Wednesday, January 29, 2020

‘A strong start in 2020 for the Masonic Society’

The Masonic Society is off to a great start so far this year.

January isn’t even over, and we have gained 20 new members. Another 14 lapsed members have returned to us. And we picked up one new subscriber for The Journal of the Masonic Society.

Our annual banquet will be next week at Masonic Week in Virginia, and we already are expecting more than 50 guests. (I know we’ll have more because I haven’t even signed up myself!)

That’s Friday, February 7 at 7:15 p.m. in the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington. Advance registration is required, so click here.

Only $55 per person for a sirloin dinner entrée. Our keynote speaker will be Mark Tabbert, who will present “A Deserving Brother: George Washington and Freemasonry,” including his recent research that went into his upcoming book.

All Freemasons and our ladies are welcome to our dinner.

We will have elections of officers and other necessary business, plus we will discuss plans for the coming two-year term.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

‘Speakers chosen for Academy’

At the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge next time, the presenters will be Bro. Chuck Dunning of Texas and Bro. Victor Julian Avila Ametller of Cuba.

That will be Saturday, March 21 in the Freemasons Cultural Center (1 Masonic Drive) in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Check in at 8:30 a.m., and the program should start at around 9:30. Lunch will be served at noon ($10 per person), and the day will conclude around 3 p.m.

From the publicity:

Chuck Dunning
Chuck Dunning is an advocate, facilitator, trainer, and consultant in contemplative practice, with more than 30 years in the professional fields of higher education and mental health, as well as in Masonry and other currents in the Western esoteric traditions. Chuck’s consistent commitment is to the actual practice of contemplative disciplines to facilitate and enhance experiences of personal growth, social wellbeing, and spiritual initiation and transformation. Chuck’s Craft lodge memberships include Haltom City-Riverside 1331 in Texas, and Albert Pike 162 in Oklahoma.

He also is an honorary member of Sophia 767 in North Carolina, and Ancient York 89 in New Hampshire. Chuck’s Scottish Rite memberships are in the Valley of Fort Worth, Texas and the Valley of Guthrie, Oklahoma. His York Rite memberships are in Texas Chapter 362 and Texas Council 321, both in Fort Worth. He is a Full Member of Texas Lodge of Research.

As a professional, Chuck recently entered semi-retirement from serving as a student affairs administrator and adjunct faculty member at Texas Christian University, and from being a psychotherapist at TCU and in community agencies, hospitals, and private practice.

Victor Julian Avila Ametller 
Bro. Ametller is a native of Cuba and is employed as director of the National Masonic Museum of the Grand Lodge of Cuba, AF&AM. Prior to that role, he was professionally employed in the civil works sector in and around Havana. Victor joined the Craft in 2003 in Roman de la Luz Lodge 201, attaining the degree of Master Mason in 2007. He was first appointed a District Deputy Grand Master in 2015 and has plans to serve as Worshipful Master of Roman de la Luz Lodge in 2020. An active Scottish Rite Mason, Ametller has served in several offices in those bodies, culminating in his coronation as an Honorary Sovereign Grand Inspector General, 33º, in September 2016.

If you will attend, you will be asked to pre-register. I think an eventbrite page is coming. If you cannot attend, please know there will be a live stream shown here.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

‘Way haul away, ye Mariners haul!’

It’s Robbie Burns’ birthday, but don’t look for haggis at this Masonic feast. We—more than 250 of us—are seated fairly comfortably inside the Grand Lodge Room of Masonic Hall in New York City, enjoying the camaraderie, conviviality, and near gluttony that is the Mariners Lodge Beefsteak Banquet.

This annual affair is sold out tonight at $150 a plate.

Everything we needed to know was spelled out in our program.

Tonight’s tobacco is chosen! Masonic Hall is smoke-free (must be some bureaucratic snafu), so no pipes at the beefsteak, but no matter. A pinch of Mr. Gawith’s Original every so often will aid digestion, stimulate conversation, and improve posture!

Getting ready to set sail.

Michael, Sal, and Josh.

At a Mariners Lodge festive board, Masons are on port and starboard sides. We were seated amidships.

How many Masons does it take to change a lightbulb? One, when it’s Moore. Actually, Isaac is up that ladder to shoot photographs, which were all over Facebook before long.

Don’t your festive boards have drones keeping an eye on things?

RW Bro. Sam conducted us through the festive board ritual and served as emcee. Grand Master Sardone, in purple, at his right.

If you ever wondered what 250+ Freemasons gorging on beef, lamb, beef, shrimp, salmon, beef, ale, potatoes, and beef looks like.

My mistake for relying on a phone as a camera. Here is our Junior Warden for the night.

The purpose of the aprons is defined clearly and humorously in that New Yorker piece by Joseph Mitchell I mentioned in the first Magpie post on this event, but it was lost on some of the brethren whom I observed eating their ribs and lamb lollipops with the cutlery. They went home with aprons as unsullied as any symbol of purity and innocence. From left: Oscar, Josh, Augustine, Michael, and Sal Corelli.

Close-up shot of the apron. This unforgettable event was described by some present as a Bucket List item. The maritime-themed festive board is something every cheerful Mason ought to experience, but I would hope everyone would be able to take part more than once.

‘Cécile Révauger to present Sankey Lecture’

Click to enlarge.

One of these years I will travel to Ontario to visit the fine lodges there and to attend a Sankey Lecture, but I won’t be able to do it this time.

That’s a shame because the lecturer for the 11th annual Sankey Lecture will be Professor Cécile Révauger, of the University of Bordeaux, who will present “Enlightenment, Gender, and Race: Personal Reflections on Leading Issues in Masonic Studies.”

The lecture is scheduled for Sunday, March 22 (note the new date) at 3 p.m., and will take place again inside the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre at Brock University, located at 500 Glenridge Avenue in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Admission is free, and there is a limit of five tickets per request. Click here.

Friday, January 24, 2020

‘Meet Act and Part podcast is on’

Masonic Education is the topic of the first podcast of Meet Act and Part. I do a terrible job of keeping current with the podcasts concerning Freemasonry, but this looks like another great one. Our hosts are Bill Hosler, Greg Knott, and Darin Lahners. They divulge their Masonic credentials on air, so I won’t transcribe them here. The discussion concerns their respective efforts in education.

This was published on Podomatic Thursday. It runs 30 minutes, so check it out. Click here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

‘Masonic studies to begin at Portugal university’

Lusophone University of Humanities and Technologies (Universidade Lusófona) in Lisbon, Portugal, will offer coursework on the subject of Freemasonry beginning next month. If I understand the website, it is not necessary to be a college student currently to participate in this. Evidently, you would have to speak Portuguese though. Total course hours: 120.

From the publicity (as translated by Google and me):

The ideal of a brotherhood of philosopher-builders has influenced diverse cultural developments to this day. Freemasonry, as a fraternity of men interested in Gnosis and in the elevation of souls to the celestial region, is one of the main and most influential movements of spiritual aspiration in the West. Knowing and understanding the philosophical and spiritual sources of the Masonic movement, and the way they enhanced individual human creativity, is the objective of this course, that will focus on the impetus which gave spiritual and ritualistic philosophical substance.

The main objectives of this course are to know the sources and traditions that flow into the so-called Modern Freemasonry, be it the myths and initiation rites of antiquity, or medieval mystical and knightly ways. We will give special weight, not to a diachronic reading of movements, landmarks, and characters, but to the history of ideas, looking for the lineages of content and hermeneutics that result in Speculative Masonry. Students will see the intersection of Portuguese culture with the so-called Arte Real, be it with regard to literature and poetry, be it in art and even in urban art.

Knowledge, skills, and competencies to be acquired will include the identification and critical analysis of the main currents and movements that were, and are, used in Speculative Masonry as part of its rituals and worldviews.


Ancient Mysteries
and Philosophies

Section 1: Mystery and Initiation
Section 2: The Hellenist Mysteries and Philosophy

Mystics, Worldviews,
and Abrahamic Anthropologies

Section 1: Templarism and Templars
Section 2: Rosicrucianism
Section 3: Judaism, Kabbalah, and Freemasonry
Section 4: Manichaeism and Freemasonry
Section 5: Freemasonry and Mystique

and Modernity

Section 1: History and Origins of Speculative or Modern Freemasonry
Section 2: Modern Philosophy and Science in dialogue with Freemasonry
Section 3: New anthropological views: Feminine and Mixed Masonry
Section 4: Freemasonry in Portugal

Freemasonry as
contemporary reading

Section 1: Freemasonry, Symbolic and Art
Section 2: Freemasonry and Portuguese thought


  • Freemasonry as Contemporary Reading
  • Freemasonry and Modernity
  • Ancient Mysteries and Philosophies
  • Mystics, Worldviews, and Abrahamic Anthropologies


António Balcão Vicente
Arnaldo Gonçalves
Cátia Mourão
Fernando Marques da Costa
Paulo Mendes Pinto
Renato Epifânio
Rui Lomelino de Freitas

Guest Speakers:

António Ventura
Armindo Azevedo
Felipe Corte Real Camargo
José Eduardo Franco
José Manuel Anes
José Manuel Pereira da Silva
Maria João Figueira
Maria José Tavares

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

‘The unforgettable Journal No. 47’


There are merely two and a half weeks to go until the annual meeting of the Masonic Society, which takes place amid the Masonic Week festivities in Virginia, and there will be news coming from that busy night.

In the meantime, Issue No. 47 of The Journal of the Masonic Society is out, and while each issue is a treasure worth leaving to your posterity, this one is unique for its cover art by Bro. Ari Roussimoff. A highly skilled, imaginative, and seemingly fearless artist, Ari (a New York Mason) paints Masonic subjects and themes in ways you’ve never seen. I published some photos of his work on The Magpie many years ago—click here—so you could see the powerful colors and bold technique that characterize his images. He is profiled on Page 17 of this Journal issue, where he explains part of what actuates his brushes:

“Painting Masonic subject matter is always a challenge. Much of what I depict emanates from my subconscious, from my heart. The experience is like being on a journey of discovery, depicted on canvas. And I never really know where this journey is taking me until I get there. It is said in Freemasonry that each person can find meanings that are personal and speak directly to them. This is something I very much believe. And I like to think that in my paintings, I show some of the ways in which Freemasonry has spoken to me.”

Bro. Samuel S. Laucks, II of Pennsylvania gives his “Thoughts About Writing a History of Your Lodge” in which he guides us through the research process. Laucks was lucky. He easily located lodge minutes, financial documents, trustees reports, and other solid sources of facts collected inside his lodge’s safe. Also photographs, correspondence, published programs, and other memorabilia were secured therein, making his research convenient. Elsewhere about the lodge, inside file cabinets, desks, bookcases, and inevitable cardboard cartons, Laucks found more of what he needed. Without the temple, he advises checking with local libraries and historical societies and periodicals. If there aren’t records specific to Freemasonry or to your lodge, you still can gain a contextual understanding of what was going on locally through history, because those events impact the fraternity too. Beware the search engines! Mentions of your lodge in news media most often will consist of obituaries. Naturally, our grand lodges retain troves of information. Taking down oral histories can provide color not seen in formal records. “It was fascinating to hear not only their memories and anecdotes,” he explains, “but also to hear their impressions of why men sought to join the fraternity and participate in its activities during those different time periods.”

An experienced researcher will tell you that the Who, What, When, and Where are not sufficient in relating a history, but the Why is essential; Laucks is in agreement. He concludes: “I believe that a lodge history should not be a purely static document but should provide a sense of optimism and anticipation for that which is to come. The audience should not only be proud of their lodge’s history, but should also be inspired and energized by it as they plan for the future.”

Also on the theme of the sweep of history, MW Bro. David J. Cameron, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario, writes “Change 2019.” In this piece, Cameron explains how change is a constant in Freemasonry (despite what we ritually say in our ceremonies about the Craft’s unyielding continuity). He traces growth and decline in membership rolls for the context to explain the need to reconfigure his jurisdiction’s bureaucracy. “Our membership peaked in 1960 at 136,000 members,” his research shows. “Now we have 34,000. But we have a Grand Lodge structure created for over 100,000 members and geared to continual growth.” The downsizing is needed at the macro level also, he observes, relating the comment of a young Mason who balked at being told to take away more time from his family and business in order to visit other lodges in his district. “I was taken aback, and I realized he was right,” Cameron recalls. “We are asking too much.”

Citing an exit poll given in 2013 to Apprentices who quit the fraternity, more than half of the respondents said the time commitment was too much for them. Looking for a way forward, Cameron figures “not less is more, but maybe ‘less often, but more intense’ is more.”

Fellow Canadian Joseph Hatcher, of Winnipeg, intrigues with his title “The Kaleida Code.” In this article, the writer leads us through a small local church where “Masonic symbolism from the nineteenth century also abounds.” Near the village of Kaleida stands an Anglican Church erected in 1892 and originally named St. Mary’s, in honor of the English origins of the family of Bro. William Winram, a historical figure in Manitoba. This church’s cornerstone was laid with full Masonic pageant, and its design, says Hatcher, is laden with Masonic symbolism. That cornerstone, and an arched gateway, and Masonic symbols on headstones in the cemetery are obvious clues, but there are others perhaps apparent only to the initiated eye. You’ll want to read his findings to see what he means.

In biography, Bro. Billy Hamilton of Fort Worth Lodge 148 in Texas writes of Bro. John M. Allen, a considerable man of action indeed. He served in the Navy, then fought for Greece in its war for independence, was present at the death of Byron(!), then fought for the independence of Texas, and played a seminal role in bringing Freemasonry into Texas from Louisiana. I’m tired just from typing that, but the story doesn’t end anywhere close to there. Allen was the first mayor of Galveston, a charter member of the first lodge there—Harmony 6—and was a prominent businessman. A mysterious conflict that involved Masonic jurisprudence arose caused by political divisions of the city, and charges were brought against Allen. What happened? Join the Masonic Society and read all about it!

There’s a lot more for your education and enjoyment. Bro. Raul Sarmiento, also of Texas, writes of “Alchemy in Masonry.” Bro. Alan Schwartz of Illinois treats us to “Conceptual Metaphors in Masonry.” Bro. Brendan Hickey of Pennsylvania submits for your approval “That Good Men Do Something: A Defense of Freemasonry.”

Standard features round out the book. Editor-in-Chief Michael Poll exhorts Master Masons to make absolutely certain they are achieving a thorough and diverse Masonic education. “We should objectively examine ourselves to find our weak spots and do the work necessary to improve in Masonry wherever needed,” he explains. “If, however, we feel that we have learned all that can be learned and need no further education, then I suggest we start over at the beginning of our studies.”

How often does anyone tell you something like that?!

In the “Masonica in Review” feature, we introduce Bro. Michael Moran of Pennsylvania: the new book reviewer. Reviews of useful books and podcasts follow. In pictorials, Bro. Greg Knott takes us across the Golden Gate Bridge, and Bro. John Bridegroom’s “Masonic Treasures” on the back cover decodes a highly illustrated jewel from an invitational order appended to the York Rite.

Stop depriving yourself! Join the Masonic Society. Click here to get started.

Monday, January 20, 2020

‘Joppa Lodge singing, performing, and informing’

Today is Martin Luther King Day, an apt time to tell you about Joppa Lodge 55’s upcoming special event. From the publicity:

Black History Program
Joppa Lodge 55, PHA
Saturday, February 22
3 to 5 p.m.
Masonic Temple
454 West 155th Street
New York City

Please join the Brothers of Joppa Lodge 55 as we have our annual Black History Program in our 100th year of existence. The Brothers of Joppa will be singing, performing, and informing.

This event is free of charge and open to the public. Make reservations here. We ask only that you bring one toiletry, which will be donated to a homeless shelter.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

‘Washington’s birthday bash at DeWint House’

Magpie file photo
DeWint House historical site in Tappan, New York.

New York Freemasonry will commemorate the birthday of Bro. George Washington with an event at DeWint House next month.

DeWint House is the historical site in Tappan, owned and operated by Grand Lodge, that served as Gen. Washington’s headquarters several times during the Revolutionary War.

For Sunday, February 16, the George Washington Historical Site at Tappan Committee has planned a celebration featuring entertainment by the Sons of Liberty Living History Organization.

DeWint House is located at 20 Livingston Street. Start time is 1 p.m. Attire: casual. Light collation to follow. Snow date: TBD.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

‘Bro. Homer’s silver anniversary’


Courtesy Gracie Films/20th Century Fox Television

“Why won’t those stupid idiots let me into their crappy club for jerks?”

Homer J. Simpson

Somehow this anniversary slipped past me. It was 25 years ago—on January 8, 1995—when Homer Simpson was initiated into the Stonecutters and was hailed as The Chosen One!

I know the feeling.

IMDB offers insight into how this episode (No. 12 of Season 6) came about:

Although the episode was written by John Swartzwelder, the story was suggested by David Mirkin. Mirkin did not have enough time to write the episode and asked Swartzwelder to do it. Mirkin came up with the idea while driving home from a rewrite early in the morning and listened to a religious radio station where they were talking about Freemasonry. Mirkin decided it would make a great episode, where everyone in Springfield was a member of a Masonic society and Homer was left on the outside and felt neglected.

The Stonecutters are a parody of the Freemasons. The Freemason symbol of the Square and Compass can be seen on the walls of the Stonecutter Hall, and on the Sacred Parchment. All members of both societies are men.

The legible words on the Sacred Parchment are a line taken from Publius Vergilius Maro: Aeneid, book 2, line 774: obstipui steteruntque comae et vox faucibus haesit

The translation is “I was dumbstruck, (my) hair stood up and (my) voice was stuck in (my) throat.” Fleeing the burning Troy, Aeneas has lost his wife, Creusa, and is about to look for her when her shadow appears and talks to him. In line 774 he describes his sensations when seeing this shadow. There does not seem to be a reason why the makers chose this line.

Regular Springfield characters shown to be Stonecutters: Lenny, Carl, Moe, Dr. Hibbert, Burns, Smithers, Grampa (Abe Simpson), Jasper, Herman, Principal Skinner, Mayor Quimby, Chief Wiggum, Leopold (Superintendant Chalmers’ Assistant), Krusty, Kent Brockman, Apu, Barney, and of course, Homer, after his initiation. Barney is never actually seen wearing Stonecutter robes, but he is seen working at the Stonecutters’ daycare center.

The song We Do was not included in the original script and was suggested by Matt Groening. It was written by the writers’ room, who threw in as many things that annoyed them as they possibly could.

When Homer is being paddled for initiation into the Stonecutters, he mentions The Wreck of the Hesperus, a poem by Longfellow published in 1842.

Courtesy Gracie Films/20th Century Fox Television

So popular is this episode, it inspired a line of action figures!

Available from Amazon: The Homer Stonecutter
action man with paraphernalia.

And Number One.

And, in the quotations department:

Marge: Homer, a man who called himself “you-know-who” just invited you to a secret “wink-wink” at the “you-know-what.” You certainly are popular now that you’re a Stonecutter.

Homer: Oh, yeah. Beer busts, beer blasts, keggers, stein hoists, AA meetings, beer night. It’s wonderful, Marge. I’ve never felt so accepted in all my life. These people looked deep within my soul and assigned me a number based on the order in which I joined.

In many Masonic jurisdictions, after a quarter-century, Homer would be a Past Grand Master by now—and many Masonic jurisdictions could do a lot worse!

Grampa Abe Simpson action figure with fez.

‘MMRS meeting dates for 2020’


Maryland Masonic Research Society has five dates scheduled for the year:

Saturday, March 7
Mount Hermon Lodge 179
Hyattsville, Maryland

Saturday, May 2
Naval Lodge 4
Washington, DC

Monday, August 3
Festive Board
Kings Contrivance
Columbia, Maryland

Saturday, October 10
Election of Officers
Location: TBA

Saturday, December 5
Installation of Officers
Grand Lodge of Maryland

Thursday, January 16, 2020

‘Library lecture: Washington’s bicentennial’

Courtesy Coin Trackers
The Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library’s first lecture of the year will bring RW Bro. Bill Maurer to the lectern to present “George Washington and the 1932 Bicentennial.”

That’s Thursday, January 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the library, located on the 14th floor of Masonic Hall (71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan). Photo ID is required to enter the building.

From the publicity:

This month, the Livingston Masonic Library is proud to welcome C.F. William Maurer to speak about George Washington and the celebration of the bicentenary of Washington’s birth in 1932. In addition, he will touch on the contributions of Bro. Sol Bloom, who served as director of the United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission.

C.F. William Maurer, MPS is a Past Master of Athelstane Lodge 839 in Pearl River, New York, and is a dual member of Cincinnati Lodge 3 in Morristown. He is the First Vice President of the library’s Board of Trustees.

Admission is free and is open to the public. Doors open at six o’clock. Book your seat here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

‘Help with this survey on contemplative practices’

Bro. Chuck Dunning, author of Contemplative Masonry, is researching the availability of meditation and similar practices in Masonic meetings. Maybe you could help him.

Complete this survey.

I know you’re out there. When I spoke on this subject five years ago at the Masonic Restoration Foundation in Philly, I was surprised and delighted to see the hands raised when asked who follows a mindfulness exercise, and if it was part of lodge life.

The confidential survey asks only eight questions.

Monday, January 13, 2020

‘Azim’s January social at The Campbell’


And speaking of bars and drinking (see both most recent posts below), Azim “Home of the Mokanna” Grotto will gather for its January social at a place I have wanted to visit for a long time. (I drive everywhere, so I don’t use train stations.)

Inside Grand Central Terminal, in what had been the offices of Roaring Twenties financier John Campbell, is The Campbell—a pretty swank bar.

Wikipedia says between the days of Campbell’s office and The Campbell Bar, the space was used as a jail by the MTA, which might explain Azim’s affinity for the joint.

Enjoy these photos borrowed from all kinds of websites, and resolve to become an Azim Mystic Prophet on Saturday, March 21—National Grotto Day.

Courtesy New York Times