Sunday, May 20, 2018

‘Freemasonry and Existentialism’

The Masonic Philosophical Society will have its hands full two Sundays from now, when the topic of discussion will ask “How does the Existentialist viewpoint influence our reality?” From the publicity:

Masonic Philosophical Society
How Does the Existentialist Viewpoint
Influence Our Reality?
Sunday, June 3 at 2:30 p.m.
Whitestone Masonic Temple
149-39 11th Avenue
Whitestone, New York

June’s topic will be conducted by Bro. Anthony Sokol on a study of “Freemasonry: How Does the Existentialist Viewpoint Influence Our Reality?” After a short lecture, a discussion and debate by the group will follow.

The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey and Ed Harris, is a movie about a television show starring Truman who lives his entire life in a fabricated reality. In the movie, the focus is on the philosophy of existentialism and skepticism. As with existentialism, the character Truman explored the questions: Is our existence absurd? Where am I going? What is the meaning of life?

As in this movie we can ask ourselves if what is true for one person is true for another. We then have to ask ourselves if truth is perhaps subjective. Join us this month as we look at how Freemasonry relates to existentialism as we explore it against the backdrop of The Truman Show.

‘A Masonic view of Yale’s campus’


I don’t know about you, but the closest I’d ever get to Yale University would be as a tourist. Fortunately, the research lodge that meets in New Haven will host a presentation Wednesday that will Masonically decode the university’s campus.

Bro. Larry Bowman will deliver his research paper titled “Masonic Insignia Around Yale’s Memorial Quadrangle” at the New Haven Masonic Building (285 Whitney Avenue) at 7:30 p.m.

Take that, you Bonesmen, with your really running the world and all that!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

‘Call for papers: ESSWE’

In preparation for its Seventh Annual Conference next year, the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism has issued a call for papers. “Western Esotericism and Consciousness: Visions, Voices, Altered States” is scheduled for July 2-4, 2019 (NOT June 25-27, 2019 as announced previously) at the University of Amsterdam. From the publicity:

The history of Western esotericism from antiquity to the present is filled with reports of unusual and sometimes spectacular experiences that are claimed to convey higher, deeper, or even absolute knowledge about the true nature of reality. Some typical examples are the many references to direct supra-rational gnosis, ecstatic experiences, and states of divine manía (madness or frenzy) or possession from antiquity to the present; visionary travels to other places, other worlds, or other levels of reality, as well as to past or future periods and events; visionary encounters with intermediary beings (for instance angels, demons, spirits, elementals, ascended masters, divinities); the hearing of inner voices, receiving or “channeling” of spiritual messages, and communication with disembodied entities; and ineffable experiences (for instance apophatic unity) that are difficult or impossible to express through normal discursive language. Common to all such reports is that they fall within the general phenomenology of human consciousness and seem to require some kind of modification or alteration of the normal or average mental states that allow us to negotiate consensus reality. All this makes the experiential dimension of Western esotericism (in both its historical and its contemporary social manifestations) extremely relevant to academic disciplines such as cognitive studies, consciousness research, psychology, or psychiatry. ESSWE7 will be the first major international conference to bring these perspectives in conversation with one another in the context of the study of Western esotericism.

On the level of the humanities and the social sciences, we hope that the conference will provide participants with an ideal opportunity for learning about the phenomenology of unusual experiences across the entire historical spectrum of Western esotericism from antiquity to the present. Here the emphasis will be on empirical research and specialist knowledge about specific historical and contemporary cases. Furthermore, on the level of the study of consciousness, we hope to explore larger and more theoretical questions concerning such topics as the taxonomy and etiology of altered states, their neurobiological foundations, or their relevance to wider concerns such as cognitive functioning or mental health. Here the emphasis will be on how such approaches may help us understand and even explain the rich record of historical and empirical materials central to Western esotericism and, conversely, how these can serve as case studies for the study of consciousness more in general.

ESSWE7 will also be an occasion to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam.

Keynote lectures

Prof. Yulia Ustinova (Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel)

Prof. Karl Baier (University of Vienna, Austria)

Prof. Sonu Shamdasani (University College London, United Kingdom)

Call for Papers/Sessions

The academic ambitions for this conference are high. While we are aiming for a large and inclusive conference, paper and session proposals will go through a careful selection procedure so as to make sure that the final program will have a sharp focus on the conference theme. We encourage creative and innovative thinking across disciplines combined with deep analysis of specific contexts, materials, sources, or topics. As the ESSWE wants to provide a podium for intensive contact and exchange between scholars on all levels of the academy, graduate and post-graduate students as well as more experienced or established scholars are all encouraged to participate and submit proposals for papers. We are confident that ESSWE7 will be a foundational event for a budding new field of research that has considerable potential for the future.

Each conference session will have a length of 120 minutes, providing room for four papers.

Paper presentations should have a length of 20 minutes, leaving 10 minutes room for discussion.

Conference language: English.

Please send your paper or session proposal here. Before doing so, please have a look at the submission guidelines.

Important dates

Deadline for submission of papers and session proposals: October 1, 2018

Notification of acceptance and beginning of registration: January 15, 2019

Early bird conference fee: January 15, 2019

Normal conference fee: April 1 to June 25, 2019

Click here for ESSWE membership information.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

‘Philosophical ideals of friendship’

The next study day at the School of Practical Philosophy will focus on Transcendental ideals of friendship, with an examination of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. From the publicity:

Emerson and Thoreau on Friendship
School of Practical Philosophy
Sunday, June 10, 8:30 to 1 p.m.
12 East 79th Street, Manhattan
$30 per person—Register here

Come be inspired by the fine principles of friendship, as expressed in the writings of two great American philosophers, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. The guidance and insight they provide apply to all of us and can be of great benefit in our lives. Their friendship reflected the ideal of Transcendental philosophy, which is that true friendship requires the best of us: honesty, sincerity, equality, and reverence. A friend stands for all of humanity and is a gift from God. They inspired each other, challenged each other, had several rifts with each other, but they always had total trust and faith in each other. Each sought to help the other with genuine acknowledgement and affection, while addressing the need for self-reliance and love of freedom.

All are welcome. No prior study is required.

Sign in at 8:30 a.m. Brief introduction at nine o’clock, followed by two study sessions in small groups. Reading materials and light lunch included.

Sunday, May 13, 2018


When Freemasonry’s ritualists added the Liberal Arts and Sciences to the lodge’s purview centuries ago, and rhapsodized about music—that “elevated science”—I can’t imagine they could have envisioned Kinky Friedman, but that’s their loss. The Texas troubador is emerging from some kind of semi-retirement these days, and will be touring with Brian Molnar.

Kinky and Brian: together again.

I think it is safe to say that Friedman has performed with no other Past Grand Master of the Cryptic Rite of Freemasonry. If I’m wrong about that, I’ll happily correct the record. (Brian’s band is named the Naked Hearts, get it?)

The two, who have toured together several times previously, will perform in Jersey City soon. Tickets available here. And they will play City Winery in Manhattan too. Tour dates here. From the publicity:

At long last, Kinky Friedman’s second musical act begins. With the proclamation that it “is what music was, before it came homogenized, trivialized and sanitized,” Kinky is dropping his first all new CD of original tunes in four decades. Called Circus of Life, it presents a side of Kinky that few would have suspected in the halcyon days of the Texas Jewboys, laying perhaps legit claim to the title “The Leonard Cohen of Texas.”

And on July 6, he will be releasing it on his own terms and on his own Echo Hill Records label. A monster summer tour will follow. Yep, Kinky is finally doing it his way. Harking to his early years, he has chosen to ignore the Nashville ethos, that all must be concertedly “radio friendly,” sweetened, and over-produced. What he and producer Brian Molnar have delivered is simply one of the most beautiful albums of this year or any other. The first single, Autographs In The Rain (Song to Willie), is already in heavy rotation on SiriusXM Outlaw Country, and there are at least four more top shelf A sides.

Speaking of Brian Molnar, he will be touring as Kinky’s opening act for most, if not all shows, promoting his new CD Within Blue, also on the Echo Hill Records imprint. Kinky and Brian have worked a number of tours together and now deliver a seamless performance, opener to headliner.

It started with a call from Willie Nelson, who asked Kinky what he was doing at that moment. Kinky answered truthfully that he was watching Matlock, the old TV chestnut, to which Willie replied, “That is a sure sign of depression, Kinky. Turn Matlock off and start writing.”

Kinky did just that and started writing the songs he hadn’t written or even contemplated for decades, tunes like “Jesus In Pajamas,” “Me And My Guitar,” and “A Dog Named Freedom.” After writing several songs, Kinky called Willie to let him know how successful his advice had been. When Kinky asked Willie how he was doing, Willie replied, “A little up, a little down. By the way Kinky, what channel is Matlock on?” Circus of Life, by way of Matlock—via Willie.

With Joe Cirotti on multiple instruments, and Mickey Raphael, Augie Meyers, Original Jewboy Little Jewford, Clay Meyers and Jim Beal providing amazing grace notes, not a single track on the album fails to reach its very high mark. Kinky may “just have to stick with songwriting” after all. To verify this, he’s taking it on the road, for one of the longest, most comprehensive tours of his storied career. After flash mob-style appearances in Galveston, Houston, and Nacogdoches, the Circus Of Life Tour begins in earnest in Pittsburgh, and rumor has it that it will continue forever. Yes, the second act has begun. May it never end.

With each of Brian Molnar & the Naked Heart’s last three albums, peaking out over fixtures of their genre on radio play charts all around the country, it would not be surprising to have an overwhelming feeling of comfort and familiarity when experiencing their music for the first time. For nearly a decade Brian Molnar has been carrying his acoustic guitar and wrought melodies back and forth across the United States connecting audiences with a feeling of American tradition and unique thoughtfulness that has been too often diluted in recent memory. Now with a full supporting band behind him, sharing the stage with contemporaries such as Ralph Stanley, Chris Hillman, Bernie Worrell, Garth Hudson, and Neal Cassal, it seems that a genuine Americana resurgence is upon us, with each new Naked Hearts’ release setting its tone.

Brian Molnar’s newest release, Of the Fall, spent four weeks standing strong at No. 1 on the World Wide Roots 66 chart, and remains in the top 10 nearly four months after its release. The band’s prior live record, Miss You, hit No. 7 on the Roots Music Report chart in New York, and No. 36 country-wide, while the band’s previous studio work, Temperance & the Devil, peaked at No. 27 on AMA (Americana) chart, and 9 on the FAR radio chart in Europe and the USA. With such a promising track record and constant live appearances by Molnar with and without the Naked Hearts, the sky is the limit, and makes Brian Molnar a name to remember in the coming years.

“...they continue to push the boundaries of Americana in sound and spirit beyond what has become an ossification too frequent in the form.”
Chris Spectre, Midwest Record, on Of the Fall

“The Naked Hearts play Roots Country with conviction… the band demonstrates a thorough understanding of what it takes to make authentic music.”
Steven Stone, Vintage Guitar Magazine, on Of the Fall

“Treading the midnight highway dividing line between country and the Ash Grove, he evokes a turning point just before everything changed and too much got lost.”
Mark S. Tucker, Fame, on Of the Fall

Friday, May 11, 2018

‘Livingston Library lecture for May’

If it’s May, it must be time for the Livingston Library’s fifth lecture of 2018. From the publicity:

300th Anniversary of Freemasonry
Presented by Bro. Jorge Luis Romeu
Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library
71 West 23rd Street, 14th floor
Thursday, May 31 at 6:30
RSVP here
Photo ID is required
to enter Masonic Hall

Last year, Freemasonry, as it exists today, arrived at its 300th anniversary. On June 24, 1717, four London lodges met to create the first grand lodge. Before that, Masonic lodges had existed, but mostly operated independently from each other. The new Grand Lodge of England provided Freemasonry with structure, common rules, visitation rights, and a modern philosophy: the Enlightenment. It was the beginnings of modern civil society.

Freemasonry introduced several concepts revolutionary for their time and place. Men were assessed by their merits, and not by their wealth or social status. Lodge leadership was elected, not hereditary. Members observed religious tolerance. Such ideas had a strong impact in the development of modern Western thought, as well as in the histories of many countries in Europe and the Americas.

The study of the history of Freemasonry has become an academic topic. CEHME (Centro de Estudios Históricos de la Masonería Española), a European academic organization, holds an international meeting every three years, most recently in Spain, and soon in Portugal. REHMLAC (Revista de Estudios Históricos de la Masonería Latinoamericana y Caribeña), a sister Latin American academic organization, also holds similar meetings. In the United States, UCLA also has held such seminars, among other academic institutions.

Bro. Romeu is a dual member of the Grand Lodge of New York and the Gran Logia Soberana de Puerto Rico. He is a Lodge member of Liverpool Syracuse Lodge 501, The American Lodge of Research, Western New York Lodge of Research, and Jose Celso Barbosa Logia 106 in Puerto Rico.

Jorge Luis Romeu
He received a Ph.D. from Syracuse University in Operations Research in 1990; a Masters from Syracuse University in Operations Research in 1982; and his Licenciado from the University of Havana in Mathematical Statistics in 1973. He is a Senior Specialist in the Sponsored Research Office at the State University of New York Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome, as well as a Senior Science Advisor at the Reliability Information & Analysis Center at Quanterion Solutions Inc./RIAC. He also serves as a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Research Professor at the L.C. Smith College of Engineering & Computer Science at Syracuse University. His expertise is in statistics and operations research modeling and analysis; quality, reliability, SPC/DOE, industrial statistics, international education, and engineering education research.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

‘Grand Honors!’

Courtesy Bro. Bruce B.
Bro. Oscar Alleyne
RW Junior Grand Warden
At the 237th annual communication of the Grand Lodge of New York today, these brethren—arguably the A-Team—were elected and installed:

MW Grand Master William Sardone
RW Deputy Grand Master Richard Kessler
RW Senior Grand Warden Charles Roberts
RW Junior Grand Warden Oscar Alleyne
RW Grand Treasurer Steven Adam Rubin
RW Grand Secretary Richard Schulz

Courtesy Bro. Giovanni L.
MW Bill Sardone, left, is our new Grand Master.
MW Jeffrey Williamson, right, left office today.

In addition, the new DDGM of the Glorious Fourth is RW Michael Sternfeld. He will convene a town hall meeting next Wednesday at Masonic Hall.

(That’s all the information I have so far.)

Brethren, wherever dispersed over the face of the earth and water, how about Grand Honors, taking time from yourselves. And throw in a Vivat! Congratulations to all!


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

‘George Washington’s beer brewed anew’

Courtesy Anheuser-Busch
George Washington was on many Masonic minds yesterday, the anniversary of his first presidential inauguration. There was a day of celebration at Federal Hall, including the annual re-enactment of the swearing in by a group of New York Masons. Not to eclipse any of that bonhomie, but Anheuser-Busch, which isn’t even an American company any longer, announced this morning it is brewing a beer based on Washington’s own handwritten recipe from 1757. From the publicity:

Budweiser Celebrates Summer
with Freedom Reserve Red Lager

The new beer will continue Budweiser’s
support of Folds of Honor

Today, Budweiser unveiled the newest addition to its Reserve Collection: Budweiser Freedom Reserve Red Lager. The new beer was specially brewed by Budweiser’s own veterans and builds on Budweiser’s long-standing support of American veterans with a portion of proceeds sold this summer benefiting Folds of Honor, a non-profit organization providing educational scholarships to military families. As of this year, the company has raised $14 million in support of Folds of Honor.

Courtesy Anheuser-Busch
Freedom Reserve Red Lager is the second specialty lager to appear in Budweiser’s Reserve Collection, and is inspired by George Washington’s hand-penned recipe from his personal military journal dating to 1757. Packaged both in a vintage stubby bottle and also available in a one-pint can, the Red Lager is brewed with toasted barley grains for a slightly sweet aroma with a touch of hops, a rich caramel malt taste, and a smooth finish with a hint of molasses.

Freedom Reserve will be available beginning in May through September 30, or while limited supplies last.

Courtesy Anheuser-Busch

Marking the seventh consecutive year Budweiser is teaming up with Folds of Honor, the brand brought together a select group of Budweiser brewers who are also proud veterans to brew Freedom Reserve and their signatures are prominently featured on each bottle and can.

Budweiser, an American-style lager, was introduced in 1876 when company founder Adolphus Busch set out to create the United States first truly national beer brand-brewed to be universally popular and transcend regional tastes. Each batch of Budweiser stays true to the same family recipe used by five generations of Busch family brewmasters. Budweiser is a medium-bodied, flavorful, crisp and pure beer with blended layers of premium American and European hop aromas, brewed for the perfect balance of flavor and refreshment. Budweiser is made using time-honored methods including kraeusening for natural carbonation and Beechwood aging, which results in unparalleled balance and character.

I was a beer snob by the time I reached high school, and I wrote off Budweiser when I was 14, but I definitely will try this brew.