Friday, January 28, 2011

‘Cole mining’

    
Way back a long time ago, when I was a junior in high school, my teacher of U.S. history sadistically assigned his class, as requisite to passing the course, what seemed like impossibly obscure topics for research papers. Obscurity is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and to a 16-year-old underachiever, the prospect of delving into the life and work of one Thomas Cole, father of the Hudson River School in the fine arts, was akin to being sentenced to a gulag to mine coal, barehanded. This was far before the internet, Google, and the rest; it was merely the dawn of the PC age itself. Research meant legwork at the library, and my subject Thomas Cole required travel to the public libraries of neighboring towns which, to me, was as unheard of as Cole himself. It was a good thing my friend Tim had access to a car – would have been even better if one of us had a driver’s license – so to foreign libraries we went to achieve our respective advancements in knowledge.

If you had tried to tell me then that decades later I would happily drive 250 miles to enjoy lectures on topics ranging from our Mr. Cole to the KKK, I would have smacked you, but there I was at the Scottish Rite’s National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts last April being impressed by David Bjelajac’s talk, augmented by PowerPoint graphics of Cole’s work.

It’s funny what happens when you get a little culture in you.

Turns out Thomas Cole was a Freemason who made symbols familiar to the initiated eye key components in some of his work. Professor Bjelajac will appear at Cedar Grove, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, on Sunday, March 6 to present his lecture Thomas Cole, Freemasonry and the American Hercules.

Cedar Grove
Thomas Cole National Historic Site
218 Spring Street
Catskill, New York

The lecture will begin at 2 p.m., and tickets, at $8 each, will be available on a first come, first served basis.

From the Cedar Grove website:

Thomas Cole, Freemasonry and the American Hercules

Thomas Cole became a Freemason in Zanesville, Ohio, during the summer of 1822, and soon composed sublime mountainous views that drew upon Masonry’s mysterious emblems. First publicized in New York newspapers by William Dunlap, a brother Mason, Cole’s paintings captured the patronage of the Empire State’s Masonic elite. David Bjelajac, Professor of Art and Human Sciences at George Washington University, reinterprets Cole’s The Titan’s Goblet (1833), which honored New York Governor De Witt Clinton, Erie Canal builder, art academician and leading Freemason. This small, enigmatic painting draws upon Masonic ritual and Herculean myth, and looks forward to Cole’s famed Course of Empire and Voyage of Life series.


The Titan's Goblet is on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Thomas Cole's The Voyage of Life series
is on view at the National Gallery of Art.
This is Childhood.


The Voyage of Life: Youth.


The Voyage of Life: Manhood.


The Voyage of Life: Old Age.

Please pardon these low resolution images. Reproductions of these oil-on-canvas works are available in various media if you shop around.

From the National Gallery’s website:

Cole’s renowned four-part series traces the journey of an archetypal hero along the “River of Life.” Confidently assuming control of his destiny and oblivious to the dangers that await him, the voyager boldly strives to reach an aerial castle, emblematic of the daydreams of “Youth” and its aspirations for glory and fame. As the traveler approaches his goal, the ever-more-turbulent stream deviates from its course and relentlessly carries him toward the next picture in the series, where nature’s fury, evil demons, and self-doubt will threaten his very existence. Only prayer, Cole suggests, can save the voyager from a dark and tragic fate.

From the innocence of childhood, to the flush of youthful overconfidence, through the trials and tribulations of middle age, to the hero’s triumphant salvation, The Voyage of Life seems intrinsically linked to the Christian doctrine of death and resurrection. Cole’s intrepid voyager also may be read as a personification of America, itself at an adolescent stage of development. The artist may have been issuing a dire warning to those caught up in the feverish quest for Manifest Destiny: that unbridled westward expansion and industrialization would have tragic consequences for both man and nature.

The name Bjelajac is uncommon, so if it rings a bell for you, it may be because the professor is related to Bro. Michael Bjelajac, Past Master of Gate City Lodge No. 2 in Atlanta.
    

Thursday, January 27, 2011

‘Masonic Week 2010: Society of Blue Friars’

    
This edition of The Magpie Mason is the fifth attempt to catch up on 2010 events I haven’t told you about. Every time I post one of these, I remember yet another, so this may take a while. In fact, this one dates to Masonic Week 2010, nearly a year ago, and I want to finish catching up before this Masonic Week arrives in only two weeks!


Blue Friar No. 93 Thomas W. Jackson, left, and the newest Blue Friar, No. 99, Pierre “Pete” Normand, Jr. react to a funny remark from Blue Friar 95, Mark A. Tabbert (not shown) at the 66th Annual Consistory of The Society of Blue Friars February 12 during Masonic Week 2010 in Alexandria, Virginia.


Friday, February 12, 2010

After the dual meetings of the Knight Masons, it was time for the 66th Annual Consistory of The Society of Blue Friars. The likelihood of cronyism is much lower here because, while it is not stated as such in the rules, it evidently is a longstanding tradition that those tapped to join the Consistory be published authors or otherwise reputable writers and educators. I’d rather hang out with these guys any day.

The perils of the snowy weather affected this meeting also. It was said, but I still don’t know if in jest, that Grand Abbot S. Brent Morris would not be able to attend, for although the major roads had been cleared of the record snowfall by Friday morning, he wasn’t about to shovel his driveway! Well, he’s earned that right.

So, the lovely and talented Tom Jackson of Pennsylvania – the mere mention of whom induces agita in some grand officers I know – assumed the presiding officer’s duties, and did a fine job of welcoming the 2010 Blue Friar – that’s No. 99, for those keeping score: Pierre “Pete” Normand, Jr. of Texas!

I’ll admit from the start that I cannot do justice to Bro. Pete’s Masonic resume, but here are the obvious highlights:

  • Past Master of Sul Ross Lodge No. 1300, Texas;
  • Past Master of St. Alban’s Lodge No. 1455, Texas;
  • editor, (the former) American Masonic Review;
  • Past Master and Fellow of Texas Lodge of Research;
  • author, The Texas Masons: The Fraternity of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons in the History of Texas;
  • editor, The Plumbline, the newsletter of the Scottish Rite Research Society;
  • Honorary SGIG (33°), A&ASR-SJ; and
  • Founding Fellow of The Masonic Society.

After 11-and-a-half months, my notes are among That Which Was Lost, but Pete’s address concerned something near and dear to the Magpie Mason’s heart: the origins and successes of what now is called European Concept and Traditional Observance practices. His presentation followed the outline sketched by someone else I’m fond of: Bro. John Mauk Hilliard. In brief, and with my own editorializing:

Excellence in ritual: Before thinking that phrase speaks for itself, please understand that the excellence involves more than perfect memorization and flawless recitation, because artistic ability is equally vital. You see, the benefit ought to belong to the aspirant, in the form of his comprehension and enlightenment. It is not about the ritualist and his next gold pin.

Masonic education: Lodges must teach the meaning of Masonry by instructing the brethren in the meanings of our rituals and symbols, as well as in overall philosophy, history, jurisprudence, and other aspects of Masonic culture. Why does this need to be pointed out?

Table Lodge/Festive Board: Is there a better way to spread the cement than to dine together, sharing a convivial ritual experience? Great food, great company, great conversation. We aspire to these in our other walks of life, so why not in the lodge?

Charity: The real thing, and not just having the treasurer cut a check to this or that or the other, but having the brethren sink their hands into the mortar of their community, giving their own time, talent, and toil to benefit others.

Attire: Proper dress for the Speculative Mason really should be black tie, plus regalia that is equally resplendent. It is often said in Masonry that it is the inner qualities of the man, and not his outer characteristics, that make him suitable to the Craft, but it is forgotten how that message originally was directed to wealthy Masons, and now it is commonly misinterpreted as an excuse for the less motivated among us (I’m as guilty as anyone) to not go the sartorial extra mile.

Exclusivity in membership: There is no reason to initiate every man with a pulse. In my jurisdiction, if you can fog a mirror, pay the paltry petition fee, and pass a criminal background check, you’re in. Consequently we are well stocked with men who really should have joined the Elks or Kiwanis. Those are worthy organizations that need good people too. Instead, they are Masons, and they are the reason why so many lodge events and projects are incongruent with the sophistication of our Order’s teachings and ethos.

Commitment: Whether a brother sits on the sidelines or labors his way to the East, every Mason needs to support his lodge in tangible ways. Attendance and participation are required. Lodges that do not demand these do not get them. My lodge has about 500 members, 450 of whom exist only in a database.

It’s a short list, and it is irrefutable. Amazingly, in 2011 these guidelines still are heretical to many.

I can’t wait for the 67th Annual Consistory next month on Friday the 11th.
    

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

George Washington Masonic Stamp Club

    
The Magpie Mason endorses philately, especially as an affordable, accessible form of art collecting.

The George Washington Masonic Stamp Club will host its annual meeting Sunday, February 27 at the George Washington Masonic Memorial for its 55th anniversary celebration and a conferral of “Master of Philately.”

The day’s schedule:

1 to 2 p.m. – Assemble, socialize, and review Covers.

2 to 4:45 – Meeting, followed by Master of Philately.

4:45 p.m. – Meet at Joe Theismann’s Restaurant (at the foot of Shooter’s Hill).

5:30 p.m. – 55th Anniversary Dinner. Ladies/guests invited. Dutch treat dinner; order off the menu.

Walter Benesch, GWMSC President, will be the keynote speaker, discussing “The History of Philately” with a slideshow and Q&A.

If you have not received the Master of Philately from the GWMSC, you may receive it with the others planning to attend. Please notify/reserve in advance with Secretary John Allen at gwmsc1956(at)gmail.com so your certificate will be properly prepared.


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GWMSC President’s Message

Winter 2011

This February 27 will be a very busy meeting. As is the tradition, we will meet in the North Lodge Room of the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia. The meet, greet, and cover-trading will start at 1 p.m. Unfortunately, all the “Masonic Cowboys of the Silver Screen” covers, which were issued at the BALPEX meeting, have been sold (I think), but there will be a lot of other covers available.

The meeting will follow at 2 p.m., with the election of new members and the usual business (which is usually very short). This will be followed by the conferral of the Master of Philately. All those who have been accepted into the Club, but have not received the degree can receive it at this time (at no extra cost, but you must be present to receive the degree). It is only at the Winter meeting that the Degree is conferred. After the Degree, elections will follow. This meeting will be the beginning of the 10th year I have served as your President. I would love to turn it over to another dedicated philatelist but will serve another term if it is the will of the Club. Alas, until the 1990s, it was generally only a two-year term.

As is the tradition, after the meeting, we will retreat to Joe Theismann’s Restaurant for a dinner. We will order off the menu, and while the kitchen prepares our food, we will present a PowerPoint program titled “The History of Philately.” We have gained many new members over the past few years, many are new to collecting, and this will be a very appropriate talk for these new members, and hopefully for experienced collectors too. I know everyone will enjoy the illustrations.

Happy New Year to you all. Please come to our meeting and join the fun. Even better, bring a bunch of new applications and applicants to receive the degree.

Walter P. Benesch,
President, GWMSC
   

‘In the neighborhood’

    
A post for the benefit of our local and somewhat local brethren: Two great nights coming up in early February.

On Monday, February 7, Nutley Lodge No. 25 will continue its Lamp of Knowledge lecture series, hosting W. Henry Abel of Humanitas Lodge No. 1123 in New York City. Henry will lead us into the Chamber of Reflection, so to speak, for an explanation of the many intriguing symbols that await initiates in the Scottish Rite tradition of Craft Masonry.

Henry also is Senior Deacon of The American Lodge of Research, the premier education lodge in the United States, and is active in other research bodies.

Apprentices and Fellows, properly avouched, are welcome to attend this lecture.




On Wednesday, February 9, at historic Alpha Lodge No. 116 in East Orange, our good friend and Brother Rashied Bey returns to the podium. Rashied is with Cornerstone Lodge No. 37, under the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York, and is very well known about the apartments of the Temple.

RW Rashied will speak on properties of astronomy found in Masonic ritual and symbol.

Also that night, W. Mohamad Yatim, Past Master of Atlas-Pythagoras Lodge No. 10, will visit Madison Lodge No. 93, also to speak on the Chamber of Reflection.

Curious things are happening in some of the lodges here. An amazing line-up for the week ... and that’s even before we get to Virginia for Masonic Week! I’ll need extra cigars and whisky to sustain myself. Let me also point out that all three of these traveling lecturers are of The Masonic Society family. Rashied is a Fellow, and Henry and Mohamad are Members.
    

Monday, January 24, 2011

‘No. 11’

    
(I admit it. I’m trailing the Dummies blog.)

The new issue, No. 11, of The Journal of the Masonic Society is in the mail to our more than 1,200 members now.

What I’m most excited about is the appearance of the first piece by New Jersey’s own Bro. Ben Hoff, the Right Worshipful Grand Historian. Ben is a kind of forensic historian of Masonic ritual, in that he consults, compares, and contrasts the original source documents (ritual exposures, ciphers, monitors, jurisprudence, et al.) to determine the origins and changes of many ritual elements.

A favorite refrain in Masonry is “We’ve always done it that way,” but Ben’s research belies that simplistic belief, showing that no, we haven’t necessarily always done that, either that way or another way. His paper in this issue of The Journal explains the origins and evolution of how initiates are clothed, received, and conducted. There is much more to it all than you might guess.

His writings are taking the shape of a book, and we at The Masonic Society are proud to serialize his work, chapter by chapter. Believe me, no one else in Masonry is doing the kind of research that Ben does. As I write this, Ben is putting the finishing touches on his next installment, in which he explains a peculiar manuscript’s influence on the Master Mason, Past Master, and Royal Arch degrees. A must read!

Other attractions in this issue include Bro. Shai Afsai’s story about his lodge – Redwood Lodge No. 35 in Rhode Island – and a question of symbolism and conscience. Bro. Peter Knatt on an intersection of British military history and Freemasonry. And a lot more, including editorials, columns, photography, and other features.

I cannot be unbiased, but I can say accurately and respectfully that this is the finest Masonic periodical in North America. And it is only one of the benefits of joining The Masonic Society. We also offer an exclusive (as in, no bogus Mason silliness) on-line forum abuzz with thousands of conversations, discounts on books and other necessities, and tokens of membership like no other – like our stunning patent, on parchment with hand-stamped was seal. For 39 bucks a year! Click here to get involved.
    

Saturday, January 22, 2011

‘Search and Research’

    
The Magpie Mason enjoyed a good, but extremely busy, week. The American Lodge of Research held its Installation of Officers on Tuesday, and yours truly was installed Junior Deacon for the year. This gives me a lot to think about, for a number of reasons, but mostly because I’ve been Master of a research lodge previously (New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786). Every experience in Freemasonry opens my eyes to something, but those years with New Jersey’s research lodge taught lessons like no other – and I say that having served in the East of a Craft lodge and four other Masonic bodies – so I hope to be more valuable to ALR than most Junior Deacons.

Anyway, among the thoughts ricocheting around my mind are: What is Masonic education? What does it mean to be a lodge of Masonic research in 2011? What are Masons seeking when they want to learn, and how do they expect to learn? What should I expect of them?

The vexing challenges arise from the fact that lodges of research are anomalies in Freemasonry. The culture of Freemasonry in the United States is summarized by the characteristics of 99.999 percent of the Craft lodges here: superficial unions of men; the overwhelming majority of whom do not participate in anything their lodges do; haphazardly united in name only, thanks to decades of aimless membership development. Lodge activities differ little from those of Elks lodges and other clubs of generic fraternity. If there is a form of education, it is confined to ritual memorization, occasionally interrupted with something about George Washington. I’m aware this reads like an indictment, but it is a fair assessment of the general scene in this fraternity. Some lodges are exceptions, but they comprise a tiny minority, and their positions as lodges of learning are anything but secure because they prove our status quo need not be. Conversely, the research lodge has a very specific purpose which unites a corps, although usually a small one, of laborers who do that work.

What is Masonic education?

I have a lengthy answer to this question that can be read at the bottom of this post, but to put it quickly, while Freemasonry has its few lodges of research, I believe each Craft lodge should be a lodge of search.

We search for Light. We search for The Lost Word. At a certain point, we search for our Operative Grand Master. In short, we seek Truth. It is philosophical inquiry that can begin with a look in the mirror, and can continue without limit in all directions thereafter.

In a lodge of search, the Speculative Freemason should think about what Masonic ritual and symbol mean to him. And he should say so, and should defend his thoughts by answering questions about them.

In most of the Masonic world, this takes place in the Craft lodge where, after each degree, the aspirant presents what is called a Piece of Architecture. This is an essay of personal reflections on what the preceding degree and its symbols mean to the candidate. These are not research papers; they are speculative interpretations on a personal level. They are read aloud in lodge, and the presenter then defends his thesis by answering the brethren’s questions. This can happen several times in the period between degrees. That period can exceed a year. Or two. Presenting his Piece(s) of Architecture is a requisite to advancing to the next degree. It even might begin at the petition phase, when the Master asks the prospective candidate to explain, in writing, why he wants to become a Freemason.

Does your lodge do this?

What does it mean to be a lodge
of Masonic research in 2011?

Research, among other purposes, should tell us what those who preceded us did in their searches. Some cleared paths for us to follow; others show us where not to go, provided we are paying attention. The researcher sifts through clues – historical facts and fictions – for the sake of explaining why the present is how it is. These data should be used to inform one’s search, because too many Masons embark on their spiritual work without realizing their aspirations are based on myths and legends. Of course myths can be as instructive as facts, but I see too many Masons basing their identities on certain non-truths, and I doubt that’s a sustainable approach to life.

The very first research lodge was Quatuor Coronati No. 2076 in London, which was set to labor in the 1880s. Its self-determined mission was (and is) to separate myths and legends from the genuine history of our Order. (e.g. Before QC2076, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jesus, et alia were Freemasons. After QC2076, they are not and never were. That’s a simple summary, but incredibly and inconceivably it was a drastic demarcation.)

Most members of research lodges do not even attend the lodge meetings. Maybe they are content to receive in the mail the annual book of transactions. Perhaps they desire even less than that: only to be able to say they’re members. It is a miniscule minority – not even one in a thousand – who research and write papers, and present them from the podium, intending them for peer review and publication.

To be a lodge of Masonic research and education is to swim upstream and to pursue labors with scarce resources and sparse company. Without Masonic search taking place in the Craft lodges, Masonic research is an opportunity untouched by nearly all Craft Masons.

I’m rambling, but in answer to the question What does it mean to be a lodge of Masonic research in 2011, I am reminded of a phrase often repeated in the Gospels: He that has ears to hear, let him hear. That is not a question of physical deafness, but one of cognition and understanding. Maybe even gnosis, if I may be so bold. Its speaker essentially is saying You who “get it” should pay special attention right now. The lodge of Masonic research and education should shine its Light, and – if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor – those who have ears will hear.

In a lodge of Masonic research, the Speculative Mason should decode the meanings of Masonic ritual and symbol in the contexts of specific theses. That is, don’t simply aggrandize the fraternity by repeating how Famous Man X was a Freemason, but examine Bro. X’s life to try to determine how Masonry might have affected the man, and consider that when describing how the man affected his world.

What are Masons seeking when they want to learn,
and how do they expect to learn?

There is no single, specific answer to that first question. Every man is looking for something that speaks to him directly. To the second question, based on what I see, I am hopeful that thinking Masons are motivated to read – I mean books, not just websites – and to travel. The night after ALR’s installation, I returned to the same room for the Regular Communication of Kosciuszko Lodge No. 1085, where Bro. Erik spoke on the life of Tadeusz Kosciuszko. (See post below.) The Master was quite surprised to see how many visiting brethren were present, in addition to the seven Apprentices and Fellows who have ears to hear.

What should I expect of them?

All I ask is a willingness to do a little work. It’s not for my benefit. The gain is yours. Be a thinker. Read useful material, and think about it, and question it. Don’t expect to have everything spoon fed to you, or at least not after your Ceremony of Passing. Be responsible in your autonomy, in your labors.

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Six years ago, the think tank named The Knights of the North was challenged by Bro. Stephen Dafoe of Alberta to author a collection of essays to populate a website to be called Masonic Dictionary. Topics from A to Z were addressed by KOTN’s few members whose writings often recall The Devil’s Dictionary, but were offered in complete candor, sincerity, and hope for a better tomorrow for Freemasonry. (The website promises we’ll be back soon, but after this many years I think it’s safe to say KOTN more or less morphed into The Masonic Society, an independent education foundation worthy of your time.) I was assigned the letter E – for Education – a topic Stephen titled “The Unspeakable Masonic Word.” Below is the complete text.


When we speak of “Masonic education,” we are needlessly redundant. Freemasonry is education, simultaneously moral instruction, spiritual enlightenment and intellectual growth so that a man may come to know – and improve – himself. But this isn’t supposed to be a solitary activity; Freemasonry also is a brotherhood. The Master Mason Lecture explains the symbolism of the Beehive: “He who will not endeavor to add to the common stock of knowledge may be deemed a drone in the hive of nature, a useless member of society, and unworthy of the care and protection of Masons.” Together the brethren seek “that which was lost.” What was lost? Truth. It is that search after Truth that makes Freemasonry philosophical, and where there is a love of wisdom, education is the act of courtship.

Because Freemasonry’s teachings intentionally address the fundamental and perpetual curiosities of man, it can accurately be said that it is education without limit in both appeal and scope. Truly any wholesome field of study or discipline intersects somewhere along Freemasonry’s path of learning and much of Masonic teaching coincides with the Humanities. Masonry reveals itself through ritual. These centuries-old ceremonies are a framework, or more accurately, a map that each Freemason may follow in his search for Truth. To summarize just one aspect of this process, as an Apprentice, the newly initiated Mason is taught to subdue his passions while letting the Four Cardinal Virtues guide him toward candid self-awareness. From this ceremony one finds commonality with Plato and Aquinas. The former saw these virtues as a recipe for a perfect society; the latter adapted the virtues for the betterment of an individual’s attitudes, values and behavior. Next, as a more experienced Mason called a Fellowcraft, he is shown the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences: Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy guide the Masonic student as they had the thinkers who gave Western civilization its Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment, with all the culture contained therein. A proper understanding of the Arts and Sciences empowers Masonic man to make his mind the rational master of his primal Five Senses of hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling and tasting, and so this progress builds upon the Platonic-Thomist foundation. In the Third Degree of Freemasonry, the Master Mason is sufficiently aware of his place in the universe so as to fear no danger, not even death itself. Ultimately, upon exiting the Holy of Holies for the final time, the Master Mason goes gamely “into that good night” knowing that there is no sting of death and no victory of the grave, but only eternal life.

We have dubbed Education “The Unspeakable Masonic Word” because it seems like no one ever talks about it. In my experience, research lodges, study groups and the like are treated like red light districts where only the furtive venture in search of the forbidden. So at first you’re pretty much on your own. To get started, think about what you most desire to know about Freemasonry, and then go find the answers. Easy? No, but it shouldn’t be. Depending on the subject, a researcher can spend months looking for a long out-of-print book; even years can pass before inadvertently coming across a needed factoid in an unexpected source. Naturally the internet delivers limitless information, but – even as with books – one must exercise discriminating choice. Again, let the ritual be your map. Choose an unfamiliar word, an odd phrase, a seemingly antiquated idea. Then define it. Identify its Masonic significance and apply that meaning to a broader context of how it could benefit others; and then translate that idea into your own words so that you take possession and internalize it. Once it is yours, it is there as a tool for use in your growth, and it’s there for good. Repeat the process, as needed, for life.

That education is interwoven in Freemasonry is a reality that predates modern Masonry itself. In the Old Charges – the dozens of manuscripts penned over the course of more than three centuries prior to the start in 1717 of the Masonic Order we know today – are found clear procedures on how new members of the building trade were to be schooled in their craft over long spans of time. In the Halliwell Manuscript, believed written in the 14th century and the earliest of these documents, are found the “Fifteen Articles for the Master Mason,” including:

 3. He must take apprentices for seven years, his craft to learn.
11. He must be both fair and free and teach by his might.
12. He shall not disparage his fellow’s work.
13. He must teach his apprentice.

Nor is there anything extraneous about the grave consequence awaiting the unskilled, untested, and unlucky operative builder in the ancient world. The pre-Biblical Babylonian ruler Hammurabi set down a legal code that included:

If a builder has built a house for a man and has not made his work sound, so that the house he has made falls down and causes the death of the owner of the house, that builder shall be put to death. If it causes the death of the son of the owner of the house, they shall kill the son of that builder.

Clearly the importance of education in the building arts is indisputable. (Remember that the funny-looking cap you wore at graduation is called a mortarboard.) Today Freemasonry’s instruction is all presented in allegory and symbolism, but the education is no less crucial to the Speculative Mason’s life. Tragically few seem to understand or want to understand, and this power goes neglected in the quotidian realities of contemporary Masonry. Why? Because it is hard work! In mastering his Craft, Masonic Man spends his life relentlessly scrutinizing himself, the condition of his fellow man and of the world, and the role of the Great Architect of the Universe in it all. It is not by accident that the hard labor of constructing in stone is the metaphor through which Masonry’s instruction is imparted. Nor is it by chance that the seeker of the degrees of Freemasonry is repeatedly tested for his willingness to proceed further. While the teachings of Freemasonry are universal – “Every human being has a claim upon your kind offices.” – it was never intended for every human being to enter its temples, and yet its doors have been flung open for many years allowing practically any man to enter. Consequently, the libraries that once were busy beehives have been converted to other, more simple purposes, their books locked away in storage, forgotten. (Indeed the word “temple” itself, as in a place for conTEMPLAtion, has been abandoned for the monotonous “Masonic center.”) Simultaneously, the discussions that once compelled Masons to reconsider their opinions, to re-examine their very lives, and to improve their world have been replaced by charity walk-a-thons and other activities that, while helpful, should be entrusted to our neighbors in the Lions, Kiwanis and Elks organizations. While organizing and staging a charity fundraiser is a big job, it is child’s play compared to the vital challenge of metabolizing Masonic thought, and achieving that state of being where the heart of Jerusalem meets the mind of Athens.

In the fundamental duty of educating oneself and one’s fellow Masons, we today are not negligent. We are uninformed, and the craziest thing about it is that the ritual tells us what to do. Remember the advice imparted to you upon your first knocks on the Inner Door: “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” One’s search is a personal endeavor, but there are friends to help you along the way. When enough of us start speaking aloud about Masonic education we can restore to its rightful place the paramount purpose of Freemasonry: to labor together in replenishing the “common stock of knowledge” in our pursuit of Truth.

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And speaking of The Devil’s Dictionary and the formation of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, here is how the Dictionary defines Freemasonry (hat tip to RW Fred Waldron):

FREEMASONS, n. An order with secret rites, grotesque ceremonies and fantastic costumes, which, originating in the reign of Charles II, among working artisans of London, has been joined successively by the dead of past centuries in unbroken retrogression until now it embraces all the generations of man on the hither side of Adam and is drumming up distinguished recruits among the pre-Creational inhabitants of Chaos and Formless Void. The order was founded at different times by Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, Cyrus, Solomon, Zoroaster, Confucious, Thothmes, and Buddha. Its emblems and symbols have been found in the Catacombs of Paris and Rome, on the stones of the Parthenon and the Chinese Great Wall, among the temples of Karnak and Palmyra and in the Egyptian Pyramids – always by a Freemason.
    

Friday, January 21, 2011

‘Lauding a Peasant Prince’

    

Bro. Erik at the podium.
Kosciuszko Lodge No. 1085 met Wednesday night for the visit of the DDGM and to hear Bro. Erik speak on the life and times of Tadeusz Kosciuszko. A genuinely fascinating man! And not a Freemason either.

Kosciuszko is a familiar name to us in the New York area, thanks largely to the bridge named for him that connects Brooklyn and Queens, which is invoked every rush hour in traffic reports. The truth is there are many monuments to this man; America and the world are indebted to him. Hugely.

I didn’t take notes, but what I learned includes:

  • Kosciuszko gave his soldier’s salary from the American Revolution to Thomas Jefferson for the purpose of buying slaves – to free them.
  • Kosciuszko built West Point. He also devised the plan that led to victory at the Battle of Saratoga.
  • In Poland, he tried to free the serfs and obtain civil rights for peasants and Jews, going as far as establishing an all Jewish cavalry to fight the Russian army – the first Jewish fighting force since biblical days.
  • His name is quite the shibboleth. It actually is not pronounced the New York way (Kos-Key-YOOS-Ko), but is pronounced correctly in a manner I cannot frame.

He is a giant in human history, and it was a real pleasure to hear him memorialized in this unique lodge.

Bro. Erik’s primary source material is the biography The Peasant Prince by Alex Storozynski, a text evidently held in great esteem by a number of the lodge brethren. As if I need something more in my To Read list, I’ll get to this one some day.



Worshipful Master Derrick presents the DDGM a bronze likeness
of Kosciuszko Lodge's namesake.
  

‘At Atlas-Pythagoras’


Mark your calendars: On Friday, June 17, W. Bro. George Haynes of Pennsylvania will speak on “Esoteric Freemasonry” at Atlas-Pythagoras Lodge No. 10 in Westfield, New Jersey. A Fellow of The Masonic Society, George is a valued speaker on the Masonic lecture circuit. Other dates of note:

March 18: Franklin Melnick on “Geometry: The Foundation of Freemasonry.”

May 20: Masonic Society Member Yasser Al-Khatib, Past Master, on “The Astral Plane.”

 

Friday, January 14, 2011

‘Cousins of Zerubbabel’


    
From left: Grand Junior Warden Matthew D. Dupee, junior past Excellent Chief John Corrigan, Excellent Chief David Lindez, Great Chief of the USA Edward P. Fagan, past (2007) Excellent Chief Rob,
and Excellent Ted Harrison.
 
It’s hard to believe, but it has been a year already since John Corrigan was installed in the East of our Knight Masons council, so last night was his “outstallation,” and David Lindez’s installation. It also was the official visit of M.E. Edward P. Fagan, Jr., Great Chief of the Grand Council of the Order of Knight Masons of the United States, and our council initiated a dozen new Cousins, and we celebrated Thurman Pace’s 87th birthday.

It was a busy night at Northern New Jersey Council No. 10, Order of Knight Masons.

Also in attendance was V.E. Matthew D. Dupee, Grand Junior Warden of Grand Council, who came all the way from Pennsylvania. A large contingent of New York Masons was on hand, including – or perhaps led by – Ted Harrison, currently General Grand King of the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons International.

Yes, it was a big night. That’s what you get when David is installed in the East.

Cousin Rob, esoteric interior designer extraordinaire, took complete charge of the setting, as a good art director should, superintending every detail from preparing the officers for the opening to wheeling out the birthday cake to Thurman. He spent the day Wednesday setting up the meeting room.

There really was a lot to manage. The festivities included a bagpiper from the Rampant Lion Pipe Band, two dancers performing traditional Celtic rites, and a poetry reading by David’s mother.

There was a lot going on last night!



Candidates for initiation.

With the assistance of Excellent Rich, Excellent Rob imparts
a spiritual message to the new Knights with his claymore.

V.E. Matthew D. Dupee, Grand Junior Warden, explains additional
meaning of the three degrees of Knight Masonry.

M.E. Edward P. Fagan, Jr., Great Chief of the USA, tells the assembly
of his experiences traveling abroad to other Grand Councils.

Bagpiper provides the music for the Celtic dances.
With warrant in hand, David Lindez is prepared
to take his place in the East.

Celtic Sword Dancing. (Note the swords and their positions on the floor.)
 
Cousin David’s mother read two poems of her own composition, bringing David’s family heritage into the celebration. David’s roots in Ireland date all the way back to when everyone on the Emerald Isle was Jewish!

Edmund D. “Ted” Harrison, Fellow of The American Lodge of Research,
among many other claims to Masonic fame.

Thurman’s birthday cake. That is a sword on the left, not a banana;
and on the right that is a trowel.

Here comes trouble.
Best photo of the night: M.E. Edward P. Fagan, Jr. receives
Honorary Membership in Northern New Jersey Council No. 10.

‘North & South’

    
Freemasons speak of East and West, but leave it to Bro. Michael A. Halleran, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature, to get published in North & South magazine. The January issue of the official magazine of the Civil War Society features a six-page spread of Halleran’s work. (You know Bro. Michael from Heredom, The Plumbline, Scottish Rite Journal, et al.)


I stumbled across this today in a bookstore, completely by chance, while looking for something to read to kill some time. There were scores of periodicals on the rack facing me, and the only visible part of this magazine was the top of its banner, but of course the dual square-and-compass designs leap out at you.

I take this article as a précis of his book. It quickly explains how Masons and their lodges functioned on the front lines of the U.S. Civil War, and shares stories of how Masonic charity came to govern the actions of combatants in opposing armies. His work is scholarly research, and not the familiar self-aggrandizing legends that Masonry loves so much. I have not read his book yet, but I look forward to it, if for no other reason than to see this author demolish the popularly accepted story of Gen. Lewis Armistead at Gettysburg.
    

Sunday, January 9, 2011

‘Toye with you’

    

Membership in The Masonic Society
stimulates the intellect,
relaxes the nervous system,
and improves physical appearance.
The shiniest jewel among the treasures comprising Masonic Week’s social calendar undoubtedly is the banquet hosted by The Masonic Society, so our keynote speaker is the perfect fit. Bryan Toye, Chairman of Britain’s foremost manufacturer of Masonic regalia and jewelry, will speak. We are getting together Friday, February 11 at 6 p.m.

Toye, Kenning and Spencer has been manufacturing regalia and other garments and jewelry since 1685. The Magpie Mason personally recommends its Masonic wares, both fraternal supplies and personal items. The quality is superior to anything I’ve seen from the usual suppliers to American Masons; the manufacturing takes place in the United Kingdom. Regular readers of The Magpie Mason may remember the photo spread from last year.

More about Bryan E. Toye:

In 1956 Mr. Bryan Toye joined full time the family business of Toye, Kenning & Spencer Limited, spending the next ten years, learning the trade in London, the Midlands and overseas. In 1962 he was appointed Director of Toye, Kenning & Spencer Limited. In 1969 he was appointed Chairman Toye & Company PLC., Toye, Kenning & Spencer Limited, John Taylor Poston & Co. Limited and other subsidiary companies. He has also served as an independent Director on three other companies outside the Group. Bryan Toye is the grantee and through him, Toye Kenning and Spencer holds a Royal Warrant of Appointment to HM The Queen as Suppliers of Gold and Silver Laces, Insignia and Embroidery.

He also is a Past Junior Grand Deacon of the United Grand Lodge of England. Read more here. See more here.

Masonic Week is the period of annual meetings of a variety of York Rite-affiliated bodies: Allied Masonic Degrees, Knight Masons, Rosicrucians, and more. In fact, more seem to be added each year lately, as imports arrive from England. Takes place at the Alexandria Mark Hilton in Alexandria, Virginia.

While I would like to greet all readers of The Magpie Mason, it really does not make much sense to attend this event unless you hold memberships in the groups that meet there. I think the only open event is the Blue Friars Consistory meeting.

But if you do plan to go, then book your reservations now. Click here for the hotel and program information, and click here to make your dinner plans. Follow the instructions carefully because no tickets will be available at the door. The Masonic Society dinner costs $65 per person. Try the veal.
  

Saturday, January 8, 2011

‘Cleopatra’s Needle in the news’

    
“I have a duty to protect all Egyptian monuments whether they are inside or outside of Egypt. If the Central Park Conservancy and the City of New York cannot properly care for this obelisk, I will take the necessary steps to bring this precious artifact home and save it from ruin.”
Zahi Hawass

 
Oh, Dr. Hawass? It is said to weigh 220 tons!





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An official in the government of Egypt, who has a history of making headlines with his public comments, is in the news again, having rebuked New York City this week for neglecting to care for the landmark known as Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a letter that he is “dismayed at the lack of care and attention” given to the obelisk.


“Recent photographs that I have received show the severe damage that has been done to the obelisk, particularly to the hieroglyphic text, which in places has been completely worn away,” his letter also says. “I have a duty to protect all Egyptian monuments whether they are inside or outside of Egypt. If the Central Park Conservancy and the City of New York cannot properly care for this obelisk, I will take the necessary steps to bring this precious artifact home and save it from ruin.”


“I strongly urge you to focus your efforts on saving this obelisk and preserving it for future generations,” the letter concludes. “I am confident that you can find the resources in New York City to conserve this monument properly and pay this treasure the respect that it deserves. I eagerly await your prompt reply.”


Read the entire letter here.


I have no photos of my own to share, but have a look at the obelisk here.


Volume 6 of the Proceedings of Supreme Council, AASR-NMJ, which spans the years 1880-82, features a facsimile of the program published October 9, 1880 by the New York World in commemoration of the cornerstone-laying ceremony when Cleopatra’s Needle was erected in Central Park. It runs a few thousand words, so I cannot share it all with you, but it contains essays explaining what the obelisk is, how it came to New York City, why it is significant to Freemasonry, and how the Masons in the city would receive it.


THE STORY OF THE OBELISK

ITS ORIGIN AND STORY IN EGYPT

Of all the monuments of Egypt, the most striking and the most characteristic are the Obelisk and the Pyramid – both of them solar emblems – the one significant of the rising, the other of the setting sun; and both alike dating from that prehistoric period of civilization which was in perfection ere the Father of the Faithful had descended from Ur of the Chaldees, or the Turanian races of India were oppressed by their Aryan brethren.

For so long a succession of centuries has the Obelisk been admired and copied in the various cities of Africa, Asia, and Europe. Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome, that the original peculiarities of the structure itself have been occasionally lost sight of, and any single vertical monument that could not be exactly described as a column has been set down as an Obelisk. Hence, there is still in popular acceptance some inaccuracy as to the exact form that an Obelisk should assume; and it becomes necessary to define what an Obelisk is. An Obelisk, or tekhen, to give it its Egyptian name, then, is a monument composed of a single quadrangular upright stone, having its four faces inclined toward each other, and in section, all its angles, right angles, and all its sides parallel to each other; its height is not less than that of ten diameters, taken at the base, and its apex is abruptly terminated by a small pyramidion, whose faces are inclined at about an angle of sixty degrees. The Obelisk is generally supported upon a quadrangular base, the height of which is approximately that of a cube and a half, and which is also, like the Obelisk, composed of a single stone; this base is further supported by two broad and deep steps. It is not necessary that the four sides of either Obelisk or base have in section the same width, provided that each opposite side is exactly equal; but it is necessary that all the lines of the monument be right lines, and that it should have no more than four sides.

The dimensions of Obelisks vary greatly, those of the earlier period being generally the largest and the simplest in execution. The loftiest now in existence is that which adorns the Court of the Church of St. John Lateran, at Rome, where it stands a monument, first of the Majesty of Thothmes III, by whom it was designed....

The Obelisk of which the corner-stone is laid to-day was erected by the famous Thothmes III, whose legend is engraved in the central column of each side. During a period of no less than three centuries, the monument existed with this legend only, till Ramses II appropriated it to himself through the addition of two lateral columns, which were carved when the monolith was upon its base in the place first chosen by Thothmes III. This Pharaoh dedicated it to Horemakhou, a form of the God Ra, or Phra (the sun), to which was also consecrated the great Sphinx at Ghizeh. The pyramidion represents a square vignette in which is figured the King seated upon a throne before the Sphinx of Horemakou upon a pedestal....


A SKETCH OF THE NEGOTIATIONS
WHICH RESULTED IN BRINGING
IT TO AMERICA

It was early in the month of October, 1877 that the first practical steps were taken toward bringing to New York this great historic Obelisk of Alexandria, incorrectly known for ages as “Cleopatra’s Needle.” Mr. John Dixon of London, was then transporting to London the prostrate Obelisk of Alexandria, which now stands on the new Thames Embankment in that city. Through his friend, Mr. Louis Sterne, an accomplished American engineer, long resident in England, then on a visit to this country, and present to-day as a Mason at this ceremony, Mr. Dixon, about the end of September, 1877, informed the editor of The World that the then Khedive of Egypt, Ismail Pasha, had intimated to Mr. Dixon his wish to present to the United States the standing Obelisk of Alexandria, and Mr. Sterne requested an inquiry whether the authorities of New York would defray the necessary expense of conveying it to America. That expense Mr. Dixon had roughly estimated at about $100,000. It chanced that the editor of The World, being in Egypt some years before, had been assured by the Khedive in person of the lively interest he took in the formation throughout the civilized world of museums and collections of Egyptian art, and of the particular gratification which it gave him to know that a beginning at least had been made in the formation of such museums and collection in America. The Khedive took at once an enlightened and a practical view of the subject... On the 7th of October, 1877, The World announced the fact that upon proper application the Obelisk could doubtless be secured for New York, and stated the probable expense of securing it. The announcement was received with general gratification by the public and the press. Many enthusiastic persons suggested that the whole cost of transportation would be subscribed in a week.

This was not the opinion of the editor of The World, who thought the project too important to be left at the mercy of a protracted financial negotiation through the press with the public in general; and the editor of The World, therefore, after communicating by cable with Mr. Dixon, laid the subject before a citizen of wealth, who promptly agreed to defray the estimated expense of taking the Obelisk down and bringing it to the New World. After some further negotiations, the sum of $75,000 was finally fixed upon as adequate....

The publication goes on to explain some behind-the-scenes obstacles that could have prevented this transaction from taking place, including the intervention of Britain and France, which were busy attempting to subjugate Egypt and trying to prevent the giving of this gift to America. In fact, Europeans in residence in Egypt in 1879-80, except the Russian and Greek authorities, interfered with the Americans charged with preparing the monument for removal and transfer to New York City. The World continues:

This operation was finally completed on the 6th of September, and on the 16th of September the monolith was safely transferred ... to Manhattan Island, at the foot of Ninety-sixth Street. Thence it is now moving with great care and skill to its destined site in the Park. To this site the pedestal, which was found by Lieutenant-Commander H.H. Gorringe in excellent condition when he took the Obelisk down, and was brought by him at his own risk and cost to America, had been previously removed, and here, on this 9th day of October, 1880, the foundation stone on which this great historic monument is, we trust, for many ages to rest, is to be laid with grand Masonic ceremonies by the Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, under the direction of the Grand Master of that Order.


DESCRIPTION OF THE MASONIC EMBLEMS

In the removal of the foundations of the Obelisk there was made what is considered a very important historical discovery relating to the Order of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and confirming its claim of ancient origin. When Lieutenant-Commander Gorringe removed the Obelisk and pedestal it was found that the latter stood on nine large blocks; six of these formed the upper and middle steps – the middle steps being cut out of the face of the block – while the other three were in the space enclosed in the six. All of these blocks are of hard limestone, with the exception of one, which is of syenite granite and is placed in the east angle of the enclosed space. The corners of the foundation, like the corners of the Obelisk, were laid towards the cardinal points of the compass. The block of granite already mentioned is exactly two royal Egyptian cubits square, and two Nahud, or builder’s cubits, high; it has evidently been carefully dressed, and probably polished, while the other two blocks in the enclosed space are rough hewn and of irregular shape. After the upper tier had been removed, it was found that the lower step was formed of a tier of eighteen pieces. All of these are of hard limestone except three, two of which are of syenite, and one of a different kind of limestone. One of the pieces of syenite is an oblong block, having the upper half hewn to the form of a mechanic’s square. Its long section is 8 feet 6 inches by 1 foot 5 ½ inches, and its short section 4 feet 3 inches by 1 foot 7 ¾ inches, measuring the length in each case from the outer angle of the square. It is 21½ inches thick, and would seem to have been originally a parallelogram 8 feet 6 inches long by 4 feet 3 inches broad, and the form of a Mason’s square given to its upper surface by cutting out and lowering to the depth of 9 inches that part of the stone included between the two inner lines of the square and the continuations of the transverse lines of its two ends. The lower part of the stone still has its original form of a parallelogram. The space cut out of its upper part was filled with the ordinary limestone of the foundations, so that on its first discovery only the upper surface in the form of the Mason’s square could be seen. The thinner part of the stone has been broken, perhaps by the unequal pressure that came upon it, but the part forming the square is still perfect. The other piece of syenite is of irregular form, and differs from all the other pieces of the foundation in having the upper surface rough. Any one who examines it must be convinced that this roughness is not natural, and close examination will disclose tool marks on it, showing that pieces had been gouged out of this upper surface to make the roughness more apparent. The perfect block of syenite stood on the east end of the long arm of the square, and the piece of white limestone was in the space between the perfect block and the lower part of the block out of which the square is cut alongside the long arm. The rough block of syenite stood in the west angle of the space enclosed by the eighteen pieces forming the lower step, touching the short arm of the square and on a level with it.

When the square was discovered, it was thought to be the lid of a sarcophagus, and several gentlemen were invited to witness its removal, among them a distinguished archaeologist. Great was the disappointment when it had been raised that nothing was found under it. Every one present was struck with its peculiar form, the difference in the cement and its relative position to the perfect block. A large number of Masons of almost every nationality and creed have since examined the pieces and have had their positions explained, and every one of them fully confirms the opinion that these three pieces of syenite were intended to represent the three Masonic emblems: the perfect ashlar, the square, and the rough ashlar.

The piece of white limestone referred to as having been found sandwiched in between the perfect block and the recess of the square was broken by the workmen in their eagerness to get at the supposed sarcophagus. This accident revealed its remarkable purity and exceptional whiteness. Break it where you may, not a spot could be found in the fracture. This peculiarity coupled with its position convinced the experts that this also is a Masonic emblem – the lambskin apron. The arms of the square are not of the same width; this unusual circumstance is at once explained by measuring them, when we find that the long arm corresponds with an Egyptian royal cubit, and the short arm to an Egyptian Nahud cubit. The architect was either bent on perpetuating these measurements, or the square was removed form its original foundation just as it is being removed now. The short arm is exactly half as long as the long arm, which is exactly five Egyptian royal cubits in length. Another noticeable feature of the square is a bead that is cut at the junction of the inner edge with the lower part of the block. There are three divisions, and the middle one is much broader than the other two.

The block that lay alongside of the long arm of the square was found to have on its upper surface a piece of iron which was at once recognized as having the form of a Mason’s trowel. On examination, it was found to have been laid on the cement so as to make it adhere to the stone, which fact disposes of the presumption that it had been accidentally left there by one of the workmen.

The block next to the one forming the east angle of the lower step has a diamond-shaped recess in the side adjacent to the east angle. There was nothing in the hole, nor could it have been cut for the purpose of fastening the piece, as there was no corresponding aperture or dowel on the face of the adjacent block. Indeed this carefully cut diamond-shaped hole has no explanation, except that it was designed to represent another Masonic emblem: the Master’s jewel. All of the stones forming the tier next below the lower step were rough-hewn and without marks, except three. One of these was the keystone, and stood exactly in the center of the structure under the axis of the Obelisk and pedestal, in which position it was discovered by Mr. Zola, the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Egypt. Several figures and lines cut in relief are distinctly traceable on one of the faces of this stone. Two of the sides are cut away so as to form a right angular notch, and another face has the arc of a circle inscribed on it.

One of the figures represents a square, another a semicircle, and another the sides of a spherical triangle. The group of lines may be resolved into three figures. One is in the form of the ancient cubit measure, another is a scale, and the other one three columns in perspective. This group of lines and the figures were evidently designed to represent the trestle-board; and what more fitting position for such a design could be found than the center of the structure – the axis of the Obelisk, the keystone of the foundation? Another of the stones of this tier has on one of its faces diagonal lines running parallel to each other, others forming an angle of forty-five degrees with these. On close examination, it was found that each of these lines is not a simple scratch, but a carefully cut mark, having two indents, with a raised bead between.

Well informed Masons capable of appreciating their meaning say that they are intended to represent the ‘Master’s Mark,’ and this is certainly borne out by the position of this stone, which was alongside of the keystone, and locked into the notch above referred to.

The third stone of this tier having marks stood in the east angle of the tier, directly under that piece of the lower step that has the diamond-shaped aperture cut into the side. Its upper and lower surfaces and two of its dies are rough hewn, while two of the sides have been most carefully cut. The angle formed by these two sides has a marked similarity to the capital of an Ionic column with its spirals and beads. This is believed to have been designed to represent Wisdom – the Master.

Last of all was found in the debris removed from the foundation a piece of lead, which on examination was found to be a plummet. So the Obelisk was surrounded by a Mosaic pavement; it was approached by three steps, of which the middle one was very much narrower than the other two and united to the upper; it stood on a single block; under this block, within the steps, were a perfect ashlar in the east, a rough ashlar in the west, a square, a trowel, and an apron between them; in the axis of the structure there was a keystone, with figures cut on one of its faces to represent a trestle-board; alongside of it a stone having the ‘Master’s Mark,’ and on the same level in the east another, the emblem of Wisdom, and immediately above this a diamond-shaped aperture, representing the Master’s jewel.

The remainder of this publication shares details of logistical arrangements concerning VIPs, and how the Masons and Templars of New York City and Brooklyn (at this time, Brooklyn was not a borough of NYC, but was a city itself), would organize and proceed into Central Park. This information, plus coverage of the day itself, can be read in the New York Times here.
    

Friday, January 7, 2011

‘Civil War Lodge of Research in NJ’

    
This edition of The Magpie Mason is the fourth attempt to rectify past negligence in blogging (a disappointment to the kids, for which I’m truly sorry). There are 10 or maybe more events from 2010 that I never got around to sharing with you – lectures, ceremonies, Germanic beer fests, etc. – and before we get too far into 2011, I’ll try to catch up on last year’s happenings. No lengthy articles, but some photos.

The Mgmt.


WM Phil Brown tells
of an ancestor who died
in the U.S. Civil War.
Civil War Lodge of Research No. 1865 visited New Jersey October 2, a detour of sorts because the Virginia-chartered lodge was supposed to meet at Masonic Hall in Manhattan, which did not work out. With dispensations in hand (and read aloud by the secretary) the brethren met at Adoniram Lodge No. 80 in Lyndhurst.

Worshipful Master Phil Brown led a dedicated band of brothers and their wives on the trip. After this meeting, they all took a tour of several Civil War-related historic sites in New York City, like Grant’s Tomb.



The lodge opening was fascinating! An impromptu combination of Virginia, Delaware, New York, and possibly New Jersey rituals, yet, like Garibaldi’s EA°, somehow everyone understood exactly what was happening. (If you are unacquainted with lodges of Masonic research and education, they tend toward informality when it comes to ritual work. These lodges do not make Masons, so there is no initiatic work, nor do they work much else in ritual, beside the installation of officers, so there is never any ritual instruction, and that’s just the way we like it. But I digress.) There were brethren present from those four jurisdictions, plus more from the United Grand Lodge of England, as RW Bro. John, Junior Grand Deacon of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Staffordshire, was attending his first lodge meeting in the United States. It was almost like a night at Alpha!

It is true that some research lodges lack inspired talent to translate the evolution of Freemasonry into relevant information that might inspire the brethren today, and therefore these lodges can lack a spiritual spark, the kind of energy necessary for creativity and purposeful, meaningful teaching. But don’t allow that all-too-common affliction prejudice you against attending the meetings of these brethren. Most of these lodges are getting the job done.

On this Saturday morning at Adoniram Lodge, I noted the power evident when one’s love of Freemasonry meets his fascination with Civil War history. You might not think the two belong together, but learning how specific incidents of Masonic charity helped to humanize the combatants in each others’ eyes can restore a jaded view of the world. One of the accounts related by W. Brown concerned a Confederate officer’s plea for relief for his men, to which a physician (a Mason from New York) replied with clothing and money for incidental expenses.

Civil War history is laden with accounts of charitable relief and life-saving mercy shared among Freemasons, famous and anonymous. These true stories should challenge us to consider what we would do in such circumstances.

The 2011 meeting schedule of the lodge, subject to change, is:

April 9 in Petersburg, VA
July 9 in Winchester, VA
October 1 in Saltville, VA


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The other star attraction of the morning was the lodge building itself. This was my first visit to Adoniram Lodge, which has been undergoing a top-to-bottom, inside out renovation. Even its name has been fixed; for too long it was Adoniram-Highland, Wakefield Rising Star Lodge, thanks to various amalgamations over the years. Today, the brethren wisely go by Adoniram Lodge.

I'll let these photos speak for themselves, but when was the last time you visited a lodge decorated with 18th century Chinese furniture?








Yes, that is correct. A Masonic Temple.
Not a center, nor a facility, nor a hall, but a place
for conTEMPLAtion.