Friday, May 27, 2022

‘Our established mode of government’

“A Vindication
of Masonry”
By Bro. Charles Leslie
Vernon Kilwinning Lodge
May 15, 1741

Printed in Illustrations of Masonry,
Second Edition,
by William Preston, 1775 


Masonry is a progressive science, and is divided into different classes or degrees, under particular restrictions and injunctions of fidelity, for the more regular advancement of its professors in the knowledge of its mysteries. According to the progress we make, we are led to limit or extend our inquiries; and in proportion to our genius and capacity, we attain to a greater or less degree of perfection. This mode of government may sufficiently explain the importance of Masonry, and give us a true idea of its nature and design.

Three classes are generally received under different appellations. The privileges of each are distinct, and particular means are adopted to preserve these privileges to the just and meritorious. Honor and probity are recommendations to the first class, in which the practice of virtue is enforced, and the duties of morality inculcated; while the mind is prepared for social converse, and a regular progress into the principles of knowledge and philosophy. Diligence, assiduity, and application are qualifications for the second class, in which an accurate elucidation of science, both in theory and practice, is given; human reason is cultivated by a due exertion of our rational and intellectual powers and faculties; nice and difficult theories are explained; fresh discoveries are produced, and those already known are beautifully embellished.

The third class is confined to a select few, whom truth and fidelity have distinguished, whom years and experience have improved, and whom merit and abilities have entitled to preferment. With them the ancient landmarks of the Order are preserved; and from them we learn and practice those necessary and instructive lessons which dignify the Art, and qualify its professors to convince the uninstructed of its excellence and utility.

This is our established mode of government when we act in conformity to our rules: hence true friendship is cultivated between different ranks and degrees of men, hospitality is promoted, industry rewarded, ingenuity encouraged, and all unnecessary distinctions are lost in the general good.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

‘Explore gastronomical Gettysburg’

I’ll go ahead and guarantee you’ll be more enthusiastic about the meal than this.

For the 159th anniversary of the decisive day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the local Masonic lodge invites you to a historical re-enactment dinner.

Good Samaritan Lodge 336 is preparing an authentic 1863 meal for Sunday supper on July 3, its Civil War Soldier Dinner. A Civil War re-enactor will complement the period fare with tales of the Masonic experience of the war years.

That’s $50 per person at 90 Lincoln Square in Gettysburg. Seating at five o’clock. Click here to book your seats.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

‘Bricks for Fredericksburg’


Speaking of brick (see post below), Fredericksburg Lodge 4 could use your help. The legendary lodge in Virginia that made Masons out of George Washington and other notables seeks to raise money for the maintenance of its building. It is 206 years old and has been in Masonic use the whole time.

I don’t know about you, but two centuries in Freemasonry would leave me the worse for wear.

So, the brethren are giving the ashlar-crafting metaphor a break in order to employ bricks as a means to preserve their landmark lodge building while extending to you the opportunity to attain philanthropic immortality in the form of bespoke tiles.

I’m sure you know how it works: Bricks of varying dimensions are for sale, with proceeds to benefit the lodge, that you may personalize with your name, symbol, or slogan engraved thereon—esoteric passwords excluded. The bricks are installed on site into the ground or in walls.

There are other options too, but you can read all about them here. If it’s unaffordable for you particularly, try to rally your lodge or other Masonic groups to assist what truly is one of the most historic Masonic lodges in the United States.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

‘A chunk of Masonic history’

Joseph Fagan photo
Ionic capital rescued from the ruins of the former Masonic Hall in Orange, New Jersey last month by Mr. Joseph Fagan, a local historian.

A friend in New Jersey alerted me yesterday to a local news item concerning the destruction of an old Masonic temple in the City of Orange Township.

What he had seen was a Facebook post from Mr. Joseph Fagan, a historian and author who specializes in the Oranges of Jersey, and who told of a fire that destroyed the 135-year-old building on April 19. From there I was able to find Fagan’s news story published the day after the fire on Tap into West Orange
a website for local community journalism. Do read the story for its historical details on the building’s construction.

Located at 235 Main Street in Orange, the nineteenth century brick and terra cotta beauty ceased to be a Masonic temple long ago, and was a mixed use property in its final incarnation, with various retail tenants in business there. The blaze devoured the building’s interior before firefighters from several towns extinguished it. The facade remained standing, but had to be demolished later.

Joseph Fagan photo

The cornerstone was laid June 24, 1886, and the temple was dedicated November 16, 1887, according to One Hundred Years of Masonry in the Oranges, 1809-1909 by 
Bro. G. Howlett Davis. (Imagine a time when Freemasons authored books about their lodges and the local Masonic scene!) The temple was home to both Union Lodge 11 and Corinthian Lodge 57.

Joseph Fagan photo
Commemorative medal
from the dedication ceremony.

I won’t delve deeply into the details, but eventually—possibly the 1970s—these lodges, joined by Germania Lodge 128 in Newark, would amalgamate and form Germania-Corinthian-Union Lodge 11, and would acquire a former National Grange hall a few towns away in Livingston. About twenty years ago, this lodge merged with Livingston-West Orange Lodge 287, which was located a few miles to the west, and they carry on today as Livingston Lodge 11.

Anyway, Mr. Fagan was able to salvage one architectural embellishment from the rubbish of the temple on Main Street—one that is very recognizable to the initiated eye: a capital of an Ionic column. He guesses it weighs about a hundred pounds.

Union Lodge originally was numbered 21 on the roll of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey, having been chartered November 10, 1809. It was a daughter lodge of St. John’s 2 in Newark, just as, I suppose, the City of Orange itself was a breakaway municipality of Newark. When the Grand Lodge reorganized during the 1840s, after the Anti-Masonry craze fizzled, its few surviving lodges were renumbered; Union was assigned 11 (and St. John’s became No. 1).

Historical photo courtesy Joseph Fagan

Corinthian 57 was set to labor Under Dispensation in 1861 at a time the Masonic Order in New Jersey was flourishing. Germania Lodge 128 was given its charter in 1872, a German-language lodge that had spun off Diogenes 22 in Newark.

Maybe Mr. Fagan would donate the piece for display at Livingston 11 or the Museum of Masonic Culture in Trenton.

Here are photos from Bro. Davis’ book:

When the Masonic Hall opened, the post office occupied the ground floor.

The lodge room in the new building.

At the cornerstone ceremony in 1886.

Bro. G. Howlett Davis was raised
in Union Lodge 11 on May 28, 1903.

Monday, May 23, 2022

‘The Square, not the Plumb!’

I told you a little about the Third Degree my lodge conferred Saturday (see post below), and I continue the story now because I learned something new that day which really surprised me. I think it’s worth sharing—without revealing the esoterica of the ceremony.

There comes that moment when GMHA is invested with a jewel that later serves as a form of identification. I always thought the fraternity was unanimous in which jewel is used, but apparently this is not so. Before becoming a New York Mason in 2015, I had been at labor in another grand jurisdiction. There, the jewel placed about our Operative Grand Master’s neck is the Plumb.

KS rules and governs from the East (Square); KH stands in the West (Level); and HA superintends from the South, where the office is symbolized by the Plumb. To my thinking, it’s all very symmetrical and sensical. What I learned the other day however is that a different jewel is worn by GMHA in New York: the Square.

During some downtime, several officers were looking for the Square jewel to use in the degree. “Don’t you need a Plumb?” I asked, causing some conversation and confusion. A ritual book was taken up, the relevant page was found, and—sure enough—we needed the Square.

I don’t know if I can process this new information!

My thinking on the Plumb was formed more than twenty years ago, when my reading introduced me to the idea that Refreshment (remember the duty of the Junior Warden in the South) is about more than rest and nourishment. It is a time for spiritual reinvigoration.

I’m just copying and pasting something here I wrote long ago. There was a discussion in the old Masonic Light Yahoo! Group (God, I miss it!) concerning working tools and jewels, and I offered the following paragraphs. One of the brethren from Wasatch Lodge 1 in Salt Lake City (maybe Jason?) asked if he may post it on the lodge’s website. I said sure. This was 2003-04, several years before The Magpie Mason, when a number of things I had written were picked up by print and digital Masonic media all over the country. It’s still tucked away on Wasatch’s website after all these years!

The snippets of ritual prose quoted below are from my previous grand lodge; the text may differ from your grand lodge’s. And mine.
The Junior Warden in the South, who personifies the “beauty and glory” of the “sun at meridian,” wears the Plumb as a jewel. While he is the officer who calls the Craft from labor to refreshment and superintends them during the hours thereof, and in many jurisdictions the two Stewards are stationed under his watchful eye, his duty is more than to govern the brethren during their times of rest.

It all comes back to the symbol hanging from his neck: the Plumb. Masons meet on the Level and part upon the Square, but at all times we act by the Plumb.

“The Plumb admonishes us to walk uprightly in our several stations, to hold the scale of justice in equal poise, to observe the just medium between intemperance and pleasure, and to make our passions and prejudices coincide with the line of duty,” says the Installing Master to the new Junior Warden. “To you is committed the superintendence of the Craft during the hours of refreshment. It is, therefore, indispensably necessary that you should not only be temperate and discreet in the indulgence of your own inclinations, but that you should carefully observe that none of the Craft be suffered to convert the purpose of refreshment into those of intemperance and excess. …”

The Oxford English Dictionary lists several definitions of “refreshment,” and the first one even before the common usage for rest and nourishment is “The act of refreshing, or fact of being refreshed, in a mental or spiritual respect.”

Only then comes “The act of refreshing, or fact of being refreshed, physically, by means of food, drink, rest, coolness, etc….” And then the definition mentions the “Sunday of Refreshment” with a nod toward John 6.

I turned to John 6, and Verse 27 reads: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life. …”

Consider the custom of our Operative Grand Master, who, every day at noon when the Craft was on refreshment, visited the unfinished Holy of Holies to offer up his devotions to God. For him, refreshment was not physical relief in the form of food, drink or rest; instead refreshment meant satisfying his hunger for spiritual peace and eternal life.

The jewel about his neck? The Plumb, by which “so great and so good a man” would be identified after his soul departed his lifeless, earthly body. Writing in his Antiquities, Josephus describes John the Baptist as “a good man” who exhorted people “to lead righteous lives, practice justice toward one another and piety toward God.” To John, Josephus continues, baptism was not a “pardon for the sins they have committed, but… a consecration of the body, implying that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by right behavior.”

In his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Albert G. Mackey quotes from Ahimon Rezon: “The stern integrity of St. John the Baptist, which induced him to forego every minor consideration in discharging the obligations he owed to God; the unshaken firmness with which he met martyrdom rather than betray his duty to his Master… make him a fit patron of the Masonic institution.”

We’re reminded of the theme of the Sublime Degree: “My life you may take, but my integrity never!” The lessons to learn from both are intended, in part, to reassure us of a better, eternal life awaiting the brethren beyond this earthly existence.

The tri-part rough and rugged road facing Hiram after his prayers can be likened to the three-year journey of the pilgrim-knight toward the Holy Sepulchre in the Order of the Temple. Pausing at the tent of the first hermit, the knight is duly provided food, drink and shelter, but more importantly, indeed to assure his success, the hermit enlightens the knight with a verse from Scripture: “Labor not for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”

Food for thought as we weigh the tools and jewels of Craft Masonry this month.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

‘Imitate the glorious example’

The Colonial Room on the tenth floor of Masonic Hall is not our usual meeting space, but we were able to make do despite the frumpy looks of the place.

On this date in 1772, Freemasons in London gathered in the Strand at a tavern named the Crown and Anchor for “A Grand Gala in Honour of Free Masonry.” It was a famous place; all kinds of groups met there. In attendance were Lord Petre, the new Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England; and William Preston, Worshipful Master of the lodge that met there.

We know this because of the book that was inspired by the affair: Illustrations of Masonry, published later that year. I believe there are half a dozen books that have given shape (rituals, language, customs, jurisprudence, etc.) to the Freemasonry that we have inherited, and all six date to the 1700s. What has come to be known as “Preston’s Illustrations” might be the most consequential of them.

Online Etymology Dictionary

Something else occurred on this date. I mean today. 2022. My lodge raised four Fellow Craft Masons to the Sublime Degree.

The ritualists were great despite being nervous and self-conscious. I think the Master mentioned there could have been more rehearsal time, but I followed along in my ritual cipher (as Tiler, I’m outside the lodge room), and I’d say any error or omission was unnoticeable. Nothing obfuscated the candidates’ comprehension—and that’s what matters to me.

I’ll close this edition of The Magpie Mason with an excerpt from Illustrations concerning the Master Mason Degree. You’ll recognize these phrases and ideas in different constructions of contemporary rituals:

Your zeal for virtue, your honor as a gentleman, your reputation as a mason, are all equally concerned in supporting, with becoming dignity, the character in which you now appear; let no motive therefore make you swerve from your duty, violate your vows, or betray your trust; but be true and faithful, and imitate the glorious example of that celebrated artist, whom you have this evening represented. Thus you will prove yourself worthy of the confidence which we have reposed in you, and deserving of every honor which we can confer.

Friday, May 20, 2022

‘The Hero of Two Worlds’

I can’t remember where in Masonic Hall this hangs. Corinthian?

“Insurrection is the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties.”

— Lafayette

On this date in 1834, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier Marquis de La Fayette died in Paris at age 76. His remains are interred in the city at Cimetiere de Picpus—beneath soil shipped from Bunker Hill, such was the import of his role in the American War of Independence and vice versa.

That he championed the American cause, not only to smite the enemy British Empire, but to make manifest the Americans’ philosophy of individual liberty and national freedom was extremely counterintuitive for a French nobleman, if you think about his station in life. And his fighting for the Continental Army didn’t even put him in good standing when revolution, originally in the name of republicanism, was unleashed in his homeland, although it at least saved his life. In fact he lived to see various leaders and different forms of French government rise and fall, until the July Monarchy. Government troops slaughtered a crowd of civilians in April 1834. Lafayette was dead a month later. He is remembered as “The Hero of Two Worlds.”

Outside, appropriately, Colonial on 10.

Masonic historians are frustrated by the absence of a record of his initiation into the fraternity, but when he arrived in America in 1777, his Masonic membership was a given. I would say he is France’s most celebrated Freemason, at least in the eyes of American Masons. He was a Royal Arch Companion in Jerusalem Chapter 8 in New York City, as well as a Cerneau Scottish Rite 33rd Degree Mason.

(I’m assuming it’s pure coincidence, but the New York City Parks Department chose today to power wash Union Square Park’s Lafayette statue, titled “Lafayette Arriving in America,” made by Bro. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, of Statue of Liberty fame, and dedicated in 1873.)

His famous return to the United States in 1824 consisted of a tour of all the states in the country, with Masonic celebrations along the route. The Grand Lodge of Delaware received him in 1824 and made him an Honorary Member the following year. Also in ’24, Lafayette visited the brethren in Maine and New Jersey and Maryland (another Honorary Membership there). In 1825, he was feted in South Carolina, Louisiana, Illinois, and, with another Honorary Membership, in Tennessee. Many lodges around the United States have been named in his honor.

Lafayette Lodge 27 photo

Last month Grand Master Richard Kessler led a party to a neighboring jurisdiction where its Lafayette Lodge held a ceremony to unveil a marker on The Lafayette Trail, which denotes the path of his historic tour. The New Yorkers brought with them an apron affiliated with the French hero for display that day.

Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Library photo

Click here for more on his Masonic history.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

‘New novel: Doneraile Court’

‘A young woman faces death when she’s caught spying on a dark and bloody secret initiation ritual. Based on a true story.’ Click here.

The following is not a book review, because I haven’t read the book, but I want to share the news of a fictionalized take on one of Masonic history’s oddest oddities. Speaking of Ireland (see post below), a newly published novel romanticizes the famous story of a lady who found herself initiated into Freemasonry one night several years prior to the birth of the grand lodge era.

Doneraile Court: The Story of the Lady Freemason by Kathleen Aldworth Foster is based on the singular occurrence of an Irish lodge making a Freemason of the teenaged Elizabeth St. Leger.

Doneraile Court was the home of the young lady and her family. For those who don’t know, during the embryonic period before lodges bought their own buildings, chose proper names, and were assigned sequential numbers by their grand lodges, they often met inside Masons’ homes. (It was the early years of the Accepted Mason.) This was the case of Bro. Arthur St. Leger (d. 1727) of Doneraile House, who was made 1st Baron Kilmayden and Viscount Doneraile in 1703 by Queen Anne. Not an average Joe.

Masonic meetings, attended by the baron’s sons and select close friends, convened inside a ground floor lodge room with an adjoining library. As some remodeling work was underway, certain walls were temporarily incomplete, and so Elizabeth, age either 17 or 19, was able first to hear, and then to see Masonic ritual work. She was discovered by the lodge tyler (his lordship’s butler), and the rest is the stuff of weird Free and Accepted anecdote.

As I said, I don’t have any idea what is contained in the pages authored by Ms. Aldworth Foster. For an impressively researched disquisition of the event and its aftermath, replete with family tree and house floor plan, I can refer you only to Bro. Edward Conder’s “The Hon. Miss St. Leger and Freemasonry,” published in AQC Vol. VIII (1895).

Ms. Aldworth Foster is an experienced journalist and publicist in New Jersey. Maybe someone should contact her to arrange a nice dinner and reading/signing event. (I just learned of her appearance four days ago at Soldato Books in Jersey.)

You are wondering about the Aldworth part. Yes, Elizabeth St. Leger married Richard Aldworth, becoming The Hon. Mrs. Aldworth. The author, in her publicity, says there is no family tie.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

‘Freemasonry and the I.R.A.’

Grand Lodge of Ireland

Following Sinn Fein’s
 electoral success two weeks ago, when it won 27 of the 90 seats of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly and is poised to lead that government for the first time since its inception in 1921, I thought it an apt moment to share a few pieces of political history from a century ago. Freemasonry was trapped amid the civil war between Nationalists and Unionists; Catholics and Protestants; neighbors and neighbors. Lodges were ransacked and burned, and the Irish Republican Army even commandeered the Grand Lodge headquarters in Dublin from April 24 to June 1, 1922. (The same building damaged by an arsonist last New Year’s Eve.)

I’ll get straight to the record, drawing from both Masonic and outside sources.

During the Grand Lodge of Ireland’s December 27, 1922 St. John’s Day Stated Communication, Deputy Grand Master Claude Cane summarized what had transpired at Freemasons’ Hall, Dublin:

What happened here in the South of Ireland during the past year, and especially in this house of ours, is so fresh within your memory, and has been so thoroughly dealt with in the report, that I need not elaborate it very much. You all know and will remember how on the twenty-fourth of April, this beautiful Hall of ours was suddenly invaded by a number of armed and lawless men, and taken forcible possession of. The occurrence was not wholly unexpected, fortunately perhaps, because I had heard warnings of it for some weeks before. I took upon myself, some six weeks before the occurrence actually took place, to remove all the archives and things which really mattered as far as the history of the Grand Lodge of Ireland was concerned from the doubtful security of our strong room and safes downstairs to a much safer place, a place where they were in absolutely perfect safety all through the trouble, and where they still remain. Naturally the current books, and things you were using every day, had to remain in the Hall and take their chance. But I am alluding more particularly to the old minute books and old records and things of that sort, belonging to the Grand Lodge ever since the year there first was a Grand Lodge in Ireland, nearly two hundred years ago, which would have been absolutely irreplaceable. These were all absolutely safe the whole time.

RW Claude Cane
As you may imagine, after the occupation became an accomplished fact, my frame of mind was not a very enviable one. I had to assume a very great deal of responsibility, and I felt that any wrong step on my part, or on the part of those with whom I took counsel, might lead to very much worse things than had already happened. I felt that anything would be better than having this building and all its contents destroyed; I felt that sooner than rush things, it was better to submit to what was an undoubted indignity, and a great pain and grief to all of us for some time rather than run the risk of seeing all that we held most sacred go up in flames and ashes. So for six weeks I, and others who were advising me, had to possess our souls in patience. So many Brethren gave me such valuable help during that time—with advice and work as well—that it would really be invidious to name anyone in particular, with the exception, I think, of one Brother whose work was not at an end when we got this Hall back, but to whom we all owe a very deep debt of gratitude for all he has done in restoring us to our possessions here, and that is your Grand Superintendent of Works, Brother G. Murray Ross.

I should like also to personally thank Brother Besson, of the Hibernian Hotel, for the very prompt way in which he came to our rescue and gave us the resources of his house and a room in which to establish a temporary office. It was a great advantage to us to only have to cross the street and to be saved from the trouble of looking out for someplace where the business of Grand Lodge could be carried on. Brother Besson was most accommodating and most kind to us all through that time.

I am bound to say that during all the negotiations carried on with the view of getting this building restored to us, I was treated with the very greatest courtesy and consideration by those members of the Provisional Government with whom I came in contact. They seemed to realize fully what our Order is. I am speaking particularly now of two men who are no longer living, no longer in the government: Mr. Michael Collins and Mr. Arthur Griffiths. They seemed to realize that, so far from our being a dangerous body, we were a body, as we are, bound to support, and give all the assistance we can, to any legally constituted government of the country in which we live, and that we are entirely deserving of the support of that government. When I found that they were in this frame of mind, I must say that a great load was lifted from my mind; I felt that we in our future, once law and order were established in Ireland, would be assured, and I believe that it will be so. No government with any sense at all can fail to recognize that a body composed as we are, and holding the principles that we do, and taught, as we are taught, in our ceremonies and ancient charges, can be anything but a source of strength to any reasonable government.

At the same time I wish to remind you again, as I did last year, that it is our bounden duty, not as an organization, because we are forbidden to act as a political organization, but as individual members it is our bounden duty as Masons to be good citizens and to support the Government under which we live, so long as that Government protects us. Both here in Southern Ireland, and in Northern Ireland, where there is a different Government, that applies.

It is a very bright spot in our future outlook to find how thoroughly in accordance with us our Brethren in the North are. Whatever divisions otherwise may happen in Ireland, there is not the slightest prospect, at present at any rate, of any division between the Masons of Northern Ireland and the Masons of Southern Ireland. The Masons of Ulster, equally with the Masons of Dublin and the South have one great common heritage: the Grand Lodge of Ireland. The Grand Lodge of Ireland is the Grand Lodge of Ireland, not of any particular section of Ireland. As long as it remains the Grand Lodge of Ireland, it ranks as the second Grand Lodge in the world, and in point of everything except a few years of age, I think we can claim full equality with the mother Grand Lodge of the world, England.

Grand Secretary Henry C. Shellerd expanded on the subject. Excerpted:

In many parts of the country, the buildings used for Masonic purposes were wrecked by irresponsible individuals, who seemed to delight in the destruction of all sorts of property not adequately protected. The Grand Master, in the wise exercise of his discretion, prohibited the meetings of the lodges in all the Provinces of Southern Ireland for a considerable part of the year. During the past three months, however, a better spirit seems to have prevailed, and the exercise of the discretionary power granted to Provincial Grand Masters to permit lodges to meet, has so far been attended by no unpleasant incidents. That the Dublin Freemasons’ Hall has been handed back to the Order without any wanton injury to the edifice or its contents is an indication that there is no special hostility to our Order in the Metropolis.

RW Henry C. Shellerd
The fact that the annual returns from lodges in the South and West of Ireland are reaching headquarters daily proves that the lawlessness which was rampant some months ago is being steadily brought under control, and that our Brethren in every part of the country, North and South, are acutated by an intense desire to uphold the Great Principles of Peace and Goodwill with which our Order, throughout its whole history, and in every part of the world, has been so closely identified.

Beyond Dublin, matters were not as amicable. The Spectator, in its June 3, 1922 edition, reports: 

Many Masonic halls have now been destroyed, one of the first to suffer being that at Ballinamore. In Mullingar the Masonic Hall was raided, and all the windows and presses were smashed. Petrol was poured over the broken furniture, and the complete destruction of the place was prevented only by the intervention of the local priest. In Dundalk, which is not very far from the Ulster frontier, there were three Masonic lodges with a fairly large membership. Their hall was raided and the books and other property seized. Many of the members received a few days’ notice to leave the town, and some of them had to escape hurriedly to Belfast. As a consequence of these proceedings the meetings of these lodges have been indefinitely suspended. … No man residing in the “Irish Free State” whose name appears on the roll of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Ireland can, at the present time, have any sense of security for himself or his family. He can only look to his brethren in Great Britain to use their influence with the British Government on his behalf. The preservation of life and property is not a matter of party politics; it is an elementary principal of any Government, and it is the absolute duty of the British Cabinet to see that it is maintained in Ireland.

The Builder, one of the great Masonic periodicals of early twentieth century America, includes letters to the editor in its September 1922 issue that tell more. Right Worshipful Claude Cane, the Deputy Grand Master from the paragraphs above, writes in part in a letter dated May 30: “I do not believe there is any general hostility to the Order in Southern Ireland, nor do I believe that any feeling of the sort is encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church, which fully appreciates the difference between Irish Freemasonry and that carried on by the so-called Continental Grand Lodges, which reject our first and principal great Landmark, and consequently are not recognized by us.”

A Bro. George A. Anderson of Pennsylvania writes: “A large number of the Masons in America do not know how conditions are in Ireland, neither do they know the real cause of it all, and I think they should know.” He also included a letter from Bro. W.J. Allen in Belfast who says:

The condition of things over here has not improved very much of late, except that there are not so many shootings in our own city. … The Masonic Halls are being raided, and in many cases destroyed. The Grand Lodge premises in Dublin are at present in the occupation of the I.R.A. There was a curious result of that the other day.

We were starting a new preceptory in Belfast in connection with our lodge and had applied for a warrant. Before the warrant could be issued the premises in Dublin has been seized, and all the forms were kept there. The Masonic authorities had to get a copy of the latest warrant issued, and from this they made a fresh copy all in the writing of the Grand officer. This warrant was used last Saturday and is in the possession of our Registrar. The Masonic authorities here, for some reason or other, do not want to appeal to Freemasons outside or to make “political capital“ of the seizure, but I think it would be well if the Freemasons of America were freely told of the campaign that is going on against the Order in Ireland. Perhaps you could help a little in this in a quiet way among your own associates. There was one man, whom I know personally, who had a narrow escape in the recent murders in County Cork. He is a Methodist clergyman, and was in one of the houses that were visited. He escaped from bed in his nightshirt and got away into the fields. It was the middle of April and the weather was very cold at the time. Three or four others were shot dead the same night. His brother is a member of my lodge, is Registrar of my chapter, and first Preceptor of the new preceptory. He is a past Provincial Senior Grand Warden of the Province of Antrim. That is the Masonic province of course, which is practically the same as the ordinary County of Antrim.

A clipping from the May 18 edition of a Belfast newspaper also was provided to The Builder. It reads, in part: “Recently one of the South of Ireland gun clubs issued a statement boasting that they were going to compel all Freemasons and Unionists in the ‘Free State’ to supply food, clothing, and housing accommodation to Roman Catholic unemployed. Their fellow ruffians had for a long time been burning down Masonic and Orange Halls and persecuting Freemasons along with other Protestants.

Richard Hely-Hutchinson
Sixth Earl of Donoughmore

“The continuance of these outrages, which there is no evidence to show the Free State forces now responsible for law and order ever tried to stop, has caused the Earl of Donoughmore, Most Worshipful Grand Master of Irish Freemasonry, to issue an order suspending all meetings of Masonic lodges in Southern Ireland.”

To conclude, I draw from the January 1923 issue of The New Age Magazine, published by the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction. It quotes from the October 7, 1922 edition of The Northern Whig and Belfast Post story “Masonry in Ireland,” which covered the previous day’s annual concert in Ulster Hall benefiting Masonic charities. The Provincial Grand Master’s remarks were relayed:

He thanks those present for their attendance there that evening, not so much for the pecuniary support for the object for which the concert was being held—that was their Masonic charities—but for the moral support they gave to the Order by their presence there. In those days he must say that Freemasonry needed all the support it could get not only from those inside the Order, but from its many friends outside the Order.

Freemasonry in Ireland has been coming through very difficult times. Their halls had been raided and burned, and their brethren in many cases had been ill-used in other parts of Ireland. Scandalous and scurrilous charges had been brought against their Order. He did not say their Order was perfect. It was, after all, only a human institution, and no human institution was perfect—not even their churches and their ministers, who perhaps ought to set the highest standard—so Freemasonry could not claim perfection, but it was strange that the charges that were brought against them were chiefly under two heads, on which they were absolutely guiltless.

First of all the charge was made that Freemasonry was a political society, but if there was one thing above all other that was never mentioned inside the walls of the Masonic lodge, and that was absolutely barred by the laws of their Order, it was anything in the nature of politics. They were also blamed for being an irreligious society. They were perhaps irreligious in a sense because the word religion was unfortunately too often mixed up—and oftener in Ireland perhaps than anywhere else—with sectarianism. Freemasonry was absolutely nonsectarian, and it was a calumny to say that any Order whose fundamental tenets were the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man was an irreligious Order. 

It is Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723 whence modern Freemasons receive our charges to be good, and religiously circumspect, citizens where we make our lives. “A Mason is a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works,” it reads, “and is never to be concern’d in Plots and Conspiracies against the Peace and Welfare of the Nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior Magistrates.…”

My copy of Anderson’s, printed in 1924.

The First Charge, the most famous one, titled “Concerning God and Religion,” states:

A Mason is oblig’d by his Tenure to obey the moral law, and if he rightfully understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient Times Masons were charg’d in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ’tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish’d, whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remain’d at a perpetual Distance.

In a free and peaceful society, this is done effortlessly, but when domestic tranquility is imperiled I imagine one requires disciplined application of all Four Cardinal Virtues—with innate reliance on the Theosophical Virtues as well—to remain steadfast.

(In medieval England, the various Statutes of Laborers regulated masons’ qualifications, remuneration, ability to meet, and other details, but the statute of 1405 specifically compelled such workers to take an annual oath to comply with the law.)

Perhaps the condition of Freemasonry today is not ideal in instances. Could be the content of lodge meetings isn’t exactly how we prefer it; or maybe the size of the membership remains a worry; or some may think their grand master is a fink—but things have been, and can be, far worse.

Monday, May 16, 2022

‘House of the Temple film made available’

On October 18, 1915, the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite dedicated its headquarters located in Washington, DC. A masterpiece by architect John Russell Pope, the House of the Temple remains as active today as it was a century ago—but you know that.

What you may not have known is that film footage of the dedication ceremony was found in recent years, and it was released yesterday via YouTube for your enjoyment.

Host Maynard Edwards is joined by Chris Ruli to introduce the film and explain all the history involved.


Sunday, May 15, 2022

‘Observant Masonry coming to NY Royal Arch’


The 226th Annual Convocation of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of the State of New York just concluded—oh, ten weeks ago. I’m finally getting to it.

M.E. Jason P. Sheridan is the new G.H.P. “Chapter Pride” is the motto for his term in office.

Inspired by “Pride in Freemasonry,” the byword of Grand Master James Sullivan during his term a decade ago (Jason was on his staff), Chapter Pride means to remind us to relish the Royal Arch experience.

“I believe strongly that as we lived through the pandemic, we reassessed those values that are most important to us,” said the new GHP in his speech. “It is no longer a constant work life that is key, but flexibility of work that allows us to live our lives to the fullest. Likewise, by focusing back on our individual chapters and feeling the sense of pride when we are with our companions is the most important thing I can communicate as part of my message for 2022. Let the focus be on our chapters.”

One component of Sheridan’s term, with education, communication, charity, and other essentials, is Observant Masonry. Jason is a longtime member of Ancient Chapter 1 in Manhattan, and he also is with Suwassett Chapter 195 on Long Island. Suwassett has adopted elements of the Observant model, and wouldn’t we all be wise to do the same?

Of course excellence cannot be imposed, but chapters desirous of enhancing their Masonic enlightenment now have a resource for guidance. The Observant Chapters Committee promulgates guidelines to follow. (There is a twelve-page booklet, but I don’t think I’m permitted to share the link.)

“Observant Masonry has become a familiar phrase, synonymous with excellence in ritual, education, and the formality of its events and festive boards,” Sheridan also said. “It will not be for every chapter, but there are a number of chapters I know very well that would appreciate this recognition from Grand Chapter.”

The installation of officers on March 5 in Utica was a memorable ceremony. It was fun seeing so many Masons again after prolonged absence caused by the pandemic. Jason was obligated with his hands upon a familiar looking VSL. It resembles the George Washington Inaugural Bible; it was published by the same printer as the Washington Bible, but this edition is improved with illustrations not included in its famous sibling.


The day before, I had the good luck to have arrived in time to attend the Order of AHPs. I received the Order in my own jurisdiction in 2006, but hadn’t seen it since. (It’s always scheduled on the Saturday of Masonic Week!) But that was very impressive and touching. My thanks to David D. Goodwin (speaking of Masonic Week), who happened to have been in front of me in the procession into the room, and who reminded me—I hadn’t a clue—of the pass. Whew!

The time and place of the next Grand Convocation will be March 9-11, 2023 in Binghamton. I hope to see you there.