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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Verity Lodge in WA: Freemasonry and Catholicism 1/27

For some odd reason, the last week or so has had more than the usual share of stories come up regarding Freemasonry and Catholicism. As a result, over on Facebook, Brother John Hurst called my attention to a related presentation going on out on the West coast at the end of this month.

On Friday, January 27th, 2017, Verity Lodge 59 in Kent, Washington will host a presentation by WB Vincent DiGiulio: Freemasonry and the Catholic Church - What Caused the Schism? 

Vincent is a Mason and a Catholic, and when he became a member in 1972, he was challenged by his local bishop to find the source of the longstanding dispute between the Church and the fraternity. He was subsequently permitted access to the Vatican Library to research the subject, and self-published his collected historical findings in a book available on Amazon's CreateSpace. (It is a sad side effect of Amazon's print on demand service that such books of any length are expensive, not through greed of the author, but usually just because of the printing process.) In addition to his Masonic membership, he is also a member of the Knights of Columbus. So, papal bulls, canon law, and opinions notwithstanding, he has obviously come to grips with the controversy enough to remain active in the Church and Masonry, and still sleep well at night.

The event at Verity Lodge will begin with a Festive Board at 6:30PM ($10 per person), followed by the Stated Communication at 7:30PM, during which WB DiGiulio's presentation will be made. Visiting Master Masons are welcome to attend. The lodge is located at 805 Smith Street, Kent, Washington. For more details, click the graphic above to enlarge it, or visit the lodge website HERE.

For the most recent scholarship on the Church's official position and current canon law prohibiting Masonic membership by Catholics, please have a look at Deacon John J. McManus' 2009 presentation at Gate City Lodge 2 in Atlanta, Georgia. CLICK HERE.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ocean Lodge 89 in Spring Lake Heights, NJ

Back in March 2013, I made a whirlwind trip through New York and New Jersey, speaking at three lodges and the Scottish Rite in Bordentown, NJ. One of those lodges was Ocean Lodge 89 in Spring Lake Heights, NJ. Because of the craziness of the evening, I didn't get a chance to take any photos while I was there, and I always regretted that, because it was one of the most strikingly beautiful lodge rooms I've visited. Memory has faded, but I recall that the Master that evening told me that the lodge room was recently remodeled and redecorated by a group of very dedicated brethren, and their hard work showed. 

Fortunately, a brother has posted some photos on Imgur that show the loving care Ocean lodge's members have taken in their building. See them HERE.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Goat Question

 "Suddenly a loud voice exclaimed, ‘Prepare the Goat!’ and a large black and white goat was led forward. This caused me but little fear, as I had often heard that it was part of the ceremony. I was immediately mounted upon him, and told to hold by his horns, but no sooner had my conductors released their hold upon me, than I found myself thrown upon the floor, the goat having precipitated me over his head; at this a general laugh issued from those in the room."

Ah, the standard, dreaded "goat" question.

It came up over the weekend during a conversation with someone who spotted my Masonic jacket in the grocery. And no, I was not stocking up on milk, bread, and toilet paper for the nonexistent, media-hyped "Icepocalypse" that didn't happen. 

We actually have a DeMoulin Brothers & Company mechanical goat specimen at the Masonic Library & Museum of Indiana at Freemasons Hall in downtown Indianapolis, so it was also the subject of comments from the many Masonic visitors we had Saturday. Even plenty of Freemasons wonder just where the Hell this moronic urban myth originated.

I was poking around online tonight and came across my friend William D. Moore's 2007 outstanding article, Riding the Goat: Secrecy, Masculinity, and Fraternal High Jinks in the United States, 1845–1930. Will probably got tired of wondering too, so he went and found out, hopefully laying this damn subject to an exhaustive rest.

Blame the Odd Fellows.
The historical link between fraternal goat riding and witchcraft is troublesome. The mecha- nism by which the concept was transferred from seventeenth-century Europe to nineteenth-century America, if it exists, has not been adequately ex- plicated. Although Thomas A. Foster recently has identified references to sodomy and homoeroticism in an American anti-Masonic satire of the mid- eighteenth century, he does not factor goats into his analysis or indicate that they appear in his sources. Similarly, hoofed and horned ungulates are not featured in the multitude of anti-Masonic writings published in the United States during the 1820s and 1830s. The evangelical and political enemies of early nineteenth-century Freemasonry accused the fraternity of numerous transgressions, but carnality in the form of riding goats did not appear on their lists of indictments.
The anti-Masonic movement of the early nineteenth century had a deleterious effect on fraternal organizations in the United States. Because they were accused of promoting aristocratic and unchris- tian ideals, Masonic lodges all across the country simply stopped meeting. Pressure from evangelicals during these years similarly induced the members of Phi Beta Kappa to transform their organization from a ritual brotherhood into a scholarly society. 
The Odd Fellows, however, who, like the Masons, practiced secret initiation ceremonies, prospered during the 1830s and gained public approval, stat- ure, and membership in the 1840s.23 By 1845, 686 Odd Fellows lodges contained a total membership of 61,853 members and exhibited exponential annual growth. The organization’s success motivated a number of evangelical and radically democratic in- dividuals to publish pamphlets in the second half of the decade decrying what they described as the organization’s sins, errors, and ceremonies.

Anti–Odd Fellow publications of the 1840s con- tain the earliest references to the lodge goat yet located. The anonymous Odd Fellowship Exposed, published in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1845, for example, describes a horrific, if probably inaccurate, initiation process in which the poor candidate’s ce- remonial guides repeatedly utter the menacing phrase ‘‘Secresy [sic] or death.’’ The text of this pamphlet [quoted at the beginning of this post] deserves attention because it provides insight into how the idea of the lodge goat developed over time...
Read the whole article HERE

Then go have a look at the 1916 cartoon, Bobby Bumps Starts a Lodge. All the standard hysterical trigger warnings about cultural stereotypes of the period apply.

(Thanks to the Phoenixmasonry.org online Masonic museum website for hosting the article.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

John Nagy to Speak at Dwight L Smith LOR Saturday 1/14

If you are in proximity to Indianapolis tomorrow, we are well aware of the traditional January "End O' the World" weather predictions that always seem to happen long about now. Yes, we know, this time, freezing rain is predicted across the state in wildly varying guesses. Despite that, this is just a reminder that Indiana's Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research U.D. will hold it's first 2017 meeting tomorrow, Saturday January 14th at 3PM, following the close of the Grand Lodge of Indiana's annual Founder's Day gathering. 

Just remember, our Founders got to Madison. From places like Vincennes. In January. On horseback. Before roads were built. 

Don't drive in anything truly dangerous, but the meeting is certainly going to be well worth venturing out for - especially since the City is starting the salt trucks before midnight tonight.

The meeting will take place on the second floor of Indiana Freemason Hall located at 525 N. Illinois St., Indianapolis, Indiana 46204.

The speaker will be Bro. "Coach" John S. Nagy, who will present The Craft Unmasked (based on his book of that name):
The Society of Free & Accepted Masons, which is better known to the world as The Freemasons, has been in existence for nearly three centuries. Since their official public beginning, they have spread their Craft to every country on the face of the earth, except for within those territories whose suspicious governments outlaw them. Society members include some of the most powerful men of their time. Yet, most do not know what the origin of the organization truly is or how to accurately describe what its members do.
By applying Masonic forensics to existing Craft evidence, Brother John S. Nagy carefully fossicked through and found long ignored Craft Light. His findings lift away the many masterfully placed masks that have concealed Masonry’s true origin since it first became known to the public.
Through his work, The Craft UNMASKED! - The UNCOMMON ORIGIN of FREEMASONRY and its PRACTICE, John invites you into the cleverly hidden world of Freemasonry and reveals the origin of the Society and what its true Craft is. It is history of which even its members remain blissfully unaware, that is, until now.
The Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research is a special purpose lodge under dispensation, created by the Grand Lodge of Indiana, F. & A. M., for the purpose of furthering research and interest in the history, customs, and societal impact of the Masonic Fraternity. Our mandate is to study these areas from a worldwide perspective, but with a particular emphasis on how they have impacted the lives of Masons, their families, and the general public in the State of Indiana. From time to time, the Lodge publishes Perlustration, a compendium of its proceedings.

We welcome all Indiana Freemasons with an interest in research to join the Lodge (dues is a paltry $15) and to submit papers for its consideration.

NOTE: Here's a link to the area weather. As of 2PM Friday, they're saying chance for freezing rain here remains very low until Sunday afternoon, and then only 50%.

Happy Friday the 13th

For all of you friggatriskaidekaphobics out there, Happy Friday the 13th.

Tellers of tall tales blame the fear on the Knights Templar, or maybe just on King Philip IV, because the Order was famously arrested all across France on Friday, October 13, 1307. The story of this genesis of the superstition was trotted out as factual in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code
It should be noted that there is actually a second Friday this year that falls on the 13th, and it is, as luck would have it, October 13th, which will mark the 710th anniversary of the Templars' arrests.

Truthfully, fears of the date Friday the 13th don't really appear anywhere in print much before 1907. In fact, the phobia may have been popularized by the 1907 novel  Friday, the Thirteenth by Thomas W. Lawson, about a creepy stockbroker who engineers a panic on Wall Street on a Friday the 13th by playing on superstitious fears of the number 13.

Just to be contrarian, some insist that the proper term for fear of Friday the 13th is 

Paraskevidekatriaphobia was a recent term created in the 1990s by therapist Dr. Donald Dossey for fear of Friday the 13th. But the older term is friggatriskaidekaphobia. Friday is Frigga's day. Frigga was an ancient Scandinavian fertility goddess, analagous to Venus, who was worshipped on the 6th day of the week, so I suppose people have gotten frisky on Fridays for a very long time. Hence the term 'frigging' and its frequent substitution for The Monosyllable. Frigga was pegged as a witch by early Christians, and so the 6th day of the week was referred to as the witches' sabbath.

Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13. Friggatriskaidekaphobia combines frigga with triskaidekaphobia, and first appeared in 1911.

The names of mass murderers Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy all have 13 letters in them, in case you are the kind that worries about such things. And if you are the sort who is really concerned about it, stay the heck away from Sacramento, California, as it contains a street corner at the convergence of 13th Street and 13th Avenue.

For everything you ever wanted to know about Friday the 13th and anything else related to the dreaded number that hotels rarely attach to floors in their elevators, read Nathaniel Lachenmeyer's long out of print 2004 book, Thirteen : the story of the world's most popular superstition.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pope Wants Knights of Malta Purged of Lurking Freemasons

A story appeared today on the website of Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN Global Catholic Network) that alleges Pope Francis is worried about Freemasons who may have infiltrated the modern-day Catholic lay organization, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (not to be even remotely confused with the Order of Malta conferred in our own Masonic Knights Templar body). 

See Pope ordered Card. Burke to clean out Freemasons from the Knights of Malta

Better known as the Knights of Malta and the very real inheritors of the mantle of the Crusade-era Knights Hospitaller, it is reputedly the the oldest surviving chivalric order in the world. According to the Wikipedia entry (usual disclaimers duly noted and understood), the order today is comprised of "13,500 Knights, Dames and auxiliary members, employs about 25,000 doctors, nurses, auxiliaries and paramedics assisted by 80,000 volunteers in more than 120 countries, assisting children, homeless, handicapped, refugeed, elders, terminally ill and lepers around the world without distinction of ethnicity or religion."

Apparently, the Knights have been rocked by the recent dismissal (or resignation, depending on the source) of its grand chancellor over their distribution of condoms in Africa and elsewhere to prevent the spread of AIDS.

The article by Deacon Nick Donnelly links to a public statement the Pope made in 2015 in which he mentioned Freemasonry only once, and he did not actually link the fraternity to "Satanists." But the article below attempts to make that jump by association and perpetuate the hoary old fables peddled by Leo Taxil in the 1890s. Francis by most accounts is not considered a foolish man, and one wonders why he would credulously repeat the absurd allegation that Freemasons had anything to do with "Satanism." From the actual statement in full context, he didn't really do that. Certainly there have been conflicts between anti-clerical, anti-Catholic Masons - mostly in Europe - but such commentary hasn't happened among U.S. Freemasons since the early 1960s, and then only limited to a single appendant body. Unfortunately, the Church continues the longstanding policy of making no distinction between organizations like the Grand Orient of France, versus regular, recognized Masonic jurisdictions, despite the very well known and well documented differences.

Likewise, the article links to an in-flight interview Francis gave in 2013 in which he only mentioned Masonry a single time, as being allegedly involved in lobbying efforts ("a lobby of masons") regarding social issues. Again, certainly not in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and virtually any other Anglo-Saxon derived jurisdictions. 

Ultimately, it seems that Nick Donnelly has combed the Pope's statements and speeches over the years, desperately hunting for Masonic references of any kind, and found...two.

It has emerged that during a meeting between Pope Francis and Cardinal Burke in November about the scandal of the Knights of Malta distributing condoms and oral contraceptives in Africa, the Holy Father instructed Cardinal Burke to "clean out" Freemasonry from the order. The Holy Father gave this order to Cardinal Burke in his role as patron of the Knights of Malta by papal appointment. 
The Vatican journalist Edward Pentin revealed details of Pope Francis's concerns about the influence of the Freemasons on the Knights of Malta: 
Hopes that the contraceptive scandal would be addressed came on Nov. 10, when Cardinal Burke was received in private audience by Pope Francis. During that meeting, the Register has learned, the Pope was “deeply disturbed” by what the cardinal told him about the contraceptive distribution. The Pope also made it clear to Cardinal Burke that he wanted Freemasonry “cleaned out” from the order, and he demanded appropriate action. The concern was followed up by a Dec. 1 letter to Cardinal Burke, in which the Register has learned that the Holy Father underlined the cardinal’s constitutional duty to promote the spiritual interests of the order and remove any affiliation with groups or practices that run contrary to the moral law. 
Edward Pentin reports that Pope Francis was “deeply disturbed” by the evidence concerning Malteser International's distribution of condoms and oral contraceptives in the Far East and Africa during the tenure of Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, a German Knight of Malta.  Boeselager was dismissed as grand chancellor following an internal investigation by the Knights of Malta. It is not clear why Pope Francis specifically identified Freemasonry as a problem in his response to the evidence presented by Cardinal Burke during the November meeting. 
Pope Francis has previously criticized the destructive influence of the Freemasons and their hostility towards the Church. During his address to young people during his apostolic visit to Turin the Holy Father spoke about "Masonic, hardcore anticlericals and Satanists": 
"At the end of the 19th century there were the worst conditions for young people’s development: freemasonry was in full swing, not even the Church could do anything, there were priest haters, there were also Satanists.... It was one of the worst moments and one of the worst places in the history of Italy. However, if you would like to do a nice homework assignment, go and find out how many men and women saints were born during that time. Why? Because they realized that they had to go against the tide with respect to the culture, to that lifestyle."
It was during his in-flight press interview in July 2013 that Pope Francis first expressed his concerns about the influence of Freemasons on the Church: 
“The problem is not having this [homosexual] orientation. No, we must be brothers and sisters. The problem is lobbying for this orientation, or lobbies of greed, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the most serious problem for me." 
2017 marks the 300th anniversary of the foundation of Freemasonry with the establishment of the first Grand Lodge in London. It is important for Catholics to remember that Freemasonry has a history of plotting against the Catholic Church. During the 200th anniversary of the foundation of Freemasonry St Maximilian Kolbe witnessed Freemason conduct sacrilegious demonstrations in Rome.  In front of St. Peter's Freemasons displayed banners declaring, "Satan must reign in the Vatican. The Pope will be his slave". St Maximilian Kolbe summed up the objectives of Freemasonry: 
"In particular, it aims to destroy the Catholic religion. Their deceits have been spread throughout the world, in different disguises. But with the same goal -- religious indifference and weakening of moral forces, according to their basic principle -- 'we will conquer the Catholic Church not by argumentation, but rather with moral corruption'." (Kolbe -- Saint of the Immaculata, p. 32). 
It is important that during the 300th anniversary of the foundation of Freemasonry that Catholics pay heed to Pope Francis's warnings about the continuing dangerous influence of Freemasonry on the Church.
Donnelley quoting the writings of St. Maximilian Kolbe is a pretty disingenuous attempt to shield his ending Comment from criticism, as Fr. Kolbe was beatified, and subsequently canonized, for being martyred in Auschwitz during WWII. He is famously known for sacrificing his own life to save a fellow prisoner from death by volunteering to take the man's place, and was starved to death. It was unarguably a selfless demonstration of his deep devotion to his own faith and principles. However, his newspaper articles before the war in the 1920s and 30s have been severely criticized as both anti-semetic and anti-Masonic, which referred to the spread of communism as part of a Masonic conspiracy by Zionists to take over the world. Scholars of Holocaust era propaganda and publishing differ in their opinions, with many simply acknowledging that Polish society at the time quite openly accepted the claims made by the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion. There is certainly great difficulty separating his conflicting written words from his ultimate personal deeds.

Yes, there are plenty of Catholic Masons in the world. Yes, almost all of them fully realize that Rome's official stance is that such Catholic members are in a "state of grave sin." They also almost entirely understand the flawed reasons for that pronouncement and know there are no conflicts with the faith in their jurisdictions. And they are all aware that Freemasonry is not a monolithic organization, and has not been since it began. The Vatican - or certainly Donnelley - never seem to acknowledge that when making sweeping statements (or encyclicals) about "Freemasons." Masonry has had its share of schisms over the years, but in that regard, in comparison to Catholicism, we're mere pikers.

For the brethren who sent me links to this story today who are afraid Pope Francis has some sudden excitement about pestering Catholic Masons, it should be noted that Donnelley runs his own website called Church Militant. He is based in the diocese of Lancaster, England. So he knows darn good and well the difference between truly anti-Catholic Masons (almost entirely from decades, or over a century ago) who are regarded as irregular and unrecognized, versus the garden variety he finds in Lancaster and the rest of his nation - in fact in all of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, even if he doesn't get to the continent very often. But he obviously has his own agenda to promote, as a search of his site today returned 171 results for the word freemasonry.  

As an aside, if you really desire a slightly more detailed approach to the current scandals about the Knights of Malta and the condom controversy than Deacon Donnelley's (and their mission to save lives first as a matter of priority, instead of strictly following dogma to save souls), try the National Catholic Register HERE. 

UPDATE 1/15/2017:

Wow. Donnelley is on a tear. I have a feeling as we go through the 300th anniversary of UGLE this year he's going to be increasingly shrill. Here's his followup post from Friday on EWTN:

Will Freemasonry's 300th anniversary be as violently anti-Catholic as 1917?

He quotes Kolbe again, who claimed in 1939 that Freemasonry's motto is or was, "Destroy all religion, whatever it may be, especially the Catholic religion.''  

Saint or not, Kolbe swallowed the Taxil hoax top to bottom, four decades after the guy's open confession, and kept perpetuating it, along with the standard crap from the Protocols. If you're going to try to take a swipe at Masons, Kolbe isn't really the guy to use to do it with. He regularly broadsided Jews and Masons in print and in person - right up until the Gestapo hurled him into Auschwitz for being a Catholic. Yes, his death was true martyrdom, but Kolbe was the very embodiment of Niemöller's commentary, "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist..."

Donnelley also goes on to quote a large excerpt from an anti-Masonic booklet by Fr. Ashley Beck, who lays out why he believes Freemasonry is "incompatible" with Catholicism. Nothing really new. Just the standard canards that if Masonic lodge rituals and ceremonies are not specifically and overtly Christian, they must therefore be anti-Christian.

Masonic lodges are NOT churches, nor do they pretend to be. They are spiritual neutral ground, and we leave a man's faith to himself. All we ask is that he has some in a higher power. How he chooses to conceptualize or commune with that God is his business, not ours.

I'm seriously not wanting to shine a bigger light on Donnelley's posts than he deserves, and I'm not going to keep doing it and sending traffic his way. It's just two coming in one week of the new year that made him pop up on the radar. It's just worth it for us to stay aware of the kind of stuff being circulated and targeted to Catholics who are our members, or those who may be considering petitioning. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Italian Hacking Scandal Involves Bank and Freemasons

On the heels of the hot national and international news being about computer hacking, which lately seems to erupt in one revelation or another with increasing frequency, there should probably be no surprise that there's a new one in Italy. But what is of interest are the players involved and the European headlines that will doubtless begin flooding the airwaves any second now.

First, the basics from Bloomberg News last night:
Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, and former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi were among those hacked in a cyber-spying operation that targeted more than 18,000 e-mail accounts, according to a court document seen by Bloomberg.
Operation “Eye Pyramid” revealed cyber-spying of institutions, state agencies, professionals, political figures and business people lasting for years, Italian police said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday. Police said two people were arrested: a nuclear engineer and his sister, both living in Rome and well-known in Roman financial circles.
The alleged hackers acted “with the aim of making a profit for themselves or for others,” the court document says. The Italian police inquiry was aided by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, which said the hackers targeted victims in the U.S. and Europe.
Draghi’s e-mail at the Bank of Italy was hacked in the summer of 2016, according to the suspects’ arrest warrant issued by Rome pre-trial Judge Maria Paola Tomaselli. Draghi served as governor of the Italian central bank from 2005 to 2011. An e-mail account belonging to Renzi was also hacked, the document says.

Among the hackers’ targets were oil group Eni SpA, multinational power company Enel SpA and technology company Leonardo Finmeccanica SpA, the court document shows. Political parties, law firms, politicians and ministries were also targeted.
The suspects tried to obtain confidential and sensitive data, especially on banks, at the ECB in Frankfurt and at the Bank of Italy in Rome, according to a person familiar with the investigation, speaking on the condition of not being identified by name.
The two arrested are suspected of obtaining information on national security, serious illegal access to a computer system and illicit interception of computer communications in an investigation led by Rome prosecutors, an Italian police statement said.
Thanks to a wide network of computers infected with malware called “Eyepyramid,” the pair allegedly obtained from a large number of victims “confidential information and sensitive data over many years” which was stored on U.S. servers, according to the police statement.
Italian police, working with the Cyber Division of the U.S. FBI, have seized the servers, it added. The FBI said in a statement Tuesday that the U.S. Justice Department also provided support to the inquiry.
The network targeted individuals who possessed particularly sensitive or strategic data, or “of particular value for those working in specific financial circles,” the statement said.

With all of that background in mind, next recall that Italy has a national nervousness about Freemasons left over from the enormity and seriousness of the P2 lodge scandal in the 1980s, which, in part, involved Italian banking officials with a loudly trumpeted connection to Freemasonry. So, Italians have a built-in radar that snaps to life when something deviously malevolent called "Eye Pyramid" comes to light. Especially since the Grand Orient of Italy's official seal contains that very imagery. And this time, it turns out, there is indeed a very high-profile Masonic connection with this story.

From Reuters:
Giulio Occhionero, a trained nuclear engineer and co-founder of investment firm Westland Securities, used a malware to infect the email accounts so that he could make "investments based on reserved information," Di Legami said. 
Draghi's account at the Bank of Italy, where he was previously governor, and Renzi's personal Apple account that he used while he was prime minister were among those infected by the malware, according to the arrest warrant. Renzi's official email as prime minister was also targeted, Di Legami said.
Occhionero was a high-ranking member of a Masonic lodge, which in Italy are shrouded in secrecy, and among those he monitored was the grand master of the country's biggest lodge, the arrest warrant said.
Occhionero, which means black-eye in Italian, used a customised malware called "EyePyramid", a reference to the all-seeing eye of God like the one depicted on the back of the U.S. dollar bill.
The stolen data was stored in servers in Prior Lake, Minnesota, and Salt Lake City, Utah, the court document showed.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has seized the servers and will ship them to Italy, Di Legami said.
While most of the hacking appears to have been focused on the email accounts, there was evidence that he had managed to install a keylogger on some computers, allowing him to see every keystroke, the warrant showed.
The investigation began when an infected email was detected in April, 2016, though there is evidence the two had been using the malware to spy since 2010.
Investigations so far show some 18,000 accounts may have been hacked, and some 2,000 user passwords identified.
Email addresses at important corporate law firms, accounting companies, finance police officials, economy ministry officials, Vatican offices, labour unions, and even credit recovery groups were also put under surveillance, according to the warrant.
Despite its name sounding otherwise, the grand lodges throughout the United States all recognize the Grand Orient of Italy (Grande Oriente d'Italia) as regular. (The only two U.S. exceptions to this are the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodges of Colorado and Oklahoma.) However, the UGLE does not, and recognizes instead the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy. There was - and remains - controversy over their decision to do that in 1972. Nevertheless, the GO of Italy was established in 1805 and is the largest body of regular Freemasonry in that nation, with more than 22,000 members in 843 lodges.

Freemasonry in Italy has had a tumultuous past, and was banned in 1925 by Mussolini after declared himself dictator. After the war when Masonry was permitted to function again, it was rocked again by the very high profile case of the P2 lodge scandal. The precursor to Propaganda Due lodge was founded in 1877, and was chartered at the end of WWII in 1945 by the Grand Orient. But following allegations of corruption within the lodge, its charter was revoked between 1974-76. Regardless, P2 continued to operate as a secret organization patterned after a Masonic lodge. In the 1980s, it became deeply implicated in numerous crimes and plots, including the collapse of the Vatican affiliated Banco Ambrosiano, the mysterious death in London of Italian banker Roberto Calvi under Blackfriars Bridge, the murder of journalist Mino Pecorelli, and other corruption cases involving a nationwide Italian government bribery scandal.

Because of the P2 history still clinging in living memory, nervousness in Europe in general, and Italy in particular, over anything involving Freemasonry in any way stirs up worries. So, this story involving the Grand Master and a 'high-ranking' (whatever in the hell that means) member will doubtless take on something of a life of its own as it proceeds.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

UGLE Grand Organist Plays Bowie Hit

The United Grand Lodge of England's Facebook page this morning posted a tribute to rock legend David Bowie, who died a year ago today, kicking off a grisly year for celebrity deaths.
UGLE's Grand Organist Paul Bowen paid tribute to David Bowie last January by playing Life on Mars on the magnificent Grand Temple pipe organ in Freemasons Hall on London's Great Queen Street. 

Freemason and Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman originally played the piece on Bowie's classic album Hunky Dory in 1971.

Monday, January 09, 2017

"What If Freemasonry Disappeared Tomorrow?"

Kansas brethren, take note. 

On Saturday, February 11th, the appropriately named Justice Lodge 457 meeting in Alta Vista, KS will present a special, thought-provoking program entitled, "What if Freemasonry Disappeared Tomorrow?" Certainly a fascinating topic for us all to contemplate, and one that needs to be discussed on occasion in any jurisdiction or lodge, for the sake of periodically examining our own roles in our communities and the world at large.  How we are perceived - by the public, as well as by our own members and potential petitioners - is vitally important for us to examine. Those who fail to plan for the future are surely doomed to extinction, so this program is certainly a timely one.

Justice Lodge is unusual in that it is an affinity lodge. These types of lodges, made up of members who share a profession or hobby or other common interest, are far more generally found in the U.K. than in the U.S. Justice's meetings travel around their state, but they were indeed properly chartered by the Grand Lodge of Kansas in 2011. Justice Lodge limits its actual membership to 45 Master Masons who are past or present Law Enforcement Officers, which include federal, state, county, or city law enforcement officers, federal, state, county, or city corrections officers, and past or present federal, state, county, or city prosecutors. Their members follow a dress code and wear tuxedos, while guests are requested to wear a tuxedo or dark business suit and tie. As a traveling lodge they do not have “courtesy” or communal aprons of their own, so visiting Masons should bring their own apron to wear. Regular Masons in good standing are invited to attend.The tyled meeting will be held at the temple of Alta Vista Lodge 357, located at 707 Main Street, Alta Vista, KS. The program begins at 3:30PM, and will be followed by a Festive Board at Trails Day Café in nearby Council Grove, and the cost is $20. Registration for the event is requested NO LATER THAN JANUARY 31st by visiting the reservation page HERE. (Don't be confused - the reservation page is actually hosted by a different lodge, Hancock 311, as a favor, since Justice Lodge doesn't have a site of its own.) 

Alta Vista is located kind of in the middle of a lopsided triangle between Topeka, Salina, and Witchita (if you squint a little bit and stretch the definition of "triangle").

Oh, I'm sorry. I failed to mention the special guest speaker for the day's event. Silly me. My memory.

It will be former Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, Patrick Carr.

Friday, January 06, 2017

A Bad Start

While 2016 certainly cut a mighty swath through the cultural icons of my youth, now 2017 is not getting off to a great start around here among my Masonic friends. The Celestial Lodge has way too many new members today, and the week isn't even over yet. 

I'm not so hot about the new year at the moment.

John Cooper reported the death on New Year's Day of Bro. Joel Springer, a past president of the Philalethes Society, and Dean of the Fellows of the Society at the time of his death. Bro. Joel served Freemasonry in many capacities, including five years as the Assistant Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of California. When I received the news, I glanced over my desk and my eyes landed on a Philalethes Award of Merit handed to me by Joel in 2003, of which I was truly proud. I had only been a Mason for a little over four years, and was surrounded by Masons of whom I was in awe at the time. So, that little piece of paper meant an awful lot to me that day. 

His Masonic memorial service will be held at the hall of Calaveras Lodge 78, in San Andreas, California, on Thursday, January 19, at 7:00 p.m.

On January 2nd, Illus. Gene Lackey 
passed away at the age of 90. Gene was Past Master (1985) and longtime treasurer of Pentalpha Lodge 564 here in Indianapolis. He was a friend to all who met him, and was known far and wide. My understanding is that Gene's Masonic funeral service will begin Saturday, January 7th, at 1PM at Feeney-Hornak Shadeland Mortuary here in Indianapolis. Because so many brethren are expected to take part, the lodge has asked Masons to please bring their own white gloves and aprons if possible.

On Thursday, Illus. James Guffey, Past Master of Millersville Lodge 126 (1994) in Indianapolis passed away. I have I've known Jim almost from the very start of my Masonic life, and many of the Masons who go back to the old Compuserve Masonry Forum may remember him from those early days of the web. I met him at one of my first meetings at Broad Ripple Lodge in 1999. Once we started holding our stateds in the dining room as table lodges under Roger Van Gorden, Jim became a very regular visitor almost every month. 

When we first formed Lodge Vitruvian under dispensation in 2001, Jim was one of our founding members because he believed very strongly in what we were trying to accomplish at that time. In the tumult of 2004-5, he stepped in and served as my Treasurer when we were in dire straits. He only dropped his membership with us after he and his wife moved to Florida. As WB Jeff Naylor observed yesterday, Jim was a good friend who provided kindness and respect at a moment in time when it was in short supply. He truly understood and lived by his obligation with honor. 

Jim's Masonic memorial service will be at 3:00 PM on Tuesday, January 10 at Flanner and Buchanan, 325 E. Carmel Drive, Carmel, IN. A 33rd Degree white carnation ceremony is to immediately follow the Masonic service.

And this afternoon, Billy Koon sent along the terribly shocking news that WBro. Makia Pai died suddenly at the age of 51 yesterday. According to his wife Ann Marie, he went into their bedroom to lay down to rest. When she arrived home from work, she went to check on him and he was cold and not breathing. 

He was a member of lodges in both Hawaii and Pennsylvania, including Fairless Hills Lodge No. 776 located in Fairless Hills, PA. He served the Scottish Rite Valley of Trenton, NJ as Most Wise Master of the Trenton Chapter of Rose Croix in 2015. 

I met Makia in 2010 when he was Commander of his Kensington-Kadosh Commandery 54 in Pennsylvania, and he was a good friend ever since. Over the next couple of years, he went through the fire with a very special group of us. 

A note of sorrow may be addressed to: 
Family of Makia L. Pai, 1018 Wood St., Bristol, PA. 19007-5335

My sincerest and deepest condolences to all of the spouses and families of these four fine men. We need many, many more Masons exactly like every single one of these outstanding and honorable gentlemen with whom I had the privilege of sharing time, however fleeting. I wish to God it had been longer. 

Their brethren do indeed mourn.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Buzzfeed: UGLE's London Masons

Brother Amritpal Singh Juttla

I'm not generally a big fan of Buzzfeed, but a nice piece was put up today by a photographer in London of 23 of that city's brethren, with a brief paragraph by each one describing their best personal experience in the Craft, or telling how or why they decided to become a Freemason. Photographer Laura Gallant is doing a multi-part photo series for the United Grand Lodge of England's 300 year celebration of the official founding of the fraternity, and this is a part of it.

Brother Marc Cooper

On a slightly different note, according to the December address by their Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, the UGLE is apparently being plagued by someone selling cheap knock-offs of the official Tercentenary jewel struck by Toye Kenning & Spencer. That's one of the big drawbacks to the proliferation over the last decade of inexpensive suppliers of Masonic regalia and supplies (many from Pakistan, but plenty of others). Authentic versions of the jewel from Toye come in four variations that run the gamut from as low as just £25 for the gilt one, all the way up to a whopping £4,000 for the special edition, 18 karat gold, hand finished one, if that's what floats your boat. Don't be an ass to save a little money by buying a phony that only cheats both Toye and the Grand Lodge. (And if you do, who can you brag to about getting it "on sale?")

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Rapper 'Apathy' Is Indeed a Mason

Brother Tom Accuosti in Connecticut reports that internationally known rap artist and producer 'Apathy,' otherwise known as Chad Bromley, is a Connecticut Freemason and is featured in the January edition of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut's magazine. (He's seen on the cover, posing in the Egyptian Room of the New Haven Temple.)

A glance at his discography reveals a couple of telltale titles, including his 2015 release, The Black Lodge, and the upcoming album The Widow's Son, announced for the new year. His 2014 video The Grand Leveler features wall to wall Masonic symbolism, and is largely shot in a lodge. 

At least Brother Apathy's Masonic allusions in his work are bona fide, unlike so many other musicians like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Jay Z, and others displaying 'Illuminati' symbols and references without knowing a single thing about them, in some marketing attempt to be 'edgy.' In real life, I understand Bromley is quite contemplative and truly practices the precepts of the fraternity. That's both refreshing and reassuring.

He is a member of Wooster Lodge No. 10 in Colchester, CT, and is also affiliated with Brainard No. 102 in Niantic. 

UPDATE 1/3/17: 

The January 2017 issue of Connecticut Freemasons has been put online and can be seen HERE. The interview with Brother Chad Bromley by Ryan Howard begins on page 3 and continues on page 6.

Interestingly, he addresses questions that have arisen from Masons who have expressed concerns over the profanity and violence that have appeared in some of his music (and other rap and hip hop lyrics and videos):
"I’m very unapologetic about the profanity and adult material in my music. It’s entertainment. It’s my career...and I know what I’m doing. I’m a professional at what I do. Some brothers have had issues with my songs that have foul language or violence. But if Robert DeNiro was a Master Mason, those same brothers wouldn’t say a thing to him about cursing and violence in his movies. It’s the exact same thing. Entertainment and art."
Brother Bromley's Masonic references and imagery and his open discussions of the fraternity with his thousands of fans have influenced many into looking deeper into Freemasonry for themselves. He has privately assisted many of them in petitioning lodges all over the country and the world. If just 5% of his audience pokes around on the web, or tours a Masonic temple, or asks their grandfather why he's wearing a Masonic ring, he has done a great service to the fraternity, as well as to those individuals on a personal level. However, at the end of the interview, he has a few extraordinarily wise words of caution aimed at anyone who seeks Masonic membership based merely on superficial interest, celebrity worship, or momentary curiosity:
Freemasonry isn’t a fast food, microwaved experience. You don’t join a lodge, and they hand you over some ancient book of secret esoteric wisdom and hidden truths. That book doesn’t exist. Freemasonry is completely what YOU make it. If you joined because you read a Dan Brown novel, or saw a crazy YouTube video...you’ll probably be bored after the first year, and end up not coming back to lodge. You have to make connections with like minded brothers... travel. Fall in love with the words, lectures, ideals, morality and work of the craft. Don’t be stagnant, just showing up to business meetings and degree after degree and wonder why you’re bored. There’s so much to learn and see. It just takes a lot of work. But it’s worth it.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Art de Hoyos: Is Freemasonry Esoteric?

My friend, Illus. Arturo de Hoyos, posted a thought-provoking message on the subject of esotericism in Freemasonry on his Facebook page last January. As the year winds to a close, I think it deserves a little more circulation in a place that doesn't just vanish the way that service's posts notoriously do. Things tend to come and go in the torrential flood of daily clutter on Facebook, never to be found again, and that is a damn shame because it has sadly replaced far more accessible and organized platforms. I only re-stumbled into this particular message by complete accident.

So, here is Art's post:

“Esotericism is a Matter of Degrees” by Art de Hoyos

Is Freemasonry esoteric, or not? The short answer is “Yes, no, maybe.” Esotericism is any topic “intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.” This certainly applies to Masonry. But on a deeper level, and in a Masonic context, it’s usually taken to mean that our ceremonies and rituals allude to realities and/or truths not generally understood, or which may have a spiritual component to them.

The term is tainted to some people, and acceptable to others; hence, it may not be easy to wholly accept or discard the term ‘esoteric Masonry.’ Like an onion, each ‘esoteric’ layer successively builds upon the other. We can all agree that Masonry is intended to be understood by few, and that it’s a kind of specialized knowledge.

But the question is what kind of specialized knowledge, and are they real “secrets?” Depending upon one’s inclinations, the Master Mason Degree has been interpreted in a variety of different ways by different persons. For some, it’s a story of fidelity; for others, it teaches hope in the immortality of the soul; for still others, it’s a lesson in alchemy; and yet for still others, it alludes to the discovery of entheogens. Some see it as multi-faceted, or a combination of various things. But, as I wrote in my post “The Private Epiphany,” we should avoid trying to enshrine our interpretations as the “true” one.

Since 1717 there have been over 1000 ‘Masonic’ degrees created. The most popular survived and are included in many of the Rites, Orders, Systems we know today. Like a meal, each degree is only as good as its creator. The recipe may include many of the same ingredients as other meals, yet taste completely different. By analogy, we may see many of the same “ingredients” (features) in a number of degrees which teach completely different things. The predilections of a degree’s author affect the content as much as the taste-buds of a chef. The ‘flavor’ of the foundational Craft Degrees in various rites, orders and systems (Webb working, Scottish Rite, York Rite, Swedish Rite, R.E.R., etc.), differs immensely, and in the ‘higher degrees,’ the differences are even more dramatic and pronounced: some are philosophical, others practical; some present allegory, and others offer discourses on symbolism or (quasi-)historical themes. In something like the Scottish Rite, the same degree may have dramatically different rituals, depending upon the jurisdiction (compare, for example the 20th degree in the SJ and NMJ – they are *nothing* alike).

But, when someone describes himself as an ‘esoteric Mason,’ it quite often means someone who sees, and embraces, what appears to be aspects of the ‘Western Esoteric Tradition’ in our rituals; i.e., some affinity to the symbolism of Hermeticism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Kabbalah, etc.

Freemasonry is an eclectic organization and, at various times, we have borrowed the language and symbols of these and other traditions. The question is, do our rituals really teach these things as ‘realities’ or we use them to stimulate thought—or both? We are repeatedly told not to mistake a symbol for the thing symbolized. In some cases, I believe that is what has happened, while in others, I believe we do indeed have vestiges of other traditions. But even when they are there, they may be only one layer thick on our Masonic onion.

The problem is twofold: some deny any esoteric influences at all (or assert they are just used symbolically), while others claim it’s the main part of the onion. If the matter is open to interpretation (not defined by the ritual itself), who has the “right” to decide?
This much we know: many of Freemasonry’s symbols were used before the modern fraternity existed (1717), and appeared in a variety of books. Some were educational and philosophical (such as the “Choice Emblems”), others were indeed Hermetic (such as Alchemical texts). As I said, we’re an eclectic organization. How many times have you seen the Square and Compasses or All-Seeing Eye used and abused in Hollywood and elsewhere because it looks ‘cool’? Well, I’m willing to bet that at least some of our symbols migrated into the fraternity the same way. An unknown degree maker, in the 1700’s, saw something that looked cool, and dropped it into the ritual. Not necessarily bad, but 225 years later his personal predilection turns into a debate.

Certainly, there are clear examples of “borrowings” from “esoteric” texts. For example, I am aware of an older version (early 1800s) of a Scottish Rite degree which includes a large portion extracted from Cornelius Agrippa’s De Occulta Philosophia (1531-33). If asked if that degree was ‘esoteric’ I would say ‘yes,’ while to its counterpart in a later version or in another Supreme Council, I would say, “no.”

My point is to quit quibbling over such things, and find the common ground where we “can best work and best agree.” If esotericism interests you, that’s fine; if not, that’s also fine. My personal library is well-stocked with enough material on both sides to make anyone think and in favor of, or against, any position.

The important thing is to be well-educated, and understand what we know first. Before you reach for the stars, make sure your feet are firmly planted on the ground. Make yourself into someone who can be taken seriously. Learn the facts about our origins based upon what we know.

I sometimes speak about “historical records” versus “hysterical documents.” Before you buy into such fantasies as “Freemasonry descended from the ancient Egyptians,” get a quick education. Here are three books to give you a reality check: 

Harry Carr, World of Freemasonry
Bernard E. Jones, Freemasons Guide and Compendium 
David Stevenson, The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century 1590–1710 

When you can speak intelligently about the Old Charges (Gothic Consitutions), early Freemasonry in Scotland, the formation of the first Grand Lodge, and how and when the degrees developed, people may be inclined to listen to you, when you start to talk about more exotic things.

Educate yourself well enough to argue both sides of the argument.

Take due notice thereof and govern yourselves accordingly.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Arkansas's Holiday Surprises

Unfortunately, the Christmas weekend was not a joyful one for all of the Masons in Arkansas.

Alice and I have been traveling a lot over the last six weeks due to family obligations and the holidays, and it has been difficult for me to get to much of anything besides an iPhone keyboard for extended periods. So, I am a little behind in posting up to date information here. However, it seems that on Christmas Eve last Saturday, the Grand Lodge of Arkansas F&AM delivered up several suspension letters perfectly timed to drive a sprig of holly straight through the hearts of members preparing to celebrate the birth of the Light of Man with their families. 

Merry Christmas.

The letters contained the traditional (in Arkansas) opportunity to self-expel before any sort of Masonic trial even takes place, but a slightly new wrinkle has been added lately. If a member has any property in his possession at the time of his suspension belonging to his lodge, he is now ordered to turn said property over to the Grand Lodge, which will presumably then pass it along to the lodge, in due time. This includes any access to the lodge's tangible assets. The question immediately springs to mind as to why Little Rock is to now be the intermediary between the suspended member and the property's rightful owners. But I'm sure it's just a technical issue.

As has been pointed out previously, official punishments were at a record high there in 2015: 12 suspensions and a whopping 43 expulsions (in addition to 245 NPD suspensions). They continue to be doled out for offenses as petty as merely "liking" a Facebook post, and it will be of a certain morbid interest to see what 2016's statistics will be.

(Click image to enlarge.)

Arkansas' annual communication takes place in February, and the usual end-of-year mailing to lodges that has traditionally included texts of proposed resolutions, allowing voting delegates the opportunity to read them and discuss them in open lodge with the members they represent, failed to include them this year. Instead, a packet with the resolutions will be handed to delegates as they file into the auditorium, which will prevent any prior chance of careful consideration by delegates, or any input from non-voting lodge members. (One wag online compared it to a famous political reference that they will have to 'vote on it to find out what's in it.')

Another notable item missing from the packet was any provision for a representative "proxy" voter. Some grand lodges have a more complex list of eligible voters at their grand lodge sessions than others. In Arkansas, in addition to the elected, sitting Worshipful Master and the two lodge Wardens, a lodge's immediate Past Master also has a vote for twelve months after the expiration of his term, along with the lodge Secretary. However, Masters and Wardens may send proxies in their stead if they cannot attend in person.

From Section 1.4 of the Arkansas Grand Lodge Constitution:

Sec. 2. Every Master and Warden ought to attend the Annual Communication with the jewel of his office, but if he cannot personally attend, he may send a brother of his Lodge as a proxy, or the Lodge may send one or more of its members as a Representative; each Master and Warden, when present, shall have one vote.
Sec. 3. If only one Representative appears at any meeting of the Grand Lodge of the State of Arkansas, he shall have power to cast the full vote of the Lodge of which he may be the Representative; and if only two attend, the elective officer highest in rank shall cast two votes, and a proxy shall cast the votes only of the officers he represents.
From Section 3.2:
3.2.2 The Worshipful Master of the Subordinate Lodges is, by virtue of his office, a member of the Grand Lodge, and should attend it in person, if not prevented by urgent business or necessity. And if he can not personally attend he may send any Master Mason in good standing of the lodge for which the proxy or proxies are being issued. -Pro. 1911, Pro.2006, p. 24.

3.2.3 Every Subordinate Lodge shall be represented in the Grand Lodge by its officers, representatives or proxies, who must be Master Masons and members of the Lodge which they represent; and such appointment, whether of representatives or proxy, must be certified by the Secretary, and the seal of the Lodge affixed thereto. -Pro. 1856, p. 46.

3.2.4 The Master and Wardens of the Subordinate Lodges, being the proper representatives thereof in the Grand Lodge, should attend in person, if not prevented by urgent business or necessity. If they can not attend, they may appoint proxies to attend in their stead, from among the members of their respective Lodges. -Pro. 1852, p. 6.
3.2.10 If only one representative appears at any meeting of the Grand Lodge of the State of Arkansas, he shall have power to cast the full vote of the Lodge of which he may be the Representative; and if only two attend, the elective officer highest in rank shall cast two votes, and a proxy shall cast the votes only of the officers he represents. Art. 1, Sec. 3, Constitution.
3.2.11 Any Master Mason, in good standing, of the lodge for which the proxy or proxies are being issued, is entitled to represent that lodge as a voting delegate. Pro. 2006, p.24.
Past practice has been that the Grand Lodge office has included proxy forms in the December mailing to permit the assignment by the lodge of proxy representatives. However, this year no such forms were included for the lodge Secretaries to properly sign and seal (as required by their code). The accompanying letter in the packet further stated there would be no further mailings forthcoming prior to the annual meeting. This prevents anyone unable to attend in person from assigning anyone else to cast their vote. (It should be noted that the Grand Secretary has reportedly told several Secretaries who enquired about the lack of forms that they would subsequently be mailed out sometime in the coming weeks before the meeting. To date, no one has reported receiving theirs.)

Word is also coming that the balloting for grand line officers at the annual communication will not be secret this year, but will be done as an open roll call. If true, this will be a major shift from prior practice in previous sessions, and is especially important this year, given that both the Deputy Grand Master and the Grand Senior Warden were suspended earlier in the year, along with a recent Past Grand Master. (Requiring roll call votes instead of secret ones has happened as recently as 2011, so it is not without precedent.) The high profile suspensions, and the enormous number of them within rank and file members as well, have had a chilling effect on any open dissension or discussions. 

It should be noted that over the summer, former Deputy Grand Master Patrick Carr was suspended for 25 years, Past Grand Master Jarrod Adkisson for 30 years, and most recently at the beginning of December, former Grand Senior Warden Aaron South has just received a 27 year suspension. By suspending these brethren for definite time periods, they are precluded by their Code from appealing their sentences at the annual communication. Over the centuries, grand lodges have become very adroit at preventing palace coups attempts of any kind. And Arkansas is especially good at it. If "good" is the proper word.

A pre-formatted document is currently being circulated among Arkansas lodges to begin the process of seceding from their Grand Lodge if the annual communication goes as badly as most believe it will. Meanwhile, the Masonic world outside of Arkansas' own borders continues to watch events unfold with interest similar to the viewing of a car accident. As the very brief event with the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma amply demonstrated in November, it doesn't appear that there will be any outside assistance or pressure brought to bear on the Grand Lodge of Arkansas by other jurisdictions anytime soon. It is ultimately up to their own membership to solve what are seen as their internal troubles. 

Unless a calming presence manages to make his way into the Grand East and cooler heads prevail, that leaves either open insurrection at the annual communication, or another year of turmoil.