Saturday, January 18, 2020

‘Bro. Homer’s silver anniversary’


Courtesy Gracie Films/20th Century Fox Television

“Why won’t those stupid idiots let me into their crappy club for jerks?”

Homer J. Simpson

Somehow this anniversary slipped past me. It was 25 years ago—on January 8, 1995—when Homer Simpson was initiated into the Stonecutters and was hailed as The Chosen One!

I know the feeling.

IMDB offers insight into how this episode (No. 12 of Season 6) came about:

Although the episode was written by John Swartzwelder, the story was suggested by David Mirkin. Mirkin did not have enough time to write the episode and asked Swartzwelder to do it. Mirkin came up with the idea while driving home from a rewrite early in the morning and listened to a religious radio station where they were talking about Freemasonry. Mirkin decided it would make a great episode, where everyone in Springfield was a member of a Masonic society and Homer was left on the outside and felt neglected.

The Stonecutters are a parody of the Freemasons. The Freemason symbol of the Square and Compass can be seen on the walls of the Stonecutter Hall, and on the Sacred Parchment. All members of both societies are men.

The legible words on the Sacred Parchment are a line taken from Publius Vergilius Maro: Aeneid, book 2, line 774: obstipui steteruntque comae et vox faucibus haesit

The translation is “I was dumbstruck, (my) hair stood up and (my) voice was stuck in (my) throat.” Fleeing the burning Troy, Aeneas has lost his wife, Creusa, and is about to look for her when her shadow appears and talks to him. In line 774 he describes his sensations when seeing this shadow. There does not seem to be a reason why the makers chose this line.

Regular Springfield characters shown to be Stonecutters: Lenny, Carl, Moe, Dr. Hibbert, Burns, Smithers, Grampa (Abe Simpson), Jasper, Herman, Principal Skinner, Mayor Quimby, Chief Wiggum, Leopold (Superintendant Chalmers’ Assistant), Krusty, Kent Brockman, Apu, Barney, and of course, Homer, after his initiation. Barney is never actually seen wearing Stonecutter robes, but he is seen working at the Stonecutters’ daycare center.

The song We Do was not included in the original script and was suggested by Matt Groening. It was written by the writers’ room, who threw in as many things that annoyed them as they possibly could.

When Homer is being paddled for initiation into the Stonecutters, he mentions The Wreck of the Hesperus, a poem by Longfellow published in 1842.

Courtesy Gracie Films/20th Century Fox Television

So popular is this episode, it inspired a line of action figures!

Available from Amazon: The Homer Stonecutter
action man with paraphernalia.

And Number One.

And, in the quotations department:

Marge: Homer, a man who called himself “you-know-who” just invited you to a secret “wink-wink” at the “you-know-what.” You certainly are popular now that you’re a Stonecutter.

Homer: Oh, yeah. Beer busts, beer blasts, keggers, stein hoists, AA meetings, beer night. It’s wonderful, Marge. I’ve never felt so accepted in all my life. These people looked deep within my soul and assigned me a number based on the order in which I joined.

In many Masonic jurisdictions, after a quarter-century, Homer would be a Past Grand Master by now—and many Masonic jurisdictions could do a lot worse!

Grampa Abe Simpson action figure with fez.

‘MMRS meeting dates for 2020’


Maryland Masonic Research Society has five dates scheduled for the year:

Saturday, March 7
Mount Hermon Lodge 179
Hyattsville, Maryland

Saturday, May 2
Naval Lodge 4
Washington, DC

Monday, August 3
Festive Board
Kings Contrivance
Columbia, Maryland

Saturday, October 10
Election of Officers
Location: TBA

Saturday, December 5
Installation of Officers
Grand Lodge of Maryland

Thursday, January 16, 2020

‘Library lecture: Washington’s bicentennial’

Courtesy Coin Trackers
The Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library’s first lecture of the year will bring RW Bro. Bill Maurer to the lectern to present “George Washington and the 1932 Bicentennial.”

That’s Thursday, January 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the library, located on the 14th floor of Masonic Hall (71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan). Photo ID is required to enter the building.

From the publicity:

This month, the Livingston Masonic Library is proud to welcome C.F. William Maurer to speak about George Washington and the celebration of the bicentenary of Washington’s birth in 1932. In addition, he will touch on the contributions of Bro. Sol Bloom, who served as director of the United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission.

C.F. William Maurer, MPS is a Past Master of Athelstane Lodge 839 in Pearl River, New York, and is a dual member of Cincinnati Lodge 3 in Morristown. He is the First Vice President of the library’s Board of Trustees.

Admission is free and is open to the public. Doors open at six o’clock. Book your seat here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

‘Help with this survey on contemplative practices’

Bro. Chuck Dunning, author of Contemplative Masonry, is researching the availability of meditation and similar practices in Masonic meetings. Maybe you could help him.

Complete this survey.

I know you’re out there. When I spoke on this subject five years ago at the Masonic Restoration Foundation in Philly, I was surprised and delighted to see the hands raised when asked who follows a mindfulness exercise, and if it was part of lodge life.

The confidential survey asks only eight questions.

Monday, January 13, 2020

‘Azim’s January social at The Campbell’


And speaking of bars and drinking (see both most recent posts below), Azim “Home of the Mokanna” Grotto will gather for its January social at a place I have wanted to visit for a long time. (I drive everywhere, so I don’t use train stations.)

Inside Grand Central Terminal, in what had been the offices of Roaring Twenties financier John Campbell, is The Campbell—a pretty swank bar.

Wikipedia says between the days of Campbell’s office and The Campbell Bar, the space was used as a jail by the MTA, which might explain Azim’s affinity for the joint.

Enjoy these photos borrowed from all kinds of websites, and resolve to become an Azim Mystic Prophet on Saturday, March 21—National Grotto Day.

Courtesy New York Times




Sunday, January 12, 2020

‘Save the White House!’

“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.”

Winston Churchill

At Magpie Headquarters, Professor Pan's portrait of Bro. Winston Churchill looms above my desk, reminding me of my inadequacies in perpetuity.

And speaking of beer (see post below), there is a movement in Bladon, England to preserve, protect, and defend the White House.

That’s the local pub where Bro. Winston Churchill is said to have learned to drink—like he wouldn’t have figured it out anyway—and that had been purchased by these guys, arousing neighbors’ fears that the historic site could be closed and the land converted to another use. Bladon is a village of less than a thousand inhabitants, and this pub, dating to the 16th century, is the center of activity there. The White House is listed for sale now, and the neighbors are attempting to raise the needed money to purchase it and operate it as a community resource. They have until March to raise half a million pounds, but it is not looking favorable.

Supporters have the options of buying shares (£50 each) and/or donating money toward the effort.

The share buy-in closing date is January 31. Click here to read the prospectus.

To donate, click here.

Courtesy Art Daily
Winston Churchills Masonic apron.

Bro. Churchill was initiated into Studholme Lodge 1591 (now United Studholme Alliance Lodge 1591) on May 24, 1901. He was passed to the second degree July 19, and was raised a Master Mason on March 5, 1902.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

‘Craft beer for the Craft’

“Ah, good ol’ trustworthy beer. My love for you will never die.”

Homer J. Simpson

I will be amid the revelries of Masonic Week in Virginia that day, but there’s no reason why you can’t get to Cooperstown to enjoy this charity event. From the publicity:

Craft from the Craft
Saturday, February 8
4 to 6 p.m.
Otsego Lodge 138
77 Main Street
Cooperstown, New York

Join the members of Otsego Lodge 138 of Free and Accepted Masons in a tasting of quality craft beer (some even brewed by our members!) for a nominal, and to be determined, cost. Gross proceeds will go to Masonic charities in New York State.

Tours of the building will also be given. Celebrate our 100th year in our current building!

2020 is the 225th year of Otsego Lodge serving Cooperstown. Come learn about our history in the village, as well as information on Freemasonry as a whole.

Must be 21+ to be served.

‘This Scotsman walks into a lodge on St. Patrick’s Day’

No, not a joke! Bro. Bob Cooper will visit an area lodge March 17 to speak on the subject of the Edinburgh Register House Manuscript. From the publicity:

Robert L.D. Cooper
Deciphering the Edinburgh
Register House MS of 1696
Tuesday, March 17
Clifton, New Jersey

Hailed as the world’s oldest Masonic ritual, the Edinburgh Register House Manuscript of 1696 starts with a catechism for proving a man, who has the word, is really a mason. Among other things, the person seeking entry is expected to name his lodge as Kilwinning, which is reputed to be the oldest Lodge in the world. A Fellow Craft is further expected to know and explain a Masonic embrace called the Five Points of Fellowship.

Lessing-Passaic Lodge 67 is proud to present this world-acclaimed Masonic speaker. Bro. Cooper has been the curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland’s Museum and Library for 20 years, and is a Past Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076. Not only has he written books and articles on Masonic matters, but he also has appeared on television and radio programs around the world on the subject of Freemasonry. He has an abiding interest in all matters relating to Freemasonry prior to the Grand Lodge era, with a particular interest in manuscript rituals, including pseudo-Masonic rituals from the 17th century.

All those who RSVP will receive an advance copy of this manuscript. Reservations are required. No walk-ins can be accommodated. RSVP here. This will be a regular communication of Lessing-Passaic Lodge 67, and our program will be as follows:

Social hour at 5:30 p.m. Dinner at 6:30. Lodge Opening at 7:30, and the presentation at eight o’clock.

To accommodate the anticipated number of brethren who will likely attend, Clifton Lodge 203 has allowed us the use of their temple to hold this program. 1496 Van Houten Avenue, Clifton, New Jersey.

This meeting will be free of charge and open to all Master Masons because Lessing-Passaic Lodge would like to spread Masonic Light and knowledge to as many of the brethren as possible.

We expect this program to fill up quickly, so we suggest that you RSVP without delay, but no later than February 25.

Friday, January 10, 2020

‘One Mason’s Civil War story published’

Bro. Robert Jordan, of Sylvan Lodge 303 up in Jamestown, New York, published a book on Wednesday, Alvah: A Thread of Red, chronicling an ancestor’s travails during the Civil War. Bro. Jordan’s familial and Masonic brother Tom explains:

My brother, and our Sylvan Lodge Brother, Robert Jordan has recently published a Masonic themed book about our ancestor and Civil War veteran Alvah Jordan. Alvah provided a written account of his Civil War experiences in March 1910, after being pestered by relatives, friends, and neighbors to write it down before it was lost forever.

Alvah’s written account includes being captured at the Battle of Plymouth, North Carolina; being briefly imprisoned at Andersonville and taking part in the prisoner trials; then being transferred and subsequently escaping from various confederate prisons, including the prison at Florence, South Carolina. Alvah’s written account includes details of his and his comrade’s attempts to make their way northward to rejoin the 85th New York Infantry, and his interesting interactions with his Masonic and non-Masonic captors. My brother takes Alvah’s written account, with other historical information we’ve accumulated over the years, and uses his gift for story-telling to create a very interesting historical novel.

From the publisher:

Take a tour of duty with a man who survived the American Civil War. Based on the personal writings of Alvah Jordan, Alvah: A Thread of Red is a riveting story passed down through generations until Robert Jordan, his descendent, decided to fill in the gaps and create a page-turning biography of a man who lived a fascinating life. In many cases, the information Alvah Jordan left out of his writings speaks louder than that he included. He was a complex man born in simpler times, under the Victorian constraints based on faith and morals. A man of integrity, ingenuity, and humor, he had the innate ability to take the edge off of adversity. Follow him as he explores the importance of character, learns to use his God-given resources, learns about Freemasonry, and copes with life's trials.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

‘Washington Lodge and the death of Hamilton’

The Master of historic Washington Lodge 21, which will reach its 220th anniversary on March 5, announces a fascinating historical lecture scheduled for next Thursday. From the publicity:

Courtesy New-York Historical Society
The Hamilton-Burr duel pistols.

Washington Lodge No. 21
and the Role its Members Played
in the Hamilton-Burr Duel of 1804
Thursday, January 16 at 7:45 p.m.
Presented by Historian Andrew Kozinn
and Senior Warden Ali Fateh
Masonic Hall, 10th floor
71 West 23rd Street, Manhattan
Photo ID required to enter the building

Learn the role of Freemasons in creating our political system after the Revolutionary War. Learn the reasons for the formation of Washington Lodge in 1800! Learn what caused one Washington Lodge Brother to threaten another Brother’s life! Decide for yourself which Masonic Brothers acted most appropriately to preserve the integrity of the Craft!

All Brothers and interested gentlemen are invited. Attire: business casual. Collation to follow. RSVP to Bro. Kozinn here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

‘Weird Fact Wednesday: Tassels’

I probably ought to move this feature to Tuesdays and dub it Trivia Tuesday or something like that, because, once again, here is a Weird Fact that I’m not sure is genuinely weird.

Okay, so we’ve all seen those twin tassels flanking the flaps of many aprons. To wit:


Well, how did they get there? I’ve been told over the years by learned brethren how these ornaments bear all kinds of symbolism, such as representing the Pillars in the Porch. Personally, I favor the practical explanations of many things in Freemasonry. (I don’t know how many fluid ounces of post-meeting port have passed through my nostrils at the mention of Templar origins of Freemasonry, but I digress.)

It is sad that countless volumes of Masonic literature from earlier centuries have disappeared from sight. In some cases, largely because of dubious scholarship—which was the norm for those times, we must remember—that’s a good thing, but plenty of other cases are lamentable. In the encyclopedia department, we all have Coil’s, Mackey’s, and maybe Waite’s. And then there are dictionaries and other reference books. In the early 20th century, Edward Lovell Hawkins, of Quatuor Coronati 2076 and other accomplishments, published his A Concise Cyclopædia of Freemasonry or Handbook of Masonic Reference. (He also authored A History of Freemasonry in Oxfordshire.)

On the subject of tassels, he writes:

The silver tassels prescribed in the English Constitutions for the aprons of a Master Mason and of a Grand Steward have evolved in course of time from the two long ribbons by which the early aprons were tied on. These ribbons passed round the body and were tied under the flap, with the ends pendent in front. To give a finish to these ends, they were ornamented with a silver fringe. The ribbons would soon become creased with frequent tying, and considerable care would be necessary to get the pendent ends of equal length; so the next step was to sew the decorated ribbons to the apron, making them distinct from the actual tie, which would be concealed by the flap. Then came the strap and buckle now worn.

(The next entry in his cyclopædia is Templar, Knights!)

I’ve been asked a number of times by all kinds of Masons if the quadrangular shape of the Masonic apron and its triangular flap communicate rich symbolism—for example, with the four angles representing the Elements of our material world, and the three angles speaking to aspects of Diety. Nice try, I always say, but the modern apron was shaped by the Industrial Revolution. Prior to machines making our regalia, a Masonic apron had rounded edges and a rounded flap. Reality can fade the fun out of some things, but without it we wouldn’t know what really is exciting in symbolism.

What kind of apron do I wear? I very much would love to wear the regulation Grand Lodge of New York Past Master apron (I am a refugee from another jurisdiction where I actually served in the East of my previous lodge), but the $500+ price is prohibitive. But I am very content wearing my grandfather’s PM apron from 1976. Nevertheless, this will be the year I acquire a new apron, and I am thinking of one similar in all ways to what is shown above, but in purple instead of the blue. I’m still mulling that over.

Grand Lodge of New York Past Master apron.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

‘An embarrassment of riches’

It’s true: you can have too much of a good thing. There are four (4) eminent, admirable Masons seeking election to the office of Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York this spring.

I’m actually glad that as a Past Master I do not have a vote.

RW Bro. Oscar Alleyne, current Junior Grand Warden; RW Bro. Paul Huck, current Judge Advocate (and MEGHP of the Grand Chapter); RW Bro. David Menegon, current Senior Grand Deacon; and RW Bro. Steven Rubin, current Grand Treasurer are the declared candidates.

Holy guacamole!

I’m not one to appreciate a brother Mason because of his Masonic titles, but these four candidates are vastly accomplished. I wouldn’t want to sketch their highlights for fear of missing something important. With Oscar, for example, I don’t know where to begin. In addition to helming half of what goes on in American Freemasonry, someone told me he’s the governor of Minnesota! I will say he is my fellow Vice President of the Masonic Society.

In many grand jurisdictions around the country, a candidate wins election to the Grand South, and then proceeds without contest to the Grand East. The aspirants to the Grand East in New York, however, face competition along the way. Ergo this wild conundrum in 2020. Meanwhile, the Craft profits from having worthy and well qualified leaders. Usually.

There will be six “town hall”-style meetings where the brethren can hear from these candidates and those seeking election to other offices—two this month, three in February, and finally one in March at Masonic Hall in the city. Somehow I suspect these discussions will only make the voters’ choices more difficult.

All is can say is good luck! No matter who prevails, we all win.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

‘Weird Fact Wednesday: Masonic Janitors’

Courtesy Jeopardy!/Sony Pictures Television
As seen on the broadcast of Jeopardy! last Monday. Who is Janus?!?

Like the previous installment of Weird Fact Wednesday, this one does not reach the legal definition of weird. This, I’ll say, simply sounds weird to the American ear.

An office in Freemasonry named Janitor.

When I first found mention of this in the aforementioned book from 1909 Sidelights on Freemasonry: Craft and Royal Arch, I assumed this referred to the chapter equivalent of the lodge’s tiler/tyler. And I was right, which is weird in itself, but I was right for the wrong reason. Remembering ye olden tymes, when the lodge tiler (that’s our New York spelling) would draw in chalk the lodge upon the floor of the meeting space in the tavern and then mop it away after the meeting, I pictured the chapter janitor on clean-up duty also.

But that ain’t it. In American-English usage, a janitor is a caretaker, a custodian, a maintenance worker, one who keeps a facility neat, clean, and orderly. But, as is usually the case, the British-English primary usage is literal in nature, so it requires a look at the word’s etymology to understand why their Royal Arch chapters employ janitors. Excerpted:

janitor (n.)
1580s, “an usher in a school,” later “doorkeeper” (1620s), from Latin ianitor “doorkeeper, porter,” from ianua “door, entrance, gate,” from ianus “arched passageway, arcade” (see Janus).

Keeper of a doorway—in an arched passageway. All right then.

With January here today, I think I will “see Janus.”

ancient Italic deity, to the Romans the guardian god of portals, doors, and gates; patron of beginnings and endings, c. 1500, from Latin Ianus, literally “gate, arched passageway,” perhaps from PIE root*ei- “to go” (cognates: Sanskrit yanah “path,” Old Church Slavonic jado “to travel”). He is shown as having two faces, one in front the other in back (they may represent sunrise and sunset and reflect an original role as a solar deity). His temple in Rome was closed only in times of peace. Related: Janian.

Janus, beardless, on a Roman coin. Britannica says: Janus, in Roman religion, the animistic spirit of doorways (januae) and archways (jani).

In January, we certainly do look forward while still eyeing the past.

Remaining a little stubborn, I wondered if janitor is used in English Royal Arch Masonry today, so I queried the ML group, where any question can be answered quickly, accurately, and patiently. Companion Gerald, one of my co-moderators who is way out in East Anglia, replied 35 minutes later:

Indeed in English R.A., the Janitor remains at his post; swords are not apparent.

Essex Past First Principals Chapter

The jewel of office of the English Royal Arch Janitor.

So that’s it for today. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2019

‘Landmark Freemasons teaser is posted’

The pilot episode of a YouTube show titled Landmark Freemasons, that will explore Elias Ashmole the Freemason, is coming, and a teaser of about a minute in length has been posted. Looks like episode one will address Ashmoles personal Bible, owned in more recent centuries by the local lodge.

And heres a look at the introduction:

Cant wait to see more!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

‘A Masonic side of the Priestly Blessing’

At the communication last Saturday of New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786, Bro. Howard brought up, during a miscellanea part of the meeting, what he described as a Masonic understanding of the Priestly Blessing from the Book of Numbers.

The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.

Detail from Resurrection of Lazarus by Marc Chagall, 1910.
Chagall was a Freemason of the Grand Orient of France.

He began by describing it is a prayer that can benefit people of any faith, and not only Jews. Then he explained, how in Hebrew, it is delivered in a trio of phrases, first of three syllables, then of five syllables, and then of seven syllables.

In conclusion, he said this sentence structure is the basis for a certain aspect of the lecture of the Second Degree.

As we are into the first hours of Hanukkah, I extend my sincere wishes for a safe and happy time for all who celebrate!

‘A beacon within the crush and hub of NYC life’

The Anthroposophical Society of New York City will resume a full schedule of activities spanning the twelve Holy Nights of Christmas. Unfortunately, there seems to be no information on the individual events, but there will be something to do nightly between Tuesday the 24th and Sunday, January 5. From the publicity:

The twelve Holy Nights of Christmas are symbols for the twelve forces of the soul that live in us. On these darkest nights of the year, we are closest to the Sun’s Spirit. We are invited to contemplate and reflect on the past year, and to envision the coming year.

Anthroposophy NYC adopted Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhône (1888) to help communicate its Holy Nights messages. (Not to be confused with his The Starry Night, 1889.)

For the Holy Nights this year, we have selected a series of contemplations inspired by indications given by Rudolf Steiner to Herbert Hahn, who met Steiner in 1919, and became a class teacher at the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart, where Steiner also asked him to give “free religious lessons” to the children.

Each evening, along with our traditional annual Holy Nights activities of candle lighting, tree adorning with roses, and Eurythmy, we will read together each short contemplation for that day and share thoughts about it. Each discussion will be facilitated by a member of Anthroposophy NYC. Our goal is to experience with others in these contemplations the deep spiritual significance of this special time in the year.

As we approach the dark night of winter and the Holy Nights, which celebrate the birth of a new Light into that darkness, we can also bring confidence and hope for a new light that is awakening in the seeming societal darkness of our times. Truly, programs and policies alone will not be the solution, but rather the conscious awakening of the light of truth and a renewed sense of brotherly and sisterly love for all humans. Of all the works offered by Rudolf Steiner, his central call is to our awakening to this spiritual light that has entered the world and to the practice of love for all of creation as we realize our full humanity.

This is the core work of Anthroposophy NYC—to offer tools for this path toward truth and love—through the work of Rudolf Steiner. Our goal is to be a beacon within the crush and hub of New York City life, where humanity expresses its struggles and triumphs most vividly in all its diversity. There are many seekers of spiritual truth in this city. We aim to be a home for their seeking.

May these very potent days of Christmas be full of meaning and inner light for your path.

All are welcome to all gatherings.

Anthroposophy NYC is located at 138 West 15th Street, between Sixth and Seventh. Make sure you visit the bookstore when you visit!