Friday, April 30, 2010

‘Number 8’

Issue No. 8 of The Journal of the Masonic Society is reaching the members of the Society as I type this.

The Journal is a quarterly magazine containing Masonic information written by authors from all over the world. Speculative papers, academic writings, news stories, history, fiction, poetry, great photography, insightful opinion and other editorial elements reviving the golden age of Masonic publishing. Features in the new issue include:

Masonic Week: Let It Snow, by The Editors

The Grand Constitutions of 1786 and the ‘Scottish Rite War,’ by Michael Poll

Restructuring American Freemasonry Part III: The Scottish Rite, by Mark Tabbert

The Seven Liberal Arts & Sciences, by David E. Amstutz

Masonic History Unfolds at Historic Ft. Buford, by Jim Savaloja

The Mystery of Pre-European Freemasonry, by Ron Hartoeben

The Quest by Steve Osborn

Here’s Your Hat, What’s Your Hurry? by Roger VanGorden

Masonic Treasures: National Treasure Pipe by Chris Hodapp

A new section: Books, Arts, Styles and Manners, featuring:

Stephen Dafoe’s Morgan: the Scandal that Shook Freemasonry, reviewed by Kevin Noel Olson; Tobias Churton’s The Invisible History of the Rosicrucians: The World’s Most Mysterious Secret Society reviewed by Randy Williams; and Jay Kinney’s The Masonic Myth: Unlocking the Truth About the Symbols, the Secret Rites, and the History of Freemasonry reviewed by Jay Hochberg.

Plus Masonic news, reports of the Masonic Society’s activities at Masonic Week, new by-laws, Fellows for 2010, new advertisers, and more!

This issue’s cover features Solomon Dedicates the Temple at Jerusalem c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902). In the 1890s, Tissot left Paris and traveled extensively in Palestine, where he painted a series of what would become more than 700 watercolors based on the Hebrew Bible and the life of Jesus.

It is impossible for me to be objective about the value of membership in The Masonic Society, so I won't pretend. Since introducing ourselves 24 months ago, membership has grown beyond 1,100. The Journal is a top quality publication that, frankly, has inspired other national Masonic periodicals to revise their own operations by improving content and modernizing style. And a subscription to this magazine is only one of the benefits of membership. Members are granted access to the Society’s on-line forum, where hundreds of Masons from around the globe interact every day, helping each other learn more about our fraternity. As of right now, the Forum is buzzing with 734 members discussing 3,623 topics!

And of course it wouldn’t be a Masonic organization without goodies like pins and membership cards, but the Society cranks up the quality of these items, producing elegant symbols of membership that earn accolades. In addition, each member receives an 11x14 patent, personalized and highly stylized that you’ll want professionally framed. It is a very impressive document, on parchment with a hand-stamped wax seal.

But the true benefit of membership in The Masonic Society is the learning experience. Whether it’s an eye-popping topic in the magazine, or just simple conversation in the forum, there is no end to what a Mason can learn from his brethren in this organization. It’s the best 39 bucks I’ve ever spent in Masonry.

Our new President is Michael Poll, the publisher of Cornerstone Books. Our Editor-in-Chief is Chris ‘Freemasons for Dummies’ Hodapp. And our Directors, Officers and Founders include many leaders in Masonic education, including authors, publishers, curators, lecturers and regular Master Masons like you and me.

Brethren, there is a lot of confusion in the Temple over Freemasonry. ‘Dan Brown this,’ ‘Templar treasure that’ and all kinds of superstitions never should distract the brethren from Truth. The Masonic Society offers one way to uphold Truth with like-minded Masons from all over the world, and have some fun doing it. I hope you’ll check us out.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

2010 AMD Ingathering

The 2010 Harold V.B. Voorhis Ingathering will take place Saturday, July 10 at J. William Gronning Council No. 83 in Freehold (Olive Branch Lodge No. 16), New Jersey.

Registration and refreshments at 8:30 a.m.

The event will begin at 9 o'clock with the presentation of papers.

Lunch will be served.

In the afternoon, the St. Lawrence the Martyr Degree will be conferred.

It is NOT necessary to present a paper to participate in the Ingathering. It IS necessary to be an AMD member to attend.

Cost per person: $25.

Each registrant will receive a St. Lawrence the Martyr lapel pin and a Grand Council parchment commemorating the degree conferral.

Papers and other suitable presentations are now being accepted from AMD members for review and possible inclusion in the day's agenda.

Research papers AND speculative writings shall be original works, not previously published, and concerning topics relevant to Freemasonry, its influences, history, rituals, symbolism, philosophy, etc. Powerpoint or other appropriate media presentations are welcome as well.

All proposed presentations shall be submitted to Gronning Council no later than June 1. For details, leave a note in the Comments section of this edition of The Magpie Mason.

The Allied Masonic Degrees is an educational group within the York Rite of Freemasonry. Membership is invitational to Royal Arch Masons.

Those who support Masonic education believe a deeper understanding of Freemasonry nourishes a stronger commitment. This annual event is one of the ways we serve.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

‘Dividing our time’

“…for the more noble and glorious purpose
of dividing our time.”

Earlier this evening, Bro. Aaron made a comment on Facebook about the famous Dudley Masonic Emblem Watch. We’ve all seen one, even if only from a distance. It’s one of those dreamy heirlooms from the 1920s many desire, but few obtain.

The Magpie Mason only gets to look at ’em in museums and other displays.

This beautiful specimen is inside one of the glass display cases in the lodge anteroom at Philanthropic Lodge in Marblehead, Massachusetts. I had the good fortune to visit earlier this month while on my way to Lexington for the symposium.

The card next to the watch reads:

The Dudley Masonic pocket watch is a classic of watch-making excellence. Designed by William Wallace Dudley and manufactured by the Dudly Watch Company of Pennsylvania about 1920-1925, only a few thousand were ever made. The unique design feature of the watch is that Masonic working tools were used as the bridgework to support the gears. The watch had a crystal on the back so the beauty of the internal works could be enjoyed.

There is more to be learned in the ads that marketed this timepiece to the brethren. The September 1926 issue of The Master Mason magazine includes this advertisement:

Generous terms of sale. I wish it listed the retail price. As this edition of The Magpie Mason goes to press, one of these watches is being offered on eBay by a seller in Cape Cod. The bidding currently is at $2,125.99. Interestingly, a seller in Maryland is offering the original paperwork that once must have accompanied an original buyer’s purchase. I wonder if that first owner had responded to the magazine ad.

Speaking of Lexington, there is another pocket watch highly prized by Masons and collectors that is on exhibit at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library: the Arbaco.

Its triangular shape is similar to the Waltham, one of which also can be had on eBay now.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

‘Chapter and chorus’

Still playing catch-up with reporting recent events. It was two weeks ago that Northern New Jersey Chapter of Rose Croix met and hosted a concert by the Men's Chorus of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown. That's our Most Wise Master wearing the red bowtie.

Actually the meeting took place in Morristown too, while our building recovers from the recent flooding.

The choir was excellent. Dividing the concert into two sets, the singers first, and not surprisingly, performed a number of religious pieces before moving into the Masonic music, featuring works by Mozart, Sibelius, and others, including Ignatz Joseph Pleyel, who composed music you may recognize from the Master Mason Degree. The choir concluded the performance with more recent works, jazz standards and show tunes among them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

‘Grand Commander Chic’

The Magpie Mason congratulates Right Eminent Charles "Chic" Cicero upon his installation Saturday as Grand Commander of Knights Templar of Florida. He is well known as one who imparts the wisdom couched within esoterica, not only in Freemasonry, but also in Rosicrucian and Golden Dawn circles, and he's a veteran of several of Rose Circle conferences. Perhaps most importantly, he is married to Tabatha Cicero, a well known esotericist in her own right. Here they are together at the April 2008 Rose Circle Research Foundation conference at the Grand Lodge of New York.
Folks, take my advice and visit the Grand Encampment website each month to read the Grand Commander's messages in the Florida supplement of Knight Templar magazine. You won't regret it, so start now with his May message.

ALR anniversary

Happy Anniversary wishes are in order! On this date in 1931 was held the Constituting Communication of American Lodge of Research under dispensation of the Grand Lodge of New York. (May 21, 1931 was the date of the first Stated Communication held under its own charter.)

The Magpie Mason is still playing catch-up in its reporting of recent events, the March 29 meeting of ALR among them, but before I tell you about that, let me share some ALR-related good news:

  • The lodge's Publications Committee has been revamped by the Worshipful Master, with RW Bill Thomas serving as its new chairman, and the Master, Bro. Henry, Bro. Miller, and myself working together on the next book of transactions, which will go to the printer very soon.
  • And ALR has a new website, one that is not hosted through Grand Lodge's site. Click here.
  • In addition, there is a new Yahoo! Group for discussion of research, events, etc. Click here.
But about the latest meeting.

W. Bro. Uwe Hain presented "German Freemasons in the American Revolutionary War," which recounted the contributions of brethren from Germany... on both sides of the conflict.

That is the work of the lodge, and I'll explain more below but, in lodge business, there are a few announcements to make.

  • Appointed to serve the rest of the year as Secretary Pro Temp, following the retirement of Harvey Eysman,  is none other than Michael Chaplin of Shakespeare Lodge No. 750, The Masonic Society, et al. The lodge extended a vote of thanks to Harvey, a Past Master and Fellow of the lodge who had served as Secretary for 23 years.

  • Under membership, four new Active Members were elected, including Bro. Chaplin, our speaker Bro. Hain, and Bro. Mark Koltko-Rivera.

  • A Special Communication has been called for Wednesday, September 29, when the lodge will meet in Syracuse. Details to be announced.

And in a related matter, Thomas Smith Webb Chapter of Research No. 1798, chartered under the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of New York, has published its first book of transactions. Its contents include "Symbolism, and Freemasonry as a Mystery School" by R.E. Piers A. Vaughan, Grand Principal Sojourner of the Grand Chapter of New York.

But back to Uwe's paper. He did a fine job of identifying the key military personnel from Germany who fought for the American and British causes, and who were Freemasons. The American War of Independence factors heavily in the story of Masonry in the United States, but it also is a component in the histories of Masonry in other countries.

Explaining how as much as one-third of the forces under British command actually were Hessians, the mercenary troops from Germany, he narrowed his focus, for example, to the 3,000 troops from the Braunschweig (Brunswick) region, including nine who would be initiated into the arts and mysteries of Freemasonry in an Irish military lodge, a lodge in which St. Patrick's Lodge No. 4 (Previously No. 8) has roots.

Nicholas Herkimer, of the Mohawk Valley area of New York (where there has been a village, a town, and a county named for him since 1788) would fight both for and against the British, but in both instances fighting for sovereignty. In the 1750s, during the French and Indian War (Seven Years War), Herkimer fought on the British side, against the invaders, but when the Revolution began, he quickly became a brigadier general of Colonial militia in his native area. He was made a Mason in St. Patrick's Lodge during peacetime in 1768.

Also on the side of American independence, of course, were the giants of history, like Baron von Steuben, the Prussian general staff officer under Frederick the Great, credited with creating the Continental Army by instilling the training and discipline the troops had lacked. He was a member of Trinity Lodge No. 10 (now No. 12) and later affiliated with Holland No. 8both in New York.

And there is Baron DeKalb, the native of Bavaria who served under the French flag, under LaFayette, and became a major general in the Continental Army. He died of wounds sustained during the fighting at Camden, South Carolina in 1780. He funeral was a Masonic obsequy, officiated by none other than Gen. Charles Cornwallis, commander of the British forces in the south.

Of course there is much more information and many more details in the paper itself, which will be published in a forthcoming book of transactions of the lodge.

The next Stated Communication of the lodge will be Friday, October 29 at Masonic Hall in Manhattan. On the agenda thus far is the Magpie Mason, delivering "An Emblem of a Pure Heart: An Aromatic Editorial," which discusses the Pot of Incense as a Masonic symbol. I hope I'm only an opening act for someone better.

‘New Perspectives’

Scores of scholars and their supporters descended on the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library in Lexington, Massachusetts last Friday to take part in the institution’s first academic symposium. Titled “New Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism,” the event attracted students of Freemasonry from across the nation and abroad, seven of whom were selected to present papers: Jessica Harland-Jacobs, Associate Professor of History at the University of Florida; Hannah M. Lane, Assistant Professor of History at Mount Allison University; Nicholas Bell, Curator at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum; David Bjelajac, Professor of Art History at George Washington University; Ami Pflugrad-Jackisch, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Michigan-Flint; Kristofer Allerfeldt of Exeter University; and Adam Kendall, of the Grand Lodge of California’s Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry.

The subjects broached by the lecturers varied from how best to analyze Masonic history to the socio-economic significance of lodge membership in the nineteenth century, to the works of Masons in the fine arts, to American Masonry’s struggles against the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. Approximately sixty scholars and other supporters of Masonic education made this inaugural event a great success. It may become a bi-annual tradition.

From left: Adam Kendall, Collections Manager at the Grand Lodge of California’s Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry; Kristofer Allerfeldt of Exeter University; and John L. Palmer, Editor of Knight Templar magazine. Both Kendall and Allerfeldt presented papers on American Freemasonry and the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s, outlining the struggles of the grand lodges of California and Kansas to resist Klan infiltration of the Craft, and to contain the KKK within society at large.

Steven C. Bullock of Worcester Polytechnic Institute and author of Revolutionary Brotherhood, and Dr. Andreas Onnerfors, Director of the University of Sheffield's Centre for Research into Freemasonry were among the scholars in attendance.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

‘A walk in the park’

Thanks to limited internet access (long story), The Magpie Mason has been mostly offline for about four weeks, so let me try to catch up. There is a lot of good news to report, from the March 29 meeting of The American Lodge of Research to a recent Rose Croix event, to the first symposium hosted by the AASR-NMJ, and more.

But first, a walk in the park.

Unseasonably warm and glorious weather embraced the New York City area at the start of the month, and so on Sunday the fourth I budgeted some time to enjoy a leisurely stroll around the campus of my alma mater, an area I frequented before and well after matriculation. Truthfully there is no campus (or at least that is how it’s explained in the annual crime statistics report), it’s called Greenwich Village.

I brought the camera, looking for sights and sites discernible to the initiated eye.

Washington Square Park now is in Phase II of a total reconstruction project that will erase the intent of its original landscape architect, and leave the Village with something that, frankly, no one asked for.

But there is still its world famous Arch. The Washington Square Arch. It has George Washington. It marks the square. It is an arch. Pretty Masonic, eh?

Dual likenesses of George Washington face the oncoming traffic headed down Fifth Avenue. At left, Washington the warrior. Right, Washington the statesman. And Washington is not the only Freemason in the park. Toward the east side, but facing the interior of the park is Giuseppe Garibaldi.


Grand Master Garibaldi, of course, is remembered as the George Washington of Italy. You can read a little more about him here.

Not far from that statue is a bust of Alexander Lyman Holley, an artificer in steel and other metals. Don't know if he was a Mason, and it's hard to figure out why he was honored with a statue here, but here he has stood since 1890. Some info about him and his statue can be read here. I'm including him in The Magpie mostly because this is a good shot of the bust's head:

Nearby, appropriately enough in La Guardia Gardens, is the landmark statue of Bro. Fiorello La Guardia erected in 1994 after the city decided against ruining the neighborhood by building an expressway that in effect would have extended Fifth Avenue to TriBeCa. There is irony in that, because it was Mayor La Guardia who appointed Robert Moses. Anyway, Bro. La Guardia was mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945. There is a lodge in Staten Island named for him.

Statues are not the only representations of peoples' faces in the neighborhood. A number of buildings are adorned with various Green Men, gargoyles, and assorted physiognomonic renderings in stone, wood, and even terra cotta. To wit:

As above: The Muse of Art.
So below: The Muse of Music.

Both date to approximately 1880, but were added to the frontage of one of the university's buildings on Washington Square East decades later, after being rescued by the Anonymous Arts Recovery Society from their original home before it was demolished.

Above: Around the corner, a little closer to Broadway, is this terra cotta Green Man.

Below: On Broadway, towering over Shakespeare & Co. Book Sellers, is this friendly fellow. (The bookstore had no Masonic titles on its shelves.) Sorry for the blur. I had to zoom in from the sidewalk across the street, and he is more than five stories up.

Coincidentally, the university's main bookstore displayed this book in its window. Note the Beehive. In the words of Bro. John Priede: "I will add this to my bookshelf."

A few doors to the north on Broadway is this structure, dating to 1860. Plenty of eyes staring down at you.

A close-up of the fellow near the top floor.
Note his neighbors, especially at lower right.

Columns, and arches, and keystones!

Left: The Fleur de Lis is a familiar symbol. Right: Note the Cornucopia. Both are found on university buildings on Washington Place.

Copper or bronze menorah on the front of Hebrew Union College.

The Torch of Liberty, or the Light of Knowledge? The NYU emblem's origins are somewhat obscure, but what I like is the choice of gold inlaid into granite or... New York neon!

Judson Church is fancifully adorned with complicated stonework.

Headed west, there are residential and commercial sites worth a look.

What a shade of green! 121 MacDougal Street.
Note the face in the keystone.

And across the street is perhaps the only jewelry store you could ever find me in. C'est Magnifique makes and sells all manner of silver rings and other pieces, most are highly unusual and many are symbolic. I rarely wear my Masonic rings, but when I do, it is the simple silver one I bought here in 1999. They also have antique pieces, and what I love most about the place is its dusty, pawn shop-like atmosphere. Unfortunately the place was closed today. Note the All Seeing Eye in the triangle.

Land of Buddha, at 128 MacDougal, specializes in the arts and crafts of Tibet: silver, gemstones, rugs, prayer wheels, clothing, silks, antiques, books, and more. Note the hexagram at bottom.

And now we're getting somewhere. Exiting the Washington Square Park area from the west, and headed south, we find one of my Manhattan hideouts. A favorite place to sit down with a book and a cigar on a sunny day: Sir Winston Churchill Square.

So small and cleverly situated you would never know it was there, this tiny (0.5-acre) neighborhood park  is missed by everyone except for those who live in the area. There is only one statue (or sculpture), and it is an interesting one.

An armillary is an astronomical device comprised of many moving rings and pieces that recreate the changes of the heavens. No moving parts on this sculpture, but note the astrological signs on the interior ring.

The view through its center.

A big part of the Giuliani Revolution in the 1990s was the largely successful elimination of the seedy businesses in the city, including the retailers of drug paraphernalia. The mayor didn't get them all, and needless to say nine years after he left office these stores are reappearing in numbers. There are about half a dozen of them practically next to each other on Sixth Avenue near Bleecker Street. Walking past one of them, my eye was caught by the unmistakable Square and Compasses. Halted by surprise and dread, I stopped in my tracks and took a look.

Belt buckles. Two at top left and another, upside down, at bottom right. All mixed together with glass bongs and that gas mask smoking device. Great, huh? (And no, the proprietors were not interested in removing the belt buckles.)