Saturday, February 27, 2016

‘Masonic Week in review’

Since Masonic Week was only two weeks ago, I don’t feel overly remiss in now getting to sharing some news and photos from the event. We gathered at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City in Virginia for the annual meetings and other happenings we enjoy.

What follows is by no means a comprehensive report of the activities, but is more like a “names in the news” summary. I do the best I can. I do not and cannot attend every meeting, so if I have omitted anyone, it’s nothing personal or intentional. It’s just difficult to keep track of all the elections and appointments. As so many brethren of The Masonic Society are ascending to the top echelons of the national governing bodies of the Masonic Week constituent fraternities, I use various “TMS” designations to identify Fellows and Members of The Masonic Society.

So, at The Masonic Society’s February 13 dinner, results of the elections of new officers and board members, and the elevations of new Fellows were announced to the more than fifty brethren and guests in attendance.

Ken Davis, The Masonic Societys new president, displays the ceremonial gavel he is about to present to his predecessor, Jim Dillman of Indiana. Jim has guided the Society through a period of creative growth that is about to blossom in ways that will compel the Masonic world to take serious notice of our various doings. Sorry for being vague, but the announcements of the new initiatives are coming soon.

New Officers: Ken Davis of New Mexico is The Masonic Society’s new president. Patrick Craddock of Tennessee is the First Vice President, and I am the Second Vice President. Three new members have been added to the Board of Directors: Oscar Alleyne of New York, John Bizzack of Kentucky, and Mark Robbins of Minnesota.

Two TMS brethren were elected to become Fellows: again, John Bizzack, a frequent contributor to the pages of The Journal of the Masonic Society, and Michael A. Halleran, The Journal’s Executive Editor, and Past Grand Master of Kansas, and author, etc., etc.

Oscar Alleyne
In addition, Alleyne was the keynote speaker at the Society’s banquet. In remarks titled “The Masonic Scholar,” he employed humor and personal experience to illustrate the need for sober-minded responsibility in conducting Masonic research, especially in this age of frivolous internet sources offering misleading content. “I watched a young brother declare ‘Eureka!’ last week,” Alleyne said. “He visited a lodge in Montreal that had a set of aprons on display. One had these symbols: a set of blood drops, and a severed head. Well, this young brother said he stumbled upon an important find. He scoured the internet and found several references to John the Baptist—this apron, therefore was proof that John the Baptist was central in the Masonic world, and he was going to write a paper on it. This was exciting stuff.”

Courtesy A&ASR Jacksonville

“I politely informed him that the apron was for the Ninth Degree of the Scottish Rite, and that the jurisdiction he hails from no longer uses this apron, and it wasn’t anything significantly special. His response, deflated at best, was a resounding ‘Crap!’”

S. Brent Morris, Grand Abbott of the Society of Blue Friars, welcomes
BF No. 105, Michael Halleran of Kansas, to the Consistory.

The Society of Blue Friars is a small group of a highly select membership: published authors in service to the Craft. One new Friar, having been nominated by a current Friar, is named each year by the Grand Abbott—TMS Founding Fellow S. Brent Morris of Maryland—and the 2016 inductee is none other than new TMS Fellow Michael A. Halleran, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War. In addition, he is the creator of Hiram A. Brother, a Freemason of legend who is the diarist known through the pages of Bro. Brother’s Journal. Each new Blue Friar speaks on matters of Masonic significance at the annual meeting, and Halleran regaled his audience with a Brother biography steeped in the colorful humor for which the illustrated history is known.

Jeffrey Nelson tries on the Grand Chancellors collar and jewel at the Grand College of Rites meeting of February 13. It looks good! That’s retiring Grand Chancellor Lawrence Tucker at right.

TMS Founding Member Jeffrey N. Nelson of North Dakota was installed Most Illustrious Grand Chancellor of the Grand College of Rites of the United States of America. At the meeting of the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests, he also was appointed Grand Outer Guard. The GCR’s new Right Illustrious Senior Vice Chancellor is TMS Founding Fellow and Board member Aaron M. Shoemaker of Missouri. He unveiled the College’s new website that week.

On the GCR agenda are a few very important items:

  • Those of us who love Collectanea can look forward to the reprinting and availability of previous editions.
  • Some procedure must be devised for the issuance of regalia, and the return of the regalia. Sometimes there is a problem retrieving a jewel or something else important. It’s a vexing worry in the event of an officer’s death, so I’m curious to see how this develops.
  • A tax-exempt foundation will be incorporated so that the GCR may receive artifacts, intellectual property, and other gifts in a manner that permits the donor to benefit from an income tax deduction. This has been in the concept stage for a few years, and I hope it is brought to fruition.
  • In other news, some more practical goals are coming into view. Fellows of the GCR can look forward to membership jewels (die-struck pieces with cloisonné decoration) and certificates. No date announced on this, but it’s in the works.
  • Mitchell-Fleming Printing, Inc., a vendor familiar to several Masonic fraternities, is the new printer of Collectanea, the new edition of which should be reaching our mailboxes in the coming weeks.

TMS Member Lawrence E. Tucker of Texas, having just completed his year in the Grand East of the GCR, was installed Most Venerable Sovereign Grand Master of the Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees of the United States of America. Upon taking office, the Most Venerable has the privilege of appointing the new Grand Tyler, and Tucker named TMS Founding Member John C. Elkinton of Texas to the position.

The 2016 Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees
of the United States of America.

MV Douglas Moore was the retiring Grand Master. He is very soft-spoken, so it was a little difficult to discern everything he said in his allocution, but he made some excellent points, including a call on all AMD councils to get organized within their respective states and to organize annual meetings. I doubt he meant business meetings, but rather what we in New Jersey have, for a number of decades, called Ingatherings. AMD brethren come together for a day of presenting papers and conferring a degree and whatever else. Always a great time.

I was there in 2002 when the Marvin E. Fowler Award was first presented, so I always take an interest in the new honoree. This year it is William R. Logan, Past Sovereign Grand Master.

The AMD Grand Council meeting has gotten shorter in recent years (thank you Moises?), but it’s still a full afternoon. Thankfully there usually are emotional highs, like the Fowler Award presentation, and other revelations:

MV Prince Selvaraj of Ontario and MV Doug Moore.

MV Prince Selvaraj, a very familiar face at Masonic Week for a number of years, is the Immediate Past Sovereign Grand Master of AMD in Canada, and now he also is Honorary PSGM of AMD for the United States.

Bro. James, secretary of the unfortunately named Illuminati Council in Illinois, presents outgoing Grand Master Doug Moore with honorary membership in that AMD council.

Illuminati Council (God, I wish for a name change there) No. 495 in Illinois sent its secretary, Bro. James, to the meeting to bestow honorary membership on Doug Moore. It obviously was a touching gesture that surely has an interesting backstory.

In other news, International Relations Committee Chairman Allen Surratt reported there is interest in both Italy and Brazil to see the Allied Masonic Degrees expand. The feasibility of this is being investigated.

RV Mohamad and MV Doug.

And finally, for this meeting, among the advancement of the line officers, my friend Bro. Mohamad (TMS Member) is the new Junior Grand Deacon!

The irrepressible Reese Harrison of Texas.

Also in the AMD, Founding Fellow Reese L. Harrison, Jr. of Texas exited the East of the Council of Nine Muses. Unique in the AMD fraternity, Nine Muses consists of only nine members—well, nine muses—appointed for life, who rotate through the officer stations.

As is custom, the outgoing Sovereign Master presents a lecture of Masonic interest (not necessarily a research paper), and Reese spoke of metrics. Not as in sterile calculations of dimensions, but speaking movingly of a Mason’s need to lead a balanced life. Without invoking either the traditional 32° or Kabbalah, he spoke plainly of the perils of losing sight of the important aspects of life—family, community, business, et al.—while spending too much time pursuing the ultimately frivolous honors the Masonic fraternities confer. There is a practical problem for Masonic bodies, he explained, where someone accepts appointment to a board of trustees as just another honor, but is incapable of executing the fiduciary responsibilities. (I’ve seen that a number of times in my years in Freemasonry.) He spoke at length, I think without notes, recounting anecdotes and imparting wisdom drawn from a long (no offense, Reese) life. Perhaps an unexpected subject, especially from one who has been a Masonic Week regular for four decades, but a fitting and always timely one.

Former TMS Board Member Fred Kleyn is the new Master of Nine Muses.

In the Operatives, known formally as the Worshipful Society of Free Masons, Rough Masons, Wallers, Slaters, Paviors, Plaisterers and Bricklayers, the new Deputy Grand Master Mason for the Region of the United States of America is TMS Fellow George R. Haynes of Pennsylvania.

In the Order of Knight Masons, congratulations to you all.

Masonic Week 2017 will take place at the same hotel February 8 through 12. See you there.

I check into my room, go to the window to see what view there might be, and am confronted with multiple Templar crosses etched into the glass! Coincidence or Masonic conspiracy?!

 TMS Founding Members بافين دن. and Reed Fanning.

Reed and Prince Selvaraj of Ontario.

Michael, and TMS Members Ted and Ray.

TMS Founding Member Roberto and TMS Fellow Paul.

Although Stephen Dafoe quit the Masonic fraternity some years ago,
he is missed, and his presence is felt still.

Ted is the unofficial Masonic Week photographer.

Mohamad and Aaron in AMD regalia.

‘Grand Master’s Day’

Magpie file photo

It’s that time of year! Well, not really. Grand Master’s Day 2015 was canceled for October 4, but has been rescheduled for March 13, 2016 at DeWint House in Tappan, New York.

Masons, family, and friends are invited to take part in what I consider to be one of the most enjoyable afternoons on the Masonic calendar. I have been attending since, I think, 2009, and the weather has been perfect all but once, and even that was just a little brief rain.

A terrific buffet brunch at The ’76 House (110 Main Street, Tappan) begins at 11:30 a.m. Seating is very limited, so advance payment is required to hold your place. Make $25-per-person check payable to The ’76 House, and remit to Ken Merring. Contact him here.

At 1 p.m., the festivities at DeWint House (20 Livingston Avenue, Tappan) will begin. The program starts with brethren from West Point Lodge No. 877 presenting the colors with the assistance of cadets from the U.S. Military Academy and Masonic War Veterans of the State of New York, the National Sojourners, and the Heroes of ’76. In addition to addresses by both Grand Master William J. Thomas and Deputy Grand Master Jeffrey M. Williamson, there will be entertainment provided by the Chorus of Tappan Zee, and Mr. Jack Sherry appearing in his guise as Benjamin Franklin.

Continuing the tradition, a tree—a sycamore this time—will be dedicated in honor of the Grand Master.

Click here to see more of this wonderful historic site and museum, but better yet, get there some time to visit. If you cannot attend Grand Master’s Day, go to DeWint House during its regular hours and see this treasure for yourself.

‘Prestonian Lecturer visits LORE’

Five weeks have passed already, so before that becomes five years, let me share a little about the visit of the 2016 Prestonian Lecturer to New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786. We hosted a dinner in Scotch Plains January 14 to welcome Bro. Richard “Ric” Berman of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Berman visited our beloved research lodge to present his historical lecture. Forty-five Masons from all over New Jersey, plus Pennsylvania, New York, and the Czech Republic(!) gathered at the Stage House Tavern to be among the first in the world to hear Bro. Ric’s lecture, titled “Foundations: New Light on the Formation and Early Years of the Grand Lodge of England.”

Courtesy Martin Bogardus
Prestonian Lecturer Ric Berman and David Tucker, Master
of New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786.

Magpie file photo
I keep seeing this photo all over the web.
The Prestonian Lecture is an English Masonic tradition that dates to 1822. It is named for William Preston, the author and printer and ritualist whose book Illustrations of Masonry provides the basis of the ritual used in New Jersey and most of the English-speaking Masonic world to this day. He died in 1822 and bequeathed the sum of £300 to the United Grand Lodge of England for the purpose of endowing a lecture of Masonic education that would be presented to the brethren every year. This endured to the 1860s, when it fell into abeyance, but the tradition was revived in 1924 and—except for the years of World War II—has continued to the present day, with the UGLE’s Board of General Purposes selecting a Prestonian Lecturer annually.

In 2016, the honoree is an authority on 18th century Freemasonry, having published three books on those early decades of the Craft. Ric holds a doctorate in history from the University of Exeter, and a master’s degree in economics from Cambridge. (In a previous life, before becoming the academic researcher and author who joined us that night, Ric had a career in international finance.) He was a Senior Visiting Researcher at Oxford’s Modern European History Research Center, and a Visiting Research Fellow at Oxford Brookes University. He has been a Freemason since the late 1970s, and currently serves as Treasurer of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, the first lodge of Masonic research and education, and he is a past master of the research lodge in Middlesex, England.

Available from Amazon, etc.
The lecture is available in book form for purchase—with proceeds benefitting the Library and Museum of Freemasonry at UGLE’s headquarters—from on-line retailers, like Amazon, so I won’t recapitulate its content in detail, much less divulge spoilers. “Foundations” guides us from medieval times to the 17th century and Freemasonry’s embryonic years, to the first decades of the Grand Lodge of England. We all know about the Antients versus the Moderns in competition for Masonic hegemony, and of the Jacobites’ battles against the Hanoverians for control of the state, but the intrigues also extended into Parliament. Tories and Whigs who were Freemasons organized themselves into factions that set the Craft very far apart from all other clubs and societies in England.

“The Grand Lodge of England was the creation of an inner circle at the Duke of Richmond’s Masonic lodge in Westminster,” said Ric, explaining some of the politics. “Its members included aristocrats and politicians alongside senior public officials, such as an undersecretary of state and the government’s anti-Jacobite spymaster, and William Cowper, a leading magistrate and the clerk to the Parliaments, the highest ranking administrator at the House of Commons and House of Lords.”

“The magistracy and the government’s association with Freemasonry gave the organization a judicial and political imprimatur that was reinforced by many instances of de facto official endorsement,” he added. “Prominent examples include the raising of the Duke of Lorraine and the initiation of the Duke of Newcastle, and the initiation of other senior figures, including Prime Minister Robert Walpole, Frederick, Prince of Wales, and numerous members of both Court and Parliament.”

Ric spoke for about forty minutes, and the Q&A went another half an hour, and still the brethren crowded around Ric for private conversation for long after that, but I had to steal him away to return him to the hotel so he could get some rest before his trip to Virginia the next morning. (No one knows this until now, but Ric had been functioning on almost no sleep or food for the twenty-four hours previous to our dinner-meeting.) This Prestonian tour took Ric from North Carolina, where he spoke at four events in four nights, to Des Moines, to our event, and finally to Virginia before returning to England. He indicated he would like to return to the United States later in the year.

Courtesy Martin Bogardus
Martin Bogardus and Prestonian Lecturer Ric Berman.

New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786 especially gives warm fraternal thanks to the brethren of Inspiratus Lodge No. 357 for providing our guests copies of the “Foundations” book, which made for a perfect souvenir of the evening. Also given away freely that night were petitions for joining our lodge, which hopefully will result in a larger L.O.R.E. family.

It was a memorable night of savory food, great company, and brilliant Masonic Light—actually, a number of the brethren told me how much they loved the meal—and while our lodge had budgeted a thousand dollars to pull it off, the whole thing cost us less than fifty bucks. I say we should do it every year!

Friday, February 26, 2016

‘Rose Circle 2011’

Yes, that’s correct, 2011! I cannot even comprehend that five years have passed since this stellar event in New York City took place, but this Flashback Friday edition of The Magpie Mason does indeed reach back exactly to February 26, 2011, when the Rose Circle Research Foundation hosted Christopher McIntosh and Steve Burkle for invaluable talks on Rosicrucianism and Alchemy, with David Lindez doing a great job as emcee.

Here’s the catch: While I know I still have my notes from this conference somewhere at Magpie headquarters, I can’t put my hands on them easily. The notebook will turn up, as it does every so often, and I will update this post with information from those notes, but for now here is my photographic record from the Renaissance Room in Masonic Hall. A partial record. I shot more than 160 photos during the event, but these are among the most colorful. Others show some PowerPoint projections that simply do not belong on the web, so there’s that.

Some of the architecture of the Renaissance Room at Masonic Hall, the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of New York, Free and Accepted Masons. 
This is the northwest corner of the lodge room, looking to the ceiling, with pipe organ at left.

I do not recall how Jason appeared at the lectern—
but I am sure he has a good reason for it!

Steve Burkle was the first of the two speakers to address the audience. I have forgotten the title of his presentation, but he discussed aspects of the practical application of spiritual alchemy concepts, among other things, to wit:

And Steve always works a fish story into his lectures!

Seriously, he is one of the best speakers around.

David Lindez stepped unto the breach, as it were, to serve as master of ceremonies, providing comment and context to the proceedings. (I have my moments in public speaking. Sometimes I am coherent. Sometimes I can see that I grabbed the audience. I would never attempt to emcee a Rose Circle conference.)

That is Gene and Phillipe in the rear. Don’t know the gentlemen in front.

Here are Sam and Bob from New Jersey.

I regret not knowing the names of this couple because
they are regulars at Rose Circle events.

Geoffrey from Old No. 2.

Mario, Sr. and Mario, Jr.

Michael and Joe.

Henry at center, with Richard and Nick behind him.

The incomparable Janet Wintermute perusing the index of McIntoshs
book. (If I didn
t use her full name, she’d kill me.)

To be a fly on the wall of that room.

I don't recall how many attended the conference,
but it pretty much was a sold out affair.
Dr. Christopher McIntosh spoke on Rosicrucianism and the Search for a New World Order, which was based on his book The Rose Cross and the Age of Reason, an utterly mind-roasting history of early European Rosicrucianism and its effects on society. The text had been published a second time since 1992 just weeks before this conference, bringing down the retail price of the book from more than $1,000 to around twenty bucks or so.

Equipment, such as mic stands, is unavoidable, but
sometimes it can drive a photographer nuts.

Im afraid I dont know the gentleman with the microphone,
but that
s the inimitable Jonny Clockworks at left.

Never mind McIntosh, Burkle, and Lindez (although David’s
devilish smile is priceless), look at that room!

Oscar Alleyne. All this time I didn’t realize
I had such a good photo of him on file.

You have to appreciate an audience member who drafts his questions on the pages of his own notebook (to say nothing of coordinating his sport jacket with said notebook) in preparation for the Q&A!

David and Piers A. Vaughan. Sorry to say the Rose Circle
website store is sold out of those ties!

Piers, our president, makes Christopher a Fellow in the Rose Circle.

And—sigh—its over.