Thursday, July 30, 2015

‘Journal 28 in the mail’


Issue No. 28 of The Journal of the Masonic Society is arriving in members’ mailboxes now. Some of the highlights include:

Editor Michael Halleran considers the importance of candidate proficiency examinations. “It seems clear that suitable proficiency means comprehension—not just a rote recitation—of the experience of the degree, enriched with appreciation of the implements of Masonry and some understanding of the symbolism of the fraternity, as specified by the grand lodge,” he rightly writes. “Sadly, we have all witnessed perfunctory examinations, but these do no one any favors.”

It’s very simple to me: Since Freemasonry uses the building arts metaphorically, we’d view the prospective member as raw material. When your basic building blocks show no understanding of the fundamentals of Masonic thought, you’ll have a fraternity that serves no vital purpose. Just shallow sociability, perfunctory charity—oh, wait.

Bro. Richard Bunn, in his article, draws comparisons between architectural cornerstones installed ceremonially and elements of the Hiramic drama. “If the Freemasons had been farmers, they would have seized upon the metaphor of the seed—as utilized by ancient agrarian societies in their mystery dramas, the most famous example being the Peresphone myth, which elucidates on the esoteric phenomenon of sowing, i.e., the seed, after being buried in the earthen furrow, rises again in the new stalk—but as the Gentlemen Masons were Symbolic builders, they chose the stone, like the medieval alchemists before them, to teach the same lesson of regeneration, or immortality of the soul,” he says in one breath. “Regrettably, with the ceremony of the laying/dedication no longer being in high demand, twenty-first century Freemasons are rarely, if ever, exposed to the profound symbolism attached to one of the fraternity’s most ancient and important observances. The symbolism of the ceremony of the laying of a cornerstone and the Degree of Master Mason are so interconnected that it is my contention that if the mystery drama of the latter did not directly arise from the former, then, the two ceremonies, one public and exoteric, the other private and esoteric, evolved contemporaneously.”

A new feature, “Retrospective,” invokes lessons from the past we ought to take to heart today. This time, a concept from 1864: “The extraordinary and ruinously rapid growth which Freemasonry has experienced during the past few years has only become possible in consequence of a neglect properly to exercise the privilege of the ballot. Hundreds, nay, thousands of improper persons have been permitted to receive the degrees, who, under a proper exercise of the ballot, would never have been allowed to cross the threshold of our institution.”

Yes, that’s from 1864, not 1964.

Speaking of changes, Bro. John Bizzack returns to The Journal with “Paradigms and Periods of Transition in Freemasonry,” in which he explains what a paradigm is and how it works, and how Masons can attain a keener understanding of their fraternity’s need for constancy in Masonry’s reason for being. “The idea has never been for men to change Masonry, but for Masonry to change men. Its core values and lessons can be challenging to incorporate into one’s life,” he writes. “It takes discipline of the mind. It takes effort. But the fraternity offers true camaraderie for those who choose this difficult psychological and philosophical journey. Incredible, life-altering changes occur as a man develops and uses a value-driven moral compass.”

He continues: “The landscape has changed. Freemasonry is indeed in a paradigm shift, one that was readily identified by leaders in the fraternity in the mid 1960s and that set the course for the natural turbulence that follows any time a paradigm begins to shift. That very shift gives us the signature of the fraternity today: dwindling numbers and a sense of baffling urgency to find answers, to stop the revolving door of men in and out after only a couple of years of membership.”

Bro. Mark Tabbert, Director of the Museum and Library Collections at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Virginia, spends a lot of time these days researching and writing what I am confident will be the definitive Masonic biography of George Washington—a comprehensive study of all Washington’s Masonic words and deeds that will serve for generations. His article in The Journal this time is “George Washington Meets a Past Grand Master of England.” How did our future first president’s interactions with the Fourth Earl of Loudoun during the French and Indian War impact England’s military strategy in that conflict? You’ll want to read this one.

In his always engaging regular feature “Masonic Collectibles,” Bro. Yasha Beresiner shares an item that actually cannot be gathered into a collection: a singular ephemeral tract of anti-masonic propaganda from 1698(!). From the pamphlet: “Knowing how that God observeth privilly them that in Darkness they shall be smitten and the Secrets of their Hearts layed bare. Mingle not among this corrupt People lest you be found so at the World’s Conflagration.”

There’s no pleasing some people.

And getting back to cornerstones, Bro. Stephen Ponzillo, a Past Grand Master of Maryland, hits the books to provide some biographical knowledge of the men whose names are inscribed on the silver plaque set into the cornerstone laid in the U.S. Capitol on September 18, 1793. Reflections on brother Masons who ought not be forgotten.

Plus, there are the regular attractions. President Jim Dillman tells us about the upcoming Quarry Project in Indianapolis. In “Book Reviews,” we have six titles of Masonic and related importance, including Frances Timbers’ Magic and Masculinity: Ritual Magic and Gender in the Early Modern Era, and Roscoe Pound’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Freemasonry. “News of the Society” informs us of the many successes enjoyed by various members of The Masonic Society as they pursue their labors in various employments throughout the fraternity, plus some other oddities you may not have heard yet. And, under “Conference, Speeches, Symposia & Gatherings,” is a list of educational and cultural events around the nation upcoming in the next few months.

‘Masonic Treasures’ is the regular feature on the back cover of The Journal. This issue treats us to the tracing board artwork of Bro. Jorge Soria of Grapevine Lodge No. 288 in Texas. Such low tech devices were common in the 18th and 19th centuries as aids to imparting lessons in Masonic symbolism and thought, but were replaced by electronic media as generations passed. However, thanks to artists like Soria, lucky lodges again are able to employ graphic crafts to instruct their candidates through the degrees.

And finally, if you wish to advertise your books, regalia, wares, organized events, or other Masonic-friendly goods and services, please contact yours truly here. Our rate card is here.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

‘Born on this date: Jung and Huxley’

First published in 2014, this has become one of the most visited posts in Magpie history, so here it is again.

It’s a notable pairing. Born on this date were C.G. Jung in 1875, and Aldous Huxley in 1894. Both accomplished so much for which the world is indebted. As a pioneer in psychoanalysis, Jung advanced our understanding of the mind and human behavior by defining the characteristics of introversion and extroversion; by providing us the concept of the collective unconscious; and by postulating how the identity of the individual is shaped by archetypal symbols. He examined man through a microscope. Aldous Huxley saw man through a telescope, predicting social dysfunction with eerie prescience. His Brave New World (1931) has been warning one feckless generation after another of the perils of surrendering one’s humanity for the promise of a better society. His book predates the rise of Hitler and the bloodiest years of Stalin, to name a few, thus lacking the hindsight that benefitted Orwell, and yet that foresight is what makes Huxley’s story even more scary. It also doesn’t help that emerging technologies seem to vindicate his predictions; in a television interview with Mike Wallace decades after the publication of Brave New World, Huxley said there never could be a drug like Soma. Today we know otherwise.

Carl Jung was the spiritual scientist among the psychoanalysts. Freud dismissed Jung’s explorations of mysticism, which partially caused the break between the two. His research into symbolism, particularly as regards alchemy, garners him devotees around the world to this day. There are those of us who enjoy the study of various esoteric streams who see Jung’s research as essential to balancing the headiness of the highly speculative and undefinable intuitive.

The C.G. Jung Foundation and the C.G. Jung Institute of New York will present an advanced seminar on Wednesdays, from January 28 through May 13, 2015, titled “The Alchemical Opus: Demystifying What It Means for the Client to Work in Psychotherapy.” The course description:

The alchemists used the term “opus,” or “the work,” to refer to their process of changing base metals into gold. This implies not a magical transformation of material, but one of labor and persistence. Descriptions of alchemists and their processes show us that transformation requires our active engagement—dedicated work, in fact—to achieve the psychological growth that we hope for. Psychotherapy serves as the modern version of alchemy in its efforts to forge and create a personality that is, like gold, malleable but incorruptible. But in an era of re-parenting and corrective emotional experience, clients are often not aware of what work they need to do to make their time in psychotherapy effective in bringing about change.

This course will utilize contemporary research, timeless stories, and ancient images to explore the clinical dimensions of the clients’ role in psychotherapy. Both therapists and clients are invited to attend.

Learning Objectives:

  • Summarize basic alchemical concepts and apply them to clinical work.
  • Identify archetypal patterns underlying clinical work.
  • Identify and apply effective clinical practices based on research.
  • Recognize differences between clients’ resistance and lack of information about how to use therapy.
  • List 8 of possible 10 tools that their clients will be able to utilize to make their work in therapy more effective.
  • Identify which tools clients may be avoiding or unaware of, and identify strategies to help them use these tools.
  • Use techniques to help patients effectively and productively channel their emotions.
  • Help patients to utilize the therapeutic relationship more effectively.
  • Encourage patients to assume appropriate responsibility for their actions without self-attack.
  • Instruct patients to utilize stories, literature, and basic schemas to achieve their goals.
  • Help clients to recognize and challenge cognitive assumptions that prohibit progress.
  • Identify clients’ opportunities to utilize challenging issues for growth.
  • Identify appropriate tasks for clients to use in pursuing their psychological growth outside of sessions.

Instructor: Gary Trosclair, LCSW, DMA

Those who pursue the spiritual alchemy found in Rosicrucianism and other disciplines recognize an obvious kindred thinking in this science. There is no reason why the two approaches cannot complement each other.

Aldous Huxley too was concerned with the soul of man. In addition to his social theorizing, he was a magpie himself, studying the world’s religions and producing the book The Perennial Philosophy. Before anyone had heard of Joseph Campbell, Huxley’s study of comparative religion finds there is a “Natural Theology” common to all the religious teachings he examined that offers “an absolute standard of faith by which we can judge both our moral depravity as individuals and the insane and often criminal behavior of the national societies we have created.” People everywhere endeavor to find communion with God, and if they cannot be saintly themselves, they can follow the examples of those who were.

Speaking of birthdays, I’m going to be late for a friend’s party if I don’t sign off. Have a good night. Please enjoy these videos:


Thursday, July 23, 2015

‘MRF Symposium 2015’

The Masonic Restoration Foundations Sixth Annual Symposium in Philadelphia is only a month away, but the deadline to register is July 31.

I am happy to report most of the presenters this year are brethren of The Masonic Society. Yours truly will be among them, and I hardly can contain my excitement to be working with these Freemasons.

All the copy that follows is taken directly from the MRF’s website, but here are the essential links:

Symposium registration here. Hotel accommodations here. Full program here.

Click to enlarge.

The Masonic Restoration Foundation Symposium is the largest gathering of Masons in the United States who are expressly committed to observing the highest standards of excellence in the Craft. This year we are honored and privileged to be holding this great event at what is arguably the most beautiful Masonic temple on the continent: the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

The Symposium will take place from August 21-23, with meetings conducted in Corinthian, Ionic, and Norman Halls. The event will begin with an authentic English-styled Festive Board held in the Grand Banquet Hall on Friday evening, conducted by the brethren of Fiat Lux Lodge No. 1717, an English Emulation Lodge chartered under the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, and featuring comments from our Keynote Speaker, Robert Herd. Along with our usual lineup of interesting speakers, brothers will have the opportunity to see an Entered Apprentice degree using the unique Pennsylvania ritual, conferred by Fritz Lodge No. 308, the host lodge for the Symposium. Registration for the Symposium is $110.00.

This event is not to be missed, and we have secured excellent rates for accommodation at the Courtyard directly across from the Temple. All the information you need to participate is found here on this web site. We look forward to seeing you at the Symposium!

Brian Skoff
Master, Fritz Lodge No. 308
Organizer, MRF Symposium 2015

What is the MRF Symposium?

The MRF Symposium is a meeting place for Masons who are seeking the highest form of Masonic experience they can attain within their lodges, while strictly conforming to the laws, resolutions, and edicts of their respective grand lodges. It is a gathering for those who pursue quality in the Craft to share ideas and discuss their work. The Symposium begins on Friday evening at 7 PM, with a Festive Board in the Grand Banquet Hall, and concludes at noon on Sunday. We are fortunate to have an excellent program of speakers and presenters this year.

Who May Attend the Symposium?

Any Mason in good standing may register for the Symposium, provided he is a member of a Grand Lodge which is a member of, or is recognized by any of the Grand Lodges which are members of, the Conference of Grand Masters of North America. Registration for the Symposium is $110.00.

Topics and Panels

  • Freemasonry’s “Near Death” Experience
  • Constituting a New Observant Lodge
  • Restoring an Existing Lodge
  • The Initiatory Experience and Human Nature
  • Incorporating the Fine Arts into the Lodge
  • The Role of the Masonic Restoration Foundation
  • Restoration Through the Centuries
  • Come to Your Senses
  • Admit Him if Properly Clothed
  • Can We Transform a Brotherhood of Change?

Oscar Alleyne will give the Symposium's
Closing Address on Sunday morning.

Andrew Hammer, President of the Masonic Restoration
Foundation, will present the Opening Address.

Robert Herd will deliver the keynote address
at the Festive Board on Friday evening.

Dress Code for the Symposium: The Festive Board Friday evening will be formal (tuxedo is preferred, but black suit and black tie will be acceptable).

Saturday all attendees are required to wear dark suit and tie. No jeans or sneakers are permitted in the Temple.

Sunday will be business casual.

Note on Parking: A 20 percent discount will be provided only at the parking garage located at 1201 Filbert St, Philadelphia (if you exit the 13th Street side of the garage, the rear of the hotel is across 13th Street).