Saturday, June 30, 2012

'Don Falconer, R.I.P.'

After a perfect evening with The American Lodge of Research in New York City Friday night, the sad news of the passing of Bro. Don Falconer awaited me in the in-box.

Verily, I suspect he'd laugh if I joked he was done in by that "esoteric edict" from his grand master. (See post below.)

Funeral Service:

Tuesday, July 3
1:15 p.m.

Macquarie Park in the Palm Chapel (Delhi Road in North Ryde)

That's Australia.

Message from his son:

He was an extraordinarily wonderful person who did not like fuss and was very humble. Accordingly he would say 'Please no Flowers.' He deserves a good send-off, and I know that many people loved and respected him, so if you wish to join the family and his friends, we would welcome you.

Please let me know if you are attending by Sunday p.m. to enable arrangements on the day to be properly planned.

Thank you for being part of his life.

Jeff Falconer and Family

Sunday, June 17, 2012

‘The Icarus Syndrome’

In the Masonic Light group last Wednesday, the brother known worldwide as the Canberra Curmudgeon posted the text of an edict from his grand master Down Under – United Grand Lodge of New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory, specifically – that was hot off the presses. Since then I’ve seen it on the Dummies blog, and the FD2L blog, various vBulletin sites, and even on Facebook. Despite being one of the first to read the edict on the web, I guess I’m pretty much the last to blog about it, and since we have a few final minutes of Father’s Day remaining, I will try to explain, drawing from the lesson of one of mythology’s great father-son disasters, why the edict is no big deal.

But first, the nothing about which there is much ado:

Grand Master’s Edict

Announced at the Grand Communication – 13th June, 2012

On 12 May 2010 the Board of Management passed a resolution stating the principles governing esoteric research. These principles are central to the practice of Regular Freemasonry. In order that there be no doubt that they bind every brother and Lodge in this jurisdiction I have decided to make them the subject of a Grand Masters edict. At my request the Board of Management has rescinded its resolution so that it may be substituted with the following edict which takes effect immediately.

1. Authorised, official Masonic Education and Instruction is only ‘Regular’ when applied to Free and Accepted or Speculative Masonry (Regular Freemasonry).

2. Because of the widely divergent interpretations which can be placed upon it, I am concerned about the unqualified use of the word ‘esoteric,’ or any of its derivatives or extensions, within Regular Freemasonry. Such use needs to be avoided as it has been and can be misconstrued to the detriment of the Craft.

3. I encourage all Masons to make daily progress in the acquisition of Masonic knowledge. Speculation and discussion within the Landmarks of the Order are to be commended.

4. Within Regular Freemasonry, interpretive discussion and exposition concern only the progressive acquisition of Masonic knowledge towards an understanding of the secrets and mysteries of the Craft, promoting the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God. To avoid any misapprehension, such regular discussion and exposition shall be described as ‘speculative,’ and the term ‘esoteric’ shall not be applied.

5. Regular Freemasonry does not permit within it any form of esotericism which encompasses or tends towards occultism, sorcery, alchemy, astrology, profane mysticism, transcendentalism, supernaturalism, druidism, rosicrucianism, satanism or any concept or movement related to any of these. The presentation, endorsement and/or promotion of such subjects in any Lodge holding under the UGL of NSW and ACT whether the Lodge be open, adjourned, at refreshment or closed or at any connected or associated Lodge function should be deemed irregular and is strictly forbidden.

6. Any breach of this Edict constitutes serious unmasonic conduct and shall be treated accordingly.

7. The Grand Master from time to time may grant dispensations to permit the presentation of papers on esotericism which would otherwise constitute a breach of this edict. A dispensation may be granted on such terms and conditions as the Grand Master may impose. An application for a dispensation must be made to the Grand Master in writing through the Grand Secretary. Normally it will only be granted if the proposed paper is a genuine and proper piece of masonic research.

Okay, and here is why I say this is nothing to worry about, much less justify the bizarre caterwauling (“book burning!” “thought control!”) that I’ve seen on web these past several days. It’s the Nekillim Syndrome, defined by psychology researchers as “the mindless, hysterical (but often amusing) reaction to the action of a Masonic grand master.”

As I phrased it in our conversation on ML:

Having had some time to digest this news, I’m looking more closely at what this edict states, and what it does not state.

The grand master is governing the Craft lodges, and not interfering with Masonic Rosicrucians or any appendant or concordant group. He does not prohibit activities independent of Freemasonry.

The edict prohibits sorcery, satanism, and the like in the lodge. We don’t object to that, do we? It prohibits alchemy and rosicrucianism in the lodge. Is that really so problematic? I don’t think a ban is necessary, but I can’t say it deprives Masons of urgent or fundamental Masonic knowledge. Others listed in Item 5 sound reasonable to me. I don’t want Freemasonry confused in the mix of New Age activities.

I work in Masonic education because I believe Masons ought to be educated about Masonry. There is a lot to learn in Freemasonry. A lodge that focuses on Masonic learning will not run out of material to cover any time soon. Maybe that is better than having programs on transcendentalism in the lodge.

There is a group on Facebook called “Esoteric Masons” or something like that. It has some useful information; it has some less-than-useful information; it also has Masons advertising their availability for Masonry’s invitational orders. It has a lot of talk, some of it plagiarized, about rosicrucians and other topics. What is missing usually is a mention of Freemasonry. I think there is esoterica to Freemasonry, and maybe this grand master wants that explored before lodges diversify their activities by going off topic.

That said, I doubt there is some frantic need for this edict. Are the lodges in New South Wales hives of satanist astrologers or something?

I’d encourage the brethren to follow the model of Canonbury and Rose Circle, and host conferences that explore other avenues of esoteric study, independently of the Craft so they may enjoy full freedom. It can’t be too difficult to find an accessible venue where Masons can spend a Saturday learning about, say, the similarities of symbols in Masonry and Alchemy; or Masonry and Tarot. If there’s a demand for that, someone will show up. If it is organized professionally, maybe the event would qualify for the dispensation that is offered.

Keeping calm and carrying on,


I do not know the Grand Master of New South Wales and Australian Capital Territories, so I cannot view his edict through or in proximity to his eyes, but looking at it with my own eyes, it makes some sense.

There is another syndrome in Freemasonry, and I have diagnosed and named it myself. The Icarus Syndrome is exhibited by Masons who really should be laying their personal foundations of Masonic knowledge by – if I may paraphrase a few rituals – going to lodge, conversing with more knowledgeable brethren, studying the Liberal Arts and Sciences, being charitable toward their brethren, and making a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge, but who instead pursue other knowledge for which they are not yet prepared. Or maybe they are prepared, but make a wrong turn and wind up in dubious rites and orders.

Courtesy The Folio Society
In Greek mythology, Daedalus, whose name means “bright” or “cunningly wrought,” was an extremely handy inventor and craftsman – “a wonderful smith,” in the words of Bro. Robert Graves in his The Greek Myths anthology – and the father of Icarus. Both were imprisoned on Crete by King Minos, and to make their escape, Daedalus fashioned a set of wings for each of them. Thread held together the large quill feathers, and wax was used to hold the smaller feathers in place.

They took flight, literally, in a northeasterly direction. The father warned his son not to fly so low as to wet his wings in the sea, nor soar so high as to melt the wax in the sunlight.

You know the rest: Icarus, not ready for the knowledge and responsibility entrusted to him prematurely, enjoyed the wonderful freedom of motion too much and sailed too high. The sun melted the wax of his wings, and he fell into the sea, drowning.

The end.

Don’t let this happen to you.

I know all the nonsense about sorcery, Satanism, druidism, etc. is not any concern of any real Freemason in any real Masonic lodge but, frankly, the Alchemy and Rosicrucianism do figure into Masonic studies, with other parallel and related practices as well.

Those will be there for us when we are ready for them. To make oneself ready for them, a Mason divides his time in a specific method, measures his thoughts and actions in certain ways, and applies himself with deliberation and finality to achieve an ultimate, desired result. So you have to ask yourself if you want to be a “seeing is believing” Mason who is in control of his passions, his physical powers, and his intellect, or do you want to be a “believing is seeing” Mason who can be fooled into just about anything because he lacks the fundamental knowledge and acquired experience that creates wisdom.

It’s all free will and accord, brethren. No one is going to arrest your movement whichever way you go, but remember what happens when you fly too high before you’re ready.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

‘Ingathering: Change of venue’

The New Jersey 2012 Allied Masonic Degrees Ingathering has a change of plans.

Instead of taking place at Livingston Lodge No. 11, it will take place at Madison Lodge No. 93. Madison is only a few miles away. No big deal.

Same date and time: Saturday, July 28 at 9 a.m. Same program of Grand Tilers of Solomon Degree and papers to be presented. Same killer lunch to be served.

Click here to register.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


This just in: Ill. Cliff Jacobs, 33° is the new Commander-in-Chief of New York City Consistory, having been installed into the symbolic chair of Frederick the Great last night.

(three “Huzzahs!” here)

Illustrious Jake, as he sometimes is known, is one of the guiding lights in the New York City Masonic renaissance of recent years, active in Craft Masonry and beyond. He received the degrees of Scottish Rite Masonry in 1990, and was coroneted a 33° Mason in 2008.

If you share his passion for fine writing instruments, follow his blog here.

Illustrious Sir, if you ever need me for anything, just let me know.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

‘Astronomy: Transit of Venus’

I usually sleep through the rare astronomical wonders, but I hope to catch this one, since the sun will be up.

“This Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on where you live, sky-watchers around the world will be able to see a cosmic spectacle known as a transit of Venus. The events are so rare that only six Venus transits have been observed since the invention of the telescope more than 400 years ago.”

From NASA:

“This is the Official Sun-Earth Day webcast for the Venus Transit brought to you live from the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii.”

“The rare astronomical event, known as the transit of Venus, comes in pairs about once every century, with the previous one occurring in 2004. The next one will not take place until 2117, making the event on Tuesday truly a last-chance opportunity. Unless, of course, it rains.”

Friday, June 1, 2012

‘Anderson’s Constitutions’


Title page of first edition of Benjamin Franklin’s 1734 reprint
of Anderson’s Constitutions. This copy is among the special
collections of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

The Second Masonic District Book Club’s June meeting will be devoted to a discussion of Anderson’s Constitutions.

Monday, June 25
7:15 p.m.
99 South Maple Avenue
Ridgewood, New Jersey

All Master Masons are welcome. Click here to download the club’s recommended copy of the document, an electronic version of Benjamin Franklin’s 1734 reprint of the 1723 English original. If you didn’t know, Franklin’s reprint was the first Masonic book published in the New World. The patron of printers in America made a verbatim copy at a time when only the earliest of Masonic lodges in the American colonies were extant. Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Green Dragon in Boston, and Solomon’s Lodge in Georgia each, in its own way has claim to be the oldest lodge in America, but there weren’t many more here in the early 1730s. It also should be noted that Franklin became Grand Master of Pennsylvania (Moderns) the year he printed the Constitutions, on Saint John Baptist Day.

I am looking forward to this discussion. Anderson’s Constitutions may be the most important but most misunderstood text in Masonic letters. We today look upon its First Charge, that “Concerning God and Religion,” allowing our modern eyes to misinterpret how it codified religious tolerance among the various Christian factions of 1720s London as something universal, a taste of the multiculturalism that indulges 21st century sensibilities. Its terminology (e.g. “stupid atheist” and “irreligious libertine”) is not as clear and blunt as we today assume. There is much room for discussion right there.

The second most famous aspect of the document is its lengthy “history” of Freemasonry. Needless to say it is a legendary history tracing the transmission of Masonry, or Geometry, from Biblical patriarchs and prophets to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome; to the Saxons, Danes, and Normans; to Plantagenets, Tudors and Stuarts; to the Duke of Montagu – “the most noble Prince” and the Grand Master of Masons.

You neo-Templars out there would be wise to notice the absence of any mention of the Crusades and Knights Templar, or any other marauding army that killed so many infidels in the name of the Prince of Peace. The thinking of Masonic origins, at least at the official level of that time, had not yet heard the myth of Templar beginnings of Freemasonry.

But there will be time to talk about it all June 25. Hope to see you there.