Tuesday, January 31, 2012

'Dupee Memorial Lecture'


On the 130th anniversary of Shiloh Lodge's constitution comes word of its latest Bernard H. Dupee Memorial Lecture. (The annual tradition is named for the father of Matthew Dupee.) See you there.

Friday, January 27, 2012

‘Ted’s testimonial’

On Saturday, March 24, the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of New York will host a testimonial dinner honoring one of its own, M.E. Ted Harrison, General Grand High Priest of the General Grand Chapter.

Any and all inquiries should be directed to Ted Jacobsen, chairman of the event, who can be reached at: thjnycusa(at)aol.com

The announcement:

The Grand Chapter of New York is delighted to announce the date of the Testimonial Dinner honoring M.E. Edmund D. “Ted” Harrison to be March 24. The event will take place at the Ramada Plaza Hotel at Newark International Airport, at 160A Frontage Road (Exit off Routes 1 and 9) in Newark, New Jersey.

Everyone is invited to join the General Grand High Priest and his officers and worldwide guests who will be in attendance. Ladies are invited also. Dress is tuxedo (or dark suit).

Social hour will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner and entertainment at 7:30. A hospitality suite will be provided by the Chapters of the State of New York in rooms 1 and 2 on the main floor, and they will be open before and after dinner.

The cost of the dinner is $95 per person. Special diet meals are available upon request. Click here for the reservation form, and the contact information.

Reserve hotel rooms directly with the Ramada at (973) 589-1000. Rooms are priced at $79 or $89, and include two breakfasts. The hotel will provide free parking, and there will be valet service. The Ramada Plaza offers free shuttle service from Newark Airport for those flying in, and for those coming to the airport by train or bus.


‘Mozart’s birthday’

Today is the 256th anniversary of the birth of Bro. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, an apt occasion to remind the brethren of The Masonic Society’s New Jersey Second Circle that I’d like to organize a trip to see the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra this April for a performance of some of the great composer’s Masonic music.

Mozart at right.
The program for three performances during the last weekend of April will be:

Mozart: Masonic Funeral Music
Berg: Violin Concerto, “To the Memory of an Angel”
Danielpour: Kaddish (world premiere)
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 3

This will be Friday, April 27 at NJPAC; Saturday the 28th at State Theatre in New Brunswick; and Sunday the 29th at Mayo PAC in Morristown.

I’m aiming for the Sunday concert because of the scheduling conflict with the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library’s second symposium on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism at Lexington, Massachusetts on Saturday.

'Boyer bicentennial'

It has been more than four years since I first heard W. Bro. David Bailey tease us about a bicentennial celebration of Prince Hall Masonry in New York, and obviously 2012 is here, so that 200th anniversary is upon us. Thanks to Bro. Diego for sending the info along.

Boyer Lodge No. 1 was the first Prince Hall lodge chartered in New York. That took place February 16, 1812, and there are several commemorative events scheduled for that bicentennial weekend next month, as you can see in the graphic above. There's no way I'm going to miss the Friday night historical forum.

To support these events, either with your presence or otherwise, click here and look for the PayPal buttons.

'Mark Tabbert at DeWint House'

News from the Grand Lodge of New York public relations folks:

The Grand Lodge Committee for the George Washington Masonic Historic Site at Tappan, cordially and fraternally invites you and your guests to join us for a celebration of the birthday of our cherished Brother and First President of the United States of America, George Washington, to be held Sunday, February 19. The activities for this observance will begin with our traditional brunch at Old '76 House at 11:30 a.m.

After our meal, the celebration will continue with a program at 2 p.m. on the grounds of historic DeWint House, which served as Washington's Headquarters four times during the Revolution, and is maintained by the Trustees of Grand Lodge as a museum and National Historic Site dedicated to preserving the memory of our distinguished Brother. Our guest speaker will be Brother Mark Allen Tabbert, noted author, curator, and historian, who is Director of Collections and Displays at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.

Come visit our historic site, explore our museum and artifacts, and tour the oldest remaining Dutch Colonial stone house in Rockland County, dating to 1700. Light refreshments will be served.

Luncheon reservations must be paid in advance. $25 per person.

Old '76 House is located at 110 Main Street in Tappan, a very short walking distance of DeWint House.

Contact me for the reservations info by leaving a note in the comments section below. Include your e-mail address, and I will reply to you privately. Your comment will not be published. If you have not visited DeWint House yet, this is a great opportunity. To view some Magpie photos, click here. DeWint House and the events hosted there are without doubt among the top reasons why the Grand Lodge of New York is the center of the Masonic universe in the tri-state area.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Today is the deadline to lock in the group rate on your hotel reservations for Masonic Week 2012. In addition, next Tuesday is the deadline for reserving for the various banquets and other meals, and there are two events in particular you should attend.

The Masonic Society's Annual Feast and Forum is set for Friday, February 10 at 6 p.m. at the Alexandria Mark Hilton in Alexandria, Virginia. Our keynote speaker will be Mr. Brett McKay, who is half the married team behind the Art of Manliness, the online men's magazine that recommends the internal (values and virtues) rather than the external (the usual narcissism in men's magazines) to men today.

Brett and his wife Kate started the website in 2008, making it a source of wit and wisdom for those seeking the views and customs that "turn boys into men of substance and character." In fact, look at this recent post, and see if you recognize a Masonic message.

The Art of Manliness has grown to nearly 3 million visitors a month, more than 4 million page-views a month, and more than 100,000 daily subscribers. In addition, its online social network unites nearly 18,000 members discussing 4,000 forum topics - "a community of men and women who have a passion for reviving the lost art of manliness." And then there are the McKays' books "The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man" and the new "Manvotionals: Timeless Wisdom and Advice on Living the 7 Manly Virtues."

Trevor Stewart
And when you're there, be sure to visit The Masonic Society's hospitality suite for "libations, sensations that stagger the mind."

And earlier that day, make sure you attend the luncheon to be hosted by the Order of Knight Masons at noon because Trevor Stewart will be our guest speaker. I don't know what his topic will be, but he is one of the best in the business, and you will not be disappointed. (And frankly, twenty bucks for lunch in that hotel is a steal.)

You'll have a great time, I hereby promise and vow, but you have to book your reservations first.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

'Burns Night'

Robert Burns upon composing a poem to his love, Mary.

It is the 253rd birthday of Robert Burns, Poet Laureate of Canongate Kilwinning Lodge. Hope you had a great time at your Burns Suppers!

He is depicted here, sitting on a tree stump, along Literary Walk on the east side of Central Park. The massive bronze was created by Sir John Steell in 1880, and it was a gift to the city from New Yorkers proud of their Scottish heritage. (As you can tell from the leaves on the trees, this is not a recent photo. I shot this last August.)

Did you know the House of the Temple is home to the second largest collection of Burns literature in the world? I shot this photo three years ago. It shows only about a quarter of the entire collection.

Part of the Robert Burns collection at the House of the Temple
in Washington, DC.

According to Supreme Council:

During his lifetime, Bro. William R. Smith, 32°, former Director of the National Botanical Gardens in Washington, D.C., assembled one of the most complete collections of published works by and about Scottish poet Robert Burns. Recognized as one of the finest of all Burns collections, second only to the Burns Collection in Glasgow, Scotland, it was cataloged by Mr. William Thomson of the Public Library of Edinburgh, Scotland. The industrialist Andrew Carnegie, trustee of Mr. Smith’s estate, decided that because Robert Burns had been an ardent Freemason, it would be appropriate to place the Burns collection in the library of the Supreme Council, with the condition that it be housed in a special room available to the public and community of scholars.

One of my favorite grocers in Manhattan is Myers of Keswick on Hudson Street. I discovered this during my university days, thanks to an article in one of our literary publications, and I've been hooked since. Anyway, if you ever need a reliable source of genuine haggis, this is your place.

'Thank you Abington Chapter'

I think it went well Tuesday night. Makia told me attendance was higher than usual. Even Yasser was there! I got a taste of Pennsylvania Royal Arch ritual, which is a bit different from what I'm used to. Then we went out for drinks and a bite to eat. What more could you want?

For a topic, I went with Kabbalah's interpretations of several of the Royal Arch Degree's borrowings from the Book of Exodus, namely the Breastplate of the High Priest, the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark's Cherubim, the Burning Bush, and "the great, mysterious, and sacred name of Deity."

I don't like public speaking. I dread it, and I'm not that good at it despite all the practice I get. And it is especially daunting to break in a brand new lecture. I'll have to smooth this one out, but to give you an idea of the material, here are a few excerpts.

Of the Ark of the Covenant, the Book of Exodus explains the dimensions and other specs for its construction, including: "Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it." This, says the literature of the Zohar, can serve to remind us that we, ourselves, must be of that same essence, both inside and out. That is, our inner selves must be of the same substance we display on our exteriors. More than not behaving one way while secretly feeling differently, the point is to purify our hearts and refine our minds so that our outwardly behavior is determined by that spark of divinity that resides in us all. To be truly "good as gold."

In Exodus Chapter 3, we learn of the identity God chose to reveal to Moses: "I am that I am" (sometimes presented as "I am who I am"). In Judaism, there are seventy-two names of God, and different situations in life require us to know these different names for God, so that in prayer or other labors, we have the correct context for connecting to Him. Perhaps like dialing the correct phone number, but in a spiritual method. For example, in light of what happened to the Israelites after exiting Egypt, the names for Judgment (Gvurah) and Mercy (Chesed) come to mind. Judgment bears the connotation of negativity, but the Zohar informs us that there can be no negativity emanating from the GAOTU, that there only can be the most specific wisdom and understanding of how to treat each person precisely as that person needs at that time. One could say "tough love" is a modern representation of this concept in that to the receiver, it may appear to be the worst of all options, but it actually can be exactly what the person needs.

Exodus 3:13 - Moses said to God, "When I come to the Israelites and say to them 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?" And God said to Moses, "Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh." (Variously translated as I Am That I Am, or I Am Who I Am, or I Will Be What I Will Be.) In "I am that I am," we have the very awkward use of the first person as though it is the third person. So, what is God's name? I Am.

I'll spare you the "Who's on First?" jokes, and relate the Zohar commentary, which essentially wants us again to fan that divine spark within each of us, and achieve a communion with deity. In my own crude understanding, if we say the name of God is "I Am" -- that first person usage -- then we want to gain and display supernal qualities autonomously. And, returning to that juxtaposition of Judgment and Mercy, saying "I am" when wondering why God allows bad things to happen directs our attention to our own choices in life, our own management of our capacity for good and our propensity for bad.

Hopefully this renders a clear idea of where my lecture headed Tuesday evening. I make no claim of expertise in these matters. In fact, during the Q&A, I was asked if this kind of material is known to Freemasons generally, or if it is something I connected to Royal Arch ritual myself. I assured the Excellent Scribe that I achieved nothing unprecedented here, but that material such as this, especially Kabbalah, has a particular claim upon the curiosity of Freemasons who seek further Light. I hope the Companions were sufficiently impressed as to start their own searches, in their own good time.

Monday, January 23, 2012

'Coming to Atlas-Pythagoras'

Coming later this winter to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Union County are two events worth your time.

Bro. Andrew also will appear at Peninsula Lodge on the evening of Thursday, March 22. Peninsula is located at 888 Avenue C (at 40th Street) in Bayonne.

A-P 10 has much more on the agenda for the year, such as RW Bro. Thomas K. Sturgeon, Past Grand Master of Pennsylvania.

Check The Magpie Mason for updates.


Bro. Mohamad Yatim is on tour. Catch him at any of these New Jersey dates:

Tuesday, January 24 at Olive Branch Lodge No. 16 in Freehold.

Topic: Freemasonry and the Mystic Schools of the East.

Wednesday, February 22 at Sons of Liberty Lodge No. 301 in Secaucus.

Topic: Freemasonry and the Mystic Schools of the East.

Thursday, March 22 at Alpine-Tilden-Tenafly Lodge No. 77 in Tenafly.

Topic: The Chamber of Reflection - V.I.T.R.I.O.L.

Thursday, April 12 at Peninsula Lodge No. 99 in Bayonne.

Topic: The Myths Behind Who Killed Hiram Abiff.


Friday, January 13, 2012

‘The Pot of Incense’

More Magpie speaking engagements to announce, both in New Jersey:

Tuesday, February 7 at Loyalty Lodge No. 33 in Union; and Thursday, March 1 at Mountain View Lodge No. 154.

The topic for both is the very same paper I presented to The American Lodge of Research in 2010, namely “The Emblem of a Pure Heart: The Pot of Incense as a Masonic Symbol (An Aromatic Editorial).”

Pot of Incense as painted
on a wall inside the lodge
room of Adoniram No. 80.
Part speculative interpretation, part research paper, and part opinion essay, this presentation states the case for making the burning of incense an essential part of your Masonic experience. To say the very least, in initiation, incense delivers a powerful sense of transition to the aspirant; in open lodge tiled, incense affords the brethren a shared sensory stimulus that complements the individual employments of the other physical senses in building the energy inherent in the lodge opening.

There’s a lot more to it than that, so please come to either of these meetings to learn more.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

'Andrew Hammer to speak'


I'm sorry to say I cannot attend. At that very hour I'll be speaking at Abington Chapter No. 245 in Pennsylvania. But that doesn't mean you can't be there! You must reserve your seat in advance though. The Livingston Library's seating area is small, with maybe 50 or so chairs, and events like this are always standing room only.

Bro. Andrew's remarks will cover the thesis of his terrific book Observing the Craft. Not to be confused with Traditional Observance or Strict Observance, this book is an eloquent but potently advanced reminder to us all about what is required for excellence in the Masonic lodge experience. I cannot recommend this book to you strongly enough.

The Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library is located in Masonic Hall, at 71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan, and is one of the main reasons why the Grand Lodge of New York is the center of the Masonic universe in the tri-state area.

Get to this lecture, but RSVP first.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

'The Magpie Mason 2.0'

Happy New Year!

Among my New Year's Resolutions is to renew The Magpie Mason and to post more frequently than in the year past. The focus will shift, as I expect to share messages worth your contemplation, while toning down the journalistic coverage of events. (I think I have done a disservice to some of the Masons I have inadvertently made famous on these pages. My goal has been only to extol the good people, places, and happenings in Freemasonry that I enjoy in my travels, but I failed to "expect the unexpected" in some respects, which is inexcusable for this former newspaper editor. I should have known better.)

© The New Yorker

This is part of a more broad renewal of myself. I retired from most of my Masonic labors in 2011 while I struggled to get a handle on other things in life. That struggle continues, but I now realize that cutting myself off from the people and activities that provide much needed pleasure and balance does not make any sense, and it certainly did not help me manage my problems in life anyway.

I owe massive apologies to good friends and brethren in The Masonic Society, The American Lodge of Research, and elsewhere, and I need to get back to work and make up for lost time.

Funny. I really didn't mean to say that. One cannot make up lost time. If there is ONE lesson of the Craft lodge, it is you cannot make up for lost time. I'll make up lost effort instead.

So I'm working on changes and improvements. Hope you are too. I'm throwing myself headlong back into Masonic activity, with five or six speaking engagements between January 10 and February 16, hopefully spreading messages of Light.

By the close of 2012, I hope to find a home in a new Craft lodge. My mother lodge here in New Jersey is a great lodge. I can recommend it without hesitation, mental reservation, etc., for many, many valid, vital reasons, but it lacks specifically what I am looking for in Freemasonry. Next January 1, I hope to tell you about my new lodge.

Time to make things happen! Even if the bloody Mayans were right about their calendar.

Cheers! Happy New Year!