Monday, August 29, 2022

‘The ALR: Master’s update

If you are not yet a member of The American Lodge of Research, you didn’t receive the message from our Worshipful Master last night providing an update of our plans. I won’t repeat what I’ve shared in previous Magpie posts, but news you can use include:

Upcoming Meetings

We will meet four times during the new Masonic year.

Tuesday, October 25 at 7 p.m. in Masonic Hall’s Colonial Room.

Thursday, December 1 at 7:30 (dinner at 6:30) at West Point Lodge 877 in Highland Falls. A joint meeting with the historic lodge located just steps away from the Military Academy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023 at seven o’clock back in the Colonial Room.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023 also at seven and in the Colonial Room.

The speakers at these meetings will be announced in a timely manner. For the year, The ALR aims to bring eight presenters to the lectern; four are booked thus far. If you are desirous of making a little Masonic history of your own by presenting your research in America’s oldest educational and literary lodge, just contact WM Conor here. (If you do not wish to present orally in lodge but still have something to publish in our next book of transactions, that’s great too.)

Tokens of Membership

Aprons! Jewels! Certificates!

Okay, I’ll repeat a little of what I’ve shared before because this is updated information. There now are aprons, manufactured by the venerable Macoy Masonic Supply Co. in Virginia, available to members in good standing. Their design is based on our aprons from the 1930s. Our Past Masters may purchase PM aprons, and members may buy the MM aprons. $250 each. Photos and ordering info to come soon so check our website.

Magpie file photo
Macoy makes our aprons. Here’s our Senior Deacon regalia that I wore at our last meeting.

Membership jewels for both the Active and Corresponding brethren are being updated by a new vendor. More on this to come in the fall.

And certificates: I’ve shown you what they look like (it’s the same classic design in use for years), and they will be available through the website shortly.

Hmmm. Not to make more work for the Worshipful Master, but maybe we need lapel pins too. Remind me to bring that up when we meet in October.

I hope brethren of The ALR—past, present, and future—remember that we still are in a period of reorganizing, as demonstrated by the above activities, and if anyone requires assistance, don’t hesitate to contact W. Bro. Praveen, our new Secretary, here.

Hope to see you October 25.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

‘Masonic “church” may be conveyed to town’

Suffolk Lodge 60, AYM

The lodge in Port Jefferson proposes to transfer its property to the municipal government, local news media reported last Friday.

The Village of Port Jefferson is located on the North Shore of Long Island and is the hometown of Suffolk Lodge 60. The idea is to convey the property to the village for the purposes of historic preservation and community use. TBR Newsmedia, a website for local news, says Mayor Margot Garant announced discussions with the lodge are underway to transfer ownership to create “a theatrical education studio.”

Suffolk 60 was warranted by Grand Lodge in 1796; naturally, it is among the oldest in the state, and it employs “Ancient York Masons” in its appellation.

The building at issue had been a Presbyterian church before the lodge purchased it in 1910. (News coverage of the proposed deal with the village described Suffolk 60 as a “Masonic church,” economically achieving both annoyance and humor in two words.)

Suffolk Lodge 60, AYM

Also meeting in this building is Suwassett Chapter 195, an Observant Royal Arch chapter. I am unaware if these Masonic groups will have a covenant in the contract that will permit them to continue using the building or if they will relocate, but I’ll update this edition of The Magpie Mason when I find out.

Friday, August 19, 2022

‘New grand master calls for initiating women’

E. Sultan photo
Grand Master Ilan Segev.
The recently installed Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Israel was quoted in that country’s most widely read newspaper saying he believes it is time for the fraternity there to begin admitting women.

MW Bro. Ilan Segev took office July 12. In a story covering his speech to the brethren published in Israel Hayom (Israel Today) on July 28, he is quoted sharing his opinions on modernizing the Craft. “The world has changed since the Grand Lodge of England was founded in 1717. In 2022, we cannot ignore that women make up half of the population, and there is a real need to examine the possibility of making a change. There is no doubt that the principles of Freemasonry speak to every person regardless of religion, race, or gender. I have a number of ideas that I will present to the grand committee of the Grand Lodge, and then we will open it up for discussion in the Order.”

An English translation of the article was posted to the newspaper’s website on August 4. The reporter, Eyal Levi, followed up with an interview and wrote of far more than the eye-grabbing talk of membership transformation. Click here to read it entirely.

“Women are not currently accepted,” the article continues, but, Segev said “it may change. I am working on it. There are lodges in France that have opened up for women already. I am thinking of a certain model, which I won’t go into details about now, but I want women to play a big role in the society. When Freemasonry was first established, women didn’t work, they stayed at home. In 2022, the world is different, and we must progress.”

“What will happen for sure I do not know, but through a process, I believe soon women will also be able to be Freemasons. I said during the ceremony, ‘Freedom, Equality, and Brotherhood. Love, Help, and Truth.’ Any knowledgeable person can except these values. That is why we will have to change the system and adjust the constitution.”

The current Grand Lodge of Israel will reach its seventieth anniversary next year. Click here for Bro. Leon Zeldin’s brief history of Freemasonry there.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

‘Grand Orient condemns Rushdie attack’

Salman Rushdie

In a statement published yesterday, the Grand Orient of France denounced the vicious assault on author Salman Rushdie last Friday in western New York, labeling it “a crime against freedom.” The unsigned letter protests religious extremism, particularly the Islamist ideology that fomented the attempted murder of the 75-year-old.

According to reports, Rushdie is in critical condition, but is expected to survive multiple stab wounds, albeit at the cost of an eye and other damage.

After publication in 1988 of his novel The Satanic Verses, Rushdie was named the subject of a fatwa—an official ruling in Islamic jurisprudence—issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then the theocratic ruler of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which demands Rushdie’s murder. Khomeini died in 1989, but the edict stands. The would-be killer is identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar, who pleaded not guilty Saturday to charges of attempted murder and assault. (It means nothing in this Rushdie case, but Khomeini resided in France before returning to Iran and taking over the new revolutionary government after Freemason Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the shah, fled in 1979.)

“Religious extremists have always wanted to impose submission on all believers and unbelievers at all costs,” the GOF communiqué also says. “Today, it is political Islam that, to ensure its grip on consciences and the brigade of fanatical minds, wants to spread fear by intimidation, threats, imprisonment, torture, and killing women and men who refuse to submit.”

If you’re unacquainted, the Grand Orient of France leadership often opines publicly on social and political ideas and events.

“Freedom of conscience gives each and every one the right to believe or not believe; to practice a certain religion, to change, or have none; to be religious, atheistic, agnostic, or indifferent to religion,” the Masons’ statement also says. “Freedom of expression includes critical doubt and the right to disregard any power—political, religious, or otherwise.”

The Grand Orient of France is the eldest and largest of the Masonic orders in the French Republic, although it is not the one we Americans recognize. (We are in amity with the National Grand Lodge of France, created by the English in 1913.)

The entire message, in French, can be read on the Grand Orient’s website.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

‘Civil War Lodge to bivouac in Maryland’


Civil War Lodge of Research 1865 will convene its September meeting to mark the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. This lodge is chartered by the Grand Lodge of Virginia to preserve understandings of Freemasonry’s varied ties to the U.S. Civil War, and the lodge travels to places significant to that war.

On Saturday, September 17, the brethren will visit Antietam National Battlefield after its meeting at Antietam Lodge 197, both in Maryland. I believe it is the only lodge in the country named for a Civil War battle.

The night before the meeting, everyone will get together for dinner at Captain Benders Tavern in Sharpsburg at 6:30.

The meeting will open at 10 a.m. Saturday at the lodge in Keedysville.

Lunch at 12:30 at Bonnie’s at the Red Byrd.

At two o’clock, the group will visit Antietam National Battlefield. This is exactly the 160th anniversary of what is termed “the bloodiest day in American history,” and at 3 p.m. there will be a commemoration ceremony.

The group will have dinner together at 6:30 at Rik’s Cafe.

Overnight accommodations have been arranged at Sleep Inn & Suites Hagerstown.

It sounds like a productive and memorable weekend. It’s a little too far for me, but hopefully some of you can participate and even join the lodge.

I hope the brethren consider New York City as a future destination. No official battlefield here, but other points of great interest are in abundance.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

‘MLMA to talk Quarry Project’


UPDATE: September 2–Change of plans! Meeting will not be in person, but via Zoom. Details TBA.

The Masonic Library and Museum Association will convene in Phoenix for its annual meeting at the end of next month. Today, the host announced a tentative agenda for the weekend. Some details still need to be fleshed out, but members can plan to see each other from Thursday, September 29 through Sunday, October 2.

Accommodations have been arranged at the Hilton Garden Inn, and the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of Arizona will host the business meeting and other functions, as well as a tour of its Roskruge & Casey Library and Museum.

Quarry Project III

Yes, it’s coming together. The third Quarry Project is being planned for the fall of 2023! It’s a top agenda item.

These conferences are devised jointly by the Masonic Society, the MLMA, and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial for the purpose of promoting the arts of researching, writing, publishing, collecting, curating, etc. in the Masonic fraternity. The MLMA contacted the Masonic Society last year, while I was El Presidente, to suggest a third forum, and it is taking shape.

We’ll do it at the GWMNM, which will enjoy a fruitful year in 2023. It’ll be the centennial celebration of the memorial’s cornerstone laying in February; the Anderson’s Constitutions tricentennial symposium in June; Quarry Project III in autumn; and other marquee happenings, I’m sure.

In the meantime, the MLMA’s meeting next month will feature tours of local museums, great meals, speakers at the lectern, some operative labor in the Masonic library, and even an optional table lodge at Scottsdale 43.

Phoenix is a bit beyond my usual orbit, so I won’t see everyone until Quarry Project III in Virginia, but the purpose of this edition of The Magpie Mason is to alert brethren in Arizona who appreciate the unsung undertakings of the happy few in Masonic archiving and exhibiting. Contact Bo Buchanan, president of your library and museum, to get involved.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

‘Make our lectures and lodges a real force in society’

William Preston
It’s still the seventh for a few more minutes, so happy birthday to William Preston, born on this date in 1742. Preston, of course, is the author of one of the most significant Masonic texts. His Illustrations of Masonry gave shape to the lectures most American lodges use, 250 years after its initial publication.

There’s a lot to talk about regarding Preston and his work, but this edition of The Magpie Mason borrows from another author from a more recent century. Roscoe Pound was made a Mason at Lancaster Lodge 54 in his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska; later in life, in Massachusetts in 1915, he became Deputy Grand Master, and helped launch The Harvard Lodge. At Harvard University, Pound served as dean of the law school for twenty years.

To be frank, he is one of those famous Masons whose public life sounds admirable, but whose opinions contain ideas that make me cringe, and I’ll leave it to you to investigate that. Regardless, also in 1915, Pound published a book titled Lectures on the Philosophy of Freemasonry in which he upholds four titans of Masonic theory and explains their enormous importance to our Craft. I say this book is essential reading.

William Preston is the first of the quartet he biographized and defined in historical context. It is a succinct Masonic life story that can save you the time needed to peruse any number of research papers printed in old editions of AQC. And I leave that to you as well.

Pound explains how Preston was a man of his times. Call it the Enlightenment or the Age of Discovery or the Age of Reason or what have you, but Preston’s era was characterized by all kinds of pursuits of empirical evidence, from scientific understanding of anatomy to exploration of the planet to understanding the heavens. What had been accepted as knowledge during the Renaissance no longer sufficed; the time for peering into the past had ended.

“That the eighteenth century was the era of purely intellectualist philosophy, naturally determined Preston’s philosophy of Masonry,” writes Pound. “At that time, reason was the central idea of all philosophical thought. Knowledge was regarded as the universal solvent. Hence, when Preston found in his old lectures that among other things Masonry was a body of knowledge, and discovered in the Old Charges a history of knowledge and of its transmission from antiquity, it was inevitable that he make knowledge the central point of his system.”

If you ever wondered how the pillars in the porch of KST came to be adorned with globes, a detail not found in Scripture and is weirdly anachronistic, it was Bro. Preston who metaphorically climbed up and installed them. “In other words, these globes are not symbolic, they are not designed for moral improvement. They rest upon the pillars, grotesquely out of place, simply and solely to teach the lodge the elements of geography and astronomy,” Pound explains.

It’s an insightful examination of the man and his Masonic legacy, and the remarkable portion is served in the concluding paragraphs when Pound explains that what was good for the late eighteenth century lodge isn’t right for today’s (1915) Masons. “I suspect we do Preston a great injustice in thus preserving the literal terms of the lectures at the expense of their fundamental idea. In his day, they did teach—today they do not.” Roscoe Pound, a proponent of new methodology in his profession, the law, wanted new lectures written to teach Masons in the early twentieth century about their modern age.

Roscoe Pound
“In Preston’s day, there was a general need, from which Preston had suffered, of popular education—of providing the means whereby the common man could acquire knowledge in general. Today there is no less general need of a special kind of knowledge. Society is divided sharply into classes that understand each other none too well and hence are getting wholly out of sympathy,” Pound continues. “What nobler Masonic lecture could there be than one which took up the fundamenta of social science and undertook to spread a sound knowledge of it among all Masons?”

And finally: “Preston of course was wrong—knowledge is not the sole end of Masonry. But in another way Preston was right. Knowledge is one end—at least one proximate end—and it is not the least of those by which human perfection shall be attained. Preston’s mistakes were the mistakes of his century—the mistake of faith in the finality of what was known to that era, and the mistake of regarding correct formal presentation as the one sound method of instruction. But what shall be said of the greater mistake we make today, when we go on reciting his lectures—shorn and abridged till they mean nothing to the hearer—and gravely presenting them as a system of Masonic knowledge? Bear in mind, he thought of them as presenting a general scheme of knowledge, not as a system of purely Masonic information. If we were governed by his spirit, understood the root idea of his philosophy, and had but half his zeal and diligence, surely we could make our lectures, and through them our lodges, a real force in society…. I hate to think that all initiative is gone from our Order and that no new Preston will arise to take up his conception of Knowledge as an end of the fraternity, and present to the Masons of today the knowledge which they ought to possess.”

I can see how preserving remnants of Prestonian lectures in our degrees today fossilizes the fraternity in the amber of the 1700s. (Is that perceived as irrelevance by some who disappear after the Third Degree? Or the First?) But you have to be careful what you wish for.

If you know Roscoe Pound from outside Freemasonry, then you are aware of his thinking in the legal profession and on social issues. This public Pound of 1915 seems to be mostly forgotten today, but he would be at home among, say, the city prosecutors who refuse to prosecute criminals. His call for new lectures—and he stipulates a careful trial process, although I didn’t quote it above—isn’t nonsensical, but I’d worry how that would go. Would understanding the Physical Senses be replaced by today’s wacky gender theory? Could the Arts and Sciences be supplanted by political environmentalism? Might post-colonial revolutionary doctrine convert Solomon into a Phillistine?

I won’t say it can’t be discussed, but you have to be very cautious about reforming Masonic identity.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

‘Ham radio day at DeWint House’

From The Simpsons, of course.

There are subcultures in the Masonic world of which I know next to nothing. Case in point: the ham radio guys.

I’ve heard about them. I’m acquainted with several of them. If I’m not mistaken, there has been some recent talk of establishing an affinity lodge somewhere in this area for amateur radio enthusiasts.

I don’t even turn on my phone, so this activity isn’t for me, but maybe this news is welcome to you. On Saturday, September 24, Freemasons from New York and environs will gather at historic DeWint House in Tappan for a full day of ham radioing.

Set-up starts at 9 a.m. and closing time will be seven at night, with the event running from 10 to 6. But I imagine the point is to talk on the radio, so that entails contacting W2QX on frequency NJ2BS.

The other details are in the image below, if you can make it out.

During childhood, my family had an impressive Citizens Band radio array. Believe it or not, CB radio was quite a craze in the seventies. We had some kind of amplifier that allowed me to speak with a guy in Tennessee one time! Fun for me, but not so much for the neighbors, who heard my every word when they were trying to watch Johnny Carson.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

‘Amity’s time capsule opened’

A Knights Templar ceramic piece was among the artifacts recovered from the time capsule in Ohio’s Zanesville Masonic Temple. (All photos from WHIZ.)

The time capsule rescued from the ruins of the Zanesville Masonic Temple in Ohio, which burned down in January, was opened Saturday.

About sixty Freemasons and friends of the fraternity gathered for a fundraising dinner to benefit Lodge of Amity 5, which lost its home when the registered landmark burned, at which time the perfectly sealed metal box was breached by use of a power saw, local media have reported. Inside were various mementos of U.S. and Masonic coinage, postage stamps, ceramics, and many documents, photos, and ephemera, all practically as pristine as when they were deposited into the box in 1902.

Click here for Zanesville Times Recorder coverage and here for WHIZ photos and video. And here for previous Magpie news.

Monday, August 1, 2022

‘Melville, Moby, and Masonry’


The real genius of Herman Melville is in how he published Moby Dick before Led Zeppelin could release its indulgent instrumental track of the same name. I’m joking of course. Melville didn’t even play drums.

Nor was he a Freemason, as far as can be determined. Nevertheless, Fraternal Review, the periodical of Southern California Research Lodge, devoted its July issue to “Moby Dick and Freemasonry,” assembling six articles to place the early American author into some Masonic context.

Melville was born on this date in 1819 here in New York City. Other than being tasked to read his short story “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” for class decades ago, I am inexperienced in Melville studies; haven’t even read his signature novel, despite owning a copy my whole adult life; and generally am weak in early nineteenth century American literature. (There’s a funny article in The Critic from Saturday on the avoidance of reading the essential books.)

Michael Jarzabek’s “Herman Melville and Freemasonry” is the cover story. He opens with a quotation from a letter Melville posted to Nathaniel Hawthorne:

“…the Problem of the Universe is like Freemason’s mighty secret, so terrible to all children. It turns out, at last, to consist in a triangle, a mallet, and an apron—nothing more!”

The writer proceeds to cite similarities between the world of whaling and the Masonic Order, and points out the existence of our lodges in noted fishing communities. (I visited one such long ago.) In conclusion, Jarzabek says “The Mason trying to find sincere Masonic meaning in Moby Dick is left wanting…”

Next is Adam Pimental’s “Masonic Thoughts on Moby Dick and New Bedford,” in which he connects the novel to the whaling town of New Bedford, Massachusetts. The town and the tale are linked, as the story mentions it. The article, written by the Master of New Bedford’s Star in the East Lodge, gives some local Masonic history that explains elements of the fictional work. (Star in the East will reach its bicentennial year in 2023.) Whales are still in the region. One was spotted today in Boston Harbor.

Patrick Dey, of Nevada Lodge 4 in Colorado, turns in “A Squeeze of the Hand,” in which he delves into the novel’s chapter of the same name. It not only recalls to the Masonic mind certain grips, but this chapter also “perfectly encapsulates” the putting of hands into “the oil of joy, which is not only a blessing, but also holy and divine.”

Baruti KMT-Sisouvong, of Clinton Lodge 15 in Iowa, makes a study of symbolism in the story. A doctoral candidate researching “mystical experiences of Freemasons and Rosicrucians,” he focuses on the tail of the whale, a three-part aspect of the mammal’s anatomy, to suggest there’s a parallel to certain Masonic ideas.

Mark Pearrow, of Norfolk Lodge in Massachusetts, argues there is Masonic metaphor in the brief chapter titled “Cistern and Buckets.” He sees a “rebirth” in part of the plot that may resemble the making of a Mason.

Finally, Bro. Jarzabek returns to close this issue with “Melville’s Semi-Masonic Club,” a few paragraphs sketching what might have been Melville’s background in the esoteric.

On the back cover of the magazine.

An all around interesting issue of Fraternal Review. Subscribe here.