Monday, January 30, 2017

‘I wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition!’

There is nothing unusual about a Masonic ring sparking a conversation, or even a ring resulting in someone being brought into the Masonic fraternity, but I’ll share my story today.

In the summer of 1996, I was very busily employed as editor of a bunch of newspapers, working a minimum of 50 hours per week. Newspaper journalism, being in many ways a highly satisfying, but particularly poorly paying line of work, left me in need of supplemental income. At around that same time, Lew Rothman moved his flagship cigar store to a new location. I can no longer remember what this new site previously had been, but it was a giant building with thousands of square feet for retail space, thousands more for office space, and yet thousands more for warehouse space, and thus this became the corporate headquarters of Rothman’s tobacco wholesale and retail empire. I took a part-time job in cigar sales there at the height of what fondly is remembered as the Cigar Boom of the 1990s, working 28 hours between Friday and Sunday nights. I loved both jobs, so I really didn’t mind working the approximately 80 hours per week, a pace I would maintain for several years, even after my newspaper work left me in charge of a dozen papers.

It was a great time to be a tobacconist. The public was rediscovering the sublime joys of setting “gentle flame to fragrant leaf,” and everyone who possessed even a mild curiosity about any of it flocked to this wonderland of a cigar store with its inventory of thousands of cigars from all over Latin America and the Caribbean—including Cuba (pre-embargo Flor de Farachs). We salesmen in this store at this time comprised a faculty of cigar experts. We had our different approaches to learning about it. I myself had been an occasional smoker since the day of my high school commencement about a decade prior, doing most of my shopping at a Perkins shop in a nearby mall, and, of course, at Mr. Rothman’s previous shop a few towns over from me. But by the mid ’90s I was devouring everything I could read: Cigar Aficionado, Cigar Insider (both published by Marvin Shanken, who I would meet at the store one day), and Smoke magazine, and Pipes & Tobaccos. I was fascinated by it all and learned all I could, from the agriculture of the various cultivations of tobacco plants and the post-harvest processes inside the tobacco barns—talk about alchemy!—to the rolling, aging, packaging, and inspecting at the cigar factories. Humidors, cutters, lighters, and the skillful ways to use them all correctly. The histories of the brands, with those poor Cuban farmers who fled for their lives, bearing scarcely more than a jar of seeds, to destinations in Florida, the DR, Nicaragua, Honduras (the source of my favorite smokes), and elsewhere.

Anyone who brings forth cherished fruits from the soil of our world works miracles that merit our admiration. Their foods sustain us, timber houses us, flowers adorn, and luxuries, such as Nicotiana, can enhance innocent social pleasures. Smoking cigars can be highly enjoyable while alone, but the magic really works when cigars are taken communally. Strangers can acquaint, and friends can bond.

The crew in the gigantic humidor we worked in was a great bunch of personalities. We had our day jobs, but loved getting together to “work” at the store. Smoking Partagas 150s like they were free. I was becoming friendly with Darren, who looked about my age (actually we vaguely resembled each other), was employed as an engineer in a smart person’s profession, and preferred a lot of the same cigars and pipes as I. We had a similar work ethic in that our hands were always busy and never idle. While he was typing away on the computerized cash register, ringing up a customer, I spied his Masonic ring. At some later point, I asked about it and about his role in the fraternity. I wasn’t completely ignorant of Freemasonry; my grandfather was Master of his lodge in the 1970s, and I knew a little about the fraternity simply from being editor of many newspapers and receiving the amateur press releases and photographs from area lodges. And I had been curious about joining. In an unusual circumstance, the town where I grew up also was home to two Masonic lodges. The unusual part was how the lodges did not share a common building, but actually were located a few miles apart, which is just odd for a small suburban town. The Shriners also were around in yet a third building. Major roads were marked with those signs that lodges erect to alert Travelling Men to the locations and meeting times of the lodges. Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m., I noted every time I passed one, so on a Wednesday night I visited the lodge that stood on the state highway that bisected the town. I was delighted to find that the lodge could not be reached by car from the highway. Instead one had to finagle around some side streets to access the lodge property. Having lived in town, I knew all about historic and obscure Old Road. I parked and knocked on the door.

It was July. Nobody was home.

But chatting with Darren about Freemasonry at the store repeatedly over time, my interest in the Craft kindled. I had told him about my grandfather, and Darren one night brought an old book of grand lodge proceedings to try to find something about him or his lodge. Nothing was in the record. Neither of us knew that only current members of the grand lodge were listed, whereas my grandfather had died several years earlier. More time passed with more conversation. Months. I learned that although Darren resided in central New Jersey, he was part of a lodge located 50 miles from home. That must be a special lodge, I figured.

I was waiting for him to ask me if I wanted to join; he was waiting for me to “ASK1 2B1,” or whatever that dumb bumper-sticker says. Darren clarified the matter at some point, and I said I’d love to apply. In fairly short order, I was taken to the city where his lodge was located to meet several lodge officers who looked me over, and I was given a petition to complete and return to the secretary. Several more months passed before I received a letter informing me of my election to membership, and instructing me to report to the lodge for initiation on June 18, 1997.

Lapel pin from Menorah Lodges
diamond anniversary in 1999.
To be honest, Menorah Lodge 249 was on its last legs. New Master Masons who exhibited potential and promise silently were assigned a number—being the year they would be installed in the Solomonic Chair. Darren, I think, was 2002. I was 2003. The lodge wouldn’t endure that long, but it provided a solid grounding in what Freemasonry is supposed to be about. I believe that if I had successfully stumbled into either of those two lodges in my old hometown, I would have been denied that fundamental experience and education. As you might guess, Menorah Lodge was a lodge of Jewish Masons. Some know what that entails, but to explain very briefly, it was not a place for what Stephen Dafoe would term “Freemasonarianism”—a cultural and intellectual dead zone in the guise of a Masonic lodge. Anyway, being new, I watched what Darren did, sometimes to great surprise. One night the lodge welcomed a doctor who spoke on the medical use of magnets. Something to do with the iron in our blood, if I recall. I was interested, but when the speaker mentioned he was selling magnet kits or whatever, Darren shot out of his seat and headed for the door. The speaker merely committed a faux pas; serious lodges are not supposed to host salesmen. I wasn’t offended, but Darren’s strong reaction was a learning moment, and the memory stays with me. And along the way, he and I joined the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite together in May of 1998. We had little idea of what it was, but we heard it was the “College of Freemasonry,” and college sounded good to us.

It was a long all-day event on a Saturday with, of course the initiates seated as audience members. Lodge of Perfection degrees, followed by Council Princes of Jerusalem degrees, followed by the Rose Croix Degree, and culminating with the 32º. I’ve lost track of what this degree is today, but 20 years ago it was Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret and conveyed a lesson told in the fictional life of a soldier named Constans. He faced various trials of temptations in tests to become a knight, including the lure of salvation from a beckoning Catholic eminence attired in the scarlet robe and broad-rimmed hat familiar also to devotees of a certain venerable television comedy.

© Python (Monty) Pictures

Despite the gravity of the action on the stage, I leaned over to Darren and whispered—and I hereby sincerely promise and swear I did this as softly as possible—“I wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition!” He and about eight guys encircling us in the theater seating cracked up laughing. I defy anyone who knows the Monty Python “Spanish Inquisition” sketch to not remember Michael Palin when they see that red get-up on someone else, no matter how solemn the occasion!

© Universal Pictures
(Speaking of great comedic actors, Darren went by nicknames involving John Belushi, thanks to a facial resemblance. Like he would use “belushi” in his e-mail address. It took me years to see it finally, but one day he posted a photo on Facebook, and at last I had to concede he had that look, at least from the Bluto Blutarsky era. It was in the eyes, brows, and nose.)

But my time in lodge with Darren would be short. Before the end of 1998, my first full year in the fraternity, he and Tabitha would leave New Jersey for a new start in Indianapolis upon his accepting a job with Rolls Royce. The days were running out. He wanted to get together during the last weekend of October for a final round of drinks with cigars, but by then I had left the newspaper business and became a press secretary to an inspiring local official who was said to be a favorite for a U.S. Senate seat in just two years. Tuesday, November 3 was Election Day for his re-election. It simply wasn’t possible for me to do anything unrelated to campaigning until the votes were counted late that night. Even worse, others from the lodge were unable to meet with him for a proper send-off. He was pretty sore about that for a time.

Part of getting settled in Indianapolis meant affiliating with a new Masonic lodge. He found Broad Ripple Lodge 643 and, in 2006, would become Worshipful Master, and then its secretary. (It’s a wonderful dose of serendipity, but in the early years of this century I became friendly with a new Mason who had just joined the Masonic Light group. He was from Broad Ripple Lodge too, and naturally he knew Darren. His name is Chris Hodapp and, before long, he and a band of merry rebels would welcome me into the Knights of the North before inviting me along for the ride with The Masonic Society.)

I do a shitty job of keeping in touch. I’ll never learn. It’s probably a psychological thing in that I prefer to be out of mind when out of sight, and I’m reluctant to bother people, even if just to say hello. Darren and I remained in contact via social media, but that is no substitute for shared whiskey and cigars, but he would keep me up to date on the good, the bad, and the ugly of life. I love getting his family holiday postcards, seeing the offspring grow and grow up.

Darren died just about 24 hours ago. He brawled with esophageal cancer (from unchecked reflux, but caught early) for the last four years of his life—trimodal therapy: chemo, radiation, surgery—alternating from blessed successes to cruel reversals. I asked him to come to New York City to see real experts but, as it turned out, one of his neighbors is one of the top surgeons for this particular treatment, and he cared for Darren at Simon Cancer Center.

Please remember Darren, Tabitha, Daniela, and Toni in your devotions. I don’t know what more to say. My friend had everything to live for. Hodapp’s eulogy is here.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

‘February philatelist degree and meeting’

The only remaining (I think) Masonic stamp club will hold its annual meeting next month, including its Master of Philately Degree. From the publicity:

George Washington Masonic
Stamp Club
Sunday, February 26
1:30 p.m.
George Washington Masonic
National Memorial
Alexandria, Virginia

The club will convene its meeting in the North Lodge Room. At 1:30 p.m. there will be a social gathering and review of covers, with the meeting to begin at two o’clock. The Master of Philately Degree will be conferred during the meeting.

At 4:45 everyone is welcome to assemble at Joe Theismann’s Restaurant, located at the bottom of the hill at 1800 Diagonal Road, for a “no host” dinner at 5:30 that is open to ladies and guests. Bro. Jacob Bressman will be the dinner-speaker (topic TBA).

Click here for membership information and other news about the club.

The George Washington Masonic National Memorial will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours cost $10 per person, and will be available before the meeting, and possibly a four o’clock tour could be taken if the meeting concludes in time.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

‘Andrew Hammer to present Walker Lecture’

Andrew Hammer, Past Master of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22, president of the Masonic Restoration Foundation, and author of Observing the Craft, among other proofs of service to the fraternity, will present the Wendell K. Walker Lecture in March.

Follow the instructions on this flier:

Click to enlarge.

Friday, January 27, 2017

‘Don’t miss Masonic Con in Massachusetts’

There are so many great things happening in Massachusetts Freemasonry that I hate myself for never getting up there. I’ll probably miss this too, but there’s no reason why you should. Lots of names here familiar to Magpie regular readers.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

‘Kearsley to return to A-P 10 next month’

One of the essential Masonic lodges in New Jersey is Atlas-Pythagoras No. 10 in Westfield. Definitely check out this event next month:

Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

‘Amity for Masons wherever dispersed’


Saturday brought the long-awaited and highly anticipated Webmasters Conference at Masonic Hall in New York City. Brothers Ken, Stephen, and Brad provided a great experience where dozens of attendees learned about the practical thinking that goes into the great responsibility of hosting a website for a Masonic lodge, or district of lodges, or other Masonic group. This was a Digital Square Club event.

Diverse matters, varying from how to create a website, to what Grand Lodge expects of those websites operated by its constituent lodges, to cyber-security, with breakout sessions on public relations and social media, were hungrily received by the audience. Grand Lodge VIPs, including the Grand Treasurer, provided insights into GLNY’s specific requirements on sometimes misunderstood aspects of media management, such as photography inside the lodge room. Having a background in media myself, I don’t benefit from the Masonic Public Relations Handbook provided there as much as I do from hearing from Bro. Ed, chairman of the Technology Committee, about the Grand Lodge’s best practices on website maintenance. Some of it is common sense (e.g. no political endorsements), but some of it is not so obvious to those, like me, who are new to New York Masonry. (The Magpie Mason is not an official New York Masonry website. I’m not sure it’s on their radar screen.)

But one particular revelation from the day stands out for me. Two Freemasons have designed an app that puts considerable information power in your pocket. Named Amity, this technology is highly secure, available free of charge, and can provide global connectivity for brethren wherever dispersed over the face of the earth and water.

From communication needs of the lodge secretary to security assistance for the tiler, Amity can add a new dimension to lodge governance while also helping sojourning Masons locate meetings of regular lodges anywhere.

Read all about it here.

Monday, January 23, 2017

‘Town Hall at Masonic Hall next week’

Bro. Charles Catapano, the Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York, will host a Town Hall meeting next week for the discussion of his and the brethren’s concerns and ideas on the state of the Craft and on best ways to affect improvements.

Tuesday, January 31
7:30 p.m.
Masonic Hall
71 West 23rd Street
Grand Lodge Room
New York City
Light refreshments to be served

I don’t know how common a practice this is among Masonic jurisdictions across the country, but an open forum to hear from and talk to elected leaders—particularly your future grand masters—can go a long way toward readying your lodge for the next several years.

Friday, January 20, 2017

‘Trump invokes a timeless Scriptural staple of initiations’

Alex Wong for Getty Images
No, that is not an Illuminati hand gesture.

After taking the oath of office to become the 45th president of the United States this afternoon, Donald Trump delivered his inaugural address, a speech of only 16 minutes that vowed a revival of self-governance and national self-determination, and also professed faith in God—while also invoking a verse of Scripture that should be familiar to the attentive ear of every Freemason.


“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.”

Of course the new American president cites the first verse of Psalm 133, which is offered (in longer form) in Freemasonry’s first ceremony of initiation: the Entered Apprentice Degree:

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

Psalm 133 has been a staple of initiation rites at least since St. Benedict authored his rule for monastic life 1500 years ago.

At the risk of stirring the troubled minds of all kinds of conspiracy “theorists,” I share this minor point here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

‘13 points within Ben Franklin Circles’

On this date in 1706 was born Benjamin Franklin in Boston. Philosopher, statesman, scientist, inventor, business innovator, publisher, post master, Masonic grand master, and so much more, Franklin was a colossus who very much remains with us in the 21st century.

In fact, if your Masonic lodge or your dearest friends or your general social life lacks a practical approach to philosophy—that is, a proper application of good ideas toward improving your attitude and behavior—then a new movement aiming to “transform your world” might be for you. Launched about a year ago, the Ben Franklin Circles are local groups that unite the intellectually curious who wish to make positive changes in their individual lives and in the world around them. Franklin is the namesake because the participants in these groups are united in discussion of Franklin’s “13 Virtues” for the noble purpose of self-improvement.

Ben Franklin Circles comprise a free-standing organization, and if this kind of socialization appeals to you, I recommend either joining an existing circle or organizing a new one, particularly for Freemasons. If your lodge is vexed in trying to retain those new Masons who are not content with the frivolous antics and service club missions that have taken the place of Freemasonry in so many lodges, then this concept can help. Or even if your lodge knows its business (e.g. an Observant lodge) but could benefit from a new way of approaching Masonic Light, look into this.

In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, published posthumously in 1791, Franklin defined his 13 Virtues. His list began in his thinking at age 20 as a system of moral building he actually tracked in a journal, keeping daily record of whether he applied the virtues to his personal conduct. (Didn’t we all do that kind of thing at age 20?) His 13 Virtues are:

  • Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  • Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  • Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  • Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  • Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  • Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  • Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  • Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  • Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  • Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or anothers peace or reputation.
  • Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Freemasons should have no difficulty recognizing these 13 concepts from their internal work. One also might see a connection to the Rules of Civility that George Washington would internalize during his youth.

In Ben Franklin Circles, these are your topics of discussion. It’s not like Freemasonry, where merely memorizing and reciting Enlightenment prose is the goal (without reinforcement to aid in the comprehension of what’s being said); in the Circles, these giant ideas form a basis for fixing flaws in character within, with the added goal of putting that refined character to work in repairing the world without. It’s a very Masonic way of thinking that your lodge could claim for its own by forming a new Circle.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

‘Trump will not be sworn on Washington Bible’

Magpie file photo

The George Washington Inaugural Bible, at Genesis 49-50, where the first American president placed his hand upon being sworn at Federal Hall in Manhattan on April 30, 1789.

I hadn’t been able to get an answer—which I took as a negative answer—from the Masons I know at St. John’s Lodge in New York City as to whether the 45th American president will take his oath of office Friday with his hand upon the George Washington Inaugural Bible, which the lodge owns, but The Hill reported within the hour that Donald J. Trump instead will have both his personal Bible and the Abraham Lincoln Bible for the swearing in at the U.S. Capitol.

The Washington Bible is on display, alongside handwritten pages of Washington’s first inaugural address, at the National Archives through next Wednesday. The Bible’s appearance there caused some wonder about the historic holy text possibly being used January 20. This Bible typically is displayed at Federal Hall in New York City, where Washington took his first presidential oath of office in 1789.

Click here to read The Hill story.

Click here to read a 2009 Magpie article on the historic Bible and the non-Constitutional addition of “So help me God” to the swearing ritual.

Monday, January 16, 2017

‘Alchemy manuscripts, in English, now on line’


The Rosicrucian Order announced the availability of 16 alchemy manuscripts, translated into English, available on its website. From the publicity:

The Alchemical Manuscript Series is a collection of rare, centuries-old alchemical material made available to English readers. It includes translations of important works by the eminent Alchemists Basil Valentine, Anton Kirchweger, Isaac Hollandus, George Ripley, S. Bacstrom, M.D., Alexander Van Suchten, Baron Urbigerus, Johann Becker, and Artephius.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

‘Captor in Question at Tappan’

DeWint House, the headquarters of General George Washington in Tappan, New York owned and operated as a museum and historic site by the Grand Lodge of New York, will host a celebration of the 285th anniversary of Washington’s birth next month. From the publicity:

Magpie file photo

The 285th anniversary of the birth of our distinguished Brother and our nation’s first President will be observed in the Carriage House on the grounds of DeWint House.

Captor in Question
A new play and re-enactment
DeWint House
20 Livingston Street
Tappan, New York
Sunday, February 19
1 p.m.

The program will feature “Captor in Question,” a new play and re-enactment by Sean Brady and Gary Petagine of a historic event sure to capture your imagination and interest. Everyone is invited to this affair. Bring your families and friends. We always try to promote this beautiful site. Anyone interested in the history of our country, this site had a part in that formation. If you have never been there, now is the time to see the beautiful grounds and walk in the footsteps of George Washington and his troops. Honor the memory of our first President and Brother George Washington with your presence. The committee will be happy to show you the interior of DeWint House and the Carriage House, filled with artifacts from the Colonial era. This is a site that, as a Mason, will fill you with much pride as a member of this fraternity. (Snow date: February 26.)

There also will be a brunch at 11 a.m. at Casa Mia Manor House in Blauvelt. $37.50 per person, paid in advance, by contacting W. Bro. Ken Merring.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

‘Masonic Week deadlines near’


Masonic Week is less than a month away, meaning the deadline for booking rooms and meals is very near.

To see the agenda of all the meetings, click here.

For hotel accommodations, click here. Reserve before February 1.

For meal reservations, click here. Also before February 1.

If nothing else, be sure to attend The Masonic Society’s banquet on Friday night, but click that link to book your seats. Our keynote speaker will be Michael Poll of Louisianascholar, writer, publisher extraordinaire, and editor-in-chief of The Journal of The Masonic Society.

Also, look for our hospitality suite!

See you there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

‘This fall in Rhode Island’


Save the date: The Masonic Library and Museum Association will hold its annual meeting, including election of officers, September 27 through October 1 at the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

‘Solomon’s Temple lecture at Livingston Library’

The Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library’s lecture series continues this month with a presentation on the 26th by Pierre de Ravel d’Esclapon. From the publicity:

In a companion lecture to our December 2016 “Evolution and Restoration of King Solomon’s Temple Magic Lantern Slide Show,” which was originally produced in 1926 by the Grand Lodge of New York, this month, RW Pierre de Ravel d’Esclapon, First Vice President of the Library’s Board of Trustees and noted lecturer, will speak on the current body of knowledge concerning King Solomon’s Temple.

Thursday, January 26
6:30 p.m.
Masonic Hall
71 West 23rd Street
14th Floor

Join us for an evening of exploration and information! White wine will be served. Seating is limited and preference will be given to those who reserve seats. Please RSVP here. Photo ID is required to enter Masonic Hall.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

‘Grab that lunch, get that drink, have that dinner together’


With the benefit of more than 24 hours to absorb the sad news, and six milk stouts, I am able to gather my thoughts now and say goodbye to a Brother Freemason whose absence will leave a sore wound in our lives that may never heal.

Just recently we were strategizing a lunch together. I figured it was best to wait until after the holidays when life would quiet down. Lunch is simple enough—we would while away hours at either one Brother Mason’s Italian restaurant or another Brother’s Indian place—but because we live about 100 miles apart, the getting together aspect required coordination. I procrastinated. Now I have only an e-mail from him that I waited too long to answer.

He was a pretty amazing figure, both in Freemasonry and without. A giant in physical stature, he possessed a calm and warmth we often associate with veterans of various clergies. Which is not to say he was without a spiritual life—quite the contrary. In fact, his thinking simultaneously permitted him down Freemasonry’s Chivalric and Rosicrucian paths while not leading him astray from his adopted system of a unique martial arts, meditative practice, and metaphysical belief rooted in a Hawaiian tradition. He even went as far as to establish a kung fu order and a martial arts school! (I was delighted to introduce him to Bill Chung one night years ago at an AMD meeting. Bill, gone now also, was H’ung Gar Kung-Fu Grandmaster, Second Generation Disciple of Quanzhou, Shaolin Abbot Chang Ding; and the New York Counselor/Advisor of the Hip Sing Association’s National Headquarters. That’s the Chinese Freemasons. But that’s a whole other story.)

He held the title “Kahu” from Kahu Lanakila K. Brandt on the Big Island of Hawaii, along with permission to teach the ancient Hawaiian metaphysical tradition known as poohuna. He was also a lineage disciple in the Chinese/Hawaiian martial arts style of Grand Master Daniel K. Pai. And if that wasn’t enough, he was an attorney in his professional life.

With the family, at a Commandery banquet, c. 2009.

And he was a dynamic family man! Cautioned against home-schooling his children by the experts in his life who don’t actually have kids of their own, he and his wife (a professional educator) nonetheless home-schooled their brilliant offspring who now are acing college at ages far younger than you and I matriculated. (Quick story: When he and his wife began dating, he brought her to an exclusive restaurant. I forgot the name, but his description of it reminded me of Poon’s in London, which was more like dining in someone’s house, as you sit outside the kitchen at a large table shared with utter strangers with the meals served family style. Anyway, the couple sits down only to find themselves having dinner with Ringo Starr and his wife. Hell, I would have married this guy for bringing me to dinner with one of the Beatles!)

I will miss the many very lengthy and very late night calls we shared, mulling over the pros and cons of Freemasonry, that is, commiserating over the state of the Craft. He was unhappy with things in Pennsylvania Masonry to the point that he left and joined a lodge in New Jersey. He believed things were better in Jersey. “You sure?” I warned him. He was…until, that is, several years ago when he saw what I was talking about. Appalled by what I’ll just describe as abuses of power at the top level, he opted to settle down in one of Philadelphia’s elegant lodges. He also had lodge memberships in Hawaii and London.

Speaking of London, my esteemed friend and brother was a member of one of those English guilds that dates back a million years: Guildable Manor’s Association of the Jurors of the Court Leet, Exchequer Court and Recorder’s Court. The kind of thing we anglophiles blush at.

He was one for whom I had great respect and affection—one of the very few whose advice I valued and heeded. I’m afraid all I really gave him in return was an introduction to Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout Nitro. (Which is nothing to sneeze at—it’s done wonders for me—but I still wouldn’t say it’s a commensurate reciprocity.)

Although we did have this thing: When he would ascend to the East of a Masonic body, he’d bring me in for the very first meeting to present a suitable lecture. We did it at Fairless Hills Lodge, then at Kensington-Kadosh Commandery, and then at Abington Chapter. Due to the aforementioned abuses of power, I wasn’t able to appear at his Cryptic Council on time.

You are wondering why he goes unnamed in this edition of The Magpie Mason. Well, I have written of him a number of times here, but several years ago he asked that I remove the actual mentions of his name for reasons I don’t need to disclose now. I’ll continue to honor that.

What I ask of you readers is to remember how little time we all have in this world. When you’re making plans to get together, don’t delay. Grab that lunch, or get that drink, or have that dinner together because you don’t know how much opportunity you have.

Alas, my brother. Until we meet again.

Friday, January 6, 2017

‘Masons, Rosicrucians, and Martinists at Mariners’

Mariners Lodge 67 in the First Manhattan District will meet next Wednesday, and will present the next installment of its Voyage into Mystery series of talks. From the publicity:

Mariners Lodge 67
Wednesday, January 11
7 p.m. Opening
Masonic Hall
71 West 23rd Street
Doric Room on eight
Apprentices and Fellows welcome

Voyage into Mystery, Chapter VIII: “The Triple Flame, or Mystic Link, Between Masons, Rosicrucians, and Martinists” by Bro. Terence Cipriani.

This month’s Communication will feature an esoteric lecture by Bro. Terence Cipriani, an active member of Mariners and the Rosicrucian Order. His lecture will unlock the mystery of the tie between Masonry, Rosicrucianism, and Martinism. He will cover these topics in addition:

  • Esoteric Christianity
  • Spiritual Alchemy in Masonry
  • The Rosy Cross
  • The Gnosis of Masonry
  • High Magic and Invocation

It will be followed by our legendary Festive Board at 9 p.m. Attire: black tie for officers, business for guests.

Menu: Chicken alla Parmigiana, Eggplant alla Parmigiana, Chicken alla Franchese, Pasta con Prezzemolo, Sautéed Broccoli and Garlic Zucchini, Assorted Cannoli, Fruit Salad, plus soft drinks and the Lodge’s Infamous Mariners Punch.

Seating for the dinner is LIMITED and costs $35 per person. RSVP for the meeting and confirm your seat for the Festive Board here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

‘New website’

Courtesy Livingston Library

Check out the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library’s new website. Click here.

Monday, January 2, 2017

‘Compassion and commitment at the Prince Hall research lodge’

The brethren in lodge assembled Thursday night.

I had a great time Thursday night at New Jersey’s “other” research lodge. The MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New Jersey has Lodge of Research & Education 2006 at labor (I guess they look at my research lodge as the “other” research lodge). It is a traveling lodge, bringing Masonic Light to the many Craft lodges in the jurisdiction, and this time the brethren gathered at Tyre Lodge 29, which meets at the Grand East in Newark.

The meeting was a pretty big deal, with both Bro. Tisan Rasool Dawud, the Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master; and Bro. James G. Allen, the RW Grand Secretary in attendance. While I didn’t know a soul in the room, it was obvious there were many other eminent brethren present, particularly at the Treasurer’s and Secretary’s stations.

RW Dawud was the keynote speaker for the evening, presenting not a research paper, but an inspirational message that exhorted the brethren to embrace a “commitment to finish.” But W. Bro. Ronald F. Sapp, Jr., the Worshipful Master for this two-year term, spoke first, discussing the need for Freemasons to remember to be patient and understanding with their brethren when disappointment strikes. The two talks, their messages paired unintentionally I’m pretty sure, posed to the lodge a duality as necessary as those embodied by, say, the two pillars, or the checkered pavement, or even the Square and Compasses themselves.

W. Sapp’s short talk reminded us all of the times in life when we “worked second shift, or had a part time job,” or had military service, or family obligations, or something else that prevented us from attending Masonic meetings and functions, and to make sure we “give a little grace” when judging the struggles of our brethren who today are hamstrung by short cabletows.

Delivering the main address of the meeting, RW Dawud emphasized the need for Masons to have a “commitment to finish,” meaning a plan and drive to satisfy the obligations and goals we claim in life. Without that, he said, “you just have promises and hopes” because just being “interested in finishing” is not the same as being committed to finishing. The secret, he added, is to have the right mindset—a positive attitude that takes ownership of what one has committed to finish; to set realistic goals with daily and weekly targets; to focus on what is important in life, and not be distracted by superfluities; and to hold oneself accountable, thus remaining motivated. He concluded with a quotation from, of all people, racing legend Mario Andretti: “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal—a commitment to excellence—that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”

These two Masons’ points of view could seem incompatible at first, but when one considers that the Worshipful Master would have us looking with compassion at others, while the Deputy Grand Master wants us to be committed to ourselves, then it becomes clear how the two perspectives complement one another in a very Masonic way. Think Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.

It was announced LORE 2006’s next meeting will be held Thursday, March 30 at a location to be announced (although the website says Camden, so we’ll see).

Sunday, January 1, 2017

‘Big news for 2017’

Cinema Group Ventures

New Year’s greetings to everybody in Masonic cyberspace, and thank you for reading The Magpie Mason, which begins its ninth full year with this post you’re reading now. I don’t know what everyone has been eating for breakfast lately, but readership has been in the several thousands per day during the past month or so, a reach I don’t think I’ve seen since the golden age of Masonic blogging back in 2009-10. Honestly, it is humbling to learn how what is basically a hobby of mine can be interesting enough to so many others who make time to read it. My thanks to you all.

But the big news for 2017 mentioned in the subject line concerns The Masonic Society, which also begins its ninth year this year.

Next month, The Masonic Society will hold its annual meeting in Virginia. That’s Friday, February 10, amid the Masonic Week festivities to take place at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City at Reagan National Airport in Arlington. This is one of the few events on the Masonic Week calendar that all Masons, their ladies, and friends of Freemasonry may attend. But unlike, say, the Society of Blue Friars meeting, our banquet is not free of charge. The food was terrific last year, and I’m sure it will be again, but we pay in advance. Click here to take care of that.

Our keynote speaker for the banquet will be Michael Poll, a Fellow and Past President of The Masonic Society, as well as the editor in chief of The Journal of the Masonic Society. Mike is owner of Cornerstone Book Publishers, and is a New York Times bestselling writer and publisher, in addition to being a prolific writer, editor, and publisher of Masonic and esoteric books. Additionally, he is a Fellow of the Philalethes Society, a Fellow of the Maine Lodge of Research, secretary of the Louisiana Lodge of Research, and a full member of the Texas Lodge of Research. As time permits, he travels and speaks on the history of Freemasonry, with a particular focus on the early history of the Scottish Rite.

If you plan to attend Masonic Week in any way, or if you live in the Washington, DC area and want to check it out, please make sure you get to this banquet—arguably the highlight of the annual event’s calendar.

Looking later into 2017, The Masonic Society will host its annual conference in Kentucky. “Celebrating 300 Years of Freemasonry” is the theme of this event to take place September 7-10 at the Embassy Suites in Lexington. Our cosponsors are Lexington Lodge 1 (chartered in 1788), the Rubicon Masonic Society, the Grand Lodge of Kentucky Education Committee, William O. Ware Lodge of Research, and Ted Adams Lodge of Research.

More details on everything to come later in 2017, but do anticipate a roster of nationally known speakers, a formal festive board at Spindletop Hall(!), and tours of local attractions, like the Kentucky Horse Park.

The initiative behind this upcoming conference in Kentucky is John Bizzack, a Fellow of the Society, and a member of its board of directors. You may know him through any of the five (I think it’s still five) books on Freemasonry he has written, or through the Rubicon Masonic Society and other educational groups and activities in Kentucky, or from Masonic cyberspace.

Speaking of Masonic cyberspace, The Masonic Society has a new member on our board of directors. Eric Diamond of Chicago joined the team in late 2016 upon the resignation of José Diaz. Eric is a Past Master of Oriental Lodge 33, Chicago’s oldest lodge. Surely you know him from X-Oriente, the podcast—actually the granddaddy of Masonic podcasts—that has been educating Freemasons all over the world since 2004.

The leadership of The Masonic Society is an all-star team, like the Harlem Globetrotters, or the 1927 Yankees, or the ’94 Rangers. The weak link in the chain is myself, but the other officers and the board members are Masons whose work you have been enjoying for years, even if you don’t know their names. Writers, researchers, lecturers, makers of bespoke regalia, officers at the national level—all proponents of improving the condition of the fraternity. (If you have noticed the degree of turnovers in our leadership ranks, let me explain it is because of the demands of serving The Masonic Society. It’s real work. I can name a number of Masonic groups that are happy with the prestige of gathering eminent Freemasons among their leaders, but The Masonic Society asks much of its officers and directors, and sometimes a brother decides it’s better for all concerned if he steps aside to allow for another to carry on the labors.)

The chief labor of The Masonic Society is its quarterly periodical The Journal of The Masonic Society, the 34th issue of which reached members’ mailboxes in December. Under the guidance of Editor-in-Chief Mike Poll and Art Director John Bridegroom, The Journal has a new look and a sharper editorial focus now. (Advertisers, contact me here to place your message in the pages of The Journal.)

Issue No. 34 features:

Fascinating content from the Society’s Fall 2016 conference in California: “Freemasonry on the Frontier.” John Bizzack (there he is again!) offers “The Expansion of Freemasonry into the West: The Pivotal Role of Kentucky, 1788-1815,” in which he explains how America’s first western state was home to American Freemasonry’s westernmost grand lodge, which set about chartering lodges throughout the nation’s north, south, and west regions. This resulted in a kind of standardization of customs and usages based on Kentucky’s own, with results enduring through today.

Knights of the North alum (and possibly the most handsome man in Freemasonry) Bill Hosler, who likes to scatter his lodge memberships among a number of states to keep people guessing, asks “Living Stones or Bricks?” in which he weighs the meanings of making oneself better in the Masonic context.

Barry Denton, also of Kentucky, submits “Thoughts of Freemasons: Freemasonry and the Generational Gap,” that endeavors to make some sense of what Masons of different generations require of the fraternity.

In addition, there are book reviews (with maybe a literary feud in bloom!), poetry, breathtaking photography, the Masonic Treasures feature on the back cover, and much more.

C’mon, it’s $45 a year for membership in the United States. Make it a New Year’s resolution, and join now.