Sunday, December 31, 2017

‘The Times (London): Mafia’s enthusiastic participation in Freemasonry’

Freemasons in the United States, and probably the rest of the English-speaking Masonic world also, have an enormous blind spot when it comes to the doings of lodges and grand lodges around the world, and how those entities are perceived by the local public. Not the fake stuff; those usually are too secretive to give up any kind of accounting of their activities. I’m talking about established Freemasonry—the bodies that have stood the test of time, and that might enjoy relations with your grand lodges.

The following is Copyright © The Times, December 27, 2017.

Mafia join Italy’s freemasons
to ‘do deals’ with judiciary

Strong links between Italy’s secretive freemasons and the mafia have been exposed by police raids, with 193 crime bosses found to be members of lodges in Calabria and Sicily.

The investigation has confirmed long-standing accusations by magistrates and mob turncoats that freemason lodges in southern Italy are often venues for secret deals with corrupt judges, politicians and business owners.

The mafia’s enthusiastic participation in freemasonry “has led some to believe that the two have become one and the same,” according to a report this month from an anti-mafia parliamentary commission. Masons were “acquiescent” and “tolerant” of the takeover, it added.

The raids were ordered after the heads of Italy’s four main freemasonry orders refused to hand over their membership lists. “It was impossible to get them to collaborate,” said Davide Mattiello, a member of the commission. “Mobsters are joining the masons to meet people who hold power. We need to know how aware of this the masons are.”

The commission’s call for masons to make their secret membership lists public was contested by Stefano Bisi, grand master of the Grande Oriente d’Italia, the biggest order in southern Italy. “The order is ready to defend its sacrosanct right to existence and to maintain the privacy of its members,” he said.

The synergy is reputedly most intense in two towns in western Sicily, Castelvetrano and Trapani, where masons have allegedly helped the mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro to stay on the run for 24 years. Mob-masonry ties are also strong in Calabria, where the local mafia sends members of its top tier committee to do business at lodge meetings, the commission said. In Locri, a Calabrian town notorious for its ties to organized crime, 18 out of 75 members of a local lodge were linked to the mafia.

The report said that the mafia felt at home in the masonry because the organizations shared a passion for keeping secrets and holding ritual ceremonies.

National elections are to be held in March and after that a new anti-mafia parliamentary commission will be appointed. “We only checked in Sicily and Calabria. I hope the next commission will check lodges throughout Italy, because mob infiltration is likely to be a national problem,” said Mr. Mattiello.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

‘Grant Wood’s Masonic painting in Whitney retrospective’

Of course the Whitney’s upcoming Grant Wood show will feature the artist’s Masonic masterpiece. It’s the Whitney.

The Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort Street) will open “Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables” on March 2 for a three-month exhibition to end June 10. (Members will have access on February 28.) Thanks to the Iowa Masonic Library and Museum, Wood’s triptych “The First Three Degrees of Freemasonry” will be among the paintings on display.

Courtesy Iowa Masonic Library and Museum

From the publicity:

Grant Wood’s “American Gothic”—the double portrait of a pitchfork-wielding farmer and a woman commonly presumed to be his wife—is perhaps the most recognizable painting in 20th century American art, an indelible icon of Americana, and certainly Wood’s most famous artwork. But Wood’s career consists of far more than one single painting. “Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables” brings together the full range of his art, from his early Arts and Crafts decorative objects and Impressionist oils through his mature paintings, murals, and book illustrations. What the exhibition reveals is a complex, sophisticated artist whose image as a farmer-painter was as mythical as the fables he depicted in his art. Wood sought pictorially to fashion a world of harmony and prosperity that would answer America’s need for reassurance at a time of economic and social upheaval occasioned by the Depression. Yet underneath its bucolic exterior, his art reflects the anxiety of being an artist and a closeted gay man in the Midwest in the 1930s. By depicting his subconscious anxieties through populist images of rural America, Wood crafted images that speak both to American identity and to the estrangement and isolation of modern life. This exhibition is organized by Barbara Haskell, Curator, with Sarah Humphreville, Senior Curatorial Assistant.

Bro. Grant Wood was at labor in Mount Hermon Lodge 263 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “The First Three Degrees of Freemasonry” is his only known Masonic-themed painting (but look for his “Shriner Quartet” litho!). The painting is exhibited in the Iowa Masonic Library and Museum of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, whose skilled experts are packing and preparing the painting for transport to New York City pretty much as I type this.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

‘The Magic of the Kybalion’

Always happy to promote a Mitch Horowitz speaking engagement, so here is one in three weeks in Manhattan. From the publicity:

The Magic of the Kybalion
Wednesday, January 10 at 8 p.m.
The Alchemists Kitchen
21 East First Street, Manhattan
Tickets here

“As above, so below…”

This is one of those great Augustus Knapp prints
Secret Teachings; it is being used
in the promotion of this event.
The Kybalion is one of the most intriguing and widely read occult books of the twentieth century. Published in 1908 under the mysterious byline Three Initiates—and the subject of rumors for more than a century—the book codifies the most thrilling ideas of Greek-Egyptian Hermeticism into a spiritual philosophy for modern people.

In this special evening, PEN Award-winning historian and widely known voice of esoteric ideas Mitch Horowitz explores this occult landmark and reveals its sources, meaning, practical uses, and authentic connection to Egyptian antiquity.

As Mitch explores, The Kybalion is among the most enthralling works of spiritual-psychology ever written—and it provides occult seekers with a genuine thread of connection to our primeval forebears.

We are recipients of a true mystery tradition—and tonight we hear its call.

$20 advance. $25 at the door.

Monday, December 18, 2017

‘Martinism and its spiritual relationship to Freemasonry’

While it wouldn’t have been my first guess at a topic of the keynote speaker at a Masonic festive board, I nevertheless urge you to come hear Piers Vaughan discuss Martinism in a couple of weeks. From the publicity:

Continental Lodge 287 and
Mount Moriah Lodge 20’s
Festive Board
Wednesday, January 3 at 8 p.m.
Masonic Hall, Jacobean Room
71 West 23rd Street, Manhattan

The festive board also will be the official launch of Vaughan’s new book, his translation of Elementary Treatise on Practical Magic (1893) by Papus. Piers’ translation of Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin’s Of Errors & Truth (1775) will be available for sale too.

“We will explore the Masonic roots of the founders of the gnostic, magical, and mystical currents which gave rise to the extraordinary outpouring of Masonic ritual of the late 18th century in France, and how this current was taken up again at the end of the 19th century by a new generation of seekers of light, during that extraordinary period which saw the rise of the Golden Dawn, Spiritualism, the Gnostic Church, and Theosophy, alongside rapid developments in science, and how those pioneers attempted to reconcile the two streams,” Piers says on social media.

Admission costs only $35 per person, so RSVP to W. Rafael Preza here. Photo ID is required to enter Masonic Hall.

Monday, December 11, 2017

‘Who is Liberty Lodge No. 7?’

The long awaited lecture, “Who is Liberty Lodge No. 7?” by the Master of Solomon’s Lodge 196 in Tarrytown, is scheduled for Thursday, January 4. He says:

The presentation concerns a substantial discovery concerning the history of Freemasonry in New York during the “Era of Schisms,” a dramatic period when the Craft was divided against itself.

I can promise a very interesting and educational evening.

Collation: 7 p.m. Gavel: 8 p.m.

Solomon’s 196 is located at 54 Main Street.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

‘A conversation about happiness’

The School of Practical Philosophy will host an open house next month to discuss the many benefits of studying under its tutelage. The school is located at 12 East 79th Street. The open house will be Wednesday, January 3 at 7 p.m.

The school continues its free enrollment for its introductory ten-session course “Philosophy Works” (there is only a $10 administration fee), and the winter semester will begin January 8.

From the publicity:

Come join us for an open conversation about happiness with tutors from The School of Practical Philosophy. Ask questions about the School, find out about the classes offered, and discover how generations of students have benefited from the discovery of wisdom and the study of Practical Philosophy.

Light refreshments will be served.

This event is intended for prospective students and those curious about The School of Practical Philosophy. Current students or students who have already taken Philosophy Works are asked not to register for this event.

Registration for this event will open tomorrow.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

‘The Word’

The Word
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Oh, a word is a gem, or a stone, or a song,
Or a flame, or a two-edged sword;
Or a rose in bloom, or a sweet perfume,
Or a drop of gall is a word.

You may choose your word like a connoisseur,
And polish it up with art,
But the word that sways, and stirs, and stays,
Is the word that comes from the heart.

You may work on your word a thousand weeks,
But it will not glow like one
That all unsought, leaps forth white hot,
When the fountains of feeling run.

“The Word” originally appeared in New Thought Pastels (Elizabeth Towne, 1906).

Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Ella Wheeler Wilcox was born on November 5, 1850 in Johnstown Center, Wisconsin. Her poetry collections include Poems of Passion (W.B. Conkey Company, 1883) and Poems of Peace (Gay & Bird, 1906). She died on October 30, 1919.

Courtesy Academy of American Poets. Visit

Thursday, December 7, 2017

‘KST: Separating Fact from Fiction’

The Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library at the Grand Lodge of New York will welcome a renowned Masonic scholar back to the lectern next Thursday to present his popular lecture from January. That’s December 14 at 6:30 p.m. The library is located on the 14th floor of Masonic Hall (71 West 23rd Street, Manhattan). Photo ID is required to enter the building.

From the publicity:

Due to popular demand, RW Pierre de Ravel d’Esclapon will reprise his lecture “Solomon’s Temple: Separating Fact from Fiction.”

Magpie file photo
Pierre de Ravel d’Esclapon
We are honored to have this recognized historian deliver this fascinating lecture again at the library. This lecture is a companion lecture to the December 2016 “Magic Lantern Slide Show,” which is available on our YouTube channel. We are excited to learn of the changes in knowledge about this important building which features so prominently in Masonic symbolism.

Pierre de Ravel d’Esclapon is the First Vice President of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a Professor of Law at University of Montréal Law School and, by avocation, is a historian.

He has written extensively on historic topics, and has lectured several times as part of the Distinguished Speakers Series at New-York Historical Society, the John Jay Homestead, the National Arts Club, the Holland Lodge Historical Society, the Bicentennial of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar, and, most recently, at The American Lodge of Research.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

‘The Return of the Light’

Another interesting program at the Anthroposophical Society of New York City. I’ll be engaged in the Hudson Valley at another event, but I’d attend this if I could. From the publicity:

The Return of the Light
By Bella Freuman
Saturday at 7 p.m.
Anthroposophy NYC
138 West 15th Street, Manhattan
Donations welcome

The Return of the Light: Hanukkah in the Light of Christmas

What does Hanukkah have in common with Christmas? What do the Menorah, Oil, and Dreidel symbolize? What is the meaning of eight candles and what is the ninth? What can Anthroposophy reveal about the heroes of that time? What are your questions?

Bella Bat’or Freuman was born in and lived in Israel, trained in Germany in film editing, part of a correspondents team covering the Middle East. A child of Holocaust survivors, questions are her stepping stones throughout life.

On Friday the 15th at seven o’clock, Anthroposophy NYC will welcome Andrew Linnell to discuss “Secrets of Da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks.”

“Why were there two paintings? What was Leonardo attempting to depict in the original ‘Virgin of the Rocks?’ Which one is the original? Get ready for an entertaining journey exploring how Florentine schools revived ancient mysteries. Dan Brown fans and art historians will enjoy this!”

Linnell will return the next day at two o’clock to present “Vulcan Beings and the Future Human Body,” an exploration of Rudolf Steiner’s 1921 “A Picture of Earth-Evolution in the Future.” (Steiner envisioned a “welding together of mankind with machines.”) Andrew Linnell is a 42-year veteran of the computer industry, a University of Michigan (MSE ’73) and Emerson College, England (’79) graduate, and a member of the Anthroposophical Society since 1979—and president of the Boston Branch.

$10 donations accepted at both of these lectures.

Also on Saturday the 16th, stick around for “A Christmas Carol,” a one-man performance by David Anderson. Seven o’clock. $20 donation. From the publicity:

Courtesy Daniel Region
A Christmas Carol is the best way I know to become inspired by the season,” says David Anderson of Walking the Dog Theater. Moving fluidly from character to character, Anderson performs the story exactly as Dickens wrote it, both dialogue (in multiple London accents) and descriptive passages.

His rendition, directed by Ted Pugh, revives Dickens’ own manner of storytelling. Bruce Hallenbeck of The Independent called this performance an “amazing one-man show ... what Dickens intended all along!”

Monday, December 4, 2017

‘Winter Solstice with the Rosicrucians’

The Rosicrucian Order will gather in New York City to celebrate the Winter Solstice. From the publicity:

Winter Solstice
Thursday, December 21 at 5:45 p.m.
Rosicrucian Cultural Center
2303 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Blvd.
New York City

Come and celebrate the return of the Light with an evening of ritual, reflection, and giving.

Please bring:

  • A small item to give away. This item should have meaning to you and represent a challenge that you have overcome.
  • A votive candle in a small class candle holder.
  • A coat or jacket for our annual coat drive (We know that several of you have already brought several coats, so this is optional.)

Schedule for the evening:

5:45 p.m. Prepare for the Council of Solace Meditation

6 p.m. Council of Solace Meditation

6:30 p.m. Winter Solstice Circle

7:30 p.m. Prepare for the Festival of Light Ritual (AMORC members)

8 p.m. Festival of Light Ritual (AMORC members)

9 p.m. Imperator’s Universal Attunement (AMORC members)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

‘Can old gods thrive in a modern world?’

The Masonic Philosophical Society will meet next Sunday to answer the question “American Gods: Can Old Gods Thrive in a Modern World?”

That’s December 10 at 2:30 p.m. in the Whitestone Masonic Temple, located at 149-39 11th Avenue in Whitestone, New York.

From the publicity:

You are invited for our next hosted discussion and study. Each month a different topic, ranging from philosophy and science, to religion and metaphysics, is discussed and debated. This group, which is open to the public, is where non-members can learn more about Freemasonry, as well as meet local Freemasons.

December’s topic will be conducted by Brother Cat Pedini on a study of “American Gods: Can Old Gods Thrive in a Modern World?” After a short lecture, a discussion and debate by the group will follow.

“American Gods” is a novel by Neil Gaiman, now a TV series made for Starz by Bryan Fuller. It posits the idea of gods as immigrants, brought from the old country by old believers, now trying to exist in a modern world, a world more inclined to worship technology and media than Odin or Anansi. What would happen if these, the old gods and the new, were to wage a war for dominance in the minds of men? Where would the battle wage, what would wining or losing look like, and how would this war change the world? Can Freemasonry provide a structure within which all gods can exist?

The Masonic Philosophical Society embraces the concept of learning, not for school, but for life, and believes that all men, who seek it, deserve access to continued education. We further embrace the concept of a community environment, where ideas can be shared and debated in an open forum. From the Seven Liberal Arts to the arcane, we seek to gain and to share the knowledge that is the legacy of mankind.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

‘2018 Prestonian Lecturer is…’

Magpie file photo
Earlier this fall, the United Grand Lodge of England announced the 2018 Prestonian Lecture:

Bro. Christopher P. Noon will present “A Good Workman Praises His Tools: Masonic Metaphors in the Ancient World.”

I’ll make my usual inquiries into a Prestonian visit to America.