Tuesday, August 31, 2010

‘The Magpie Has Landed’

(With apologies to Ill. Jake!)

Magpie readers, as this edition of The Magpie Mason goes to press, I am not at my computer, but actually am seated inside the Philadelphia Academy of Music among a class of about 150 Scottish Rite Freemasons about to receive the Thirty-Third and Last Degree of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.

There is a lot to say about this experience (and of course a lot I’m enjoined not to say), but I’ll state only that the past three days here in Philadelphia have been unlike anything else I have experienced in my 13 years in Freemasonry. Yeah, it’s clichéd to say “This is unlike anything I’ve ever…” but this is really unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in Masonry, and I have seen a lot.

Members of The Masonic Society will read more about this in the next edition of The Journal, for which I am jotting down notes, shooting many photos, and generally attempting to document what a candidate for the 33° witnesses in the events leading to the ceremony. This is not an exposé of the ritual of course, but is a description of the many fraternal and very exoteric aspects of the Annual Meeting of Supreme Council. In my experience, the details of these yearly adventures often get lost when brethren return home and share news and anecdotes about the week. I’ll do my best to share an “inside view” of how it looks inside the eye of this hurricane of happenings.

The ritual itself? Written in the 1950s by New Jersey’s own Harold Van Buren Voorhis – before he himself was coroneted! – it definitely is a ritual of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, if you know what I mean.

Monday, August 30, 2010

‘The Book of the Words & Esoterika’


If you need a gift idea for the Scottish Rite Freemason who has everything, might I suggest a gorgeous edition of indispensable AASR literature, bound by hand in leather, only recently published by Restoration Books? Choose either Esoterika or Sephir H’debarim (The Book of the Words), priced at $375 per volume. Of course there’s nothing stopping you from buying both, for a total of $750. Fully insured shipping and handling are included in the price.

Esoterika and The Book of the Words both were authored by Albert Pike. The former is his interpretation of the ritual and symbols of the three Craft degrees (with some humorous commentary on traditional Anglo interpretation of the degrees, and on the state of Masonic education in the 1880s). Restoration Book’s new printing is a recreation of the original production of the single volume of Esoterika that Pike had published and archived at the Mother Supreme Council. This title was resuscitated by Ill. Arturo de Hoyos, who edited and had it published for members of the Scottish Rite Research Society about five years ago. This title, in a more “normal” hardcover printing, is available at the A&ASR’s bookstore for a modest sum.

The Book of the Words is a dizzying historical and etymological exploration of esoteric words of Scottish Rite Masonry. No surprise that Pike, as he did in Morals and Dogma, pioneers what we today term comparative religious study, and of course there is plenty of ancient religion examined along the way. (Words of caution about Pike’s work in this field: His efforts were limited, naturally, to what was known during his lifetime. Archeology and Egyptology, to name two sciences we take for granted today, were – at best – in embryonic stages. In addition, Hebrew is a language of heavy nuance. What can you expect from the absence of vowels? Always be skeptical of those, Jewish or not, who have not studied the language for a lifetime when they translate and interpret Hebrew, because can get it wrong, especially those with a “believing is seeing” disposition. (When the Magpie Mason took the degree of Anointed High Priest four years ago, he was stunned and appalled that the ritualists could not frame to pronounce the Word of the degree. They’re all fine Masons, but Hebrew is not a Western language that, like Latin, is fairly easily rendered into modern English. Hebrew can be obstructive and crafty, especially in esoteric religious contexts that require structured lifetime study of Torah and Talmud as prerequisites. I’m sure Pike did his best, but some things may have been beyond his abilities or simply out of his hands, so I personally choose to take him with a grain of salt.)

The Book of the Words first was published in 1878 in a run of 100 copies. In 1999, the SRRS reprinted it with additional material and an introduction by Ill. De Hoyos.

Restoration Books says:

Each copy is bound in full navy blue Morocco goatskin with traditional hand-marbled endpapers and a silk ribbon marker. The binding design was painstakingly reproduced from a photograph of the original copy of Esoterika held by the House of the Temple archives, the only variation from the original being the signature of Albert Pike, tooled in gold, on the front cover. All gold tooling and top edge gilding is executed by hand. The Book of the Words will be bound in identical blue Morocco leather in matching style, with the only difference in design being the titling to the spine.

Bro. Arturo De Hoyos has generously offered to sign each copy and include the official foil stamps of the Supreme Council and/or the Scottish Rite Research Society along with the Grand Historian/Archivist Stamps. Each copy of Esoterika and The Book of the Words will also have a beautiful facsimile replica of an official 19th century Supreme Council bookplate tipped into the front of the book, along with a personalized “Ex-Libris” plate with the owner’s name placed below the Supreme Council bookplate.

These hand-bound leather editions of Pike’s Esoterika and The Book of the Words are strictly limited to one hundred signed and hand-numbered sets. These stunning books are sure to become highly collectible heirlooms worthy of being handed down for generations to come. For more information, please visit our project blog.

Restoration Books Bindery & Fine Press unveiled these masterpieces this weekend at the Masonic Restoration Foundation’s first conference, held in Colorado.

All photographs courtesy of Restoration Books Bindery & Fine Press.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

‘Rose Circle and Rose Cross’

The details are being worked out still, but please know that next February the Rose Circle Research Foundation will host another of its world renowned conferences, welcoming to its podium none other than Dr. Christopher McIntosh in celebration of the new publication of his The Rose Cross and the Age of Reason: Eighteenth-Century Rosicrucianism in Central Europe and its Relationship to the Enlightenment in January by SUNY Press in its continuing Western Esoteric Traditions series. The date and location of this event are yet to be determined, but I think we can expect a Saturday afternoon in Manhattan.

First published in 1992, The Rose Cross and the Age of Reason has been heralded as an indispensible text, and has fetched prices in the many hundreds of dollars in the secondhand book market. SUNY Press will offer this title at $80 per copy.

The publisher offers this summary of the revised text:

“This new edition of Christopher McIntosh’s classic book on the Golden and Rosy Cross order is eagerly awaited. The order stands out as one of the most fascinating and influential of the high-degree Masonic and Illuminist groups that mushroomed in Europe from the eighteenth century onward. Active mainly in the German-speaking lands, it recast the original Rosicrucian vision and gave it renewed vitality. At one point it became politically influential when the Prussian King, Frederick William II, was a member of the order. Historians have often perceived the Golden and Rosy Cross as having had a conservative, anti-Enlightenment agenda, but this study – drawing on rare German sources – shows that the matter was more complex. The members of the order practiced alchemy and operated a degree system that was imitated by later orders, such as the Golden Dawn. Like the latter, the Golden and Rosy Cross exerted a wide and enduring cultural influence. Both the alchemy of the order and its powerful ritual system are insightfully described in Christopher McIntosh’s clear and compelling style.

According to Rose Circle:

Christopher McIntosh was born in England in 1943 and grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. He studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford, and German at London University, later returning to Oxford to take a doctorate in history with his dissertation on the Rosicrucian revival in the context of the German Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment. After working in London in journalism and publishing, he spent four years in New York as an information officer with the United Nations Development Program, then moved to Germany to work for UNESCO. In parallel, he has pursued a career as a writer and researcher specializing in the esoteric traditions. His books include The Astrologers and their Creed (1969); Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival (1972); The Rosicrucians (latest edition 1997); The Rose Cross and the Age of Reason (1992), based on his dissertation; The Swan King: Ludwig II of Bavaria (latest edition 2003); and Gardens of the Gods (2005). His fictional work includes the occult novel Return of the Tetrad (1998). He also has a long-standing interest in nature-oriented belief systems. He has lectured widely and is on the faculty of the distance M.A. program in Western Esotericism at the University of Exeter, England. His home is in Bremen, North Germany.

McIntosh is indeed a Freemason, a longtime member of Pilgrim Lodge No. 238 in London. This lodge was founded in 1779 by Germans in London, and still conducts its rituals in German. Read more about it here.
The Magpie Mason also is the publicist of the Rose Circle Research Foundation, and expects to unleash a blizzard of publicity later this year in support of this remarkable event. If you are interested in learning about Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, other esoteric disciplines, or European history, do not miss this conference.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

‘ALR Transactions available now’

The 2008-09 Book of Transactions of American Lodge of Research will be mailed to members soon. Non-members can purchase copies through the publisher.

Previews of the index and first page of the papers are on the links.

To buy the hardcover, click here. To buy the softcover, click here.

There are three meetings of ALR on the calendar for the remainder of 2010. On Wednesday, September 29, there will be a Special Communication held upstate. The Centerville Masonic Center is located at 648 Centerville Pl., in North Syracuse. On the Trestleboard for this Communication is a presentation by RW Pierre F. de Ravel d’Esclapon, Worshipful Master.

Lodge opens at 8 p.m. Attire: business suit. There will be a pre-meeting meal. (Details TBA.)

On Friday, October 29, the lodge returns to Masonic Hall in Manhattan for its next Stated Communication. The Grand Lodge of New York is located at 71 West 23rd St. The lodge meets on the 10th floor, in the French Ionic Room. On the Trestleboard for this Communication is presentation by the Magpie Mason titled “The Emblem of a Pure Heart: The Pot of Incense as a Masonic Symbol.”

Lodge opens at 8 p.m. Attire: business suit. We will dine together informally next door at the Limerick House at 6 p.m.

The final meeting of ALR in 2010 will be the Installation of Officers on Monday, December 27 – St. John’s Day!

For a petition to become a Corresponding Member of ALR, click here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

‘Mother Columbian at 200’

It’s official! The bicentennial celebration of Columbian Council No. 1 of Royal and Select Masters, the Mother Council of the Cryptic Rite of Freemasonry, is scheduled for Friday, September 10 and Saturday, September 11, Illustrious Master William J. Thomas announced today.

On Friday, the celebration dinner will be hosted at the Yale Club, located at 50 Vanderbilt Ave. in Manhattan. Cocktail hour at 6 p.m. Dinner at 7.

Cost per person: $80. Make your check payable to Columbian Council No. 1. For mailing address, contact Secretary Christopher Allen at christopher.l.allen(at)gmail.com

Guest speaker: Ill. S. Brent Morris, 33°.

Attire: Black Tie.

On Saturday, Cryptic Companions have the rare opportunity to receive the Super Excellent Master Degree at Masonic Hall, located at 71 West 23rd St. in Manhattan. Collation to follow. Contact R.I. Allen for the specifics on this event as well.

The Magpie Mason is sorry he cannot attend either event. Friday is the celebration of my own Cryptic Council’s sesquicentennial. Yes, it was in 1860 that both the Grand Council of New Jersey, and Scott Council No. 1 were formed. And the Saturday is a busy day indeed with New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education in the morning, followed by J. William Gronning Council of Allied Masonic Degrees in the evening. There just aren’t enough days in the year!

Graphic courtesy of Jeff at Lodgical.

‘Old Masters Scotch Whisky’

As reported in the Summer issue of The Journal of the Masonic Society, there is a new blended Scotch whiskey named Old Masters, and it is to be exported to the United States next month.

Word comes now that the first shipment is en route... to right here, New Jersey, where the U.S. distributor is based.

At right is the packaging available in the United Kingdom. For the United States however, the bottle will be square, and the cap will be black, according to one comment left yesterday on the Dummies blog.

In an e-mail to the Magpie Mason last month, the U.S. distributor explained that upon arrival of this first shipment, those who have reserved their bottles in advance will be contacted about arranging their purchases. If I’m not mistaken, all purchases will be offered on-line only. To inquire, contact Mr. Richard Lombard-Chibnall, Director of U.S. Sales, at richard.lombard(at)lombardscotchwhisky.com

Here is what the brand’s website says:

Old Masters is a rich blend originally created for the Freemasons and has been carefully chosen from selected grain whiskies and specific Highland and Speyside malts. This is the perfect Masonic Gift for a Mason, Brother, Master or Past Master. If you are a mason to any degree you will appreciate the fantastic picture label on this bottle. This wonderful item would create a fabulous talking point before and after any Lodge meeting or dinner. It would also make a great prize for a Masonic raffle or initiation ceremony. This item is totally unique and original.

This item is not available in any shops and is in limited supply, making it very rare and collectable. This item is now supplied online in a Lombard’s Card Gift Box.

Tasting Notes:

“The perfect nose to experience blindfolded (how else...?) as the depth of the fruit and grain – and their happy intermingling – is astonishing. A few under-ripe gooseberries here. Light, graceful arrival with the early emphasis on a Speyside malt theme before some grain and oak kicks in. Pretty long with touches of cocoa though the fresh malt lingers. A high quality blend that doesn’t stint on the malt. The nose, in particular, is sublime.
92 points.”

Jim Murray,
Whisky Bible 2008

A bottle or two of Old Masters was on hand in The Masonic Society’s hospitality suite during Masonic Week in February, and I had “a quick one.” As the Book of Genesis says, “It is good.” I’m not a fanatic about Scotch whiskey, devoting my taste buds instead to the American whiskies bourbon and rye, while retaining my atavistic fondness for the sweet goodness of certain Irish labels, but I was impressed with this blended Scotch. It’s not the Macallan 18-year-old, but it’s a world apart from Johnnie Red too.


Monday, August 9, 2010

‘Masonic Stamp Club to meet’

From the George Washington Masonic Stamp Club:

The George Washington Masonic Stamp Club will meet Saturday, September 4 during the Baltimore Philatelic Exhibition taking place Labor Day weekend at the Marriott Hunt Valley Inn in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

245 Shawan Rd. in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Phone: (410) 785-7000.

Parking is free. Use “BALPEX” for special room rates.

BALPEX Show – Three Day Admission: $5.
Fiday, September 3: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday, September 4: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday, September 5: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Details and map here.

The brethren will be found in Salon-E. The agenda:
1:30 to 2 p.m. – Assemble, trade Covers, and socialize.
2 p.m. – Call meeting to order.
2 to 3 p.m. – Meeting.

Speaker: Walter Benesch, GWMSC President, on “The Masonic Cowboy Stamps.”

Cover Chairman Mike Aulicino will do a GWMSC Cowboy Stamps cover with the special BALPEX pictorial postmark dated September 4, 2010, that will be available by ordering in advance, or while supplies last. Contact Mike at michael.aulicino(at)gmail.com

President’s Message for August-September:

The end of summer 2010 is swiftly approaching, which means we are getting close to our annual summer/fall meeting at BALPEX. The GWMSC will be meeting in Salon E, 1:30 to 3:00 on Saturday (my excuse for a late president’s message - I just found out our time and place). Lunch and dinner are on your own. The hotel restaurant a little costly for some members, but good quality. Less expensive alternatives are close by.

Since we have so many new members, here is a little information about BALPEX. It is an American Philatelic Society Accredited National Level Exhibition. Or, in meaningful words, it is not only a stamp show, but an exhibit of major collections in a competition. You will see things on exhibit you will never see anywhere else! Of course they are educational, but what is more important is they are fun. The exhibit is sponsored by the Baltimore Philatelic Society (BALPEX), Inc. The GWMSC has been having its summer meeting there since the 1970s or earlier. The show will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend. If you are just coming for the meeting and a little of the show, great, but it is a wonderful way to spend Labor Day weekend if you have the time and energy. Children are admitted free (unsure of the age limit) and they have a special activity room for meeting philately experts, and collecting free stamps donated by the members. The usual entrance fee for adults is around $10.

For Maryland Masons, this is just across from the road that takes you to the Grand Lodge of Maryland. The address is: 245 Shawan Rd., Hunt Valley, Maryland. (Exit 20E off I-83 north of I-695.)

I know we have missed some possible First Day Covers this year, but I understand that our Cover Chairman will have something special as a giveaway at the meeting. Hopefully it will be related to the program: “Masonic Cowboy Stamps.” Earlier this year, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative set called “Cowboys of the Silver Screen” with four heroes of my and older generations: William S. Hart, Tom Mix (my mother’s favorite), Gene Autry (my personal favorite), and Roy Rogers (once called America’s favorite). Where they all Masons? If so, of which lodges? Is that information lost? Hopefully you will find out at the meeting. It will be a fun program.

As usual this will be an open meeting. Bring guests, friends, children, etc. We will of course have our door prize and cover sales before and after the program. We will vote on any new applications prior to the program, so bring in some membership applications. Hope to see many of you there.

Walter P. Benesch, President, GWMSC

Secretary’s Notes:

Hold Sunday, February 27, 2011, on your calendar for the conferral of the Master of Philately for any Life Member present who has not already received the degree. Details and map here.

Please keep me posted of any e-mail address changes for you or any other Life Member by contacting me at GWMSC1956(at)gmail.com

Trivia: Modern Day “Hidden Masonic Symbols” from the American Revolution: October 16-19, 1981, was the Yorktown Bicentennial Celebration for the 200th anniversary of Rochambeau’s Surrender at Yorktown, which ended the American Revolution. A small Royal Arch symbol watermark, along with the initials “JRA,” appears on eight of the 11 official First Day of Issue covers released by the Yorktown Bicentennial Committee in 1981. This was not a Masonic plot, but was simply a mark left by the YBC’s Philatelic Chairman, yours truly, on the commemorative envelopes he’d designed and produced for the YBC and the Virginia Independence Bicentennial Commission. Nearly 50,000 total covers were produced there, including covers for the Rhode Island Heritage Commission’s reenactment of the March to Yorktown. Would these then be considered Masonic covers? That’s a matter of opinion. Probably yes, but primarily because of those Freemasons actually involved in winning American independence (and somewhat because of the Masonic symbol).

Yours in Freemasonry,
John R. Allen, Secretary

Sunday, August 1, 2010

‘Ceremony at Shakespeare’

RW Bro. William J. Thomas, the recently installed Grand Treasurer of the Grand Lodge of New York, will be presented the apron of that high office in a public ceremony on September 2 at Shakespeare Lodge No. 750.

The invitation has all the details.