Wednesday, December 4, 2019

‘Advancing the classical tradition in architecture’

Pellettieri in a demonstration of the art.
This just in:

An operative stone mason will be the guest speaker at a lodge in Brooklyn soon.

Master Carver Chris Pellettieri will present “The Stone Mason Way” at Amos-Fort Greene Lodge 922 on Monday, February 3. This event, part of the lodge’s Community Lecture Series, will be open to Masons, their families and friends, and free of charge too. That’s 8 p.m. Dinner will be served afterward, and reservations are a must. Contact the lodge secretary here.

From the publicity:

Chris Pellettieri was trained as a stone mason at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine apprenticeship program in 1989, an experience that enabled him to understand the relationship between ornament and architecture from a design point of view. He is a Master Carver who continues the stone mason tradition today.

Pellettieri will give a lecture about his journey and the stonemason craft. His presentation will include a demonstration that Speculative Masons hear so much about, but rarely see. Join us and experience the connection of the Operative to Speculative traditions for yourself.

In 2009, Pellettieri was the winner of the Arthur Ross Award in Artisanship from the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. The ICAA and its chapters nationwide honor the achievements of those advancing the classical tradition in architecture and related fields. The Arthur Ross Awards were created to recognize and celebrate excellence in the classical tradition.

Amos-Fort Greene Lodge 922 meets in the Midwood Masonic Temple, located at 1348 East 64th Street in Brooklyn.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

‘Oh Lord, my God, is the rest of this text available?’

Oh Lord, my God, is the rest of this text available?


‘Royal Arch revival?’

How is Royal Arch Masonry faring in your locale? At my chapter, nearly 40 miles from home, things aren’t looking so good. In fact, jurisdiction-wide, it’s bleak generally. There are 19 chapters with an aggregate membership far south of 2000 and, of that, maybe 25 percent are active in any meaningful capacity. But the real problem cited here and there concerns how those who are active are not getting the work done.

Ergo the crisis in gaining new members and getting them engaged in the labors, to wit:

I like to put myself into the shoes of this hypothetical, but not fantastical, Master Mason who recently was exalted into Royal Arch Masonry. He’s about 35 years old and has a wife and young child. He is upwardly mobile in his work and, with his spouse, shoulders the financial responsibilities inherent in maintaining a home and keeping the family safe and healthy while also managing money with an eye on the future and permitting leisurely pursuits. He may have parents, in-laws, or other relatives who are advanced in years and who rely on him for various forms of assistance. He’s very busy with important things practically all the time.

But there is time for lodge. Two nights, maybe more sometimes, each month. It is part of his social life, but it is unique in that he recognizes the sight of masculine maturity with intellectual and spiritual elements. It’s far apart from going to the bar with buddies for beer and big screen TVs. The decorum wrought by ritual, regalia, and tradition gives the effect of turning back the clock to a larger time. The prescribed language clearly is from an earlier century. One’s words and actions convey dignity: learning to listen, when to speak, where and how to move, what to see. Having gone through life without religious culture, he appreciates being exposed to the Craft’s God-centered psychology while absorbing the elements of Masonic language that originate from the Bible, and is amazed upon discovering the many ritualized sayings that are not obviously biblical, but that derive from Scripture nonetheless. He has revealed, cautiously, some of this to select friends, but they show little comprehension, much less interest in hearing more. They ask when he’s available again to ride quads and bikes in the woods.

Through the social media used by area Masons, he hears of a Royal Arch festival. That word—festival—is intriguing. What do they mean by that? From reading about Freemasonry since his initiation, he has an idea of what Royal Arch is: It’s part of the York Rite, and something to it involves completion of the Master Mason’s story. Joining is inexpensive and done in a day, finishing before two in the afternoon on a Saturday, even with time for lunch. He signs up.

Just an item currently for sale on eBay.
Material culture used to be a thing.
Several weeks later comes the night of his first chapter meeting. He arrives for dinner and is disappointed to see the store-bought salads, cold cuts, and other fare arrayed sloppily on a weak table. It’s not what he’s looking for after a long day, which he can forgive, but the conspicuous lack of effort nags at him. He sits and chats with his new companions, some of whom he knows already, and others he recognizes from nearby lodges. He is asked what he thinks of the degrees presented to him on that recent Saturday, and he admits it’s mostly a blur, but that he was impressed with the point of the Mark Master Degree and with the lecture of the Royal Arch Degree. He is thanked for coming because, it is explained, there now is a quorum to open the meeting. Everyone heads upstairs to set up the room where he observes some confusion about which officers wear which jewels, and the correct order of banners. He sees the box of aprons, but is shocked to find yellowed and stained relics to wear instead of clean, white garments. He is seated in the GM3V chair and handed a page of ritual so he may read his part in the opening. In fact, all of them are reading their parts. The grouping into threes would be great—if everyone knew what to do. The chapter handles its business matters, just as is done in lodge, but that doesn’t make it any more interesting. He is hoping for discussion of what Royal Arch means—those degrees, the symbols, that word—but it is not coming. The companions take turns announcing lodge social events. One older gentleman, speaking proudly, tells of additional degree dates for a council of something and the Templar group. The meeting is closed very quickly by a grand officer. Our new Royal Arch Companion will not be back. He’ll continue as a dues-paying member—after all, what’s 40 bucks a year?—but this activity does not measure up to other things he would, could, and should be doing that night. On the drive home, he thinks regretfully of his wife and child having supper without him.

So what is to be done?

For most of my 22 years as a Freemason, I personally have been an enthusiastic proponent of what currently is known widely as Observant Masonry, the embrace of best practices for the lodge that instills meaning and motive into the Craft. The ideas are not mine, but have been advanced by independent groups like the Knights of the North and the Masonic Restoration Foundation; by lodges named Epicurean (Australia), St. Alban’s (Texas), and Vitruvian (Indiana); and by eminent individuals like John Mauk Hilliard of New York, and Andrew Hammer of Washington, DC. If you read this blog with any regularity, you likely know what it’s about, but the key elements include:

  • exclusivity in membership
  • elegance in dress, including regalia
  • expertise in leadership, including ritual work
  • education in the practical and esoteric
  • excellence in dining

There are other points, but let’s unpack these five.

Exclusivity in membership – Our grand lodges are slow to realize it, but it’s true that not every man is right for Freemasonry. My grand lodge (New York) gets it, but the compulsion to reveal the mysteries of Freemasonry to every man who can fog a mirror persists generally. Similarly, not every Master Mason is a benefit to Capitular Masonry. Once the petition is received, it becomes very difficult to enforce selectivity, so don’t blanket recruit. Put a lot of thought into who you approach. Look for the one who seeks advancement in Masonic knowledge, who has a talent for ritual work, and who is a pleasure to be with. Those guys who just want to become Knights of the Whatever? Let them join another chapter.

Elegance in dress, including regalia – It’s self-explanatory. I don’t think black tie is absolutely necessary all of the time, but everybody should make certain he is wearing a conservative suit that fits. If your personal apron has a lot of gold, good for you, but if you are serving as an officer, best to leave it inside your apron case and instead wear a chapter officer apron for uniformity. If the aprons at your chapter look like they’ve been used to check engine oil, replace them with new ritual garments, and keep those clean and dignified.

Expertise in leadership, including ritual work – One who sits in the East of a chapter must have a head for business and a heart for fraternity. We need smart and organized men who can communicate. There actually are guys out there who think wearing a PHP apron will help them get the 33º. (Worse, sometimes they are right.) Maybe it will be necessary to coax a few PHPs into serving as officers until the chapter rights itself, but in the meantime, only accomplished Masons who take an interest in the chapter’s success need to hold officer positions. I won’t touch on the secretary’s desk, because it goes without saying. In ritual, be patient. Not everyone can handle large speaking parts, but practically everyone can do something. Place talent where it makes the most sense, and if someone isn’t working out, replace him. Do not permit him to advance to more complicated parts. If you cannot confer a degree, don’t. Get help from outside.

Education in the practical and the esoteric – Okay, so there isn’t a lot of literature on American Royal Arch Masonry available, despite the Order being pregnant with educational and spiritual heft. Fortunately, Piers Vaughan, a Past MEGHP of New York and a Mason with an international reputation, authored two books in 2014 to help us. Introduction to Capitular Masonry is an easy-to-digest 46 pages that covers the basics. Piers explains the fundamentals of rituals, symbols, chapter structure, history, and a lot more. The Chapter Walkabout is meant to benefit the newly exalted, but in truth it probably would benefit all of us. Your chapter should be giving this book to all new Royal Arch Masons.

Piers’ other Royal Arch book is titled Capitular Development Course. Not a sexy title but, weighing in at a substantial 153 pages, it delivers highly useful education and is very approachable. Like a workbook you used in school, this has a quiz after the chapter of each degree. Let’s face it, modern man is largely ignorant of the Bible. This leaves him in precarious darkness in a Masonic setting, particularly the Royal Arch chapter, but this book (keep a Bible handy for reference) is immensely helpful in decoding what these rituals are about. Give this to your new and old companions too!

Excellence in dining – I concede odds are there must be a few Masons whose idea of the perfect Masonic meal differs from mine (mutton, Bordeaux, sautéed spinach, mushrooms, fries the size of a corona gorda, brandy, tobacco, tawny port, dark chocolate of some kind, coffee, a lush whiskey, and tobacco), but surely it’s pretty easy to provide a good meal everyone can enjoy. See what your local restaurants can cater. Or maybe you all can eat there. Whatever it is, make sure it is enjoyable. Our English word “companion” originates in the Latin (com = together with, and panis = bread) for “breaking bread with another.” But don’t eat just bread. Make every meal special. Together.

I realize I am omitting a lot, but I have seen it is difficult to instill even these modest concepts into a lodge. We all want everything to be perfect, but the definition of perfection varies from place to place, and from man to man. One’s biases, formed by repetitive experience and comfortable habit, can inhibit learning and understanding so that suggesting new practices to an existing lodge often causes defensive friction. Meanwhile, building a lodge on a foundation of the “Observant” ideas frequently produces a new lodge of only frustrated refugees from those fractious lodges, with no candidates for initiation in sight. Rarely is there a “Goldilocks Lodge” wherein everything feels just right.

But in the Royal Arch chapter, things can be very different. These are locally managed items. You don’t need to secure anyone’s permission to buy new aprons, upgrade the meals, and master the ritual. Just do it, and you’ll see success breeding success in time. There’s a smallness in Royal Arch that permits both intimacy and portability. If your chapter has a membership of, say, 40, and about 15 attend convocations, your chapter is doing well. If the chapter has 75 companions and, say, 22 attend regularly, that’s good, even if maybe it doesn’t look so mathematically.

And with the smallness comes less bureaucracy. You’re not making Masons, so there isn’t a need for so many moving parts. Sure the secretary has to file annual returns in December, but there is far less time wasted for the rest of us in, what I’ll call, genuflecting during the rest of the year. And there probably are fewer meetings per year for your Royal Arch chapter as compared to your lodge. Maybe your chapter doesn’t even meet monthly, like mine, which holds convocations every other month. All that time to prepare can let you focus on excellence if you want. If you don’t, then the time spent between meetings will breed neglect.

Smallness can help you move around the jurisdiction. If the lodge where your chapter is settled does not, for whatever reason, feed the chapter new members, then moving the chapter’s charter shouldn’t be that difficult. Changing meeting nights or times also should be simple, if that will help you. Your chapter should be meeting the needs of its companions; expecting the reverse to occur is not realistic.

Maybe small size chapters are part of our future. What is wrong attaching chapters to lodges in significant numbers? Instead of having one chapter serving 10 to 20 lodges, have 10 micro chapters serving 20 to 30 lodges.

What prompted this, the longest edition of The Magpie Mason in many months? My own chapter is facing its demise unless we reverse its most obvious problems. At our November convocation, the DDGHP visited to remind us that Grand Chapter will meet in March, and that we have until then to install a line of officers who can simply open the chapter without reading the ritual. That’s the basic requirement, but it’s enough so that our 162-year-old chapter will have a 163rd year. On the down side, we will have only one meeting (January 10) before March, and I don’t see evidence of the companions getting organized. For my part, I responded to a complaint made about the absence of Masonic culture from the chapter’s meetings by volunteering to attend every convocation of 2020 to speak on some aspect of Royal Arch Masonic Light, be it about ritual, symbol, history etc., and also to write something introductory about each talk for the bulletin going to the membership at the start of the month. No one does that, but it’s something I can do.

The day after our DDGHP informed us our clock is ticking, I began asking around to see what other chapters on the planet have done to achieve the successes that have eluded us. Hatrock (speaking of the Knights of the North!) sent me a link to his chapter, Norwood 18, in Alberta.

Click here. Behold the banner on the homepage: A Sanctuary for the Master Mason Seeking Further Light in Masonry. Yes, that’s it! That’s it in one phrase!

Look for the Chapter Principles, or “What sets Norwood Chapter apart?” Ten items:

  • Ritual Excellence
  • Enlightening Education
  • Elegance of Dress
  • Chapter Ambiance
  • Non-Traditional Timings
  • Festive Board
  • Two-Year Terms of Office
  • Fewer Meetings
  • Selectivity
  • Commitment

“Norwood Chapter offers Royal Arch Masonry at its finest.”

Peruse the entire website. It’s a little out of date, but the important information doesn’t age.

Last Sunday, the All Things Masonic blog shared the news of Iron Range Chapter 70 in Minnesota. A new chapter! It is chartered to travel about the area, serving a 30-mile radius.

Courtesy All Things Masonic
Iron Range Chapter companions in Minnesota.

The wonderful Midnight Freemasons (Todd Creason, Gregg Knott, et al.) site published a story several years ago about Admiration Chapter in Illinois. “We wanted a new chapter—a more regional chapter. We wanted a chapter with a particular focus on Masonic education and member development,” Creason writes in 2016. “We wanted a chapter that wouldn’t only thrive, but could serve as an education resource to other York Rite chapters and Blue lodges in the area. And the Grand Chapter liked that idea very much.”

Admiration Chapter companions in Illinois.

I followed up with Greg Knott (a fellow Masonic Society board member!) last week, who reports they’re “still going strong” especially with the education work.

One last, quick, funny/sad story: In asking around for ideas for reinvigorating Royal Arch Masonry in my jurisdiction, I contacted the Supreme Grand Chapter of England; I follow a number of its chapters via social media, and they appear to be doing well. I briefly explained why I’m seeking advice on what makes English chapters successful, and expressed hope that someone there might reply with a few examples of what works best and why. Instead, someone there complained about me to the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons International, which then complained about me to my grand secretary (who knows me all too well), and—long story short—alack, no information on Royal Arch success English-style would be forthcoming.

One concept from England I found: Introductory events!
Of course, Mark is its own order in England, but you get the idea.

I’ll conclude with a few Big Picture items:

Can we retire the Virtual Past Master Degree, please? I suppose this would require some legal work, like a few constitutional amendments—and I realize it would be a hard sell to those who say a motion to buy new aprons is a hot-headed idea—but it would be a smart way to lighten the ritual load on the chapters. And we shouldn’t reveal the secrets of the chair to whom of right they do not belong, yes? Canada, England, and most (all?) other jurisdictions around the world do not work a VPM Degree.

What is the General International thing? I mean I know basically what it’s about, but why do we still have it? What does it do? Why are we paying for it? I admit to not liking anything with “international” in its name—except maybe the pancakes restaurant—but if your grand chapter withdrew from the General, would you or your chapter even notice?

There was supposed to be an emergency meeting of my chapter’s PHPs on December 13 to plan our immediate future. It’s already the first of the month, but I haven’t heard a word about this meeting yet. It’s really a shame.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

‘Steiner bookstore holiday sale’

The Rudolf Steiner Bookstore is offering a sale for the holiday season. All books are marked down 15 percent, and certain titles have deeper price cuts. That’s at the Anthroposophical Society’s New York City headquarters at 138 West 15th Street, between Sixth and Seventh avenues. The store is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 2 to 6 p.m., and also before and after the Society’s events. From the publicity:

When you arrive, you will notice that the subject categories have been expanded and the books are much easier to find by topic and interest. There are too many new categories to list here, but you will be happy to find expanded Art, Music, Medicine and Therapy, Agriculture, and Meditation sections. Spirituality topics are easier to find, and we have a Technology section, including both journals and books about computers, machines, and AI. Walter Alexander’s book Hearts and Minds is also in stock.

We continue to sell art supplies and Waldorf materials, like main lesson books, watercolor paints, paper, brushes, block crayons, and musical instruments. For the holiday season, you will find a larger selection of beeswax candles and handmade items for your gift purchases.

We are also currently seeking new bookstore volunteers. As a volunteer shopkeeper, you are destined to have some of the most interesting conversations with our visitors! It is a wonderful way to share Anthroposophy with the general public. You are also eligible for a 15 percent Bookstore discount on all your personal purchases. Are you curious what it takes to be our bookstore volunteer? Join us for the orientation session with tea and cookies on Saturday, December 14, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Rudolf Steiner Bookstore will have a mini-bookstore at the Brooklyn Waldorf School Holiday Fair December 7. We are looking for assistance with transportation and selling items. Please let us know if you have any interest in assisting.

‘UCLA’s Esotericism and Masonic Connections’


Next April will see the ninth annual International Conference on Freemasonry at UCLA, this time with the theme “Hidden Meanings: Esotericism and Masonic Connections.”

The theme is important, because the conference is moving forward without the political content that characterized previous events there, and now is organized under official California Masonic auspices.

From the publicity:

Hidden Meanings: Esotericism
and Masonic Connections
UCLA International Conference
on Freemasonry
Saturday, April 18, 2020
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
UCLA: 330 De Neve Drive
Covell Commons, Grand Horizon Room
Los Angeles
Tickets here

Freemasonry offers everyone a pathway to self-improvement, fellowship, and community. For the committed few, it holds the promise of even more.

For more than 300 years, Masonic teachings and symbolism have attracted those in search of deeper, secret meanings about the natural and even supernatural world. These esoteric pursuits, shrouded in mystery and mysticism, have endured through the centuries and even today continue to fascinate seekers around the world.

On April 18, 2020, experts and scholars on Freemasonry will meet on the campus of UCLA to discuss the eternal quest for esoteric knowledge and its broader relationship to the craft. The ninth annual UCLA International Conference on Freemasonry is a rare chance for Masons and non-Masons to dive deep on metaphysics, antiquity, and the occult.

Freemasonry and the Esoteric:
Elitism, Insecurity, and
Unenlightened Self-Interest
Ric Berman, author of several books
on Freemasonry, including Espionage, Diplomacy & the Lodge

Although Masonic esotericism hints at ancient secrets, it was in fact not widely introduced into the craft until the 1730s—a means of appealing to an elite aristocratic and mostly French audience. The success of that marriage in the eighteenth century led to Freemasonry’s systematic introduction into the United States, a consequence not of politics or spirituality but economic self-interest.

The Esotericism of the Esoteric
School of Masonic Research
Henrik Bogdan, professor of Religious Studies, University of Gothenburg

The founding of London’s Quatuor Coronati Lodge in 1884 gave birth to a new school of Masonic history and research, based on legitimate texts and study rather than the subjective or “inspired” Masonic writers of the past. However among this new school were a subset of scholars approaching research from what historian R.A. Gilbert called the “Esoteric School of Masonic Research”—part of a broader milieu of fin-de-siecle occultism.

Hidden and Visible:
Mormon Garments in Community
Nancy Ross, assistant professor, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences,
Dixie State University

Weighted with meaning, sacred (and secret) undergarments have long been a highly important, though seldom discussed, part of the Mormon church. Indeed, across religions, sacred garments like these have presented profound dilemmas and indicated deeper meanings for wearers and their broader communities.

Freemasonry and Neoplatanism
Jan Snoek, historian of religions,
Institute of Religious Studies,
University of Heidelberg

Several philosophers, expanding on the teachings of Plato, developed theories without which Freemasonry could never have found its form. From Abbot Suger’s construction of the church of St. Denis—Europe’s first gothic cathedral, dedicated to light and beauty—to the third-century parable of the sculptor who must perfect himself, meet the thinkers who paved the way for modern Masonry.

Stephen Freeman
on Antigua and London:
A Respectable Rosicrucian
Susan Mitchell Sommers, professor
of history, Saint Vincent College

The recent discovery of a single surviving pamphlet by a quack doctor, Stephen Freeman, living in Antigua in the late 18th century offers a rare glimpse into not only the thinking of a fringe medical professional, but also paints a stunning portrait of the lives of striving middle-class emigrants in the West Indies struggling for respectability. Largely by leaning on connections through societies including the Freemasons and esoteric Rosicrucians, those like Freeman hoped to improve their lot in society and find deeper meaning—in both cases, often unsuccessfully.

The UCLA International Conference is sponsored by the California Masonic Foundation and the Grand Lodge of California.

Friday, November 29, 2019

‘My new favorite thing in Freemasonry’

You know John Keats died too young in Italy in 1821, and you know P.B. Shelley died too young in Italy in 1822, but did you know there is a lodge in Rome named Keats and Shelley Lodge?

Well, there is.

The first lodge on the roll of the Gran Loggia Regolare d’Italia celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. It’s an English-language lodge (no surprise there, I guess) that meets on the fourth Saturdays of February, May, September, and November.

I dont know if the lodge has any relationship to Keats-Shelley House.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

‘Lecture: Freemasonry in the Spanish Antilles’

The next lecture at the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library will bring back to the lectern Bro. Jorge Romeu. From the publicity:

An Overview of Freemasonry
in the Spanish Antilles
by Bro. Jorge Romeu
Tuesday, December 10 at 6:30
Chancellor Robert R. Livingston
Masonic Library
71 West 23rd Street, 14th floor
RSVP here

This month we are proud to welcome back Bro. Jorge Romeu to present his research providing a historic overview of the history of grand lodges in the Spanish Antilles during the 19th century. Freemasonry appeared, first and briefly, in the Spanish Antilles (Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic) as a result of the Haitian slave revolt at the beginning of the 19th century. Haiti’s French colonizers moved to the neighboring Spanish islands, taking Freemasonry with them. Freemasonry reappeared in the 1860s after an interlude of 30 years when it was forbidden by Spain. Freemasonry was then instrumental in these islands’ struggle for political autonomy, and eventually for independence.

Jorge Luis Romeu
Bro. Jorge L. Romeu holds dual Masonic memberships in New York (Liverpool-Syracuse 501, The American Lodge of Research, and Western New York Lodge of Research) and in Puerto Rico (Jose Celso Barbosa Lodge 106 and Jose G. Bloise Lodge 113). He holds doctorate and master’s degrees in Operations Research from Syracuse University, and serves as a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Research Professor. Romeu is director of the Juarez Lincoln Marti Project, dedicated to enhancing faculty development exchanges. He is a member of the Fulbright Speakers Specialist roster, which has provided the opportunity to teach at numerous international universities.

Photo ID is required to enter Masonic Hall.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

‘2020 Prestonian Lecturer’

And the envelope please…

Magpie file photo
The Prestonian Lecture for 2020 will be “A System of Morality: Aristotle and the Making of the Ritual” as presented by W Bro. George Boys-Stones, Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies.

Congratulations, Bro. Boys-Stones! Please let me know if your travels bring you to the United States, particularly the New York City area. I have some experience in arranging Prestonian speaking engagements.

George Boys-Stones
W. Boys-Stones, unsurprisingly, is a professor of Classics, a member of the Classics Department at Durham University from 1999 to 2019 before joining the faculty of the University of Toronto for the 2019-20 term. He is a prolific author on subjects pertaining to the philosophies of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, and is managing editor of Phronesis, a journal of ancient philosophy. Earlier this year, he published Platonist Philosophy 80 BC to AD 250: An Introduction and Collection of Sources in Translation which, among other feats, puts into English for the first time a number of Platonist primary writings.

Click here to see other books.

A Prestonian Lecturer is appointed every year by the United Grand Lodge of England in a tradition commenced in 1818, thanks to a bequest to the Grand Lodge from William Preston, that has gone uninterrupted excepting for the years of the Second World War (if I recall correctly).

Having attempted myself to speak a number of times on the Four Cardinal Virtues, I’m very eager to hear this Prestonian Lecture because I glossed over Aristotle, jumping from Plato to Aquinas.

‘John Acaster, R.I.P.’

There are times when news of someone’s death makes you gasp loudly in disbelief and dismay, and that was the case for me today upon learning of the loss yesterday of Bro. John Acaster.

I’ll enjoy fond memories of chatting with him about things Masonic, especially things Masonic education. He was one of the greats. He founded several Craft lodges and a Royal Arch chapter. He was a scholar and Past Master for QC2076 and Manchester Lodge of Research, and was a joy to hear from the lectern.

Magpie file photo
This seems to be my only photo of John Acaster, center, in dark blue regalia. Taken at Alpha Lodge 116, December 2007.

It was about 12 years ago that I first met him. It was a special event at historic Alpha Lodge 116, but it was after hours, downstairs in the dining room, where I got to talk with John at length about his enthusiasm for focused research and for general learning. If I’m not mistaken, he would have marked his golden anniversary in Freemasonry next year.

What got to me was how I considered him “the young one” of the Quatuor Coronati members.

Rest in peace.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

‘Wellness services planned for New Rochelle’

MW Bro. William M. Sardone, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York, released a brief statement today on the subject of the acquisition of the campus of the former College of New Rochelle (see previous two Magpie posts). Excerpted:

“For several years and with the support of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York, the Trustees have been searching for a suitable site closer to the Metropolitan New York City area. This long-range plan was to bring some of the services available in Utica, New York closer to Masons who live in the New York City area. When it was learned that the former campus of the College of New Rochelle became available, it was acknowledged that this property would not only provide that opportunity, but also wellness services to a larger community.”

Monday, November 25, 2019

‘Bankruptcy court approves Grand Lodge college purchase’

Courtesy WCBS/Channel 2
Today a New York bankruptcy court approved Grand Lodge’s $32 million purchase at auction of the defunct College of New Rochelle campus in Westchester.

News story here.

Now we await an announcement from the 17th floor disclosing our fraternity’s intention for the property.

More Magpie information here.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

‘Grand Lodge acquiring defunct college property’


Courtesy Bloomberg News

With a winning bid of $32 million, the Grand Lodge of New York prevailed days ago in an auction of the 16-acre campus of the former College of New Rochelle, according to a news report published late last night.

No, me neither.

Courtesy Westchester Magazine

No title has been transferred yet. Tomorrow a hearing in bankruptcy court will convene to discuss approval of this plan. The College of New Rochelle went bankrupt in September in a criminal financial fraud leaving behind liabilities of approximately $80 million.

The buyer actually is the Masonic Hall & Asylum Fund, which is the corporation entrusted with the management of Grand Lodge’s real properties, from Masonic Hall in Manhattan to the Masonic Care Community in Utica, and also DeWint House and Camp Turk.

Campus Wellness Center.

The property is located in Westchester County, located northeast of Manhattan and near the Connecticut border, less than 20 miles from midtown via I-95.

Courtesy New York Times
Leland Castle, built in the 1850s and landmarked, is part of the campus. 

Read all about it here. These photos of the campus are culled from assorted news sources.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

‘Congratulations to one in a million’

On Thursday, the inimitable, irrepressible, and inspiring Jim Hogg was honored in the United Grand Lodge of England, where he was made a Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden!

Jim is a Florida Mason who holds dual membership in UGLE’s Internet Lodge 9659, where he served as Worshipful Master. He was one of only six brethren so honored from among the 166 lodges of the Provincial Grand Lodge of East Lancashire. This is the highest honor that may be bestowed on a brother by a Provincial Grand Master. The brethren enjoyed a meeting and festive board at King George’s Hall in Blackburn.

To know Jim is to love him—and to groan in incurable agony at the ceaseless torrent of puns and cracks he improvises throughout his waking hour. And likely in his slumbers too!

He also is a Founding Fellow of the Masonic Society, where he served a number of years on our Board of Directors, so I can attest to his outstanding leadership qualities.

Congratulations, Jim! Wear that beautiful regalia in good health for many years.

Photos courtesy Jim Hogg

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

‘Speakers Bureau is a go’


Illinois Lodge of Research announced Saturday the launch of a speakers bureau. More than 60(!) Masons have said they would travel the state to present topics of Masonic interest.

It’s not a free-for-all. The speakers are vetted. Suitable topics are understood in three denominations: history, symbolism/esoterica, and ritual/literature.

Read all about it here.

Bravo, brethren!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

‘Rosicrucian symposium on the solstice’


I’ll certainly share the details when they become known, but for now just mark your calendars for Saturday, December 21 at 1 p.m. when the Rosicrucian Order will host a symposium in New York City.

Monday, November 18, 2019

‘The Working Tool for the holiday season’

Straight from the publicity:

The George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association is proud to offer for the 2019 holiday season a beautiful gold and enamel plated ornament—The Working Tool: United in Brotherly Love.

This ornament unites several essential Masonic symbols that illustrate the crucial and divine lesson of brotherly love. The triangular frame, topped by the Masonic emblem over a sky blue circle, represents the fraternity. The raised Trowel is every Master Mason’s primary tool. As the Trowel spreads the cement that unites the many different stones or bricks of a building into a single, strong whole, so Master Masons spread brotherly love to unite men throughout the world. Behind the Trowel shines the Blazing Star, an ancient Masonic symbol of Divine Providence, representing the divine nature of brotherhood. As President and Brother George Washington used an ivory-handled trowel to lay the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol, the trowel inspires Masons to use brotherly love to overcome their differences. The new American Republic united all the states under the motto E Pluribus Unum, “from many, one.”

To order yours, please visit our website here.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

‘Great day planned for MMRS’

It’s that time of year for elections and installations of officers, and Maryland Masonic Research Society will meet for its annual meeting on Saturday, December 7 for a nicely well rounded gathering.

9:15 a.m. – a light breakfast will be served ($12 per person).

10:15 – the meeting, with a presentation by S. Brent Morris on “A Timeline of High Degree Masonry,” and the “very quickly done” elections/installations.

Then a tour of Freemasons Hall, the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of Maryland.

The group asks for a $5 entrance fee to defray the costs of renting the Gothic Room.

Kindly book your seat for breakfast no later than Tuesday, December 3 by writing the secretary here.

All Masons and their guests are welcome to attend.

From the publicity:

“A Timeline of High Degree Masonry” focuses on the remarkably complex and interconnected group of Masonic organizations. We will begin our exploration from the base, where the Craft Degrees are controlled by Grand Lodges, and grafted onto these are “High Degrees” that expand and amplify the basic Craft ceremonies. This talk traces the first appearance and growth of High Degrees from the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge to the creation of the first Supreme Council in 1801.

Courtesy Dummkopf Blog
S. Brent Morris is a Past President of Maryland Masonic Research Society, Past Master of both Patmos Lodge 70 in Maryland and Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076 in London. He is managing editor of The Scottish Rite Journal, a Past Grand Abbot of the Society of Blue Friars, and the author and editor of numerous books and articles on Freemasonry. He is a Founding Fellow of the Masonic Society, a Fellow of the Philalethes Society, and an Honorary Fellow of the Phylaxis Society. A 33° Mason in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction, he also is a recipient of the Grand Cross of the Court of Honor. He is a mathematician by training and a magician by inclination.

The tour will follow Brent’s lecture and will be led by Stephen J. Ponzillo and Edward Heimiller.

Freemasons Hall is located at 304 International Circle in Cockeysville, Maryland. Free parking is available.

‘Lecture: Origins of Masonry’

On Tuesday, December 3, Hancock-Dirigo-Adelphi Lodge 23 will host a brother from Holland Lodge 8 to present a lecture. From the publicity:

The Origins of Masonry:
from Operative to Speculative
by RW Andrew Paine
Tuesday, December 3 at 7 p.m.
Masonic Hall, Manhattan
Doric Room on 8

We are honored and privileged to have RW Andrew Paine presenting this lecture, and we invite brethren of your lodge to attend. Candidates are welcome to attend, accompanied by their lodge sponsor.

Reserve by email here with your name, lodge, and degree, and write “Masonic Light with RW Andrew Paine” in the subject line. Your current membership card will be needed at the door. Photo ID is required to enter Masonic Hall.

Dinner to follow, at $35 per person, in the Jacobean Room.