Friday, December 19, 2014

‘Philately Freemasons to meet in February’

The George Washington Masonic Stamp Club will hold its 2015 Annual Meeting on Sunday, February 22 at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia. The agenda:

Noon – The Memorial will open, and optional tours of the upper floors and tower will be available. $5 per person.

1:30 – Social hour, review of covers, etc.

2 p.m. – Meeting of the Club, including conferral of the Master of Philately on new members. (If you have not received the degree, you may receive it at this time. Please reserve in advance with the Secretary so well have your M.P. certificate ready for you.)

5:30 p.m. – Annual Dinner: “no host” dinner at Joe Theismanns Restaurant, with ladies and guests invited. Speaker will be Secretary John R. Allen on “33 Years After Washington’s 250th Birthday: A Show and Tell of Masonic Covers from February 22, 1982.” (Bring some of yours too.)

For a Life Membership application, click here. Applications require payment of the $20 fee, and evidence of current membership in a recognized blue lodge (photocopy of lodge dues card, or letter from the lodge secretary on lodge letterhead from a recognized lodge).

Questions? Contact Secretary John R. Allen at

Thursday, December 11, 2014

‘Masonic Book Club’

If you’ve been wondering what has been going on with the Masonic Book Club, an announcement from the Illinois Lodge of Research tonight on Facebook clarifies things:

“In response to several inquiries, the Masonic Book Club of Illinois is no longer in operation and was formally dissolved on June 14, 2013.”

Courtesy Princeton Antiques & Books
It has been about five years since the MBC published a book, so this is not quite shocking news, but it still is a notable loss. The club reprinted rare, historic, and odd out-of-print titles from the vast corpus of Masonic literature. Reading these unique books was rewarding, but waiting to see which curiosity would arrive in the mail was the fun of it.

I think it was around eight years ago when Secretary Robin Carr stepped aside, and I knew then the MBC would not endure for long. Many projects in Freemasonry cease when their sole organizers retire or pass away. The MBC website remains on-line, another predictable example of confusion among the workmen, but I wish I knew the disposition of the inventory of books.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

‘Bebergal at Morbid Anatomy on Friday’

Season of the Witch author Peter Bebergal will appear at The Morbid Anatomy Museum Friday night to present findings that seem not to have made it into his new book. From the publicity:

Friday at 8 p.m.
$10 tickets available here

The Morbid Anatomy Museum
424A Third Avenue in Brooklyn

Presented by Phantasmaphile
and The Morbid
Anatomy Museum

Drawn largely from research and ideas related to his new book Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll, author Peter Bebergal will present a multi-media presentation of the ways in which the aesthetics and mythos of rock and roll have been deeply influenced by the painters, writers, and composers of the 19th century. Bebergal will narrate a secret occult history of rock that owes its mystique to people like Aubrey Beardsley, Austin Osman Spare, Alphonse Mucha, Alexander Scriabin, and others, as well as the pomp and circumstance of the magic fraternities of that century’s Occult Revival.

Peter Bebergal is the author of Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll, Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood, and The Faith between Us: A Jew and a Catholic Search for the Meaning of God (with Scott Korb). He writes widely on music and books, with special emphasis on the speculative and slightly fringe. His recent essays and reviews have appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, The Quietus, BoingBoing, and The Believer. Bebergal studied religion and culture at Harvard Divinity School, and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In the meantime, I hope to see you Wednesday night at St. Cecile Masonic Lodges annual holiday party. Grand Lodge Room at Masonic Hall, located at 71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan. This is the lodge of show business folk, so there will be live music. Details here:


Friday, December 5, 2014

‘Martinism Degree next week’

If you read this blog with any regularity, you may be interested in the Light of Martinism. (Naturally you would want to read Martinist literature to consider if the Order is right for you, and my personal opinion is one ought to have some background in the esoteric before exploring it.) It is available through several Orders, the most accessible of which is, I suppose, the Traditional Martinist Order. I have no affiliation (yet) with TMO, but I have no reservation about sharing this information:

For those of you who have been considering joining the Traditional Martinist Order, this is the very best time for you to do so. This is the time of year when Heptads and Ateliers throughout the world confer the Associate Degree Initiation, which allows you to attend the Ieschouah Ceremony in a Heptad—the most important gathering in the Martinist Tradition—which takes place just before the Winter Solstice each year. This initiation also allows you to begin studying the Martinist Teachings in a Heptad or Atelier. While it is also possible to study the Martinist Teachings at home, the Tradition is most profoundly experienced within the Heptad environment.

New York Heptad (822 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan) will confer the Associate Degree on the afternoon of Saturday the 13th. It is necessary to register on-line so they know to expect you.

Read a history here.

Read a description of Martinist teachings here.

I should explain that if you intend to take part in Heptad activity, it may be better for you to seek initiation next December, as the two-year course of study will begin a new cycle at the start of 2016.

‘BOTA’s Qabalistic Christmas Celebration’

Just forwarding an announcement from BOTA:

Builders of the Adytum members, their guests, and the general public are invited to participate in the Rev. Ann Davies’ beautiful and inspiring Christmas Ritual. Help us rejoice in the light and promise of this holy season!

Saturday, December 6
2 p.m.
Masonic Hall
71 West 23rd Street
12th Floor (Chapter Room)

For information about the Christmas ritual, contact Regional Coordinator Dottie at: 
dottielvx (at)

is an international non-profit teaching and training order for those interested in the Western Mysteries such as Qabalah, Sacred Tarot, Spiritual Alchemy and Esoteric Astrology.
Visit the BOTA website and its Northeast Regional page here.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

‘How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll’

My review, in the December issue of The Working Tools magazine, of Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll by Peter Bebergal and published by Tarcher/Penguin.

A significant anthropological weight is found in the pages of Peter Bebergal’s new book, Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll. Naturally, the thesis lends itself to all kinds of potential exploitation—of which there are ample risks in the art of the dust jacket, with its headshots of David Bowie, Ozzy Osbourne, and Jimmy Page surrounded by various op-art and mystical geometric designs—but the author adheres to a factual chronology of impressive scope. It is worth noting Peter Bebergal’s explanation of what inspired his work; I imagine readers age 40 and up can only smile and nod in remembrance and approbation.

“In 1978 my older brother had just joined the Air Force, leaving me access to the mysteries of his room. Some other secret thing was beckoning. I had caught glimpses when I heard the music coming from his room, so different from my own small collection of Bay City Rollers and Bee Gees 45s. The record collection was a lexicon of the gods: the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Arthur Brown, King Crimson, Hawkwind, Yes, Black Sabbath, and Pink Floyd.”

Then in six chapters of cogently organized narrative, albeit from secondary sources, Bebergal renders both a history of rock music and a quick study of alternative religions and occultism. As he puts it: “I also hope to reveal that these musicians are human after all and their magical and mystical aspirations are a microcosm of a greater American spiritual hunger.”

We know what rock and roll is, but the term “occult” poses a challenge because of its true definitions and popular usages. From Western Mystery Traditions to witchcraft, and from Eastern faiths to New Age practices, the word is an abused catch-all, which is unfortunate, but the author sticks to a clear meaning without judgment: “A set of practices and beliefs—some stretching back to antiquity, others of a more recent vintage—that attempt to understand reality (spiritual or otherwise) in a way traditional religious practice cannot or chooses not to explore.” That established, Bebergal decodes the varied clues found in the recorded music, packaging art, and live performances of rock and roll bands that have been so important to so many. Freemasons and music fans can delight in seeing the intersections of favorite songs and spiritual paths.

Speaking of intersections, perhaps the legendary crossroads where bluesman Robert Johnson was said to have made his Faustian deal is the starting point, but while Johnson’s meeting with the devil is the best known, it is merely a landmark in a trans-Atlantic journey. The flow-chart begins with Africa before and during the slave trade where, the author explains, “the power of the spirit world is most dramatically revealed in the African traditions that allowed the faithful to be overtaken—possessed—by the gods. Percussion and dance are the means by which the spirit reveals itself, and since each spirit had its own name and personality, the style of dance is a clue as to which spirit had manifested. The shouting and dancing are a result of the worshipper being ‘mounted by the god.’ When the deity inhabits the person, his or her own identity is subsumed.” Having a more direct relationship to the subject at hand is Eshu, “a West African Yoruba god” who can bestow supernatural powers on a musician. Evolving in Haiti is Papa Legba, a deity in the vodou tradition. The imposition of Christianity upon slaves from Africa led to the transformation of these figures to the devil of Western belief. Simultaneously, as the slaves in the New World were prohibited from using drums, percussion was provided by clapping hands and stomping feet, while singing embraced complementary cadences, most notably the back-and-forth of “call and response” and The Shout. Such musical expression was one limited measure of freedom permitted to slaves, but it would produce a global popular culture of shed inhibitions and uncontrolled creativity. The midwife was, of all things, Christianity.

“The post-Civil War African-American churches saw the devil everywhere,” Bebergal explains. “Secular music and dancing were particularly questionable. But in an effort to keep the devil at bay, congregations still used the methods of worship adopted by slaves, what the historian Eileen Southern calls ‘the hand clapping, foot stomping, call-and-response performance, rhythmic complexities, persistent beat, melodic improvisation, heterophonic textures, percussive accompaniments, and ring shouts.’” The author does note the irony of how these musical releases of religious zeal managed to migrate to white people’s churches. For brevity, it is necessary to fast forward to the 1950s, when Elvis Presley first appears on The Ed Sullivan Show, and the director had to censor the singer’s carnal gyrations for fear of corrupting American youth. At issue for the author actually is the irony of how the Pentecostal Church—an offshoot of which was the Presley family’s church—led the charge against Elvis and his music, while Pentecostalism is known for its own music, dance, and speaking in tongues to make a direct connection to God. “The devil should not be allowed to keep all this good rhythm,” one Pentecostal leader is quoted saying. For his part, Presley would explain in interviews how the church protests against him, which included public burnings of his records, were senseless since his music was inspired by the church worship of his youth. Concurrently, Little Richard, a Seventh-day Adventist, excelled in a flamboyant showmanship that made Presley’s sensuality look sleepy.

Of course the title of this book is lifted from the Donovan song released in 1966. The Scottish singer is best known as a folkie who crafted catchy pop songs, but this tune has a dark countenance flavored with a pre-Christian paganism and a hypnotic rhythm. Years later, he would call it “Celtic-rock.” Led Zeppelin would make the most of this theme, producing music both of primal 12-bar blues and elegant acoustic tones with lyrics evoking “Tolkien, Arthurian lore, and Celtic mythology” all presented to the listener in packaging that employs esoteric symbols. It wasn’t a veneer of pretense; this is the band which the author described in a recent radio interview as “the 800-pound gorilla” to be reckoned with when examining occultism in rock music. Guitarist Jimmy Page ostensibly was a follower of Aleister Crowley, collecting rare books authored by the infamous mystic, and even purchasing a mansion Crowley once had owned. If you have an old LP of Led Zeppelin III, look for the Crowley quote inscribed in the lead-out area of the vinyl. Rosicrucians of all stripes could have an appreciation for the title of Zep’s fifth record, Houses of the Holy. And of course an entire chapter could be written about the untitled fourth record—the one with “Stairway to Heaven;” the one with gatefold art unquestionably borrowing from the Hermit card of the Rider-Waite tarot deck; and the one labeled with runes, one chosen as a personal symbol by each of the four band members.

Most readers attracted to this book probably would know that already. Season of the Witch provides more that probably is less celebrated. Theatric singer Arthur “god of hellfire” Brown employed make-up, wardrobe, lighting and props on stage that the author likens to initiation into a magical order, like Golden Dawn. Hawkwind, more of an English eccentricity than a major act that filled football stadiums, excelled in music and live performance that evoked “science-fantasy mythology.” Their second album’s songs “tell tales of journeys into the psyche.” Sun Ra, the avant-garde composer and bandleader, fashioned a musical identity that tapped into “Kabbalah, numerology, and science fiction” that, among other things, pined for a home for African-Americans on another planet to escape oppression. Closer to earth, the artist Roger Dean, famous for his spellbinding album covers for Yes in the 1970s, is shown telling an admirer that his artwork is to be appreciated for masterful form, not mystical function. The newly disillusioned fan replies “What do you know? You’re just the artist!”

It is not enough to have performers exhibiting degrees of occult knowledge in their acts. What of the effects on the fan? David Bowie has reinvented his persona so many times that it is difficult today to appreciate what he portrayed 40 years ago, but Bebergal takes us back.

“In the history of rock, there is likely no truer magician than Bowie, as he has come to personify how magic works. As noted, in stage magic those in the audience allow themselves to be tricked, to be seduced by the illusion, just as in ritual and ceremonial magic, where a similar phenomenon is at play and is an important effect in conducting the events and rituals within the context of a group, community, or fraternity. There is a shared, often tacit, language agreed upon by the group; its power evident in the way a neophyte will accept the language or other coded acts implicitly, such as when an apprentice Freemason is given the first handshake, or ‘grip,’ and without hesitation accepts it so.”

It is not contradictory to the book’s thesis to say this, but the reasonable conclusion the reader will draw is that overall, the many esoteric spiritual and metaphysical sources discussed in these pages had no lasting effects on the artists themselves. I do not say that, for example, George Harrison lacked sincerity in his embrace of Eastern spirituality, or that Elvis was phoning it in on his gospel records, but we’re mostly talking dabbling here. I am sorry to report there is no group of Freemasons or Rosicrucians or what-have-you that was devoted to espousing the tenets of any particular system of hidden wisdom. There are influences, but they generally are shallow and temporary, and they competed with countless other forces that inspired these musicians. The gods of rock mostly were attracted to mystical iconography more than to the esoteric teachings and practices the symbols represent. I would have loved to learn that King Crimson derived its name from alchemy, but that is a question unanswered and unasked despite the print devoted to the group and its music. Still Season of the Witch is a valuable catalog of many favorite musicians and their respective curiosities about occult beliefs. If you lived youth in the late twentieth century and devoured rock music in orthopraxy, and then grew up and found credible sources of hidden wisdom and spirituality, then Peter Bebergal’s book is a colorful connector of dots. Enjoy the reminiscence and the novel point of view.

Monday, December 1, 2014

‘Making Carney’s Point’

Daryll J. Slimmer
Penns Grove-Excelsior Lodge
I do not plan on making this a habit again, but my friend who will be the next Worshipful Master of Penns Grove-Excelsior Masonic Lodge No. 54 way down in south Jersey just invited me to speak at his first meeting of the New Year. I have spoken on things Freemasonry before Masonic and general audiences around the tri-state area many times, and I think this engagement will entail the greatest distance traveled. But what could I say?

Penns Grove-Excelsior Lodge No. 54
Free and Accepted Masons
330 Georgetown Road
Carney’s Point, New Jersey

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
7:30 p.m.

I am not prepared to advertise my topic yet. It actually is a new presentation I hope to unveil at a very special event next summer and then hopefully have published in The Journal of the Masonic Society that I’ll share with the brethren on this night. Kind of kicking the tires, working out the kinks, etc. So, if you find yourself in or near the [cough] greater Wilmington metropolitan area, please stop in and join us.

Friday, November 28, 2014

‘An honest man is always in trouble’

The Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David, oil on canvas, 1787.
On exhibit at the Met, located only three blocks from our meeting.

“When I leave this court I shall go away condemned by you to death, but [my accusers] will go away convicted by Truth herself of depravity and wickedness. And they accept their sentence even as I accept mine.”

It is not intentional, but I really have been remiss in updating The Magpie with news of recent events—Masonic, Rosicrucian, and other experiences of recent months. This one took place at the School of Practical Philosophy on East 79th Street the Sunday before last. “The Trial of Socrates” was the day-long program, involving readings from Plato’s Apology, lots of group discussion, and watching a brief couple of scenes of a relevant film. Plus a surprisingly great Greek vegetarian lunch midway, and a wine reception afterward. The best Sunday I’ve had in some time.

So what is Plato’s Apology? First, an understanding of the word. Here it does not signify any expression of remorse. “Apology” derives from the ancient Greek word “apologia,” meaning a formal rebuttal tendered by a defendant in court.

My own copy of the text comes from one of those Walter J. Black Classics Club books from 1941. (I haunt used book sales in the hope of assembling a complete 44-volume set.) Apology actually is a chapter in the book Five Great Dialogues by Plato, as translated by Professor Benjamin Jowett, a luminary at Oxford University in the nineteenth century. Here is the Introduction, penned by Professor Louise Ropes Loomis:

It is the year 399 B.C. Four years ago Athens drove out the bloody terror of the Thirty, which the Spartans had set up to govern her after their victory in the Peloponnesian War. She has restored her democratic constitution, but hardly yet begun to recover from the shock of her terrible defeat and humiliation. Her citizens are embittered, suspicious, eager to blame anyone and everyone for the mistakes and failures of the past. In this year Socrates, now seventy years of age, is accused by three men, Meletus, Anytus, and Lycon, of the formidable crimes of corrupting the youth of the city and professing to disbelieve in the ancestral gods. Of the accusers themselves we know almost nothing. Meletus and Lycon, we hear, resent especially Socrates’ attitude toward the current fashions in poetry and other literature. Anytus is angered by Socrates’ outspoken criticism of the narrow commercial training he is giving his only son. But the charge they bring is such as to stir up superstitious fears of sacrilege and moral uneasiness in the popular mind. Several of Socrates’ old pupils have indeed been involved in the disgraceful events of recent years. His case comes before a citizen court of five hundred and one jurors, a majority vote being sufficient to convict.

The Apology is Plato’s version of his master’s speech in his own defense, written down possibly within two or three years after its delivery. That Plato was present and heard it we know from Socrates; allusions to him [are within the text]. How nearly he has reproduced Socrates’ very words we cannot, of course, judge. As it comes to us, the Apology is actually three speeches. In the first, Socrates, fearlessly and with much play of ironical humor, refutes not only the formal charges contained in the plaintiffs’ immediate indictment, but also the slanderous stories circulated about him by his enemies in years past. He explains and justifies his way of life and religious beliefs, and in a sharp bit of cross-examination exposes the insincerity of the quickly befuddled Meletus. At the close, the court votes him guilty by the comparatively small majority of sixty. The penalty for his offense has next to be determined, since it comes under no existing law. The accusers demand a verdict of death. By rule of court, however, the culprit may propose a counter penalty, the jurors then to choose between the two. In a short second speech, Socrates, less conciliatory and more hotly defiant than before, proposes that instead of punishment he receive the reward of a distinguished citizen, honorable maintenance at the public expense. If he must pay something, he may with his friends help scrape together enough for a moderate fine. The court, annoyed, we may suppose, by what seems his obstinate frivolity, votes to approve the death sentence. In his final words, Socrates, now calm again, accepts the decision and bids his judges and fellow-citizens farewell.

I cannot reproduce here the entire text, which runs about twenty-seven pages in the book, but I’ll share some of the passages that got our attention during the group discussions. If you ever have caught hell for telling the truth—I mean really paid a price—then this is a must read, but everyone should be familiar with this Socratic Dialogue. We didn’t begin at the beginning, but we did start early on. Here Socrates explains to the court how he came to be renowned as the wisest of men:

And here, O men of Athens, I must beg you not to interrupt me, even if I seem to say something extravagant. For the word which I will speak is not mine. I will refer you to a witness who is worthy of credit, and will tell you about my wisdom—whether I have any, and of what sort—and that witness shall be the god of Delphi. You must have known Chaerephon; he was early a friend of mine, and also a friend of yours, for he shared in the exile of the people, and returned with you. Well, Chaerephon, as you know, was very impetuous in all his doings, and he went to Delphi and boldly asked the oracle to tell him whether—as I was saying, I must beg you not to interrupt—he asked the oracle to tell him whether there was anyone wiser than I was, and the Pythian prophetess answered that there was no man wiser. Chaerephon is dead himself, but his brother, who is in court, will confirm the truth of this story.

Why do I mention this? Because I am going to explain to you why I have such an evil name. When I heard the answer, I said to myself, What can the god mean? And what is the interpretation of this riddle? For I know that I have no wisdom, small or great. What can he mean when he says that I am the wisest of men? And yet he is a god and cannot lie; that would be against his nature. After a long consideration, I at last thought of a method of trying the question. I reflected that if I could only find a man wiser than myself, then I might go to the god with a refutation in my hand. I should say to him, “Here is a man who is wiser than I am; but you said that I was the wisest.” Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed to him—his name I need not mention; he was a politician whom I selected for examination—and the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and wiser still by himself; and I went and tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard me. So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is—for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him. Then I went to another, who had still higher philosophical pretensions, and my conclusion was exactly the same. I made another enemy of him, and of many others besides him.

After this I went to one man after another, being not unconscious of the enmity which I provoked, and I lamented and feared this: but necessity was laid upon me—the word of God, I thought, ought to be considered first. And I said to myself, Go I must to all who appear to know, and find out the meaning of the oracle. And I swear to you, Athenians, by the dog I swear!—for I must tell you the truth—the result of my mission was just this: I found that the men most in repute were all but the most foolish; and that some inferior men were really wiser and better.

So, it’s a good way to make enemies. Assess the big shots you see in life, and usually see them rightly as empty suits. After spending some time conferring with politicians, poets, and artisans to gauge their knowledge, assuming each to be far more knowing than himself, he found them to be lacking in “high matters.”

This investigation has led to my having many enemies of the worst and most dangerous kind, and has given occasion also to many calumnies, and I am called wise, for my hearers always imagine that I myself possess the wisdom which I find wanting in others: but the truth is, O men of Athens, that God only is wise; and in this oracle he means to say that the wisdom of men is little or nothing; he is not speaking of Socrates, he is only using my name as an illustration, as if he said, He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing. And so I go my way, obedient to the god, and make inquisition into the wisdom of anyone, whether citizen or stranger, who appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the oracle I show him that he is not wise; and this occupation quite absorbs me, and I have no time to give either to any public matter of interest or to any concern of my own, but I am in utter poverty by reason of my devotion to the god.

Addressing the nature of the punishment that awaits him, Socrates invokes a stoicism that would be familiar to Master Masons:

Someone will say: And are you not ashamed, Socrates, of a course of life which is likely to bring you to an untimely end? To him I may fairly answer: There you are mistaken: a man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong—acting the part of a good man or of a bad. Whereas, according to your view, the heroes who fell at Troy were not good for much, and the son of Thetis above all, who altogether despised danger in comparison with disgrace; and when his goddess mother said to him, in his eagerness to slay Hector, that if he avenged his companion Patroclus, and slew Hector, he would die himself—“Fate,” as she said, “waits upon you next after Hector.” He, hearing this, utterly despised danger and death, and instead of fearing them, feared rather to live in dishonor, and not to avenge his friend. “Let me die next,” he replies, “and be avenged of my enemy, rather than abide here by the beaked ships, a scorn and a burden of the earth.” Had Achilles any thought of death and danger? For wherever a man’s place is, whether the place which he has chosen or that in which he has been placed by a commander, there he ought to remain in the hour of danger; he should not think of death or of anything, but of disgrace. And this, O men of Athens, is a true saying.

In the end, Socrates is left to face his death sentence, and to ponder the nature of the afterlife. Twenty-four centuries after, we still study Socrates, but his persecutors are unknown, long forgotten, except as their names appear in this ancient literature.

Let us reflect in another way, and we shall see that there is great reason to hope that death is a good, for one of two things: Either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another. Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by the sight of dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain. For if a person were to select the night in which his sleep was undisturbed even by dreams, and were to compare with this the other days and nights of his life, and then were to tell us how many days and nights he had passed in the course of his life better and more pleasantly than this one, I think that any man, I will not say a private man, but even the great king, will not find many such days or nights, when compared with the others. Now if death is like this, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night. But if death is the journey to another place, and there, as men say, all the dead are, what good, O my friends and judges, can be greater than this? If indeed when the pilgrim arrives in the world below, he is delivered from the professors of justice in this world, and finds the true judges who are said to give judgment there, Minos and Rhadamanthus and Aeacus and Triptolemus, and other sons of God who were righteous in their own life, that pilgrimage will be worth making. What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer? Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again. I, too, shall have a wonderful interest in a place where I can converse with Palamedes, and Ajax the son of Telamon, and other heroes of old, who have suffered death through an unjust judgment; and there will be no small pleasure, as I think, in comparing my own sufferings with theirs. Above all, I shall be able to continue my search into true and false knowledge; as in this world, so also in that; I shall find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise, and is not. What would not a man give, O judges, to be able to examine the leader of the great Trojan expedition; or Odysseus or Sisyphus, or numberless others, men and women too! What infinite delight would there be in conversing with them and asking them questions! For in that world they do not put a man to death for this; certainly not. For besides being happier in that world than in this, they will be immortal, if what is said is true.

Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know this of a truth: that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods; nor has my own approaching end happened by mere chance. But I see clearly that to die and be released was better for me; and therefore the oracle gave no sign. For which reason also, I am not angry with my accusers, or my condemners; they have done me no harm, although neither of them meant to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them.

Still I have a favor to ask of them. When my sons are grown up, I would ask you, O my friends, to punish them; and I would have you trouble them, as I have troubled you, if they seem to care about riches, or anything, more than about virtue; or if they pretend to be something when they are really nothing, then reprove them, as I have reproved you, for not caring about that for which they ought to care, and thinking that they are something when they are really nothing. And if you do this, I and my sons will have received justice at your hands.

The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways—I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.

The title of this edition of The Magpie Mind comes not from Plato or Socrates, but from Henry Fool. Google it, and go to your favorite source of movie downloads.

Monday, November 24, 2014

‘Have a Quattro Coronati cigar’


I take my tobacco seriously. To quote Winston Churchill, “My tastes are simple. I am easily satisfied with the very best.” In addition to smoking cigars and pipes for just about three decades, I worked part-time for a number of years in Lew Rothman’s flagship store, learning everything I could about quality tobacco, from the agriculture to the last ash. So, I am happy to have found out this morning of the release over the weekend of Quattro Coronati cigars. “Ultra premium Dominican handmade cigars by brethren for brethren.” That’s brother Freemasons by the way.

The Feast Day of the Four Crowned Martyrs passed this month, so the timing of this launch is right. The Freemasons behind this endeavor are Eduardo R. Adam, Oliver M.S. Guillet, and Timothy W. Hogan. You’ve probably heard of Hogan, the author and traveling lecturer.

  • The Agape is a robusto shape. Ten to a box that retails for $144.
  • The Sanctum is a figurado measuring 5 7/8 x 56. Also 10 to a box that retails for $144.
  • The Magus is a double corona at 7 x 50. Ditto 10 to a box that retails for $144.
  • The Gran Solomon is a monster of 7.8 inches with a 63 ring. Five cigars, each in a coffin, per box at $165.
  • The Ruffians, a toro shape, also sells for $144 for a box of 10.
  • The Anthology is a sampler containing two sticks of each shape. Also 10 to a box for $144.

Sales are mail order only. So far, at least.

I look forward to trying these smokes, and I wish the brethren all the best!

‘Mark Tabbert on George Washington, Freemason’

(Another cross-post with American Creation.)

Mark A. Tabbert
This is premature—the ink on the contract may not be dry yet—but also scratches an old itch. I want to report the inevitability of a serious biography-history on the subject of George Washington the Freemason by Masonic scholar Mark A. Tabbert. The author figures the book will be published in about three years, a deadline I assume might be intended to coincide with the tercentenary celebration of Freemasonrys emergence into the public, which occurred in London in 1717.

It is a necessary book. Practically all existing literature on the subject of Washington the Mason was published in adoration of both the man and the fraternity. Much of that offers a childlike mythologizing (think Grant Wood’s spoof of Washington the youth, with a 60-year-old face, taking the rap for felling the cherry tree) of the subject, and none of the material is recent enough to have profited from modern research abilities and standards. I wouldn’t say Tabbert aims to eviscerate anyone, but there is a need to cut to the truth. Too many within and without the fraternity think Washington lived and breathed Freemasonry. Too many believe the man had almost nothing to do with Masonry. The truth, I imagine, is somewhere between, and encompasses information that will birth a new understanding of American Freemasonry’s most famous brother.

A cropped image of Parson Weems' Fable by Grant Wood.
Oil on canvas, 1939.

For the past nine of his twenty years of museum experience, Tabbert has served as Director of Collections of the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia. Prior to that, he devoted almost seven years a Curator of Masonic and Fraternal Collections at the National Heritage Museum (now the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library) in Lexington, Massachusetts. He also is a leader in the fraternity itself, having served as President of the Masonic Library and Museum Association, as Treasurer (previously Secretary) of the Masonic Restoration Foundation, as Trustee and Founding Fellow of The Masonic Society, as a published scholar in the most prestigious research lodges and research societies in Freemasonry in the United States and England, and in numerous other capacities in the fraternity that share responsible scholarship. Among his books are American Freemasons: Three Centuries of Building Communities.

My point: He knows his business, and he is capable of rendering an honest portrait of Freemason George Washington based on what one of my former teachers at university calls “the best obtainable version of the truth.”

Tabbert’s book will be published by an academic press. The most credible books attempting to define this subject were published under Masonic auspices, the most recent dates to 1952, to commemorate the bicentenary of Washington’s initiation into Freemasonry.

For fun (my word, not his) Tabbert maintains a blog where interested readers can follow his research. American Creation readers who want the truth about Freemason George Washington and related subjects should check it out, as the most recent post addresses Masonic membership among the Founding Fathers.

Disclaimer: Mark Tabbert not only is my brother Mason, but also is a friend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

‘The Anthroposophist Alka-Seltzer ad man’

Courtesy Adweek
One finds the strangest facts in the oddest places. It is unsurprising that Adweek would publish actress Julianna Margulies’ obituary of her father, advertising legend Paul Margulies, but she explains how Anthroposophy was central to his life.

The following is copyrighted ©Adweek magazine.

My father always thought it was ironic that people swooned when they found out that he was the genius behind the famous ad campaign for Alka-Seltzer.

I grew up not really understanding his fame in the advertising world because he never allowed us to watch television. I knew he had a big job, a job that took us to different countries. Ad agencies hired him as their creative director and boasted to have him as their leader. He was the man, after all, who had come up with “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!”

I remember on a happy occasion one summer, my father taking my two older sisters and me to Beverly Hills, California. We stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel! It was so exciting. He had to shoot the commercial in California, and we got to watch them film it. I must have been about seven years old. I remember thinking he was so cool, in his fedora straw hat, his silk cravat, denim shirt and khaki safari jacket.

He was, tall, dark and handsome, and women were constantly blushing around him. I understood how dashing he was at a very young age. We were living in Paris, I was three years old, and we walked into a shop, and I thought the shop lady was pretty. Worried about his well-being, not having a wife, I said, “Mon papa est tres jolie, n’est-ce pas?”

My father always regaled that story, with his sweet chuckle, to anyone who would listen. And everyone always seemed to listen to my father. He was unique to this world, not because of his success in advertising, although some may argue that, but because he was a gentle soul who found himself, at a very young age, searching for the meaning of man.

He had been a philosophy major at Dartmouth College, and then, feeling the pressure from his parents (his mother was one of the first women lawyers to practice in New York state), he found himself at Columbia Law. He told me he dropped out after one year because he always found his way to the philosophy library. Law studies just didn't hold his interest.

What did hold his interest was the question of Being, Self, Soul. Why are we here? What is our journey? How can we make this world better? How can we advance ourselves to a life of truth and goodness and love? It was deep stuff.

In his quest, he went to a farm in Pennsylvania and studied biodynamic farming. It was there that he decided to stop eating meat. It was 1959 and still a time when people thought if you didn’t eat meat, you would get sick and eventually die. My poor grandmother would send him steaks and leave them at his door on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village, begging him to stop the nonsense. But he never did. He always understood other people’s concerns, never pushed vegetarianism on anyone, but kept quietly to his regimen.

My father was drawn to a philosophy called Anthroposophy, founded by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher. He began to read Steiner’s books and study his lectures. It was in Anthroposophy that my father found his calling.

He bumped into advertising at around the same time, and having three little girls and two ex-wives, he saw a way to make a living. But he had tremendous conflicts with the demands of the advertising industry. He was worried that his love for Anthroposophy, the way in which he was choosing to lead his inner life, would contradict his work life. He sought out Dr. Franz E. Winkler, the man who had originally introduced him to the works of Steiner, and expressed his concern. Dr. Winkler told him that as long as he was true to himself, it could never be a contradiction.

And so he embarked on a career as a copywriter with his ideals intact: He would never write for tobacco, alcohol or the meat industry, and he stuck to those principles for his entire career.

In his later years, my father wrote an essay that was published for the Anthroposophical Press: “A Comparison of Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, and Knowledge of Higher Worlds, by Rudolf Steiner.” He had written many famous jingles, several children’s books and a wonderful screenplay about the boxer Daniel Mendoza, but it was in this essay that his most fulfilled work shone through. He delighted in the response to it, the depth of it. He was somehow able to explain the esoteric in simple English.

This is not to say that my father looked down on his life in advertising; he knew he had a talent for it, I would say a great talent, but I’m just a gloating daughter. But he constantly struggled to enrich his inner life while working in an industry that was only skin deep. At times that was frustrating for him; but at other times he really enjoyed it. However, it wasn’t who he was. It wasn’t where he wanted to be. He always told me his dream was to retire to the countryside somewhere in New England, just to be left alone with his books and his study groups. And he did just that at the young age of 50, and embarked fully on a lifelong dream.

As I became more prominent in my career as an actress and voiceover artist, I began to understand what an effect he had in the advertising world. People knew him, respected him, reacted to his name as though he were an iconic figure. He was known as The Man who created “Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz.” I got a kick out of showing up to my voiceover sessions and hearing the writers ask me if my father had approved the copy. When I landed the Chase Bank campaign, I told my dad and he brought out his portfolio that had his original ad from the ’70s: “The Chase is on!” He kept everything he had ever done, and he showed them to me with a gleam in his eye.

I know my father has helped many people find their inner peace. He was heralded as a great teacher, friend and leader in his community in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where he had retired. But I also know that without his ability to sell a product in 30 seconds and excel at it so beautifully, he wouldn’t have been able to reach all the curious minds that ask the question, “How can we live in truth, goodness and love?” As he often quoted from Socrates, one of his favorite philosophers: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

And that’s exactly how he lived his life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

‘Cultivating an Enlightened Mind’

New York Theosophical Society will host a national lecturer Sunday at its headquarters in Manhattan. From the publicity:

Cultivating an Enlightened Mind
Presented by Pablo Sender
Sunday, November 23 at 2 p.m.
New York Theosophical Society
240 East 53rd Street in Manhattan
(Enter through Quest Bookshop)

In some of her writings Mme. Blavatsky described a state of mind (manas) that is illumined by the spiritual wisdom (buddhi). She called this the radiant mind (manas taijasa). In this program we will explore the philosophical foundations of the subject as well as some practices geared towards stimulating the union of our mind and the principle of divine wisdom in us.

Pablo Sender, Ph.D., became a member of the Theosophical Society in his native Argentina in 1996. He has worked at the International Headquarters of the Society in India, and currently is a staff member at the National Center of the Theosophical Society in America, in Wheaton, Illinois. He has presented Theosophical lectures, workshops, and classes in India, several countries in Europe, and the Americas.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

‘Cincinnati’s Freemasons’

Congratulations to Bro. Donald Crews of Ohio on the publication a few weeks ago of his book Cincinnati’s Freemasons by Arcadia. From the publicity:

The first Masonic lodge in Cincinnati was chartered in 1791, less than three years after the town’s founding. Many prominent Cincinnatians have devoted their time, money, and effort to the fraternity. Many have also found knowledge, fulfillment, and camaraderie within the main and appendant bodies of the brotherhood. This book offers an introduction to the order’s members, buildings, and related organizations in southwest Ohio. The contributions of the Queen City’s share of the world’s oldest and largest fraternity are revealed through images from lodges and other bodies, buildings, individuals, and numerous other sources.

Donald I. Crews moved to Cincinnati as a sojourning Freemason 25 years ago and was immediately drawn to the city’s oldest lodge in part because of its long and fascinating history but also because of its home in the massive and amazing Cincinnati Masonic Temple. Images of America: Cincinnati’s Freemasons is an outgrowth of that interest, appreciation, and amazement at the variety of people, organizations, and buildings connected to the Cincinnati Masonic family.

Those of us who attended the Masonic Restoration Foundation’s Fifth Annual Symposium in Cincinnati in August met Bro. Crews, who presented, unsurprisingly, a history of Freemasonry in Cincinnati. He is a Member of The Masonic Society too.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

‘Symposium Sunday in San Francisco’

This just in: The Scottish Rite Valley of San Francisco will be the site of a symposium (free admission) on Sunday titled “Revisiting the California Gold Rush, Stories Untold: The Role of Freemasons, Women, African-Americans and Religion.” The Scottish Rite is located at 2850 19th Avenue.

I usually do not publicize events 3,000 miles away, but those of us who like to see academia study the role of Freemasonry in general history are obliged to support the endeavors however we can. From the publicity:

The Policy Studies Organization invites its partners and friends around the nation to join us for the 2014 Enriching History Colloquium. The event will be held in San Francisco, California and streamed in multiple cities around the country, courtesy of the American Public University System. Enriching History aims to be part of a new series enriching American Studies and social science teaching, to deepen interest in the American saga by showing new ways of looking at our past. The series’ mission is to influence the ways in which we learn and discuss the various experiences that have produced an ever evolving country. The program brings together a diverse group of individuals who believe in the wide dissemination of, and attention being paid to, scholarly works on important historical events and figures.

Organized in cooperation with the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of California, this year’s Enriching History conference looks to explore the California Gold Rush and the involvement and influence of different minority populations within the period. This year we explore the role of Masons, women, and Jewish forty-niners, as well as examining the culture that surrounded them. This annual seminar is for social science educators and all persons interested in aspects in the social history in America.

The presenters will include Ava F. Kahn on “Jewish Voices of the California Gold Rush: Transnational Traditions,” and historian Gary Kurutz, director of the Special Collections Branch of the California State Library, with a lecture “On the Extremity of Civilization: The Golden Words of the Argonauts.” And Carson City songster CW Bayer will play music from the Gold Rush-era.

Satellite viewing locations will be offered throughout California in Scottish Rite Centers. There will be time for questions submitted via e-mail from those joining us at the below venues. Please contact each center to find out details:

· Burlingame Masonic Center at 145 Park Road in Burlingame
· Fresno Scottish Rite Center at 1455 L Street in Fresno
· Long Beach Scottish Rite Center at 855 Elm Avenue in Long Beach
· Palm Springs Masonic Temple at 450 South Avenida Caballeros in Palm Springs
· Pasadena Scottish Rite Center at 150 N. Madison Avenue in Pasadena
· San Bernardino Scottish Rite at 4400 N. Varsity Avenue in San Bernardino
· San Diego Scottish Rite Center at 1895 Camino Del Rio South in San Diego
· San Jose Scottish Rite Temple at 2455 Masonic Drive in San Jose

Please note that refreshments and lunch will be provided, free of charge, thanks to our generous sponsors. However, we do ask that you register for seating and catering purposes. Click here for the schedule of events. We hope that you will be able to join us at this exciting and informative event!

Policy Studies Organization also is planning the World Conference on Fraternalism, Freemasonry, and History: Research in Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society for next May in Paris. Click here.