Saturday, July 30, 2022

‘Ingathering in NYC’

The group portrait at the conclusion of a meeting seems to be a common tradition in Masonic Hall.

Wow! What a day! When I stepped outside this morning to walk to Masonic Hall, I could tell it was going to be a great summer Saturday. Blue skies, sunshine, gentle breeze, seventy degrees, quiet streets & open sidewalks—even the pervasive threat of crazy violence that demoralizes the once irrepressible city seemed to take the day off. You see, today was the Allied Masonic Degrees Downstate New York Ingathering.

Downstate can mean a lot of things. New York is a big state, so referring to downstate can indicate New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley. For me personally, everything north of 72nd Street is upstate, so these designations are variable. Anyway, several local councils of Allied Masonic Degrees collaborated on the labor at hand: a daylong extravaganza of conferring degrees and celebrating Masonic philosophy.

Jose Marti 512 charter.
These were Jose Marti 512 (our host), Moses Blatchley 567, and Antares 532. (I may be wrong about Antares. There seemed to be a change of plans regarding the participant councils that I didn’t catch at the time.) In the degree department, the brethren conferred three: Architect, St. Lawrence the Martyr, and the “chair degree” for St. Lawrence: Installed Worthy Master.

I don’t think I’ve received the Architect Degree actively before. We receive the degrees in name upon being inducted into the AMD, but in my twenty-one years in the order, this may have been the first time I’ve had that degree conferred on me. (Speaking of twenty-one years, I suspect there’s a good chance I was the senior-most AMD member in the room. An unsettling notion.) The degree itself is derivative of the Craft degrees in that it concerns Solomon, GMHA, and the Temple. Historians believe this was one in a suite of three degrees, with Grand Architect and Superintendent, comprising a rite that now is lost to time.

I should back up. If you’re not familiar with the AMD, it is an invitational order, open to Royal Arch Masons. It cobbles together about a dozen degrees that once upon a time were side degrees that a Mason might receive in lodge. You pay a fee, you receive a degree. It’s not as crass as that to be fair. The truth is the degrees we receive in tidily organized Royal Arch chapters and other groups had been worked in Craft lodges before the advent of those chapters, commanderies, et al. It’s just that a number of degrees did not make the transition from lodge side degrees to extra curricular “high degrees,” and they were in a kind of limbo as time passed and other degrees became independent sovereign bodies (e.g., Mark, Royal Arch, Templar). So, in the 1890s, English Masons united these orphaned degrees, making them the Allied Masonic Degrees. The myriad details of it all are incomprehensible unless you make a deep study of them, something I haven’t done in many years.

After the Architect Degree, we had lunch; after that, it was time for a panel discussion with Oscar, Praveen, and Matt.

Bro. Mike of Half Moon Council was out of town on Royal Arch Grand Chapter business, but he had suggested “Why AMD?” as a thematic question for the panel. The trio tendered remarks that traced the history of the AMD and its degrees up to the present day; that described Masonic Week (many are unacquainted); and the differences in attitude toward, and the covert nature of, the order. V. Bro. Praveen said AMD maintains a “sub rosa” character in New York—and I hope this edition of The Magpie Mason doesn’t blow its cover! There was much understandable curiosity about the AMD’s origins and development. RV Oscar provided specifics on the evolution of certain rituals to make clear the utter bizarreness of the AMD situation.

We met inside the Doric Room on six.

I think most Freemasons in the United States are unaware of, or haven’t even given a thought to, the history of Masonic rituals. As I explained in this space last month about the 1658 Rhode Island myth, there are Masons who consider themselves researchers but actually believe the three Craft degrees they know today have existed and gone unchanged since time immemorial. There are Masons who have no idea that the rituals of the lodge differ from state to state. What we know in New York varies noticeably from what they do in New Jersey, and the Pennsylvanians work rituals that are significantly different from both, for example. So, to attempt to explain how the rituals inherited by AMD might have come into existence would require a post-graduate level inquiry into both history and anthropology. I don’t think there’s even been a book that satisfactorily tells the story—or if there was, it’s been long out of print.

Our panel speakers: Oscar, Praveen, and Matt.

To illustrate, Oscar explained how the AMD was exported from England to Maine, but that doesn’t mean all the rituals were English in origin. Our Royal Ark Mariner Degree actually is Scottish, he said. When examining English, Scottish, French, Dutch, etc. rituals, one finds “the wild, wild west of Freemasonry,” he added. “People were doing all kinds of things.”

“They’re still finding rituals,” he continued. “If you open every door, you’ll be opening doors for the rest of your life.”

We were getting into the mid afternoon, so the time came to open a lodge of St. Lawrence the Martyr and to confer the degree. For some of the historical or legendary, depending on your point of view, basis of the story, click here. It is the introductory degree in English AMD, but we Americans don’t have such a structure. (We did have three initiates for the day though.) Nevertheless it is an instructive and memorable degree, even if its various signs and gestures slip your mind.

Can it be coincidence that St. Lawrence the Martyr Degree regalia bears the New York City colors of blue, white, and orange? I think not!

After the degree, those who have yet to preside over an AMD council were asked to step outside while the rest of us opened a Board of Installed Masters to confer the Installed Worthy Master of St. Lawrence the Martyr Degree.

The ritualists in all three of the degrees today performed with skill and confidence. A pleasure to watch.

The quitting hour was starting to draw near. This Ingathering featured no research papers or other formal readings, and I’m not accustomed to that, but Bro. Javier capped off the day with his original and heartfelt discursion into the esotericism of space, dimension, shape, direction, and the like. Neither reading from a text nor referring to notes, which I’m also not used to, he weaved personal speculations into, if I understood correctly, an inquiry into the nature of the Masonic physical world. It’s not at all impossible that some of it soared over my head, but it was an apt conclusion to the memorable event. But we weren’t finished yet!

I never know what to do with the parchments, but there’s no denying they convey warm memories of great occasions and terrific people for many years.

There were presentations, including official Grand Council parchments to all of us certifying our advancement in the aforementioned degrees, and also—of course!—lapel pins. I’ve never even seen an Architect Degree pin before. I believe I’ll wear it to lodge to see if it prompts any questions. (So much for sub rosa!)

Friday, July 29, 2022

‘There’s marrow in these bones’


It was before my time, and if not for YouTube I wouldn’t know about it, but ITV had a series (exported to CBS) from 1955 to 1959 based on the English folktale of Robin Hood. Episode 87 (the eleventh of the third season) of The Adventures of Robin Hood is titled “The Mark.” That’s as in a master mason’s mark.

Foot to foot and all that.

Philip Ray plays Walter, the operative master mason superintending the rebuilding of an abandoned church. As the paper thin plot plays out, we see Walter employ his mark for an unorthodox purpose, moving the story to its only inevitable conclusion. The writing is terrible and the acting is worse, but such was early television.

In a flagrant betrayal of Masonic secrecy, this TV show renders a funny shortcut in making a “mason of the mind.”

These episodes ran twenty-five minutes, but if you can’t do it, just pick it up seventeen minutes in.


Wednesday, July 27, 2022

‘Washington statue repair starts’

St. Mark’s-Vestal Lodge 435
Last December I shared with you the news of a New York lodge’s desire to have a local Masonic George Washington statue rehabilitated, and today came word of the start of that project.

Bro. Washington stands over the section of Vestal Hills Memorial Park that is owned by St. Mark’s-Vestal Lodge 435 in the Town of Vestal. At age eighty-five, the statue needs a new foundation.

Click here, and hopefully the video of the bronze sculpture being lifted off the stone plinth will open for you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

‘Tubal Cain and the first plow’


I hope all of you read The Square magazine. The periodical’s social media of yesterday brings our attention to its September 2021 issue, particularly an article on Charles Mackay by W. Bro. Kenneth C. Jack. I leave it to you to read that, but for this edition of The Magpie Mason I share one of Mackay’s poems. “Tubal Cain” is found in volumes either of Mackay’s own work or in collections of various poets.

One such anthology from 1905 England, The Poets and the People, published by what was the Liberal Publication Department, an arm of that country’s National Liberal Federation, employs verse in documenting how the term liberalism once had meant belief in, and upholding of, liberty. It’s an amazing book, uniting Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, P.B. Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, and Mackay, plus more than a dozen other voices raised for freedom, decency, democracy, and patriotism. (Its editor, the renowned Alfred Henry Miles, contributes his sonnet titled “Let There Be Light!” which inveighs against the darkness of ignorance and bigotry.)

But was Charles Mackay a Brother Freemason? That’s inconclusive. The headline of Bro. Jack’s article says yes, but near the bottom of the story he concedes that “a question mark should be appended” to the headline. There seems to be no easily obtainable proof of Mackay’s initiation or membership, which I think is too unusual for a well known man of letters.

Monday, July 25, 2022

‘Putting Masonry Back into Men’


Odenton Lodge 209 in Maryland is at it again, hosting another event that promises to be a memorable and enriching experience for the brethren. This time it’ll be the Masonic Retreat & Low Vale during the weekend of September 23.

The theme: “Putting Masonry Back into Men,” the motto of Grand Master Marlin Mills. Click here to read more. It’s a little complicated regarding accommodations; things you must bring, should bring, can’t bring; and the ticketing, but the details are there.

Featured speakers will be Brent Morris, Stanley Conyer, Ken Lyons, and Andrew Martinez. The Low Vale part will be a Master Mason Degree on Saturday night, I guess outdoors.

Friday, July 22, 2022

‘Every business meeting should be like Azim’

Azim, the Grotto’s capital of handsomeness, has called a business and social meeting in two weeks on the Coney Island boardwalk. It’s an open event. Stop by!


Legendary Ruby’s Bar & Grill will have to anticipate the onslaught of Mystic Prophets August 6. Don’t ask me what’s on the meeting agenda, but I’d guess it’ll be tackled in a few minutes.

Every business meeting should be like that, and every Grotto would be smart to be like Azim.

Attire: “your Azimian best.” Start: high twelve.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

‘A symposium of symbolism’

Joseph Fort Newton by Travis Simpkins.

If the influence of Masonry upon youth is here emphasized, it is not to forget that the most dangerous period of life is not youth, with its turmoil of storm and stress, but between forty and sixty. When the enthusiasms of youth have cooled, and its rosy glamour has faded into the light of common day, there is apt to be a letting down of ideals, a hardening of heart, when cynicism takes the place of idealism. If the judgments of the young are austere and need to be softened by charity, the middle years of life needs still more the reinforcement of spiritual influence and the inspiration of a holy atmosphere. Also, Albert Pike used to urge upon old men the study of Masonry, the better to help them gather up these scattered thoughts about life and build them into a firm faith; and because Masonry offers to every man a great hope and consolation. Indeed, its ministry to every period of life is benign. Studying Masonry is like looking at a sunset; each man who looks is filled with the beauty and wonder of it, but the glory is not diminished.

Joseph Fort Newton
The Builders

Born on this date either in 1876 or 1880, depending on your source, in Decatur, Texas was Joseph Fort Newton.

He was made a Mason in Friendship Lodge 7 in Dixon, Illinois in 1902. His is one of those Masonic stories that weave together the man, the vocation (a minister and doctor of divinity; attorney; author), and the Masonic life. Newton is remembered for one particular message: “We can never have a religion of brotherhood on earth until we have a brotherhood of religion.”

He was the author of books. The Builders was not the only one, but may be the most famous due to its ubiquitous gifting to new Masons, its frequent reprintings, and translations into diverse languages. From his The Religion of Masonry: “In its modern form at least, our Masonry is a symposium of symbolism in which three streams or strands of faith unite, by which man is a Builder of a Temple, a Pilgrim in quest of a lost Truth, and, if he be worthy and heroic, a Finder of the Sublime Secret of Life.”

Making him especially dear to my own heart, Newton was editor of the two finest periodicals in early twentieth century American Masonic publishing: The Builder and The Master Mason. He also was a popular and well traveled lecturer—all the above in addition to his ministerial labors and family life and other pursuits.

We’ve all read a great many books about Freemasonry, tracing the changes in speculative focus over the generations, from the personal use of symbols to various mystical interpretations of the rituals to the psychology of Craft teachings to the cultural anthropology of it all and more. Recent years have brought us ideas on occultism, “magick,” and even psychotropic drugs(!). I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to seeking the next shiny thing (ergo the title Magpie), but now that I’m not only between forty and sixty but actually am very near the latter age, I find myself taking more comfort in the Masonic messages bequeathed to us from more gentle times.

Newton’s The Builders was published in 1914, The Year of Creation of the world we today inhabit, with our hindsight of world wars, the “isms” that begat genocides, and the polluting byproducts of wondrous sciences and technologies. I leave you with the most quoted words of The Builder, its concluding paragraph actually:

When is a man a Mason? When he can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound sense of his own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope, and courage—which is the root of every virtue. When he knows that down in his heart every man is as noble, as vile, as divine, as diabolic, and as lonely as himself, and seeks to know, to forgive, and to love his fellow man. When he knows how to sympathize with men in their sorrows, yea, even in their sins—knowing that each man fights a hard fight against many odds. When he has learned how to make friends and to keep them, and above all how to keep friends with himself. When he loves flowers, can hunt the birds without a gun, and feels the thrill of an old forgotten joy when he hears the laugh of a little child. When he can be happy and high-minded amid the meaner drudgeries of life. When star-crowned trees, and the glint of sunlight on flowing waters, subdue him like the thought of one much loved and long dead. When no voice of distress reaches his ears in vain, and no hand seeks his aid without response. When he finds good in every faith that helps any man to lay hold of divine things and sees majestic meanings in life, whatever the name of that faith may be. When he can look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud, and into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin. When he knows how to pray, how to love, how to hope. When he has kept faith with himself, with his fellow man, with his God; in his hand a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song—glad to live, but not afraid to die! Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

‘Of all the gin joints: The Masonic Temple’

Warren Inn

Gin and July go together like, well, gin and any warm weather, and a famous cocktail served icy at a landmark destination in Vermont could be what you need to lower the body temperature on a summer day. While dubbed The Masonic Temple, this mixture is named for Mason, a barman at the Pitcher Inn, located in the Town of Warren, itself named for Masonic legend and Revolution martyr Joseph Warren.

Its recipe is mistake-proof. As the Inn’s website puts it:

If you’ve had Mason for a server at 275 Main, it’s more than likely that you’ve tried his signature cocktail, The Masonic Temple. Combining English gin, grapefruit juice, lime, and Cointreau, this is the perfect beverage for Wednesday around 5:30 p.m.


 - 1 1/2 ounce Bombay Dry Gin
 - 3/4 oz. Cointreau
 - 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
 - fresh grapefruit juice

Fill Old Fashioned glass with ice, combine first four ingredients, top off with grapefruit juice. Shake in a cocktail shaker until metal begins to frost. Coat rim with sugar, pour in cocktail, and garnish with a lime.

It’s 5:30 Wednesday somewhere.

‘Chess: Geometry is the key’

Magpie file photo
Remnants of Albert Pike’s chess set are displayed in the House of the Temple. They look to predate the standardization of chess pieces in the nineteenth century by chess master Howard Staunton.

Of course every day is a chess day, but today is International Chess Day. Have a great, or Magnus, day!

The closing paragraph of the “An Analysis of the Tarot Cards” chapter in Manly Palmer Hall’s The Secret Teachings of All Ages (Page CXXXII) reads:

In its symbolism chess is the most significant of all games. It has been called “the royal game”—the pastime of kings. Like the Tarot cards, the chessmen represent the elements of life and philosophy. The game was played in India and China long before its introduction into Europe. East Indian princes were wont to sit on the balconies of their palaces and play chess with living men standing upon a checkerboard pavement of black and white marble in the courtyard below. It is popularly believed that the Egyptian Pharaohs played chess, but an examination of their sculpture and illuminations has led to the conclusion that the Egyptian game was a form of draughts. In China, chessmen are often carved to represent warring dynasties, as the Manchu and the Ming. The chessboard consists of 64 squares alternately black and white and symbolizes the floor of the House of the Mysteries. Upon this field of existence or thought move a number of strangely carved figures, each according to fixed law. The white king is Ormuzd; the black king, Ahriman; and upon the plains of Cosmos the great war between Light and Darkness is fought through all the ages. Of the philosophical constitution of man, the kings represent the spirit; the queens the mind; the bishops the emotions; the knights the vitality; the castles, or rooks, the physical body. The pieces upon the king’s side are positive; those upon the queen’s side, negative. The pawns are sensory impulses and perceptive faculties—the eight parts of the soul. The white king and his suite symbolize the Self and its vehicles; the black king and his retinue, the not-self—the false Ego and its legion. The game of chess thus sets forth the eternal struggle of each part of man’s compound nature against the shadow of itself. The nature of each of the chessmen is revealed by the way in which it moves; geometry is the key to their interpretation. For example: The castle (the body) moves on the square; the bishop (the emotions) moves on the slant; the king, being the spirit, cannot become captured, but loses the battle when so surrounded that it cannot escape.

If I win the lottery, I’m going to open a chess retail and playing parlor on Thompson, between West Third and Bleecker, and name it The Pawn Shop. In the meantime, “Make Evans Great Again!”

THIS JUST IN: Grand Master Magnus Carlsen announced on his podcast today that he will not compete next year to defend his world championship, which he has held since 2013. While not retiring from chess, he says he has no motivation to continue playing at the FIDE top strata. The end of an era.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

‘2023 World Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges’


The details are still to come, but mark your calendars for the 18th World Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges next year in Jerusalem.

(I think what happened was it had been scheduled for Nazareth in 2020, but the Chinese Virus kiboshed that. The 17th went ahead in Berlin last November, and now they’re planning again for Israel next May.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

‘Mt. Vernon to host Mark Tabbert’


Mt. Vernon will host Mark Tabbert next week for a discussion of George Washington the Freemason.

UPDATE: Click here to watch the recording of Mark’s talk.

Tuesday, July 19
7 to 8 p.m.
Fred W. Smith
National Library
Free admission
Register here

Mark Tabbert
Mt. Vernon is the historic site in Virginia where George and Martha Washington resided; now it is privately owned but in the public service as a cultural treasure. Tabbert is the Director of Archives and Exhibits at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia. He is the author of the recently published A Deserving Brother: George Washington and Freemasonry.

If you think Washington’s presence in U.S. Masonic history is overdone, it may be because you hear only the same few facts and misunderstandings repeatedly, and they fail to impress. I think Mark’s book can enthuse the fraternity with his comprehensive study of all the known Masonic activities of America’s most famous Freemason.

The talk, free and open to the public, both in person and online, will explore the facts chronicled in the book.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

‘Scottish Masonry registration is open’


Registration is open for the Scottish Freemasonry in America Symposium. That’ll be at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia from November 4 through 6. Click here.

From the itinerary, this obviously will be an unforgettable weekend. The organizers should be proud. In short, a roster of impressive Masonic and academic speakers will present historical details of the varied roles Scottish Freemasonry played in the early years of Freemasonry in America. Plus, there will be a reception, banquet, day trip to Fredericksburg Lodge 4, golf, and more. Read it all here.

To compensate for the period of pandemic lockdown, I’ve been treating myself to more than the usual Masonic travel this year, and this gathering will be the perfect capstone to 2022. Hope to see you there.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

‘Grotto grows beyond the U.S.’


Central America’s smallest nation would not have been my first guess at where the Grotto would take root outside the United States, but I’m usually wrong about most things, and El Salvador it is.

The Grotto is the Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm—don’t ask me to attempt that in Spanish—and the 132nd Annual Supreme Council Session of Grottoes of North America has been underway this week in Cincinnati. The announcement of Mixtlan and Xibalba Grottos being established in San Salvador came the other day, resulting in a change of name: Grottoes International.

In the family tree of Freemasonry, the Grotto is a frivolous group that leavens the solemnity of our labors in the Craft lodge. It was a group of New York Masons at Hamilton Lodge 120 who started it all. You can read the history here.

In other exciting news, Azim’s very own Victor Mann proceeds up the officer line to Grand Deputy Monarch. Huzzah!

we have a new District Deputy in Frank Sforza. Congratulations! (I didn’t even know we had District Deputies, but when your Order is growing as rapidly as MOVPER, you get District Deputies.)

Also, on the humanitarian side of the Order, legislation was approved to raise the maximum age of patients receiving dental care from 18 to 21. MOVPER’s main philanthropy is providing dentistry to children with special needs, many of whom require treatment beyond the abilities of most dentists.

I bet they’ll announce where next year’s session will take place, and I’ll update this with that info when I hear it.

Friday, July 8, 2022

‘Millions for Manchester’

Happy anniversary to the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire! It was on this date in 1789 when the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New Hampshire was organized at the William Pitt Tavern in Portsmouth.

John Sullivan
Five brethren from St. John’s Lodge in the town were present and voted for several resolutions to give their creation form. For Grand Master, they elected John Sullivan, Esq., President of the State of New Hampshire.

Commemorative token courtesy of Bro. Tim.
The Grand Lodge met again on the sixteenth of the month with additional brethren from St. Patrick’s Lodge in Portsmouth and Rising Sun Lodge in Keene present. They addressed a few jurisprudence items.

But this edition of The Magpie Mason concerns today’s needs, namely millions of dollars to restore the Manchester Masonic Temple and keep it in service, perhaps to 2089 and beyond.

The cornerstone was laid with Masonic ceremony on St. John Baptist Day 1925, but as its hundredth birthday nears, the temple shows its age and is in need of extensive modernization. I was there last month for Masonic Con; despite never having seen the place before, I recognized it intimately.

The growth of the Masonic fraternity in the United States during the 1920s was fantastic and almost incomprehensible to today’s Mason. To accommodate the tens of thousands of new brethren nationwide, our rapidly multiplying lodges acquired and developed real estate all over the place, in many instances constructing two or three-story temples of marble or limestone or granite or whatever. Buildings that could stand for centuries.

They contained multiple large lodge rooms, with murals on the walls, decorative carpeting, balcony seating, and other clues indicating a big and monied membership. A spacious banquet hall and impressive commercial kitchen. An elevator, coat room, billiard parlor, library, sitting room, and more.

In their prime, these temples silently boasted of Freemasonry’s prominence, but today those which remain standing and in Masonic custody are in “the days of trouble,” as Ecclesiastes 12 phrases old age.

The Manchester Masonic Temple’s caretakers aim to raise about $5 million to transform a faded palace of the Roaring Twenties into a proper home for today’s Masonic Order. Out with hazardous electrical wiring, and in with LEDs. Do away with century-old plumbing, and go with twenty-first century flushing. And the HVAC? They didn’t even have the AC back then, and the HV are antique curiosities.

Elevator operator station.

A heating vent beneath each seat in lodge.

With only about 4,400 Masons comprising the jurisdiction, the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire, I’m certain, would appreciate your support. Donations may be mailed to:

Manchester Masonic
Community Center
1505 Elm St.
Manchester, NH 03101

Or click here.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the brethren are seeking community block grant dollars, but every bit you contribute will get all the work done.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

‘Masonry disrupted’

MBC photo
Frontispiece and title page, autographed by Arturo de Hoyos and S. Brent Morris, are ready to go. That’s Harry Carr, as rendered by Travis Simpkins, at left. Carr edited the MBC’s first imprint of Masonry Dissected in the 1970s, and his commentary is updated for this edition.

Masonry Dissected
, the 1730 English ritual exposure to be published anew this month by the Masonic Book Club, is delayed, according to an email sent today to us subscribers.

Shortages of both white paper and colored binding materials are disruptive enough, but a ransomware attack on the printing company delayed the job. If you’ve been waiting with anticipation, you may remember yesterday would have been the shipping date but, as Brent Morris explained in today’s email newsletter, the printer now says July 19 sometime in August.

“We haven’t yet decided on the 2023 volume because we want to see the costs of paper, ink, and other materials,” he also said. “As a point of reference, the manufacturing costs today for [last year’s book] are about 70 percent higher than they were in 2021!”

And so it goes.

Click here for some background.

Monday, July 4, 2022

‘The cornerstone of a Temple of Justice’

MW John Hodge
Happy Independence Day to Magpie readers across the United States. Today I am sharing a gem of a speech that was delivered in public on this date in 1894 when MW John Hodge, our then Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York, led the cornerstone dedication ceremony at the Monroe County Courthouse in Rochester.

Hodge was a highly prominent citizen, a leader in business (Merchant’s Gargling Oil!) and government in his part of the state. He died August 7, 1895. His widow funded construction of a hospital in Lockport and named it in his memory.

Hodge served five years as Junior Grand Warden, two as Senior, and one as Deputy Grand Master before being installed into the Grand Master’s chair in 1894. John Hodge Lodge 815, now of the Ontario-Seneca-Yates District, was set to labor in 1897.

The speech says a lot, without running too long, as it weaves Americanism and Masonic theory—the kind of oratory you just don’t hear anymore—at a time when greatness still was thought to be good. Enjoy.

Fellow Citizens:

In accordance with the time-honored custom of the Masonic fraternity, we, who represent that ancient, honorable, and patriotic order, have assembled with you here today, and with the solemn ceremonials of the Craft have laid the cornerstone of a new Temple of Justice for the large community of Western New York, of which the City of Rochester is the geographical, social, and political center.

Postcard of the courthouse.

In peace we have laid this cornerstone, and without fear have performed our work, because the laws of our country which are to be here administered, and the principles of Masonry are in unison in favoring equal justice to all men. The flag of our country, that glorious emblem of freedom floating proudly above us, which today is receiving special honors throughout the length and breadth of the land, like the Masonic creed, shields no favored class, but proffers the assurance of justice alike to the Jew and Gentile, the representatives of all nationalities, and the adherence of all religious and political faiths.

It is peculiarly appropriate that the magnificent structure, whose foundation we have this day laid, should be erected in this beautiful City of Rochester. From the earliest period of the pioneer history of Western New York, Rochester has been foremost in everything pertaining to the development of all the material interests of the State upon the immutable principles of justice. Nature’s bounty of scenic beauty and wealth of material resources have been well supplemented by a patriotic, God-fearing people, whose untiring industry and noble spirit of heroism and self-sacrifice enabled them to patiently pursue to the end the arduous work of subduing the wilderness, and supplementing the virgin forest with beautiful homes and well organized society, now presenting to the world a city which includes industrial and commercial interests, educational, religious, and beneficent institutions, of which any nation of the globe might justly be proud. And especially, in view of her record in educational work in every field of intellectual activity, which has given the country not only many eminent scholars and divines, but also a long list of jurists of well-earned fame for the extent of their legal lore, and the wisdom and justice that have marked their decisions, Rochester may will claim the privilege and distinction of erecting a Temple of Justice that shall be second to none in the land.

Another postcard.

And what of the future? As meritorious as has been the work done by your judiciary in the old courthouse which this new and elegant building is to supersede, much more important, doubtless, to the peace and prosperity of the community will be the decisions to be handed down from the bench of the new courthouse in the far distant future. Law is declared to be the product of human experience. We are living in an era when questions of great importance, not only to individuals, but to aggregations of individuals, and to the peace and good order of society, are constantly arising. Many of these questions, whose solution is of the greatest importance. Law is declared to be the product of human experience. We are living in an era when questions of great importance, not only to individuals, but to aggregations of individuals, and to the peace and good order of society, or constantly arising. Many of these questions, whose solution is of the greatest importance to the parties interested, must be settled for the first time by the courts.  Which, under our system of government, constitute the last resort for the redress of real or imaginary wrongs, and the settlement of differences between the employer and the employees, the rich and the poor, alike.

And is it not at all improbable that some of the very important issues presented by this situation may be argued and decided by the courts to be held in your new courthouse. The future of your new Temple of Justice is, therefore, full of promise, not only in the assurance that it will present an ample field for the full display of all the powers of the most learned and brilliant advocates, but also bring to the bench the opportunity of rendering decisions, which, by their justice and their importance to the welfare of society, will invest the judiciary with an enduring fame, whose luster will stand undimmed through the many successive generations.

Modern times!

Fellow citizens and brethren, our work is done. The cornerstone of this building has been tested by the working tools of our Craft. It has been found square, plumb, and level. The cement that unites it with its brother stone has been spread, and all has been pronounced perfectly done.

This speech and several score more are found in the pages of Jewels of Masonic Oratory, anthologized by L.S. Myler; printed in New York in 1900.

May this be in truth a Temple of Justice, where all men may come and have their wrongs redressed; where oppression and intolerance may be throttled, and the rights of every man, from the humblest citizen to the highest official, be honored and respected. Justice is the platform for all mankind. The people who live upon this great round globe are the creatures of one Great Father, and have equal and inalienable rights, duties, and obligations. Those rights must not be disregarded. Those duties and obligations must not go unperformed. This building whose walls will be reared upon this cornerstone is to be a city of refuge to which the oppressed may flee; and we pray God that it may in truth deserve to prosper, and become the place of concourse for all good men, and from this house the spirit of harmony and brotherly love be disseminated throughout the whole community.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

‘Pennsylvania Academy’s new team’


An announcement yesterday from the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge proclaims its newly reorganized leadership team. (Hey, I know some of these guys!)

Congratulations to you all!

If Elizabethtown is prohibitively far for you, the Academy streams its biannual sessions where the top thinkers in Freemasonry take to the lectern every March and October.

Friday, July 1, 2022

‘Three centuries of British Lodge’

Freemasonry Today
The Heraldic Badge granted to the United Grand Lodge of England for British Lodge viii.

I wrote the other day about my lodge reaching its hundredth year, but what do you get the lodge that celebrates its tricentennial anniversary? We would have to ask British Lodge viii in London.

The summer issue of Freemasonry Today magazine reports the February commemoration featured Peter Lowndes, Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, at the installation of officers at Freemasons’ Hall. In addition, the lodge commissioned a writer to compile the lodge’s life story, and a Heraldic Badge was devised for British’s use.

Freemasonry Today
British Lodge viii is one of nineteen ‘Red Apron’ lodges that nominate UGLE Grand Stewards.

That written history, a copy of which was presented to each attendee of the celebration, “gives a fascinating account of key events and personalities over the lodge’s 300 years of existence,” says FMT, “from the first recorded meeting of the lodge at Tom’s Coffee House in London’s Clare Market to the present day. It was clear that the lodge had dined well throughout its long history, and the members had a particular taste for champagne!”

Read all about it here.

(Why should a New York Mason take notice? Daniel Coxe was among its members, according to Hugo Tatsch’s Freemasonry in the Thirteen Colonies.)