Wednesday, June 22, 2016

‘Angel Millar lecture at Livingston Masonic Library next month’

     
Bro. Angel Millar will present a lecture July 28 on “Freemasonry and Traditionalism in the East and West” at the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of the Grand Lodge of New York.

7 p.m. on the 14th floor of Masonic Hall, at 71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan.

Millar is a Masonic researcher and author whose books include Freemasonry: Foundation of the Western Esoteric Tradition and The Crescent and the Compass. He is a member of The American Lodge of Research as well.

Don’t forget RW Bro. Jean-Luc Leguay’s lecture tomorrow night. And be sure to check out the library’s newly redesigned and more functional website.
     

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

‘Summertime Stories’

     
We’re about 24 hours into summer, and if you are looking for things to do in the coming months, keep the School of Practical Philosophy in mind. School’s out until September, but it offers various lectures and programs, including the Summer Stories. From the publicity:





We often hear the phrase “You are not your story!” and with just a little self-reflection we know that it is true. Yet, stories also can point the way to self-knowledge and bear witness to acts of heroism, transformation, and true love. They can awaken the desire for knowledge and truth, arouse the sleeping giants within us and, perhaps most importantly, make us laugh at our foolish antics and grandiosities. In fact, with an attentive heart, hearing stories can change your life.

Please join us for our series of summer evenings filled with tales of the great masters that provide humor, direction and good company for the journey.

Friends and family are welcome.

Four Tuesdays: July 12 and 19, August 16 and 23

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: 12 East 79th Street, Manhattan.

Tickets, at $15, which includes refreshments, may be purchased on-line.
     

Sunday, June 19, 2016

‘Livingston Masonic Library on the radio’

     
Last Sunday, WFDU broadcast an interview with the librarian and the curator of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of the Grand Lodge of New York.

Click here to listen to the 30-minute chat.

Every Mason should visit this amazing resource, if you can. Hours are:

8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; and noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

That’s the 14th floor of Masonic Hall, located at 71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan.
     

Saturday, June 18, 2016

‘Grand Master Sardone. Has a nice ring to it!’

     

Congratulations to Bill Sardone, a brother New York Freemason, on becoming today the new Grand Master of DeMolay International, one of the youth groups within the Masonic family.

Photo: Bill Sardone, at right, joined by MW Bill Thomas, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York and his wife, Susan Taylor Thomas. Courtesy Gill Raoul Calderon.
      

Friday, June 17, 2016

‘The Masonic Society brings the school to you’

     



Masonic Society School
announces pilot course


The Masonic Society School is proud to announce its pilot course, The History and Philosophy of Freemasonry, with historic readings, online video commentaries on the readings, and a discussion forum. The course will take place online October 17-December 19, 2016. Click here.

The readings and nine video commentaries will include:


  • overview of the early operative masons
  • formation of the Grand Lodge of England and its constitutions
  • Masonic jurisprudence
  • practice and nature of Masonic initiation
  • Freemasons at the time of the American Revolution
  • anti-Masonic movements
  • women in Masonry
  • Rosicrucian and Egyptian influences in Masonry
  • spiritual nature of Masonry
  • and more


Students and the instructor will have a private forum for discussing the readings and commentaries.


The course is open exclusively to Masonic Society members. A video introduction and registration form, as well as information on joining the society, are available on the society’s website.

The instructor of the course will be Michael R. Poll, owner of Cornerstone Book Publishers. and a New York Times bestselling writer and publisher. He is a fellow and past president of The Masonic Society, and a fellow of the Philalethes Society.
     

‘See Eleven Beatus on Tuesday’

     
In other Jean-Luc Leguay news, word comes from Bro. Francis Dumaurier of a special night planned for Tuesday in his lodge.


Special presentation of “Eleven Beatus”
by Bro. Jean-Luc Leguay
Tuesday, June 21 at 6 p.m.

l’Union Française Lodge 17
Masonic Hall
71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan
French Doric Room, 10th floor




The lodge will host Bro. Leguay for a presentation of “Eleven Beatus,” the work created by the Master Illuminator in tribute to those killed on September 11, 2001.

Leguay, already a famous choreographer and director of several great theaters and operas in France and Italy, developed a passion for the art of manuscript illumination, a tradition dating to the eighth century. He started to study in 1980 with a hermit in southern Italy, who taught him the craft secrets of this sacred art that incorporates symbolism, colors, and geometry.

After he had learned to master the skills necessary to select the proper parchment materials, the techniques of making his own colors from organic sources, and the art of painting his subjects, the artist gradually began to dedicate his life entirely to this craft when his teacher passed away in 1990.

More biographical details, as well as splendid examples of his work, can be seen here.

“Eleven Beatus” will be on display for all to see while the artist introduces it from his own personal perspective. There will also be other masterpieces on display as well as a copy of the amazing 64-page manuscript of paintings that enlighten the theme of “Initiation.”

Bro. Leguay is a Mason at labor in Giordano Bruno Lodge 181 under the Grande Loge Nationale Française, and his presentation will be in French. All present will have the opportunity to shake his hand, view the masterpieces, and receive one of the souvenir tricolor coins which were recently minted for UF17.

The meeting will be tiled but the Great Lights will be lowered to the First Degree in Masonry during his presentation so that Entered Apprentices and Fellow-Crafts may attend.

A post-meeting three course dinner with wine will follow on the 15th floor in the French style of our very own Executive Chef, W. Daniel Monneaux, DSA. The cost will be a minimal, all-inclusive $40 (cash only) per person. Reservations for this dinner are required, and can be made with the lodge secretary here.
     

‘Celebrating a historic grand master’

     
Magpie file photo
Bust of Daniel D. Tompkins at the church.
I didn’t know this was an annual tradition, but the Freemasons of Tompkins Lodge 471 in Staten Island do conduct a graveside memorial service at the final resting place of their lodge’s namesake, Daniel D. Tompkins, marking the anniversary of his birth—and they will do so today.

Daniel D. Tompkins was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York; Governor of the State of New York; the first Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite; and the sixth Vice President of the United States.

Click here for more information and photos of a past commemoration.

Today’s event will be led by Worshipful Master Justin Mack, with lodge brethren, beginning at 6 p.m. at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, located at 131 East 10th Street in Manhattan.


Magpie file photo
The gravesite of Daniel D. Tompkins.

Tompkins was born June 21, 1774 in Scarsdale, New York, and died June 11, 1825 in Tompkinsville, New York.
     

‘New Light on the Gormogons’

     
Maryland Masonic Research Society will host its Annual Festive Board August 1 in Columbia, Maryland. RSVP here before July 20. From the publicity:




Seating is limited. Please confirm your attendance via e-mail before sending your check. $45 per person for dinner (includes beverage and gratuity). Cash bar at 6:30 and dinner at seven.

Distinguished Presentation:

“New Light on the Gormogons”

by S. Brent Morris

The Gormogons suddenly appeared in London newspapers in 1724 as a rival to the Freemasons both in exclusivity and antiquity. It had been thought they disappeared in 1732, but new evidence including a previously unrecognized 1733 London play—show that their reputation persisted until the end of the 18th century.

Morris is a Past President of the Maryland Masonic Research Society, Past Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076, current managing editor of The Scottish Rite Journal, and author of numerous books and articles on Freemasonry.
     

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

‘Now on sale: Freemasonry on the Frontier’

     

Tickets to The Masonic Society’s Fall 2016 Conference, titled “Freemasonry on the Frontier,” scheduled for October 7 to 9 in California, are available now via eventbrite.

Click here for the ticketing options. Click here for all the info about the conference.

From the publicity:


Featured Speakers

Friday Evening:

Samuel Langhorn Clemens: Brother Samuel Clemens was made a Mason in 1861, at Polar Star Lodge 79, St. Louis, Missouri. His many literary works (often published under the pen name Mark Twain) include “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (set less than 135 miles from the site of this conference) and Roughing It, an account of Clemens’ life and travel on the Western frontier.

Clemens’s appearance is made possible by WB Jefferson H. Jordan, Jr., immediate past grand master of Masons in New Mexico and an authority on Clemens’ life and work. He is past master of Temple Lodge 6, Albuquerque, past district deputy grand lecturer for two years, and past district deputy grand master.


Saturday Morning:

Mark A. Tabbert: “George Washington and the Masonic Frontiers of the 1700s”

Worshipful Brother Mark Tabbert has served as curator of the Scottish Rite National Heritage Museum, and currently is director of collections at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia. He is past master of Mystic Valley Lodge, Arlington, Massachusetts, and Lodge of Nine Muses 1776, Washington, DC. He is a full member of Quatour Coronati Lodge 2076, London, and a member of the Society of Blue Friars.

Tabbert is the author of American Freemasons: Three Centuries of Building Communities; Museum and Memorial: Ten Years of Masonic Writings; and, with William D. Moore, Secret Societies in America: Foundational Studies of Fraternalism.

He is working on three books on George Washington and Freemasonry-related topics.


Saturday Evening:

John Bizzack: “The Expansion of Freemasonry into the West: The Pivotal Role of Kentucky, 1788-1810”

Worshipful Brother John Bizzack is a 25-year veteran of the Lexington (Kentucky) Police Department and, more recently, Commissioner of the Department of Criminal Justice Training for the Kentucky Justice Cabinet.

Bizzack is a member of Lexington Lodge 1, where he serves as the Education Committee chair and coordinator of the Masonic History and Study Group. He is author of several books and numerous papers on leadership, criminal investigation, and organizational management, as well as five books, along with dozens of publications, about Freemasonry. He speaks nationwide on the criminal justice system, critical thinking, and Freemasonry.


John Cooper: “Freemasonry and Nation-Building on the Pacific Coast: The California Experience”

MWB John Cooper is a past grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of California, having served for almost eighteen years when he retired in 2008. In 2013-14 he served as grand master of Masons in California. He holds a Ph.D in education from Claremont Graduate School, and before becoming grand secretary, he held various teaching and administrative posts in the public schools of California.

A Mason since 1964, Cooper served as master of James A. Foshay Lodge 641 in Los Angeles, and is both a 33º Mason in the Scottish Rite, and a Knight of the York Grand Cross of Honor in the York Rite. His primary interest in Freemasonry has been the history and philosophy of the Craft, and he has published numerous papers on Freemasonry. He has served as master of both Northern and Southern California research lodges, and currently is president of the Philalethes Society.
     

‘Illuminating Livingston Library lectures’

     
Courtesy Jean-Luc Leguay

The Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of the Grand Lodge of New York will launch its 2016 lecture series next week with a Freemason’s presentation on manuscript illumination. From the publicity:


2016 Lecture Season Begins
Thursday, June 23 at 5:30 p.m.
with Jean-Luc Leguay,
world renowned master illuminator

The Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of the Grand Lodge of New York is proud to announce the first lecture of the 2016 Lecture Season will be given by Approved Master Illuminator, artist and writer, Bro. Jean-Luc Leguay.

Leguay began studying the art of manuscript illumination in 1980, learning this ancient tradition from a Franciscan hermit in Southern Italy. Illuminated manuscripts are those in which there are decorations added to the text, such as along the borders, in the beginning letters of paragraphs, and in miniature illustrations.

When his Master died in 1990, Leguay became one of the few keepers of the traditional Italian knowledge. He is the first layman of this tradition, which dates to the eighth century, and he was taught the knowledge of symbolism and sacred texts, as well as the arts of colors and geometry.

Illumination is the art of giving light, and illuminators, like the builders of cathedrals, are geometers, or those skilled in the mathematics of geometry. Illumination contains a secret geometry which leads to a metaphysical understanding of the ancient art. The images convey the sacred and offer a path into the mysteries of mankind’s origin.

The main focus of the lecture will be a parchment painting by Leguay which gives tribute to those lost during the attacks of September 11, 2001.

For the Masonic fraternity, the concepts of light and geometry are central to ritual, and, as Jean-Luc Leguay is a Brother Freemason, this lecture will touch on topics that will be of great interest to Freemasons, to those who are interested in Freemasonry, to those interested in the rare knowledge of illumination, to ¬those who have a love of art, and to those touched by the tragedy of 9/11.

Join us at Masonic Hall for this first in a series of exciting and “illuminating” lectures! The free lecture begins at 5:30 p.m., and white wine will be served.

Please RSVP here. Write RSVP in the subject line of the e-mail, and your name and contact information in the body of the e-mail.
     

Monday, June 13, 2016

‘How about a nice game of (Rosicrucian) chess?’

     
A mention of chess is sure to halt me in my tracks; add the name Rosicrucian to the word chess, and I’ll do a double take; and expose to me the notion of a Rosicrucian chess set on the anniversary of William Butler Yeats’ birth, and I’ll take a minute to blog about it. And that’s what happened today. Perusing my favorite social media site, I happened upon a link to a vendor of such chess sets, sometimes also known as Enochian Chess.

Designed by MacGregor Mathers & Co. in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the nineteenth century, Rosicrucian Chess retains all of the chess piece names that you know, and most of their freedom of movement (the queen is afforded one different capability from what we have in standard chess), but the pieces are pyramid shaped and as many as four players may compete. With sets of pieces for four players, the pieces are in four colors, and they represent the Elements. Red for fire; blue for water; yellow for air; and black for earth. The purposes of this chess variant are divination, meditation, and recreation—which some of us could say of traditional chess!

The chess board has more to offer than the two-tone surface reminiscent of the floors of Masonic lodges, as you can see in these photos borrowed from icehousegames.org that show a Golden Dawn symbol within each of the 64 squares.



Courtesy icehousegames.org

Courtesy icehousegames.org

Courtesy icehousegames.org


Don’t ask me about the rules of the game. I haven’t a clue, but Israel Regardie writes of them in his The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic.

(For the record, Golden Dawn is not my thing. While I believe intuitive acceptance complements our pursuit of the rational, most systems of esoteric teaching are beyond my abilities and interests. HOGD is one of them, but if you’re so inclined, I would steer you toward here, the order led by Chic and Tabatha Cicero, although I do not know if they play this chess.)

Well, I’m off to lodge now. Will be visiting Cincinnati Masonic Lodge No. 3 in Morristown, New Jersey to greet Chris Hodapp on his current speaking tour.
     

‘Emerson and Spiritual Knowledge’

     
Ralph Waldo Emerson, as a topic at least, will return to the School of Practical Philosophy next month in another lecture to be presented by Barbara Solowey. From the publicity:


Emerson and Spiritual Knowledge
with Barbara Solowey
12 East 79th Street
New York City
Thursday, July 21 at 7 p.m.
$25 per person

The teaching of Ralph Waldo Emerson is an expression of the highest spiritual knowledge, the philosophy of Unity known as Advaita. Drawing on the wisdom of Plato and the Eastern spiritual traditions, he proclaims the Supreme Reality: the Oneness of God, the Soul, and the Universe.

Emerson knew from direct experience and observation that realization of this Unity is possible. His call to humanity was for a new consciousness “to restore that bond by which their own self was linked to the Eternal Self; to recover that unity which had been clouded and obscured by the magical illusion of reality, by the so-called Maya of Creation.” (The Orientalist notebook)

Join us to discover how Emerson’s transcendental teaching to discover “the infinitude of the private man” can inspire us in our own journey to be Self-reliant, to awaken Reason, and to follow Divine Law.

Tickets at $25 which includes refreshments may be purchased here.
     

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

‘Art, music & books’

     
The Anthroposophical Society of New York City has a busy calendar of events for June, including these two that are open to the public. From the publicity:


Saturday, June 11
2 to 4 p.m.
Used Book Sale Fundraiser

Join us for this sale of a wide array of pre-owned books—treasures from Anthroposophists’ collections donated, including basic books, art books, and some quality novels, poetry, etc. Bring a tote bag and take home books by Steiner and others for pennies on the dollar! Donate books at the Branch up to June 8. Refreshments and entertainment.


Saturday, June 25
7 to 9 p.m.
Art Exhibit and Concert
with Nikola Paskalov on piano
Donations welcome

Come celebrate with music and an elegant repast as we say farewell to the art exhibit of Doug Safranek and Lynn Loflin, and enjoy a short piano concert. Chopin, Ligeti, Scriabin, and Glassl, played by Nikola Paskalov.

Nikola Paskalov

Nikola has performed internationally, solo and chamber concerts throughout Europe and in his native Macedonia. His recent solo recital in the Pianists of the World Series at St. Martin in the Fields in London, and his Carnegie Hall debut recital have been enthusiastically received. Nikola is performing this evening in honor of the work of Doug and Lynn.
     

Sunday, May 29, 2016

‘From the clay grounds between Succoth and Zeredatha?’

     
I’m always happy to turn the discussion to pipe smoking. Part of the unsung work inherent in being the Magpie Mason is assisting archaeologists identify clay pipes from centuries ago that they unearth in their digs by decoding the Masonic symbols displayed on the clay. It’s not that this happens every day, but it’s often enough that I would remark on it.

Click to enlarge.

Clay itself figures prominently in Masonic symbolism. In the First Degree rituals in many (most?) lodges in the United States, clay—formerly called “earthen pan”—is grouped with chalk and charcoal as symbolic of the Entered Apprentice’s qualifications. Chalk is said to be the freest of substances, thanks to the ease with which it can leave a trace. Charcoal is dubbed the most fervent, because when ignited the most obdurate metals will yield. And clay is called the most zealous because it is constantly employed in man’s service, and also ever reminds us that from it we all came, and to it we must all return.

Clay also is discussed ritually in lodge when it is explained to the Apprentice how GMHA fabricated sacred vessels for the Temple, as well as the two pillars in the porch.

Because of the mouth-to-ear transmission of ritual from one Mason to another that prevailed for generations before the introduction of official ritual ciphers, errors and anomalies made their way into the work. If I remember correctly, the ritual in New Jersey requires that “clay” be misspoken, with a superfluous second syllable, as “clay-ay.” Thus, the line is delivered: “From the clay-ay grounds between Succoth and Zeredatha.” (Taken from 1 Kings 7: “In the plain of the Jordan did the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarethan.” The Zeredatha vs. Zarethan thing is a whole other story.)

Anyway, this is about pipe smoking. Clay pipes were the ubiquitous standard for several centuries before French villagers discovered the superiority of briar, and began making pipes of that lightweight but durable wood. We’ve all seen the woodcuts and paintings from the Netherlands, England, and elsewhere depicting people of all ages smoking their luxurious tobacco leaves in clay pipes of various lengths. The churchwarden had a length of 16 to 18 inches, ideal for sparing your fingers the dangerous heat of the bowl. Other pipes measured a more convenient seven or so inches. Communal pipes made available in public houses started out at about 18 inches, but had a short section of the stem amputated to afford the next user a relatively clean section to put into his mouth.

So the clay pipe artifacts brought to my attention in this case are shown here. This pipe bowl was found in St. Mary’s Church in Mold in North Wales during renovations. (Photos courtesy M. Jones.)

We can discern most of the Masonic symbolism, but between the condition of the pipe piece, and the quality of the photos, and the artistic license taken in the design, some of the designs leave one guessing.

Click to enlarge.
Here we’re looking at the pipe’s bowl from the rear. The stem is broken and gone, but we understand this is the view of the pipe the smoker would see while puffing away on his New World tobacco. No question about the compasses at top. Perhaps that is meant to be a square at bottom, or a second compass, the two tools forming a frame inside of which is the radiant sun.

Click to enlarge.

On this side is shown three castles. I take this to be more of a local emblem than a universally known Masonic symbol. A triangle of castles is a common sight in heraldry and other emblems of family and other local significance. My guess here is these castles speak to one particular lodge that might have commissioned the manufacture of a stock of these pipes. No doubt about the square below the castles. Below that, however, are a few items I cannot decipher. At the heel of the bowl, I think we’re looking at Jacob’s Ladder with a man in ascent. Albeit seemingly upside down.

Click to enlarge.

On this side we have the crescent moon with Pleiades at the top. A very common pairing seen on tracing boards and other art. Below them is what I’ll say is a level. Below that is something I cannot guess at.

On the front of the bowl (seen only in that group photo above) is something from the vegetable world. Not tobacco leaf, but what seems to me to be a sheaf of wheat.

And finally, here is a photo that depicts a similar clay pipe, shown on a page of Les Francs-Macons et la Mer de la Loge au Quai, published last year to accompany an exhibit at the Grand Orient of France’s museum, in which the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library provided some assistance.

     

Saturday, May 28, 2016

‘Chemical Wedding: The first book of science fiction?’

     
On Monday, The Guardian published a story on the The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz, one of the three Rosicrucian manifestos published four centuries ago, thanks to the pending publication of a new version of the story. At issue is whether the original, penned by Johann Valentin Andreae, is the first sci-fi novel ever published, as contended by the writer who is producing the new edition. The following is copyright © 2016 The Guardian.



Work from 1616 is
‘the first ever science fiction novel’

A fantastical story of Rosicrucianism
by Johann Valentin Andreae pioneered the genre,
says author who has written a new version


A 400-year-old story about a man who journeys to a mysterious royal wedding is “the first science fiction novel,” long predating Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and other, later writers considered pioneers, according to the award-winning writer John Crowley. In his opinion, the genre starts with Johann Valentin Andreae’s 1616 work The Chemical Wedding, a new version of which he is publishing in November.

Andreae’s story opens as a winged woman, “so bright and beautiful, in a sky-colored robe,” invites Christian Rosencreutz—the real-life founder of the philosophical secret society of Rosicrucianism—to a “Royal Wedding.”

“If God Himself decree it, Then you must to the mountain wend Where three stately temples stand. From there you’ll know Which way to go. Be wise, take care, Wash well, look fair, Or else the Wedding cannot save you,” says a letter which sends Christian on a seven-day journey to serve the Bridegroom and the Bride, in Crowley’s new version of the text.

The book was published in Germany in 1616 as if it were the work of Rosencreutz, and was part of the widespread excitement over Rosicrucianism. Andreae later admitted he was the author. Crowley, winner of a world fantasy award for lifetime achievement, has written a new version of the story, drawing from extant English translations and working with a German scholar. His is the first new version of the story in at least 25 years, according to publisher Small Beer Press, which will release a paperback version in November illustrated by Theo Fadel. Crowley first discovered it in the writings of Frances Yates, who thought it was a political allegory—something Crowley disagrees with.

“It’s not a tract, and I actually don’t think it’s an allegory. I think it’s a ‘Thrilling Wonder Tale,’ taking the most extreme possibilities of the alchemy of the day and deploying them in a story as though they are actual happenings,” Crowley said. “Science fiction works the same way—[to] take the farthest-out science possibilities and embody them in stories.
“When Andreae confessed late in life to writing it he called it a ‘ludibrium’—a Latin word that can mean a joke, a skit, a jeux d’esprit or a hoax. I don’t think he was trying to disown it, but he certainly didn’t seem to want it taken with full seriousness. And it’s the fun, the outlandish incident, the surprises, and the wonderful main character—Christian Rosenkreutz, an old self-doubting, curious, kindly, horny guy—all that’s what I wanted to bring to new readers.”

Published in 1616, The Chemical Wedding predates Johannes Kepler’s novel Somnium, which was written in 1608 but not published until 1634 and “which usually gets the nod” as the first science fiction story. But as Crowley writes in his introduction to The Chemical Wedding, Somnium “is more of an illustrated example or thought-experiment than a real story,” and while “the astronomy underlying it is new … it doesn’t carry the thrill of wild but just-around-the-corner possibilities that SF ought to.”

He says that the science of The Chemical Wedding “is late Renaissance alchemy, which had the same fascination for readers of the time as the scientific possibilities of classic SF did in its last-century heyday.” Crowley admits that “alchemy is not science if by science we mean only what is now included in that accretion of tested knowledge that still holds up as true even if primitive or inadequate.” Nonetheless, he argues, “alchemy is science … in the sense that it had a general picture of the material world and a rational scheme for formulating hypotheses and proceeding with investigations of it.”

“So that’s why The Chemical Wedding is the first science fiction novel: unlike other contenders, it’s fiction; it’s about the possibilities of a science; and it’s a novel, a marvelous adventure rather than simply a parable or an allegory or a skit or a thought experiment,” writes the author, adding that “like SF, it probably appealed to a self-selected readership of geeks and enthusiasts.”

Experts in the field were delighted at the news of the book’s reissue, but are not entirely convinced by Crowley’s claim. “If the modern novel as such is 17th century and is a ‘thing,’ then it cannot qualify as the first SF novel. If, on the other hand, any lengthy tale is a novel, surely Utopia [published in 1516] is the first SF novel,” said Professor Farah Mendlesohn, a science fiction academic. “But that doesn’t mean it’s not fascinating.”

“There are lots of 16th-century utopias and dystopias, which I’d say have a better claim to being SF than Chemical Wedding. Thomas More’s Utopia was first published in 1516 after all,” said Adam Roberts, professor at Royal Holloway and science fiction novelist. “Alchemy isn’t science, it’s magic: so it’s a stretch to call it ‘science fiction.’ Nor is this the first ‘alchemical novel’ and it certainly isn’t the first magical story. There are plenty of alchemical and magical romances throughout the medieval period and further back.”

“There is a qualitative difference between stories of magic, which go back through medieval romance to Beowulf and the Odyssey, and stories that extrapolate from the new discourses of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, which we call ‘science’ The Chemical Wedding doesn’t extrapolate anything; it’s a Biblical allegory and magical fable.”

SF author John Clute’s entry for Andreae in The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction notes Crowley’s argument, adding that “in terms of its complex narrative register, the tale might also be described as a ludic fiction for its combination of burlesque, satire and deadpan elevatedness.”

“In the Science Fiction Encyclopedia we use the term ‘proto SF’ for most texts before Mary Shelley, and even some after,” said Clute. “Working out the first SF novel is not easy, a bit like looking for the source of the Nile in an alternate world where there is no Lake Victoria to discover.”
     

‘Hermetic Rite, Fratres Lucis, Fiery Heart, and more’

     
I hate to sound like a broken record, but if you’re a thinking Mason but not yet a member of the Grand College of Rites, then you leave me skippin’ and jumpin’ like a needle on the hi-fi. The primary benefit of membership—well, maybe it’s second after improved posture and clear skin—is receipt of the annual volume of Collectanea, which transports you to another world through the portal of a retired, unknown work of Masonic (or other) ritual. The initiatory thinking of generations past springs to life for your profit, giving you a seat on the sidelines to learn not just the unique lessons of a particular rite or order, but also to enjoy the often beautifully crafted language of the rituals.

But if you’re a regular Magpie reader, you know that already. I’m writing today simply to forward the message sent this afternoon by our Grand Registrar, R.I. Gerald Klein, who announces the new availability of four Collectanea reprints. Here’s what he says:


We are very proud to announce that four volumes of Collectanea have been reprinted for our members.



Courtesy Grand College of Rites
1972 - The Royal Oriental Order of Sat BHai
 contents:

1º Mute
2º Auditor
3º Scribe
4º Herald
5º Minister
6º Courier
Ceremony of Installing an Arch Censor


1961 - Le Coeur Enflamme
 contents:

Le Coeur Enflame (The Fiery Heart)



Courtesy Grand College of Rites 
1978 - Fratres Lucis
 contents:

1º Knight Novice of the Third Year
2º Knight Novice of the Fifth Year
3º Knight Novice of the Seventh Year
4º Knight Levite
5º Knight Priest


1957 - The Hermetic Rite 
contents:

3º Knight of the Black Eagle, or Rose Croix
4º Chevalier of the Sun—Prince Adept, the Key to Masonry
Courtesy Grand College of Rites
5º Knight of the Phoenix
6º Sublime Philosopher—Chevalier Rose-Croix
7º Chevalier of the Rainbow
8º True Mason
9º Chevalier of the Argonauts
10º Chevalier of the Golden Fleece


These are being made available to our dues-paying members for the first time in many years. Supplies are limited. Please take advantage of this opportunity. Use the order form you recently received with your 2015 volume. If you do not have an order form, please e-mail the Grand Register here.

Thanks,
Gerald Klein, KGC
Grand Registrar
     

Saturday, May 21, 2016

‘The Mystery’

     
The Mystery

I was not; now I am—a few days hence
I shall not be; I fain would look before
And after, but can neither do; some Power
Or lack of power says “no” to all I would.
I stand upon a wide and sunless plain,
Nor chart nor steel to guide my steps aright.
Whene’er, o’ercoming fear, I dare to move,
I grope without direction and by chance.
Some feign to hear a voice and feel a hand
That draws them ever upward thro’ the gloom.
But I—I hear no voice and touch no hand,
Tho’ oft thro’ silence infinite I list,
And strain my hearing to supernal sounds;
Tho’ oft thro’ fateful darkness do I reach,
And stretch my hand to find that other hand.
I question of th’ eternal bending skies
That seem to neighbor with the novice earth;
But they roll on, and daily shut their eyes
On me, as I one day shall do on them,
And tell me not the secret that I ask.

Paul Laurence Dunbar



Paul Laurence Dunbar
I did not know Dunbar (1872-1906) was a Freemason when I decided to share his poem here, but Bro. Google reflects light in all directions, and it turns out not only was Dunbar a brother, but there’s a remarkable story about his initiation and his lodge. In Along this Way: The Autobiography of James Weldon Johnson (1933), the author writes of the time he and Dunbar were made Masons. Excerpted:


Paul returned to his home in Washington early in the spring. He always spoke of his stay in Jacksonville in high terms. Before he left, the Negro Masons decided to organize a lodge of young men, and in honor of Paul, name it the Paul Laurence Dunbar Lodge. The lodge was organized, and Paul and twenty-five or thirty more of us were one night initiated and carried through the first three degrees of Masonry. The Negro Masons of that day in Jacksonville were a horny-handed set. The Odd Fellows lodges were made up of white collar workers, but the Masonic lodges were recruited largely from the stevedores, hod carriers, lumber mill and brickyard hands, and the like. The initiation was rough, and lasted all night. One of our young friends was lame for a number of weeks on account of a fall to the floor while being tossed in a blanket. I was made Worthy Master of the lodge, but it did not take me long to see that being a good Mason demanded more time than I should be willing to devote to it. The first time that I had to “turn out” with the lodge, arrayed in regalia, settled the question definitely.


Imagine being initiated, passed, and raised in a single night, and having a lodge named in your honor! That is Paul Laurence Dunbar Lodge 219 under the MW Union Grand Lodge in Jacksonville, Florida. Another lodge named for Dunbar is found in Brockton, Massachusetts.

Google also shows how Dunbar’s poetry was included in several publications of several mainstream grand lodges. In the January 1916 edition of the Grand Lodge of Iowa’s Quarterly Bulletin, an all-around delight to read, we see the last stanza of his “The Poet and His Song”:


Sometimes the sun, unkindly hot,
My garden makes a desert spot,
Sometimes a blight upon the tree
Takes all my fruit away from me;
And then with throes of bitter pain
Rebellious passions rise and swell;
And so I sing and all is well.


Amid the Report on Foreign Correspondence in the pages of the Grand Lodge of Nebraska’s proceedings for 1922, there is a report from the Grand Lodge of New Mexico that makes the point of specifically recording how its grand master “quotes Paul Lawrence [sic] Dunbar’s lines, on ‘The Lord Had a Job for Me.’” But it seems the actual title of that poem is “Too Busy.” This is found in the anthology titled The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar edited by Joanne M. Braxton (1993).

Ever on the lookout for pipe poetry, I can’t resist concluding this edition of The Magpie Mason with Dunbar’s “A Companion’s Progress,” also found in the Braxton book, which puts its first publication at August 21, 1901 in a periodical called St. James Gazette.


My stock has gone down and my tailor has sent
To request that I settle my bill;
My landlady asks with a frown for her rent,
And there isn’t a cent in the till.
The governor storms and my mother’s in tears;
There’s a coldness betwixt me and Nell,
But I’m utterly dead to regrets and to fears,
For my meerschaum is colouring well.

At first I had fears of what looked like a crack,
And my breath came in gasps of alarm,
But oh, how the joy of my heart flooded back
When I found that ’twas nothing to harm.
And so ever since I have nursed it with care,
With thrills that my heart cannot quell,
And I’ve bored all my friends to relate the affair
That my meerschaum is colouring well.



Magpie file photo

A meerschaum pipe I saw at the New York Pipe Show in 2014. It was colored artificially, but true meerschaum pipe lovers prefer to turn the white mineral into progressively darker hues of brown by patiently and personally smoking the pipe over a long period of time. It is a delicate substance, ergo the poets fear of cracks.


Gotta share this one with my pipe club on Facebook.