Friday, November 26, 2010

‘Ritman at risk’

Ever skeptical of the effectiveness of on-line petitions – I’m still lobbying for the return of The Bottom Line! – I nonetheless submit to you this global rallying cry for the preservation of the Library of Hermetic Philosophy, known more widely as the Ritman Library, in Amsterdam.

According to the petitioners:

It is widely known that the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam, founded by J.R. Ritman, was in great danger in the 1990s, when the ING bank took possession of the collection and threatened to sell it. Fortunately, the Dutch government intervened, and the BPH was put on the list of protected Dutch heritage, and the State eventually acquired more than 40 percent of it. The books remained at the same physical location, integrated with the rest of the collection, and the government would eventually acquire all of it. As part of this process, there were great plans for further expansion. Largely due to the financial crisis and a change of government this was taking somewhat longer than originally anticipated, but nobody doubted that the library was safe.

Last week this turned out to be incorrect. An extremely valuable medieval manuscript owned by the BPH (The Grail of Rochefoucauld) was put on sale at Sotheby’s, and this triggered a reaction from the Friesland Bank, which took possession of the library, that had apparently been brought in as collateral, in order to get back a 15 million euro loan from Mr. Ritman. At present the BPH is closed, and intense negotiations are going on behind closed doors. It is impossible at this moment to predict the outcome, but there is no doubt that the situation is extremely serious. There is a very real possibility that the Friesland Bank will try to sell at least the 60 percent of the library that is still owned by Mr. Ritman, and nobody knows what implications this will have for the rest of the collection and the BPH as a whole, including its staff. The brand-new government of the Netherlands has announced a program of radical financial cuts in the culture section and elsewhere, which makes a renewed intervention from that side highly unlikely.

If the Ritman library would go down, this would mean an enormous blow to international scholarship in Hermetic studies. The damage would be irreversible. By signing this petition you express your concern, and ask the Dutch government and Friesland Bank to do their utmost to ensure that the collection will be saved and will remain available for the international scholarly community.

Additionally, you can express your concern by means of a signed letter. The initiative for this petition comes from the Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and related currents at the University of Amsterdam (organizationally independent of the BPH, and not in any danger itself), so please send your letter to its director:

Prof. Wouter J. Hanegraaff
Oude Turfmarkt 141-147
1012 GC Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Or e-mail to: w.j.hanegraaff (at)

Sign the on-line petition here.

My thanks to Paul Hardacre, editor of Alchemy Journal, for bringing this to my attention.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

‘Masonic Hall at 100’

‘The Bat Signal,’ on the 24th Street side of Masonic Hall, towers over Chelsea.

It is a period of big anniversaries in New York City Freemasonry: 250th for I.R.A. No. 2, the bicentennial of Columbian Council No. 1, 130th of Cleopatra’s Needle, The Big 8-0 for The American Lodge of Research next spring, and the centennial celebration of Masonic Hall itself in a few weeks. The headquarters of the Grand Lodge of New York stands tall at 71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan. A wonderful place it is, and a party is being planned for the occasion.

Sunday, December 5 at 2 p.m. inside the Grand Lodge room (Third Floor).

There will be a ceremonial re-enactment of the cornerstone-laying, as well as a re-dedication of Masonic Hall.


Friday, November 19, 2010

‘Second Circle a sell out’

The November 30 dinner-meeting of The Masonic Society’s New Jersey Second Circle is sold out. We thank all the brethren, not all of whom are Society members (yet), for reserving their seats with advance payments so promptly. (If you’ve ever tried to plan an event in New Jersey Freemasonry, you know how excruciating it can be, but this was as expedient as possible. We really are appreciative.) (I mean truly, profoundly grateful.) (No exaggeration.)

The Masonic Society is the new, independent, non-profit Masonic education foundation serving the Craft in North America. The meeting on the 30th is the first Society event in New Jersey, and thanks to the pending success of this dinner, we are looking forward to the next gathering.

The program:

Keynote – Bro. Ben Hoff, the Right Worshipful Grand Historian of Grand Lodge, and Worshipful Master of New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786, will present a discussion of how toasting became part of Masonic ritual. An entertaining and enlightening talk. Vivat!

St. Andrew’s Day – Bro. Fred Waldron, the Right Worshipful District Deputy Grand Master, will lead our celebration of this, the Feast Day of Saint Andrew, patron saint of Scotland and Scottish Freemasonry. Slainte!

Dinner will be a full course meal in the customarily delectable flavors and generous portions for which our venue is well known. Bloomfield Steak and Seafood House is a historic site as well. Built in 1670, it was the home of the Davis family until a century ago. Bro. George Washington dined there during the Revolution, and Bro. Joseph Bloomfield signed the township’s charter there also. Charming and warm ambiance.

Other attractions await our guests as well, including a gift bag for each brother containing refreshments for the mind, body, and soul.

If you missed out, please mark June 24, 2011 on your calendar, when The Masonic Society will do it again, on the Feast Day of St. John the Baptist, most likely in central Jersey.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

‘Tim Wallace-Murphy in Connecticut’

Bro. Tim Wallace-Murphy will appear at Pymander Bookshop in Norwalk, Connecticut on Friday at 7 p.m. to deliver his illustrated talk titled “Cracking the Symbol Code.”

Admission: $20.

Pymander Bookshop is located at 37 Wall St.

From the shop’s website:

Back by popular demand! This presentation is based on his book of the same name; it is a guide to the coded symbolism of the hidden streams of spirituality that preserved the true teachings of Jesus. After twenty years of research, author Tim Wallace-Murphy takes the reader on a guided tour across Europe to medieval churches searching out the secret messages that were meant to be discovered.

Decoding this “hidden symbolism” is on two levels: There are certain keys, but there always will be an intuitive element to the understanding of the coded messages.

Information and reservations at (203) 854-5596.

Monday, November 15, 2010

‘Call for papers’

Announced during the weekend:

The Thomas Smith Webb Chapter of Research will publish its second annual book of transactions in early 2011. We are looking for papers with a Royal Arch nexus to publish. Please contact me if you might have a paper or idea of interest.

Deadline is December 31. We would like to have the transactions available at the Annual Convocation in March in Albany. Please forward this Call to your Masonic research interests.

With Fervency and Zeal,

Bill Thomas

Bill can be reached at:

BillThomasNYC (at)

Graphic courtesy of Bro. Jeff at Lodgical.

‘Tonight at the First Manhattan District’

Tonight is the first of the three-part Masonic Development Course in the First Manhattan District. Topics will include the 24-inch gauge and Masonic etiquette. The brethren will meet from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Wendell Walker Room, first floor of Masonic Hall. (71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan.)

The remaining dates:

Session 2, Monday, Jan. 17, 2011
Session 3, Monday, Feb. 7, 2011

The cost per person is $30, which pays for the course book, and the framed certificate and pin for those who complete the work.

The purpose of the MDC is to educate new Masons in each of the three Craft degrees including ritual, tradition and history. It is recommended that this course be taken immediately after conferral of the Master Mason Degree.

The Masonic Development Course booklet is available through Lodge Services at Masonic Hall. It should be distributed in advance of Session 1 to allow sufficient time to complete the homework assignment.

In the Introduction to the MDC the instructors will define Freemasonry. The brethren will gain insight into:

  • Origins and Purposes of Freemasonry
  • Famous Freemasons
  • Transition from Operative to Speculative Masonry
  • Origin of First Grand Lodge
  • Is Freemasonry a Secret Society? Is it a Religion?
  • Qualifications of a Petitioner
  • Preparation of the Candidate
  • The Dignity and Decorum of Freemasonry

The first section also explains the Entered Apprentice Degree. The brethren will review and discuss questions pertaining to the ritual.

In the second section, the importance of the Middle Chamber Lecture is discussed and explained. In this section the brethren will discuss the symbolism of the Fellowcraft Degree. All quiz and discussion questions will be reviewed and discussed by all participants.

The last section explains the Hiramic Legend and the meaning of the Master Mason Degree.

Each section should consist of a 2-to-3 hour session. Instructors who are well versed in a particular topic should be used to present and discuss that topic. Homework assignments should be given prior to the first session and after Sessions 1 and 2.

MDC should be given on a non-meeting night, either in the collation room or in a facility where the brethren feel comfortable, knowing the lodge is taking an interest in the education. The new brethren and their mentors should attend together. If necessary the course can be given by a group of lodges or as a district.

Every brother taking the course should have a personal copy of the Standard Work and Lectures.

By the end of the third section every brother should have a working knowledge of each of the three degrees and should be able to explain the meanings and importance of each.

‘Prince Hall Shriners Parade’

It’s not every day that the Library of Congress hosts a program concerning Freemasonry, but I just got word of this. Wish I could attend.

Presentation: The Prince Hall Shriners’ Parade

Frankie Ervin Hill, freelance photographer and U.S. Army veteran, will present photographs documenting “The Prince Hall Shriners’ Parade.”

Tuesday, November 23, from noon to 1 p.m.

Library of Congress
James Memorial Madison Building
Pickford Theater
101 Independence Avenue S.E.
Washington, DC

For more information, call (202) 707-0940.