, 33 Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Prince Hall Affiliation, Southern Jurisdiction of the United States.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

News of The Masonic Society; TMS Journal Issue 56 On Its Way


by Christopher Hodapp

Issue 56 of the Journal of The Masonic Society is about to start hitting subscriber mailboxes. Our Editor Michael Poll, Art Director John Bridegroom, and the whole team continue to do amazing work highlighting Masonic education and research.

The cover features a stunning view of the ceiling in the main lodge room of the United Grand Lodge of England on Great Queen Street, London. 

Here is the line-up of the papers in this issue:

Gratitude in Masonic Life by C.R. Dunning, Jr.
Nine: Masonic Fan Fiction by M. Christopher Lee
Masonic Education in the Time of Pandemic: The Rubicon Masonic Society’s Experience by Dan Kemble
The Feast of the Paschal Lamb: A Memorial Service by Michael Moran, FMS and Samuel Kyburz
• Memorials of Tom Jackson and Ralph McNeal
• Highlights of this year's Masonic Week

While I'm on the subject, my belated public congratulations to WB Oscar Alleyne who was elected in February at Masonic Week 2022 as the new President of the Masonic Society. 


(The photo is admittedly a couple of years old, but it's one of my favorites taken of Oscar at the Grand Lodge of New York.)

The annual Masonic Week dinner meeting of the Masonic Society actually had record attendance this year. Some 112 Brethren assembled for food, fellowship, elections and an outstanding speaker. Chris Ruli, longtime Grand Historian and Librarian of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, presented “Masonic Myth of Our Nation’s Capital,” a discussion dispelling some of the more groundless (and frequently silly) stories told about the Masonic influences on the design and building of Washington, D.C. 

In addition to Oscar's election as President, Gregg Knott was elected as First Vice President, and Mark Robbins as Second Vice President. Newly elected Board members are Kevin Wardally, Grand Treasurer of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York, and Mason Russell, Grand Treasurer of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

And a huge round of thanks to our outgoing President Jay Hochberg who served us during a couple of the most disruptive years in modern world history with leadership and distinction. If you have never discovered his 'Magpie Mason' blog (hard to believe, since he's been at this as long as I have), check it out here.


The Masonic Society was established in 2008 as a Masonic research organization and publishes its Journal quarterly. If you are a Master Mason and not a member or subscriber, you should be! 
"We are brothers who have a deep and abiding desire to seek knowledge, explore history, discover symbolism, debate philosophies, and in short, who are at the forefront of charting a path for the future of Freemasonry. The goal of The Masonic Society is not just to look backward at the history of Freemasonry, but to foster the intellectual, spiritual and social growth of the modern Masonic fraternity.

"To that end, The Masonic Society extends the hand of assistance and cooperation to individual research lodges throughout the Masonic world. It is the desire of The Masonic Society to cooperate with these lodges, to give their members the regular opportunity to publish their papers for an international audience, and to publicize their activities..."
Membership is US$45 per year for US addresses, US$49 per year for Canadian addresses, and US$67 per year outside of the U.S. & Canada. Non-Masons, libraries and others may subscribe to the magazine at the same rate.



Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Suspect In Shrine Vandalism Case Now Tied to More Attacks on Illinois Masonic Halls


Posted by Christopher Hodapp

From the Decatur, Illinois Herald & Review website on March 20th by Tony Reid:
The Decatur man accused of taking a baseball bat to the windows of the Decatur Masonic Temple (photo above) and inflicting massive damage is now linked to similar attacks at Masonic lodges and facilities scattered across Central Illinois.
Howard D. Lovelady Jr
Howard D. Lovelady Jr. (photo) is so far pleading not guilty to seven counts of criminal damage, and those only relate to attacks on the Decatur temple and the Masonic Lodge in Blue Mound.

Blue Mound Police Chief Chad Lamb told the Herald & Review that Lovelady is suspected of being the culprit in other acts of criminal damage in Mattoon, Arcola and Springfield, where two lodges and the Ansar Shrine Center were hit. Lovelady is accused of using a metal baseball bat to smash glass in windows and doors in multiple attacks in January and February.

“This is very unusual,” said Lamb, who has not interviewed Lovelady and said he had no idea what the defendant’s motive might be. “It’s just a bizarre case,” he added.

Giving evidence at a preliminary hearing Wednesday in which probable cause was found to try Lovelady for the Blue Mound attacks, Lamb told Macon County Circuit Court Judge Rodney Forbes that smashed windows at the lodge were discovered on the morning of Feb. 12.

Damage was estimated at around $1,000 and surveillance video captured the suspect driving away in a blue Pontiac car. This same vehicle was seen in the Decatur attacks, and has been linked to the other cases of criminal damage.

Testifying at another preliminary hearing Wednesday against Lovelady in the Decatur temple damage, Decatur Police Detective Jeremy Appenzeller said the Pontiac car’s registration was checked to Lovelady.

Appenzeller said the car was found parked outside Lovelady’s apartment and a “white metal bat” lay on the front passenger seat.

Under questioning from Macon County State’s Attorney Scott Rueter, the detective said the Decatur Temple had been the victim of multiple attacks during January and February. Each time the perpetrator, who had been caught on video, was seen walking up to the temple wielding a baseball bat before systematically smashing the glass in doors and windows.

Glass doors destroyed at Decatur Masonic Hall 

Appenzeller told Rueter the damage estimate for the Decatur Temple runs to more than $25,000. Lovelady is also accused of using a baseball bat to smash the windows in a truck parked outside the temple.

He was found and arrested Feb. 18 and Decatur Police sworn affidavits do not list him as making any statements about a motive for the alleged crimes. Lovelady is due back in court for a pretrial hearing May 2 and remains held in the Macon County Jail with bail set at $25,000, requiring him to post a bond of $2,500 to be freed.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon Installing Cutting Edge Historical Markers


by Christopher Hodapp

In the 1960s and 70s, our Grand Lodge in Indiana installed about thirty aluminum historical markers at various important Masonic sites around the state. Almost sixty years later, they're all still in place, and nearly all of them are in remarkably good condition with no maintenance. They have quite literally withstood the test of time. It's tough to find any product with that kind of track record, and seen in that light, they are a remarkably inexpensive way to promote interest in the fraternity, once you consider the amortized cost over 5 or 6 decades. 

We used Sewah Studios out of Marietta, Ohio to manufacture ours, and since 1927, they have been the favorite supplier for nearly every state in the union for these types of roadside historical markers.

Now, brethren in Canada have hit upon a new wrinkle in historical markers. The Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon is in the midst of celebrating its 150th anniversary. But instead of creating plaques with tons of small, hard to read type, their new commemorative markers include a scannable QR code that links to a website with more information than could ever possibly fit on the marker itself.

The first of a projected 45 markers to be installed was at Prince David Masonic Hall in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. It was dedicated on Saturday by the grand officers of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon.

From a story on Saturday by Colleen Flanagan on the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows website:

The cast bronze plaque is mounted on the front steps of Prince David Masonic Hall and features a QR code that can be scanned using a phone that will connect immediately to websites, photos, videos, and information about the hall’s history and its role in shaping the past 150 years of the Freemasons in the province.
By scanning the QR code, visitors will also be able to take a virtual tour of lodge halls throughout B.C. and the Yukon and learn about how they shaped the west coast of Canada before the formation of a provincial Grand Lodge in 1871.
This is the first of 45 dedications of plaques across the province and territory.

Most Worshipful Grand Master Don MacKenzie, head of Freemasonry in B.C. and Yukon, attends the hall in Maple Ridge. He was joined for the unveiling by Freemasons from across the jurisdiction and the officers of his Grand Line.

“Freemasonry has been an active but relatively quiet part of B.C. communities for 150 years,” MacKenzie explained.

“People see our buildings but don’t know what goes on inside. So, this an invitation to get to know us,” he said.

Maple Ridge was chosen for the first plaque unveiling because of MacKenzie’s connection to the city.

“Freemasonry stands on the threshold looking back on 150 years of success, and forward to the next 150 years of fraternity, charity and community,” he said.






As new markers are erected, they will be added to a searchable map on the masonicmarkers.com website. Hitting the QR code on the marker takes you to a history of the site, event or lodge building. The website also lets you check in and log your travels every time you scan another marker along the grand lodge's Masonic trail. 

It’s a cool idea, as long as the QR technology is properly supported and maintained. Like all technology, I fear rapid obsolescence. QR codes will go the way of the 8-track tape player, and probably faster than you can say, "What's an 8-track tape player?" unlike our markers erected more than a half century ago that continue to tell their story to this day. I also wonder about the durability of the QR image as well, after it's subjected to years of outdoor weather conditions. 

But that's as may be. Bravo to the grand lodge for bringing their history to the public.

NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, for over a decade now, I have served as the Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon Near Indiana.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Robot Maker Shows Off Mechanical Goat


by Christopher Hodapp

Here's your first goat story of 2022.

Ah, the myth of the Masonic lodge goat continues to be told and retold. Despite 200 years of accusations from non-Masons that we ride goats as part of our initiation, it's never been true. It's a superstition that non-Masons repeat, and even some juvenile-minded Masons will use to frighten new initiates. Masons don't haze candidates, and if your lodge does, you should be ashamed of yourself.

But those Odd Fellows guys, on the other hand...


The Odd Fellows and lovers of goat lore have a new reason to rejoice. Motorcycle maker Kawasaki has just debuted a robotic mechanical goat at the 2022 International Robot Exhibition (iREX) in Tokyo. Officially known as 'RHPBex,' the industrial robotic billygoat comes complete with both feet and wheels attached to let it handle any terrain, and is capable of carrying more than 350 pounds of riders and cargo on its back. 

Bex even sports an impressive pair of curved horns on its head to give it just the right touch of Baphomet leitmotif.

No word as to whether Bex has occasional fits of head butting and making bleating noises.


For industrial clients, Bex has several different combinations of modular modifications to choose from - although there's no word yet if you can order one without the slightly creepy head and horns.

As time marches on, more and more companies are looking to replace a shrinking workforce of humans with robots. (I was accosted by a roving security robot in a supermarket chain in Wisconsin two years ago. It looked so much like a Dalek, I expected it to start yelling, "Exterminate! Exterminate!" when I set foot in the frozen food section.) If you think robotic machines still rare, Business Insider reports that almost 30,000 industrial robots were sold in the U.S. alone last year. And already increasing labor shortages were only accelerated under COVID restrictions of the last two years. 

So, given that not only the Freemasons, but ALL fraternal and voluntary associative organizations have seen their memberships decline in an almost straight line since the late 1950s, a robotic goat could do double lodge duty, playing a role in initiation rituals as well as sitting on guard outside as Tyler when not needed in the lodge room.

Somebody get the Odd Fellows on the phone.

Photos: Kazumichi Moriyama / YouTube.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Fire Tears Through San Bernardino Scottish Rite Center


by Christopher Hodapp

On Sunday, the Scottish Rite building in San Bernardino, California caught fire for the second time in just over a year. After a rooftop fire in February last year, the building has mostly been vacant. No injuries have been reported.


The fire was spotted by passing motorists on nearby I-215 and reported just after 5:00 PM. Fire Department investigators have not determined the cause of the fire as of this time.

The building was originally dedicated in 1972 and also served as the site of the San Bernardino William and Beverly Rainbolt RiteCare Childhood Language Center. After the first fire, the Scottish Rite moved out a year ago. Since then, the highly-visible center had become a magnet for vandals and graffiti that could be seen from the freeway.

(Photos: Press Enterprise and the San Bernardino County Fire Department)

Sunday, March 13, 2022

And you thought all we do in Indiana is sacrifice burnt offerings to the Corn God


by Christopher Hodapp

Nothing momentous with this post. Just memorializing a lunchtime gathering last week of a Dummy, a visiting Idiot, and our Hoosier pals. 

I'm 63 years old. I have to post these things in lieu of having an actual memory.

Left to right: 
Just remember: there is no cabal.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

As the Sword Turns: Called Conclave Removes Templar Grand Master Michael B. Johnson



by Christopher Hodapp

“You stubborn and hardheaded people! 
You are always fighting against the Holy Spirit,
just as your ancestors did” 
(Acts 7:51; CEV)

An historic gathering took place today, and I don't mean in a happy, smiley-face historic way. Michael B. Johnson, Most Eminent Grand Master of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States, has been removed from office at a Called Special Conclave held in Fort Wayne, Indiana. 

Johnson has been replaced as Grand Master by David Kussman, and will retain the title of Past Deputy Grand Master. Some 291 Templars in attendance cast their votes, and the decision to remove Johnson was overwhelming: 219 in favor of his removal, 57 against, with 15 spoiled ballots.

I've long felt that the members of the Knights Templars who actively seek high office positions carry swords to stab each other in the back with. Go get yourself a big cup of coffee, because this tale is long and winding, along with being a tedious Masonic equivalent of an "inside baseball" discussion.

Michael B. Johnson has been removed as Grand Master of the Grand Encampment.


Called Special Conclaves are extremely rare. In fact, several Templar Knights who have searched the archives of the Grand Encampment have said there is no record of a single Special Conclave ever being called throughout the 20th century.

Michael Johnson's time in office has been turbulent. Upon his election last August, Johnson issued an official decision which immediately overturned a resolution passed at the Grand Encampment's 2021 Triennial Conclave in Minneapolis. That resolution passed by a super-majority and had been intended to put an end to the long-running battles over the Grand Priory of America (GPA) of the Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité Sainte (CBCS), otherwise known in English as the Knights Beneficent of the Holy City. 

That overwhelmingly lopsided August vote had reversed Grand Encampment decisions made back in 2010, which had branded the GPA a "clandestine Templar organization." Then-Grand Master William H. Koon had controversially demanded the resignation of all Templar Sir Knights belonging to the GPA, and then, using a French charter of dubious parentage, the Grand Encampment established its own Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite of the United States of America. In the wake of those actions, longstanding Templar Knights who remained as GPA/CBCS members were suspended or expelled from the Grand Encampment, and a flurry of lawsuits - both institutional and personal - erupted over the years.

(NOTE: The Grand Encampment's declaration of the GPA to be clandestine and the subsequent establishment of its own CBCS body took place during the years of Grand Master William H. Koon. In the spirit of full disclosure, I became a member of the Grand Encampment's new CBCS Grand Priory in 2011, as did the now-deposed Grand Master Michael Johnson.)

In the midst of arguments, suspensions, expulsions, lawsuits and lots of broken friendships, the Grand Encampment's Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite of the United States of America CBCS body was dissolved in January 2013 by Grand Master David Dixon Goodwin, but the decisions declaring the GPA clandestine and forbidding Templar membership in it remained. And so, the resolution to end the feud by compromise eleven years after all this began passed by an overwhelming 77% of the vote at the 2021 Triennial. 

Just about now is when your eyes will really begin to glaze over.

GM Michael Johnson issued his decision to ignore the vote and return the status of the GPA to being a clandestine Templar order in a matter of days after taking office.

  

SIDEBAR: Who the heck is the Grand Priory of America?

The GPA was established in the US back in 1934 with a charter from the Grand Prieuré Indépendant d'Helvetie (Great Priory of Switzerland) CBCS, the Swiss organization that has long been considered to be the definitive fountainhead of the the Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité Sainte, or Knights Beneficent of the Holy City. Outside of the U.S. The CBCS is a system of the Rite Ecossais Rectifie (Scottish Rectified Rite), and considered to be the oldest continuously operating Christian chivalric Masonic Order in the world, tracing its roots back to Baron Karl Gotthelf von Hund's "Rite of Strict Observance" in Germany in the 1750s. By widespread agreement, even though it possesses its own degree rituals for the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees, like the Scottish Rite systems in the U.S. and most of Europe, it acknowledges that those degrees are the sole domain of Masonic grand lodges.

The Grand Priory of America CBCS was established in Raleigh, North Carolina by Dr. William Moseley Brown and J. Raymond Shute II, the founding brethren of what became Masonic Week in Washington DC each year. The GPA was established as an invitation-only group, but it quickly became little more than a private supper club for Grand Encampment Past Grand Masters and a few celebrity Masons, because, as one wag famously put it, "there's too much riff-raff in the 33rds." Its constitution limited membership to just 81 in the U.S., dividing the country into three prefectures with 27 members each.

 
In 1927, the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States granted recognition to the Swiss Grand Prieuré Indépendant d'Helvetie as a Templar body. When the Grand Prieuré Indépendant d'Helvetie issued a charter to the Raleigh group to form the Great Priory of America in 1934, that placed it in direct conflict with the notion that all Masonic Knights Templar in the U.S. work under the authority of the Grand Encampment. In fact, the 1934 charter itself is worded, "Grand Prieuré Indépendant d'Helvetie de Province ORDRE TEMPLIERE." The way the jurisdictional problem got solved was that the Great Priory's leadership assured the Grand Encampment that it was nothing but a social club, conferred no Templar orders on its members, and did not exchange official representatives with other Great Priories. With that understanding, CBCS became a regular participant in the annual "Masonic Week" festivities in Washington D.C. (later Alexandria, VA) held every February. Instead of its deeply spiritual and esoteric degrees being conferred upon seekers of Masonic wisdom, it became little more than a title to be passed to the luminaries of American Masonry. But by 1994, several officers of the GPA began attending international Knight Templar gatherings representing themselves as a Templar group. It was at this point the Grand Encampment stepped in. And then the fight started... 

 For more about this topic, see this post from back in 2010.


The drama thickened in September when GM Johnson took the surprising step of removing the duly elected Deputy Grand Master, David J. Kussman, from office for "malfeasance and disloyalty." 

Then-Grand Generalisimo David Kussman had been appointed last year by then-Grand Master Jeffrey Nelson to chair a committee to investigate the whole GPA imbroglio and find a way to end the feud and reinstate its suspended members. As chairman of the committee, Kussman and his group worked out a truce between the GPA and the Grand Encampment, which became the basis of the resolution that passed at the 2021 Triennial. In Johnson's order removing Kussman from the grand officer's line, his chairing of that committee and the subsequent resulting vote led to Johnson's declaration in other venues that he was "disloyal." (No charges were ever brought against Kussman, and no trial was ever conducted. He remained a member in good standing.)

By late September, a website had been set up to facilitate the organization of a Called Special Conclave to address the actions of GM Mike Johnson. The "Call To Conclave" laid out the Constitutional method and requirements to call for an extraordinary meeting for the purpose of reviewing- and perhaps reversing - the actions of a grand master. According to the Constitution, representatives from at least nine different statewide Grand Commanderies are required to make a quorum in order to trigger a called meeting. That minimum was quickly reached.

In October, a letter was sent to KT officers across the Grand Encampment's voting delegates, written by Sir Knight Thomas Tsirimokos, Chairman of the Grand Encampment Jurisprudence Committee. Tsirimokos weighed in on the appropriateness of the GM's actions and what he saw as constitutional reasons why a called conclave didn't have the power to reverse or amend the decisions of a sitting Grand Master. Other members of that committee saw it differently, as a letter from David Kussman made clear (see it HERE). 

In an additional attempt to dissuade those calling for a conclave, the Grand Encampment opined that those nine Grand Commanderies should be required to foot the bill for calling the meeting, including all hotel and dining expenses. In a counter to that, the Conclave was attached to the already scheduled East Central Department Conference at the Grand Wayne Convention Center in Fort Wayne, so additional expenses would be minimal.

Further agitating members, the monthly Knight Templar Magazine became a source of contention. The front page of the September 2021 issue showed GM Johnson perched on a horse and dressed in his Templar finery. Not especially surprising, since in real life he is a Wyoming rancher, and many Masonic Templar commanderies historically had mounted drill teams until the middle of the 20th century. But the headline at the bottom of the cover was both a disturbing and shocking message from the brand new leader of a purportedly Christian-based Masonic organization: 


"I never forget loyalty, nor do I forget betrayal."

In the February 2022 issue of the Knight Templar Magazine, GM Johnson penned a message ostensibly about "Cancel Culture" in society, and attempting to link that topic to the motives of the Called Conclave:

"There are brothers who do not agree with the Constitution of the Grand Encampment or the powers of the grand master. The Grand Encampment Constitution is clear that only at a stated conclave can decisions be reviewed. Sections of the Constitution may be added or deleted by the voting delegates of the Triennial Conclave. Some of the “Canceled Culture” think they can be loud enough or disruptive enough at other Grand Encampment meetings to get their way on certain matters concerning our Constitution or decisions of the grand master. The Knights Templar are Christian sol- diers who are bound by the obligation they took upon the Holy Bible to defend our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to be governed by our Constitution. Our Constitution states that you must be a Christian to become a Templar, and it is the duty of every Knight Templar to uphold our Constitution."

For some time, Sir Knight Benjamin Williams of Colorado had been the associate editor of the KT magazine, assisting longtime editor John Palmer. The masthead of the last few issues shows that Ben has recently been removed from that position. Williams had been an excellent choice to assist on the magazine, as he was responsible for the beautifully designed Rocky Mountain Mason magazine several years ago, and is a talented Masonic author and blogcaster. SK Ben is also an attorney and was on the committee headed by Kussman working on the GPA compromise. 

Since GM Johnson issued his decision rescinding the action of the Grand Encampment, Ben has reported on the developments and presented his legal opinions online of the KT Constitution regarding the powers of the Grand Master vs. those of the voting members of the Grand Encampment. His most recent podcast was posted March 2nd and summarizes the run-up to the Conclave taking place today in Fort Wayne.

Listen HERE: RMM-062: Special Conclave of the Grand Encampment

Further documentation for the Called Conclave can be found HERE.

The "Call To Conclave" resolution set out the order of business to be taken up at today's meeting. 


According to the Constitution, "An elected officer of the Grand Encampment may be removed from Office by a two-thirds vote of the members present and voting at a Conclave of the Grand Encampment. This section is enforceable upon adoption." (Emphasis mine.)

The voting members of the Grand Encampment have now exercised that option. And there's probably some irony in the fact that the Conclave was held in the "Mad" Anthony Wayne Room of the Ft. Wayne Convention Center.

I am starting to feel like Harland and Wolff sitting back in Belfast reading the morning reports of the Titanic sinking.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story mistakenly named John Cooper as the author of the dissenting letter, and referred to PGM Jeffrey Nelson incorrectly as John Nelson. I regret the errors. This revision also added the actual vote counts for removing former Grand Master Johnson.