Sunday, August 19, 2018

‘Be an almoner of God’s bounties’

Q: What is the seventh great Truth in Masonry?

A: The immutable law of God requires, that besides respecting the absolute rights of others, and being merely just, we should do good, be charitable, and obey the dictates of the generous and noble sentiments of the soul. Charity is a law, because our conscience is not satisfied nor at ease if we have not relieved the suffering, the distressed, and the destitute…. We are the Almoners of God’s bounties.

Albert Pike
Prince of Mercy Degree (26º)
Morals and Dogma

This is a request for charity in its material form, inspired by charity in its spiritual form: sincere fraternal regard and kindness.

A lodge brother has set up a Go Fund Me page to help, aid, and assist a Mason in need. Click here to contribute to a veteran of our nation’s armed forces (ten years in not one, but two airborne divisions) and a career school teacher sidelined by medical challenges. I know him to be a virtuous being who deserves far better than what the unkind vagaries of fate have dealt him recently.

His lodge, the lodge’s district, and the grand lodge have done what they can, and hopefully Magpie readers could keep the energy moving.

Click here. To donate, click the orange Donate Now button at top right. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

‘Respect for the word’

I get the feeling there isn’t a book by Owen Barfield that isn’t thoroughly lovable for the way they smoothly hum with the electricity of learning. His History in English Words unlocks the system of the world that is language, its structures and its evolutions. Barfield, the reluctant lawyer, passionate professor, Inkling, and Anthroposophist, published the book in 1953.

This book’s foreward, written by none other than W.H. Auden, begins:

Many who write about ‘linguistics’ go astray because they overlook the fundamental fact that we use words for two quite different purposes: as a code of communication whereby, as individual members of the human race, we can request and supply information necessary to life; and as Speech in the true sense, the medium in which, as unique persons who think in the first and second person singular, we gratuitously disclose ourselves to each other and share our experiences. Though no human utterance is either a pure code statement or a pure personal act, the difference is obvious if we compare a phrase-book for tourists traveling abroad with a poem. The former is concerned with needs common to all human beings, hence, for the phrases given, there exist more or less exact equivalents in all languages. No poem, on the other hand, can be even approximately translated into any other language. A poet, one might say, is someone who tries to give an experience its Proper Name, and it is a characteristic of Proper Names that they cannot be translated, only transliterated.

The foreward moves forward brilliantly for five more pages and concludes with a quotation from Dag Hammarskjöld:

Respect for the word is the first commandment in the discipline by which a man can be educated to maturity—intellectual, emotional, and moral.

Respect for the word—to employ it with scrupulous care and an incorruptible heartfelt love of truth—is essential if there is to be any growth in a society or in the human race.

To misuse the word is to show contempt for man. It undermines the bridges and poisons the wells. It causes Man to regress down the long path of his evolution.

(Hammarskjöld, of course, was secretary general of the United Nations from 1953 until his death in a plane crash in 1961. Freemasons, among others, should appreciate him for, among other things, creating the Meditation Room inside the UN headquarters in New York City. Hopefully the room is open again, having been off limits in recent years due to construction nearby.)

We know Freemasonry communicates very special meanings with certain impressive words. Just as Auden says, these terms are employed to “request and supply information necessary to life,” and they permit us to “disclose ourselves to each other and share our experiences.”

Deep into History in English Words, Barfield unpacks vocabulary important to Freemasons.

We have adopted from Latin the word initiate, which meant ‘to admit a person to these Mysteries,’ and the importance attached to secrecy is shown by the fact that ‘muein,’ the Greek for ‘to initiate,’ meant originally ‘to keep silent.’ From it, the substantive ‘mu-sterion’ was developed, thence the Latin ‘mysterium,’ and so the English word. The secrets of the Greek Mysteries were guarded so jealously and under such heavy penalties that we still know very little about them. All we can say is that the two principal ideas attaching to them in contemporary minds were, firstly, that they revealed in some way the inner meaning of external appearances, and secondly, that the ‘initiate’ attained immortality in a sense different from that of the uninitiated. The ceremony he went through symbolized dying in order to be ‘born again,’ and when it was over, he believed that the mortal part of his soul had died, and that what had risen again was immortal and eternal.

And later:

Let us try to trace the origin of some of the meanings which are commonly attached to the word love. As in the Mysteries, so at the heart of early Greek philosophy lay two fundamental assumptions. One was that an inner meaning lay hid behind external phenomena. Out of this, Plato’s lucid mind brought to the surface of Europe’s consciousness the stupendous conception that all matter is but an imperfect copy of spiritual ‘types’ or ‘ideas’—eternal principles which, so far from being abstractions, are the only real Beings, which were in their place before matter came into existence, and which will remain after it has passed away. The other assumption concerned the attainment by man of immortality. The two were complementary. Just as it was only the immortal part of man which could get into touch with the eternal secret behind the changing forms of Nature, so also it was only by striving to contemplate that eternal that man could develop the eternal part of himself and put on incorruption. There remained the question of how to rise from the contemplation of the transient to the contemplation of the eternal, and, for answer, Plato and Socrates evolved that other great conception—perhaps even more far-reaching in its historical effects—that love for a sensual and temporal object is capable of gradual metamorphosis into love for the invisible and eternal.

From my early years in Freemasonry I encouraged anyone who would listen to use their lodge’s ritual as a map. More than memorize, examine it for content, including using a dictionary to learn the vocabulary that is unfamiliar, at the very least.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

‘Mytho-Hermetic Dictionary coming this fall’

It’s not due out for another two months, but Ouroboros Press is making a classic text available in its typical high style. First published in the 1750s, Mytho-Hermetic Dictionary is one of those reference books that either unpacks a host of meanings for you, or simply enhances understandings of hidden wisdom you thought you knew. Not necessarily Masonic, but, in my view, a must read for the thinking Freemason. From the publicity:

Mytho-Hermetic Dictionary

Translated by Joseph Zabinski
Book Design and Typography by Joseph Uccello
352 pages, more than 80 illustrations, 7.5” x 10”
Classic reference work, hundreds of entries
Illustrated with emblems and engravings
Bibliographic details and footnotes
Cross-references and wayfinding typography
Quality bookmaking for beauty and longevity

Written in 1758, the Mytho-Hermetic Dictionary defines the most obscure of terms, substances, and concepts employed by the enigmatic authors of the alchemical texts. Its entries unlock the Hermetic mysteries veiled by the motifs, allegories, and symbols of the classical myths, as well as making clear what substances are implied by the terms expressed by the Language of the Birds.

In addition to the comprehensive entries, the Mytho-Hermetic Dictionary is a treasure-house of classical and alchemical imagery, containing more than 80 illustrations in the text and featuring the symbols, signs, and iconography of the art.

“Finally, thanks to Ouroboros Press and Joseph Zabinski’s insightful translation, Antoine-Joseph Pernety’s Mytho-Hermetic Dictionary is now available. The Mytho-Hermetic Dictionary is a must-have work for anyone researching alchemy, hermeticism, philosophy of science, mythology, lexicons, etc. As important and useful as this dictionary is in focused and direct research, it is also a book that rewards random perusal. In fact, because of its dense web of cross-references, an interesting ‘Hermetic game’ suggests itself—pick a word and follow Ariadne’s thread through the lexicon’s maze. It truly is a Mytho-Hermetic education in itself. Maybe start with the dieties Hecate and Mercury as your guides, or my favorite, the ‘House of the Chicken of the Sages.’

Brian Cotnoir
author of Alchemy: The Poetry of Matter


Ouroboros Press is a labor of love. The research, translations, typesetting, design and production all require time and investment prior to the printing of the book. While we can offer our time in advance of the publication, the printers require funds upfront. Popular literature such as fiction has a much wider audience and returns are swift, but with specialized content such as this we rely on our readers’ pre-orders so that we can bring texts such as the Mytho-Hermetic Dictionary to the world. Please consider subscribing this title now. All readers who pre-order will receive their copies first in October and each copy ordered will be accompanied by the signatures of the translator and the publisher. Thank you for your kind support!

Click here to order.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

‘Garibaldi Lodge’s EAº in November’

It is hard to think of November during this August heat wave, but mark your calendars for Garibaldi Lodge 542’s Entered Apprentice Degree. When the lodge confers the EAº in the fall, I think it usually chooses the Friday before Columbus Day, so this one is a bit later, but save the date: Friday, November 2.

Magpie file photo

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Bring your apron and current membership card. Be prepared to work your way into a Masonic lodge. Garibaldi will meet in the Grand Lodge Room.

Please help the lodge help you by making reservations. If you are traveling in a group, send a headcount to Garibaldi by emailing them here before October 24. (It’s important. The first time I attended this degree many years ago, I saw a huge contingent of Pennsylvania Masons turned away because the fire department wouldn’t permit an excess of the lawful maximum occupancy for the room.)

Apprentices and Fellows are welcome! They just need a MM escort.

With all that safely explained, about the degree: Garibaldi Lodge 542 is part of the Tenth Manhattan District, that group of historic lodges that includes lodges working in foreign tongues. Garibaldi was chartered in 1864, at which time it received from l’Union Française Lodge 17 its French Rite rituals, and then translated them into Italian. These rituals are very different from what we’d see in nearly every other lodge in America, being that they are of the Continental tradition, rather than the Anglo-American tradition most of us have inherited. The European tradition, at least in this case, features Rosicrucian and Alchemical symbolism that makes the ceremony of initiation very dramatic—flamboyant even. It’s been said that visiting brethren have walked out of the lodge room in protest over the unexpectedly exotic ritual. Don’t be one of those guys. This isn’t theater; this is a tiled Masonic lodge working its Entered Apprentice Degree. If you believe your lodge’s rituals are universal across the country, you are uninformed, so come get some culture at this wonderful opportunity.

Garibaldi Lodge will be at labor and the degree is expected to begin at around eight o’clock, with the closing anticipated to come at about 10 p.m.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

‘Cleveland Rocks’

I swore I’d never write about the fraudulent “Grand Orient of the USA” on The Magpie Mason, but its demise was so long ago I suppose this doesn’t matter. Looking for something else on Google a minute ago, I found this August 1 story concerning a Masonic temple in Cleveland. Once a historic place of sacred retreat for Masonic Speculative craftsmen, it soon will be dedicated to an operative purpose involving stone: rock climbing.

I think we’d have to peruse the Dummies blog to see the timeline of the whole story, but way back in the previous decade, a gaggle of rejects stole an entire Masonic lodge from its membership in Cleveland, and proceeded to secede from the Grand Lodge of Ohio. It had been Halcyon Lodge 498, but the five or ten little rascals behind the defection made it the “Grand Orient of the United States.” (GOOFUS to some of us.) The revolution was short lived.

Courtesy Fresh Water Cleveland

The former Masonic temple in question, located at 2831 Franklin Boulevard, is to become a center for rock climbing, yoga, and other activities after a $2.4 million renovation is completed, Fresh Water Cleveland reports, adding:

“About eight Masonic Lodges operated out of the building before an ownership dispute reduced that number to just one lodge (that eventually moved out, too). ‘It was the Masonic lodge here,’ says [Kevin] Wojton. ‘One lodge took ownership and kicked the others out. They ran out of money three years ago and locked the doors and walked away.’

“After sitting empty, the building has some physical repairs that must be addressed, including asbestos remediation and a new roof. Vandals stole pipes, and the rain soaked the interior. But Wojton sensed the potential. ‘We saw it as an iconic space,’ he says. ‘With the story and the narrative, we wanted to invest the time and energy.’

“Wojton says old engraved Masonic chairs, desks, gavels, and other ‘Masonic icons’ remain, not to mention paintings (even one of George Washington) and Art Deco design elements. Then there’s marble everywhere—on the floors, the walls, the staircase, even the bathrooms.

“‘It was definitely a different time,’ Wojton says. ‘We want to keep as much of the historic nature of the building as possible.’”

The new enterprise is expected to open for business at the end of this year, or early next. Click here to read Karin Connelly Rice’s story in Fresh Water Cleveland.

Monday, August 6, 2018

‘Library lecture: Who is Liberty Lodge No. 7?’

This month’s lecture at the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Library is scheduled for Thursday, August 30 at 6:30 p.m. From the publicity:

In the early-to-mid nineteenth century, Freemasonry in New York suffered from an unbroken series of schisms and calamities that at times threatened the existence of the Craft. From the division of the City and Country Grand Lodges in 1822, through the Morgan Disturbance, the St. John’s and Phillips schisms, and the last, and least-studied, of the schismatic movements of this period, the Revived St. John’s Grand Lodge, our Grand Jurisdiction, and even individual lodges, were divided by geography, faction, personal animosity, and ambition.

The recent discovery of an 1854 Master Mason certificate, issued by a previously unknown City lodge, led W. Bro. Brad Corsello to delve into this period of conflict. His lecture traces the history of the Grand Lodge of New York from the Atholl Warrant of 1781 through the end of the Age of Schisms, in an attempt to answer the question “Who was Liberty Lodge No. 7?”

Bro. Corsello is a Past Master of Solomon’s Lodge 196 in Tarrytown. He also is a member of Azim Grotto 7, MOVPER. He is a graduate of the Ohio State University College of Engineering, and Case Western Reserve School of Law, and is an attorney specializing in intellectual property.

Photo ID is required to enter Masonic Hall (71 West 23rd Street), and the library is on the 14th floor. RSVP here.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

‘Book club: The Sufis’

Idries Shah
“Freemasonry has been upheld by distinguished people in many countries, reviled and persecuted, linked with politics, reduced to the relative informality of staid businessmen’s frolics, penetrated by Rosicrucianism, attacked as a Jewish imposture by the Nazis. It would not be seemly for a Freemason to engage upon a public portrayal of any part of the craft’s symbolism or beliefs—indeed it is more than probable that a member would be under an oath of secrecy whereby he must preserve every part of the brotherhood’s workings from all who are not initiated. The source of material purporting to be Masonic for the nonmember, therefore, is bound to be fairly one-sided-the inner workings of Masonry provided by renegades and probably by opponents of the craft.

“When a study is made of all available literature purporting to contain Masonic secrets, certain definite outlines appear, which might justifiably be considered to form a reasonable amount of true information, on the no-smoke-without-fire principle. Be that as it may, what interests the Sufi is the fact that, out of the material which claims to be partially or wholly Masonic, a very great deal is at once seen to concur with matters of everyday Sufi initiatory practice. Either Freemasonry is, as Burton claimed, derived from the Sufis, or else the substance of the frequent and plentiful exposes, which may not be of Freemasonry at all, are in fact exposures of a Sufic cult other than Freemasonry. For the purposes of this study we shall approach this exciting part of the inquiry from the only perspective open to us. Parallels will be sought between what the exposers claim to be Freemasonry, and what we know of Sufic schools.”

Idries Shah
The Sufis
pp. 205-6

Having failed to arouse much interest in a book club for my lodge, I’m delighted to share news of the Fourth Manhattan District’s Book Club.

Next meeting: Wednesday, August 22 at 6:30 p.m. in Room 1615 of Masonic Hall. (Photo ID required to enter the building.)

The group selected The Sufis by Idries Shah for this meeting. Buy your copy, read, and bring to the meeting.

RSVP here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

‘UGLE extends membership to transgender people’

The website of the United Grand Lodge of England is offline as this edition of The Magpie Mason goes to press, possibly because of crippling traffic prompted by the widespread news coverage today of a new policy that extends Masonic membership to transgender people.

From the BBC:

Transgender women should be allowed to remain Freemasons if they joined as men, the largest UK lodge has said.

Expelling masons for transitioning was “unlawful discrimination,” the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) warned.

Women who transition to become men should also be allowed to join, its new gender reassignment policy states.

The guidance document says that a Freemason’s gender reassignment should be “treated with the utmost compassion and sensitivity.”

Irrespective of gender identity, the UGLE’s 200,000 members will still formally be referred to as “brothers,” the document says.

But informally they should be addressed “by the name and title he/she has chosen.”

It warns that using a mason’s transition as a reason for excluding them from a men-only lodge would be “unlawful discrimination and so could never constitute sufficient cause.”
The document issued to 7,000 lodges across the country, says: “If a Freemason who is a member of UGLE wishes to change gender and become a woman, we expect that the Freemason would receive the full support of their brethren.”

From the Guardian:

Even the Freemasons cannot ignore the subject of trans rights. The society is to finally allow women to be members—but only if they joined as men.

“A Freemason who after initiation ceases to be a man does not cease to be a Freemason,” says new guidance issued by the Freemasons’ governing body, the United Grand Lodge of England. Those who have transitioned from female to male can also apply, the guidance makes clear.

Michael Baker, the UGLE director of communications, said “While there has been no general request for guidance on gender reassignment, questions on the subject are likely to become increasingly common in future, and now appears to be an opportune time to issue general guidance to our members.

“It should also be noted that people who the law classifies as female will still be exempt from membership of UGLE. They may, of course, become members of the two female-only grand lodges–the Order of Women Freemasons and the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons–both of whom refer to members as brothers.”

From The Telegraph:

According to the report, a senior judge oversaw the move to see if there were legal implications before the decision was made to relax the law on membership.

As a single-sex association, lodges are exempt from sexual discrimination legislation on admissions criteria, but discrimination against members is a different issue.

The new guidance comes after The Telegraph disclosed that Edward Lord, who is overseeing a gender identity drive as part of his role as chairing the City of London’s establishment committee, was himself a Freemason amid hypocrisy claims.

Mr. Lord chairs the City of London’s establishment committee, which has begun a consultation on ending sex segregation in its women-only spaces such as public lavatories and changing facilities at landmarks in the capital.

A Twitter row erupted as it emerged that Mr. Lord, who identifies as non-binary and asks to be described by the pronoun “they,” is a Freemason, an institution that has largely refused to allow women to join its men-only lodges.

Critics noted that Mr. Lord previously suggested gender identity was “of complete irrelevance biologically.”

One said: “So does this mean you will be campaigning to allow women into the lodges of the Freemasons as well? You know what with all spaces becoming mixed and all?” Mr. Lord retaliated: “I take the view that I can best influence change from within.”

Asked about the alleged hypocrisy, Mr. Lord told The Telegraph: “It is something I continue to struggle with and continue to think about. If it was entirely up to me I would change things, but you have to take 250,000 members with you.

“I've spoken fairly freely on this subject and the fact that Freemasons could be more welcoming and inclusive. The one area I would change is on gender.”

From the Daily Mail:

The dress code has also been slightly redefined, allowing women who were born men to wear a “smart dark skirt and top.”

Women who have not undergone reassignment surgery will still be exempt from Freemason membership, however.

In its new policy document, the policy also asks brethren to treat anyone going through gender reassignment with the “utmost compassion” and support.

It reads: “It is important that any situation involving gender reassignment of a Freemason is treated with the utmost compassion and sensitivity and that the individual is supported throughout the process.

“No candidate should be subjected to questions about their gender which could make them feel uncomfortable.”