Monday, May 31, 2010

‘Freedom is a Light’

    


    

Facing Independence Hall is George Washington, standing in one of only five public squares planned in William Penn’s 1682 survey of Philadelphia.



“Freedom is a Light for which many men have died in darkness” is the main inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington Square Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.



Freemasonry in the United States is so interwoven with American history and patriotism that it baffles and even offends Masons from other countries. Lodges in America typically append to their opening ritual a salute to the U.S. flag, and while the salute is not truly part of the ritual, its proximity to the ritual’s conclusion creates the appearance of a seamless continuity. I suspect most Masons in America do not realize the salute is not part of the ceremony.

Few, if any, of us give it any thought, but Masons from other nations notice it. British brethren, if asked, happily would point out that their lodges are closed before, for instance, the queen is toasted at the festive board.

I’ll always remember one conversation over drinks very late one night during a recent Masonic Week, when this very subject was brought up. Was it not chauvinist or even jingoist to incorporate such flag waving into a Masonic ritual? It was Bro. Piers to the rescue, explaining that it is in fact the personal liberty represented by the flag that allows Masons to meet in their lodges, ergo a logical fit. (I paraphrase.)


“If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.”

          General Order No. 11, which established Decoration Day
          Gen. John Logan
          May 5, 1868


As we say in one of the Rose Croix rituals:

“So may the Light that never fails, the Love that never forgets, and the Life that never ends, illumine our world.”

SMIB.
  

Friday, May 21, 2010

‘Men will always differ’

    



The Magpie Mason has mixed feelings about a really spectacular event that took place last Saturday. New Jersey Scottish Rite Masonry conferred the 23° (Knight of Valor) aboard the USS New Jersey, which is permanently docked on the Delaware River at Camden where it serves as a museum and tourist destination.

The battleship is great. I suggest you visit if you can. Even if military history or culture isn’t your thing, it is impossible to fail to appreciate this ship for the engineering and industry its existence embodies. It is a wonder of human achievement. That it traveled the globe, blasting the hell out of enemies of human liberty for generations, inspires even more reverence.

But on the other hand there is this “degree.” Titled Knight of Valor, the 23° is perhaps the best example of what the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s Committee on Ritualistic Matters has been doing to the body of Scottish Rite rituals in recent decades. That is, there has been an obvious retreat from spiritual and philosophical work in favor of “degrees” that really are only plays. They are one-dimensional dramas that tell stories an average informed man already should know.

The story unfolded in the Knight of Valor Degree, if you do not know, is based on the true life story of four U.S. Army chaplains who perished aboard the USAT Dorchester in 1943. It was an Army transport ship taking 900 soldiers to the European Theater when a U-Boat attacked it with three torpedoes, sinking it. Nearly 700 men perished.

As the ship sank, the four chaplains – a Catholic priest, two Protestant ministers, and one rabbi – gave their lifejackets to others, locked their arms together, prayed in their respective ways, and went down with the ship. The act was one of those supernatural sacrifices that helped the American people sustain their war effort until unconditional surrenders were dictated to the Axis powers, and it has been memorialized by a variety of military, civic, and religious expressions of thankful awe.

This history must never be forgotten. Fathers should tell their young sons about it for as long as there is a United States. I just don’t agree that it truly has a place among the degrees of Scottish Rite Masonry.

The corpus of AASR teachings from Day One has included alchemical, Biblical, hermetic, Masonic, Rosicrucian, and other multifaceted, deeply textured modes of instruction intended to nourish heart, mind, and soul. While grips, signs, and words can be imparted face-to-face during a single encounter, the secret teachings those tokens represent should inspire a Mason to work hard all his life to reform his attitude, values, and behavior.

Like the histories and legends of Benedict Arnold’s treason, Joseph Brant’s mercy, and Lewis Armistead’s conscience, the Four Chaplains’ story should be known and understood by Masons and everybody else as part of proper citizenship and true patriotism. Frankly, these are stories that a man should comprehend before he is initiated into the First Degree. It is not the job of Freemasonry to teach these basic lessons, let alone make them the highlights of its system of High Degrees.

There are changes that have been made to Scottish Rite degrees in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction that are even more serious.

Six years ago, the Knight Kadosh Degree was eliminated. Not rewritten, but discontinued because it allegedly “no longer expresses a meaningful message to Scottish Rite Masons.” There was a time when Kadosh was the Ne Plus Ultra degree of Scottish Rite Masonry, but instead of making it comprehensible to modern men, it was eliminated. For a similar reason, the word Shekinah was excised from the rituals a few years ago. What is Shekinah? To Jews it is a manifestation of God. When anthropomorphism is unseemly, the term Shekinah is invoked either as a term for deity itself, or to be understood as a manifestation of deity come to dwell among men. Theologically, the word has very deep meaning and purpose, and I certainly am not qualified to relate all that. Suffice to say that without Shekinah, there is less need for Solomon to build the Temple, and naturally without King Solomon’s Temple, Freemasonry would have very different rituals and mythos... if Masonry would exist at all.

But of course my point is Freemasonry is voluntarily adopting very different rituals and mythos.


“The things that unite us are far more fundamental than those that divide us. We can never hope to have absolute uniformity in belief. Men will always differ as long as men think. This difference need not lead to hatred or ill will or the shedding of blood. Let us respect each other, enrich each other and look for the best in each other. Let Christians be truly Christians and Jews truly Jewish, and let the good and the noble of both faiths unite for the realization of common ideals and aspirations for the glory of God and the redemption of humanity.”

Rabbi Dr. Alexander Goode, Lieutenant, U.S. Army
as characterized in the Knight of Valor Degree


There is a tightrope that I want to walk. What happened last Saturday aboard the battleship meant a lot to the brethren who were there. A tiny group of Masons labored diligently for months to conceive and execute the plans for the day. There were others who had personal connections to the ship. One brother from Ohio had served aboard BB-62. Another from Maine had sailed on the New Jersey to Pearl Harbor for its christening. And then there is the namesake of my valley’s class of initiates: Ill. Peter Skerchock, 33° is a retired captain in the U.S. Navy. He skippered a PT Boat during the war, exhibiting a penchant for machine gunning the crap out of Japanese ships. He turned 86 on Sunday.

I think one would have to be a heartless automaton to impatiently or blithely dismiss what happened on the ship on Saturday – one who can’t see the forest for the trees – and I do not want to be that guy. Brethren traveled from all over the eastern United States (and maybe elsewhere) to be in community and taste the air of history; in short, to be part of something larger than their individual selves. My concern is for this Scottish Rite jurisdiction’s increasing reliance on simplification as a means of reaching men in the 21st century. I understand that people today do not have the same grasp on matters allegorical, theological and philosophical as did our great-grandparents, a depth of understanding that is crucial to assimilating into what I term “traditional Scottish Rite Masonry.” But I cannot agree that abandoning so many fundamental elements will serve the AASR well. As the degrees become plays that require little, if any, introspection and meditation, we will continue to see the membership become less attentive and dedicated.

I hope it doesn’t sink us.
    

Monday, May 17, 2010

‘Errors and omissions’

    
The 2009 Annual Report of the Masonic Service Association of North America has just(!) been released. In it is a four-page accounting of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, offering different aspects of the novel – the author’s comments, factual inaccuracies in the book, and even Brown’s letter to the Mother Supreme Council.

Addressing the errors found in The Lost Symbol, the MSANA report cites and reprints an excerpt from the November-December 2009 issue of Scottish Rite Journal. That’s all well and good, but The Masonic Society, supposedly acting in conjunction with the MSANA and the George Washington Masonic Memorial, exerted not insignificant effort to launch a website that gently corrected the book’s various factual inaccuracies and examples of literary license that misrepresented things Masonic.

If you look to the left of your screen, you will see beneath the Previous Posts index the rectangular red button linking The Magpie Mason to this informational website. Go ahead and click on it, because it is still active eight months after the novel’s release, and in fact was updated only three days ago to reflect information about the upcoming paperback release and other timely information.

How did this happen? For starters, poor Chris Hodapp had to read that crappy book on the day of its release. Then, armed with knowledge of what it contains, he was able to author the webpage... that still gets hundreds of hits per day.

The site also features links to all the grand lodges, you know, in case any curious man wanted to contact the fraternity and inquire into membership? It also has a recommended reading list. It is an impressive resource, especially when you consider that no one else in Masonry bothered to create anything that might help the fraternity appear to be relevant during the explosion of mass popularity surrounding this novel.

But apparently it did not merit mention in the MSANA’s report. Thanks guys.
   

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

‘Hidden Wisdom’ rendered in plain sight

  
He’s still on the road, in Canada now. Bro. Tim Wallace-Murphy is on a speaking tour, promoting his new book titled Hidden Wisdom: Secrets of the Western Esoteric Tradition. He had been in New Jersey and New York these past few days, drawing more than 100 Masons to Atlas-Pythagoras Lodge Friday night, and following that triumph the next day with an intimate afternoon at the Theosophical Society’s Quest Bookshop in Manhattan, and his final stop in the area at the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library at the Grand Lodge of New York last night. You’d never guess he’s 80 years old.


It’s the prolific author’s 12th book, and while it covers material quite familiar to his regular readers, what I take to be the point of Hidden Wisdom is not ancient Egypt or the Israel of antiquity or medieval Europe or any point in history, but is the future. Our future.


To be sure, the author writes for new fans, and indeed leads a tour beginning... well, at the beginning of esoteric thought, namely the cave paintings in France depicting shamanistic ritual believed to be more than 10,000 years old. From there, hidden wisdom evolves. Neolithic spirituality, Egyptian temples, Israelite covenant, the Greeks, the Romans, the Celts, the Grail, the Templars, the Renaissance, the Masons, and many more points of interest are made.


But it is the book’s conclusion that gives us pause because it could be understood as an urgent warning from one who has lived long and seen much. Wallace-Murphy exhorts us to “live our beliefs and turn our world around. For if our world cannot be transformed into a global, just and equitable society, stripped of violence, greed and poverty, why should it survive? We have the spiritual answers to our problems in the hidden wisdom of the ancient sages and mystics. The real question is: Have we the wit, the humility and the courage to apply them?”
    

Monday, May 10, 2010

Book Review: ‘The Masonic Myth’

           
In the latest issue of The Journal of the Masonic Society is my review of Bro. Jay Kinney’s new book.


 


In terms of book publishing alone, the past five years have been amazing for Freemasons and their fraternity. The quality even of “introductory” books (Cooper’s Cracking the Freemasons Code, Hodapp’s Freemasons for Dummies, Morris’ The Complete Idiot’s Guide, et al.) truly is outstanding for their outpouring of sober-minded facts, and causes one to ponder what might have been had these titles been around twenty years ago. And joining their ranks is another splendid book by Masonic Society Member Jay Kinney titled The Masonic Myth: Unlocking the Truth about the Symbols, the Secret Rites, and the History of Freemasonry. Kinney’s approach has a subtle difference. Where previous authors rendered a dizzyingly confusing topic approachable even to those who are not Masons, Kinney announces from the beginning in his title that misconceptions that have misinformed Masons and others for generations need to be demolished. The Masonic Myth strips the varnish off the fraternity’s history, legends, rituals, and even treasured “famous Masons.”

These confusions include many simple points of history that are misunderstood even by Masons today considered well educated.

The rise of the second English grand lodge, nicknamed the Antients, often is described as being created in a schismatic departure from the Premiere Grand Lodge. Not so. While there was interaction and intervisitation, etc. on the part of individual brethren from both camps, the lodges of Antient Masons were not part of the London-based Grand Lodge of England, and when they elected to form their own grand lodge, they did so on their own. No schism, just a rival start-up group, Kinney rightly says.


In 1737, a Scotsman living in France named Andrew Ramsay prepared a speech to deliver before the Grand Lodge of France. Known as “Ramsay’s Oration,” this piece of literature is the basis for Freemasonry’s “high grades” of knighthoods, and the inexplicable belief held by so many even today that the medieval Knights Templar are the ancestors of Freemasonry. Kinney explains that not only is the content of this oration laden with factual inaccuracies, but it also isn’t even an oration because Ramsay never delivered it orally. You see, Ramsay was a Roman Catholic convert, and when Cardinal Fleury, the cardinal minister to King Louis XV, used the police to ban all meetings of Freemasons, our dauntless hero Ramsay went as far as to withdraw from the Craft. In Kinney’s telling, Ramsay’s stay in France coincided with the exile of the Stuarts, the royal family of Catholics succeeded on the English throne by the Hanovers from Protestant Germany, and so Ramsay had hoped to build a coalition of Freemasons, Jacobites, and the Catholic Church. “An attractive marketing angle,” writes Kinney. Fleury “was having none of it” and his ban on Masonic meetings predates even Pope Clement XII’s infamous bull that proscribed Masonic membership for Roman Catholics.


Of course these obstacles did not prevent the births of numerous rites and degrees in France. “Eccosais (Scottish) Masonry became synonymous with degrees and rites that purported to be the oldest or the highest. Whether such degrees actually originated in Scotland is something else again,” Kinney writes. Indeed he distills to two sentences the growth of Masonry from Britain to Europe:
    
“Espousing universal brotherhood is one thing, but practicing it is something else again, and it is difficult to imagine the bewigged brethren of the French aristocracy and intelligentsia sitting in lodge with anyone too far beneath them in social standing. Indeed, Masonry on the Continent rapidly expanded from merely honoring the symbolic meaning of stonecutters’ tools and customs into a whole new universe of armchair chivalry, “higher” degrees soaked in mystical and esoteric symbolism, and grandiose titles accompanied by ornate regalia and jewelry.”

I love the term “armchair chivalry.”


It is tempting to walk you all the way through Kinney’s plain-spoken Masonic history, but that may deprive you the pleasure of reading his book. And if you are unacquainted with Bro. Kinney, please do not think he is immune to the mystique of genuine symbolism and esoterica; in fact he is world renowned for his scholarship, and he is esteemed as having been the publisher of the sorely missed Gnosis magazine, the journal of Western inner traditions, published bi-annually, then quarterly, from 1985 to 1999. Most issues are available here. In 2005 he was made a Fellow in the Scottish Rite Research Society and was awarded that prestigious group’s Albert Gallatin Mackey Award for excellence in Masonic scholarship. He knows of what he speaks. And writes.


Kinney’s mission is not to denude Freemasonry of the respect it has earned; he wants to help all concerned to understand that the best way to honor Freemasonry is to learn the truth about it. Legendary histories and misunderstandings of rituals, no matter how time-tested they may be, still obscure truth. This book serves like the focus ring on a camera lens: It eliminates blur while allowing the viewer to choose depths of field. As one example of a close-up, the author explains autobiographically:
    
“It was my good fortune to join a lodge that prided itself on performing excellent ritual, and there was something very touching in realizing that these men, some of whom had been Masons for as long as fifty years, had gone to the trouble of practicing these rituals and delivering whole lectures from memory, all for the sake of giving candidates – including me – a memorable initiation. Further, the realization that generation after generation of Masons had been doing this for some three hundred years or more established a palpable link with the past, a sense of roots that is scarce in today’s attention-deficient culture.”

Bringing Masonry’s future into view, Kinney lauds the power and success of the internet. “The growth of the Web enabled both individual lodges and grand lodges to hang out their shingles, and thousands of Masonic Web sites rapidly appeared. This increased Masonic visibility tenfold. Meanwhile, the growing public interest in certain threads of ‘alternative spirituality,’ such as Gnosticism, the Divine Feminine, the mysteries of Egypt, secret societies, and the Knights Templar, has pulled Freemasonry into the mix, feeding romantic notions of Masonic significance. This, in turn, has caused a new generation of men to come knocking at Masonry’s door, curious to see whether it might be worth their time and interest.” How does one define what’s worthy? Kinney bluntly dismisses that potential for romantic fancy, instead advocating “the potential for ‘more light’ and initiatory growth,” adding “if the inertia in the older lodges is just too great to provide what younger men are looking for, the fraternity should constitute new lodges with space for new (or self-consciously ‘traditional’) approaches and let them flow forth as a parallel stream.”
    

Friday, May 7, 2010

‘Huzzah!’

The Magpie Mason loudly and proudly congratulates brethren and friends who have been elected or appointed to grand rank during this season of grand lodge annual communications and installations.

RW Bro. Bill Thomas was elected Grand Treasurer of the Grand Lodge of New York! Wonderful!

RW Bro. Ben Hoff is the new Grand Historian in the Grand Lodge of New Jersey! Excellent choice!

VW Bro. Marco is the new Junior Assistant Grand Lecturer in the First Manhattan District of New York! Perfect choice!

RW Bro. Robert Barrows is the Grand Organist of the Grand Lodge of New York! Bravo Maestro!

RW Bro. Harvey Eysman is Proctor Emeritus in New York! Outstanding!

(There may be others, but I haven’t heard about them yet.)

Have a great year brethren.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

‘Of stones and green men’

Only “birds of a feather flock together,” so don’t lump the Magpie Mason with the culture vultures, but there are two events in Manhattan I must bring to your attention.

On Sunday, May 23 at 3 p.m., the Museum of Biblical Art will host the first in a series of “cross-cultural conversations... investigating questions of religious identity and meaning through the prism of Jewish and Christian art.” Titled One Stone Upon Another: The Temple of Jerusalem in Jewish and Christian Art, the lecture is open to the public.

MOBIA says:

Robin Jensen, Luce Chancellor’s Professor of the History of Christian Art and Worship at Vanderbilt University; and Steven Fine, Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University and Director of the YU Center for Israel Studies, will look at early representations of the Temple of Jerusalem. Each a foremost expert on the ways that art was meaningful for the religious experience in antiquity, Fine and Jensen bring their cross-cultural conversation into the public domain, addressing profound questions of religious identity and meaning in late antiquity through the prisms of ancient Christian and Jewish art.

“The conversation will be guided by questions such as: How close were Christians and Jews in late antiquity? What were the borderlines that separated them, and in what ways did their shared focus upon the Bible distance and bring them closer to one another? What do ancient visual and literary sources – read together – tell us about how Jews viewed Christians; Christians viewed Jews; and each viewed Roman polytheism?”

Admission is free. To register for this event, call (212) 408-1500.

Admission to the museum also is free, and you’ll want to allow ample time to savor the exhibit titled Uneasy Communion: Jews, Christians, and the Altarpieces of Medieval Spain, which closes May 30.

Again, courtesy of MOBIA:

“This exhibition discusses the last two centuries of medieval Spanish history in the Crown of Aragon (the Kingdom of Aragon, the Kingdom of Valencia, and the region of Catalonia) from the vantage point of religious art, and demonstrates the documented cooperative relationship that existed between Christians and Jews who worked either independently or together to create art both for the Church and the Jewish community. Religious art was not created solely by members of the faith community it was intended to serve, but its production in the multi-cultural society of late medieval Spain was more complicated. Jewish and Christian artists worked together in ateliers producing both retablos (large multi-paneled altarpieces) as well as Latin and Hebrew manuscripts. Jews and conversos (Jews who had converted to Christianity) were painters and framers of retablos, while Christians illuminated the pages of Hebrew manuscripts.

“The exhibition tells not only the story of this fascinating moment of artistic collaboration, it also provides a glimpse into the lives of these communities which lived side by side. Images in some retablos reflect the hardships of Jewish life in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries: conversions, forced sermons, disputations, the Inquisition, and charges of host desecration and blood libel. Other extraordinary paintings project a messianic view of a future in which Jews would join with Christians in one faith.

“The exhibition is accompanied by the publication edited by Vivian B. Mann, with essays by Marcus B. Burke, Carmen Laccara Ducay, Thomas F. Glick and Vivian B. Mann, which provide a fascinating study of the production of altarpieces in late medieval Spain and the artistic overlap between the Jewish and Christian communities that this industry spawned. Uneasy Communion: Jews, Christians, and the Altarpieces of Medieval Spain is published by D Giles Limited in association with the Museum of Biblical Art and is available at the MOBIA online Bookstore.”

Click here to see a slideshow of images from this exhibition.



Also closing at the end of the month is the exhibition at Poet’s House titled The Green Man.

Every thinking Freemason ought to know about the Green Man. His significance in architecture and symbolism merits your consideration.

Poet’s House says:

This series of paintings by British-born poet and painter Basil King depicts the Green Man, the pre-Christian archetypal figure of creation and the earth, emerging in the guise of British historical figures, such as Guy Fawkes and Walter Raleigh.

To close on a humorous note, take a few minutes to enjoy this footage of actor Bill Murray reading poetry to the operative builders who constructed the new Poet’s House in Battery Park City:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

‘Another four bits’



Good news coming from the Annual Communication (or, if you must, “convention”) last week of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey: The annual per capita donation to the George Washington Masonic Memorial from each Master Mason of half a buck... has been doubled! The Magpie Mason congratulates MW Bro. Edgar Peppler, a past president of the GWMM Association, and MW Bro. John Ryan, a former member of the Board of Directors, both past grand masters of New Jersey, for proposing the legislation that sealed the deal.


Their explanation of the requested funding:


The George Washington Masonic Memorial was conceived, financed, constructed and is supported and maintained by the Freemasons of the United States to honor the memory, character and legacy of the greatest American citizen, soldier, Freemason and president that ever lived. The mission of the Memorial is: ‘To inspire humanity through education to emulate and promote the virtues, character and vision of George Washington, the Man, the Mason and the Father of our Country.’


It is the only Masonic national memorial in the nation and continues to be financed and forever owned by the Freemasons of the United Sates. We, as Masons and proprietors, have supported the Memorial with an assessment of only 50 cents per member each year since 1994. This request for an increase to $1 per member, per year, is the first increase in 16 years. It will benefit the Memorial as a museum; tourist attraction and destination; research center and library; center for community activities; performing arts center and concert hall. However, first and foremost, it is a Masonic memorial, honoring the memory, character and legacy of our Brother, George Washington. Please take the opportunity to visit your Memorial during the ensuing year.


Actually I think that may be boilerplate text supplied by the Memorial, and believe me, New Jersey hardly is the only or first jurisdiction to make this change, but the brethren did it. The GWMM is enjoying a revitalization of late, as it has been transformed from a quaint tourist curiosity with 1950s era exhibits to a locus of Masonic culture and scholarship. Under Executive Director George Seghers and Director of Collections Mark Tabbert, the Memorial not only is becoming one of America’s top Masonic education resources, but it is actually leading our country as a top learning institution on the international scene.


In 12 months, the International Conference on the History of Freemasonry will hold its biannual meeting at the GWMM, the first time it will convene in the United States. Later this year, the Memorial will co-host the annual meeting of the Masonic Library and Museum Association.


Quite a difference from the days when the Grotto exhibit was hot stuff.


The Memorial also is becoming a revolutionary host of digital data, thanks to its partnership with OCLC, the creator of the ContentDM Database. This resource allows lodges and other Masonic bodies to upload and manage limitless stores of data, be it historical records, inventories and photos of artifacts and documents, membership info, or whatever. A priceless resource for researchers, and a great opportunity for Masonry’s archivists, historians, and those who simply care about Masonic culture and historic preservation.


In addition, the Memorial offers Masonic bodies the opportunity to digitize printed materials. Imagine your grand lodge’s entire library of annual proceedings turned into digital data, searchable, portable, and in all ways modernized. This is HUGE. Read all about it here.


The George Washington Masonic Memorial is realizing its potential to be an agent of change that helps American Freemasonry conserve its great heritage in ways highly useful to the modern man, providing the ideal mix of timeless knowledge and timely technology. The perfect way to begin its second century.

Monday, May 3, 2010

‘Our loss is their gain’


New Jersey Freemasonry is suffering a loss these days. No one died, but our good brother Frankllin Suco has moved out of state, having accepted a position in upstate New York.

Bro. Franklin needs no introduction to regular readers of The Magpie Mason, He is the junior Past Master of Nutley Lodge No. 25, and the charter Master of Alexandria Council No. 478 of Allied Masonic Degrees. Most recently he was Eminent Commander of St. John’s Commandery, but had to resign that post of course. But he is not merely an office holder. What makes his departure a real blow to New Jersey Freemasonry is the obvious loss that will be felt in Craft Masonry and the York Rite for a long while.


Franklin is one of those rare Freemasons who champions the cause of providing quality Masonic experiences for his brethren. One of those guys “who gets it.” A Master who presides over meetings where true substance is provided, where Light is imparted, where Masons practice their Craft.

He and his wife Becca hosted a farewell party on Saturday. Just a few of the brethren with their families gathering for a barbecue in a local park. It had the potential for being a very sad occasion, but not if you think about the future. He and Becca are starting a family, and I wish them all the joy and success imaginable. Plus, knowing Franklin will unleash his energy on whichever lucky lodge up there he joins, one easily can imagine some lodge full of farmers quickly transforming its secretary’s office into this:



Good luck you guys! Hope to see you again soon.


Photo of Chamber of Reflection from Symbols of Freemasonry by Daniel Béresniak.

‘The Merry Month of May’



The Magpie Mason regretfully will be absent from the Main Event of the Month of May. (I can’t be everywhere!)

To celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society in 2010, The Masonic Society, in conjunction with Library and Museum of Freemasonry, will host its first UK-Ireland Symposium in London, May 28-29.

On Friday, May 28, the organizers will host a private guided tour of the exhibition Freemasons and the Royal Society at Freemasons Hall. This happens to be the closing day of this exhibition. That evening, an informal dinner and drinks await attendees at the Prince of Wales on Great Queen Street.

The Saturday, May 29 event will take place at Kensal Community Center, located at 177 Kensal Road, London, W10 5BJ. The speakers for the day will be:

Michael Baigent (Holy Blood and Holy Grail, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception) presenting “Aspects of the Royal Society.” A Q&A session will follow, and then a complimentary lunch.

The second speaker, Robert L.D. Cooper (The Masonic Magician: The Life and Death of Count Cagliostro and His Egyptian Rite, The Rosslyn Hoax) will discuss “A Scottish View of the Foundation of the Royal Society.” The afternoon will end with a second Q&A session.

The registration fee for Saturday is only £10.

The event organizers are none other than Masonic Society Founding Fellow Yasha Beresiner, Fellow Martyn Greene, and Founding Member David Naughton-Shires. Well done brethren! I am very sorry I cannot be there.

Even though I’ll miss the event, this is an event not to be missed! Folks, if you are in or around London, you will want to be there, so sign up here.

▲▼ ▲▼ ▲▼ ▲▼ ▲▼ ▲▼ ▲▼ ▲▼ ▲▼ ▲▼ ▲▼ ▲▼ ▲▼ ▲▼


But The Magpie Mason will be busy throughout the month. The Architects will meet on Thursday. Tim Wallace-Murphy will visit Atlas-Pythagoras Lodge on Friday. Scott Chapter No. 4 follows the next Friday. The day after that, the Scottish Rite’s 23° will be conferred aboard the USS New Jersey. The second half of the month promises a Knight Masons meeting, Scottish Rite elections and installations, and speaking engagements of Steve Burkle at Ocean Lodge No. 89 on May 27... and yours truly at historic Alpha Lodge No. 116 the night before!

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired already.