Sunday, February 28, 2010

‘Masonic Week 2010: Order of Knight Masons’

Masonic Week 2010: Order of Knight Masons

With only minutes remaining in February – and having just completed a conference call with several Magpie readers clamoring for more information and photos – I want to quickly finish my coverage of Masonic Week 2010, get it over with, and resume forgetting about what a forgettable week it was.

The Grand Council of Knight Masons of the United States met Friday morning (this is February 13) for its annual meeting, with Great Chief’s Council “0” as well.

Grand Council’s officer line for 2010 is:

M.E. Great Chief Edward P. Fagan, Jr.
R.E. Deputy Great Chief C. Michael Watson
R.E. Grand Senior Knight Kevin B. Sample
R.E. Grand Junior Knight Kenneth B. Fischer
R.E. Grand Scribe Douglas L. Jordan
R.E. Grand Treasurer Malcolm R. Holley, Jr.
V.E. Grand Senior Warden David Lee Hargett, Jr.
V.E. Grand Junior Warden Matthew D. Dupee
V.E. Grand Director of Ceremonies Andre E. Lovas
V.E. Grand Priest D. Allen Surratt
V.E. Grand Steward William R. Miller
V.E. Grand Sentinel Joseph S. Crociata
Ex. Grand Musician Chris M. Jessen
Chief of Great Chief’s Council 0 Bryce Hildreth

Our new Most Excellent Great Chief is Edward P. Fagan, Jr. of New York. Turned out our hotel rooms were across from each other, so we walked together to the meeting, chatting about mutual acquaintances. I had no idea he was about to be installed, so in retrospect it was a funny encounter. Seems like a good guy. Past Master of American Lodge of Research, where I’m becoming more active. I’m sure my council (Northern New Jersey No. 10) will host him for an Official Visit before long. We typically get the Great Chief of the USA to stop by during his year in office.

M.E. Dennis N. Zier, at far right, greets those Past Great Chiefs of Grand Councilwho were able to attend the meeting on February 13.

Not that this is doing him any favors, but I salute the valiant Cousin who arose during this meeting to try to present some New Business. Maybe I am the only one unpleasantly surprised to learn there is no New Business budgeted into the agenda of this annual meeting, but is it really possible there can be no New Business in a meeting convened once a year? Is that right? Is that Masonry?

I don’t even know what the man wanted to say, but he mentioned “Good Ol’ Boys,” so I would guess he might be displeased by the insular world of Masonic Week, where the same officers appoint the same officers to high offices, and never have to explain why – because there is no New Business at the meetings. He asked that he be allowed to speak at next year’s meeting.

Please don’t let him down, M.E. Fagan. The Good Ol’ Boys won’t melt if they hear a question from the floor.

At Great Chief’s Council 0 (zero), candidates for initiation
into the Order of Knight Masons await the Obligation.

Matthew Dupee, Edward Fagan, and Dennis Zier moments
before Fagan’s installation as Great Chief of the United States.

Friday, February 26, 2010

‘Letter to the Editor’

A letter to the editor in yesterday’s Washington Times cannot escape comment.

First, the letter:

Originally published 5 a.m., February 25, 2010, updated 11 a.m., February 25, 2010

Reject Freemason-led
church, state separation

Freemasons should not be allowed to open a bureau in Brussels to lobby against religious organizations in European Union institutions. Leading Freemasons and critics of Freemasonry agree in substance that Freemasonry promotes a total worldview of early gnosticism, as it has been carried to the modern period, especially by the kabbalah and theosophy.

This is an atheism that attempts to encompass everything in a notion of universal brotherhood or cosmic harmony without the true God. It combines an appeal to spiritual ideals like freedom, fraternity and equality with the imposition of a materialistic pragmatism that reaches both the political order and all elements of private life. It most commonly has attempted to present itself as a deism that all reasonable men supposedly would accept. However, like the historical phenomenon of deism in general, it appeals to reason and teaches that God is the Great Architect, who supposedly created the world but then left it for reasonable men to run. It denies reason’s ability to reach knowledge of the natural moral law and reduces all to a mystical/pragmatic imposition of laws by reasonable men.

In pursuit of its basic project of transforming society into a secular state and undoing its Christian traditions, Freemasonry has enlisted Protestants and Jews to forge a notion of separation of church and state that eventually will undo laws and policies sustaining basic moral law, especially in relation to marriage, sexuality and abortion.

Paul Kokoski
Hamilton, Ontario

Where does a Magpie Mason begin?

Let me explain that by “bureau in Brussels,” the letter-writer is reacting to political activity undertaken by one member of one Masonic organization who got some publicity last week with his grandstanding. Jean-Michel Quillardet is a past grand master of what is called the Grand Orient of France, one of the very few Masonic bodies that allow atheists to join, a choice it made in the 1870s. Because of that change of rules, the GOF has been alienated from what one might call the “mainstream” of Freemasonry, and therefore neither M. Quillardet nor the GOF has any authority to speak for the millions of Freemasons in the United States, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere around the globe whose lodges welcome only those who believe in a Supreme Being. (How Masons define “Supreme Being” for themselves is their business, and not the fraternity’s.)

It is unfortunate that M. Quillardet ties his political activity to his Masonic life. I suggest he join a political party that reflects his views, and stop dishonoring Freemasonry with his public foolishness.

M. Quillardet’s publicity appears in the February 18 reportage of the EU Observer:

Freemasons keen to open office
in EU capital

18.02.2010 @ 09:41 CET

A French freemason has said that part of the movement is keen to open a bureau in Brussels to lobby against the rising influence of religious organisations in the EU institutions.

“The Masonic orders should practice politics in the positive sense of the term: So that despite their own partisan divisions, they speak out on the side of secularism and voice their disagreement with this or that governmental or European decision,” Jean-Michel Quillardet, the former Grand Master of the Grand Orient de France, told Belgian daily Le Soir in an interview out on Wednesday (17 February).

He said that Masonic lodges in Europe remain divided on the subject, with some more “shy” than others of attracting publicity by opening an office in the EU capital. But he added that practical problems are more important than the divisions and sketched out an agenda for the future outfit.

“I think we will one day manage to create a general Masonic delegation, for the sake of free-thinking in the European institutions. It’s possible politically. It’s less possible at the financial level, as we have infinitely smaller resources than the churches,” Mr Quillardet explained.

The mason said that the Brussels bureau’s first task would be to promote the idea of citizenship:

“It is necessary to impose the universal idea of the Enlightenment, which consists of the notion that people are citizens and European citizens before being Jewish, black, Maghreb, homosexual, heterosexual.”

Mr. Quillardet explained that the Grand Orient de France has already created a cell which attempts to bring together all the lodges in Europe.

In 2007 it organized a pan-European Masonic congress in Strasbourg, with subsequent meetings in 2008 and 2009 in Greece and Turkey. The 2010 event is to be in Portugal.

He added that in 2008 European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso for the first time met with delegates from a group of lodges including his own and in the same year wrote a letter to the international congress in Athens.

“We told him that apart from its Christian roots, Europe owed much to Greek and Roman philosophy, Renaissance humanism and the Enlightenment. We obtained representation for Masonic orders and for groups which defend secularism in Bepa,” he said, in reference to the Bureau of European Policy Advisers, a high-level policy analysis unit in the EU commission.

The Barroso letter was “for us a recognition on the intellectual landscape,” Mr Quillardet explained.

True Freemasonry is a spiritual order that allows its members to decide sectarian religious matters for themselves. Atheism not only is not accepted in the “mainstream” of the fraternity, it is entirely antithetical to Freemasonry, the teachings of which encourage Masons to frame their every thought and deed in the context of service to deity, neighbor, and self.

‘The new AQC is here!’

Courtesy Aspen Film Society

Ars Quatuor Coronatorum is here! And perfect timing too, with a fresh foot or so of snow on the ground, there’s plenty of time to light up some Christmas Cheer and read.

The book of course contains the annual transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, edited by Bro. John Wade. It is available to members of QCCC, so sign up today.

This is Vol. 121 for 2008. I am especially looking forward to Bro. Robert Davis’ “The Communication of Status: An Essential Function of Masonic Symbols,” and Bro. Trevor W. McKeown’s “An Historical Outline of Freemasons on the Internet.”

An amateur blogger and moderator of a number of Masonic Yahoo! Groups™ myself, I couldn’t resist quickly scanning McKeown’s paper before reading it. It was fun to see:

One notable group, created by Josh Heller on 8 May 2000, provided the inspiration for The Temple That Never Sleeps.”

And it is nice to see friends Bessel, Blaisdell, Hodapp, Poll, and others mentioned for their hard work over the years.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

‘Bling and things, Part II’

Masonic Week 2010: Cejalvo

Next to the display of Toye USA’s regalia and jewelry was Bro. John von Blauch representing his family business Cejalvo which, among other things, is the court jeweler of Spain’s royal family. There is no point in comparing and contrasting the two firms’ manufacturing prowess; both will make anything a client desires, and do so in ways that will induce irregular heartbeats. But Bro. John’s display was not only different from Toye USA’s, it was exotic for the one-of-a-kind pieces piled atop each other, with more being added every time John found something else in his pockets. Antiques, commemoratives, heirlooms, custom pieces, historical items, glorious golds, dazzling diamonds, seductive silvers – it was a crazy menagerie of familiar Masonic items alongside many delightfully improbable sights.

I will not attempt to identify most of the items you are about to see. Bro. John patiently described most of them, but it’s been a couple of weeks, and I forgot most of what he said.

Above: A variety of beautiful collars and sashes of different Masonic orders. The green of course belongs to the Allied Masonic Degrees. The two black sashes are Kadosh regalia of the Scottish Rite, and the white collar is for the 31° of the AASR.

Right: Thanks to its red lining, this Knight of Malta robe has a supernatural presence in the sunlight! (Purely coincidental, I think, that it seemingly hangs on a cross.)

Above: Rose Croix and 33° regalia.

Above left: This sublime heartbreaker in pewter tone is a commemorative medal issued by the United Grand Lodge of England to those brethren who served in the First World War. Right: There was a great story behind that gold Level. Damned if I can remember. (Two months of insomnia is driving me to madness.)

Above left: The Pentagrammaton.

Above right: A locket from 1901 issued by UGLE’s Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution.

The jewel in the center is an English Royal Arch piece. It was made about 30 years ago for a VIP, replete with real diamonds. At the bar Wednesday morning for our first round of drinks together, John passed this around. I would say it weighs about three ounces.

Above: A ring purportedly owned by Daniel Coxe.
Below: the sides of the ring.

For one of the higher ranks in the Royal Order of Eri
in the Allied Masonic Degrees.

When the Masonic apron is presented to the Apprentice, it is explained that the ritual garment is “more ancient than the Golden Fleece.” This is not a reference to Greek mythology. It is mention of an order of knighthood created in the 15th century by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy and the Netherlands.

It still exists, and this is what they wear:

Again, I have to apologize for the quality of some of these photos. Bro. John’s tables were shaded by curtains, so the sunlight/shadows were not as problematic as with the shots of Toye USA (see below). The foil this time is glass. John told me a dozen times to just lift the lids of the display cases, but I wasn’t comfortable futzing around with the goods. “You break it, you buy it” came to mind!

Bro. Michael Seay and Bro. John von Blauch.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

‘Bling and things’

Masonic Week 2010: Toye USA

The generous and gracious underwriter of what was to be The Art of Initiation is Toye USA, the brand new subsidiary of Toye, Kenning & Spencer, Ltd., maker of jewels and regalia for the British royal family for the past 325 years.

With a sizable display staffed by Michael Seay and Charles Toye himself, the firm introduced itself to the American Masonic market. Michael can be reached at:

Bro. John and Bro. Christopher check out the goods at Toye USA’s display at Masonic Week 2010 earlier this month. (More on Bro. John and his wares tomorrow.) And yes, that is a miter in the background!

I have bad news for the existing suppliers of Masonic regalia and supplies: Toye USA is going to clobber you. Macoy, Simpson, Klitzner, Luther, LAFSCO – all of you – have been selling inferior goods at premium prices for years, but now you have a competitor who will take your clientele away by delivering beautiful products at competitive prices. Oh, and their wares are manufactured in Britain, not China.

The photos speak for themselves:

As above: The Master Mason apron frequently seen in lodges in Britain, and increasingly in the United States, in lodges that are allowed to choose their own regalia without a uniformity mandated by their grand lodges. The brethren of John’s Lodge No. 1 in New York City wear this apron.

So below: Another such lodge is Lodge Vitruvian No. 767 in Indianapolis, Indiana, which adopted several characteristics of the European Concept movement. Note the officer collar as well. (Sorry for the shadow. Unavoidable, thanks to the nearby window.)

As above: The English Royal Arch grand rank apron. Also seen elsewhere in the English-speaking Masonic world. Please do not think that Toye provides only English regalia. They specialize in bespoke craftsmanship, and will make your regalia according to your specifications.

So below: You didn’t think I’d miss the 18° apron of Rose Croix, did you?

Two aprons – Top: Mark Master Mason. Bottom: Royal Ark Mariner.

Collars, clockwise from right: Rose Croix, Kadosh & another Rose Croix.
Below: Close-up shot of Knight Kadosh collar.

Above: A variety of Ark Mariner, Order of Secret Monitor, Royal Arch,
Rose Croix, Royal Order of Scotland and other interesting specimens.

Above and below: Assortments of breast jewels and badges.

Toye USA makes custom pieces for lodges. Above: Publicity Lodge No. 1000 in New York City commissioned these jewels and cufflinks for its members. Mounted on the card at top are lapel pins in the style worn by the Masonic Rosicrucians: a simple round pin on a protruding rosette. Red is for Independent Royal Arch Lodge No. 2, and orange is for Holland Lodge No. 8, both in the First Manhattan District of the Grand Lodge of New York.

As above: Cufflinks in the blue of Craft Masonry.
So below: The rainbow of Royal Ark Mariner.

Actually, these photos do not speak well for themselves. The lighting was impossible, due to the display tables being set next to the windows, resulting in all kinds of shadows and yellow glare. And besides, one truly must hold these objects. There is a tactile pleasure to be enjoyed. The weight of the metals, and the lustre of their colors and enameling. The thickness of fabrics, and intricacies of embroidery. The faithfulness to symbols, and creativity of designs. Really wonderful.

P.S.     I hate the word bling. Hate it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

‘National Brotherhood Week’

There used to be a society named the National Conference for Community and Justice (regional organizations remain today), which managed to advance a cause resulting in the third week of February being designated National Brotherhood Week. In retrospect, with the irony and detachment so affordable in 2010 with our precisely crafted à la carte “holidays” and postage stamps patronizing persons and causes of dubious merits and tribal identities, it’s so innocent. But irony is timeless. More than 40 years ago, the great Tom Lehrer held up this annual celebration to the cold gray light of human nature.

Take it away, Maestro:

Couldn’t let the third week of February come to a close without a salute to the ideals of National Brotherhood Week. Have a great weekend! Magpie coverage of Masonic Week 2010 will resume next week.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

‘Scottish Rite, PHA style’

Tuesday night was a memorable one for Northern New Jersey Chapter of Rose Croix on the occasion of the visit of Ill. John Bettis, 33º, Grand Inspector General and 2nd Lt. Commander of the Council of Deliberation, Orient of New Jersey, A&ASR, PHA. But don’t let the lengthy titles fool you; John is one of the most down to earth men in Freemasonry.

He spoke for about 90 minutes on history, customs, usages, and other aspects of Prince Hall Scottish Rite Masonry. I wish it could have gone on a little bit longer because I wanted to ask him to describe his jurisdiction’s methods of working degrees. I think there is a lot that our PHA brethren can teach us. But what he did reveal was, I trust, enlightening to his audience. For example, the rituals and the degree structure of the Prince Hall United Supreme Council Northern Jurisdiction closely resemble those of the Mother Supreme Council. In fact, the PHA brethren are closer to the original model than we are.

And while this might be an apt time to quip about our Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s “George Washington Degree,” and the often lamented absence of orthodoxy it represents, allow me to share Ill. Bettis’ explanation of his jurisdiction’s 20º, which he said includes a section titled “The Light of Patriotism,” with ritual that places Bro. Washington and Bro. Prince Hall together in discussion on the rights of free men of color to bear arms and fight in the Revolutionary War which, in turn, led to a historical point. In 1812, when British forces were preparing to assault Philadelphia, approximately 3,000 men of color assembled at the port to defend their city. A reporter asked if former slaves really were going to defend the nation, to which W. Bro. Richard Allen said “This land, which is made by our tears and our blood, is our mother land.”

Bettis opened some eyes with his talk of W. Allen. He is the father of the African Methodist Episcopal Church movement, as well as a founding father of Prince Hall Masonry. “In the African-American community, the two oldest institutions are the AME church and Prince Hall Masonry,” Bettis said. “Wherever an AME church was founded, a Masonic lodge went with it.”

He covered a lot in an hour and a half, more than can be repeated here. But he does want everyone to know that on May 13, the Prince Hall Conference of Grand Masters will meet in Boston, at which time the Prince Hall Monument at Cambridge Common will be dedicated, and where the original charter of African Lodge No. 459 will be temporarily removed from its home in a bank vault, and placed on display.

The Magpie News Service hopes to cover that event.

Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis

Masonic Week 2010: The Rosicrucians

The High Council Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis (Rosicrucian Society of the United States) met on Thursday.

From left: Thurman, Marcel, Rob, David, X, and Billy.

Left: Tony Clifton.
Right: David Dixon Goodwin, IX°, GC, Junior Deputy Supreme Magus.

Grand Archivist David Lindez, IX°, GC
and Sean Graystone, IX°, Third Acolyte.

Left: Thurman C. Pace, Jr., Past Supreme Magus.
Right: Aaron Shoemaker, IX°, Director of Ceremonies.

David with Supreme Magus William H. Koon II, IX°, KGC.

David D. Goodwin with X.
(Sorry for the blur. I shot this from very far away.)

Richard Van Doren, left, with Thurman C. Pace, Jr.