Wednesday, July 8, 2020

‘Bo Cline, R.I.P.’

     
MW Bo Cline, 2013
Very sorry to share the sad news of the death of MW Bro. John R. “Bo” Cline, a friend through The Masonic Society, where he served as our third (2012-14) President, and a Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Alaska.

Getting to know him was a big part of the fun of Masonic Week. A sizable contingent from New York would attend (this was years ago), so I knew a bunch of the regulars, but meeting a Brother all the way from Alaska was pretty exotic! It was a pleasure to be in his company. Honestly, he was who you want to picture when thinking of who should be a Freemason, and who a Freemason should be.

During his tenure as Masonic Society President, I found myself in a lot of trouble with my then grand lodge (I’m safely in New York now). The kind of trouble that starkly and instantly reveals who your friends are. A hundred of my close personal friends forgot my name in about thirty seconds, but Bo Cline penned a letter to that grand lodge advocating on my behalf. I think the only immediate effect it made was to give me something to smile about—that “Bo, you kook!” kind of smile—but of course the secondary result was to teach an appreciation for honor at a moment when I believed the fraternity was lacking it.


“The Lambskin, or white apron, was the first gift of Freemasonry to our departed brother. It is an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Freemason. We are reminded here of the universal dominion of death. The arm of friendship cannot interpose to prevent his coming; the wealth of the world cannot purchase exemption; nor will the innocence of youth or the charms of beauty change his purpose.”


Alas, my Brother.
     

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

‘Netflix and kill: Masons and a mystery?’

     

A 32-year-old man went missing in Baltimore one day in 2006. A week later, his corpse was discovered inside an unused hotel conference room, the body apparently having torn through the roof from a height of 14 stories.

Suicide was the investigators’ estimation, but those who knew Rey Rivera deny he could have been motivated to do himself in. This month, Netflix reboots Unsolved Mysteries, the docu-drama so popular it ran for more than two decades on several television networks before everybody started buying their entertainment from, well, Netflix.

The first of ten episodes is available today. “Mystery on the Rooftop” tells the story of the late Mr. Rivera, but why am I telling you about it? There may be some link to Freemasonry.



Depending on the extent of your involvement in the fraternity, you might have added your own hotel conference room joke already, but this story concerns a newly married man, employed as a writer and with aspirations of penning Hollywood screenplays, who also had an interest in Freemasonry.

Writing for All Thats Interesting, Natasha Ishak reports:


Then, there was an obscure note uncovered from Rivera’s computer. The note was typed in small print, folded up in plastic, and taped to his home computer screen along with a blank check.
The note was addressed to “brothers and sisters” and referred to “a well-played game.” It also named famous people who had died, including Christopher Reeve and Stanley Kubrick, as well as ordinary people who Rivera knew in real life. The note included a request to make them and himself five years younger.
The finding was so puzzling that investigators sent the letter to the FBI. The Feds determined it wasn’t a suicide note.
The cryptic letter pointed to another weird detail about Rey Rivera’s circumstances: his growing interest in the Freemasons. The note he left behind began and ended with phrases used in the Masonic Order.
A representative at a local Maryland lodge confirmed that Rivera inquired about membership on the same day he went missing, but didn’t recall anything unusual about their conversation. Shortly before his death, Rivera was also reading books related to Masonry, such as The Builders.
     

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

‘Funded: On the Square board game’

     

Matthew & Michael Ltd. announced a few days ago that its board game On the Square has achieved full funding (plus a little more) in its Kickstarter campaign.

You can still show your support through Thursday.

Check them out all over social media, including Instagram, Discord, and much more.

If I’m not mistaken, the next issue of Scottish Rite Journal will feature mention of the endeavor too!
     

Monday, June 29, 2020

‘The Contemplative Builder channel’

     
Chuck Dunning set up a YouTube channel a few months ago to present discussion of the practical application of certain Masonic teachings.

Recent topics include “Masonry and Mental Health in the Time of COVID-19” and “Meditating with Blue Lodge Symbolism.”

We all enjoy learning about history and talking about philosophy and delving inside the rituals and symbols, but these videos illustrate ways to put into practice Masonic thinking that otherwise might remain only printed words to you. It’s a service very much needed in the Craft. Enjoy.

This talk is based on a piece Dunning wrote
for The Journal of the Masonic Society.
     

Sunday, June 28, 2020

‘Masonic Week 2021’

     
MW Akram Elias
I wasn’t going to get into an event eight months away just yet, but I see the organizers of Masonic Week have posted the preliminary schedule of events already, so let me tell you about the best part.

The Masonic Society’s annual dinner-lecture will be hosted Friday, February 12, 2021. No word yet on the menu or dining fee (I probably will have both later in the summer) but, more importantly, our keynote speaker will be MW Bro. Akram Elias, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Washington, DC.

Masonic Week takes place at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. It will run from Wednesday, February 10 through Sunday the 14th. (If you think your lady won’t appreciate the Operatives Brunch on Valentine’s Day, well you’re just wrong!) The website will have event registration, dinner reservation, and hotel booking information—again—probably later this summer.

You’ll see the schedule has been rearranged. The Grand College of Rites was bumped up to 1:30 on Friday, so I may just stand a chance of getting there this time. But the reason you’ll want to attend Masonic Week 2021 is the Masonic Society dinner.

MW Bro. Elias’ talk will be “Freemasonry in 2026: A Force for Good, or a Footnote in History?” He will challenge us to look five years into the future, to America’s semiquincentennial year, to candidly assess whether Freemasonry will be relevant, and what we, as Free and Accepted Masons, can do today to anticipate the future we deserve.

We’re all having a hell of a 2020 thus far, and some strategic thinking most definitely is in order.

MW Elias served as Grand Master in 2008, capping a most effective career in Masonic leadership. If you want to know what he is up to these days, check out the Masonic Legacy Society.

So, mark your calendars and plan to be with us at the Hyatt Regency on Friday the 12th at seven o’clock. All Masons, our ladies, and friends of Freemasonry are welcome to enjoy a terrific meal and great company. Everyone says it is the social event of Masonic Week, and who am I to argue? Im lucky they let me in.
     

Saturday, June 27, 2020

‘NBC News: Trump requests return of Pike statue’

     
Courtesy Washington Post

NBC News reported the other day that President Donald Trump asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to restore the historic statue of Albert Pike to Judiciary Square in the nation’s capital.

The self-described news network did not provide any attribution to its claim, and it did say the White House did not “provide a comment” on the subject, so who really knows if this is rooted in even a whiff of reality? But, reviewing the first half of 2020, I can see anything is possible.

As you may know, this statue, donated by Scottish Rite Freemasons and erected in 1901, was pulled down, defaced, and burned last week.




Days ago, I was accused in social media by Rev. Lovejoy, a Brother Mason and Methodist Minister in Iowa, of opposing the removal of “Confederate statues.” I am not. I find nothing wrong with removing memorials to historical persons’ seditious and otherwise anti-American misdeeds. (This Pike statue is no such thing.) There just has to be a legal process first.
     

Friday, June 26, 2020

‘Livingston Library services update’

     

The Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of the Grand Lodge of New York has a way forward as circumstances change in the COVID-19 pandemic. The librarian disseminated the following information today:



Livingston Masonic
Library and Museum
Re-opening Procedures

Visits:


  • The standard hours of the Library & Museum are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • No walk-in visits by patrons or researchers. All visits are by appointment only.
  • Patrons must wear a mask at all times when visiting the Library to return books.
  • Patrons must use hand sanitizer when entering the Library, which will be available inside the front door.
  • Every patron will write in the guest book the date of the visit, name, and contact information.



General Circulation/Research Procedures:


  • The staff is limited, therefore it will take longer to answer genealogy and research requests. All genealogy and research requests should be sent via email either to Librarian Joseph Patzner or Director Alexander Vastola.
  • Requests for books from patrons should be emailed either to the Librarian or the Director.
  • Research Requests: Materials will be prepared, scanned, and emailed to patrons.
  • Book Returns: If patrons want to return or borrow a book from the library in person, they should set up an appointment ahead of time.
  • There will be a book drop located just outside the Library’s front door for patrons to return books in case some patrons decide to return their books outside of standard hours.
  • Preferably, patrons who mail books should mail them directly to:

Livingston Masonic Library
71 West 23rd St., 14th Floor
New York, NY 10010


  • For currently borrowed books, all late fees are waived and due dates for books are extended for the time being.



  • Regarding Museum Artifacts: The museum staff will not show or send artifacts to Masonic Lodges or Masonic organizations until September 2020.



Masonic Reading Course:


  • The staff is limited, therefore it will take longer to run the Masonic Reading Course.
  • Patrons should hold onto the books they have borrowed until the Library fully re-opens. Once this happens, patrons should mail the books to the Library to minimize contact, but also will have the option to return books in-person.
  • Reading Course Certificates will be mailed directly to patrons instead of to the staff officers since Masonic activities are still closed.



Donations to the Library & Museum:


  • The Library & Museum will not accept donations of books or artifacts until September 2020.



Library Lecture Series:


  • All future Library Lectures are to be determined, based on how New York City slowly reopens in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and whether there is a COVID-19 resurgence in the Fall.

     

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

‘Weird Fact Wednesday: A Monument in Honor of a Great Artist’

     

Before I begin, happy 303rd anniversary!

Depending on where you are in the Masonic world, the Master Mason Degree ritual employed by your lodge might, or might not, include a quick discourse on the final resting place of our GMHA. I think the rituals lacking this explanation intentionally seek continuity with the overall point about the immortality of the soul, meaning the disposition of the body simply does not matter. The ritual of my lodge does include this bit of legendary history; I won’t quote that here, but instead will share the version found in the unauthenticated Duncan’s Ritual—which no regular lodge uses—even though my New York ritual has a better written telling of it. From Duncan’s monitorial text:


After prayer…the body was then carried to the Temple for a more decent burial, and was interred in due form.

The body of our Grand Master was buried three times: first, in the rubbish of the Temple; secondly, on the brow of a hill west of Mount Moriah; and, thirdly and lastly, as near the Sanctum Sanctorum, or Holy of Holies, of King Solomon’s Temple, as the Jewish law would permit; and Masonic tradition informs us that there was erected to his memory a Masonic monument, consisting of “a beautiful virgin, weeping over a broken column; before her was a book open; in her right hand a sprig of acacia, in her left an urn; behind her stands Time, unfolding and counting the, ringlets of her hair.”

The beautiful virgin weeping over the broken column denotes the unfinished state of the Temple, likewise the untimely death of our Grand Master, Hiram Abiff; the book open before her, that his virtues lay on perpetual record; the sprig of acacia in her right hand, the divinity of the body; the urn in her left, that his ashes were therein safely deposited, under the “Sanctum Sanctorum, or Holy of Holies,” of King Solomon’s Temple.

Time, unfolding the ringlets of her hair, denoted that time, patience, and perseverance accomplish all things.


Monuments are in the news lately, as statues and other public memorials have been defaced, smashed, toppled, and burned during many violent rampages across the United States and beyond. It’s not about the Confederacy or slavery or Black lives mattering. It’s about cultural revolution, which we can see plainly because plenty of the monuments targeted have nothing to do with the Confederacy. Statues of Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Grant, Miguel de Cervantes, and others have been ruined. Abolitionists, like John Greenleaf Whittier and Hans Christian Heg, have had their statues attacked. On May 31, which was the 123rd anniversary of its dedication, the Shaw Memorial, which memorializes the first African-American volunteer regiment of the U.S. Army in the Civil War, was vandalized with all kinds of graffiti by those claiming to be demanding justice for African-Americans, so don’t think for a minute this destruction has even a veneer of justice on it. It is about erasing history in a manner described by George Orwell in 1984.

But this edition of Weird Fact Wednesday concerns our monument found in certain MM° rituals. Why is it there?

The monument, as described in the drama, clearly would be an anachronism, as no such thing would have existed at that historical time and in that place. Even the book, as depicted in the monument, would not have been known then. So where did this symbol come from?

We don’t find it in Preston’s Illustrations, but being a Tiler myself, I am inclined to trust the judgment of Bro. Thomas Johnson, who served as Grand Tiler of the Grand Lodge of England when he published A Brief History of Freemasonry in 1782. Therein we find a “Design for a Monument, in Honor of a Great Artist.” This shows the three Great Lights, adorned with laurels, and an urn decorated with the letter G, with the sun and moon on the sides of the monument.

Two hundred years ago, long before Freemasons could obtain official—or other—ritual ciphers or monitors, there necessarily were competing forms of Masonic works spreading across the United States. Grand lodges had to investigate and determine for themselves which systems were most authentic and useful, which I think explains why some Third Degree rituals, but not others, include this monument discussion. One of the ritual systems to emerge in the early 19th century was that promulgated by Bro. John Barney of Vermont, who is credited with innovating the icon of the marble column and the weeping virgin and Father Time, with the open book, sprig of acacia, and urn.


No doubt you are wondering where Jeremy Cross, who I think deserves third billing with William Preston and Thomas Smith Webb for creating the rituals most of us Americans have today, fits into this. It seems Cross made that column into the Broken Column, denoting how one of the principal supports of Freemasonry has fallen.


     

Sunday, June 21, 2020

‘MRF postpones Detroit’

     
This evening, the Masonic Restoration Foundation announced it has postponed its Eleventh Annual Symposium, saying:


We have no alternative but to postpone the MRF Symposium for this year, until we can do what we do, in the way we are all accustomed to doing it.

When we are able to resume, we will pick up right from where we left off, and there is no better way to restart our collective soul than to continue with our plan to hold the event at the Detroit Masonic Temple. That’s why we’re calling this a postponement, and not a cancellation. We have faith in Detroit, and we appreciate the faith those good brethren have had in us.


If you’ve ever attended an MRF event, you know it is something special that cannot be on Zoom, and you understand why, so sit tight, and they will make it worth your while before long.
     

Saturday, June 20, 2020

‘DC’s Albert Pike statue is felled, burned’

     
Courtesy NBC4-Washington

The soul hath its senses, like the body, that may be cultivated, enlarged, refined, as itself grows in stature and proportion; and he who cannot appreciate a fine painting or statue, a noble poem, a sweet harmony, a heroic thought, or a disinterested action, or to whom the wisdom of philosophy is but foolishness and babble, and the loftiest truths of less importance than the price of stocks or cotton, or the elevation of baseness to office, merely lives on the level of commonplace, and fitly prides himself upon that inferiority of the soul’s senses, which is the inferiority and imperfect development of the soul itself.

Albert Pike
Morals and Dogma


The above is excerpted from Albert Pike’s lecture in Morals and Dogma for the 5° of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry: the Perfect Master Degree. By “perfect,” this lecture intends another Masonic lesson in achieving equilibrium for the self and harmony in the world.

The adjective “perfect” that we use in the English language derives from the French word for “flawless” and “complete.” It is a coinage as apt for use by those engaged in the good work, square work of operative masonry as it is for those in the speculative art. Otto Jespersen, one of the great linguists, said:


The difference between the Preterit and the Perfect is in English observed more strictly than in the other languages possessing corresponding tenses. The Preterit refers to some time in the past without telling anything about the connection with the present moment, while the Perfect is a retrospective present, which connects a past occurrence with the present time, either as continued up to the present moment (inclusive time) or as having results or consequences bearing on the present moment.


Perfect, as in connecting past to the current moment.


Courtesy Shelton Herald

Albert Pike was a complicated man. Yes, he served in the Confederate army for several months during the Civil War. He was, in fact, a general, until he resigned. Because of this brief military background the “news media” keep referring to his statue in Washington, DC as a Confederate statue. It was not. It was a monument erected by Scottish Rite Masons to honor Albert Pike the Freemason.

In Freemasonry, it was Albert Pike who provided Scottish Rite rituals to Prince Hall brethren so that they too could have Scottish Rite Masonry. It was he who eliminated the medieval religious bar in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite so that Masons who are not Christian may advance to the Rose Croix Degree and beyond—and he did that about a century before the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction got around to emulating that example.

You will see all over the internet today libels about how Pike was a member—or even the founder—of the Klan. He was no such thing. You also will see the accusation that he owned slaves. I have no idea about that, but Pike was a lawyer who moved about the country; he was not a farmer on a plantation.

The mobs in the streets will not be appeased. They are not going to stop destroying historical symbols until there is no more memory of Fill in the Blank. Unchecked by civil authorities, the mobs will continue rampaging. Today’s violence may be against figures, real or imagined, of the Confederacy, but tomorrow it surely will be against the Founders of the United States and many, many, many others who contributed to the complex, but magnificent, history of this unparalleled society.


You destroy a people by obliterating their history. Religious community mocked and marginalized? Check! The family unit discredited and dispersed? Check! Symbols and traditions of common identity rejected and renounced? Double Check! Education crimped to stunt the human mind? Triple Check! And the mobs will continue erasing the historical record itself until people won’t have a past they could protest. “Who controls the past controls the future,” George Orwell instructed in 1984, and “who controls the present controls the past.” Oh, that reminds me: They will defeat and erase language also.


Courtesy WTOP


The destruction of this statue in the middle of the nation’s capital while the police watched speaks to the impotence of Freemasonry in the United States today. The Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction had years of opportunity to retake possession of and relocate the monument. I appreciate how just maintaining the House of the Temple requires so much in precious resources, but an effort to raise funds and devise a plan toward that goal could have been possible had they cared—but they didn’t. So now what’s left of this historic likeness of the man who all but singlehandedly ensured that the Southern Jurisdiction would endure into the twentieth century and beyond will be trucked to some government graveyard where the remains of the mob’s Two Minute Hates will be dumped. He’ll be in good company with Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and many, many, many others.

Some history, from three years ago, here.
     

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

‘Shoemaker receives Washington honor’

     
It was thirty years ago this month when the Grand Lodge of Washington devised an honor to confer in recognition of distinguished, but discreet, service to the Masonic fraternity, and the newest recipient of the Bill Paul Horn Memorial Masonic Medal is Aaron Shoemaker!

The decoration is named for a past grand master of the Grand Lodge of Washington, but it is not necessary to be a Washington Mason to receive it. Aaron is from Missouri. Past honorees include Ernest Borgnine, Bob Davis, Matt Dupee, Dick Fletcher, Nat Granstein, Forrest Haggard, Tom Jackson, Joe Manning, and Ron Seale.

Aaron is a long-serving member of the Board of Directors of the Masonic Society, and is the Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees of the USA. He is a Past Grand Chancellor of the Grand College of Rites. I’m going to stop there, because I honestly cannot remember all of his meritorious labors in Freemasonry. He and I go way back to the first years of this century in the Masonic Light group, and I met him for the first time in 2006, when the Rose Circle Research Foundation held its first symposium at my former lodge in New Jersey.

Congratulations, my friend!
     

Monday, June 8, 2020

‘Can’t go to lodge? Bring lodge to you.’



Development of On the Square, the game of gavels I’ve been telling you about, is gaining momentum. Lend your support to the creators’ Kickstarter campaign here.

Tomorrow night, some brethren of the Leeds Light Blues Club will play the game on their Twitch TV channel. Check that out here.

     

Sunday, June 7, 2020

‘Celebrate St. John Baptist Day!’

     

The George Washington Masonic National Memorial has something very special planned for us. From the publicity:

Wednesday, June 24 will mark the first Saint John’s Day since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Although we cannot gather in our lodges as preferred, we can enjoy an evening of high-toned fellowship and Masonic education. Brethren, prepare the libations of your choice for the ancient observance of Craft Freemasonry: the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist!

To apply to be part of this event, take this survey, and then pay the $5 admission via PayPal when it comes in your email.
     

‘Fuller’s Past Masters’

     
Courtesy Hospitality and Catering News

I got all excited the other day when a Past Grand Master of New York posted a link on social media concerning Fuller’s line of Past Masters beverages. I had a few minutes just now to poke around the web and see what it’s all about, but am disappointed to see that the name evidently has nothing to do with Masonic past masters, but instead, I guess, brewmasters of yesteryear.

Even worse, there seems to be no distribution in the United States, so I’ll get to sample these only if I make good on my desired vacation to Blighty some day. (I know we can find Fuller’s flagship brew London Pride here, but that may be the only one.)

Fuller’s, dating to 1845, but with a heritage reaching back a couple hundred years prior, is a London brewery that also has hundreds of pubs and dozens of hotels across southern England. It’s a big company, and it was acquired a year and a half ago by the gigantic Asahi conglomerate of Japan.

What they’ve done with these brews is reverted to their archived recipes, and endeavored to recreate the flavors enjoyed so long ago. Being a pipe smoker who favors the Balkan, English, and Oriental varieties of tobacco mixtures, I know that even when an early recipe is immaculately preserved and perfectly understood, the needed ingredients may not be available today. But, with diligence and dedication, the right brewer can approximate.

Fuller’s started this project a decade ago and revisits another recipe every year, and the products are for sale via its website. From the publicity:


People say “they don’t make ’em like they used to,” but at Fuller’s, we certainly do. Since 2010, we’ve been delving back into our age-old brewing books once a year, to faithfully recreate recipes from days gone by.

Every Past Master we bring back is part of a limited run, with older versions already extremely rare. For that reason, the price of our Past Masters ales will increase as the number of remaining bottles reduces—and indeed, the price you see today may be higher tomorrow.

While they are crafted to be enjoyed as soon as they reach you, they continue to condition well beyond their official “best before” date due to the yeast that we include in the bottle. This second fermentation results in a more complex character and a flavor profile that will change over time.


The first in the series, XX is a strong, dark ale. Back in the 1890s, XX denoted a stronger than average brew. This particular recipe dates from September 2, 1891. Matured for three months, then bottle conditioned, it has a rich, round flavor with a distinctive, warming character.

Double Stout is the second in the series, brewed to a recipe from August 4, 1893, a time when ‘stout’ meant strong. Its signature ingredient is Plumage Archer barley, carefully malted and kilned using 19th century methods. Dark brown and creamy, this beer balances a rich fruity aroma with smoky, bittersweet chocolate notes.

Old Burton Extra is the third in series, brewed to the Old Burton Extra recipe from 1931. This ale is wonderfully strong and fruity; balanced with a pronounced hop flavor.

1966 Strong Ale, the fourth in the series, is brewed to a strong ale recipe from 1966 when it was drunk during the celebration of England’s victory in the world cup. This warming, dark ruby ale has a rich, rounded flavor with notes of plum and a velvety, warm caramel finish.

1914 Strong X, the fifth in the series, is brewed to a specially selected recipe that was drunk during the early months of World War I. This warming, strong mild ale has a fruity palate with notes of apricot and orange and a well-balanced malty finish.

1910 Double Stout is the sixth beer in the series. Deliciously dark, it’s characterized by smooth chocolate and rich coffee notes, with hints of Black Forest fruit flavor emerging alongside gentle bitterness from the hops. For any fans of dark ales and stouts, it’s a beer that demands to be tried.

1926 Oatmeal Porter is the seventh beer revived in the Past Masters collection. It’s been brewed to a 90-year old recipe to celebrate the occasion of the Queen’s 90th birthday.

1981 ESB is the ninth beer in the series. We’ve brewed something extra special to celebrate the career of Fuller’s legendary brewer John Keeling, who retired in 2018. This full-bodied, fruity beer uses the Extra Special Bitter recipe from John’s first day at Fuller’s in January 1981.

1909 Pale Ale is the tenth beer in the series and our first re-creation of this popular style. Darker than the pale ales we have come to know, this recipe combined treacle and sugar with malted barley, Goldings hops and the signature Fuller’s yeast for a smooth, well balanced and fruity beer.
     

Saturday, June 6, 2020

‘Prayer for our communities’



Click to enlarge.
The Prince Hall Freemasons and Eastern Star Sisters of New York will gather for their “Coming Together to Pray for Our Communities” meeting. I think the graphic above provides the needed information.

Of course, June 19 also is Juneteenth.