Saturday, May 5, 2012

‘The Bernie’

Monday night was the annual occasion of “The Bernie,” the dinner-lecture hosted by Shiloh Lodge No. 558. In its fifth year, it is formally known as the Bernard H. Dupee Memorial Lecture, and it was instituted by Bro. Matthew Dupee in honor of his father, a very devoted brother who missed only three stated meetings in more than 52 years of lodge membership, and who is remembered as “Brother Bernie,” the happiest Mason anyone knew.

Needless to say, it was a great night. Two hundred Masons filled the large dining room at the William Penn Inn (est. 1714) for a tasty meal, charming company, and an enlightening lecture by none other than RW James W. Daniel, Past Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England, and Assistant Secretary of Quatuor Coronati 2076, and Secretary of Lodge No. IV… of St. John Baptist Day 1717 fame, among other noteworthy handles. I wish I possessed some of his public speaking skills because he is able to communicate his information clearly while using humor to keep his audience engaged. It was a pleasure to listen to him.

RW James Daniel
His topic was provocative. In the migration of Freemasonry across the Atlantic, we always think first of the export of Craft degrees from the British Isles to the Americas, or of France’s “higher degrees” reaching the Caribbean. Bro. Daniel turned us around to see the transfer of certain degrees from the United States to England in his paper titled “Anglo-American Masonic Relations, 1871-90 (Or the U.S. and Us, 1871-90).”

I especially appreciated his effort to contextualize Masonic doings within the real world outside. It seems to me that many Masons, perhaps because our meetings are tiled, look at Masonic history as the story of something always apart from the world outside, as though the fraternity was a monastic order and its brethren frozen in time, cloistered behind their guarded doors. Of course that is not so; we go to lodge to escape the “concerns and employments” of the world for a short time before inevitably returning to it. Things take place outside that have obvious and lasting impacts on the tiled lodge. (Trust me. Talk to the accountant who completes your 990, or to the insurance agent who did away with your candles.)

Anyway, Daniel painted a picture of Anglo-American relations, and it is not what you might expect based on how things always have been during our lifetime, or even the fact that the American population during Daniels’ timeline was almost entirely descendant from ancestors from the British Isles. “The populations of the two countries were in the habit of disliking each other,” he explained. “Most Americans, when they thought of the British, disliked, distrusted, and sometimes feared them” out of tradition or habit.

Within Freemasonry at least there was one means of conciliating true friendship, namely the sharing of information. Thanks to Freemasons’ Quarterly Review, the magazine started by Bro. Robert Crucefix, Masons in England were able to read dispatches from American grand lodges, even on the unmentionable subjects concerning the Morgan scandal. “In tracing the various publications from the Grand Lodge of New York, we have been much gratified to observe that there is no studied concealment of facts; on the contrary, the Craft is fully informed of the circumstances that led to them, and what resulted,” the magazine reported, helping to change the image of Americans, prevalent among the English, as primitive, unsophisticated louts.

The flow of this information also abetted the sharing of entire Masonic rites. You probably are aware of the importation into England and Wales of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite from the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction during the 1840s, but you might not know other systems of degrees also made the voyage. Of the Cryptic Rite, Daniel shared a statement from the period:

“We cannot but look upon the introduction of Cryptic Masonry in England by an American Grand Council as one of the most important events in the Masonic history of this country tending to not only draw still closer the fraternal bonds that now happily unite the fraternity of the United States with that of our mother country, Masonically as well as politically, and also as being a preliminary step toward assimilating the Masonic systems of the two greatest nations.”

A powerful statement.

Daniel’s presentation was received with hearty applause. Let me tell you it was quite an audience. With Matt Dupee was Tom Jackson, Brent Morris, Ed Fowler, and other VIPs. Aaron, Jan, George, Chuck, and Jerry were among the familiar Pennsylvania brethren. I heard it said the New Jersey contingent outnumbered the Philadelphians! There was Mohamad, Henry, Nick, Rob, Howard (2011 recipient of The Bernie), John, Rich, and others.

Bro. Daniel's Bernie jewel.
Oh, The Bernie! Actually the Bernard H. Dupee, PM Medal for Masonic Excellence. Past recipients are Fowler, Howard Kanowitz, Reese Harrison, Yasha Beresiner, and Thomas Hopkins. And Bro. Daniel joins their ranks.

Presented in tandem with the jewel is a pair of purple socks, a tradition recalling the late Bro. Dupee’s own sartorial statement of individuality. And maybe proper attire for the Cryptic Rite.

Shame on me for not attending previous Bernie dinners. I even was approached about speaking once, but I chickened out and recommended Howard. Obviously that was the better move, but I’m kicking myself. This was a really great night.

Save the date: April 29, 2013 for the next Bernie.

Thomas Jackson and James Daniel.

Bro. Daniel receives the traditional Purple Socks from Bro. Dupee. I have a lot of respect
for Matt Dupee, based in no small measure on his having imparted a valuable lesson
in justice to his grand lodge in a court of law. You gotta respect that. Or at least I do.

1 comment:

E C Ballard ஃ said...

An interesting post and definitely and interesting topic. Well done, Bro. Jay!