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


Monday, October 30, 2023

NEW BOOK: 'Freemasonry From the 1st to the 33rd Degree' (1875) translated by Kamel Oussayef

by Christopher Hodapp

Illus. Kamel Oussayef 33° has just released a new book through the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction as part of an ongoing program of rediscovering a treasure trove of 18th and 19th century French Masonic manuscripts. Entitled Freemasonry From the 1st to the 33rd Degree: the Complete Ritual of the Sovereign Grand Inspector General of the 33rd and Last Degree of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, it is an English translation of an original document in French, written down in 1875 by an unknown Mason during an international Scottish Rite Congress held at Lausanne, Switzerland. 

They loved book titles in the 19th century that were so long they ended in a different zip code.

While Albert Pike was presenting his newly-revised degrees in the Southern Jurisdiction's Supreme Council in the U.S., this document is a record of the Scottish Rite rituals being worked contemporaneously in Switzerland.

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

Like his other books, The Complete Ritual  is presented in a photographic facsimile manner, with a color photo of each original manuscript page on the left side, and the English translation on the right. 

The degree rituals themselves are summarized, and there are no real "dramatic vignettes" as in the American Northern and Southern jurisdictions. They describe the transmission of signs and passwords, designs for aprons, sashes or other regalia for each degree, and perhaps a historical or philosophical explanation, as presented in the original document. 

The degrees include the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason as part of the overall Scottish Rite system. The Rite has always been a self-contained system of its own, but in most jurisdictions, they agree not to work their first, second, and third degrees in order to coexist with an established grand lodge's sovereignty. Some countries don't follow this model, and there are many jurisdictions in the world in which the complete Scottish Rite degree system is their grand lodge. In more than a few places, this led to schisms that remain to this day of sovereign grand lodges competing with a parallel Scottish Rite Supreme Council/grand lodge.

There is also an outstanding historical introduction by Illus. Jacques G. Ruelland, Scottish Rite Deputy for the Province of Quebec, Canada that provides much background information about the Lausanne Congress, the circumstance in which this manuscript had been written. He provides a detailed social, political and Masonic background for this important period that has been rarely examined here in the U.S.

The Lausanne Congress of 1875 was important, in part, because pro-secularism French Masons in the Grand Orient de France were attempting to convince French-speaking Masonic bodies to remove all references to God, a "supreme being," or the "Grand Architect of the Universe" from their degree systems and as a requirement for petitioners. 

France's secular Grand Orient craft lodge degrees consisted of (and still do) the Scottish Rite's first three degree rituals, and they were (unsuccessfully) attempting to strong-arm the Swiss into purging God from all of their rituals at this time. Doing so is an awkward situation since many of the Scottish Rite degrees are centered around the Biblical story of building or re-building Solomon's Temple (and are also very similar to what we call in America the York Rite degrees). It's tough to remove references to God successfully from Masonry's Biblical symbolism, especially if you're trying to leave out the Universe's Great Architect from the story of building sacred temples in the hearts of men, patterned after the holiest place on Earth and erected to God by Solomon. Apparently the Swiss thought so too, and didn't follow the Grand Orient's recommendations.

Research has shown that the earliest haute grades ("high degrees") of what we call Scottish Rite Freemasonry had been created or influenced by late-1700s Jacobites - pro-Catholic Scottish and English exiles living in France who had supported the Stuart line of kings back in their homelands. Their Catholic beliefs clashed with the secular forces of the French Revolution period that sought to remove the Church's influence from all government, education, and social aspects of life – even Freemasonry. But even though French movements for "complete freedom of thought" continued to grow in popularity, the French Masonic bodies retained the belief in God as a requirement after the Revolution. That clash of ideologies eventually led to the Grand Orient de France removing the requirement of its members of believing in a Deity in 1877 (two years after the Lausanne Congress), which created a schism in worldwide Freemasonry that exists to this day, and which is why the smaller but widely-recognized Grande Loge Nationale Française is considered the only regular grand lodge in that country by the vast majority of the Masonic world. 

In 2020, Illus. Kamel Oussayef 33° became the 110th author to be admitted into the Society of Blue Friars, a very special organization formed in 1932 to specifically honor Masonic authors.

Friar Oussayef was born in Sétif, Algeria and attended school in France, where he lived for many years. He holds an MA from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and an MS from the School of Public Communications at Boston University.

Kamel is a Past Master of William Parkman Lodge and Converse Lodge in Massachusetts (
Masons in that state do not number their lodges). He has been awarded the prestigious Henry Price and Joseph Warren medals for distinguished service to Freemasonry in Massachusetts. In the AASR, he is an Assistant Master of Ceremonies with the Massachusetts Consistory of the Valley of Boston.

Freemasonry From the 1st to the 33rd Degree: the Complete Ritual of the Sovereign Grand Inspector General of the 33rd and Last Degree of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite is available as an oversize 272-page paperback from the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic jurisdiction's website for $72.80, or as a Kindle edition for $9.99 for cheapskates, skinflints, and starving Masons... (I can't stand e-books myself, but it still does present each full-color manuscript page, followed by the English translation on alternating pages, which makes it a little more cumbersome to read than the dead tree edition.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Speaking Saturday at Ohio's Goose & Gridiron Lodge 1717 in Dayton

by Christopher Hodapp

Just a reminder that I'll be speaking this Saturday, October 28th at the Goose and Gridiron Lodge 1717 meeting and Festive Board in Dayton, Ohio. See the lodge website for details. 

On Friday night there will be a pre-event gathering at Jimmies Ladder 11 from 6PM-9PM - not sure I can make that, as I don't know when we'll come rolling in with the Airstream. But I'll try. 

(Somebody needs to build an RV campground closer to Dayton than Brookville. Sheesh. Now, if Masonic halls would install a 50amp electrical service, a hose bib and a sewer connection in the parking lot, it would certainly make MY life easier...)

The event will be held at the magnificent Dayton Masonic Center, 525 West Riverview Avenue, Dayton, Ohio.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Why Gen-Z Probably Isn't Interested in Freemasonry and Why We Need To Care

by Christopher Hodapp

Brother Darin Lahners over at the Midnight Freemason blog has written an important essay this week that was inspired by the meme above. I had been working on my own essay along similar lines all week, but Darin has done a far better job than I was doing. Entitled, Why can't we convince Gen-Z to join Freemasonry? You won't like the answer, I strongly urge all Masons — whether they are lodge officers, grand lodge leaders, or simply rank and file brethren — to read it all the way through, and ponder the points he makes.

And to head off any immediate political objection some readers might have upon reading his first couple of paragraphs, control your passions and read the whole piece. Darin isn't advocating a political viewpoint - just the opposite, which is the whole point of the essay.

My only minor rejoinder to his essay is that Gen-Z is not currently the most likely generation to have a strong interest in joining ANY voluntary, associative organization that encourages regular participation. Not at this moment, anyhow. About 20 years ago, the majority of grand lodges in the US required petitioners to be 21 years (and historically, many grand lodges worldwide required them to be 25 or 26 in the 1700 and 1800s). There was a wave of popularity in grand lodges in about 1999 or 2000 to drop the petitioning age to 18, and they really believed that would halt the decline in membership, that hordes of eager 18 year olds would line up to join the fraternity. 

Never happened. And it still doesn't happen. Grand lodge statistics pretty uniformly show that men who join below their 30s don't remain members very long, and certainly don't remain active if they keep paying dues. Life's too chaotic for people in the 20s - relationships change, jobs and career paths change, and more people move from city to city and state to ate than ever before. 

So, historically, the average age of petitioners to fraternal groups (college fraternities aside) has always been between about 35 to 48. Sure, there have been periods when this rose and fell, but 39-40 has always been the sweet spot for new members in Masonry. It's when men are most settled into a career and a spousal/partner arrangement, less likely to be having more (or any) children, and are at the peak of their earning power and disposable income.

So right at this snapshot in history, it's the Gen-X and Millennials who are knocking on lodge doors, which means we've got about a dozen years before the Gen-Zers get to the outer atmosphere of "middle age." But Darin's points are still well-taken.

(The meme above was circulated on Facebook last week and is a photo of Texas Past Grand Master Brad Billings, who has been under a non-stop barrage of attacks ever since January over his leadership style in 2022.)

Friday, October 13, 2023

Scottish Rite Research Society Symposium Tomorrow in Bloomington, Indiana: Agenda

by Christopher Hodapp

The 2023 Scottish Rite Research Society Symposium is being held on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, Indiana tomorrow, Saturday, October 14. The event will be held at the new Center for Fraternal Collections & Research (CFCR) in the McCalla Building.

University Collections at McCalla
Indiana University
525 N. Indiana Ave.
Bloomington, IN 47408

Everyone is welcome to attend in person - not just Masons - or the presentations can be viewed via Zoom. CLICK TO REGISTER HERE

For those of us who will be there, lunch will happen at noon, and the speakers will begin at 1:00PM EDT.

The agenda for presenters has just been finalized:

Lunch & Social Hour 12:00 pm-1:00 pm

Welcome and Session 1 1:00 pm-1:30 pm

"Brother James Gardiner, Pioneer & Masonic Executive"
Speaker: Chris Ruli

Session 2 1:45 pm-2:15 pm

"The Franken Manuscript Revisited" 
Speaker: S. Brent Morris

Session 3 2:30 pm-3:00 pm

"Illuminism, Illuminatus, Illuminati: The Making of Modern Conspiracy"
Speaker: Erich Huhn

Session 4 3:15 pm-3:45 pm

"The Chaotic Westward Movement of Freemasonry in the US"
Speaker: James Graham

Session 5 4:00 pm-4:30 pm

"Creating the Center for Fraternal Collections and Research"
Speaker: Heather K. Calloway

Special Remarks 4:30 pm-5:00 pm

Gary E. Brinley, Grand Master of Masons in Indiana

The Indiana University Center for Fraternal Collections and Research is proud to host the 2023 Scottish Rite Research Society Symposium! Held at the historic McCalla Building on on the Indiana University Bloomington campus, the symposium features presentations exploring symbolism, philosophy, development and changes to ritual, and more.

Center for Fraternal Collections and Research

The Indiana University Center for Fraternal Collections & Research (CRCR) is devoted to the collecting, protecting, and sharing of fraternal collections for the sake of research and public engagement. CFCR improves scholarship and understanding of fraternal groups, explores their impact on American society, and elucidates their importance across time and to different social groups.

Scottish Rite Research Society

The Scottish Rite Research Society is one of the most dynamic forces in contemporary Masonic research, pursing a publication program that emphasizes quality-both in content and in physical form. The Society has grown to over 4,000 members worldwide since its inception. Its publications have redefined the standards of Masonic scholarship. The administrative offices of the SRRS are at the House of the Temple in Washington, D.C., under the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite. Activities and publications of the Society are governed by the Board of Directors, who are all Life Members of the Society, representing Scottish Rite valleys across the country.

For questions or concerns please contact: cfcrinfo@iu.edu.

For more information concerning this event go to

collections.iu.edu/fraternal-center/ scottish-rite-symposium.html

Sunday, October 08, 2023

Outpouring of Sympathy and Support for Grand Lodge of Israel

by Christopher Hodapp

In the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks on Israel this past weekend, the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel AF&AM has posted a statement on its Facebook page acknowledging the enormous outpouring of support by the world's Freemasons. 

Click the image below to enlarge.

It reads:

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Dear Brothers of all the world.

We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude for the letters and phone calls from all over the world of fraternal support and solidarity during these challenging times in the State of Israel. It is truly moving to receive so many expressions of identification with the Grand Lodge of Israel, its Dear Brethren, and the entire populace in Israel.

We find solace in being part of this worldwide movement where fraternal unity among Dear Brothers transcends all forms of hatred. Our Grand Lodge serves as an exemplary illustration of this, as we have Dear Brothers from all faiths, races, languages, and countries living together in harmony with genuine brotherly love.

We have received unwavering support from our Dear Brothers living in the North, who stand in solidarity with the Dear Brothers and families residing in the South. Our building is soon to be opened and made available to those in need, and we are voluntarily bringing our Lodge of Magicians to entertain the children. This is how a fraternal society is built, and we are the ones who must lead the way.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely and fraternally.

M.W. Bro Man Segev, Grand Master 

R.W. Bro Jose Cohen, Grand Secretary

The official seal of the Grand Lodge of Israel includes a Star of David, a Christian cross, and a Muslim crescent, all superimposed over a Masonic square and compass and encircled by a Chain of Union. The Grand Lodge was established in 1953, and the country has almost 50 lodges at work today. Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druse brethren all work together, and their various holy books are all opened side by side on the lodge altars. Despite decades of violence in the Middle East centering around the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, finding a better illustration of of true brotherly love in that nation would be difficult.

Monday, October 02, 2023

New York Mayor Eric Adams Made a Prince Hall Mason

by Christopher Hodapp

On Tuesday last week, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge F&AM of New York conferred the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees upon New York City Mayor Eric Adams in a special ceremony. Also raised at this event was the city's Police Commissioner, Edward Caban, and Chief of Police, Jeffrey Maddrey.

(LtoR)Grand Master Gregory Roberson Smith, Jr,
Mayor Eric Adams, Commissioner Edward Caban,
Chief Jeffery Maddrey.

The historic event was held at Gracie Mansion, the city's official mayoral residence, and MW Grand Master Gregory Roberson Smith, Jr. presided. He was accompanied by the Grand Lodge officers, including RW Kevin Wardally, Grand Senior Deacon (who is a Board Member of The Masonic Society). 

This type of special ceremony that confers the degrees in a single day is sometimes known as making a Mason "at sight" and is a prerogative of grand masters in many jurisdictions (dating back to a privilege granted to GMs in Rev. James Anderson's Constitutions in 1723). It usually permits GMs to waive any waiting and proficiency period between degrees so that they can all be conferred in a single day. In the majority of grand lodges where this is permitted, it does NOT accelerate or alter the actual degree rituals themselves, nor is it some kind of separate truncated ceremony.

In addition to the Craft lodge degrees for the Mayor and the Commissioner, Sovereign Grand Inspector General Deputy (SGIG), Illus. Rev. Hermon J. Simpson, 33° of the Prince Hall Scottish Rite NMJ, took the opportunity to elevate three esteemed brethren – New York Police Department Borough Commander Ruel Stephenson, New York and Yonkers Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon), and Citywide Public Housing Liaison to the Mayor Tony Hebert –  to the 32° degree of the Scottish Rite, Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret.

The event was made public in a press release issued by the Grand Lodge. (Click image to enlarge.) Photos were shared by Grand Master Smith on his Facebook page.