Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Simon LaPlace Named New MSA Excutive Secretary

The Masonic Service Association of North America has officially announced that my friend Simon R. LaPlace, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut in 2013, has just been named as the new Executive Secretary of MSA. Simon is succeeding George O. Braatz, who is retiring after five years of service.

George will stay in his position through the end of the year.

Congratulations, Brother Simon!


Historic Masonic Documents Online


An expanding collection of historic Masonic documents and artifacts from the Scottish Rite's founding and development has recently been made available online by the dedicated folks at the Scottish Rite NMJ's  Van Gorden-Williams Library in Lexington, Massachusetts.  This message came today from the Library and Museum's Director, Jeff Croteau:
The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is happy to announce the newly launched Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website, which makes available some of the riches of the Library & Archives collection. The site currently includes 500 documents from the archives collection and continues to grow. Among the items that have been digitized so far are a large variety of Masonic certificates, a number of founding documents of the Scottish Rite, a selection of early 20th-century postcard views of Scottish Rite buildings throughout the United States, and the G. Edward Elwell, Jr. Autograph Collection of documents signed by well-known figures from American and European history. The site also provides access to a variety of other digitized materials reflective of the depth and breadth of the Library & Archives collection. 
Established in 1975 by the Scottish Rite Freemasons of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library tells the story of Freemasonry and fraternalism in the context of American history. Unique in the nation, the Museum aims to be the “historical society” of American Freemasonry by collecting, preserving, interpreting, and celebrating the history of fraternalism. We pay special attention to the history of the Scottish Rite and strive to serve the Masonic community.
We hope that you’ll explore the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website and take a look at the many wonderful documents that the Library & Archives preserves and makes accessible through the generosity of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, NMJ, USA, and its members. Let us know what you think. We are always happy to receive feedback from users. You can e-mail us at library@srmml.org.

To access the collection click HERE. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

UGLE Issues New Social Media Policy

The United Grand Lodge of England has issued new social media policies for their members who are readily identifiable online as Freemasons, whether posting on Masonic or non-Masonic pages and sites. 

Their longstanding Rule 179 states that a Freemason "has a duty not to engage in activity which may bring Freemasonry into disrepute." The new policy is a clarification of that wording and attempts to define just what that means in a world now dominated by Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, along with older Internet technology and platforms.

To read them in their entirety, click the below images to enlarge.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

NYC Bomb Close to GL of New York Masonic Hall


A quick comparison of maps of the New York City neighborhood of Chelsea where last night's explosion and subsequent second device were found shows that the Grand Lodge of New York's majestic Masonic Hall appears to be about a half block from the first explosion site.  Early news reports incorrectly showed the bomb that exploded was on the corner of 6th Avenue and West 23rd Street. The GL building is at 71 W. 23rd, directly across the street. One channel's site showed it directly in front of the building. 

The actual site of the explosion was in front of the Center for the Blind's residential apartments at 135 W. 23rd. The explosion happened at around 8:30PM.


A second device was found several blocks away at 27th Street, between 6th and 7th. It was defused by the NYPD Bomb Squad. It appeared to be constructed from a pressure cooker.

Approximately 29 people were injured by the blast, one seriously, and there were extensive reports of shattered windows throughout the area, as well as in passing cars unlucky enough to be directly in front of the bomb. 

However, messages this morning do not seem to indicate any Brethren were injured or killed, nor was there any damage to the Masonic Hall. For that, at least, we can be thankful. It was a crowded Saturday night in the popular NYC neighborhood, and directly in front of a blind center and St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church (although, the 170 year old parish was closed several years ago, despite major efforts to save it by area residents). The effects of this blast could have been far, far worse.

The photo below gives you some idea of just how close this was to the GL of NY. In the center is the St. Vincent de Paul Church, and on the right side of the frame is the Masonic Hall. The blind center residence is to the left.


Unbelievably, shortly after the bomb detonation in New York, another explosion was reported last night in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia just off of the pedestrian mall. It occurred at 3rd and Water Streets, just two blocks from Widow's Son Lodge No. 60's temple. Fortunately, authorities there have preliminarily determined it to have been an underground transformer explosion, and not related to anything nefarious.

Things were already on edge Saturday. Earlier in the day, a pipe bomb exploded in a trash can in Seaside Park, New Jersey at the site of a Marine Corps charity run. Similar to the New York incident, two more unexploded devices were located by authorities and defused. Registration for the Seaside Semper Five race was slower than anticipated, which delayed the start of the race. As a result, no runners were passing by the bomb at the time it exploded, and there were fortunately no injuries.


Brother Angel Millar passed along this photo from Sunday morning and reports that 23rd Street and 6th Avenue around the Grand Lodge are blocked to traffic, and police are still in the location. I also understand there are two parades scheduled in the city, and the President is traveling to the United Nations. So, chaos in the NYC area will be worse than the average Sunday. I suspect if you have a lodge or appendant body meeting on Monday at the GL building, you should call tomorrow just to make sure you can even get there or that the building is even open.


Brother Mark Koltko-Rivera passed this photo along with this message:
Another picture, this one from the website of The Daily Beast. The bomb went off between 500 and 600 feet west of Masonic Hall. In the photo, you see investigators at the actual intersection of 6th Ave. and 23rd Street, over 400 feet away from the blast. If you look on the upper margin towards the left, you see the bottom of the huge blue flag (with the words "New York" visible; the words "Grand Lodge" and the S&C are in gold, out of frame) that flies at the main entrance.




Please note: At of Sunday afternoon, there is absolutely NO indication that Masons or any lodge buildings were targeted in these incidents. I'm simply noting the close proximity of the explosions to lodge locations, as well as responding to messages of alarm from concerned Masons who are familiar with the areas involved. After the incident in Milwaukee earlier this year, security has been stepped up in many lodge buildings, especially larger ones. New York has certainly done so. But it pays to be aware. 

It's worth mentioning that none of these incidents have been linked to radical Islamic or Jihadist activity as of this moment, and it is likely in the New York situation that the bomber was completely unaware of the location of the nearby Grand Lodge. I am certainly not making such a link. Had he been motivated by Islamic fundamentalism, he undoubtedly would have placed it right in front of the Masonic Hall. 

As Brother Millar reminded me today, anti-Masonic language is common in many parts of the Islamic world, such as the Hamas Charter, Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education curriculum, Jihadist propaganda circulated by ISIS and al-Queda, and even mainstream Arab world publications. Yet, so many Western analysts who purport to be experts in terrorism are all too often totally ignorant of the anti-Masonic undercurrents in so much Islamist media. Masons are frequently linked with Zionism, principally because of our Old Testament symbolism. And our religious toleration is simply not to be tolerated. And so it continues.

Fortunately, in this weekend's incidents, we don't seem to have been in anyone's sights.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

SRICF Indiana College: A Transition

The Autumnal Equinox meeting of the Indiana College of the Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis was held this evening, and it was outstanding on all fronts. Our new Chief Adept Roger S. Van Gorden IX° officially presided over his first meeting, and as transitions go, it couldn't have been more spectacular - for both planned and unplanned reasons.

Due to a catastrophic flood that damaged the downstairs of the Murat Shrine earlier in the summer, our traditional meeting room was unavailable. As a result of a chain of events in scheduling, the majestic ballroom of the Scottish Rite Cathedral became available for us. So the location was perfect.

Roger and the incredibly talented John Bridegroom VII° spent the summer designing a series of appropriate symbolic banners for the room, and they helped to provide a whole new feel to the gathering.


The indefatigable Mike Brumback IX° started us down the path during his time as Chief Adept transitioning the College from just a bi-annual supper club that was started for former Grand Masters and Scottish Rite officers into a true Rosicrucian organization that actually exemplifies grades and hosts guest speakers.  Consequently, Roger's talk with us was to reaffirm that program, as well as to set the stage for a greater future concentration on the actual stated goal of the Society:
"The aim of the Society is to afford mutual aid and encouragement in working out the great problems of Life; and in searching out the secrets of Nature; to facilitate the study of the system of Philosophy founded upon the Kaballah and the doctrine of Hermes Trismegitus, which was inculcated by the original Fratres Rosae Crucis, A.D. 1450; and to investigate the meaning and symbolism of all which now remains of the wisdom, art, and literature of the ancient world."
It's probably too much to wish for that we'll be able to stay in the Scottish Rite ballroom in future, but it was certainly a perfect setting to set off on a new voyage for us all.

French author and aviator (and Freemason in the Grand Orient) Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, once wrote “If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood, and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Just a reminder to all SRICF members to be sure you have made reservations for the High Council annual meeting in Louisville November 4th and 5th at the Brown Hotel.  If you haven't, the program and reservation forms are HERE.

Hope to see all of you in November.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Masonry on TV: 'Queen Sugar'


A Brother just wrote this afternoon to let me know about an episode of Queen Sugar on Oprah Winfrey's OWN network that just recently aired. The episode is entitled "Evergreen," and is the second in the series. According to him, near the end of the show, a funeral takes place, and it depicted a Masonic funeral service, with the Brethren acting as pall bearers. He added that it was "well done," and several viewers remarked online that it was sensitively and accurately portrayed.

The drama is based on a book by Natalie Baszile, and is set in the fictional town of Saint Josephine, Louisiana. It tells the story of three estranged adult siblings and their struggles to run a sugar cane farm in the South, inherited after the death of their father, Ernest Bordelon.


The "Evergreen" episode centered around the funeral for their father in which the Masonic service takes place. The title was derived from the sprig placed on the deceased Brother's coffin during the ceremony.

(Thanks to Peter Pendergast for alerting me, and to Mark Leo for sending the image.)

Meriden, CT Temple Goes On the Block


The Meriden Masonic Temple in Meriden, Connecticut has just been put on the market.

From the myrecordjournal.com website today:
The Masonic temple on East Main Street is listed for sale and the lodges that occupy the space are trying to relocate to a smaller location in the city. 
Tom Gondek, president of the Meriden Masonic Temple Foundation, said although the 20,250-square-foot temple fulfills the needs of Center Lodge 97 and Meridian Lodge 77, membership can no longer sustain the cost of occupying the space.
“It can house a lot of people. The problem is a lot of people aren’t coming,” Gondek said. “The donations that we use to support the building aren’t nearly enough... It takes about $120,000 a year to run that building and we are probably in a shortfall of $35,000 to $40,000 a year.”
The three-story building was constructed in 1927 specifically for use as a Masonic Temple.
The Temple is home to  Meridian Lodge 77 (yes, I know, different spelling), Center Lodge 97, the Meriden Masonic History Museum,  and several appendant bodies.

Tom Accuosti brought up a program proposed by then Grand Master Simon LaPlace of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut back in April 2014, called Building & Organization Allied Sponsorship (BOAS) to create partnerships with private businesses specifically to find a way to save these irreplaceable buildings. Unfortunately, the plan vanished after Simon left office. That alone is a tragic enough comment. 

'Masonic' Pot?


Folks find "Masonic" symbolism in the damndest places sometimes. 

Brother Glen Stine sent the following message yesterday:
Interesting choice for a logo by an Illinois cannabis grower.
Ataraxia in Albion, Il. sells pot under the name 'Gold Leaf.'
Shown in the pic is their G6 strain. Seems sativas get an up arrow, indica a down arrow, and hybrids get both in the form of a square/compass.

The Catholic Church and Freemasonry

Back in 2009, Gate City Lodge 2 in Atlanta, Georgia held an outstanding series of lectures on the overall topic of Religion and Culture, which explored a wide variety of religious topics throughout the year. 

One of the presentations was "The Historical Relationship Between the Catholic Church and Freemasons: Why Roman Catholics are prohibited by the Church from becoming Freemasons,"  by Rev. Mr. John  J. McManus, JD, JCL. McManus is an attorney, a Catholic Deacon, and a Canon Lawyer, which means he has, in his words, "a pontifical licentiate that allows me to practice as a lawyer in the Tribunals, or courts, of the Roman Catholic Church, and also to advise the Archbishop or others regarding canonical issues, or those issues related to the law of the Roman Catholic Church." So, it is his job to know the most current and definitive rules within the Church.

I received a message this week from someone searching for the most up to date information on the subject of Freemasonry and the current position of the Roman Catholic Church. This is a common question I get asked by lots of men, and I always refer them to this link.

McManus' presentation is lengthy and extremely detailed in its citing of Roman Catholic laws, rulings, papal pronouncements, and the most current official position of the Church on Catholicism and the Freemasons. He was not at Gate City Lodge to accuse, defame, defend, proselytize, or argue.  He simply laid out the current information as it stands, along with the historical trail of laws and rulings that led to the Church's current position since Vatican II, and the subsequent statements of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1983, led by then Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI.

The complete paper can be read on the Gate City Lodge 2 website HERE.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Is the Official Date of Our Founding Wrong?


The joint Conference on the history of Freemasonry held by Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 and Queens’ College at the University of Cambridge in England concluded Sunday. The Conference was dedicated especially to the 300th anniversary of the founding of the first Grand Lodge of England in 1717.

Mark Tabbert reports that a paper was presented by Drs. Andrew Prescott and Susan Mitchell Sommers that, in his words, "conclusively proved that the Grand Lodge of England was NOT founded in 1717, but in 1721."

The researchers have apparently discovered detailed minutes pertaining to the creation of the Grand Lodge of of London and Westminster (precursor to the Grand Lodge of England, and finally the UGLE) in 1721 at the back of one of London's Lodge of Antiquity No. 2's minute books. The minutes of that gathering describe a large and well organized event. 

The Lodge of Antiquity is the descendant of the lodge that met at the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house in St. Paul's churchyard, and one of the four original founding lodges that formed the Grand Lodge.

In addition, the minutes apparently state that the founding Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge of England was actually John Montagu, the 2nd Duke of Montagu, and not Antony Sayer, as was stated in Rev. Anderson's 1738 Constitutions. Montagu has long been known as the first member of the nobility to serve as Grand Master, in 1721. But this paper upsets a rather substantial applecart of accepted Masonic history.

These newly discovered documents reportedly eliminate Sayer, George Payne, and John Theophilus Desaguliers from the lineup of first successive grand masters, along with moving the official founding date of speculative Freemasonry forward by four years.  

There has always been very little written record of that early period, aside from Anderson's account. So this discovery is of major importance. 

At the very least, UGLE may have to move their big banquet next year forward by four years...

There were some 160 delegates and guests in attendance at the Conference from around the world. The papers presented will be published next year, and members of the Q.C. Correspondence Circle will be able to purchase the book from Lewis Masonic at a substantial discount.


UPDATE 9/15/16:

Prof. Prescott presented sort of a prequel to this paper earlier this year in Ontario -  Searching For the Apple Tree: What Happened in 1716? 

Some of my takeaways from  the Sankey Lecture: Apple Tree Tavern was established in 1728, not 1716. It just wasn't there. So, the first meeting described by Anderson in 1716 simply could not have happened then or in that way. But there's LOTS to digest, including the lives of men mentioned by Anderson in 1738. Prescott doesn't say Anderson simply "made it up," but that he was charged by the GL to piece together a founding story from the records available in 1738.

It's a fascinating presentation. It's about an hour long.

But then I went and looked at Pine's engraved lists of lodges. Pine's list of lodges as early as 1725 lists 8 active lodges (with two already notably missing numerically). By 1729, there are 12. While the dates and people and places probably were reverse-engineered by Anderson in 1738, there were nonetheless 8 years after Anderson's claim of GL's formal founding at least 8 active lodges working. SOMETHING was happening to spread them. And George Payne obviously held SOME kind of position of importance at the time of Anderson's first edition in 1723, because Payne was said to have drafted the regulations in the book.

So THIS first paper presents obviously way more questions than it answers. Once the more recent paper given last weekend can be read and considered with this earlier lecture, it will be interesting to see the whole picture it presents.

Brother Stars in 'Sacred Steel Bikes' on Discovery


Brother Bill Beverly posted this image of the cast of Sacred Steel Bikes, a motorcycle-building program on the Discovery Channel. The gentleman on the left in the Templar Commandery-inspired apron is Jason Wilson. He also sports a prominent Masonic tattoo.

He is a Freemason in the Los Angeles area. On his Facebook page is a photo of him in his officer's collar.

From the Discovery.com website for the show:

Ten years ago, Jason started 'Douche LaRouche' to create an atmosphere to camaraderie for his fellow bike enthusiasts and best pals. In the past, Jason has used his skills as a premium craftsman to make parts behind the scenes for some of the biggest names in the motorcycle game. Jason is ready to take center state and leave his 9-5 behind once and for all.
But Jason has had theses dreams before - and failed. Consistently, he struggles to find the delicate balance of having fun with the LaRouche Crew and putting in the work to make a business grow. With a new shop and clubhouse and another shot at his dreams, Jason has rejuvenated his passion (and that of his fellow club members) to throw everything they've got into make Sacred Steel a sustainable future for them all. And to make 'Douche LaRouche' a club they can be proud of.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Arkansas: Floggings Continue, Yet Morale Doesn't Improve


(Please note: This story has been edited at 12:35PM on 9/12/16)

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, there was a stark difference between the way sailors were treated in the English Navy, versus the much, much smaller and newer American one. The upstart U.S. ship captains would treat their sailors well, share prizes of war among them as rewards, and earned the loyalty and dedication of their men. By contrast, English captains generally maintained discipline among their sailors by simply flogging them, often to death. Likewise, U.S. sailors were encouraged to know the craft of seamanship and actually learn how to chart their position at sea, whereas an English sailor who got caught trying to discover such information for himself would simply be hanged for knowing too much.

I thought about this dichotomy all week long.

I wish this hadn't been a slow news week around the Masonic world. I wish I could find another story to occupy space here this weekend. And I wish it didn't seem like I have unfairly singled out the Grand Lodge of Arkansas F&AM to spotlight over the last few weeks. I assure all of you, I have not. As I have said before, posting these stories brings me no happiness or sense of satisfaction.

But what has happened is that the cork has been taken out of the bottle and the genie has now escaped. When Arkansas tried to stamp out dissension in the ranks by forbidding electronic communication among their members about Masonic issues, and then actually charging and suspending or expelling their members for doing so, they didn't solve the very real problems that actually exist in their jurisdiction which have led to those messages and comments in the first place. As is almost always the case, attempts at a cover-up or censorship are usually far, far worse than a bad decision or simple misstep. So, now that Arkansas brethren have reached a breaking point with their leadership, the dam is breaking and the flood is starting.

In the last few days, I have received numerous entreaties from brethren within Arkansas to tell their stories, because their own brethren are forbidden to do so. I have permitted anonymous comments here because of the situation. If it was from just one crank or pest who clearly didn't play well with others or just had an axe to grind, that could be ignored. I get those all the time. But that's not the case. And as I said last weekend, it is now affecting other jurisdictions and appendant bodies, and their future fraternal relationships with the Grand Lodge of Arkansas

In the last week, at least two brethren received summonses to appear at the Grand Lodge in Little Rock, and unlike almost any other jurisdiction I have ever encountered, these summonses were accompanied by an additional letter that gave the Brother the choice to either appear personally to answer the charges, or simply sign on a line and "self-expel" from the fraternity. Failure to appear for any reason would be followed by an immediate suspension. In both cases, the registered letters containing the charges could not be picked up at the post office until the Tuesday following the Labor Day holiday. The demands to appear were scheduled for the very next day. In one Brother's situation, the drive to the location of his trial was a 3 1/2 hour trip from his home. When he called the Grand Secretary's office to request a later date because of his work commitments that he was unable to rearrange on such extraordinarily short notice, the extension was denied and he was told to simply sign the self-expulsion paper. When he mentioned that his Entered Apprentice degree had told him that his obligation to the fraternity was not meant to interfere with his duties to his family or vocation, he was informed that such considerations did not matter, and that he was simply to appear or be suspended.

In both cases, these brethren stood accused of violating the regulation against electronic communications by commenting on either this blog or on a Facebook post. It should be pointed out that an expulsion - whether self-inflicted, or officially ordered by the Grand Lodge - is for life. Few jurisdictions anywhere would ignore such a stain on the record of a Mason who attempts to join one of their lodges.

Last month, a Brother was similarly summoned to Little Rock over a post on Facebook that he had not made, but that another person had placed in the comment section of his page. It was a "meme" that showed an empty conference room table, and above each vacant chair there was a noose. The photo was captioned "Grand Lodge Officers' Meeting." His wife had posted the image, who was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. When he saw the image himself, he immediately deleted it, but it was too late. The brother was informed that the Grand Lodge looked upon this image as a 'terrorist threat,' and he too was offered a self-expulsion option. He subsequently received just a reprimand to be read in his open lodge and entered into the minutes. But during this hearing with the Grand Master, he was actually questioned whether he professed a belief in God - over a deleted photo that his wife had posted in jest, clearly seeing the reality of the current GL politics for herself.

The next day, the Worthy Grand Matron of the Arkansas Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star was telephoned by the GM and told that one of her members had broken the law (!) by posting the now deleted photo. It was clear that if she did not immediately remove her member from the rolls, the OES in Arkansas might receive the same fate as the Shrine in that state, and declared to be a clandestine organization. The lady demitted before a committe could be assembled to investigate.
(NOTE: Please see the response to this story from Vickie Staggs, Worthy Grand Matron, in the update below.)
Just in the last two weeks since the story broke publicly about the GS denying letters of good standing to brethren seeking to move out of state, the Grand Master and Grand Secretary in Arkansas have now told several secretaries individually that there is a new way to process demits - unofficially. In the Digest of Arkansas Masonic law it says that demits are to be presented to a lodge in writing, and if there is no objection in the lodge, it will be granted by his lodge's Secretary. But the new verbal guidelines being spoken of privately now are that if an Arkansas Mason desires a demit from his lodge, he must now appear in open lodge at a stated meeting and make the request personally. It will then be sent to the Grand Secretary's office to be checked against the suspension list. It was not revealed whether such demits would actually even be issued by the GS at all. This means that if an Arkansas Mason has moved out of state, or is deployed overseas in the military, he is now expected to fly back to Arkansas in time for his lodge's stated meeting, in order to request something as simple as a demit in person - that may or may not be granted by the GL.  This is blatantly an attempt by the GL to staunch the flow of Arkansas Masons seeking to either transfer out of the state, or simply withdraw their membership until better times come down the road. This is in addition to the increasing reports of the GS office not issuing letters of good standing to Masons seeking to transfer to states that recognize their Prince Hall counterparts.

In 1961, the East Germans built the Berlin Wall for a unique purpose. Almost every border fence, wall, and barrier around the world is erected in order to keep interlopers out. It is only when someone is attempting to imprison others that such an edifice as the one in Berlin gets constructed - to keep people who wish to escape inside. It appears that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas seeks to achieve that now.

Arkansas seems to be preventing those who wish to leave voluntarily from doing so, while ridding itself of those who express even the smallest hint of complaint. This is a volunteer organization. No one has to join it, and no one has to remain. Last week, I reported that between the 13 years of 2002 and 2015, the average loss of membership across the board among all U.S. grand lodges has been 32.8%, but that Arkansas leads the nation with a combined membership loss of 56.3%. There is a reason - or perhaps even a whole host of them - for that enormous difference there. In a reply to that post, Jay Adam Pearson, PGM of South Carolina and an honorary Past Grand Master of Arkansas, mused that an examination of the demits versus deaths would perhaps give a better understanding of that data. 

But I must simply ask here what I asked him - namely, are Masons just dying in greater numbers in Arkansas than anywhere else in the country? 

Or is it something else, over a long period of time?




UPDATE 9/12/16: RESPONSE FROM GRAND WORTHY MATRON OF ARKANSAS OES


This morning I received a message from Vickie Staggs, the Grand Worthy Matron of the Arkansas Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star.  
The original information about the episode did not come from Mrs. Staggs, and she had nothing to do with "leaking" any private information, including any details of her conversation with the Grand Master.

I have removed the word "threatened" and some other details of the call from the article, and apologize if I erred in the precise wording of her reported conversation. I had wanted to quote her message to me, but she has not permitted me to do that. Per her request, I have made changes above, but I have not just deleted the entire episode from the post. That was her desire, and I have reluctantly not done that. Perhaps that is not the gentlemanly thing to do, but I feel it is the best thing. 

The OES operates solely at the discretion of Grand Lodge and the Grand Master. If they lose his good graces, Arkansas has made it clear they have no hesitation to simply prohibit the Masonic connection with appendant groups in that state, as with their previous action with the Shrine.  I have no desire to make things difficult  or untenable for the OES or any other appendant body either at work in Arkansas, or whose officers and members outside the state have been affected by the  current actions going on. But pressure is being brought to bear on the appendant groups now, and the situation with the OES episode is NOT isolated. Nor is it just a local one.

Masons inside and outside of Arkansas need to know that. 







Background on this situation:


3/13/10: Grand Lodge of Arkansas Pulls Charter, Files Charges Over Website
12/16/10: News From Arkansas
2/17/11: A Gathering Storm In Arkansas
2/18/11: More Sad News From Arkansas
11/9/12: Shrine Declared Clandestine in Arkansas
1/31/13: South Carolina Suspends Relations With Shriners Internationa
6/19/16: Arkansas Rumblings
6/26/16: Reprehend With Justice
8/23/16: GL of Arkansas Suspends Grand Senior Warden
8/28/16: Grand Lodge of Arkansas' Yezhovshchina: Grand Line Officers Purged
9/3/16: More Antics Out Of Arkansas



Fifteen Years Ago


This is a difficult day for friends all over the country, but especially those who were in New York City and Washington D.C. now seemingly a lifetime ago. Some are sharing their own stories of where they were or who they lost. I have no story to share. Just another American who was driving alone in my company truck up a highway on my way to a job when the entire world suddenly changed at 8:46 AM on a Tuesday morning halfway across the country.

I have never forgotten a piece Peggy Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal a year after the Twin Towers were destroyed. It was called The Fall After Sept. 11, and her words have haunted me every year this terrible day rolls around:
"The other day I walked by Saint Vincent's Hospital in downtown Manhattan and thought, as I always do when I walk by: This is where they waited for the wounded. The interns and nurses waited outside right here with gurneys for patients who didn't come. Because so few people were "wounded." The three thousand were dead. What happened to them? They were exploded into air. They became a cloud. We breathed them in."

The stories today will all repeat the same dull statistic: "nearly 3000" died in all of the attacks that day, in New York, the Pentagon, and Shanksville. The numbers were tallied, concentrating on New York, mostly because it was all so very televised, so endlessly replayable. Times of impact: 8:46 AM and 9:02 AM. Time the burning towers stood: 56 minutes and 102 minutes. Time they took to fall: 12 seconds. 2819 dead from 115 different nations. 343 Fireman/paramedics, 23 NYPD, 37 Port Authority officers. Official estimates of how many people leapt from the buildings vary from 50 to 200. That's just New York.

Numbers.

They weren't "nearly 3000."  Not numbers. They were 2,977 of our citizens and neighbors and friends and families, who got up on a boring Tuesday morning, got dressed and went to work, who were murdered by 19 methodical madmen. They all have names, and faces, and stories, and lives they touched in life and in death.

One of the most famous and horrific photos taken that day was of a man who jumped out of a window of the North Tower. An AP photographer captured forever his last moment as he hung suspended in mid-air, now for eternity. It's come to be called "The Falling Man." He was anonymous for many years, until the image was finally identified as being of Jonathon Briley, a 43-year-old man who worked in the Windows On the World restaurant at the top of the building. His sister Gwendolyn was interviewed after being told that the iconic image was of her brother. She said,
"I never thought of the Falling Man as Jonathan. I thought of him as a man that just took his life in his hands for just one second.
"Did that person have so much faith that he knew that God would catch him - or was he so afraid to experience the end?"
In 2010, Vice President Joseph Biden and his wife Jill spoke in New York City at Zuccotti Park. He read portions of the poem "The Builders" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.

Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.

Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.

Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.

Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Amsterdam, NY Lodge Damaged By Car


Back in July, a Masonic lodge in South Carolina had an unwelcome visitor who installed a drive-thru entrance in their wall the hard way by crashing his car into their building following a high speed police chase.

Saturday afternoon, the brethren of the Amsterdam Masonic Center in Amsterdam, New York had a similar experience. albeit without the police chase.

From an article on the TimesUnion.com website:
An elderly woman lost control of her vehicle going down a hill the city on Saturday afternoon and it crashed into the Masonic Temple near Market and Division streets, police said. She was not seriously injured, officers said. 
The vehicle left a "huge hole" in the building, according to Sgt. Carl Rust. He said that the woman said she had lost control of her brakes. Pieces of the vehicle, including the bumper, were strewn along the path it took before hitting the building and the collision left it totaled.
Amsterdam Lodge No. 84 today is the result of consolidation of the former Artisian Lodge No. 84  and Welcome Lodge No. 829. The history of both earlier lodges can be found on Amsterdam No. 84's home page.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The End of 'The Living Stones'

In June of 2011, Brother Robert Herd and a handful of brethren embarked on a truly ambitious undertaking - the publication of a major, high quality, full color magazine dedicated to the subject of Freemasonry, and filled with original articles, photography and artwork - all amazingly published on a monthly basis. Outside of perhaps a handful of state and local, largely 'grip and grin' organs, and the notable exception of the Grand Commandary's Knight Templar Magazine, there is no other such major publication in the U.S. Even the Scottish Rite Journal and the NMJ's Northern Light do not attempt such a daunting schedule. And those three have tens of thousands of members supporting them. Robert's has been a private enterprise.

Sadly, the following message has just been posted on the Living Stones magazine website today:
Closing Our Doors 
Thank you to everyone who supported us for nearly 6 years as we strived to provide the best Masonic Magazine we could.  In the end we learned a lot of great Masonic education from so many around the world. 
We are no longer offering subscriptions or purchases. As we are closing our doors, we are only creating the few remaining issues to cover our obligation to current subsribers.  
Masonic history is littered with the fallen bodies of noble publications, some lasting only a few issues, others longer lived. Very, very few have survived for multiple decades (most notably The Philalethes magazine, and the MSA's much tinier but regular as clockwork Short Talk Bulletin in the U.S., and Quatuor Coronati's annual Ars Quatuor Coronatorum in the U.K. come to mind). Even the lionized National Masonic Research Society's The Builder lasted just fifteen years. Few have actually prospered, let alone retained a high standard of quality. 

It is a sad truth that the overwhelming majority of rank and file Freemasons just simply do not support them. 

In 1875, the prolific Albert Mackey opined in an essay,
The Mason, who reads, however little, if only the pages of the monthly magazine to which he subscribes, will entertain higher views of the Institution and enjoy new delights in the possession of these views. The Masons who do not read will know nothing of the interior beauties of Speculative Masonry, but will be content to suppose it to be something like Odd Fellowship, or the Order of the Knights of Pythias - only, perhaps, a little older. Such a Mason must be an indifferent one. He has laid no foundation for zeal.
If this indifference, instead of being checked, becomes more widely spread, the result is too apparent. Freemasonry must step down from the elevated position which she has been struggling, through the efforts of her scholars, to maintain, and our lodges, instead of becoming resorts for speculative and philosophical thought, will deteriorate into social clubs or mere benefit societies. With so many rivals in that field, her struggle for a prosperous life will be a hard one.
The ultimate success of Masonry depends on the intelligence of her disciples.
Now, it's entirely possible that Mackey was just simply bitching because no one bought his latest doorstop of a book. Masons certainly have snapped up works like Born In Blood, The Lost Symbol, The Hiram Key, and books labeled for Dummies and Complete Idiots. But Freemasonry has never required its members to be lettered scholars. The most unread book in Masonic history, Pike's Morals and Dogma, was given out for free by the Scottish Rite for over a century, and remained largely unviewed by its own members. Millions of our most talented, dedicated, brotherly, and competent leaders and workers in our quarries never picked up a Masonic book in their entire lifetimes. But there is nevertheless truth in what Mackey said. 

No one gets rich publishing Masonic works. The regular production of an independent Masonic publication of any kind must be a true labor of personal dedication and commitment, because it is usually doomed to struggle without the backing of a large, well financed organization like a grand lodge or national appendant body. This is true even with quarterly and annual ones, much less the harrowing task of achieving monthly status. Back when we started the Masonic Society in 2008, we knew that the principle and most high-visibility accomplishment would have to be the Journal, and just getting enough high quality submissions for a quarterly periodical - along with attracting enough members to support it - was going to be a supreme challenge from the start.

What Brother Herd and his regular and occasional authors and artists achieved has been nothing short of amazing. Just putting together a stack of original printed material on a monthly basis that was interesting, thought-provoking, and useful to Freemasons would have been enough of an accomplishment, and even a lousy magazine that looks professional and has its monthly pages filled still takes days of work just to assemble. But Robert's has been a beautiful product since the beginning, and always contained something original and compelling. His was indeed a noble effort and a laudable pursuit.

The header above the announcement seems to indicate that they will publish through June 2017 to satisfy the commitment to subscribers. It will be missed.


Requiescat In Pace