Saturday, December 27, 2014

‘Masonic Society news’

Issue No. 26 of The Journal of The Masonic Society is reaching members’ mailboxes now and, since it is still St. John’s Day, I thought I’d share the details with some other news. First, for those who can attend Masonic Week in Virginia next month, please know The Masonic Society’s Feast and Forum (our annual meeting) will be hosted Friday, January 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the hotel. Click here for the Masonic Week meal reservations form, and don’t forget New Year’s Day is the deadline for reserving your accommodations.

Second, if you want to advertise in the pages of The Journal, have a look at our rate card, and contact me at ads(at)themasonicsociety(dot)com to make the arrangements.

I haven’t received my copy of The Journal yet, but Bro. Leif in Norway got his, and Bro. Makia in Jersey received his, and Secretary Nathan in Indianapolis took delivery on the overruns a few days ago, so it’s getting around. Anyway, in this Fall 2014 issue, you shall find a complementary mix of writings providing insight into ritual, some current events, smart analysis for best practices, and other, frankly, must read info you need to know.

Casey A. Fletcher, a Member of the Society, presents “Elus in an Envelope,” an exploration of the 9°, 10°, and 11° of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (Southern Jurisdiction) of Freemasonry. The “Elu Degrees” convey an alternative story from what is revealed to Master Masons in most Masonic lodges in the United States. Fletcher provides his readers description of the action in these rituals, which is indispensible to those who haven’t received these SJ degrees, and he explains some of the vexing esoteric aspects of the degrees that I hope will entice Master Masons to pursue membership in the A&ASR-SJ.

In her “A Brief Historiography on the Persecution of Freemasons During the Spanish Inquisition,” anthropology Ph.D. candidate Laura M. Wilhelm of University of Nevada-Reno compares and contrasts distinct historical narratives from the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries that show Freemasons as hunted victims of the Inquisition in Europe and the New World, and Freemasons as masters of the world, spreading around the globe with the rise of British Empire, and its unbridled proliferation across the United States. Of course the two streams of history are not mutually exclusive. Freemasonry is a human society that adapts to any locale; it can be revolutionary and heretical where dissent from authority is needed to spark liberty, and it can be peacefully conservative in free societies. It can be compromised and compliant in Cuba. Long story short: Ms. Wilhelm does a fine job of piecing together less known facts to relate a story that will advance your Masonic knowledge.

I smiled when I read the headline of Mohamad Yatim’s article “Freemasonry and Your Return on Investment,” knowing that my friend’s professional background in finance and his honed leadership skills in Freemasonry would result in a bold opinion that needs to be heard: Namely, that the officers of Masonic lodges must be thoughtful and practical in structuring the revenue side of a lodge’s budget.

Long ago, when the iconoclast Stephen Dafoe compiled his Masonic Dictionary, the letter D entry was “Dues that Don’t Anymore” by Masonic secretary-treasurer extraordinaire Nathan Brindle (actually the Secretary-Treasurer of The Masonic Society), who patiently explained the urgency for lodges and other bodies to assess their financial needs and manage their dues rates accordingly. From what I can see in my own Masonic memberships and observations of others, Nathan’s call has been heeded. As far as I’m concerned, the goal is not to raise dues for the sake of raising dues, nor even to “keep out the riff-raff”—riff and raff very often will come up with the money if motivated—but to ensure the lodge is adequately funded every year, and able to save some for tomorrow. Being adequately funded by the lodge’s membership reaps two principle benefits: That Masons themselves accept the basic obligation of sustaining their lodges, and that lodges need not trick the public into paying the bills either by renting the premises or, worse, hosting the abominable pancake dinners and spaghetti breakfasts that no one admits are tacky and unprofitable.

Anyway, Mohamad illustrates how the decline of the U.S. Dollar has been ignored for many years by lodges in the United States, and he makes the compelling case—the only argument worth hearing—that Freemasons should pay sufficient annual dues to create a quality Masonic experience. Proper maintenance of building and grounds; meals we’d be proud to serve and eager to eat; furniture, décor, paraphernalia, regalia, etc. in great shape; and some parity with other men’s attractions, like golf club memberships, are vital exterior characteristics that make a Masonic lodge appear relevant in the 21st century. How does your lodge fare?

Michael Halleran, our Executive Editor (and Grand Master of Kansas), suggests an “Implausible Collaboration?” in which he tells the story of a Mason named Charles Gray, a doctor in the U.S. Cavalry during the Civil War. Drawing from Gray’s diary, Halleran presents the amazing personal story of a Union officer who was permitted to travel to lodges despite being… a prisoner of war. The New York (Ark Lodge) Mason was captive in South Carolina, where he visited lodges and enjoyed hospitality and gifts from the local brethren. Any well read Mason ought to know facts and fables of Masonic civility between combatants, particularly during the U.S. Civil War, which show how Masonic brotherhood can transcend borders and conflict when the Masons involved give life to the spirit of the brotherhood, but this is “a direct, contemporaneous, and unimpeachable account of actual Masonic collaboration between enemies.” But not all was brotherly love. Some Masons among the Confederates passionately objected to the fraternization, and made damning charges against those who treated their captured brethren to fairly extravagant comforts.

In the end, Dr. Gray was released from incarceration in July 1862, and he returned to New York, but then resumed a career in the Army. “For reasons unknown,” as Halleran concludes with this startling detail, “[Gray] withdrew his membership in Ark Lodge on 3 May 1870.”

In his “The Observant Mason” column, Andrew Hammer presents “Perfecting Our Points of Entrance.” Here, the author of Observing the Craft explains how ritual might benefit from a reordering of the Perfect Points of Entrance. As we know them, the guttural, the pectoral, the manual, and the pedal correspond to the Four Cardinal Virtues. In Hammer’s estimation, “the four perfect points of entrance may correspond to the four realms of existence as found in the Kabbalah. These realms take us from the temporal to the spiritual plane, and correspond to overlapping areas of the Sefirot, or Tree of Life.”

In short, this most thoughtful and esteemed speculative Mason reassigns each Point of Entrance to a different Cardinal Virtue. Readers familiar with Hammer rightly can expect another clearly reasoned suggestion for improved understanding of Masonic ritual and symbol, and those who do not know Hammer yet may be startled by his unapologetically being right all the time.

And finally in the feature article department is my own reportage of the 2014 Masonic Restoration Foundation Symposium at Cincinnati in August. I cannot believe it’s been four months already, and I’m glad I wrote this story so I don’t forget what happened. The full text of the article is below; it is a slightly different and definitely longer version than what could fit in The Journal.

Elsewhere in The Journal are the usual features:

  • President’s Message – The lovely and talented Jim Dillman delves into Indiana Masonic history to find a valuable lesson in charity.
  • News of the Society – Cool current events in the Craft. And some weird, scary stuff too.
  • Conferences, Speeches, Symposia & Gatherings – our calendar of Masonic events in your district and around the world.
  • Book Reviews – Contemporary and classic titles reviewed by the sharpest minds.
  • Masonic Collectibles – An exclusive look at exceptional rarities courtesy of—who else?—Yasha Beresiner. Not to be confused with Masonic Treasures, which adorns the back cover.

If you are a Freemason in a lodge under a grand lodge that is part of, or in amity with, the Conference of Grand Masters of North America, then you should join The Masonic Society, and enjoy the benefits of membership. Our quarterly Journal, a membership patent you’ll want to have framed for proud display, and other tokens of fraternal esteem are waiting for you. Click here and take it from there.

Here is my news from the MRF 2014 Symposium:

Masonic Restoration Foundation
meets in Ohio

The Masonic Restoration Foundation hosted its Fifth Annual Symposium in August in Cincinnati, Ohio, drawing hundreds of Freemasons from around the United States to learn about the Observance movement from those who have set T.O. lodges to labor. Founded in 2001, the MRF, according to its website, serves as a clearinghouse of best practices in Freemasonry. Its supporters share ideas and information, discuss Masonic topics, and conduct local, regional, and national Masonic education conferences upon request of members or lodges, and with permission of the Grand Lodge in which its events are held. This weekend event was hosted jointly by Caliburn Lodge No. 785 and Arts & Sciences Lodge No. 792, both of Ohio, with Lodge Vitruvian No. 767 of Indiana and Lodge Ad Lucem No. 812 of Pennsylvania. The itinerary kept its participants and guests active with discussions, lectures, meals, and ritual, among other attractions. It should be noted how all seven brethren who presented lectures during the symposium are members of The Masonic Society.

The location was the Cincinnati Masonic Center, a beautiful example of neo-classical architecture built in 1928. Its origins begin in 1916, when the Cincinnati Masonic Temple Company began acquiring contiguous properties in the Queen City’s downtown business district with the goal of erecting a temple. The Scottish Rite Valley of Cincinnati and Syrian Shrine joined the effort (although the Shrine did not move in), and the result is the grand landmark on East Fifth Street, a location well known in the city thanks, in part, to its Taft Theater, a popular performing arts space. Bro. Donald Crews, author of the newly published book Cincinnati’s Freemasons (and a TMS Member), began the symposium with his lecture recounting the history of Freemasonry in Ohio, an informative and very interactive talk that engaged many brethren from out of state whose grand jurisdictions played roles in the establishment of the fraternity in Ohio during the 1790s.

Bob Davis at the informal
Sunday panel discussion.
The brethren adjourned to the ballroom for a festive board hosted by Lodge Vitruvian No. 767 of Indianapolis. The fine meal with ample libations for the toasts would have been enough, but MRF Past President Robert G. Davis of Oklahoma (a Founding Fellow of TMS) complemented the affair with his well received lecture “Journey to the Masculine Soul,” his thoughtful explanation of why good men should explore the mysteries of Freemasonry. “When we create lodges where the overriding vision is social honor and we select men of status to join our ranks, we sustain the cultural paradigm upon which Freemasonry was erected,” he said. “We educate and demonstrate to every generation of members the Masonic importance of status. And the way we sustain status in our lodges over time is when the upper level men become mentors to the lower level men and the upper level men are consciously aware that the subject of mentoring is social honor—which can only be taught through life experience and symbolic interaction.”

Davis’ term “social honor” is key. “In the hierarchical relations of lodge, (and we are informed in the Entered Apprentice Charge of this relationship), we are indeed superiors, inferiors, and equals to each other, and it is essential that we play roles as all three,” he added. “We must be prepared to pass from one position to another just as we are born, age and die. We must be taught, as we must teach others. This is the true dynamic of our society of Brothers. There is a time to rule, a time to be ruled, and finally, there is a time to pass the reins to the next generation.”

“Tying this to social honor—the inferior, no less than his superior—regulates the social contract we have with each other as Brothers,” Davis explained. “This is why an inter-generational contract works. The ideal type of equality is friendship. We cannot have friends who are not equals. The social contract required in Freemasonry is that friendship lives in honor. Honor determines status because again, above all else, a specific style of life is expected from all those who wish to belong to the inner circle. In a fraternal sense, style is our group identity. We dress and act like others whose company we cherish. Honor in an aristocratic sense is an exclusive concept. Only peers are considered capable of honor.”

The altar of Arts & Sciences Lodge No. 792 holds six VSLs.

The next morning a lodge of Master Masons was opened by Arts & Sciences Lodge No. 792, an Observant lodge set to labor four years ago. Six Volumes of Sacred Law appear on the altar. In addition to the Holy Bible there are the Tanakh, the Koran, a Shinto text, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Jefferson Bible, Thomas Jefferson’s interpretation of the Gospels published after his death. The solemn opening impressed the brethren assembled, who filled nearly every seat in the spacious Eastern Star Room. Refreshment was called so that the day’s programs could begin. Four lectures were offered in pairs in the morning, forcing the attendees to make hard choices of which to attend. TMS Member Oscar Alleyne of New York presented “Fides, Vita, Rex: Communicating Esoteric Topics without Making Them Run for the Hills,” and TMS Founding Member Daniel Hrinko of Ohio, a psychologist, discussed “The Initiatory Experience and Human Nature.” Hrinko explained in plain language the mutual benefits of a lodge bringing a new man into the fraternity, and cautioned that each petitioner deserves particular care. It is essential to both those who initiate and those initiated that time and effort be invested and for familiarity to be established—steps far beyond what an investigating committee takes, and even what one mentor can offer. He advocates devoting up to six months to help a petitioner and the lodge decide if they are right for one another—a busy period of establishing trust, building a potentially lasting connection that is a fundamental to the initiatory experience. “We do things for emotional experiences, so try to understand why he petitions for the degrees of Freemasonry,” Hrinko added. “Tell him our reasons to help him discover his reasons. Make it personal.” The months leading to an Entered Apprentice Degree should be a mutual personal investment with readings (Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave,” for example) and honest discussions to build friendship. And when the time arrives for initiation, the lodge must fill its role as a sacred space that receives new members with respect and solemnity.

Paul Smith
The second pair of lectures were delivered by Shawn Eyer of Washington, DC (a Founding Fellow), who praised the virtues of music in lodge with “And Hinder Not Music,” and Member Paul Smith of New Hampshire, who spoke with moving candor of “Forming a New Lodge: Sharing the Reality.” Smith recounted his tale of laboring in the quarries of his mother lodge, and weathering various frustrations in the process, before his personal studies led him to the Traditional Observance movement—and the real headaches began. The steps taken by Smith and a small group of like-minded brethren were common sense and necessary; he explained in detail how a club was formed to examine the many aspects of T.O. lodges and figure the best ways to incorporate them into a local lodge. “What do we envision?” they asked reflectively. The organizing—matters of regalia, lodge paraphernalia, and the like—were easily addressed, but they faced resistance when presenting the concept to other Masons, including close friends. Those who have been around long enough recognize that obstacle. Accusations of elitism and similar conduct abounded, but the founders of what would become Phoenix Lodge No. 105 responded with a Masonic relations campaign to clarify the myths and facts of T.O. lodges, including sending forth brethren to speak in other lodges about the virtues of the T.O. model. When it was time to call a vote of the Grand Lodge, it was unanimously in favor of chartering the lodge. Smith explained the commitment the lodge makes and its candidates’ reciprocity. One requires eighteen months of activity before being raised to the Third Degree: six as a petitioner, six as an Apprentice, and six as a Fellow Craft. This time includes making presentations to the lodge that demonstrate understandings of Masonic ritual and symbol, and other displays of understanding.

Smith’s overall message to those embarking on creating their own Observant lodge is don’t believe for a minute that it will be easy and will enjoy the support of the grand lodge. The reality is not only will there be opposition, but that even some of your supporters will change their minds, but if there is room for convivial Masons and charitable Masons, there also must be room made for those brethren who work toward excellence in meaningful ritual and continuous Masonic education.

Michael Clevenger
The Keynote Presentation of the day came from Michael Clevenger, a Past Master of New England Lodge No. 4 in Ohio, a Leadership Instructor for the Grand Lodge, and a TMS Founding Member, who discussed “Becoming Masonry.” For this writer, it indeed was the most salient summation of not only the specific cause of the Masonic Restoration Foundation, but also of the meaning of Freemasonry itself. Clevenger presented practical philosophy; he puts into the brethren’s hands the tools needed to craft a Masonic life. This is not recitation of ritual, but a way to use ritual and symbol to create daily lessons that modify one’s attitudes and behavior, augmented by plans that reinforce Masonic teachings and in effect serve to organize the mind along Masonic philosophy. In Clevenger’s system, each degree and every Working Tool provides ways to apply Masonic teaching to daily life. Worksheets give the Masonic student a place to write down and compare ideas, such as what the ritual says, for example, about the Common Gavel; what the Common Gavel means to the Mason personally; and how he will use these concepts in real life. In addition, the brother is challenged to envision how the Common Gavel and his knowledge of it will benefit his life, his family, job, community, and—yes—Masonic lodge. In setting specific goals, Clevenger’s method encourages daily reinforcement of Masonic values. A Freemason is to know himself, through reflection, evaluation, and learning; to know others by developing relationships; to be of value to others by assuming an attitude of service; to show respect by practicing the Golden Rule; and to be a leader who displays Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.

In addition to the ritual oaths and obligations of Masonic degrees, Clevenger devised “My Masonic Obligation,” a philosophic guide to life: “I am a Mason because I believe that no man should live his life in a random manner. He should be guided by a plan that honors his God, supports his fellow man, and provides a way to improve himself daily. Masonry provides this plan for me, and I will live in pursuit of knowledge and understanding for the purpose of providing for my family, supporting my Masonic brethren, and improving my community. My continued hope is that I live respected and die regretted.”

Chris Hodapp and Mark Tabbert

It’s always a treat to meet the authors of the books we love, and rounding out the lectures with informality and ease were TMS Founding Fellow Chris Hodapp and Member Andrew Hammer, author of Observing the Craft as well as the President of the MRF, appearing separately for Q&A with the brethren. The session with Hodapp was facilitated by Founding Fellow Mark Tabbert, of the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Virginia, who made the most of Hodapp’s breadth of knowledge as the tireless traveling man who probably has visited more lodges than anyone in promotion of his book Freemasons for Dummies, which has sold more than 120,000 copies, making it the best selling book on Freemasonry in generations. “Traditional Observance is not the savior or golden goose for us all,” he cautioned. “At Vitruvian, we sometimes have more visitors than members. So pay attention to the visitors. You are influencing their thoughts.” Attentiveness to new brethren is key also. “A Mason’s fourth meeting is the most important one,” Hodapp added, “because that’s when he sees if the fraternity practices what it preaches.” He also noted a change in what’s being preached, meaning the most common question facing the fraternity in recent years was what does the lodge do for the community, but with a generational change, that thinking has vanished. Remedies he’d like to see include increases in annual dues and assessments, so that Masonry places a higher value on itself; the abandonment of one-day mass initiations; and a split of the Shrine from Freemasonry to allow the Nobles to do everything necessary to raise funds for their hospitals. “I’m very optimistic about the fraternity,” he concluded. “A younger generation will come in like a freight train, raising dues and insisting that ritual work be better.”

But the day was not over yet. The brethren returned to the lodge, and the Craft was called back to Labor to witness Lodge Ad Lucem No. 812 of Pennsylvania confer the Master Mason Degree of its jurisdiction’s ritual. Unique among the various Craft rituals of the United States, the Pennsylvanians’ ritual is akin to certain lodge rituals of England. One Fellow Craft was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason in a ceremony none will soon forget. Contributing toward the spirited community of the brethren was the closing event of the day: a Scotch Harmony—a lesson on pairing savory hors d’oeuvres with exotic whiskies, with generous samples of all and the guiding hand of a Scotch whisky expert.

The Sixth Annual Masonic Restoration Foundation Symposium will take place August 21-23 at the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s famous Masonic Temple in Philadelphia.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

‘The Holy Nights at Anthroposophy NYC’

Another terrific line-up of events planned for the coming weeks at the Anthroposophical Society of New York City. Every evening will begin at seven o’clock, except where noted. Admission to each is free, but donations are welcome. The Anthroposophical Society of New York City is located at 138 West 15th Street in Manhattan.

Celebrating the Holy Nights
at Anthroposophy NYC

Friday, December 26Joyce Reilly on “The Christmas Truce of 1914.”

Saturday, December 27 – Jesús Amadeo on “Compassion.”

Sunday, December 28 – Fred Dennehy on “The Esoteric Dimensions of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.”

Courtesy New York Times
Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival's cast of The Tempest, 2009.

Monday, December 29 – Cliff Venho on “Exploring Artistic Depictions of the Threefold Human Being.”

Tuesday, December 30 – Gisela Wielki on “The Call of Time.”

Wednesday, December 31Kevin Dann on “The Fourth Sacrifice of Christ and the Three Preparers of the Path to Golgotha.”

Courtesy HW Sands
New Year’s Day – Joyce Reilly on “A ‘Janus’ Evening.”

Friday, January 2 – Albert Spekman on “Rhythms of Time.”

Saturday, January 3Rita Costanzi, harpist, presenting “The Christ Child’s Lullaby” and more.

Sunday, January 4 – Festival and Pot Luck (4 to 7 p.m.). Opening talk by Walter Alexander. Artistic Program: “In a Midwinter Mood.”

Monday, January 5Brigida Baldszun on “Eurythmy: Behold That Star.”

Tuesday, January 6 – Epiphany/Three Kings, and “The Dream Song of Olaf Åsteson.

Also from the publicity:

“That which we believe to be born anew symbolically every Christmas Night is the human soul in its original nature, the childhood-spirit of man as it was at the beginning of earth-evolution, [before] it descended as a revelation from the heavenly heights. And when the human heart can become conscious of this reality, the soul is filled with the unshakable peace that can bear us to our lofty goals, if we are of goodwill. Mighty indeed is the word that can resound to us on Christmas Night, do we but understand its import.”

Rudolf Steiner
December 26, 1911

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

‘To help the Widow’s Son’

While I had learned of this ghastly devastation practically as it happened, it was only a minute ago when I found out the victims were Masonic family. W. Bro. Anthony White of Samson Lodge No. 66, under the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New Jersey, lost five of his kin, aged six weeks to 79 years, in a hell that engulfed a residence in East Orange on December 7.


Grand Lodge had been accepting financial contributions to assist the family in managing the funeral expenses. You may contact Senior Grand Warden Tisan Rasool Dawud at 908.966.1088 to help. There also is a Go Fund Me page. Click here. Individuals, lodges, foundations, etc. may donate.

A statement on Go Fund Me from Golconda Temple No. 24 of Ancient Egyptian Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine:

Many of our Jersey family may have already heard about the fire this morning in East Orange that fatally blazed through several homes on North 17th Street, leaving at least five people dead, including a six-week-old child. Many of you may not know, but this was the family of our Dear Noble Anthony White who just recently coped with the loss of his son.

This campaign was started to support the family to assist with necessary burial costs. We can only imagine the pain and heartache this family has already had to endure. So I ask you, especially during this Christmas season, to please find it in your heart to help his family with this financial burden and continue to keep him, his family, and all other families affected by this catastrophic event in your prayers. Thank you.

To send condolences, Samson Lodge 66 meets at 190 Irvine Turner Blvd., Newark, NJ 07018.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

‘Ancient Tools for Our Modern World’

The Rosicrucians of New York City have a workshop planned for this weekend. “The Kabala, the Tarot, and the Tree of Life: Ancient Tools for Our Modern World” will take place Saturday the 27th (St. John the Evangelist Day) and Sunday the 28th at 10 a.m. at the Rosicrucian Cultural Center, located at 2303 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard in Manhattan. From the publicity:

This workshop will include a review of ancient lessons of Kabala, the Tree of Life and the Tarot as well as the Modern Lesson of the process of Cell Division (Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase and Telophase).

The principles gleaned from these studies will help turn around our lives for the better; using resources that are dormant in each of us. The discussion will lead us on the path of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. It will help discover the DNA of happiness, success in business, family relationships, true love, financial independence, peace of mind, access to riches not destroyed by time and making our daily living an unparalleled success and a life of profound satisfaction.

The workshop will discuss the origin and development of the Cell and DNA, the Kabala, the Tree of life, Tarot, the Holy Scriptures, and the principles that guide our affairs.

The facilitator of this workshop, Fratre Ben Ogunkua, MD, Ph.D. was a Past Master of the Traditional Martinist Order. He helped with the re-establishment of TMO in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and served as Provincial Master of TMO for the Mid-Atlantic Region for more than a decade. Fratre Ben is a physician and a researcher in the Biomedical Sciences. He is an accomplished artist who is versed in the techniques of the Flemish Masters and Classical European Artists in Oil Medium. Brother Ben has given many lectures in “The Kabala, the Tree of Life and the Tarot” in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.

Many of the lectures have been opened to the public and some of the lectures are restricted to advanced students of the Mysteries who are affiliated members. Fratre Ben has also given many talks on the “Cell” the unit of life and the how the cell and functions can be understood using the ancient Tools of the Mysteries.

The workshop will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. A convocation for AMORC members will follow the workshop at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Friday, December 19, 2014

‘Philately Freemasons to meet in February’

(Updated January 29, 2015 to include new information.)

The George Washington Masonic Stamp Club will hold its 2015 Annual Meeting on Sunday, February 22 at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia. The agenda:

Noon – The Memorial will open, and optional tours of the upper floors and tower will be available. $10 per person at 9:30 and 11 a.m., and again at four oclock after the meeting.

1:30 – Social hour, review of covers, etc.

2 p.m. – Meeting of the Club, including conferral of the Master of Philately on new members. Alexandria-Washington Lodge Room. (If you have not received the degree, you may receive it at this time. Please reserve in advance with the Secretary so hell have your M.P. certificate ready for you.)

4:45 p.m. – Social hour followed by the Annual Dinner at 5:30: “no host” meal at Joe Theismanns Restaurant, with ladies and guests invited. Speaker will be Mark A. Wright, Past Master of Federal Lodge No. 1 and a member of the Iroquois Nation, on “Native American Masons.”

For a Life Membership application, click here. Applications require payment of the $20 fee, and evidence of current membership in a recognized blue lodge (photocopy of lodge dues card, or letter from the lodge secretary on lodge letterhead from a recognized lodge).

Questions? Contact Secretary John R. Allen at

Thursday, December 11, 2014

‘Masonic Book Club’

If you’ve been wondering what has been going on with the Masonic Book Club, an announcement from the Illinois Lodge of Research tonight on Facebook clarifies things:

“In response to several inquiries, the Masonic Book Club of Illinois is no longer in operation and was formally dissolved on June 14, 2013.”

Courtesy Princeton Antiques & Books
It has been about five years since the MBC published a book, so this is not quite shocking news, but it still is a notable loss. The club reprinted rare, historic, and odd out-of-print titles from the vast corpus of Masonic literature. Reading these unique books was rewarding, but waiting to see which curiosity would arrive in the mail was the fun of it.

I think it was around eight years ago when Secretary Robin Carr stepped aside, and I knew then the MBC would not endure for long. Many projects in Freemasonry cease when their sole organizers retire or pass away. The MBC website remains on-line, another predictable example of confusion among the workmen, but I wish I knew the disposition of the inventory of books.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

‘Bebergal at Morbid Anatomy on Friday’

Season of the Witch author Peter Bebergal will appear at The Morbid Anatomy Museum Friday night to present findings that seem not to have made it into his new book. From the publicity:

Friday at 8 p.m.
$10 tickets available here

The Morbid Anatomy Museum
424A Third Avenue in Brooklyn

Presented by Phantasmaphile
and The Morbid
Anatomy Museum

Drawn largely from research and ideas related to his new book Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll, author Peter Bebergal will present a multi-media presentation of the ways in which the aesthetics and mythos of rock and roll have been deeply influenced by the painters, writers, and composers of the 19th century. Bebergal will narrate a secret occult history of rock that owes its mystique to people like Aubrey Beardsley, Austin Osman Spare, Alphonse Mucha, Alexander Scriabin, and others, as well as the pomp and circumstance of the magic fraternities of that century’s Occult Revival.

Peter Bebergal is the author of Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll, Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood, and The Faith between Us: A Jew and a Catholic Search for the Meaning of God (with Scott Korb). He writes widely on music and books, with special emphasis on the speculative and slightly fringe. His recent essays and reviews have appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, The Quietus, BoingBoing, and The Believer. Bebergal studied religion and culture at Harvard Divinity School, and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In the meantime, I hope to see you Wednesday night at St. Cecile Masonic Lodges annual holiday party. Grand Lodge Room at Masonic Hall, located at 71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan. This is the lodge of show business folk, so there will be live music. Details here:


Friday, December 5, 2014

‘Martinism Degree next week’

If you read this blog with any regularity, you may be interested in the Light of Martinism. (Naturally you would want to read Martinist literature to consider if the Order is right for you, and my personal opinion is one ought to have some background in the esoteric before exploring it.) It is available through several Orders, the most accessible of which is, I suppose, the Traditional Martinist Order. I have no affiliation (yet) with TMO, but I have no reservation about sharing this information:

For those of you who have been considering joining the Traditional Martinist Order, this is the very best time for you to do so. This is the time of year when Heptads and Ateliers throughout the world confer the Associate Degree Initiation, which allows you to attend the Ieschouah Ceremony in a Heptad—the most important gathering in the Martinist Tradition—which takes place just before the Winter Solstice each year. This initiation also allows you to begin studying the Martinist Teachings in a Heptad or Atelier. While it is also possible to study the Martinist Teachings at home, the Tradition is most profoundly experienced within the Heptad environment.

New York Heptad (822 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan) will confer the Associate Degree on the afternoon of Saturday the 13th. It is necessary to register on-line so they know to expect you.

Read a history here.

Read a description of Martinist teachings here.

I should explain that if you intend to take part in Heptad activity, it may be better for you to seek initiation next December, as the two-year course of study will begin a new cycle at the start of 2016.

‘BOTA’s Qabalistic Christmas Celebration’

Just forwarding an announcement from BOTA:

Builders of the Adytum members, their guests, and the general public are invited to participate in the Rev. Ann Davies’ beautiful and inspiring Christmas Ritual. Help us rejoice in the light and promise of this holy season!

Saturday, December 6
2 p.m.
Masonic Hall
71 West 23rd Street
12th Floor (Chapter Room)

For information about the Christmas ritual, contact Regional Coordinator Dottie at: 
dottielvx (at)

is an international non-profit teaching and training order for those interested in the Western Mysteries such as Qabalah, Sacred Tarot, Spiritual Alchemy and Esoteric Astrology.
Visit the BOTA website and its Northeast Regional page here.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

‘How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll’

My review, in the December issue of The Working Tools magazine, of Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll by Peter Bebergal and published by Tarcher/Penguin.

A significant anthropological weight is found in the pages of Peter Bebergal’s new book, Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll. Naturally, the thesis lends itself to all kinds of potential exploitation—of which there are ample risks in the art of the dust jacket, with its headshots of David Bowie, Ozzy Osbourne, and Jimmy Page surrounded by various op-art and mystical geometric designs—but the author adheres to a factual chronology of impressive scope. It is worth noting Peter Bebergal’s explanation of what inspired his work; I imagine readers age 40 and up can only smile and nod in remembrance and approbation.

“In 1978 my older brother had just joined the Air Force, leaving me access to the mysteries of his room. Some other secret thing was beckoning. I had caught glimpses when I heard the music coming from his room, so different from my own small collection of Bay City Rollers and Bee Gees 45s. The record collection was a lexicon of the gods: the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Arthur Brown, King Crimson, Hawkwind, Yes, Black Sabbath, and Pink Floyd.”

Then in six chapters of cogently organized narrative, albeit from secondary sources, Bebergal renders both a history of rock music and a quick study of alternative religions and occultism. As he puts it: “I also hope to reveal that these musicians are human after all and their magical and mystical aspirations are a microcosm of a greater American spiritual hunger.”

We know what rock and roll is, but the term “occult” poses a challenge because of its true definitions and popular usages. From Western Mystery Traditions to witchcraft, and from Eastern faiths to New Age practices, the word is an abused catch-all, which is unfortunate, but the author sticks to a clear meaning without judgment: “A set of practices and beliefs—some stretching back to antiquity, others of a more recent vintage—that attempt to understand reality (spiritual or otherwise) in a way traditional religious practice cannot or chooses not to explore.” That established, Bebergal decodes the varied clues found in the recorded music, packaging art, and live performances of rock and roll bands that have been so important to so many. Freemasons and music fans can delight in seeing the intersections of favorite songs and spiritual paths.

Speaking of intersections, perhaps the legendary crossroads where bluesman Robert Johnson was said to have made his Faustian deal is the starting point, but while Johnson’s meeting with the devil is the best known, it is merely a landmark in a trans-Atlantic journey. The flow-chart begins with Africa before and during the slave trade where, the author explains, “the power of the spirit world is most dramatically revealed in the African traditions that allowed the faithful to be overtaken—possessed—by the gods. Percussion and dance are the means by which the spirit reveals itself, and since each spirit had its own name and personality, the style of dance is a clue as to which spirit had manifested. The shouting and dancing are a result of the worshipper being ‘mounted by the god.’ When the deity inhabits the person, his or her own identity is subsumed.” Having a more direct relationship to the subject at hand is Eshu, “a West African Yoruba god” who can bestow supernatural powers on a musician. Evolving in Haiti is Papa Legba, a deity in the vodou tradition. The imposition of Christianity upon slaves from Africa led to the transformation of these figures to the devil of Western belief. Simultaneously, as the slaves in the New World were prohibited from using drums, percussion was provided by clapping hands and stomping feet, while singing embraced complementary cadences, most notably the back-and-forth of “call and response” and The Shout. Such musical expression was one limited measure of freedom permitted to slaves, but it would produce a global popular culture of shed inhibitions and uncontrolled creativity. The midwife was, of all things, Christianity.

“The post-Civil War African-American churches saw the devil everywhere,” Bebergal explains. “Secular music and dancing were particularly questionable. But in an effort to keep the devil at bay, congregations still used the methods of worship adopted by slaves, what the historian Eileen Southern calls ‘the hand clapping, foot stomping, call-and-response performance, rhythmic complexities, persistent beat, melodic improvisation, heterophonic textures, percussive accompaniments, and ring shouts.’” The author does note the irony of how these musical releases of religious zeal managed to migrate to white people’s churches. For brevity, it is necessary to fast forward to the 1950s, when Elvis Presley first appears on The Ed Sullivan Show, and the director had to censor the singer’s carnal gyrations for fear of corrupting American youth. At issue for the author actually is the irony of how the Pentecostal Church—an offshoot of which was the Presley family’s church—led the charge against Elvis and his music, while Pentecostalism is known for its own music, dance, and speaking in tongues to make a direct connection to God. “The devil should not be allowed to keep all this good rhythm,” one Pentecostal leader is quoted saying. For his part, Presley would explain in interviews how the church protests against him, which included public burnings of his records, were senseless since his music was inspired by the church worship of his youth. Concurrently, Little Richard, a Seventh-day Adventist, excelled in a flamboyant showmanship that made Presley’s sensuality look sleepy.

Of course the title of this book is lifted from the Donovan song released in 1966. The Scottish singer is best known as a folkie who crafted catchy pop songs, but this tune has a dark countenance flavored with a pre-Christian paganism and a hypnotic rhythm. Years later, he would call it “Celtic-rock.” Led Zeppelin would make the most of this theme, producing music both of primal 12-bar blues and elegant acoustic tones with lyrics evoking “Tolkien, Arthurian lore, and Celtic mythology” all presented to the listener in packaging that employs esoteric symbols. It wasn’t a veneer of pretense; this is the band which the author described in a recent radio interview as “the 800-pound gorilla” to be reckoned with when examining occultism in rock music. Guitarist Jimmy Page ostensibly was a follower of Aleister Crowley, collecting rare books authored by the infamous mystic, and even purchasing a mansion Crowley once had owned. If you have an old LP of Led Zeppelin III, look for the Crowley quote inscribed in the lead-out area of the vinyl. Rosicrucians of all stripes could have an appreciation for the title of Zep’s fifth record, Houses of the Holy. And of course an entire chapter could be written about the untitled fourth record—the one with “Stairway to Heaven;” the one with gatefold art unquestionably borrowing from the Hermit card of the Rider-Waite tarot deck; and the one labeled with runes, one chosen as a personal symbol by each of the four band members.

Most readers attracted to this book probably would know that already. Season of the Witch provides more that probably is less celebrated. Theatric singer Arthur “god of hellfire” Brown employed make-up, wardrobe, lighting and props on stage that the author likens to initiation into a magical order, like Golden Dawn. Hawkwind, more of an English eccentricity than a major act that filled football stadiums, excelled in music and live performance that evoked “science-fantasy mythology.” Their second album’s songs “tell tales of journeys into the psyche.” Sun Ra, the avant-garde composer and bandleader, fashioned a musical identity that tapped into “Kabbalah, numerology, and science fiction” that, among other things, pined for a home for African-Americans on another planet to escape oppression. Closer to earth, the artist Roger Dean, famous for his spellbinding album covers for Yes in the 1970s, is shown telling an admirer that his artwork is to be appreciated for masterful form, not mystical function. The newly disillusioned fan replies “What do you know? You’re just the artist!”

It is not enough to have performers exhibiting degrees of occult knowledge in their acts. What of the effects on the fan? David Bowie has reinvented his persona so many times that it is difficult today to appreciate what he portrayed 40 years ago, but Bebergal takes us back.

“In the history of rock, there is likely no truer magician than Bowie, as he has come to personify how magic works. As noted, in stage magic those in the audience allow themselves to be tricked, to be seduced by the illusion, just as in ritual and ceremonial magic, where a similar phenomenon is at play and is an important effect in conducting the events and rituals within the context of a group, community, or fraternity. There is a shared, often tacit, language agreed upon by the group; its power evident in the way a neophyte will accept the language or other coded acts implicitly, such as when an apprentice Freemason is given the first handshake, or ‘grip,’ and without hesitation accepts it so.”

It is not contradictory to the book’s thesis to say this, but the reasonable conclusion the reader will draw is that overall, the many esoteric spiritual and metaphysical sources discussed in these pages had no lasting effects on the artists themselves. I do not say that, for example, George Harrison lacked sincerity in his embrace of Eastern spirituality, or that Elvis was phoning it in on his gospel records, but we’re mostly talking dabbling here. I am sorry to report there is no group of Freemasons or Rosicrucians or what-have-you that was devoted to espousing the tenets of any particular system of hidden wisdom. There are influences, but they generally are shallow and temporary, and they competed with countless other forces that inspired these musicians. The gods of rock mostly were attracted to mystical iconography more than to the esoteric teachings and practices the symbols represent. I would have loved to learn that King Crimson derived its name from alchemy, but that is a question unanswered and unasked despite the print devoted to the group and its music. Still Season of the Witch is a valuable catalog of many favorite musicians and their respective curiosities about occult beliefs. If you lived youth in the late twentieth century and devoured rock music in orthopraxy, and then grew up and found credible sources of hidden wisdom and spirituality, then Peter Bebergal’s book is a colorful connector of dots. Enjoy the reminiscence and the novel point of view.

Monday, December 1, 2014

‘Making Carney’s Point’

Daryll J. Slimmer
Penns Grove-Excelsior Lodge
I do not plan on making this a habit again, but my friend who will be the next Worshipful Master of Penns Grove-Excelsior Masonic Lodge No. 54 way down in south Jersey just invited me to speak at his first meeting of the New Year. I have spoken on things Freemasonry before Masonic and general audiences around the tri-state area many times, and I think this engagement will entail the greatest distance traveled. But what could I say?

Penns Grove-Excelsior Lodge No. 54
Free and Accepted Masons
330 Georgetown Road
Carney’s Point, New Jersey

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
7:30 p.m.

I am not prepared to advertise my topic yet. It actually is a new presentation I hope to unveil at a very special event next summer and then hopefully have published in The Journal of the Masonic Society that I’ll share with the brethren on this night. Kind of kicking the tires, working out the kinks, etc. So, if you find yourself in or near the [cough] greater Wilmington metropolitan area, please stop in and join us.