Sunday, February 27, 2022

‘Relief for Ukraine’


Grand Lodge is ready now to accept funds to help, aid, and assist the people of Ukraine. The statement from Masonic Hall this afternoon calls on the brethren to mail donations, “both large and small,” to:

Masonic Brotherhood Fund
71 W. 23rd Street
New York, NY

Make note that your contribution is for the Grand Lodge Emergency Relief Fund.

UPDATE: Or visit here.

From today’s letter:

Your Grand Master, Most Worshipful Richard J. Kessler, and the Grand Lodge of New York, in a strong showing of solidarity with our fellow brethren of the Grand Lodge of Ukraine, look to the members of our noble Craft to demonstrate their heartfelt compassion and empathy for our fellow human beings during this, their hour of darkness. Together, we will emerge from this tragic and dispiriting experience united with a renewed zeal for bringing back peace, harmony, and brotherhood throughout the world. The essence of True Masonic Brotherhood will be a beacon of hope for all to see and emulate.

Lodges, districts, charity foundations, appendant bodies, and even your businesses may contribute toward this unified effort.

‘Review: The Contemplative Lodge’

Through the kind offices of Michael Poll, editor in chief of The Journal of the Masonic Society, my review in the current issue of Chuck Dunning’s latest book appears here too.

The Contemplative Lodge: A Manual for Masons Doing Inner Work Together by C.R. Dunning, Jr.

Stone Guild Publishing, 2021, 312 pages, paperback, $14.95


This reviewer must begin with a disclaimer: He purported to speak to Masonic audiences in recent years on mindfulness techniques for lodge lifebut he would have been far better equipped had he been able to digest the contents of this brand new book.


The Contemplative Lodge by C.R. “Chuck Dunning is a companion to his Contemplative Masonry from 2016.Where the latter guides a Freemason on how to adapt Masonic ritual and symbol for personal meditative purposes, the new book serves as a lodge of instruction,uniting groups of brethren in prayer, meditation, breathing exercises and other mindfulness habits conducive to Masonic labors. Dunning has been writing on these subjects for decades. In his professional career in higher education and mental health, as well as in Freemasonry, he teaches meditation techniques to groups and individuals. He was raised to the Sublime Degree in 1988, and he is very well known around the United States as a Masonic educator and author.


The Contemplative Lodge is understood in two denominations: First, its three chapters, spanning about 100 pages, beautifully explain how and why Masonic lodges can add a previously unknown reward to their work by embracing meditative techniques. It’s not that the author reinvents Masonry as meditation class as much as he directs our attention to what already is in the language and symbols we know so well. The ensuing two-thirds of the book offer four appendices that provide the actual instruction on meditation, chanting, energy work, and more.


The opening chapter forcefully argues the belief that Masons are taught repeatedly to work together. Dunning quotes from the three degrees and from authors of classic and contemporary books not to point out the obvious, but to find context for his vision of the lodge as a contemplative group. He cautions us against overzealousness in advocating for contemplative practices; admonishes us to not see these practices as hallmarks of an elite Freemasonry; and reminds us that every Mason is to be respected and loved even if these meditative techniques do not interest him. In short, he says, proper applications of the Compasses, Level, and Trowel.


One of the highlights of the second chapter is in Dunning’sexplanation of Masonic ritual work as a group contemplative act. “The entire process of preparing for and opening a meeting or ceremony is a series of exercises in establishing a proper atmosphere and attitude for each participant to become more fully aware of the ritual’s multilayered symbolism in words, images, and actions,” he writes. “In turn, the specific form of a given meeting or ceremony makes use of numerous methods to draw attention to particular focal points, stimulating the psyche to dwell on their potential meanings in one’s life.” While a certain kind of Mason would say “Yes, of course,” it is true that most Masons would find that statement revelatory.


Chapter Three is for the Master of the lodge. Dunning acknowledges the need for common sense management of our fraternity’s worldly business, but his trestle board really teaches how a Worshipful Master’s duties are mentoring as an initiator, mentoring as a teacher, and mentoring as a companion. Familiar concepts, yes, but he presents them in an alternative understanding.


Those four appendices contain the marrow, giving step-by-step instruction for the willing lodge. If the reader accepts Dunning’s proposition that the Masonic lodge’s speculative teachings and ritualized activities are meant for more than memorization and even study for comprehension, then it becomes plain to see how speculation and reflection produce a “focused, peaceful, and harmonious state of mind in the present moment.


One section presents Eight Steps of Guided Meditation, useful whether addressing one individual or a group. There also are various scripts one may follow to facilitate group meditations. These center on very familiar Masonic symbols and other elements, such as the Gavel, the Blazing Star, the Mystic Tie (naturally), and Jacob’s Ladder.


Pages are devoted to Silent Sitting, which is not as simple as you might think. Conversely, the Chanting Meditations set certain melodic words to labor as intonations that can only cure any emotional or psychological mood that otherwise may spoil a brother’s time in lodge. (Your reviewer can vouch for this thanks to work in an esoteric order where this sort of chanting induces a gentle euphoria. He is smiling involuntarily now merely from thinking about it.)


I would prefer to quote extensively from The Contemplative Lodge, but I’ll just delve into Energizing the Plumb Line on Page 251: First, extensive breathing exercises defeat any tension there might be throughout the body until a rhythmic respiration calms the mind. Then, the participants are instructed to “imagine a plumb line, a small straight line of brilliant white light running into the top of your head from the highest heavens, and down through your body into the depths of the Earth…like a magnetic or electrical current flowing…. Feel the pure white light as warm, cleansing, healing, and energizing.” After further instruction, participants are to “stop circulating the energy and breathe naturally, continuing to imagine the brilliant white plumb line running through your body between the highest heavens and the center of the Earth. Attend to any effects this work has on your body, emotions, and thoughts.” You may never see the jewel of the Junior Warden, who governs the time of refreshment, quite the same way again.


For the Freemason who views his Craft as a mystery school, The Contemplative Lodge delivers essential vindicating reading, while the brother for whom Masonry is a fraternity can enhance his profit and pleasure through Dunning’s instructive emphasis on how brethren can achieve inner work together. All the brethren can dwell together in unity.


Friday, February 25, 2022

‘Lodge with No Name 10,000’

S. Khan photo

The United Grand Lodge of England consecrated its 10,000th lodge Tuesday. It is a grand lodge that does not recycle lodge numbers, so this is a true sequential 10,000 since 1813.

So, what is this lodge’s name? Lodge Sine Nomine.

What’s that mean? Lodge with No Name.

Five of Nine Club photo

MW Bro. Peter Geoffrey Lowndes, Pro Grand Master, led the ceremony, which took place inside beautiful Lodge Room 10 in Freemasons’ Hall, London.

It is said Sine Nomine is a lodge for young Masons. From what I’ve read, it is not grouped in the Affinity/Specialty class of lodges and, as yet, has not decided on a ritual to work (UGLE has dozens). The lodge will meet three times a year at Great Queen Street: second Thursday of January (installation), third Friday of June, and fourth Friday of October, always at six o’clock.

Congratulations to all!

Those of you who know me probably have noticed my gift for sussing the unfavorable aspect of even the best news and, so, here too I also consider the reality of these new lodges not representing growth of the fraternity. With nominally 10,000 lodges, you might think the country has half a million Masons (not that big numbers themselves are desirable), but membership actually is contracting. Furthermore, with the loss of lodges, there is an inevitable disappearance of rituals.

I wish I had the answers. The world patently needs Freemasonry, but that actually is a big part of what ails us.

Thursday, February 24, 2022



The website of the Grand Lodge of Ukraine is down, as probably all civilian communications in the country are defeated by Russian cyber warfare now that the military invasion is underway.

Freemasonry in Ukraine is nearly as old as it is in the New World. The first lodge there was organized by Polish Masons in 1742, and more lodges were set to labor through the rest of the century. In the 1800s, the fraternity acted similarly as one might expect: espousing Enlightenment values with an eye toward reinventing the government to ensure what we call Civil Rights for the people. The Grand Lodge was formed in 1900 by five lodges, and its fortunes ebbed and flowed with the country’s. Naturally, when Ukraine was diminished (and starved) as a Soviet Socialist Republic, Freemasonry was outlawed, but it sprouted anew in the post-Soviet era, although there are periodic noises from politicians about banning the order again.

Grand Lodge of Ukraine photo

In 2005, the National Grand Lodge of France (that’s the French one we recognize) and the Grand Lodge of Austria consecrated the current Grand Lodge of Ukraine.

Past Grand Master Bill Sardone with Ukraine Grand Master Anatoly Dymchuk last November in Berlin during the International Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges.

I hear there supposedly has been a Ukrainian Masonic Club in New York.

I’m sure a Masonic relief endeavor will be launched here to help, aid, and assist our brethren there. If so, I’ll publish the details when they are known.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

‘It was twenty years ago today’

Random House USA

On this date in 2002, New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786 was constituted by Grand Master David A. Chase. This singular occurrence more than likely is what resulted in me remaining in the fraternity beyond a couple more years.

At that time, my uninspiring mother lodge was dying, and its merger with our landlord lodge the following year was anything but certain. My York and Scottish rite groups were equally unimpressive. AMD was nice, but lacking. My invitation into the Knights of the North, where I finally would meet like-minded brethren, was three years off. The Masonic Society wouldn’t even be a concept for another six years. Then, approaching my fifth anniversary in Freemasonry, there appeared this purposeful lodge of learning.

It was 1) a meritocracy that 2) hardly anyone in that jurisdiction wanted to know about. Those two characteristics convinced me it was the place to be. (Plus, a gaggle of old hens in my mother lodge—elderly uneducated men who couldn’t understand why anyone would read a book about Freemasonry—made clear their dissatisfaction with my research lodge activity and pleasure. Further proof I was on the right track.)

It was just one of the great accomplishments of MW Chase, with securing recognition of our Prince Hall neighbors and bringing Sons of Liberty Lodge into the family being two others. For that one year, I believed that grand lodge could achieve important forward-thinking successes.

Happy anniversary to my Masonic first love.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

‘Washington Masonic bio is out’


On the day George Washington was born, the date was February 11, but today is Washington’s birthday because of the change in 1752 from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. That’s a long story involving Astronomy, Arithmetic, Logic, and a pope, but what better occasion than this to buy Mark Tabbert’s new book?

A Deserving Brother: George Washington and Freemasonry is available at last. It is published by University of Virginia Press (released today) and can be had from your favorite booksellers.

From the publicity:

Like several of America’s Founding Fathers, George Washington was a Freemason, yet Washington’s ties to the fraternity and the role it played in his life have never been widely researched or understood. In A Deserving Brother, Mark Tabbert presents a complete story of Washington’s known association with Freemasonry.

Much more than a conventional history, this book has curated an exhibition of artifacts and episodes to fully contextualize our first president’s Masonic life and experiences. Consulting the Library of Congress, Mount Vernon, the Boston Athenaeum, and numerous private Masonic lodges, libraries, and museums, Tabbert chronicles all known instances of Washington’s association with Freemasons, confirming some existing knowledge, adding new insights, and debunking unsubstantiated myths. The record of Washington’s masonic ties is presented through contextualizing descriptions and color illustrations, ranging from lodge minute books recording Washington’s attendance to his Masonic aprons, from the tools used at the U.S. Capitol cornerstone ceremony to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts’ gold urn, made by Paul Revere, containing a lock of Washington’s hair.

A Deserving Brother documents the significance of Freemasonry in Washington’s life and career in a way that separates fact from fiction, and will satisfy both historians and general readers, including today’s Freemasons.

Mark A. Tabbert is Director of Archives and Exhibits at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, and is author of American Freemasons: Three Centuries of Building Communities.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

‘The very cement and support of society’


It’s not often a lodge thinks to tender a formal statement of contemporary social importance. Of course that’s not easy to do. Government intrudes into our lives so often and so directly, it’s nearly impossible to form a civic-minded opinion that doesn’t trespass into partisan politics. Like sectarian religious views, political opinions are forbidden in our lodges. That is a key ingredient that makes our essential harmony possible, but it also has stifled much potential discussion of ideas. We seem to have filled the silence with less provocative conversations, and the fraternity expects its lodges and their members to act, and make Masonic charity evident in their activities.

Late last year, one of the cofounders of Columbia Lodge 1190, part of Grand Lodge’s academic lodge program, contacted me for an opinion on a statement the lodge crafted. Columbia Lodge should be commended simply for thinking and speaking on what’s happening outside the Temple today. And, since today is World Day of Social Justice, I hereby share with you Columbia Lodge’s recent proclamation:

Freemasonry, at its core and throughout its ritual, promotes the principles of Social Justice. By meeting “on the level,” we are summoned to recognize all with whom we stand as Brothers without regard for any differences that may, in the profane world, serve as pretexts for exclusion, prejudice, intolerance, or hatred. Columbia Lodge 1190 affirms and embraces the principles of Social Justice so eloquently expressed within our ritual, and strives to become a beacon of inclusion and Brotherhood within the Craft.

Columbia Lodge was constituted for Masons with a connection to the Ivy League university uptown in Morningside Heights: alumni, students, faculty, etc. The lodge has no affiliation with the university.

I am flattered my opinion was sought. I am neither a member of the lodge nor connected to the university. (I graduated from the downtown behemoth private university.)

What first comes to mind is Freemasonry’s teaching of Justice. It is a Cardinal Virtue in Freemasonry, just as it was to Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, and others. As we reveal in the Entered Apprentice Degree:

Justice is that standard which enables us to render to every man his due, without distinction. This virtue is not only consistent with Divine and human law, but is the very cement and support of society; and, as justice, in a great measure, distinguishes the good man, so should it be your practice to be just.

Unlike Fortitude, Prudence, and Temperance, which are inner qualities, this fourth Cardinal Virtue is exhibited outward. Justice is social, so, to my mind, “Social Justice” is a redundancy.

More problematic is a modifier prefixed to Justice. Any qualification limits the meaning of the subject. For instance, today also is International Pipe Smoking Day. Without that second word, we have a general image of stressed addicts huffing their drug and littering the world with discarded butts, but with the modifier “Pipe” in place, we may envision serene hobbyists sweetening the air with gentle Cavendish in hand-carved briars, perhaps whilst reading Tolkien or playing chess in the study.

Words matter, and prefixing “Social” to “Justice” crimps the universality of justice. Lesson in Grammar and Rhetoric.

Then of course there is the politically combustible usage of the term in today’s hyper-partisan society. “Social Justice” is the all-inclusive excuse for everything from the “decarceration” that makes public spaces dangerous to the spectacle of grown men putting their hair in pigtails to steal the championships and scholarships of women’s sports. Most of the people outside who would use the term probably would have no love for Freemasonry. Read Columbia University’s thoughts.

About a year and a half ago, I reproduced the then current message from the then president of the Masonic Society, which dubs Freemasons the “Enlightenment Social Justice Warriors” but invokes the Cardinal Virtues because all we have to do is uphold the meaning of Masonry with its familiar anodyne language.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

‘Masonic Week 2022’


I meant to post this a week ago, but it’s been busy and, frankly, social media renders Magpie coverage of Masonic Week redundant. I mean, during last Saturday’s AMD Grand Council Annual Communication, Barry was tweeting and I was Faceypaging progress of the meeting in real time. And then came tons of everyone’s photos. So this edition of The Magpie Mason is brief—I attended only several events anyway—and it is light on photography. There were No Photography signs posted around the meeting room but, unknown to me, they referred to the degree conferrals and not to the business meetings. So I inadvertently denied you my customary lens work, capturing the scenes of the same ten guys appointing each other to the officer lines.

My first Masonic Week (called AMD Weekend back then) was 2002, and this weekend, like that one, was blessed with unseasonably warm weather for the dead of winter. I wistfully recall sitting at the bar in the Hotel Washington’s lobby, enjoying a pint and a cigar, writing postcards to the brethren back at lodge, and noticing the tourists outside were wearing shorts and T-shirts. The temperature reached as high as 61 degrees this time. But no smoking anything anywhere in any hotel these days, just to illustrate how far our society has collapsed in only two decades.

I reminisced with Rashied for a few minutes about those old times and about all the friends who we don’t see anymore. Janet, who organized the annual luncheon at Old Ebbitt Grill; Scott, who played his bagpipes; and so many more Masonic Light members, some who have passed on, or no longer make the trip.

Heather Calloway was there, allegedly. I’m told she was representing Indiana University’s Center for Fraternal Collections and Research, supposedly. I’m doubtful because I staggered around the atrium, where stood everybody’s display tables, repeatedly, but didn’t see her. I probably need some kind of cognitive testing.

I didn’t even get a chance to shake Mark Tabbert’s hand. Just a fast wave. Mark’s book, A Deserving Brother, is due out this month. But I did get to meet Scott Schwartzberg after all these years.

It was a great Masonic Week thanks, in part, to the absence of a few of the usual groups that still were skittish over the pandemic. No offense, but without Athelstan and Knight Templar Priests, there was room on the schedule for degree work open to AMD brethren. What a concept.

The Masonic Society

Attendance this Masonic Week reached an all time high (at least as records and memories go), with about 430 registered. So it was exciting to see a record high 112 signed up for the anchor event of the weekend: the Masonic Society’s annual dinner. Because the pandemic pre-empted last year’s Masonic Week, this was our thirteenth, instead of fourteenth, meeting, and it felt good to be back.

Having been awake for twenty-two hours by the time we entered the banquet room, an endodontic job, sans anesthesia, would have been fine by me, but this was a true pleasure and a high note on which to conclude my term as president.

The new leadership team:

President Oscar Alleyne
First Vice President Greg Knott
Second Vice President Mark Robbins

Our seven-member Board of Directors has been reorganized with Mark joining the officers and John Bizzack retiring (he’s a new VP at Philalethes now). We have added Kevin Wardally of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York, and Mason Russell of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Coincidentally, both are grand treasurers of their respective grand lodges.

And I also had the honor of announcing two new Masonic Society Fellows: William Maurer and Michael Moran. Bill has been published in the pages of The Journal of the Masonic Society, is a valued historian of early America, and is a long-serving trustee of the Livingston Library here in New York. Mike is the book reviews editor of The Journal. He also is central to Masonic education at home in the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. We’re lucky to have so much talent in the family.

After a savory meal of roast beef and winter vegetables, it was time for our speaker. Chris Ruli was the grand historian and librarian of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia (on sabbatical now to work on another project) who has been studying Freemasonry’s historic activities in the Federal City for many years. He presented us “Masonic Myth of Our Nation’s Capital,” a discussion of some of his research that is intended to dispel the frivolous tales we sometimes hear about the Craft’s role in building Washington, D.C.

Chris told us of the persons, places, and things involved in how the District took shape with Masons participating, from the placement of the Boundary Stones that marked the city’s borders in 1791, to the construction of the Executive Mansion in 1792, to the cornerstone ceremony at the Capitol in 1793, with a lot more around town and into the next century too, including recovery from the arson of the War of 1812, and up to the Lincoln years. (I resisted the temptation to say that very day, February 11, was the anniversary of the start of the surveying process in 1791 that established the District’s boundaries.)

He exhibited not only command of his subject, but also command of his audience. You had to see it! I’m not enthusiastic about video recording our doings, but I’m sorry we didn’t preserve this lecture. It was a performance, and it was praised throughout the weekend at the hotel and for days after on social media. Chris has an uncommon gift for oratory, engaging listeners with humor to make a fascinating story doubly memorable. Not having the speaking skill or that confidence myself, I am really impressed and am in agreement with all who said this was one of the top Masonic talks I’ve seen.

The Q&A took us beyond the hour we were entitled to have the room, so we broke it up reluctantly. I really had to get some sleep anyway. But before our Friday night dinner, I attended the Blue Friars and the Nine Muses.

The Society
of Blue Friars

The Society of Blue Friars is a small Masonic institution that honors authors with membership in its select ranks. This year Adam Kendall of California became Blue Friar 111. He is a member of Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076 and is editor of The Plumbline. Adam presented his “The Scandals and Secret Rites of Benjamin Hyam,” found in QC2076’s Freemasonry on the Frontier anthology. It’s a story as wild as the Wild West and as confounding as any you’ll find in Masonic history.

Adam, Balvin, and David.

I encourage you to seek the several videos on YouTube of Adam’s previous tellings of the tale.

Council of Nine Muses 13

Then, at the meeting of the Allied Masonic Degrees’ Council of Nine Muses 13, James Winzenreid of West Virginia was seated, becoming both the fiftieth member in the elite council’s history and the warm body needed that afternoon to achieve a quorum. He succeeds Tom Jackson of Pennsylvania who died last year.

Tom’s death added another dimension to Masonic Week; he was eulogized repeatedly and extensively in multiple meetings. To hear different summations of his eighty-seven years is to wonder where one’s own life is going. His too numerous feats in Freemasonry comprise only a subplot in a life that couldn’t have been more productive without elongating the weeks and adding more months. Successes followed successes in his personal, professional, academic, and civic lives. Did you know he was a weightlifting champion as a young man in his early twenties?

Grand College of Rites

After about ten hours of deep sleep, it was time for the Grand College of Rites. I haven’t attended one of our meetings in several years, mostly because of repeated schedule changes. I think Saturday morning is a good time for it.

A lot of news from this meeting. Our new Grand Chancellor is David Kussman of California. If the name rings a bell, he is the Knight Templar who was illegally removed from his elected office as deputy grand master of the KT Grand Encampment by the grand master of the Grand Encampment—and is that guy gonna get his comeuppance next month! Read the Dummies blog for that story.

Joining the officer line as the grand seneschal is Clyde Schoolfield of Oklahoma. Clyde is grand secretary of the AMD. Jerry Klein retired as our grand registrar, and has been succeeded by Christopher Gamblin of Indiana. Duane Vaught exited the grand chancellor’s chair and took over as grand treasurer.

Arturo de Hoyos, grand archivist, was absent, tending to family needs, so there was no report on the upcoming edition of Collectanea, but we know it will be a continuation of the 1807 Cerneau Scottish Rite rituals. In the meantime, however, a bonus Collectanea has been mailed to the membership. Forget what I said about the Masonic Book Club possibly publishing Burlesque Degrees. The text of humorous, if hokey, rituals from the Golden Age of Fraternalism now is among the GCR bibliography.

Ark and Dove Degree

Somewhere in the weekend I, and maybe about a hundred others, received the Ark and Dove Degree. I have to hit the books and learn about this one; I’m not sure I’ve even heard of it before. From its name you’d connect it with Royal Ark Mariner, but it is different. Whether it’s derivative of, or adjunct to, R.A.M. I don’t know. It imparts a lesson in temperance, particularly with food and drink. I can’t decide if that message is ironic for Masonic Week, or if it is especially needed there, but it is a thoughtful brief degree. The ritualists performed well, and it was appreciatively received.

(You ever notice the word “peradventure” is used in a couple of our degrees?)

Grand Council
of Allied Masonic Degrees

And speaking of the AMD, Grand Master Mohamad Yatim enjoyed a dynamic year in office. The poor man was installed in quarantine conditions and via Zoom last February, but that humble start sparked a ceaseless tornado of activity that improved AMD at home and was felt abroad from the Philippines to the Congo. The accomplishments literally are too numerous to list here, so I’ll have to refer AMD members to the first four issues of the Allied Times newsletter. I will point out though how Prince Hall brethren now are able to be invited into AMD councils.

The Marvin E. Fowler Award was presented to Moises Gomez in thanks for his expert stewardship of the planning and execution of Masonic Week each year. To be clear, there is a committee. Its members get us attendees signed in, paid up, credentialed, inspected, injected, detected, and rejected—but it is Moises who is the omnipresent force in the hotel before we arrive, while we run amok, and after we’re gone. He checks the meetings to ensure the hotel is performing correctly. He provides his personal equipment so Chris Ruli can screen his slides during his presentation. He visits the brother who became ill and needed to be hospitalized. Moises is the Indispensable Man.

Aaron Shoemaker of Missouri is our new grand master. I think it’s reasonable to expect a similarly productive year for him. One of his first acts was to make Moises the grand superintendent for New Jersey.

So this, the 130th Annual Communication of the Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees, was the final meeting of the last Masonic Week I plan to attend, and even I was part of the ceremonies. My thanks to Mohamad for recognizing my work on the newsletter with a handsome plaque. Editing Allied Times last year was the least I could do—and let it never be said I don’t do the least I can do!

Friday, February 11, 2022

‘At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’

Moises Gomez photo

Without yet being present, I’ll begin coverage of Masonic Week 2022 with word from the Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees. Yesterday, MVS Grand Master Mohamad Yatim, accompanied by Grand Council officers, visited Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

While this solemn activity has become especially important in Masonic circles in recent years, the fraternity paying respect at the Tomb is a tradition. For instance, on October 19, 1925, the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (Southern Jurisdiction) visited the Tomb, taking a break from its deliberations at the House of the Temple.

In 1922, just several months after the Tomb’s installation, New York’s RW Bro. Solomon Holzer, Past Master of Daniel Carpenter Lodge 643, wrote to Grand Secretary Robert Kenworthy, saying he thought our Grand Lodge ought to encourage the Masonic Service Association to “place a suitably inscribed bronze tablet” on the Tomb, and should the MSA not succeed, the Grand Lodge itself ought to do it with the goal of holding a ceremony on November 4, the Masonic birthday of George Washington. I don’t think the idea went anywhere.

I expect to arrive at our hotel this afternoon, just in time to witness Adam Kendall take his place among the Society of Blue Friars. See you there.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

‘Was there more to Morgan?’


This month’s online lecture from the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library will offer an alternative understanding of one of American Freemasonry’s most examined episodes. RW Bro. Mark D. Issacs will look beyond the legal findings surrounding the dubitable fate of William Morgan nearly two centuries ago, and will focus on the feuding among factions allied with the era’s leading national political figures.

This will be streamed in two weeks, on February 24, from 7 p.m. The library asks for reservations here, and the lecture will be seen on YouTube here.

Magpie coverage of Masonic Week 2022 will begin Friday.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

‘Key to Masonic theory’

Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude, Justice.

What do Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Augustine, Aquinas, and you share in common? The Four Cardinal Virtues.

Just a public quick word of thanks to Worshipful Master Diego, for allowing me to present another “piece of architecture” before our lodge, and to everyone who joined in via Zoom several hours ago. (We’ll be together in lodge again in three weeks for a Ritual of Initiation.)

The Four Cardinal Virtues are key to Masonic theory. It is not enough to be disposed toward the Virtues; we must regard Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance, and Justice as skills to be honed for we good men to better ourselves.

I will explore Justice specifically in some Masonic detail on Sunday, February 20–World Day of Social Justice—thanks to inspiration from Columbia Lodge 1190, so be sure to check this space then.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

‘Rules for better living’


The Philosophical Research Society has published anew another Manly P. Hall text in its Signature Editions series. Practical Philosophy: Ten Basic Rules for Better Living is “written in an accessible and direct style for clear application to daily life,” says the PRS website. “This book will guide you through most of life’s quandaries by drawing upon ancient wisdom and applying it to the unique challenges of contemporary life.”


Thursday, February 3, 2022

‘Fraternal Review’s new editor’


Fraternal Review
, the almost monthly periodical from Southern California Research Lodge, has a new interim editor in chief. Angel Millar, noted author and speaker (and Senior Warden of The ALR) on the vanguard of Masonic thought today, is taking the desk for a time yet to be specified.

Fraternal Review dares to be different,” says Millar in a video announcement I can’t figure how to link to. “Unlike publications of other research lodges, Fraternal Review really presents readers with bite-sized articles on a range of issues, many of which have never been covered elsewhere—and not only Masonic education and the history of the fraternity, but also contemporary culture and where Masonry fits in.”

SCRL meets in South Pasadena on the third Mondays of January, April, July, and October. Membership by affiliation is possible only for California Master Masons, unfortunately for the rest of us. But we are free to subscribe to this magazine, which I haven’t until now, upon Angel’s preferment.

Subscriptions are available for the print and/or digital versions; lodges may subscribe too, and receive three copies. What this lodge has going on is dazzling. In addition to its Stated Meetings, it regularly hosts other gatherings for guided meditations, study groups, lectures, and other educational offerings. There is a podcast, accessible via Spotify, Apple, Google, and other hosts; there is a blog too.

Click here for the new podcast, an interview with Millar.

I have no desire to live in the Golden State, but I’ll admit this turns my head. Congratulations to all.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

‘Bro. Bloom’s anniversary’


Nineteen twenty-two was an axial year for English-language literature, and much of the credit belongs to James Joyce for his Ulysses, published in full for the first time on this date a century ago.

For both its style and content, the novel follows the West’s transition into the modern era of world war, global pandemic, broadcast communication, human flight, assembly lines, and other revolutions. To my knowledge, there hadn’t been a story comparable to Ulysses published before. Of course there was Homer’s Odyssey, which inspired Joyce’s overall story arc, but the stories and the styles in which they’re told are as different as the centuries from which they come. I can’t delve into the author’s style here, and I will be selective about his story’s content. I’ll just get to the point: Leopold Bloom, the hero (if that’s the right word) of Ulysses, is said to be a Freemason.

Within the 700 or so pages, there isn’t a passage in the plot or a hint in the character development that puts Bloom on the Square. Rather there are things said about him to juxtapose his otherness (a Jewish man in Dublin) with an alleged social connectivity. To wit:

Nosey Flynn made swift passes in the air with juggling fingers. He winked. He’s in the craft, he said.

Do you tell me so? Davy Byrne said.

Very much so, Nosey Flynn said. Ancient free and accepted order. He’s an excellent brother. Light, life and love, by God. They give him a leg up. I was told that by a—well, I won’t say who.

Is that a fact?

O, it’s a fine order, Nosey Flynn said. They stick to you when you’re down. I know a fellow was trying to get into it. But they’re as close as damn it. By God they did right to keep the women out of it.

Davy Byrne smiledyawnednodded all in one: Iiiiiichaaaaaaach!

There was one woman, Nosey Flynn said, hid herself in a clock to find out what they do be doing. But be damned but they smelt her out and swore her in on the spot a master mason. That was one of the saint Legers of Doneraile.

The story takes place on June 16, 1904, known to us today as Bloomsday, and it is that date that I really consider to be Bro. Bloom’s anniversary. In addition to today being the centenary of the publication of Ulysses, it is the 140th birthday of its author, the daring Mr. Joyce. Vivat!

‘Lodge of Amity update’


One silver lining in the ashen remains of the Zanesville Masonic Temple is the recovery of a time capsule secreted in the building’s southwest(!) corner.

Built in 1902-03, the six-story Renaissance Revival home of Ohio’s Lodge of Amity 5 and other Masonic groups was destroyed by fire last month. The time capsule was deposited during a St. John the Baptist Day 1902 cornerstone ceremony led by Grand Master Ike Robinson. (I’ll say it’s strange how the Grand Lodge of Ohio 1902 Book of Proceedings is nearly silent on this event, one of only two Masonic temple cornerstone-layings that year.)

The time capsule will be opened on a date to be announced, local media say, citing a statement from Mayor Don Mason, himself a Past Master of the lodge.

In a social media post last week, the lodge brethren say: “Though the fire may have taken our building and relics spanning the last 217 years, it did not take our spirit. The Lodge of Amity No. 5 would like for everyone to know that we are still here and will continue to be part of the Zanesville community. While we continue to recover from this loss and evaluate our future, we will meet at LaFayette Lodge No. 79…. Our meetings will continue to be at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month.”