Saturday, August 31, 2019

‘Mississippi Lodge of Research DCXL’

I was wrong. Yesterday’s edition of The Magpie Mason does not close out the month of August. This one does.

Just a few hours ago, Mississippi Lodge of Research held its Called Communication in Jackson. What made this meeting different is the brethren chose to adopt aspects of Observant Masonry.

The research lodge dressed up its meeting with candlelight, music, and incense, according to an update on its Facebook page. For their meal together, the brethren went Festive Board-style. “This will be the standard format of our meetings in the future,” it says.

Courtesy Mississippi Lodge of Research DCXL

Makes me wonder if someone there attended the Masonic Restoration Foundation symposium two weeks ago. 

Courtesy Mississippi Lodge of Research DCXL

In other news, this research lodge is part of various programs in the jurisdiction of Mississippi that have educational components, like Deputy School, for example, and the Emerging Leaders Program. Imagine that: The Craft’s leaders being educated on the subject of Freemasonry. I’m in somewhat regular contact with many lodges of research and education around the country, and I cannot name another that is part of such initiatives. Bravo!

The lodge will meet for its quarterly communication on Monday, October 14 at the York Rite building in Jackson.

There also is the Collegium Masonicum, which unites the state’s Craft lodges under a single purpose to educate Masons. Each member of the college is already a member of the research lodge, and serves as a delegate from his mother lodge. The master of the research lodge is the magister of the Collegium Masonicum, and he appoints brethren to the college.

On August 8, Indianola Lodge 450 hosted its quarterly Masonic Education Lecture Series meeting, welcoming the research lodge’s senior warden who discussed the moral applications of the working tools. Indianola Lodge submitted a press release and photo to the local newspaper, which published the news.

Friday, August 30, 2019

‘September 14: How to Serve as Lodge Historian’

The Magpie Mason closes the month of August with news of events in two weeks. On Saturday, September 14, I will attend the meetings of both my research lodge and my AMD council to present “How to Serve as Lodge Historian.”

This is not something I have written myself, but is useful information I found in an early 20th century Grand Lodge of California book of proceedings. Actually, the original source of this item is an older Grand Lodge of Texas book of proceedings, but I haven’t been able to put my hands on that yet. I never have served as a lodge historian, so this opened my eyes to a few things. Anyway, I also will publish this here on the Magpie in two weeks.

New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786 meets on the second Saturdays of March, June, September, and December at Hightstown-Apollo Lodge 41 (535 North Main Street) in Hightstown. Lodge opens at 9:30 a.m. Master Masons. Attire: suit and tie with regalia (the host lodge supplies aprons in case you don’t have yours). Breakfast and lunch will be served.

On the agenda for our next meeting:

“A Masonic View of Benedict Arnold” by Frank Conway. I haven’t met Frank yet. He is the author of this book.

“How to Serve as Lodge Historian,” as described above.

At eight o’clock that night, J. William Gronning Council 83 of Allied Masonic Degrees will meet in that same lodge room for its quarterly meeting. I do not have the information on the presentations then except for my own, as described above. AMD brethren only. Suit and tie with your regalia. (And preferably, your own suit and tie too!)

In other research lodge news, W. Bro. Jeriel Smith will be among the speakers at the Esoteric-Con next Saturday at San Pedro, California, presenting “The Tarot and Freemasonry.” Definitely interests me, but that’s beyond my customary orbit. Tickets to this Esoteric-Con—they seem to be springing up all over the country these days—can be had, at only $12 each, here, at Keepers of the Word.

Smith is Worshipful Master of Southern California Research Lodge (not to be confused with Northern California Research Lodge), and serves on the editorial board of its wonderful periodical Fraternal Review. SCRL will have a booth at Esoteric-Con where you may purchase its annual books of transactions and copies of the magazine.

SCRL’s next meeting will be Monday, October 21, for its election of officers, at South Pasadena Lodge 290 in South Pasadena.

Closer to home, but still beyond my cabletow, is Civil War Lodge of Research 1865, which will meet Saturday, September 28 (note: NOT the usual first Saturday of October) at Day Lodge 58 in St. Louisa, Virginia. From the publicity:

After our normal business meeting, we will move to the dining room where Worshipful Gregory Hasaflook will give a presentation on Civil War-era carbines. That will be followed by lunch, and then we will tour the Trevilian Station Battlefields. This will be conducted by Worshipful Ed Crebbs. Both of these brothers are members of both CWLR and Day Lodge, and both are experts in Civil War history, particularly that of the local area.

The Battle of Trevilian Station was fought for control of the Virginia Central Railroad and happened over two days in June 1864.

The lodge shares a building with Louisa United Methodist Church. This is a wonderful history that started when the building was constructed in the mid 1800s. It is a beautiful building in its meeting/dining hall, its church sanctuary, and its Masonic lodge room.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

‘Esoteric music symposium upstate’


Nazareth College’s School of Music will host this symposium next year. (Hat tip to the lovely and talented Chuck Dunning for sharing this on Faceypage today.)

Esoteric Music, Music Performance,
and Music Research Symposium
February 22-23, 2020
Nazareth College
Rochester, New York

Paper Submission Deadline: November 15, 2019.
Proposals received by October 15 will be given priority consideration.

Call for Papers

This symposium seeks to bring together music scholars, performers, and teachers with a sincere interest in the intersection of music and esoteric ideas and practices. Proposal abstracts should be limited to 500 words and sent in PDF form to Marjorie Roth.

Topics touching upon, but not limited to, the following are welcome:

  • Music and the Pythagorean Tradition (numbers, sacred geometry)
  • Music and Esoteric Experience (spiritual/religious/mystical)
  • Music and Cosmology
  • Music and Contemplation
  • Music and Esoteric Symbol (sound, text, image)
  • Music and Esoteric Traditions (alchemy, astrology, Hermeticism, Freemasonry)
  • Music and Alternative Realities
  • Esotericism and Music Pedagogy
  • Esotericism in Music Performance and/or Composition
  • The Harmony of the Spheres

Contacts: Marjorie Roth, Nazareth College; and Justin Ray Glosson, Texas Tech University.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

‘Special screening of Hidden Treasures’

Tickets went on sale yesterday to a special screening of the film Hidden Treasures at the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism.

You’re all members of ARAS, yes?

From the publicity:

Hidden Treasures screening
Archive for Research
in Archetypal Symbolism
Friday, September 27 at 7:30 p.m.
28 East 39th Street, Manhattan
Tickets here

Join us at ARAS for a very special screening of Hidden Treasures: Stories from a Great Museum.

The film will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the director of the film, Alexandra Isles with some of the film’s participants, and a wine and cheese reception.

This is all in support of a great cause! All proceeds will benefit Pioneer Teens, a program for high school students that focuses on deepening the relationship to art and image.

This program is dedicated to the memory of Jungian analyst, Armin Wanner (1938-2011), Diplomate of the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich and long-time faculty member of the New York Jung Institute and the Jung Foundation.

The art and symbols that capture our attention and draw us in are what psychologist C.G. Jung might call the mysterium fascinosum (seductive mystery). We each have our favorite images, whether it is St. George slaying a dragon, Mickey Mouse brandishing a top hat, or a winged Nike. These images each call out to us differently and illuminate our lives with their archetypal energy. You are invited to support the educational outreach of ARAS (Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism) a unique archive of more than 18,000 images and archetypal commentaries spanning human eras and cultures.

Film synopsis:

Every year, millions of people visit the Metropolitan Museum, but how many are able to find the secrets and powers hidden in the works of art? Museum staff, who spend their days, and sometimes their nights, restoring, guarding, moving, cleaning, and teaching about the art, reveal some of the magic they have discovered. Their stories include a wish-granting statue, a sword with a secret compartment, a time-traveling melody, a portrait that has become a trusted mentor, a famous landscape with an unexpected population, and rooms and objects that brought joy to a dying woman.

Alexandra Moltke Isles grew up in New York where her father was a permanent member of the Danish Mission to the United Nations, and her mother was an editor at Vogue magazine. As a child she hated school but always had her nose in a book. Growing up as a U.N. brat honed her sensitivity to injustice and a theme running through all her work is social justice and dignity for the outsider. Her historical documentaries are as notable for the memorable personalities interviewed as they are for the richness of the archival material. Isles’ passion for research was developed during her years as a Researcher and then Assistant Curator at New York’s Museum of Radio & Television, now the Paley Center of Media. Her previous films are The Power of Conscience: The Danish Resistance and Rescue of the Jews (1995); Scandalize My Name (1999) about the black listing of African-American performers during the Red Scare; Porraimos: Europe’s Gypsies in the Holocaust (2002); The Healing Gardens of New York (2007); and Hidden Treasures: Stories from a Great Museum (2011). Isles also has been an interviewer for Stephen Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Project and an ESL tutor at the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture. Since the making of this film her passion has led her to become a docent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Monday, August 26, 2019

‘Do you Grotto?’

I do, at least as of five months ago, and come Saturday, you can too.

Living vicariously through Isaac’s entertaining Facebook updates for several years was satisfying to a certain extent, but I had to join Azim Grotto No. 7 in New York City in March to experience it firsthand. It’s my one frivolity in Freemasonry, and if you are able to get to Masonic Hall, then I recommend joining this hilarious band of…uh, Prophets.

The actual name is Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm, so you know instinctively that it’s levity. The Grotto is yet another fraternity in the Masonic family tree that was founded in the State of New York—it’s hard to count them all—and Azim 7 is the place to be in New York City. The embryonic Grotto was hatched at Hamilton Lodge 120, where the first meeting was held September 10, 1889. The Supreme Council was formed only nine months later, and the lovable band of brothers attired in allegedly Persian garb (today a proper and dignified fez suffices) was on its way.

A hundred years ago, the Grand Lodge of North Dakota (wherever that is) made it an offense for a Master Mason to join the Grotto. The Grand Master of Indiana forbade Grottos to meet in Masonic lodge rooms. The Grand Master of Louisiana ruled the Grotto to be viewed in the same regard as the Knights of Columbus, the Druids, Odd Fellows, and other non-Masonic fraternities. Yeah, well who is laughing now?

On Friday, Grand Monarch Michael G. Hosler and his Lady Jan will pay a social call on us in Manhattan at a location only three minutes away from the Nat Sherman Townhouse—that’s a hint to the hosts—because…

The next day, Saturday the 31st, the Grand Monarch, accompanied by Deputy Grand Monarch Tali Atala, will pay a visit to Azim at Masonic Hall for our Ceremonial—that is the unforgettable induction of members—and a private tour of the majestic building.

Tour at 4 p.m. Social hour at five o’clock. Azim business meeting at six. The Ceremonial at 7 p.m. (which is not to say the business meeting will run an hour!). In the Jacobean Room on eight.

I’d say it is okay to arrive Saturday and complete a petition then and there, because that’s what I did in March on National Grotto Day. Things are pretty informal, as you might guess. Do it. When has this blog ever steered you wrong?

Saturday, August 24, 2019

‘York Conference for the Study of Western Esotericism’

That’s York, England, not New York.

The theme this year is “Inside Esotericism,” but there is a curious absence of Freemasonry from the talks to be presented—very strange, in fact, given the location of the conference, which was the home of Athelstan and Edwin, and is the nexus of Masonic authority prior to the events of June 24, 1717.

But don’t let that stop you.

It looks like a dream event for the topics of discussion and the setting. The location is 23 Stonegate, and it will span the weekend of September 14. For registration, click here. Travel and accommodations are up to you.

Four panelists will address attendees. From the publicity:

Paul Bembridge

A regular presenter for the New York Open Center’s conferences on the Western Esoteric Traditions, Paul was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in connection with his work on the Rosicrucian interests of the poet Andrew Marvell. He became an Honorary Fellow of the University of Exeter where he taught alongside Professor Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke at the Centre for the Study of Esotericism.

Bob Bows

A former electronics designer and teacher at Leeds University, Bob has been a follower of Gurdjieff since the 1970s. A co-founder of the Leeds Gurdjieff Society, he actively disseminates Gurdjieff’s teachings. In addition, he has studied the energy fields of humans, animals, and plants, in the tradition of Mesmerand von Reichenbach.

Judith Mawer

A long-standing admirer of the works of Frances Yates, and a former newsletter editor for SHAC (the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry), Judith holds a Master’s degree in Western Esotericism and is currently working on the seventeenth century alchemist Thomas Vaughan for her doctorate.

Malcolm Peet

Is a retired Consultant Psychiatrist and was Honorary Professor in the School of Health at the University of Sheffield until 2017. Internationally recognized for his research on the relationship between nutrition and mental well-being, Malcolm holds a Master’s Degree in Western Esotericism and has recently published a book on Garth Wilkinson, Swedenborg and nineteenth-century esoteric culture, Medicine, Mysticism and Mythology (London: The Swedenborg Society, 2018).

The presentations themselves will be:


  • Ancient Origins of Esoteric Culture
  • Esoteric Christianity
  • The English Rosicrucians
  • Visit: Magic & Mystery exhibition in Barley Hall
  • The Spiritual Alchemy of Thomas Vaughan


  • Mesmerism, Magic, and the Dawn of Modern Psychology
  • The Esoteric Quest in the Twentieth Century
  • Gurdjieff and the Work
  • Esoteric Christianity, a Postscript of Our Times

Frustrating. I was planning a vacation to Blighty for that very week to visit Quatuor Coronati 2076 and the London Pipe Club, but it isn’t working out.

Friday, August 23, 2019

‘Calling all St. Albans lodges’

UPDATE: MAY 20, 2020
This event is canceled
due to the pandemic.

In Freemasonry, there used to be an interesting practice of lodges sharing a common name, but that are spread across grand jurisdictions around the country, uniting in a chain and occasionally meeting for fellowship—and, I guess, celebrating how their lodges’ name rocks. For example, there once was a St. John’s Lodge brotherhood.

Of course the Holy Saints John are integral to Masonic ritual and symbolism, and I imagine every grand lodge in the United States has a St. John’s Lodge, very often numbered first. New York’s eldest extant lodge is St. John’s 1 in Manhattan, dating to 1757.

There is another saint whose name figures prominently in lodge nomenclature around America and beyond: St. Alban. His presence in Masonic culture is not obvious.

First, let’s look at some biography, courtesy of Catholic Encyclopedia. Excerpted:

Courtesy St. Alban's Episcopal Church.
St. Alban. First martyr of Britain, suffered c. 304. The commonly received account of the martyrdom of St. Alban meets us as early as the pages of Bede’s “Ecclesiastical History” (Bk. I, chs. vii and xviii). According to this, St. Alban was a pagan living at Verulamium (now the town of St. Albans in Hertfordshire), when a persecution of the Christians broke out, and a certain cleric flying for his life took refuge in Alban’s house. Alban sheltered him, and after some days, moved by his example, himself received baptism. Later on, when the governor’s emissaries came to search the house, Alban disguised himself in the cloak of his guest and gave himself up in his place. He was dragged before the judge, scourged, and, when he would not deny his faith, condemned to death. On the way to the place of execution Alban arrested the waters of a river so that they crossed dry-shod, and he further caused a fountain of water to flow on the summit of the hill on which he was beheaded. His executioner was converted, and the man who replaced him, after striking the fatal blow, was punished with blindness. A later development in the legend informs us that the cleric’s name was Amphibalus, and that he, with some companions, was stoned to death a few days afterwards at Redbourn, four miles from St. Albans.

With Freemasonry arising in the British Isles, it is easy to understand how the first martyr in Britain could be cited as a kind of spiritual founding father. The earliest mention of him in Masonic literature is found in the Cooke Manuscript from the early 1400s, which is the second oldest known publication in Masonic letters, junior only to the Regius MS, and is the oldest of the Gothic Constitutions. It echoes in Anderson’s Constitutions and in the ritual probably used in your lodge.

Cooke, at line 602, briefly says “And soon after that came Saint Adhabell into England, and converted Saint Alban to Christianity. And Saint Alban loved well masons, and gave them their first charges and manners first in England. And he ordained convenient [times] to pay for the travail.” (Spelling modernized.)

Another document, known as the Grand Lodge Manuscript, that is said to date to 1583, illustrates more:

England in all this time stood void of any Charge of Masonry, until St. Albons’ time, and in his days the King of England, then a pagan, did wall the town that is now called St. Albons. And St. Alban was a worthy Knight and Steward of the King’s household, and had the government of the realm, and also of the walls of the said town; he loved and cherished Masons right well, and made their pay right good (according the standing of the realm), for he gave them 2 shillings 6 pence a week and three pence to their cheer [food and drinks]; for before that time, throughout all the land, a Mason took but a penny a day and his meat, until St. Alban amended it. He procured for them [the Masons] a Charter from the King and his Council, to hold a general council together, and gave it the name of Assembly; and after having himself [become a Mason], he helped to make men Masons, and gave them a Charge, as you shall hear afterwards right soon.

Personally, I believe St. Alban endeared himself to masons through the act of improving the food and drink allowance! His feast day is June 22. Vivat!

Where was I going with this? Yes! An organization of St. Albans lodges.

There is an international gathering of lodges named for St. Alban called for next year in New York, it was announced yesterday. It will be hosted in Rockville Center on October 2 through 4, 2020 at the Scottish Rite Valley there. For information, contact W. Bro. Harrison Greene of St. Albans Lodge 56 here.

A quick look through a search engine shows there are St. Albans lodges at labor in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Quebec, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia and, of course, St. Albans in Hertfordshire!

Please help spread the word.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

‘Grand Master’s Day at DeWint House’


Kudos to the planning committee of Grand Master’s Day 2019! There is a change of program this time that can only make the day even more fun. There was nothing wrong with the previous way of doing things, with a killer brunch before the festivities at DeWint House, but having a barbecue at DeWint House will be awesome.

I think this flier says it all, so I have nothing more to add except that if you’ve never been to DeWint House, you should make the effort. Even if you cannot attend Grand Master’s Day, please make the trip another time at your convenience. It is more than a historic site with an impressive museum; this special place offers beautiful grounds with exotic trees and other attractions. A very peaceful space.

See some old photos here.

Listen, the organizers need your reservations. They don’t need surprises. They say the site can accommodate 100 cars, but I think that’s pretty optimistic. See you there.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

‘Let’s revive this defunct Masonic order!’

Or maybe it’s not defunct after all. Maybe it’s so secret that only Lindez knows of it. I’ll have to ask him.

But in the meantime, I’ll need to find a copy of the 1915 edition (Vol. XXVIII) of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum for its research paper that describes this group, but based on what little I know, I am fully prepared to restart a long neglected French Masonic fraternity named the Order of Nicotiates!

Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia says:

Nicotiates, Order of. Also called Order of Priseurs, the former meaning smokers and the latter snuff dippers; a secret order of prominent French Freemasons, which existed at Paris about 1817-33.

I tried snuff once. Didn’t go well.

Mackey’s encyclopedia offers even less: “A secret order mentioned by Clavel, teaching the doctrines of Pythagoras.”

I hardly think Pythagoras would endorse smoking, but okay.

Arthur Edward Waite, in his A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, gives more, that actually is less:

The authority is Clavel, who terms the foundation Masonic, and says that the doctrines of Pythagoras were taught therein. It is without date or place, father or mother, and is devoid of all history, so far as his information goes.

So, who is Clavel? Getting back to Albert Mackey, he writes:

CLAVEL, F.T. BEGUE – An abbé. A French Masonic Writer, who published, in 1842, a Picturesque History of Freemasonry and of Ancient and Modern Secret Societies. This work contains a great amount of interesting and valuable information, notwithstanding many historical inaccuracies, especially in reference to the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, of which the author was an adversary. For the publication of the work without authority, he was suspended by the Grand Orient for two months, and condemned to pay a fine. Clavel appealed to the intelligence of the fraternity against this sentence. In 1844, he commenced the publication of a Masonic journal called the Grand Orient, the title subsequently changed to the Orient. As he had not obtained consent of the Grand Orient, he was again brought before that body, and the sentence of perpetual exclusion from the Grand Orient pronounced against him.

Rebold says that it was the act of a faction, and obtained by unfair means. It was not sustained by the judgment of the Craft in France, with whom Clavel gained reputation and popularity. Notwithstanding the Masonic literary labors of Clavel, an account of the time of his birth, or of his death, appears to be obscure. His desire seemed to be to establish as history, by publication, those views which he personally entertained and formed, gathered from sources of doubtful character, he desired they should not be questioned in the future, semel pro semper, once for all.

Anyway, I envision bespoke fezzes as regalia. We can meet here. To enter the sacred humidor:

GUARD: Avez-vous le mot de passe?
YOU: I will syllable it with you.
GUARD: Commencez!
YOU: All right then: BLAZ
TOGETHER: DeBlasio sucks!

And remember to tip the waitresses.

Friday, August 16, 2019

‘It’s back to School of Practical Philosophy time!’

An abbot gathered together his students and asked them “How do we know the exact moment when night ends and day begins?”

“It’s when, standing some way away, you can tell a sheep from a dog,” said one boy. The Abbot was not content with the answer. Another student said “No, it’s when, standing some way away, you can tell an olive tree from a fig tree.”

“No, that’s not a good definition either.”

“Well, what’s the right answer?” asked the boys.

“When a stranger approaches,” said the abbot, “and we think he is our brother, that is the moment when night ends and day begins.”

- Unknown

If there is one extra-Masonic activity I recommend above all others, it is an education in the School of Practical Philosophy. Its curriculum complements Masonic teachings in ways that will make you recall significant stretches of ritual, and, since it is practical philosophy, you will gain an understanding of how to apply the teachings to your daily life.

September is only a few weeks away, so it is back to school time. Here’s what’s going on. From the publicity:

Fall Open House
Wednesday, September 4
7 to 8:15 p.m.
School of Practical Philosophy
12 East 79th Street

Thursday, September 5
7 to 8:15 p.m.
West Side YMCA
5 West 63rd Street

Knowledge of one’s true self can be life changing. Come join us at the School of Practical Philosophy for an open conversation about the process of realizing the truth about one’s self, and how it might bring each of us sustainable happiness. Ask questions about the School, find out about the classes offered, and discover how generations of students have benefited from the discovery of their own innate wisdom through the study of Practical Philosophy.

Light refreshments will be served.

RSVP here.

Or, if you prefer to go to school directly, it’s easy to register for the 10-week introductory semester. The cost is only $90 for the term. Classes are held five days a week, in mornings and evenings, and at the same two locations to make it convenient.

Click here.

Okay, okay, so you are not in or near New York City and you want to experience what the School offers. There is an on-line opportunity.

Click here.

There are other ways to enjoy the School of Practical Philosophy. It offers study sessions built around particular themes, such as the upcoming (and sold out) Ralph Waldo Emerson group. There also are single events, either lectures or all-day studies devoted to different philosophers, teachings, and writings. One last Summer Stories night is scheduled for August 27, and Plato Day returns on October 13. Great stuff.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

‘Farewell and thank you’

Magpie file photo
Bro. Charles Canning at the Pennsylvania Academy
of Masonic Knowledge, October 11, 2008.

The first time I encountered Chuck Canning, he was atop a very tall ladder, maybe a 30-footer, painting astronomically correct constellations onto the ceiling of one of the lodge rooms in the Allentown Masonic Temple. I’m not necessarily acrophobic myself, provided I’m standing on a mountain, building, or something else that isn’t going to fall over, but ladders of that height give me pause. But there he was, happily and determinedly bringing into reality a starry-decked canopy for this sacred retreat.

I was there visiting with Bro. Sal Corelli. We made the trek into Pennsylvania to visit Kite and Key Lodge, a relatively new Traditional Observance lodge. This was 2008. The trip to Allentown turned out to be so much more, thanks to Chuck.

He seemed truly happy to have visitors, despite his being obviously busy with his labors on high. He gave us a tour of the building—it is one of those grand granite Masonic temples that sprang up all over America during the 1920s. In fact, on the outside, this one reminded us of our Trenton Masonic Temple, where New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786 had been meeting (I was Master) at that time. Inside, it is a magnificent, but smaller, version of One North Broad Street.

Chuck showed us the library, which delighted Sal and I—both enthusiastic members of the Masonic Library and Museum Association—even though it needed a lot of organization and other help. Chuck was very hospitable and, even though Sal and I had arrived well in advance of the lodge meeting, he kept us interested in all things Allentown Masonic Temple right up to the lodge opening.

Thanks to Chuck, we learned about the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge; he offered to help us get something similar arranged for New Jersey. He told us about Pennsylvania Lodge of Research, which was of great interest to us as well. Chuck was a principal in both organizations. He was a pretty frequent speaker at the Academy. Sal and I would become regulars there, despite the six-hour roundtrip commute (and the fact that we couldn’t become members because we didn’t hold Pennsylvania lodge memberships). The research lodge was different; its infrequent meetings usually are way too far away, except for the Philadelphia meeting in December, which always coincides with our own research lodge’s December communication. I’ll get there one day.

But Sal and I were there for the Traditional Observance experience, which was new for us. Having been with the Knights of the North for several years by then, I was pretty embarrassed over not only being without a T.O. lodge membership, but also for not yet even having visited such a lodge. As scarce as they are today, believe me, 11 years ago they were more rare than a pass from King Solomon after the attack on GMHA.

And I was enchanted with the Allentown Masonic Temple, thanks in large part to its attentive (unofficial?) caretaker Charles Canning. He invited me back to Allentown for a meeting of the local Allied Masonic Degrees council a week later, so I returned and wound up witnessing a terrific surprise. I was present at the February 2008 annual meeting of AMD’s Grand Council in Virginia, when the MV Grand Master announced the reinstatement of the Grand Superintendent position. Basically, each state again would have a representative of grand rank to keep the local councils apprised of what Grand Council was doing, and vice versa. Anyway, at this meeting in Allentown, I was fortunate to see Chuck invested with his Grand Superintendent regalia, a most impressive ensemble of AMD apron with a Red Branch of Eri collar and jewel, and other dazzling items.

I would meet Chuck again over the ensuing years, mostly at the Academy of Masonic Knowledge and at Masonic Week in Virginia. I’m sorry to say my attendance at the Academy hasn’t been what it used to be, and I otherwise lost track of this outstanding Freemason. We were connected on Facebook, but he apparently was not a regular user of social media.

Tuesday, when I saw this old Magpie Mason file photo of Chuck popping up in my Facebook feed, I instinctively knew what happened before I even focused my eyes on the text accompanying it: the sad news of Chuck’s passing the previous day.

He was a strong and respected leader in things Masonic that I care about most: education—the research lodges, libraries, museums, academies, lectures, Observant lodges, AMD, et al. I was extremely glad when he became a Founding Member of the Masonic Society.

Farewell Brother, and thank you for setting a superlative example for the rest of us!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

‘The Magic Flute at The Met’

Unlike the previous, this edition of The Magpie Mason looks only four months into the future when The Met will continue its annual tradition of staging Mozart’s Masonic opera The Magic Flute at Christmastime.

Courtesy The Met
Click to enlarge.

The show will run December 15 through January 4. Tickets start at only $30.

Again it will be Julie Taymor’s production of the opera, meaning it is a very accessible presentation—in English and less than an hour and forty-five minutes long.

The story is a fairy tale, but what makes it Masonic are the ritual elements and symbols that will be obvious to the initiated eye. Enjoy.

From the publicity:

A beloved holiday tradition continues as Mozart’s delightful fairy tale returns in the Met’s abridged, English-language version for families, perfect for younger audiences, with no intermission and a running time of less than two hours. Lothar Koenigs conducts a dynamic cast of standout Mozarteans in Julie Taymor’s magical production, an enduring Met classic with its eye-popping puppetry and stunning visuals.

World Premiere: Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden, Vienna, 1791. A sublime fairy tale that moves freely between earthy comedy and noble mysticism, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte in the original German) was written for a theater located just outside Vienna with the clear intention of appealing to audiences from all walks of life. The story is told in a singspiel (“song-play”) format characterized by separate musical numbers connected by dialogue and stage activity, an excellent structure for navigating the diverse moods, ranging from solemn to lighthearted, of the story and score.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91) was the son of a Salzburg court musician who exhibited him as a musical prodigy throughout Europe. His achievements in opera, in terms of beauty, vocal challenge, and dramatic insight, remain unsurpassed. He died three months after the premiere of Die Zauberflöte, his last produced work for the stage. The remarkable Emanuel Schikaneder (1751-1812) was an actor, singer, theater manager, and friend of Mozart who wrote the opera’s libretto, staged the work, and sang the role of Papageno in the initial run.

Courtesy The Met
Click to enlarge.

The libretto specifies Egypt as the location of the action. That country was traditionally regarded as the legendary birthplace of the Masonic fraternity, whose symbols and rituals populate this opera. Some productions include Egyptian motifs as an exotic nod to this idea, but most opt for a more generalized mythic ambience to convey the otherworldliness that the score and overall tone of the work call for.

Mozart and his librettist, Emanuel Schikaneder, created The Magic Flute with an eye toward a popular audience, but the varied tone of the work requires singers who can specialize in several different musical genres. The baritone Papageno represents the comic and earthy, the tenor Tamino and the soprano Pamina display true love in its noblest forms, the bass Sarastro expresses the solemn and the transcendental, and the Queen of the Night provides explosive vocal fireworks.

Of course the publicist here is mistaken about “the legendary birthplace of the Masonic fraternity,” but it is right to understand Egypt was central to a few Masonic rites that were active during Mozart’s lifetime and may have influenced him.

Monday, August 12, 2019

‘The Masonic Society at Masonic Week 2020’


I can barely plan six hours in advance, so I can understand not grabbing your interest with this news that comes six months ahead, but mark your calendars for Friday, February 7 for the Masonic Society’s annual dinner-meeting amid the Masonic Week festivities at Crystal City, Virginia.

There will be elections of officers. (Unless the members come to their senses, yours truly will become the Society’s seventh president.) We will announce new Fellows. We’ll tackle usual business, like budget stuff.


Mark Tabbert
The main reason you’ll want to be there is our keynote speaker: Bro. Mark Tabbert, Director of Collections at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia, will present “A Deserving Brother: George Washington and Freemasonry.”

You think you know Washington the Freemason, but this discussion will reveal Mark’s recent research that went into his new book on the subject.

Also, I must point out the dining fee has come down significantly since recent years. Our banquet—and, I imagine, others—have lost patrons to other, off-site, dining opportunities due to the exorbitant cost of eating in the hotel. It gives me great pleasure to tell you that this dinner will cost only $55 per person. We will work on the menu shortly. Masons, our ladies, and friends of Freemasonry are welcome to attend. The website for booking your seats will be ready soon, and I’ll share that news at the right time.

Otherwise, Issue No. 46 of The Journal of the Masonic Society is in production now, and will reach our members’ mailboxes in September. Join us! It’s the best $45 you’ll spend in Freemasonry.

‘The Magpie is back’


Well, I certainly didn’t think I’d be away for that long! A number of profound interruptions have rocked my life this year. I’ll just say 2019 has been the worst year of my already grim life. It cannot end fast enough for me. (The year, that is, not the life.)

I know I already have said thanks personally to the brethren who have been looking out for me in a time of bereavement and other staggering tempests—my lodge brothers’ efforts to keep me stable are beyond what reasonably might be expected—but allow me to say publicly here how grateful I am for Masonic friendship. It is humbling to be on the receiving end this time, but it also is exalting. I won’t forget.

In other sad news, let me belatedly say goodbye to RW Bro. Bernie Cohen, Past Grand Chaplain in the Grand Lodge of New Jersey, who served as Junior Warden both of Mt. Nebo Lodge 248 and of Peninsula Lodge 99—the first time when my grandfather was in the East in 1976, and the second time when I was in the Solomonic Chair in 2005. He was a tireless laborer in the quarries of Freemasonry for 71(!) years, and was one of the kindest souls one could be lucky enough to know. My condolences to his family.

The Worshipful Master is flanked by the Junior and Senior Wardens of Mt. Nebo Lodge 248 in Elizabeth, New Jersey at the Installation of Officers in December 1975.
From left: Bernie Cohen, my grandfather, and Arthur Simon.

Also, we lost Bro. Tim Wallace-Murphy last month. He let us know this was coming long ago. Having seen the best of the best on the Masonic speaking circuit for many years, I say without mental reservation, etc., etc. that Tim was one of the most engaging lecturers in the business, such was his zeal and skill for sharing what he knew about the medieval Templars, Rosslyn Chapel, Islam, and other subjects Masons ought to know about. He performed real research. Primary research. In the field. Read his books! He was 89 years old.

Regular Magpie Mason posting resumes now. I’ve been looking at the analytics of this website to see how badly readership has plummeted. Evidently the drop-off has been insignificant. Considering I’ve been absent for nine months, I don’t know if I should interpret that as a compliment, but thanks for reading the old Magpie posts. It is really odd in some cases to see which posts attracted a lot of traffic, but I’ll take what I can get.