Monday, December 31, 2012

‘The new AQC is here!’

     
Courtesy Aspen Film Society


Like practically everything in the world of Masonic research publishing, you never know exactly when to expect it, but evidently the new edition of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum is hitting mailboxes in the United States now.

AQC is the annual book of transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 in London, the first Masonic lodge of research ever chartered, having received its warrant from the United Grand Lodge of England in 1884. What we have now is Volume 124, representing the lodge’s output for the year 2011. Receipt of this book each year is the principal benefit of membership in the Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle—the corporate side of the lodge’s endeavors—which unites Masons from all over the globe in the joy of advancing in Masonic knowledge.

To join QCCC, click here. (Membership in QC2076 itself is exclusive, but QCCC members who are regular/recognized Masons may attend the meetings of the lodge.)

Contents of this edition include:


  • “The Little Man,” a Masonic biography of Bro. T.N. Cranstoun-Day, with a look at early Freemasonry in South Africa – the inaugural paper by the Worshipful Master, Bro. Thomas V. Webb.
  • “Early 17th Century Ritual: Ben Jonson and His Circle” by Bro. John Acaster. (I turned to this one first, having met John a few times over the years.)
  • “Thomas Dunckerley: A True Son of Adam” by Susan Mitchell Sommers. I assume it is part of, or at least sidebar to, her eye-opening new book titled Thomas Dunckerley and English Freemasonry, a most welcome fresh look at the highly influential figure in early Masonry. Look for my book review in The Journal of the Masonic Society soon.
  • “Opposition to Freemasonry in 18th Century France and the Lettre et Consultation of 1748” by Michael Taylor.


And there is a lot more. Check it out. Support your local research lodge. Bring informed lecturers to your lodges. Show your brethren that there is more to Freemasonry than feting the VIPs and showing the Stewards when to ground their rods. There is culture. There is history. There are things tangible and intangible that are worth handing down to future generations.
    

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

‘Symbol in the window’

  
Apropos of nothing, and caught only by happenstance, I share a quick look at a storefront display window on Bleecker near Sixth Avenue.

Native Leather has been selling quality leather goods for forty years. Jackets, luggage and other bags, hats, belts – lots of belts – guitar straps, wallets, and all kinds of other goods of quality hides and skilled craftsmanship are available here. About twenty years ago, I once almost ventured to buy a jacket here, but luckily realized I wasn’t cool enough to wear it. Anyway, you know how Masonic symbols leap out and grab your eye when you least expect it? I’m walking past in the dark of night while the shop is closed and gated shut, and my head is turned to face a Masonic Knights Templar sword in the window.




The display window actually is decorated with a number of swords to create some kind of theme. I don’t know what that might be, but there were other swords standing and leaning here and there. The kind of swords you see hawked on television at three in the morning. “440 stainless!” Faux medieval, samurai, et al. But anyway, front and center, there is the KT Sir Knight sword.

I approached this window to see what else it had going for it, and I see a collection of pocket knives.




That blue one in the center has the Square and Compasses on it. I couldn’t get a clear photo because it was too dark.

If you have a minute, click here and read about some other Masonic paraphernalia I spotted in a shop window around the corner on another day.
  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

‘BOTA study group’

    
Among the many avenues for the study of Western Esoteric Traditions there is one named Builders of the Adytum that marries a peculiar form of Kabbalah study to the symbols found on a particular deck of tarot cards. I’ve had a nagging interest in BOTA since the days of the Knights of the North, but never have gotten around to it. A New York City study group has been doing its thing at Masonic Hall, one Saturday morning a month, for a long time, but again, it’s not easy for me to be in Manhattan on Saturday mornings. And I do have my reservations about it.

BOTA calls Kabbalah the “Holy Qabalah,” which to me raises a question, and they call their tarot deck the “Sacred Tarot.” This simply may be a device to justify BOTA’s incorporation as a non-profit, tax-exempt, etc. religious organization, or it may be something contextual that would prohibit me from taking it seriously. I’m not suspicious of anything, y’understand, but this is the kind of thing I notice. Anyway, I thought it was time to mention them on The Magpie. Maybe this will motivate me to attend.

The group will meet this Saturday, the 22nd, at 10 a.m. in the Chapter Room on the 12th floor of Masonic Hall at 71 West 23rd Street. I don’t know if they timed this for the solstice, but the card to be examined that morning is The Sun.

That particular deck of tarot cards of BOTA’s was first published by Paul Foster Case, a Freemason who founded this group early in the last century. He is the one credited with matching the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet to the 22 major trump cards of tarot. I do not recommend venturing into Manhattan on the last Saturday before Christmas, but maybe I’ll see you there.

From BOTA’s website:

Builders of the Adytum is a religious organization dedicated to spiritual attunement through study, practice and worship in the Tradition of the Western Mysteries. Spiritual aspirants participate through the B.O.T.A. lesson instructions. Wherever they may be geographically, they actively participate in mystical-esoteric meditations that unify them into a powerful metaphysical body of enlightened worship. There is no charge for any instructions or other benefits B.O.T.A. offers its dues paying members. The Order’s material needs are met by membership dues and donations.

Adytum is the Greek word for ‘Inner Shrine’ or Holy of Holies. Like Jesus, who many believe was trained in Qabalah, members of the Order aspire to build the Inner Temple, to construct the Holy of Holies within. Form and awareness evolve simultaneously. Consequently, as evolution unfolds, all men and women will ultimately be possessed of higher levels of consciousness. Almost incomprehensible periods of time elapse before such changes occur. Yet acceleration is possible. Humanity is endowed with mental and physical faculties which can be trained to speed up the evolutionary process. This cultural forcing process has been the work of the Mystery Schools for many centuries. Higher Consciousness, Illumination, can be attained by learning theory and testing it in the rigors of daily life.

These instructions and practical secrets constitute what is known as Ageless Wisdom. It is called ‘Ageless’ because it is not susceptible to the mutations of time. Ageless Wisdom is not primarily a product of man’s thinking. It is “written by God upon the face of nature,” and is always there for men and women of all epochs to read. Builders of the Adytum is an authentic Mystery School in the Western Tradition. Its teachings are based on the Holy Qabalah and the Sacred Tarot, and have been handed down from one group of initiates to another since ancient times. However, B.O.T.A. does not claim value on the grounds of being old, but because its instructions have met the tests of centuries of practical application. People of all faiths are welcome to study the teachings of this Order. B.O.T.A. recognizes Qabalah as the root of Judaism and Christianity. The Order’s ultimate purpose is to hasten the true Brotherhood of mankind and to make manifest the truth that love is the only real power in the universe.

Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.) is a religious non-profit, tax-exempt, California Corporation.
    

Saturday, December 15, 2012

‘No defense’

    
The Four Cardinal Virtues are Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance, and Justice. They have been fundamental building blocks of civilization since ancient times, were refined with a moral urgency added by St. Thomas Aquinas eight centuries ago, and remained important touchstones for man until the onset of Post Modernism, when everything went haywire.

Justice stands apart from the other three for the simple reason that it is a product of those other three. A man can exhibit strength, wisdom, and subdued passions in his values, attitudes, and conduct, and thus be a just man, but Justice is a virtue that can be practiced only by a society. It is a group effort by those who embody Fortitude, Prudence, and Temperance.

Of course you will hug your children a little longer and tighter today, and spend more time with them than usual this weekend. You love them, and you are experiencing a heightened awareness of how brief the cycle of life can be. Freemasonry speaks of man’s earthly existence almost as a triptych, with youth, adulthood, and the autumn of life all presented in a logical, complete progression, but most of the victims today had only tiptoed into youth. Aged five years, their first sustained socialization beyond the family was Sandy Hook Elementary, which is in the outside world.

The world outside really does not prize virtue the way it did. Instead it excuses as normal all manner of immaturity, profanity, dysfunction, corruption, and other crises of character that, in their aggregate effect, make life precarious for the rest of us. There is no defense against that. No tactical planning or strategic thinking can compensate for the decline of Justice in a society where Fortitude, Prudence, and Temperance do not define enough of its people.

Hold your children tight because the world they shall inherit will be dystopia.
    

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

‘The Council degrees at NYC’

  

Click on the image to view it completely.


I haven’t heard Piers speak on the degrees of the Council Princes of Jerusalem, so it’s about time I did. You too. Make your reservations with Secretary John.

(Thanks to Bro. Michael for the heads up.)
  

‘Personal best’

    
Alas, Magpie tobacco is no more.
Undoubtedly the hot topic of conversation in New Jersey Masonic circles this month is this newfangled pipe club that all the kids are talking about. The Craftsmen’s Calumet Club hasn’t even met for the first time yet, and already there’s so much buzz everyone thinks their cell phones are on the fritz.

Saturday was the occasion of the 2012 Northeast Regional Pipe Smoking Contest at Peekskill, New York. There was a lot more to the day than the contest, which actually didn’t begin until after a hearty repast and hours of mingling, buying, selling, trading – oh yeah, and smoking. This took place inside the factory where Kaywoodie pipes are manufactured. I suppose Kaywoodie is to pipes what Ford is to automobiles: They’re not necessarily the most exotic or expensive on the market, but they have stood the test of time by setting the standards other manufacturers emulate, while maintaining quality and affordability for the consumer. Among my own modest pipe collection, there is one Kaywoodie I bought about a decade ago; it has been a favorite since day one, and has been smoked more often than some of the others ever will be.

The Craftsmen’s Calumet Club was entered in the contest with a third of our membership present to take part. I am that third. If you’re not familiar with pipe smoking contests, the goal is not to smoke as many pipes as possible, but to smoke a single pipe under various restrictions for the longest duration. In American contests you typically see winners clocking in at an hour and change. Saturday’s winner, named Bill Mason, kept his tobacco burning for 65 minutes and some odd seconds. (In European contests, there are guys who keep their pipes lit for more than three hours. This is due to intense concentration and technique on the part of the serious competitors, which frankly you don’t see in the United States because Americans are too drawn to chatting and having fun, which makes more sense to me.)

Not only was this my first attempt in a pipe smoking contests, but it also was my very first attempt at smoking for longevity. Smoking is purely for pleasure, so struggling to stay lit on a single match simply is not a factor when I set gentle flame to fragrant leaf. In a rigidly timed format, the contestants are given identical briar pipes, identical samples of a tobacco, identical tampers, and two identical wooden matches. The competitors are given five minutes to prepare their tobacco for smoking, and to pack their bowls. Then two minutes are allotted for lighting up; with the two matches, each smoker first lights for charring, and then uses the second match to actually light his pipe for smoking. Once lit, you have to keep it lit.




The pipe was a Kaywoodie straight panel with sandblast finish. The tobacco was exactly one bowl of Chief Catoonah Tobacconists’ Princes Street Mixture, which happens to be the winner of the 2012 John Cotton Throwdown in Chicago. The tampers were four-inch sections of half-inch dowel – seriously no frills, and pointedly no tools. And the matches were just two regular wooden matches.

I had no idea how I’d perform, but I figured a best possible showing would last between five and eight minutes. Turns out I smoked for 33 minutes and 20 seconds, making for a tenth place finish among 54 contestants. I’m pretty happy with this personal best, which I probably never will equal or surpass. It was a lot of fun. I met some very nice people, which is pretty much the only kind of people one finds in pipe clubs and pipe events. Pipe smoking mellows you. There were prizes for all contestants, and since I ranked tenth I was able to choose one of the better offerings, which was a tin of McClelland Black Sea Sokhoum from 2008. I have been a fan of their Grand Orientals line for a number of years, and I look forward to trying this one.

Anyway, this is just a longwinded announcement to publicize the Craftsmen’s Calumet Club. All Freemasons are welcome to join, no matter how much experience one may have in pipe smoking. Check out our Faceypage. We’ll organize a first meet-up pretty soon.
    

Monday, December 10, 2012

‘Deveney at the Valley’

  
I had intended to forward this announcement to you last month, but my usual lack of organization always sabotages me, but then the event was postponed a week anyway. This lecture will take place Tuesday night. I’m committed to my own Valley’s business meeting, so I cannot be there, but you should get there...and bring a brother!




The Valley of New York City
Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry

Presents a Brother Bring a Brother Evening
With a Lecture by RW John Patrick Deveney, Author

Introduction by RW Thomas Savini, Executive Director
Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library

Tuesday, December 11 at 8 p.m.

Masonic Hall
71 W. 23rd Street, New York City
Lodge Room To Be Announced