Friday, August 23, 2019

‘Calling all St. Albans lodges’

In Freemasonry, there used to be an interesting practice of lodges sharing a common name, but that are spread across grand jurisdictions around the country, uniting in a chain and occasionally meeting for fellowship—and, I guess, celebrating how their lodges’ name rocks. For example, there once was a St. John’s Lodge brotherhood.

Of course the Holy Saints John are integral to Masonic ritual and symbolism, and I imagine every grand lodge in the United States has a St. John’s Lodge, very often numbered first. New York’s eldest extant lodge is St. John’s 1 in Manhattan, dating to 1757.

There is another saint whose name figures prominently in lodge nomenclature around America and beyond: St. Alban. His presence in Masonic culture is not obvious.

First, let’s look at some biography, courtesy of Catholic Encyclopedia. Excerpted:

Courtesy St. Alban's Episcopal Church.
St. Alban. First martyr of Britain, suffered c. 304. The commonly received account of the martyrdom of St. Alban meets us as early as the pages of Bede’s “Ecclesiastical History” (Bk. I, chs. vii and xviii). According to this, St. Alban was a pagan living at Verulamium (now the town of St. Albans in Hertfordshire), when a persecution of the Christians broke out, and a certain cleric flying for his life took refuge in Alban’s house. Alban sheltered him, and after some days, moved by his example, himself received baptism. Later on, when the governor’s emissaries came to search the house, Alban disguised himself in the cloak of his guest and gave himself up in his place. He was dragged before the judge, scourged, and, when he would not deny his faith, condemned to death. On the way to the place of execution Alban arrested the waters of a river so that they crossed dry-shod, and he further caused a fountain of water to flow on the summit of the hill on which he was beheaded. His executioner was converted, and the man who replaced him, after striking the fatal blow, was punished with blindness. A later development in the legend informs us that the cleric’s name was Amphibalus, and that he, with some companions, was stoned to death a few days afterwards at Redbourn, four miles from St. Albans.

With Freemasonry arising in the British Isles, it is easy to understand how the first martyr in Britain could be cited as a kind of spiritual founding father. The earliest mention of him in Masonic literature is found in the Cooke Manuscript from the early 1400s, which is the second oldest known publication in Masonic letters, junior only to the Regius MS, and is the oldest of the Gothic Constitutions. It echoes in Anderson’s Constitutions and in the ritual probably used in your lodge.

Cooke, at line 602, briefly says “And soon after that came Saint Adhabell into England, and converted Saint Alban to Christianity. And Saint Alban loved well masons, and gave them their first charges and manners first in England. And he ordained convenient [times] to pay for the travail.” (Spelling modernized.)

Another document, known as the Grand Lodge Manuscript, that is said to date to 1583, illustrates more:

England in all this time stood void of any Charge of Masonry, until St. Albons’ time, and in his days the King of England, then a pagan, did wall the town that is now called St. Albons. And St. Alban was a worthy Knight and Steward of the King’s household, and had the government of the realm, and also of the walls of the said town; he loved and cherished Masons right well, and made their pay right good (according the standing of the realm), for he gave them 2 shillings 6 pence a week and three pence to their cheer [food and drinks]; for before that time, throughout all the land, a Mason took but a penny a day and his meat, until St. Alban amended it. He procured for them [the Masons] a Charter from the King and his Council, to hold a general council together, and gave it the name of Assembly; and after having himself [become a Mason], he helped to make men Masons, and gave them a Charge, as you shall hear afterwards right soon.

Personally, I believe St. Alban endeared himself to masons through the act of improving the food and drink allowance! His feast day is June 22. Vivat!

Where was I going with this? Yes! An organization of St. Albans lodges.

There is an international gathering of lodges named for St. Alban called for next year in New York, it was announced yesterday. It will be hosted in Rockville Center on October 2 through 4, 2020 at the Scottish Rite Valley there. For information, contact W. Bro. Harrison Greene of St. Albans Lodge 56 here.

A quick look through a search engine shows there are St. Albans lodges at labor in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Quebec, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia and, of course, St. Albans in Hertfordshire!

Please help spread the word.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

‘Grand Master’s Day at DeWint House’


Kudos to the planning committee of Grand Master’s Day 2019! There is a change of program this time that can only make the day even more fun. There was nothing wrong with the previous way of doing things, with a killer brunch before the festivities at DeWint House, but having a barbecue at DeWint House will be awesome.

I think this flier says it all, so I have nothing more to add except that if you’ve never been to DeWint House, you should make the effort. Even if you cannot attend Grand Master’s Day, please make the trip another time at your convenience. It is more than a historic site with an impressive museum; this special place offers beautiful grounds with exotic trees and other attractions. A very peaceful space.

See some old photos here.

Listen, the organizers need your reservations. They don’t need surprises. They say the site can accommodate 100 cars, but I think that’s pretty optimistic. See you there.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

‘Garibaldi Lodge’s EAº in November’

Bust of MW Giuseppe Garibaldi
by RW Anthony Cuonzo, presented
to MW Vincent Libone in 2010.
Garibaldi Lodge 542 in the Tenth Manhattan District will confer its famous Entered Apprentice Degree on Friday, November 1. This is the unforgettable ceremony of initiation that attracts busloads of Freemasons from throughout the Northeastern United States and beyond.

What draws hundreds of Masons eager to make an advancement in Masonic knowledge is the 18th century French Rite ritual that is delivered in the Italian language. Unless you are from a Red Lodge or other Craft lodge that works European rituals, this First Degree is very unlike anything your lodge does. It is worlds apart from the Preston-Webb-Cross rituals known in almost every jurisdiction in America, as it is heavily laden with Rosicrucian and Alchemical symbolism. To be clear, it is a wholly Masonic ritual. Furthermore, it is easy to follow the action even with the foreign tongue being spoken.

Arrive at Masonic Hall (71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan) by 6 p.m. Bring your apron and membership card, and be prepared to work your way into a tiled Masonic lodge at labor. Apprentices and Fellows are welcome—they need only be avouched by a Master Mason—and in fact are seated in the East with the dignitaries.

I’d say the evening should end by around ten o’clock.

The lodge needs a headcount. (The first time I visited for this degree, about ten years ago, hundreds of Pennsylvania Masons had to be turned away because the Fire Department would not permit them inside the room, which already was packed to capacity with about 1,200 Masons.) So contact the lodge secretary here to report how many are in your party.

It’s a must see, and is one of the most talked about events on the Masonic calendar in New York. See you there.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

‘Let’s revive this defunct Masonic order!’

Or maybe it’s not defunct after all. Maybe it’s so secret that only Lindez knows of it. I’ll have to ask him.

But in the meantime, I’ll need to find a copy of the 1915 edition (Vol. XXVIII) of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum for its research paper that describes this group, but based on what little I know, I am fully prepared to restart a long neglected French Masonic fraternity named the Order of Nicotiates!

Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia says:

Nicotiates, Order of. Also called Order of Priseurs, the former meaning smokers and the latter snuff dippers; a secret order of prominent French Freemasons, which existed at Paris about 1817-33.

I tried snuff once. Didn’t go well.

Mackey’s encyclopedia offers even less: “A secret order mentioned by Clavel, teaching the doctrines of Pythagoras.”

I hardly think Pythagoras would endorse smoking, but okay.

Arthur Edward Waite, in his A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, gives more, that actually is less:

The authority is Clavel, who terms the foundation Masonic, and says that the doctrines of Pythagoras were taught therein. It is without date or place, father or mother, and is devoid of all history, so far as his information goes.

So, who is Clavel? Getting back to Albert Mackey, he writes:

CLAVEL, F.T. BEGUE – An abbé. A French Masonic Writer, who published, in 1842, a Picturesque History of Freemasonry and of Ancient and Modern Secret Societies. This work contains a great amount of interesting and valuable information, notwithstanding many historical inaccuracies, especially in reference to the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, of which the author was an adversary. For the publication of the work without authority, he was suspended by the Grand Orient for two months, and condemned to pay a fine. Clavel appealed to the intelligence of the fraternity against this sentence. In 1844, he commenced the publication of a Masonic journal called the Grand Orient, the title subsequently changed to the Orient. As he had not obtained consent of the Grand Orient, he was again brought before that body, and the sentence of perpetual exclusion from the Grand Orient pronounced against him.

Rebold says that it was the act of a faction, and obtained by unfair means. It was not sustained by the judgment of the Craft in France, with whom Clavel gained reputation and popularity. Notwithstanding the Masonic literary labors of Clavel, an account of the time of his birth, or of his death, appears to be obscure. His desire seemed to be to establish as history, by publication, those views which he personally entertained and formed, gathered from sources of doubtful character, he desired they should not be questioned in the future, semel pro semper, once for all.

Anyway, I envision bespoke fezzes as regalia. We can meet here. To enter the sacred humidor:

GUARD: Avez-vous le mot de passe?
YOU: I will syllable it with you.
GUARD: Commencez!
YOU: All right then: BLAZ
TOGETHER: DeBlasio sucks!

And remember to tip the waitresses.

Friday, August 16, 2019

‘It’s back to School of Practical Philosophy time!’

An abbot gathered together his students and asked them “How do we know the exact moment when night ends and day begins?”

“It’s when, standing some way away, you can tell a sheep from a dog,” said one boy. The Abbot was not content with the answer. Another student said “No, it’s when, standing some way away, you can tell an olive tree from a fig tree.”

“No, that’s not a good definition either.”

“Well, what’s the right answer?” asked the boys.

“When a stranger approaches,” said the abbot, “and we think he is our brother, that is the moment when night ends and day begins.”

- Unknown

If there is one extra-Masonic activity I recommend above all others, it is an education in the School of Practical Philosophy. Its curriculum complements Masonic teachings in ways that will make you recall significant stretches of ritual, and, since it is practical philosophy, you will gain an understanding of how to apply the teachings to your daily life.

September is only a few weeks away, so it is back to school time. Here’s what’s going on. From the publicity:

Fall Open House
Wednesday, September 4
7 to 8:15 p.m.
School of Practical Philosophy
12 East 79th Street

Thursday, September 5
7 to 8:15 p.m.
West Side YMCA
5 West 63rd Street

Knowledge of one’s true self can be life changing. Come join us at the School of Practical Philosophy for an open conversation about the process of realizing the truth about one’s self, and how it might bring each of us sustainable happiness. Ask questions about the School, find out about the classes offered, and discover how generations of students have benefited from the discovery of their own innate wisdom through the study of Practical Philosophy.

Light refreshments will be served.

RSVP here.

Or, if you prefer to go to school directly, it’s easy to register for the 10-week introductory semester. The cost is only $90 for the term. Classes are held five days a week, in mornings and evenings, and at the same two locations to make it convenient.

Click here.

Okay, okay, so you are not in or near New York City and you want to experience what the School offers. There is an on-line opportunity.

Click here.

There are other ways to enjoy the School of Practical Philosophy. It offers study sessions built around particular themes, such as the upcoming (and sold out) Ralph Waldo Emerson group. There also are single events, either lectures or all-day studies devoted to different philosophers, teachings, and writings. One last Summer Stories night is scheduled for August 27, and Plato Day returns on October 13. Great stuff.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

‘Farewell and thank you’

Magpie file photo
Bro. Charles Canning at the Pennsylvania Academy
of Masonic Knowledge, October 11, 2008.

The first time I encountered Chuck Canning, he was atop a very tall ladder, maybe a 30-footer, painting astronomically correct constellations onto the ceiling of one of the lodge rooms in the Allentown Masonic Temple. I’m not necessarily acrophobic myself, provided I’m standing on a mountain, building, or something else that isn’t going to fall over, but ladders of that height give me pause. But there he was, happily and determinedly bringing into reality a starry-decked canopy for this sacred retreat.

I was there visiting with Bro. Sal Corelli. We made the trek into Pennsylvania to visit Kite and Key Lodge, a relatively new Traditional Observance lodge. This was 2008. The trip to Allentown turned out to be so much more, thanks to Chuck.

He seemed truly happy to have visitors, despite his being obviously busy with his labors on high. He gave us a tour of the building—it is one of those grand granite Masonic temples that sprang up all over America during the 1920s. In fact, on the outside, this one reminded us of our Trenton Masonic Temple, where New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786 had been meeting (I was Master) at that time. Inside, it is a magnificent, but smaller, version of One North Broad Street.

Chuck showed us the library, which delighted Sal and I—both enthusiastic members of the Masonic Library and Museum Association—even though it needed a lot of organization and other help. Chuck was very hospitable and, even though Sal and I had arrived well in advance of the lodge meeting, he kept us interested in all things Allentown Masonic Temple right up to the lodge opening.

Thanks to Chuck, we learned about the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge; he offered to help us get something similar arranged for New Jersey. He told us about Pennsylvania Lodge of Research, which was of great interest to us as well. Chuck was a principal in both organizations. He was a pretty frequent speaker at the Academy. Sal and I would become regulars there, despite the six-hour roundtrip commute (and the fact that we couldn’t become members because we didn’t hold Pennsylvania lodge memberships). The research lodge was different; its infrequent meetings usually are way too far away, except for the Philadelphia meeting in December, which always coincides with our own research lodge’s December communication. I’ll get there one day.

But Sal and I were there for the Traditional Observance experience, which was new for us. Having been with the Knights of the North for several years by then, I was pretty embarrassed over not only being without a T.O. lodge membership, but also for not yet even having visited such a lodge. As scarce as they are today, believe me, 11 years ago they were more rare than a pass from King Solomon after the attack on GMHA.

And I was enchanted with the Allentown Masonic Temple, thanks in large part to its attentive (unofficial?) caretaker Charles Canning. He invited me back to Allentown for a meeting of the local Allied Masonic Degrees council a week later, so I returned and wound up witnessing a terrific surprise. I was present at the February 2008 annual meeting of AMD’s Grand Council in Virginia, when the MV Grand Master announced the reinstatement of the Grand Superintendent position. Basically, each state again would have a representative of grand rank to keep the local councils apprised of what Grand Council was doing, and vice versa. Anyway, at this meeting in Allentown, I was fortunate to see Chuck invested with his Grand Superintendent regalia, a most impressive ensemble of AMD apron with a Red Branch of Eri collar and jewel, and other dazzling items.

I would meet Chuck again over the ensuing years, mostly at the Academy of Masonic Knowledge and at Masonic Week in Virginia. I’m sorry to say my attendance at the Academy hasn’t been what it used to be, and I otherwise lost track of this outstanding Freemason. We were connected on Facebook, but he apparently was not a regular user of social media.

Tuesday, when I saw this old Magpie Mason file photo of Chuck popping up in my Facebook feed, I instinctively knew what happened before I even focused my eyes on the text accompanying it: the sad news of Chuck’s passing the previous day.

He was a strong and respected leader in things Masonic that I care about most: education—the research lodges, libraries, museums, academies, lectures, Observant lodges, AMD, et al. I was extremely glad when he became a Founding Member of the Masonic Society.

Farewell Brother, and thank you for setting a superlative example for the rest of us!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

‘The Magic Flute at The Met’

Unlike the previous, this edition of The Magpie Mason looks only four months into the future when The Met will continue its annual tradition of staging Mozart’s Masonic opera The Magic Flute at Christmastime.

Courtesy The Met
Click to enlarge.

The show will run December 15 through January 4. Tickets start at only $30.

Again it will be Julie Taymor’s production of the opera, meaning it is a very accessible presentation—in English and less than an hour and forty-five minutes long.

The story is a fairy tale, but what makes it Masonic are the ritual elements and symbols that will be obvious to the initiated eye. Enjoy.

From the publicity:

A beloved holiday tradition continues as Mozart’s delightful fairy tale returns in the Met’s abridged, English-language version for families, perfect for younger audiences, with no intermission and a running time of less than two hours. Lothar Koenigs conducts a dynamic cast of standout Mozarteans in Julie Taymor’s magical production, an enduring Met classic with its eye-popping puppetry and stunning visuals.

World Premiere: Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden, Vienna, 1791. A sublime fairy tale that moves freely between earthy comedy and noble mysticism, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte in the original German) was written for a theater located just outside Vienna with the clear intention of appealing to audiences from all walks of life. The story is told in a singspiel (“song-play”) format characterized by separate musical numbers connected by dialogue and stage activity, an excellent structure for navigating the diverse moods, ranging from solemn to lighthearted, of the story and score.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91) was the son of a Salzburg court musician who exhibited him as a musical prodigy throughout Europe. His achievements in opera, in terms of beauty, vocal challenge, and dramatic insight, remain unsurpassed. He died three months after the premiere of Die Zauberflöte, his last produced work for the stage. The remarkable Emanuel Schikaneder (1751-1812) was an actor, singer, theater manager, and friend of Mozart who wrote the opera’s libretto, staged the work, and sang the role of Papageno in the initial run.

Courtesy The Met
Click to enlarge.

The libretto specifies Egypt as the location of the action. That country was traditionally regarded as the legendary birthplace of the Masonic fraternity, whose symbols and rituals populate this opera. Some productions include Egyptian motifs as an exotic nod to this idea, but most opt for a more generalized mythic ambience to convey the otherworldliness that the score and overall tone of the work call for.

Mozart and his librettist, Emanuel Schikaneder, created The Magic Flute with an eye toward a popular audience, but the varied tone of the work requires singers who can specialize in several different musical genres. The baritone Papageno represents the comic and earthy, the tenor Tamino and the soprano Pamina display true love in its noblest forms, the bass Sarastro expresses the solemn and the transcendental, and the Queen of the Night provides explosive vocal fireworks.

Of course the publicist here is mistaken about “the legendary birthplace of the Masonic fraternity,” but it is right to understand Egypt was central to a few Masonic rites that were active during Mozart’s lifetime and may have influenced him.

Monday, August 12, 2019

‘The Masonic Society at Masonic Week 2020’


I can barely plan six hours in advance, so I can understand not grabbing your interest with this news that comes six months ahead, but mark your calendars for Friday, February 7 for the Masonic Society’s annual dinner-meeting amid the Masonic Week festivities at Crystal City, Virginia.

There will be elections of officers. (Unless the members come to their senses, yours truly will become the Society’s seventh president.) We will announce new Fellows. We’ll tackle usual business, like budget stuff.


Mark Tabbert
The main reason you’ll want to be there is our keynote speaker: Bro. Mark Tabbert, Director of Collections at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia, will present “A Deserving Brother: George Washington and Freemasonry.”

You think you know Washington the Freemason, but this discussion will reveal Mark’s recent research that went into his new book on the subject.

Also, I must point out the dining fee has come down significantly since recent years. Our banquet—and, I imagine, others—have lost patrons to other, off-site, dining opportunities due to the exorbitant cost of eating in the hotel. It gives me great pleasure to tell you that this dinner will cost only $55 per person. We will work on the menu shortly. Masons, our ladies, and friends of Freemasonry are welcome to attend. The website for booking your seats will be ready soon, and I’ll share that news at the right time.

Otherwise, Issue No. 46 of The Journal of the Masonic Society is in production now, and will reach our members’ mailboxes in September. Join us! It’s the best $45 you’ll spend in Freemasonry.

‘The Magpie is back’


Well, I certainly didn’t think I’d be away for that long! A number of profound interruptions have rocked my life this year. I’ll just say 2019 has been the worst year of my already grim life. It cannot end fast enough for me. (The year, that is, not the life.)

I know I already have said thanks personally to the brethren who have been looking out for me in a time of bereavement and other staggering tempests—my lodge brothers’ efforts to keep me stable are beyond what reasonably might be expected—but allow me to say publicly here how grateful I am for Masonic friendship. It is humbling to be on the receiving end this time, but it also is exalting. I won’t forget.

In other sad news, let me belatedly say goodbye to RW Bro. Bernie Cohen, Past Grand Chaplain in the Grand Lodge of New Jersey, who served as Junior Warden both of Mt. Nebo Lodge 248 and of Peninsula Lodge 99—the first time when my grandfather was in the East in 1976, and the second time when I was in the Solomonic Chair in 2005. He was a tireless laborer in the quarries of Freemasonry for 71(!) years, and was one of the kindest souls one could be lucky enough to know. My condolences to his family.

The Worshipful Master is flanked by the Junior and Senior Wardens of Mt. Nebo Lodge 248 in Elizabeth, New Jersey at the Installation of Officers in December 1975.
From left: Bernie Cohen, my grandfather, and Arthur Simon.

Also, we lost Bro. Tim Wallace-Murphy last month. He let us know this was coming long ago. Having seen the best of the best on the Masonic speaking circuit for many years, I say without mental reservation, etc., etc. that Tim was one of the most engaging lecturers in the business, such was his zeal and skill for sharing what he knew about the medieval Templars, Rosslyn Chapel, Islam, and other subjects Masons ought to know about. He performed real research. Primary research. In the field. Read his books! He was 89 years old.

Regular Magpie Mason posting resumes now. I’ve been looking at the analytics of this website to see how badly readership has plummeted. Evidently the drop-off has been insignificant. Considering I’ve been absent for nine months, I don’t know if I should interpret that as a compliment, but thanks for reading the old Magpie posts. It is really odd in some cases to see which posts attracted a lot of traffic, but I’ll take what I can get.

Friday, November 16, 2018

‘Natives revere the man who simply never could be king’

Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images

Imagine a Kipling story adapted for a Jamie Uys movie, and you’ll see the stranger-than-fiction truth of a tribe in the South Pacific that made the Duke of Edinburgh a focus of their worship.

Nothing wrong with that. Hey, Freemasons supposedly are obliged to tolerate all religions, so the veneration of Prince Philip there is perfectly valid. At age 97, he is the longest serving royal consort, having married HRH Elizabeth II in 1947—their wedding anniversary is next Tuesday—but laws of succession being what they are, Philip never could be king.

But he is a Freemason, the next best thing, having been at labor in The Navy Lodge 2612 since 1953.

Writing for The Vintage News, Stefan Andrews explains:

“He is venerated by the people who live in and around the village of Yaohnanen on Vanuatu’s island of Tanna. They worship the Duke of Edinburgh as their ‘tabu man.’ The designation attributes the 97-year-old royal such qualities that he is considered sacred…

“The islanders believe that the Duke of Edinburgh is the embodiment of an ancient mountain spirit. This spirit, the prophecy says, has traveled miles away to foreign realms of the world, has taken the form of a white man and has espoused himself to a pretty powerful lady….”

Click here to read the fascinating recent story of the good Tanna people.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

‘The Movement Towards Inner Freedom’

Yesterday was the 69th anniversary of the death of George Gurdjieff, the founder of the Fourth Way, whose teachings are kept alive today by inspired followers such as the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. The Foundation will host another introductory lesson next week. From the publicity:

The Movement Towards
Inner Freedom
Gurdjieff Foundation of New York
Friday, November 9 at 6:30
240 East 53rd Street, Manhattan
(Quest Bookshop)
RSVP here

“Liberation leads to liberation.”
G.I. Gurdjieff

The evening will include presentations, readings, practical exercises in movement, the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann music, conversation, and refreshments.

If you are a thinking Freemason, you may find these studies worthwhile.

The other day, Parabola magazine published online an excerpt from a book to be released in February. Gurdjieff Reconsidered: The Life, the Teachings, the Legacy by Roger Lipsey will be published by Shambhala Publications. Lipsey’s other books include a biography of Dag Hammarskjöld.

One sample paragraph:

G.I. Gurdjieff
The Rue des Colonels Renard is centrally located. Today you might want to stop in a café at the intersection of Avenue Mac-Mahon and the Rue des Acacias, where Gurdjieff often had his coffee, and surely looked from time to time past a receding row of street lamps toward a flank of the Arc de Triomphe not far off. At some point he turned that view into a parable about the distant aim toward which one might well be toiling and the many smaller aims and thresholds, requiring meticulous attention, that precede it. His apartment was nearby in a street like any other. Yet it was là-bas, as one of his pupils put it—there yet far off, another world. “Here in my house,” Gurdjieff stipulated, “all must be quintessence. Rest you do at home.” There was a further rule, captured by another of his pupils: “Here there are no spectators.”

Check out the excerpt here.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

‘The Mitch is back!’

Courtesy Mitch Horowitz

There’s some good news, and some bad news, but some more good news from the Livingston Library:

The good: Mitch Horowitz will return to the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library on Tuesday for another speaking engagement!

The bad: It’s sold out! Well, not actually sold out, because admission is free, but the event is booked. No one who has not already reserved his seat shall be accommodated. Do not go there if you have no reservation, or you’ll experience some non-symbolic Masonic penalties.

The more good: Due to the popular demand, Horowitz will come back to Masonic Hall on Tuesday, November 13 for a reprised talk!

This is a big month for Mitch Horowitz. His new book, The Miracle Club, was just published last week by Inner Traditions. A few weeks ago, he was tapped to serve as a lecturer in residence at the University of Philosophical Research, Manly Hall’s gift to the world, in Los Angeles—where he will be speaking tonight and tomorrow on Manly Hall.

From the publicity:

The Secret History of How Mysticism
Shaped Our Nation
An Evening with Mitch Horowitz
Tuesday, November 13
6:30 p.m.
Livingston Library
Masonic Hall, 14th Floor
71 West 23rd Street
RSVP here

Esoteric philosophies and movements, such as Freemasonry, Spiritualism, Theosophy, and New Thought, have wielded a tremendous influence over America’s past and present. From its earliest days, the nation served as a laboratory for the revolutions in alternative spirituality that eventually swept the globe, yet this aspect of our history is often ignored or overlooked.

In this special evening, PEN Award-winning historian and popular voice of esoteric ideas, Mitch Horowitz will discuss the occult influences behind our nation’s culture, politics, and spirituality, including:

  • How colonial America became a magnet for mystical figures and movements
  • The remarkable impact of Freemasonry on the nation’s development
  • The marriage between nineteenth century Spiritualism and the women’s rights movement
  • The occult roots of “Positive Thinking”
  • The impact of African-American magical traditions
  • The lives of mystic Americans, from Marcus Garvey to Madame Blavatsky
  • The legacy and growing influence of Freemason Manly P. Hall
  • Halloween’s rise in our military as a national holiday

Mitch finally asks whether occult principles can point the way toward healing our deep national divide today. This special, in-depth journey through our unknown history is an evening not to be missed.

A widely known voice of esoteric ideas, Mitch Horowitz is a writer-in-residence at the New York Public Library, lecturer-in-residence at the University of Philosophical Research in Los Angeles, and the PEN Award-winning author of books including Occult America, One Simple Idea, and The Miracle Club: How Thoughts Become Reality.

Mitch has written on everything from the war on witches to the secret life of Ronald Reagan for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Salon, Time, and Politico.

The Washington Post says Mitch “treats esoteric ideas and movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness that is too often lost in today’s raised-voice discussions.” He narrates audiobooks, including Alcoholics Anonymous and The Jefferson Bible. He has discussed alternative spiritualities on CBS Sunday Morning, Dateline NBC, and NPR’s All Things Considered.

His work has been censored in China.

Mitch will be offering for sale his new book, The Miracle Club, as well as his book Occult America, and will be pleased to sign copies.

Please send RSVP here.

Friday, October 19, 2018

‘Lecture: The Development of Masonic Ritual’

It’s great to see my old friend Ben Hoff still taking to the lectern to help others advance in Masonic knowledge. Ben served as Master of our research lodge a decade(!) ago when he was the most prolific writer of Masonic research papers in New Jersey. He will appear at Philo Lodge 243 next Tuesday. Go to there. From the publicity:

Development of Masonic Ritual
as Illustrated by the MM Degree
Presented by RW Ben Hoff
Tuesday, October 23 at 6:30
Philo Lodge 243
120 Old Bridge Turnpike
South River, New Jersey
RSVP here

RW Bernhard Hoff served as Master of Highland Park Lodge 240 in 2004, 2008, and 2016; was Grand Historian in 2010; and a Past Master of New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786; as well as a Past High Priest of Corinthian Royal Arch Chapter 57; and member of DaVinci Council of Allied Masonic Degrees too. He worked for 27 years for Citibank/Citigroup in New York City, where he served as a financial controller. He also holds BA in Anthropology from University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and an MBA from Tulane University in New Orleans, and currently is an Adjunct Professor in the Mathematics Department at Mercer County Community College.

Ben is a very well read researcher in the evolution of Craft rituals. His Masonic library includes centuries-old copies of the ritual exposures that have permitted tantalizing glimpses into the lodge initiations of England and America. His educational gifts to us include many thousands of written words explanatory of how today’s rituals came to be, which provide insight into many related aspects of Freemasonry’s history. If not for the distance, I would be in attendance Tuesday night, but I encourage you to get there if you can. RSVP here.

Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

‘The Last Day’

If it’s fall, it must be time for a Socrates Sunday at the School of Practical Philosophy.

Doing the good work that Masonic lodges ought to be doing, the school pours philosophy out of the urn where most people merely observe it as a subject, and instead makes love of wisdom urgent so its students may add it to their lives. From the publicity:

Socrates’ Last Day
Sunday, November 11
9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
School of Practical Philosophy
12 East 79th Street
$50 per person—click here

If today were the last day of your life, what would you do? What would you say, and how would you feel as the destined hour approached? What would the wise man or woman do in this situation?

Fortunately, Plato’s dialogue Phaedo provides us with a first-hand account of Socrates’ final day in 399 B.C.—one that ends with Socrates, surrounded by his followers, drinking a cup of hemlock in an Athenian prison.

Join us as we immerse ourselves in the wisdom of Socrates and experience his calm confidence in the face of death. Discover what he meant in saying “The true disciple of philosophy is ever pursuing death and dying.” Come to appreciate how Socrates’ words can help us live happier everyday.

The day includes an introductory presentation, catered luncheon, and wine reception. Family and friends are welcome. No prior knowledge of Plato is required. Enjoy the power of group study, delight in philosophical entertainment and engage in stimulating conversation.

Coffee available at 8:30. Wine Reception at end of day.

Fee: $50 ($25 for full-time high school or college students), which includes refreshments, lunch, wine reception, and reading materials.

Monday, October 1, 2018

‘American Revolution, Masonic Forefathers, and Alcohol’

Next week, Hiram-Takoma Lodge will host the program “American Revolution, Masonic Forefathers, and Alcohol” at its meeting. From the publicity:

Thursday, October 11
Hiram-Takoma Lodge 10
115 Carroll Street NW
Washington, DC
(two blocks from
Takoma Metro Red Line)

6:30 p.m. – Dinner (all are welcome)
7:30 – Lodge (Masons only)
Open Program: “The American Revolution, Alcohol
and our Masonic Forefathers”
(ladies, friends, etc. welcome)

Worshipful Master Scott C. Jacobs will give a brief presentation on the links of the American Revolution, alcohol, and our Masonic forefathers. We will view a Discovery Channel video starring Mike Rowe which explains alcohol’s role in our nation’s roots, followed by an educational discussion of alcohol and the Masonic lodge.

Please RSVP here to ensure a proper amount of refreshment.

I hope they will have Applejack on hand!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

‘Ten years of Magpie goodness’

Thank you for reading The Magpie Mason, which debuted on this date in 2008. Without a heavy, steady flow of readers, I wouldn’t continue it, so I thank you all for checking in, however infrequently, over the years.

I thought it would be of interest to list the most visited Magpie pages. Here are the top ten in ascending order, but they all are No. 1 hits (with apologies to Michael Shelley):

10. “Light! Camera! Aprons!” from October 25, 2016 – Spot coverage from a really fun evening at Masonic Hall in New York City, when Piers Vaughan helped a film crew with its shoot for a UK television program.

Click here.

9. “George Washington’s beer brewed anew” from May 1, 2018 – Has really nothing to do with Freemasonry, but was a heavily trafficked page this spring thanks to the news that Budweiser was to market a lager based on a recipe followed by George Washington. Read the interesting comment left at the bottom.

Click here.

8. “Old Masters Scotch Whisky” from August 10, 2010 – Numbers 8 and 9 are almost tied, with just a click separating the two. Interesting that both are about alcoholic beverages. This post concerns the release of a blended Scotch. Not the greatest taste of malt you’ll find—at the Masonic Society’s suite at Masonic Week, it was generally written off—but I thought it was okay. I’m not a Scotch drinker though.

Click here.

7. “Is Harry Potter a Freemason?” from April 8, 2018 – The Maryland Masonic Research Society hosted a talk on that subject in May. Most of my posts on the MMRS draw a lot of traffic for some reason. I’ve never attended a meeting, due to the distance, but maybe one day.

Click here.

6. “Grant Wood’s Masonic painting in Whitney retrospective” from December 20, 2017 – For the three months prior to the opening of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Grant Wood exhibit this year, and for several months afterward, this post was very popular. I hope everyone got to the museum for a rare look at Wood’s “The First Three Degrees of Freemasonry,” because otherwise you’ll have to visit the Grand Lodge of Iowa.

Courtesy GL of Iowa Museum and Library

Click here.

5. “Register now for the 2017 MRF Symposium” from May 30, 2017 – I cannot account for this post’s high visibility, except that maybe the Masonic Restoration Foundation needs help with SEO.

Click here.

4. “Cleveland Rocks” from August 7, 2018 – Although only seven weeks old, this post has reached the top five because a) Bill Hosler linked to it on Facebook; and b) it mentions the forever infamous GOOFUS.

Click here.

3. “Food for thought in Tennessee” from March 15, 2016 – it occurred to me very after-the-fact that this may have offended a friend from the Volunteer State—and I’m sorry if that’s so—but sometimes you have to say something.

Courtesy Scottish Rite Research Society

Click here.

2. “Swedish Rite in Germany” from April 9, 2009 – Spot coverage from an unforgettable night at historic Alpha Lodge, when Bro. Oliver visited from Germany to discuss his jurisdiction’s teachings, ritual structure, regalia, and more. At the time I posted this, there wasn’t much on the web about the Swedish Rite—and that doesn’t seem to have changed much—so I did what I could to be informative while safeguarding secrets of the Rite.

Bro. Oliver at Alpha Lodge No. 116.

Click here.

Statistically, by far, the No. 1 most heavily visited post in Magpie history is…

Bro. Jim, our tour guide, and unidentified photo bomber
at the H.O.T., February 9, 2009.

“At the House of the Temple” from March 6, 2009 – In February of that year, Bro. Jim and I visited the House of the Temple in Washington, DC for a tour. A first for us both. I shot a lot of photos, and shared a bunch here, which I think is why this post draws so much curiosity—probably from Masons and anti-masons alike. The H.O.T. has undergone renovations since then, but have a look at the main attractions here.

One could think this ranks first because it has been up almost since day one, but the truth is this post always has been the most visited Magpie page.

Honorable Mention: One post, since taken down, from April of 2013 seemingly was read a dozen times by each and every Mason in Pennsylvania.

Click here to read the very first Magpie Mason post.