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.

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