Monday, October 31, 2011

'Tonight at ALR'

The American Lodge of Research met tonight to hear the paper presented by W. Bro. Scott Thomas Cairns titled "From Lead to Gold: The Path of Alchemy and the Masonic Path."

From the lodge summons:

To those who are wise and knowledgeable, Alchemy is far more than the mundane pursuit of turning lead into gold. It is the extraordinary process of personal transformation.

It has been said that Freemasonry has been the repository for the secrets of such groups as the Knight Templar, the Hermetic Mystery School and other Eastern Mystery Schools. The one discipline that binds all of these together is Alchemy. The three Craft Degrees, as well as those of the York and Scottish Rites, contain the secrets of Alchemy.

Join us for an evening of shared wisdom on October 31, as Worshipful Brother Scott Thomas Cairns, Ph.D. gives extraordinary examples of the alchemical process of transformation that is embedded in our Masonic degrees. It is a powerful transformation process for all Masons "making good men better."

W. Scott Thomas Cairns is a Past Master and current the Secretary of Glen Cove Lodge No. 580 of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York's Second Nassau District. He also is Past Master of Carbon Lodge No. 2910 under the United Grand Lodge of England. He is a faculty member of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Long Island University, C.W. Post Campus. His Ph.D. is in International History from the London School of Economics.

To me, one of the more amazing aspects of Masonic thought is its undeniable parallels and links to Alchemy. The term "Royal Art" first appears in Masonry in Anderson's Constitutions of 1723. Without context or explanation, it is assumed to be an allusion to royal patronage, but it simply is the borrowing from the lexicon of Alchemy. (As an aside, I again recommend the book Alchemy & Mysticism  by Alexander Roob. There is much the Masonic eye will see in this copiously illustrated text.) Alchemy employs the symbolism of Jachin and Boaz. Its point-within-a-circle is the symbol of gold. In Alchemy, the sun and the moon denote gold and silver. The legend of GMHA is understood alchemically as part of the endless cycle of death, decay, and rebirth.

Speculative Freemasons labor to perfect rough ashlars. Spiritual Alchemists toil at transmuting base metal into gold. (In my own thinking, Freemasonry evolved out of a need for a social, interactive mode for that work. Where the labor of the Alchemist is solitary, undertaken in a laboratory, Masonic work of course is pursued in lodge by the group.)

These are the kinds of topics broached by Bro. Cairns this evening. His paper is a great example of how speculative subjects can be approached by research lodges when they are anchored in documented facts.

Monday, October 24, 2011

'Celts, kilts, and the Most Excellent Sample'

Well, it seems sleep is out of the question for the 412th consecutive night, so I may as well edit the photos I shot Thursday at the meeting of the local Knight Masons council, and if I'm going to do that, I might as well share some of them with the regrettably neglected readers of The Magpie Mason.

And I confess to an ulterior motivation: It was a great night that needs to be publicized not so much for the Who, What, When, Where, and Why, but for the How To. Freemasonry has many men who find themselves prematurely or otherwise inappropriately hired to preside. I offer the following only to suggest that all things are possible when it comes to planning a Communication or a dinner, or anything really. "Just do it," sayeth the ad campaign of the athletic supply company named for the ancient goddess of victory.

Here's the rundown on what happened: It was the Knight Masons' final meeting with David Lindez as Excellent Chief of Northern New Jersey Council No. 10. That alone is important to the story because it brought forth Celtic dancers, Scottish bagpipers, poetry, and the initiation of, I think, more than a dozen new Cousins for two councils. (We're called Cousins in Knight Masonry.) Plus the Great Chief of the United States, Most Excellent Kevin B. Sample, was in attendance. Our Council usually hosts the MEGC every year. Also present was Right Excellent Douglas Jordan, Grand Scribe. Doug was in New Jersey only three months ago as the honored guest, in his capacity as Most Venerable Grand Master of Allied Masonic Degrees of the USA, at the Harold V.B. Voorhis Ingathering, our annual statewide AMD conference. Also present was Very Excellent Matthew Dupee, Grand Senior Warden of Grand Council, who came from Pennsylvania, as did Very Excellent George Haynes, the Superintendent of that state. There even was a Cousin from Kentucky! (I think there used to be a song called 'Cousin from Kentucky.') And the V.E. Grand Sentinel was with us too, but he's a member here. Past Great Chief Thurman too. The distinguished East also included Cousin Piers Vaughan, wearing red, in his capacity as R.E. Captain of the Host of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of New York.

What I'm trying to say is this was a big night! Anyway, the pictures will tell the story.

Cousin David leads his Rampant Lion Pipe Band through a march that opened the festivities. 
The distinguished East gets settled on the dais.
Our master of ceremonies welcomes Excellent Chief David Lindez to the podium.
V.E. George Haynes, Superintendent of Pennsylvania, and V.E. Matthew Dupee Grand Senior Warden.
R.E. Doug Jordan, Grand Scribe.

John Barnes, Excellent Chief of the new Jersey Shore Council, and Piers Vaughan, Grand Captain of the Host of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of New York.
David welcomes M.E. Kevin B. Sample, Great Chief of the USA.
It's hard to convince some people, but oftentimes the best photos
are taken without the subjects' knowledge.
But there's nothing wrong with a posed picture either: Makia and Bill.
Only in Freemasonry can a father and son also be brothers and cousins! The Mario Brothers.
The ceremonies begin.
The grand officers in the East of the Council.
It is hard to say one particular portion of the evening was the best moment, but this gets my vote. At right is Rich Hammill, one of our Past Excellent Chiefs. He was surprised with an appointment by the Great Chief to the position of Very Excellent Superintendent for New Jersey.
Utterly stunned, here he receives the congratulations of his cousins. It is an honor earned and deserved. Rich labors mightily in Knight Masonry, and throughout the York Rite.
Time for the entertainment portion of the evening. The Rampant Lion Pipe Band returns.

Talented and brave performers from a dance school treat us to several Celtic folk dances.

Another attraction of the evening was the constituting of a new Knight Masons Council. Jersey Shore Council is the third in New Jersey. It will serve the central area of the state.

M.E. Sample presents the charter to inaugural Excellent Chief John Barnes, as David looks on.
The gratuitous end-of-the-night photo of all the big shots.
Actually too many of them to make for a decent photo.

Cousins, if you plan to attend Masonic Week in February, make sure you get to the meeting of our Grand Council on Friday morning. I know, I know, it's always a grueling business meeting that makes you want to kill yourself, but the 2012 meeting will be very different. New blood has been transfused into Grand Council, and things are changing. And then, at noon, there will be a luncheon hosted by Grand Council. Trevor Stewart will be our guest speaker!