Friday, October 29, 2021

‘You think you know something’

Not having been inside the French Doric Room of Masonic Hall in a long time, I had forgotten its subdued colors and classical charms. The ALR will be back in the Colonial Room for its next meetings in 2022, but this space actually might be perfect for us for its cozy decor and size.

(Sorry about the uneven point sizes in this edition of The Magpie Mason, but formatting in Blogger is inexplicably difficult. We can put William Shatner into orbit, but can’t have a blogging platform that doesn’t discombobulate over photos, links, and italics.)

Geez, you think you know something about Freemasonry—but then you attend a research lodge meeting.

Not just any research lodge, but The American Lodge of Research. That’s New York City’s Masonic literary society for historical inquiry, and the country’s oldest currently at labor.

While we had met in June for a quick installation of officers, which was necessary to make last night’s meeting possible, we gathered in the French Doric Room of Masonic Hall twenty-four hours ago for what technically was The ALR’s first fully functional regular communication in a number of years.

Of the three presentations scheduled, I went first because I required no projection equipment and it was easy to get me “out of the way,” so to speak. I delivered my “How to Research a Masonic Subject” talk. When I volunteered for this months ago, I pictured a room full of younger Masons who might have profited from a clear explanation of what kind of papers are needed in a research lodge (as opposed to the speculative papers that ought to be read in Craft lodges), plus some tips on how to get started and where to look for reputable source materials. It didn’t turn out that way. The brethren in lodge assembled numbered about twenty-five, and almost all have been around the quarries for some time. Standing at the lectern and relating how to craft a baccalaureate level paper on Masonic history to Piers Vaughan, Angel Millar, and the others reminds you how infinitesimal you are in this universe! But everyone was patient and kind, and kudos to Worshipful Master Conor for deftly opening the Q&A.

(But that wasn’t as bad as my not remembering the simple floorwork of attending at the altar. I’m in the Senior Deacon’s place, where I left off in 2013 and, while I thought I knew something about Freemasonry, I zigged where I should have zagged.)

Next up was Piers, who did need the PowerPoint gear, to reveal his fascinating art history review titled “The Story Behind the Most Famous Image of King Solomon’s Temple.”

Piers took us from the Hebrew Bible’s various descriptions of KST, with Ezekiel’s vision being most relevant to this discussion, forward in time to a number of other renderings culminating in the Georgian Era depiction that coincided with the birth of our trigradal degree system.

A most informative explanation of how understandings of key icons evolve and vary.  Gerhard Schott, John Field, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, and, especially, Juan Bautista Villalpando go where 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles do not.

Next was W. Bro. Michael from Hellenic Plato Lodge 1129 (I withhold his surname because he appears not to be known on the web as a Freemason), who told us about “Filiki Etaireia: A Secret Society Among Secret Societies.” You know Freemasons have been central to fights for national independence around the world, and Greece was no different.

Feliki Etaireia was not a Masonic group, but it featured certain Masonic characteristics because its membership did include Freemasons. For a cover, it purported to be a society for classical studies. Two hundred years ago, this faction risked everything to cleave its homeland from the Ottoman Empire. And they won.

The murals on the walls of the French Doric Room are ideal for Piers’ talk of art and architecture, and Michael’s discussion of Greek history.

It was wonderful being in the Masonic company of these brethren again. Marty, Joel, Gil, MW Sardone, and many more. RW Yves is back in the officer line. Plus it was great meeting Francois, Conrad, Rene, and a couple of brethren I noticed jotting notes during my talk.

Bill Sardone, who safely exited office as our Grand Master on Saturday after a term elongated by a year and a half because of the pandemic, truly deserves the credit for returning The ALR to labor. I am enjoined from ever telling the tale, but holy guacamole. (In journalism, there’s the custom of reporters often saving the best stories for themselves.) His labors on the lodge’s behalf continued through the meeting, even leaving the room in search of a ballot box, because…

We elected three Active Members, including Piers and Michael, and also elected seventeen Corresponding Members. And I’ve been hounding some friends from around the country whose memberships lapsed during our years of “refreshment.” This lodge is on the move once again.

Worshipful Master Conor (whose last name I likewise redact) is working hard. He brought us membership certificates. Elegant and suitable for matting and framing.

They look better with the foil seal and embossed stamp—and without the shadow of my hands and camera!

At The ALR’s first Under Dispensation meeting on April 18, 1931, the brethren were able to borrow from Oxford University Press a 1613 Barker Bible. (Robert Barker was King James I’s printer.) For our revival, Conor procured for us, also from OUP, a reproduction 1611 Barker KJV Bible. (The original 1611 is free of certain errors that sneaked into the 1613.) He also had the officers’ names added inside the cover. In doing so, he accidentally promoted me to Right Worshipful rank! Hey, I’ll take it!

The American Lodge of Research will meet again Tuesday, March 29, 2022 inside the Colonial Room on the tenth floor.

French Doric’s Inner Door.

Until then.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

‘Sad Tidings: Marilyn Braatz’

“That you should know no further sorrow.”

Very sorry to share the sad news of the passing on Monday night of Mrs. Marilyn Braatz, wife of MW Bro. George Braatz.

Arrangements are being made for November 12-13. I will update this edition of The Magpie Mason with that information when I have it. Click here for the obituary.

George and Marilyn Draper married in 1967, celebrating their fifty-fourth year of matrimony on June 17. Let’s remember George and their sons and daughter David, Michael, and Wendy, and their grandchildren.

Bro. George is very well known about the apartments of the Temple for having served as executive director of the Masonic Service Association of North America from 2010 to 2015. He was elected and installed grand master of the Grand Lodge of Ohio in October 1987.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

‘GLNY honors Scott Wolter’

Grand Master Bill Sardone presents Grand Lodge’s Medal for Distinguished Achievement to Bro. Scott Wolter. (Hiram’s Highlights photo)

Another singular occurrence amid Grand Lodge’s Annual Communication yesterday was an award presentation.

Travel Channel
Scott Wolter
Bro. Scott Wolter, who is known for hosting and appearing in several television productions focusing on geology and archaeology, received Grand Lodge’s Medal for Distinguished Achievement.

Wolter’s TV work includes the recent Secrets of the Viking Stone, but he probably is better known for America Unearthed, which ran for twenty-eight episodes across seven years on the History channel. He also authored a few books on his specialty field: the geology of the Lake Superior area. (He is based in Minnesota.)

There’s also Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar. And his blog is here. Maybe you sat in during one of Grand Master Sardone’s Zoom conferences last year during the pandemic when Wolter was guest speaker.

Congratulations, Bro. Wolter!

Saturday, October 23, 2021

‘Sunday will never be the same’


(With apologies to Spanky and Our Gang.)

One item among all the proposed legislation today at Grand Lodge’s Annual Communication had the big idea to permit Masonic labors on Sundays.

It passed. Overwhelmingly, I’m told.

The previous Masonic law stated, as found in two sections, that (I paraphrase) no lodge shall meet on Sundays except to perform Masonic funeral rites. The new law deletes that language, so there now is the potential for lodges to meet on that first day of the week.

The amendment was submitted for consideration by the now new Senior Grand Warden, RW Robert Hogan. He explains there is a common sense purpose for this change because the religious diversity so obvious in today’s membership makes it necessary for lodges to decide for themselves what day of rest, if any, they require. The Grand Lodge mustn’t be the arbiter on that question.

I support it completely. Muslims observe on Fridays; Jews observe on Saturdays; and Christians observe on Sundays. There can be no one-size-fits-all, top-down thinking here. SMIB.

Congrats to all who voted in favor.

‘New New York leadership’

The 239th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of New York will conclude in minutes, with new elected leaders to install later today.

Richard Kessler
MW Bro. Richard Kessler is our new Grand Master. RW Bro. Steven A. Rubin is our Deputy Grand Master.

Kessler has been a member of the Masonic Society since 2016.

Grand Lodge has open and competitive elections, meaning an incumbent is not necessarily elevated to the East unchallenged. The new Grand Master had served as Deputy Grand Master since May 2018, and Rubin had been Grand Treasurer. The normally two-year terms of office were prolonged by a year and a half due to the COVID pandemic and resulting logistical problems in hosting an immense gathering like this.

In the Grand West will be RW Robert Hogan. In the Grand South will be RW Peter Stein. At the Grand Treasurer’s office now is RW Bro. Joseph Saglimbene. Joe was nominated and elected from the floor, surprising both declared candidates, lest anyone scoff at the reality of open, honest elections here.

Among the proposed legislation was one item that I’ll report when I hear the results. Other legislation concerned amendments to make Grand Lodge more adaptable to emergencies, such as the recent pandemic that disrupted the usual time, place, and manner of the Annual Communication. Today’s session in Utica actually was a conclusion of a meeting opened months ago at Masonic Hall in Manhattan. But more on that later.

Congratulations to all! 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

‘Tylers Toast Gin’


The cold weather is easing into the Northern Hemisphere, which can mean only one thing: It is time to transition from the clear spirits to the browns—but not yet!

Because…a limited production of gin has been distilled for the brethren’s refreshment. And it’s for charity too.

Tylers Toast is a Middle Chamber London Dry Gin. Only 120 bottles were produced, which was done for the Masons of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Wiltshire, of the United Grand Lodge of England. (Wiltshire, in the southwest, is home to Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral, et al.)

More than fifty bottles have been sold via the PGL, and area lodges are stocking it at their bars. I’m guessing it can’t be had outside England, but I’m a glass-is-mostly-empty kind of guy, especially when having a martini. For availability, contact Mark Newman here.


Saturday, October 16, 2021

‘Upcoming at The ALR’


It really isn’t enough to say The American Lodge of Research is back. We are—we’ll meet again on Thursday the 28th—but with a determined leadership team in place now, the city’s Masonic research lodge is “full service” again.

First, the meeting: The logistics you see in the graphic above. RSVP here. The agenda:

W. Bro. Michael, a Past Master of Hellenic Plato Lodge 1129, will present “Filiki Etaireia: A Secret Society Among Secret Societies.”
RW Bro. Piers Vaughan, a Past Master of St. John’s Lodge 1, will tell “The Story Behind the Most Famous Image of King Solomon’s Temple.”
Third, the Magpie Mason himself will explain “How to Research a Masonic Subject” and will distribute a list of places, both in person and online, to look for information needed in your research.

At the Secretary’s desk, there are three ballots for Active Membership, and there are sixteen for Corresponding Membership (including two from abroad).

There will be a lot more, to be announced by Worshipful Master Conor. Come see our new and unique altar Bible. Hear about various membership benefits and additional news about how we’re moving forward.

No collation, unfortunately, due to COVID concerns. All Master Masons are welcome to the meeting. (If you’re not a member of The ALR, it’ll be better to arrive at 7:30 because we’ll tackle our business at seven.) Bring your apron and be attired for a lodge meeting.

We look forward to greeting you then.

Friday, October 15, 2021

‘Viddy well, brothers, viddy well’


The Magpie Mason has alluded to A Clockwork Orange, both the novel and the film, several times over the years, so it gives me more than the usual pleasure to show you this.

Cameo is a video-sharing service that connects paying customers to a diverse pool of celebrities—and “celebrity” is very broadly understood here—who record custom messages for their fans.

At last, we have a Clockwork-Craft connection courtesy of Cameo. On behalf of the Grotto and its dentistry for the developmentally disabled philanthropy, Mr. Malcolm McDowell, who starred fifty years ago in the motion picture, appears on video in tribute to the Prophets of Samoor Grotto in Florida.

Click here. It runs less than a minute.

It’s an odd choice. McDowell has excelled in roles that are unsympathetic in the eyes of most viewers. I’m not complaining. Just an observation. I hope there’s a colorful story behind it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

‘Academy speakers announced’

Sorry for the late notice here. I checked the Academy’s website recently to see what’s planned for this month, but the closed-for-COVID advisory was still up. Anyway, yesterday the committee announced a program is scheduled, and it is one that I’ll say is very different from the Academy’s usual offerings.

On Saturday, October 23, Chic Cicero, Tabatha Cicero, and Piers Vaughan will be the speakers at the Fall Symposium of Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge.

It’s like the Rose Circle all over again!

That’s at Freemasons Cultural Center on the Elizabethtown campus. Register in advance here. Check in that morning at 8:30. The program will start at 9:30. The day typically ends by 3 p.m. Wear a jacket and tie. Lunch costs ten bucks.

Magpie file photo
Chic and Tabatha Cicero are Chief Adepts of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. To my mind, that’s the real Golden Dawn, if you happen to be seeking an order, because the Ciceros continue the Israel Regardie stream. (I am not part of any GD order.)

Piers Vaughan is practically a ubiquity in Freemasonry, Martinism, and the “kindred sciences.” You know him.

Click here to read their bios on the Academy’s website.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

‘The great object of pursuit in Masonry’

The Craftsman’s Apron

The great object of pursuit in Masonry—the scope and tendency of all its investigations—is TRUTH. This is the goal to which all Masonic labor evidently tends. Sought for in every degree, and constantly approached, but never thoroughly and intimately embraced, at length, in the Royal Arch, the veils which concealed the object of search from our view are withdrawn, and the inestimable prize is revealed.

This truth which Masonry makes the great object of its investigations is not the mere truth of science, or the truth of history, but is the more important truth which is synonymous with the knowledge of the nature of God—that truth which is embraced in the sacred tetragrammaton or omnific name, including in its signification His eternal, present, past, and future existence, and to which He himself alluded when He declared to Moses: “I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known unto them.”

This knowledge of divine truth is never thoroughly attained in life. The corruptions of mortality, which encumber and cloud the human intellect, hide it as with a thick veil from mortal eyes. It is only beyond the tomb and when released from the burthen of life that man is capable fully of receiving and appreciating the revelation. Hence, when we figuratively speak of its discovery in the Royal Arch Degree, we mean to intimate that the sublime portion of the Masonic system is a symbolic representation of the state after death. The vanities and follies of life are now supposed to be passed away. The first Temple, which we had erected with such consummate labor and apparent skill for the reception of the Deity, has proved an imperfect and transitory edifice. Decay and desolation have fallen upon it, and from its ruins, deep beneath its foundations, and in the profound abyss of the grave, we find that mighty truth, in the search for which life was spent in vain, and the mystic key to which death only could supply, when, having passed the portals of the grave, we shall begin to occupy that second temple—“that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

Albert G. Mackey
Book of the Chapter

I didn’t make it to that Royal Arch Degree last night after all. While reviewing Masonic rituals helps reinforce their meanings, the lessons are accessible and portable—and a good book can keep things sparking in your head.

My congratulations to the newly exalted Royal Arch companions of Alpha, Three Times Three, and Union chapters!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

‘Ancient Craft Masonry’s completion’


It is taught The Word may be imparted only when the three Grand Masters are present, and we had that yesterday—kind of.

It was the very long awaited Tri-State Cryptic Festival at Saugerties, in King Solomon’s Council 31 (at Ulster Lodge 193) specifically, that united the Grand Masters of the Grand Councils of Royal and Select Masters of New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts for a full day of important ritual work. MIGM John Gallant mentioned from the Grand East how this tradition is in, approximately, its ninetieth year. Since nine is a significant number in the Cryptic Rite, nine decades sounds good to me.

Gallant was installed only about six weeks ago. Joining him in governing all these Royal and Select Masters were Most Puissant James McNeely of Connecticut and the Most Illustrious Grand Master from Massachusetts. (I have forgotten his name. I’m sorry.)

From left: Massachusetts, General Grand, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.

Also present were M.I. David Schuler, of the Grand Council of Vermont; and R.I. Sean McNorton, Deputy Grand Master from New Jersey. Plus an officer from the General Grand Council joined us—but I’ve forgotten his name as well because I was too stubborn to take notes.

But any of those senior officers would be the first to tell you it’s the degrees that matter, and that advancing these dozens of Royal Arch companions to the completion of Ancient Craft Masonry is the reason for being there.

The three degrees of the Cryptic Rite were worked. The Connecticut companions conferred the Royal Master Degree. The Massachusetts Masons made the new Royal Masters into Select Masters. After a fortifying lunch, the New York team—with most but not all from Columbian 1–conferred the seldom seen Super Excellent Master Degree. (Special kudos to Companion Dave Barkstedt, who deflects praise but who coordinated this complicated worksite.)

The Cryptic Rite confounds the attentive Freemason who requires some clarity in the designs upon the trestleboard because there is confusion in the Temple. For starters, simply for a post-Sublime Degree coherent narrative, these three degrees rightly should be found before Royal Arch. And, as a pair, the Royal Master and the Select Master ought to be reversed.

And Super Excellent Master? Don’t ask. It has no continuity with the previous two degrees as it draws from the story of Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah, and Jeremiah. It has a lengthy drama which deserves ritualists with serious acting chops—something we don’t see often enough.

I suggested cutting the cake with a trowel but to no avail.

When I am installed Grand Master of the country I’m gonna straighten all that out. Until then, I hope every bright Master Mason will seek further Light in Masonry by continuing beyond the Craft lodge into the Royal Arch and Cryptic degrees. To paraphrase Bro. Winston Churchill, who was talking about a different sort of education: “I would let the clever Masons learn Royal Arch as an honor, and Cryptic as a treat.”

Speaking of Royal Arch, I believe I’ll take another long drive into the suburbs tomorrow night to see a group of Most Excellent Masters exalted in a chapter, something I haven’t done in a long time.

Friday, October 8, 2021

‘Join the Corporation’

A long time ago I failed to renew membership in Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle, but at last corrected that mistake a few days ago.

You should join too. Click here.

QCCC is the corporate arm of Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076 in London. It sends members the annual book of transactions of Freemasonry’s first lodge of Masonic research. A square deal if I ever saw one. Plus there are other benefits of membership. You’ll stand a little taller, for starters.

If I understand correctly, the current edition of AQC won’t reach me until wintertime but, in a way, that just may be the best time.

‘New Grotto for Long Island’

I regret not having a credit for this one.

They say Long Island isn’t an island at all but is a peninsula. Nevertheless, a Grotto is an Enchanted Realm, and Rockville Centre will gain one this month.

On Saturday the 30th, at the Valley, Prophets from all over will gather to launch Lier Grotto of the Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm.

Formal attire. 6:30 p.m.

Hearty congratulations to all making this happen!

It’s a busy month for the Prophets.

Next Wednesday, Azim Grotto will host another cigar night, this time in partnership with Cornerstone Lodge 178. This will be at Pacificana in Brooklyn.

There’ll be a quick business meeting, but the eating, drinking, and smoking will proceed without delay. $50 per person. It’s a “brother bring a friend night.”

Six o’clock. 55th & 8th.

Meanwhile, right now actually, the Empire State Grotto Association is meeting in Buffalo. Our Grand Monarch is coming. Elections of new officers.

It’s too far for me. I’m headed a hundred miles north of the city as it is for the Cryptic Festival tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

‘Masonic Values art winners’

GL of Pennsylvania
‘First Pancake Breakfast,’ by Jon DeHart, 3-D media. 

The winners of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s 2021 Embodying Masonic Values Art Contest are announced.

Click here to see the honored works and additional submissions.

GL of Pennsylvania
GRAND MASTER’S PRIZE: ‘Legend of the Third Degree’ by Andrey Kovtun, drawing and print-making. Available for $4,000.

Some are still available for purchase. Alas, “First Pancake Breakfast” has been snatched up.

‘We part upon the Square’


We part upon the Square,
for the world must have its due,
There’s a world where all are equal;
we are hurrying to it fast,
We shall meet upon the Level there,
when the gates of death are past:
We shall stand before the Orient, and our Master will be there,
To try the blocks we offer by his own unerring Square.*

Bro. Bob was Senior Warden when I affiliated with Publicity Lodge in 2015, and we got to know each other better the following year when he served in the East. Bob died last month after a long brutal illness.

He was a gentle soul who embodied precisely what you would want to see in a Freemason.

I can’t salute him by name here because some of his relations were not to know of his Masonic membership. Sometimes you forget some of your brethren have to finesse that secret.

At our meeting last night, we draped the altar in black and said goodbye. Alas, my brother.

*From an ode among The Masonic Concordia, 1906.

Friday, October 1, 2021

‘Freemasonry is a meme’


Being a middle-aged crank, I am alternately revolted and dismayed by the emergence of a vocabulary that eludes me. From the jargon born of evolving technologies to the Scrabble cheating of sexual politics to the slang of subliterate youth, I repeatedly find myself googling foreign idioms that seem to have no etymologies. But I was wrong about this one.

“Meme,” from the first time I saw it, is something I took to be newly coined for the purpose of describing the early twenty-first century’s hieroglyphic communication on social media platforms. In reality, “meme” has roots in the 1970s—like most of our problems today. It seems if you splice “mime” and “gene,” you produce “meme.”

So, how is Freemasonry a meme? Well, the word’s primary definition, according to Oxford, is:

An idea that is passed from one member of society to another, not in the genes but often by people copying it.

(Secondarily comes the popular understanding of meme being the visual message, usually humorous, quickly disseminated online.)

When we, as Free and Accepted Masons, impart the tokens, tenets, teachings, etc. to all who have come in the same way and manner before, I think we have a meme. Quod erat demonstrandum.