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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Grand Master of Utah on TV

MW Robert M. Wolfarth, the Grand Lodge of Utah's newly elected Grand Master, scored a 30 minute sit down interview with the Salt Lake City PBS station's local interlocutor. It airs Sunday, but has been posted a little early on the KUED-TV website at Utah Conversations with Ted Carpener HERE.

I visited Salt Lake City in March of 2008 as a guest of Wasatch Lodge 1, and met a whole room full of then-recently joined Brethren. They were among the most interested, excited, and enthusiastic Masons I've ever met, and over the years, more than a few of those very same Brothers have gone on to become Grand Master in that state. Robert is one. Nicely done - all the best for a great year!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Jack Jones, Longtime Shriners Imperial Recorder, Passes

It's the end of an era at Shriners International. 

The Tampa Imperial Shrine headquarters has announced the death yesterday of Jack Jones, longtime Imperial Recorder and a Past Potentate of the national governing body. In addition to 36 years as recorder, he also served a year as Imperial Potentate, and five as Executive Vice President. 

Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Jack was seemingly everywhere you looked at national Masonic and Shrine gatherings. Across those decades of leadership roles since he first took office in 1979, he saw sweeping changes throughout the entire fraternity.

Funeral services have not yet been announced.

Requiescat in pace.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Two Major Masonic Conferences In France In May

Recent events in Europe have started to put a big dent in tourism lately, and France in particular has been hit pretty hard. But don't let that deter you this year. Next month, France is going to get a double dose of major conferences about Freemasonry, and if you can afford to hang around for about ten days or so, you could actually manage to be there for both of them, since they are scheduled a week apart in late May.

First up is the  International Conference of Masonic Research Lodges, May 19th - 21st in Toulouse.  The theme of the conference is "The Ancients' Tradition: Operative origins; Grand Lodge in London; and Spreading the World - America and Europe." The conference is being organized by the Grande Loge de France, but there will be plenty of presenters and attendees from jurisdictions all over the world that your grand lodge recognizes. It's not a tyled gathering, so anyone may attend (and lightening won't smite you into a grease spot if you sit in a conference with Masons you can't sit in lodge with). Notable speakers from the U.S. include Brothers S. Brent Morris and John Hairston, and UCLA's Margaret Jacob.

There are 25 lectures and panels planned, and the list can be found HERE. There will be translations provided. There will also be an untyled historical reenactment of an Entered Apprentice degree from 1814.

Registration for this conference is admittedly a bit confusing, even though there are multiple translations on the site. You must first sign up on the Booking page and receive an email link. Clicking that takes you to a list of all of the individual sessions, which are, oddly, priced individually (strangely, there's no single option to simply pay a flat conference fee - you have to check the ones you want to attend and pay for each one - only Masons could make things like taking money this hard).

After that conference ends, get up to Paris by Tuesday evening. The 2nd World Conference on Fraternalism, Freemasonry, and History (WCFFH) will be held in Paris on May 26th and 27th, 2017 at the Bibliothèque Nationale - Paris, but there's a pre-conference workshop that starts Wednesday.

Convened by the journal, Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society, in cooperation with the Bibliothèque Nationale, the second World Conference on Fraternalism, Freemasonry, and History: Research in Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society focuses on the study of the lasting influence of the Enlightenment, ritual, secrecy, and civil society vis-à-vis the dynamics of scholarship around the world. The conference explores how civil society, social capital, secrecy, and ritual have been important elements during different episodes of local and world histories, and indeed still are. The WCFFH 2017 is a part of the Policy Studies Organization's support of research into associations, civility, and the role of non governmental organizations in democracy.

For a list of presenters and sessions, CLICK HERE.

The conference is on Friday and Saturday. The reason you need to be in Paris by Tuesday night, though, is because on Wednesday there is a workshop at the Museum of Freemasonry about the Chevalier Ramsay and his claims for the origin of Masonry.  Participation is by application. The pre-conference workshop will examine Ramsay's Masonic influence, including the disputed versions of his 1737 oration that had such a large influence on the degrees.  It is also the 300th anniversary of the organization of the English grand lodge.

The conference has a general interest in fraternalism and is not confined to Freemasonry, nor is it under the auspices of any lodge. Rather, it is supported by the National Library of France, the Policy Studies Organization, and the American Public University. Out of 231 papers submitted, 106 have been selected for presentation, by scholars from 11 countries.

Simultaneous translation French-English, English-French, is offered for all sessions.

No charge is made for registration for the World Conference, but registration is IMMEDIATELY requested to plan for catering, headsets, and other conference needs. For information and registration CLICK HERE, or contact PSO Executive Director, Daniel Gutierrez, at dgutierrezs@ipsonet.org 

To watch videos of presentations from the 2015 Conference, CLICK HERE.

Masonic Con 2017 - Saturday, April 29th

This Saturday, April 29th, Ezekiel Bates Lodge AF&AM in Attleboro, Massachusetts will host its 2017 Masonic Con, an incredible annual lineup of outstanding Masonic speakers, and much, much more.

Noteworthy presentations will be given by Paul C. Smith, Piers Vaughan, Angel Millar, Richard Cassaro, Greg Kaminsky, Oscar Alleyne, and Robert Johnson.

However, for a complete listing of all speakers, vendors, panels, and more who will be presenting or represented, CLICK HERE.

The basic schedule for the principal speakers is below. Click the image to enlarge it to a readable size:

There will literally be something for everyone at this event. On top of everything listed above, there will also be appendant body initiations conferred by the local Grotto, Shrine, and Tall Cedars of Lebanon.

Admission is free, and all presentations are open to the public — until 5:15. At that time, there will be a special panel discussion about esoteric symbolism, sponsored by the Lvmen Scientiae Book Club and moderated by John Ruark (of Patriot Lodge 1957 in Fairfax, VA). This event, and the subsequent appendant body degrees will be restricted to Master Masons only, and all require a valid dues card for admission.

If you are planning on arriving in the area on Friday, there will be a tour of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, given by the Grand Historian of Massachusetts – Right Worshipful Walter Hunt around 2:30 Friday, April 28th. The Grand Lodge is located at 186 Tremont Street in Boston, which is about a 45 minute drive if you can miss the miserable traffic. 

Additionally, Attleboro sits very close to the Rhode Island border. On Sunday April 30th at 9:00 AM, Right Worshipful Rick Lynch will be offering a tour of the nearby Grand Lodge of Rhode Island. The Grand Lodge of Rhode Island is located at 222 Taunton Avenue East Providence, Rhode Island, about 20 minutes from Ezekiel Bates Lodge.

Ezekiel Bates Lodge is located at 71 North Main Street, Attleboro, MA 02703. There is plenty of parking offsite surrounding the building at several municipal lots.

Keep checking the Masonic Con 2017 website and their Facebook event page for latest updates. And for any questions, email Bryan Simmons at bryanco1@yahoo.com

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Masons Without Aprons"

A Brother in France forwarded me a message over the weekend concerning a lodge meeting in Versailles on the outskirts of Paris on the night of April 20th. Loge Lumiere Eccossais (Scottish Light) was holding its regular meeting, and unbeknownst to the members on this particular evening, the terror attack on the Champs-Élysées that killed police officer Xavier Jugelé was taking place.

The Tyler and Past Master of the lodge recounted the evening:

"During the course [of the meeting], the Venerable Master had read the nomination of a lay person who expressed the wish to become a Mason. A young man of 37 years. Looks like an excellent candidate! Not very unusual... Two minutes after the end of the meeting, we learn the terrible news of the shooting on the Champs, especially that of the death of one of the officers on duty at that time and place. Less than two hours after the end of the meeting, we learn that the policeman murdered is...the candidate talked about tonight.
It is. That's all...
Some nights it's hard..."
Officer Jugelé was deliberately shot in the head last Thursday while sitting in his police van. He had been stationed there to help protect citizens and tourists on the densely packed avenue that my wife and I have spent countless hours on ourselves. With no warning, he became a victim himself. Two other police officers and a bystander were also wounded in the attack before the gunman, Karim Cheurfi, was shot and killed by police. 

Cheurfi had previously been convicted of three attempted murders – two against police officers – after an incident in 2001. Sentenced to 20 years, he won a 2005 appeal and was released from prison early in 2013. A note expressing his support for Isis was found near his body Thursday night.

Jugelé's death brings the number of victims of Islamic terrorist attacks in France since the Charlie Hebdo incident in January 2015 to 239. Jugelé has been posthumously promoted and awarded the Legion of Honor. His public funeral service was held yesterday.

I did not originally post this story when I first read it, because European Freemasons frequently encounter trouble in some quarters when publicly associated with the fraternity. However, it was given wide circulation on the L'Express magazine's Masonic-related blogsite La Lumiere, written by reporter François Koch, so nothing I could post here would reveal anything more to the public now. 

There is a term some of us use to describe certain men who were never themselves Freemasons, but were certainly deserving of being called 'Brother' nonetheless: "Masons without aprons." Xavier Jugelé is one of these men.

Loge Lumiere Eccossais is affiliated with the Grande Loge de l’Alliance Maçonnique Française (GLAMF), a 15,000 member jurisdiction that broke away from the GLNF a few years ago during a major internal dispute over the Grand Master at the time.

Not that it matters one infinitesimal damn to the poignancy of this story.

Rennes-le-Château Church Attacked and Damaged

Photo by Sacred Mystery Tours

This has nothing at all seriously to do with Freemasonry, but the subjects occasionally cross each other's paths, especially in conspiracy minded publications. Plus, Alice and I were compelled to write about it in The Templar Code For Dummies...

Photo by DR

Word has come this morning from the French mountain village of Rennes-le-Château that several important artifacts in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene were partially demolished on Sunday by a woman armed with an axe.

Johan Netchacovitch, editor-in-Chief of the Gazette de Rennes-le-Château, reports that the church was attacked on April 23rd, which was the national election day across France. The woman, said to be in her twenties, reportedly inquired at the town's tourism office at 9:00 AM about the church's opening time and spoke partially in what one witness described as 'Arabic.' She then entered the church around 11:15 with an axe and quickly attacked several well known items. The head and arms were knocked off of the holy water font statue of the demon Asmodeus. 

Photo by DR
The head of Mary Magdalene in a bas-relief sculpture beneath the high altar was also chopped out before the woman was stopped by a church visitor. The police soon arrived, along with the Mayor and another town official, and the unidentified woman was taken into custody.

Under questioning, the woman was calm, and was reported to have said, "Today is a presidential election here, while in Syria, the West bombs and kills children. You are all disbelievers! My husband is over there." The French news site Ladepeche.fr reports that she left a Quran beneath the Asmodeus statue with 'jihadist' remarks highlighted, and shouted, "You are all the unbelievers! I'm home, you're not home!"

Her car, registered in Dordogne, was searched and turned up a gasoline can and wires, with no sign of any detonating device. The woman was subsequently released and hospitalized for undisclosed reasons. She is working with an attorney. She is reported to live in the Ariège region of Occitane and works in Toulouse. Rennes-le-Château is in the Pyrenees mountains, near the town of Carcassonne, and the remote village would have been about a 90-minute drive for her.

Police sealed the church on Sunday, but it was reopened to visitors by Monday morning. Signs have been placed to explain the damage.

The strange little church was originally consecrated in 1059, and dedicated to Mary Magdalene. Despite many provable hoaxes involved in its recent history, most promulgated by the 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail (and later Da Vinci Code fever), it does indeed have numerous decorative oddities inside. Most were installed between 1901 and 1905 by Father Bérenger Sauniére, including the enigmatic demon that greets visitors at the church entrance.

The Asmodeus sculpture is a controversial one, and has been attacked more than once before. In 1995, almost the same damage was inflicted as this time, and its glass eyes have been repeatedly stolen. It is a demonic figure who appears in several Talmudic legends throughout the Book of Tobias (or Tobit), including the story of the construction of the Temple of Solomon, in which Solomon tricks him into helping build the Temple. Tobit is an Old Testament Hebrew Deuterocanonical book that was included in the Roman and Orthodox Catholic Bible, but not in the accepted Hebrew canon. It is one of the books of the Apocrypha, and not found in most Protestant Bibles.

While the statue's seemingly bizarre placement in the Magdalene church has been strongly condemned by many from a religious point of view, some historians (and us) have concluded it was probably placed as a symbolic political swipe against the French Republic at the time, while the baptismal font directly across from it represented the good, pious, and virtuous French monarchy. Sauniére was a passionate monarchist, which was pro-Catholic, and he was eventually caught by Church authorities raising substantial amounts of money by selling masses. That was most probably the lucrative source of the money he used for construction projects, and NOT buried treasure or blackmail against the Vatican, as has been alleged by conspiracy lovers (who will no doubt attempt to pile on with comments here now).

(Photos of damage are from the Gazette de Rennes-le-Château website credited to 'DR,' and the larger photo at the top is from the Sacred Mystery Tours website.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New Film: 'The Royal Art of Freemasonry'

A Los Angeles filmmaker and Freemason named Johnny Royal has crafted a beautifully shot film about the fraternity, The Royal Art of Freemasonry. He just released a one minute teaser last week (click the image above).

From a release on marketwired.com:
The feature length documentary presents never before seen footage of the world’s oldest and most powerful secret society, the Freemasons. The film provides insight into the unique culture surrounding the fraternity, asks the question of why people join, explains in depth the entire masonic structure including the Blue Lodge (degrees 1 – 3), the Scottish Rite (degrees 4-33), and the York Rite (Royal Arch, Cryptic Masons, Knights Templar), and where members feel their ancient society is headed as the future unfolds.
“It feels like everything I’ve ever done in my life has gone into making this film,” says Writer and Director Johnny Royal. “It has been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.”
This year, the United Grand Lodge of England, founded in 1717, celebrates its 300th year anniversary. However, Freemasonry has roots that reach much further back as evidenced by the recorded minutes of the Lodge of Edinburgh No. 1 in Scotland in 1599. Never before has a documentary been able to tell the story of all of the Masonic degrees and provide a glimpse of what happens in the masonic allegory after a candidate achieves the Master Mason or 3rd degree.
“One of the reasons The Royal Art of Freemasonry took so long to make was figuring out the actual overarching narrative. Eventually, I realized that the story arch was the hero’s quest. What begins to surface is a realization that we [the candidates] are able to be the hero or the villain in our daily lives, based on the choices we make. Freemasonry truly is a progressive moral science interlaced throughout the narrative structure of the Hero’s Quest.””“Royal’s team on the film are comprised of a powerful lineup including Music Supervisor, Composer, and Re-Recording Mixer Sean Beavan (The Lost Highway, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson), Ernest Chapman and Juliette Beavan, both who are credited as composers and associate producers, Robert Doan as producer, Dene Anderberg as Executive Producer, Jason Pachomski as Supervising Editor (Game of Thrones), and Zach Brinkerhoff as Visual FX Supervisor (Thor and X-Men First Class).”
For updates about its release dates, see the film's Facebook page HERE

In related news, the five-part Sky1 documentary made in cooperation with the United Grand Lodge of England, Inside the Freemasons, premiered a week ago and is continuing (Episode 3 airs this week). Unfortunately for those of us in the U.S., there is no (simple) way to see it online. Plans are for a DVD release once all episodes air in the U.K.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Isle of Man Issues Freemason Postage Stamps

The Isle of Man, which sits in the middle of the Irish Sea smack dab between England and Ireland, has just issued a series of postage stamps that commemorate the 300th anniversary of the founding of the United Grand Lodge of England.

From Linn's Stamp News website yesterday:
The Isle of Man Post Office has added a hidden logo to its set of six stamps celebrating 300 years of English Freemasonry’s first Grand Lodge. The stamps will be issued May 11.
In announcing the issue, the Isle of Man Post Office said: “The stamps are filled with symbols and references including a hidden logo only visible under UV light, GPS references to places important in Freemasonry including those on the Isle of Man and a subtle ribbon honouring the 50th year of the office of the current Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Kent [Prince Edward, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II].
The hidden image is the official logo of 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England.
The stamps feature the badges of office of the senior officers within the lodge. Pictured in the background are symbolic architectural elements from lodges and related locations in England and the Isle of Man.
The designs also include GPS references to these places. According to information from the Isle of Man Post Office, these are the Freemasons’ Hall on the Isle of Man, 20 pence; the main lodge room at the Grand Lodge, Queen Street, London, nondenominated first-class stamp; the Freemasons’ Hall in Bristol, 50p; the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, £1.30; and the plaque marking the site of the Goose and Gridiron Public House in St. Paul’s Churchyard, where the first grand lodge was formed 300 years ago, £1.74.
The £3.40 high denomination includes several GPS references. The Isle of Man Post Office said that these “represent the charitable giving of Freemasons and refer to three landing pads of the Air Ambulance service in Caernarfon (Wales), RAF Benson (Thames Valley) and Royal London Hospital (London). The GPS references are accompanied by the Call Signs of the helicopters that have saved so many lives.” For more information about the stamps, visit the website of the Isle of Man Post Office.

Politically and internationally, the Isle of Man is unusual, especially considering its location. The island is its own self-governing territory that is classed as a "dependency" of the English crown, yet is not actually part of the United Kingdom, nor the European Union. Despite that, they are technically regarded as British citizens. The island has about 84,000 citizens living on it.

Masonically, the island is a Provincial Grand Lodge of the UGLE and has 19 lodges, plus appendant bodies. According to their website:
Freemasonry in the Isle of Man can be traced back to 1765 when the first Lodge met in Douglas under the Grand Lodge of Ireland. The Athole Lodge No 1004 was the first Lodge to meet under the United Grand Lodge of England in 1885. The Provincial Grand Lodge of the Isle of Man was inaugurated on Wednesday 29th September 1886 in the Masonic Lodge Rooms, Loch Promenade, Douglas and a complete report of the proceedings appeared in the Isle of Man Times.
It is recorded that the visiting Grand Officers together with the Provincial Grand Master travelled by train to Ramsey on 30th September 1886 and were met by the Worshipful Master, Officers and Brethren of St. Maughold Lodge and entertained to lunch at the Mitre Hotel. They then went for a ride via Lewaigue to the Church of St Maughold where they expressed great interest in the Church and ancient Crosses. Bro J. Craine, Organist, played the Hallelujah Chorus and the National Anthem.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Repaying a Very Old Debt

Alice's brother Bobby passed away in Texas in November just before Thanksgiving Day, and we were finally able to settle his estate a couple of weeks ago. It was a complete shock to us, but he and his wife Karen who preceded him in death in August lived a somewhat hermit-like life in recent years. They both died without a will, and so we had to deal with probate court and other messes via long distance before we were able to do anything with his property. 

We had to drive back to Texas a few weeks ago once we were at last permitted by the court to dispose of their belongings. It's a gruesome task for anyone to pick though literally everything in someone else's home. Clearing out their house, we had to separate all of the collected clutter and detritus of everyday life from the things that meant something, and bring home all of their important papers and anything of sentimental value. Buried in the piles I discovered the funeral guestbook from the service from Bobby and Alice's father, Robert L. Funcannon, Sr. back in 1998 in Garland, Texas. I hadn't seen it before. It was at that service that Bobby, Alice, and I witnessed the first Masonic funeral service any of us had ever seen. Those ten Masons, their ceremony, and their kindness to us all influenced both Bobby and I to become Freemasons ourselves. 

I have recounted the story of that day probably hundreds of times all over the country and the world for the last 18 years, and in Freemasons For Dummies as well. Of how I called every Dallas area lodge on a Sunday night before the Monday funeral to ask if anyone could perform a service; how a lodge Secretary working late that night said he'd do what he could to help; how ten Masons showed up the next day who didn't know Robert but nevertheless put on a service far more moving than anything the rented minister said who kept mispronouncing his name; and how on the flight home the next day I told Alice I had to become one of them. Until this evening, I had never known just who those Brethren were all those years ago. But now I do.

So, I am proud and honored to finally properly thank in public the Brethren of James Ladd Burgess Lodge No. 1305 in Dallas, Texas, and Past Master Guadalupe Moreno of Duck Creek Lodge No. 1419 in Garland. Sadly, it appears from my Internet search that WB Moreno himself passed away in 2005, just before my book was published, so he had no way of knowing the lives he and his Brethren touched that day, and how many other men the story of that brief event might go on to influence to knock on a lodge door somewhere in the world. 

As Masons, we may never know the lives we touch in countless ways we may never give a second thought to. But that's why we all need to make sure we answer every phone call, every email, every question from a curious elevator companion or stranger at the next gas pump who asks about our jacket emblem or ring or Masonic license plate. 

I have up at the top of this blog one of the first admonitions each of us receives: "To preserve the reputation of the fraternity unsullied must be your constant care..." That's our job - yours and mine - every day. And those Texas Brethren certainly went above and beyond to do that for our little family 17 years ago. 

Thank you, my Brothers. You changed my life. I hope that, in some small way since then, I have honorably paid forward that debt I have owed each of you for a long time.

Scottish Rite Research Society Announces Writing Contest

My apologies to all for being a bit late in spotting this, as our entire household was unavoidably detained earlier this month. The Scottish Rite Research Society is celebrating its 25th year and has announced a very special and noteworthy competition for Masonic scholars. They are holding a contest to reward the best articles to be published in their special 25th anniversary volume of Heredom, their annual collection of papers. 

Prizes, you ask? They are offering cold hard cash for your original work. Yes, really.

1st place: $1000
2nd place: $500 
3rd place: $250

The rules are brief and simple:

(1) Articles must written by members of the Scottish Rite Research Society.(2) Articles must written by a single author. No co-authored articles are eligible.(3) Articles must be original to Heredom. No reprints are eligible.(4) Authors release publishing rights of their articles to the SRRS.

If have a manuscript that you would like considered, contact editor S. Brent Morris at bmorris@scottishrite.org

UPDATE: The deadline is September 1st.

Membership in the SRRS is $55, and you need not be a Scottish Rite Mason (or a Mason at all) to join. SEE HERE for information.

H/T Arturo de Hoyos/Facebook

The Changing U.S. Demographics of Young Adulthood

Those of us with even a passing interest in the next cohort of potential Freemasons knocking on our doors should take a look at the results of the most recent U.S. Census, and especially one particular summary report issued this month about it by the Census Bureau:

The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975–2016

The report specifically examines changes in social, economic and demographic trends among young American adults between 18 and 34 (commonly branded as 'Millennials') over the last 40 years. It tracked four "common milestones of adulthood:" getting married, having children, getting a job, and living on one's own. The percentage of Americans achieving all four of those "adult milestones" by age 34 went from 45% in 1975 down to just 24% in 2016.

Here are a few takeaways:

  1. Most of today’s Americans believe that educational and economic accomplishments are extremely important milestones of adulthood. In contrast, marriage and parenthood rank low: over half of Americans believe that marrying and having children are not very important in order to become an adult. 
  2. Young people are delaying marriage, but most still eventually tie the knot. In the 1970s, 8 in 10 people married by the time they turned 30. Today, not until the age of 45 have 8 in 10 people married. 
  3. More young people today live in their parents’ home than in any other arrangement: 1 in 3 young people, or about 24 million 18- to 34-year-olds, lived in their parents’ home in 2015. 
  4. In 2005, the majority of young adults lived independently in their own household, which was the predominant living arrange- ment in 35 states. A decade later, by 2015, the number of states where the majority of young people lived indepen- dently fell to just six. 
  5. More young men are falling to the bottom of the income ladder. In 1975, only 25 percent of men, aged 25 to 34, had incomes of less than $30,000 per year. By 2016, that share rose to 41 per- cent of young men. (Incomes for both years are in 2015 dollars.) 
  6. Between 1975 and 2016, the share of young women who were homemakers fell from 43 percent to 14 percent of all women aged 25 to 34. 
  7. Of young people living in their parents’ home, 1 in 4 are idle, that is they neither go to school nor work. This figure represents about 2.2 million 25- to 34-year-olds. 
Of course, generalizations are always imprecise measurements, especially with something as nebulous as a generation's perceived "attitude." But when we as a fraternity have our tin can of institutional destiny tied to the tail of the next generation or two immediately following us, we need to at least keep an eye on these kinds of major shifts that affect our own present and future membership. Despite all of our solemn cant about making no innovations, Freemasonry has always adapted to suit and serve the society in which it resides. It is a constant evolutionary process, and those who fail to evolve will find themselves reaping the whirlwind.

The current U.S. population today is 324,911,917. The latest available figures on regular, recognized U.S. Masonic membership from the Masonic Service Association are for 2015: 1,161,253. That is just 0.36% of Americans who are currently Freemasons – which makes us either very elite or very precarious, depending on your point of view. (Just by way of comparison, the worldwide estimate of Freemasons currently being floated by the press in its coverage of the United Grand Lodge of England's 300th anniversary is 6 million. Since everybody's best guess in 2005 was around 3 million, one wonders who's doing the counting, and just how they calculated that.)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Robin Hood and the Masons

Between 1955 and 1959, England's ATV channel featured a 30 minute television drama, The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Richard Greene as the famed Robin of Locksley, the outlaw with a heart o' gold. Each week, Robin and his band of Merry Men would do battle in and around Sherwood Forest with the evil Sheriff of Nottingham and keep England safe for the eventual return of Richard the Lionheart (who was off on Crusade, or swanning about in France, or getting his royal keister tossed in an Austrian jail and ransomed). The show was quite popular, eventually generating 143 episodes, and it was exported to air in the U.S. market on CBS. 

The famous story takes place in the late 1100s, which makes the video above all the more interesting as a cultural artifact. It is an excerpt of the Season 3 episode, The Mark, and opens with a small gathering of Masons. An Apprentice explains the Operative Masons to Robin, and then an older Brother (Walter) wanders over and casually offers to make him a Speculative Mason, with a very abbreviated bit of business that should seem a bit familiar.

I haven't found any references anywhere that Richard Greene was a Mason himself - it would have been a nice touch if he had been. 

One unrelated but interesting trivia highlight: several writers on the British show were some heavy-hitting American scriveners like Ring Lardner and Howard Koch who had been blacklisted during the HUAC hearings. In fact, Koch served as the script editor for the series. They all worked under pen names.

(This video was posted originally on the Masonic Studies MS Facebook page from which it is shamelessly cribbed, for which I thank the page's owner.)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Alexandria-Washington Lodge 22 Charter Yanked

Word is trickling out this morning that Virginia's famed Alexandria-Washington Lodge 22, located in the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, had its warrant arrested last night - April 13th. It seems that Grand Master Vernon S. Cook and several members of the Grand Officers' line arrived and seized their charter.

I have heard more information as to why, but it being a matter specifically of lodge business, I hesitate to post it. However, as one observer quipped to me, it's "like sucker punching a FBI agent. The whole bureau will come after you hard." This seems to be more of a private squabble between the Grand Lodge of Virginia and the lodge, and not a particularly tyrannical move. More like an administrative punch in the nose for a what looked like a deliberate slight.

More if anything escalates. In the meantime, if you're planning on visiting the lodge for a meeting in an upcoming trip to the DC area, you might check with them before getting all dressed up...


I was misinformed and have edited the above story to clarify that WB Andrew Hammer did NOT have any charges preferred against him. The lodge charter has been arrested, period. I sincerely apologize for the error to all parties involved.

BTW, all Virginia members are duly admonished to be aware of, and fully comply with, the Grand Lodge of Virginia's extraordinarily restrictive rules regarding online communications. Obviously some committee there had way too much time on their hands, and this tome was the result. Take notice and govern yourselves accordingly.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Brother Don Rickles - RIP

Another of my boyhood icons has passed to the Celestial Lodge, which is one of the saddest and most unstoppable side effects of aging, I'm afraid. Nevertheless, it's always a pleasant discovery when one of them turns out to have been a Freemason. 

Brother Donald Jay Rickles passed away today at the age of 90. He died in his Los Angeles home of kidney failure. He is survived by Barbara, his loving wife of 52 years.

Brother Rickles was raised on June 6, 1953 and remained a member of what is today Service City Geba Lodge 1009, which meets in the Anchor Astoria Temple on 30th Avenue in Astoria, New York (the lodge has been through several consolidations, and I haven't been able to find out which of them was his original one). My understanding is that he hadn't attended his Mother Lodge for almost three decades, but still faithfully mailed in his dues check each year.

To mark his passing, I include a Youtube link above to his 1968 album, "Hello,  Dummy," which I feel is only appropriate for my site. For those who live their lives in a perennial state of indignance and offense, I suspect his brand of comedy will be positively horrific in this day and age. That's too bad, because he packed audiences full of folks of every race, creed, ethnicity, and persuasion who were only too delighted to be on the receiving end of his "insults" for over half a century. He spared no one, and by doing so, made us all laugh at each other and ourselves as a result. Meanwhile, offstage, he was known as one of the kindest and most generous people in show business. Not a bad legacy, that.

His column is broken and his brethren mourn.

UPDATE 4/14/17:

Brother Bil Vassily in New York got curious about Brother Don's original lodge, and passed along the following bit of detective work:
Doing some research I find the following.
Don Rickles was born and brought up in Jackson Heights, Queens.Geba Lodge #954 was located in Elmhurst which is just north of Jackson Heights.
I lived in Rego Park during the early 60s that was just south of both.
Service Lodge #1009 was located in Flushing, Queens which was quite a distance east of that area of Queens.
Going by a Grand Lodge Proceedings dated 1954 lists the two lodges as separate. Geba #954 and Service #1009.
My bet is on Geba #954.
Bil was ultimately correct: their Secretary confirmed it was indeed Geba Lodge 954.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Who Sez Illuminati Freemasons Can't Be Arrested?

I guess we evil Illuminati Masons should keep the number for our bail bondsmen handy after all.

We've been on the road for the last ten days or so and still aren't home yet, so I'm a little behind on things. But this one came up on my alerts a couple of days ago out of Sebastian, Florida. I was hoping my Masonic license plate would keep me out of the pokey as we drove across the country, but now I'm not so sure.

The Indian River County Sheriff’s Office received a call in Sebastian about a male and female subject lying under a blanket in the grass near the complainant’s home.
As the deputy arrived, he walked to the area to perform a welfare check.

The female was later identified as 37-year-old Kristen Morrow, and the male was identified as 25-year-old George Major Davis.
Morrow came out from under the blanket and started yelling.
“I am part of the Illuminati and free masons. You have no authority and I don’t have to leave,” Morrow said, according to the report.
The deputy was fifty feet away when Morrow started yelling these things. As he approached further, a male subject appeared from under the blanket.
Morrow continued to “yell at the top of her lungs even as I stood a few feet from her,” the report said.
“She continued to yell and rant that she was a famous music talent and she knew judges and her family would have my job,” the deputy said in the report.
Then Davis began to yell why he was being detained. The deputy advised that he was there to perform a welfare check and that there was no reason to yell.
“He continued to yell along with the female about free masons and their impending music record deal and the celebrities, judges, and power their family had,” according to the report.
As they continued to yell, several occupants from the nearby apartment units had come out because of the noise. The deputy determined the disruption by the two subjects was affecting the peace and quiet of the residents.
Morrow and Davis were arrested and transported to the Indian River County Jail where they were charged with disorderly conduct.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Christ's Tomb Restoration Project Completed - For Now

I'll put my Knights Templar chapeau on for this post.

The long held sacred burial shrine of Christ, the Aedicule within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, has been partially restored over the last year after 200 years of non-stop arguing by the three sets of Catholic denominations (Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic) that control the site. After finally shutting up long enough to begrudgingly permit the €3.3 million project (that included an additional surprising and generous contribution by Jordan's King Abdullah), tourists are once again able to visit this place. It is believed to cover the cave where Jesus was entombed and resurrected. 

Photo showing the old 1947 scaffolding still in place before the 2016 renovation

The curiously distinctive metal scaffolding that surrounded the structure since 1947 when the British welded it in place to "temporarily" stabilize it has finally been removed. So, now the religious authorities can go right back to squabbling with each other again over such vital articles of faith like who has the right to move a ladder once left up against an upper story wall by a workman (the infamous "Immovable Ladder" that hasn't budged since at least 1757, and probably centuries before), and other similarly pressing issues. Even the Ottoman Turks gave up trying to reason with them, and the Roman Catholics' own official Papal policy about the place is literally called the "Status Quo." A rare canonical case of understatement.

But according to this article in National Geographic about the project, the crumbling structural problems underneath the Aedicule have not yet been addressed, and will very soon deteriorate if more work is not undertaken immediately. One wonders if the three denominations will ignore that problem, as they aways have - or just bitch about it, too - until the Israeli authorities again condemn the place and forbid visitors to force their hand, like they had to this time.

It's a testament to Christianity's own sectarian madness (on top of just the Middle East's own special brand of it) to note that the key to lock and unlock the Church's exterior doorway has been entrusted to an Islamic Arab family in Jerusalem for centuries. 

Because the Christians themselves have never gotten along well enough to have custody of the key to Christ's tomb.

Jesus wept.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

French Grand Master Attacked in Paris

Unfortunately, the age-old accusation that Freemasonry is some sort of evil Jewish plot to do...something...still lives on around the world, and flourishes, in particular, in parts of Europe. (I'll just ignore, for the moment, even discussing the Middle East, where it's just taken as fact and is regularly front page news.) In France, anti-semitism is on enough of an increase that an alarming number of French Jews have decided to emigrate to Israel and elsewhere instead of dealing with growing threat levels in their own country. Along with that has come what appears to ge a growth of anti-Masonic sentiment, as well. Case in point:

Several news sources are repeating a story from Paris' La Parisien paper this week that Christophe Habas, Grand Master of the Grand Orient de France, was attacked Wednesday night as he left their Paris headquarters by a woman wielding a hammer. As she struck him, she repeatedly yelled, "Jew!" before fleeing the scene.

From the March 23rd 
La Parisien story (via Bing and my high school French translations):
The grand master of the Grand Orient of France (GODF), Christophe Habas, was assaulted Wednesday, around 11:20 pm, in Paris, by a woman as he came out of the headquarters of the largest French Masonic obedience, on Cadet Street (ninth). The head of the GODF, 51, filed a complaint. An investigation for "voluntary violence" was opened and assigned to the territorial security of Paris, according to a police source.

'A woman armed with a hammer rushed on me', said Christophe Habas, who was able to wrest it with the help of passers-by. The woman then took flight, and the grand master of the GODF, a doctor, survived with a few scratches. 
The woman "made anti-Semitic remarks", according to the victim. "I think it was also anti-Masons", Christophe Habas, who the author's profile "seems to coincide" with a previously reported woman recently trying to write remarks hostile to the Freemasons on the asphalt of Cadet Street. 
According to Christophe Habas, who is also Chief of neuroimaging at the Quinze-Vingts hospital in Paris, she is probably "mentally ill, which, in a paranoid fit, gave free rein to her delirium in anti-masonic, anti-Semitic conspiracism."

The grand master of the GODF (with more than 50,000 brothers and sisters) is concerned about a possible resurgence of anti-masonry "especially at the present time, in an election period, with the social networks that are set on fire by spreading everything and anything."
Non-Masons don't tend to make distinctions between our own internal and arcane demarkations of who's regular and irregular—most especially when they go posting anti-Masonic news site comments, or say, bashing anyone they believe to be a Freemason in the head with blunt objects. All anti-Masons know is that we're all in on whatever bizarre, nefarious plot they believe in. I despise invoking the infantile "everything I hate is Hitler" analogy that is the current vogue these days, but it is nonetheless applicable in this very specific instance. When the Gestapo was rounding up Freemasons in occupied Europe, they didn't go around checking the dues cards to see who was "regular" and who wasn't. Nor did Franco's police, or Mussolini's. The slogan of "All Freemasons Jews, All Jews Freemasons" is an oldie but a goodie in much of the world, even if we don't hear it much over here. 

And it doesn't seem to be losing popularity anytime soon, I'm afraid.

UPDATE 3/26/2017:

Here's the punchline to this story: 

There's a certain tragic irony in my later discovery this afternoon that GM Habas was attacked as he departed a joint meeting and presentation between members of the Grand Orient de France and the Grande Loge Nationale Française on the subject of "Foundations of Violence To the Fraternity." 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Memento Mori Gas Logs

I haven't the slightest idea why, but I am passing along a link sent to me today by Ed Sebring, just in case anyone out there is in desperate need of a fireproof skull. 

You know, for those sooper-dooper, ultra-secret, "high-ranking-above-even-33°" Satanic Luciferian Masonic ceremonies we're all supposed to be engaging in.

According to the Amazon listing, they are also handy for your "gas fireplace, barbeque, or fire-pit." No mention of creepy Masonic stuff, but then that's just what "we" should be expected to hide from "them." 

Available in white, black, or brown. Pricey at $65 a - er, - head, but I'm sure they'll still sell like hotcakes.

Looking for Help: Malcom Davies Research Paper From 2007

I was contacted this weekend by a researcher in Amsterdam inquiring about the late Malcom Davies. I had the opportunity to meet him in 2007 at the International Conference on the History of Freemasonry in Edinburgh, and he delivered a paper at that event this researcher is trying to obtain a copy of: "The Mystical Muse: Early Masonic Operas, Cantatas and Dramas."  

Unfortunately, he passed away in 2010.

Is there any possible chance that anyone out there ever published Malcom's ICHF paper, or obtained a copy that I might forward to them? Their group, 401 Dutch Operas in the Netherlands, is hoping to perform some airs from a Dutch comic opera entitled, Les noces de Venus ou les filets de Vulcain in a concert at the Théâtre Français in the Hague. Because ICHF in 2007 did not publish the papers delivered at that event, I have been unable to find it, but perhaps someone else knows of a source.

Malcolm was named as the special chair of Freemasonry at the University of Leiden in the Hague in January of 2008. Although born in Crewe in the county of Cheshire, England, he had lived in the Netherlands for 20 years. He was trained as a musicologist, and he studied at Trinity College of Music in London and the University of Southampton, before moving to The Hague's Royal Conservatory of Frans Brüggen. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Utrecht on The Masonic Muse. Songs, Music and Musicians Associated with Dutch Freemasonry: 1730-1806.

In 2008, he organized a two day symposium in The Hague, where seventeen researchers from European and American universities lectured on the theme "The Expression of Freemasonry: Its ritual, oratory, poetry, music, literature, art and architecture." Brother Davies maintained the academic study of Freemasonry had to be very broad based so that we might understand the effects it had on society, as well as how it has adapted to suit the culture and time in which it resides. He argued for the study of a new "historiography" of Masonry: a greater understanding and examination of the political, philosophical, religious and sociological backgrounds of the 18th and 19th century Masons.

If you can help, please contact me at hodapp@aol.com and I will connect you and this researcher privately. many thanks.

Monday, March 13, 2017


I came across that damned word last night again in a conversation: McMason. It's a derogatory term used in the fraternity by some to disparage their own Brother Masons who received the degrees of Masonry at a One Day Class event. Variations include One Day Wonders, Blue Lightnings, Fast Food Masons, Sidewalk To Shriners, and other not especially flattering labels. Curious: I never knew we have two classifications of Master Masons in this fraternity. I thought we were just one sacred band, or society of friends and brothers, who could best work or best agree. 

Silly me.

My longtime friend and Brother Nathan Brindle reminded me this morning that we were both passed to Fellow Crafts and raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason 18 years ago today, just one day short of the portentous Ides of March. It was a Saturday all day event, and we were both raised on the floor of Calvin W. Prather Lodge 717, which was then on the north side of Indianapolis. It was their second of three locations throughout their history, and they have since relocated again to the east side in Lawrence. That prior building is gone now - razed and flattened several years ago - so I have nowhere to go and park and tearfully relive the day's events, wrapped in melancholia. (Interestingly, their first home still stands down on College Avenue, long ago sold and converted to a church, but at one time with the largest lodge room in the state.)

It was a curious day. Indiana had only recently started having One Day events, and our Mother Lodge, Broad Ripple Lodge 643 was in dire straits at the time. I joined Broad Ripple via an Internet contact I made to the Grand Lodge, and Roger VanGorden sent me their direction for reasons known only to him. When I petitioned, I mentioned it to Nathan, and he told me that he too had thought of joining the fraternity for many years himself, but never followed through. So, he petitioned about the same time. I've known Nathan only a few months less than Alice - about 40 years now - so we were both happy to share the experience.

I was initiated in November, but Broad Ripple was in sad shape. They would go on to lose five members from the officer's line in the next 12 months, and came close to deciding to just give up and turn in their charter. At my first meeting, David Bosworth, a Prather lodge Past Master, showed up and announced he had been appointed as a Grand Lodge Representative and was sent to find out just what the hell was going on at Broad Ripple. Things were not good at the new lodge I had just joined unwittingly. Indeed, the lodge was unable to confer the remaining degrees on Nathan and me for three months until they finally gave up and sent us to the One Day Class at Prather, simply out of despair.

But God love the dedication of true Brothers. WB Don Seeley was about the only serious ritualist we had at Ripple, but he was mighty good at it. He was the only member we had who knew the Master's part for all three degrees flawlessly, and delivered them all with passion. He knew Prather didn't have a strong lineup either, and they were holding the Class that Saturday because they were the Mother Lodge of then Grand Master Robert Hancock. He wanted to show the state how these could work. So, Prather had three men who needed all three degrees, and we had Nathan and myself. WB Seeley called them and said he'd cheerfully volunteer do the Master's part for the FC and MM for all five of us candidates. But his condition was that Nathan and I would have our second section of the MM conferred individually, all the way through. Then, he'd do it all over again for the other three men together however GM Hancock stipulated. It would make for a crushingly long, and for many, tedious day. But Nathan and I got to have our individual MM degree experience just as it was meant to be. Which makes us both sort of hybrids - we are sort of One Day Class Masons, but we aren't. There aren't any photographs of that day - I think everybody was just sick and tired of the place when the day's festivities finally ended that they fled out of sheer terror that somebody might decide to fire up the Royal Arch degrees at the last minute.

Nathan and I looked almost identical when we joined, although he was already starting to lose hair up top. He's also gone gray since then, taking on sort of a George R. R. Martin look, while I have retained my boyish floppy mane for almost five decades (apart from that whole radiation and chemo thing). It took a while before local Masons could remember which one of us was Hodapp and which was Brindle. The ladies in the Grand Lodge office eventually gave up in despair and finally just settled on referring to both of us as simply 'Brindap.' That seemed to solve it for most folks.

The lodge elected me in desperation as Senior Warden nine months later and Nathan as Junior Warden. And a month past my second anniversary as an EA, they made me the Worshipful Master of Broad Ripple 643. We didn't close or turn in the charter, and Nathan followed me to the East the next year. With dedication and hard work and stubborn bullheadedness, our Mother Lodge is now one of the most vibrant ones in Indiana, and I'll put our little lodge up against any in the country for excellence in every aspect.

Nathan has gone on to serve as Secretary or Recorder of at least six Masonic organizations that I can think of, including the only Secretary that the Masonic Society has ever had, with a couple of thousand members to keep track of. We both served on the Indianapolis Masonic Temple Board for our downtown landmark building, and have served on numerous Grand Lodge committees. We both were part of the Knights of the North who wrote Laudable Pursuit anonymously in 2004, which has been influential to lodges and grand lodges all over the country (and whose members were principally the founders of the Masonic Society). Ideas in that long paper also helped to impact what has become the Traditional Observance/European Concept/Observant lodge model in the U.S. We were both founding members of Lodge Vitruvian 767, itself a European Concept lodge. Nathan went on to serve as a top officer in the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis, and is now a Trustee for that magnificent Cathedral. And he's done countless other things locally, statewide, and nationally to help and influence the fraternity. Meanwhile, most of you know some of what I went on to do. 

Just a couple of us poor ol' dumb McMasons.

My whole point in relating this long soggy tale of which every one of you has your own variation is that Freemasonry is not about being a memorization club. It's not about the minutiae of how degrees are conferred - it's different all over the world, and just because it's one way where you come from, it's not that way everywhere. Yet, all those men are your Brethren, too. Just as us McMasons in lodge with you. Every single Mason has the power to make a difference in his lodge, his district, his state, his country, and the world, whether he received his degrees a month apart, a year apart, or an hour apart. It's what he does when he walks out of that Temple building that makes the difference. But it's also how you treat him when he sits in lodge with you. An ashlar doesn't polish itself. And the most certain way to make absolutely sure you never see that Brother a second time is to tell him he's some sort of second class Mason simply because his lodge chose to send him to a One Day Class for some reason you may not be privy to.

It's been studied countless times over the last 40 years by grand lodges. The participation rate of traditionally raised Masons over One Day ones is identical. How they got there makes absolutely zero difference. How they are treated by their lodges and their brethren, along with their own personal desire and dedication, is what matters.

Michael Shirley over on the Midnight Mason blogsite recently talked about this concerning those who regard One Day Class participants as somehow deficient, and observed, "They are setting themselves up as arbiters of what a Mason is, as if they themselves are on some Masonic pedestal to which these 'inadequate' Brethren must aspire." If you seriously believe a ODC Mason is somehow deficient of...something...then get off your own ass and teach him, instead of sneering at him for something that was almost assuredly not even his decision in the first place.

Otherwise, the next time you feel some adolescent urge to blurt out 'McMason!' to a man who's your Brother, put a sock in it and maybe think about what you've accomplished for the good of the Order lately, instead. And if he's shoveling harder and faster than you, get to work alongside him. Or at least thank him. At least he's building something. What are you doing?