Monday, February 27, 2023

‘Freemasonry in Georgia: Ideals, Imagery, and Impact’

The University of Georgia’s Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library offers a Masonic exhibit through July. From the publicity:

Freemasonry was a new social organization when it emerged around 1720 in England with the founding of its authoritative body, Grand Lodge. Initially it was a secret society for men of varied backgrounds who met in lodges to improve themselves through enlightened practices of fraternity, liberty, tolerance, and benevolence. Rich in humanist learning and visual traditions, the fraternity evolved and spread across the globe thanks to British imperialism and new orders and rites that included women and people of color. Nowhere did it enjoy more respectability than in the United States. Never entirely secret, Freemasonry contributed in visible ways to American culture and values, and its particular terminology entered everyday speech.

This exhibition explores the ideals, imagery, and impact of Freemasonry in Georgia. The physical materials displayed demonstrate the ambitions and tensions that existed within Freemasonry. Organized in three sections that parallel the masonic symbol of the three columns of Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, these materials are interpreted in their Masonic significance as well as from a modern, critical perspective.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

‘Illustrations of William Preston’

The brethren in lodge assembled last Sunday.

New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education reached a milestone last Sunday when our members gathered in the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia for our first Emergent Communication held outside New Jersey.

LORE, as it has become known, was opened in due and ancient form inside the South Lodge Room, home of Alexandria-Washington Lodge 22, with thirty-two brethren present, hailing from jurisdictions around the United States, including Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. In addition, Bro. Robert L.D. Cooper of Scotland and Bro. David Chichinadze of the Republic of Georgia were present too.

GWMNM photo
Symbolic replica of the cornerstone.
In fact, hundreds of Masons were in Alexandria that week to join the centenary celebration of the Memorial’s cornerstone-laying ceremony, which was re-enacted the following day. Related activities included the annual meeting of the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons of North America and the City of Alexandria’s George Washington Birthday Parade, which terminated at the Memorial this time.

Two presentations were heard that afternoon from our own Bro. Howard Kanowitz and from a very special guest speaker.

Bro. Kanowitz reprised his poem “Redemption at Gettysburg,” which he delivered for the first time at LORE’s inaugural Stated Communication. (Look for it in the pages of our first book of transactions.) The six-part epic tells of Freemasonry’s civilizing influence extending even into the horrors of combat during the Civil War.

The headliner was Bro. Shawn Eyer, a native of Academia Lodge 847 in California who has been in residence at the Memorial, serving as Director of Education. He also is Editor of The Philalethes, the quarterly periodical of the Philalethes Society, the independent historical and literary society, itself reaching its 95th anniversary this year. Bro. Eyer presented a research work titled “Holy Symbols, Infinite Wisdom: Freemasonry’s Mystical Ground Plan in Prestonian Thought.”

Worshipful Master Craig thanks Shawn
for the valuable Masonic research and education.

William Preston was the author of Illustrations of Masonry. First published in 1772, and reprinted numerous times in the ensuing years, Illustrations is widely thought to be the source material for much of the ritual we today use in our lodges, but he has not been celebrated universally. Nineteenth century writers, like Albert Mackey and Albert Pike, derided Preston, Eyer explained, alleging his ideas on Masonic rituals and symbols lacked any sophistication, particularly anything that could nourish a spiritual appetite. Eyer vindicated Preston’s writings by bringing to light texts that are supplemental to Illustrations.
Illustrations does not mean only pictures.

The long-forgotten writings, called the “Syllabus,” provide what Mackey and Pike most desired, as well as the thesis for Eyer’s eye-opening discussion that day. Suffice to say there was more to Preston’s thinking than architecture and physical senses.

Two Georgia Masons:
Danny from the state and David from the country.

LORE’s rental agreement for the room stipulated a limited time, so it was necessary for GLNJ’s Senior Grand Warden to close the lodge in ample form before the brethren exited into the hallways for chats and selfies. The LORE contingent divided into separate dinner parties headed for several restaurants in the area, with all the brethren doubtlessly feeling fraternally satiated by our meeting.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

‘An opportunity for enlightenment’

New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786 now meets in the home of Union Lodge 19 in North Brunswick. 

Just a quick Happy Anniversary greeting to my first research lodge. On this date in 2002, New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786 was constituted at the Trenton Masonic Temple by grand lodge officers led by MW David A. Chase.

“This was placed high on my objectives as Grand Master,” said Chase to the grand lodge during its annual communication in Atlantic City on April 24. “This lodge is intended to be a means of educating ourselves through research in Masonic history, with an emphasis on New Jersey. I encourage the brethren of New Jersey to look for meeting notices, [and] attend and participate. Consider this an opportunity for enlightenment.”

It hasn’t exactly become the most popular activity in the jurisdiction. Research lodges everywhere, as best as I can determine, are obscure. The Freemasons who enjoy reading and writing about Freemasonry comprise probably the tiniest of Masonic minorities. And that is nothing new. Mackey and Pike wrote despairingly a century and a half ago of the problematic dearth of curiosity about Freemasonry among Freemasons. I’ve been pretty outspoken about this myself because I never could understand how men can put years of their lives into this fraternity without ever feeling any appetite for learning about its endlessly intriguing history, or about what it all means.

Okay, not everyone will author a book (I won’t), but how about wanting to know the stories of this fascinating and busy institution?

“LORE,” as this lodge came to be nicknamed, does its best. Only a handful attempt the labors, and that “emphasis on New Jersey” hardly ever is emphasized, but to our credit, we have maintained a quarterly meeting schedule, minus the pandemic months, for twenty-one years, always with something worth hearing.

We’ll do it again March 11 at 10 a.m. in Freemasons Hall in North Brunswick. And we just enjoyed a fantastic meeting Sunday in the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, which I’ll tell you about in the next edition of The Magpie Mason.

Monday, February 20, 2023

‘Bro. Richard Belzer, 1944-2023’

Richard Belzer also is credited with books of fiction, like this novel, and non-fiction, such as various investigations into ‘conspiracy theories.’

He lived in France, so it’s not as though we saw him in lodge, but he still was a Brother Mason. Richard Belzer died yesterday at age 78.

We have a number of actors in Publicity 1000, but The Belz was the famous one. That popularity derives from his portrayal of NYPD Detective John Munch, first in the cast of Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-96); then Law & Order (1996-2000); and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999-2016). And he parlayed that same role into appearances on diverse productions, from The Wire to 30 Rock.

To me, he’s still a counterculture comedian from the ’70s, cracking me up in The Groove Tube and various National Lampoon enterprises.

I would have loved to have asked him what brought him to the Inner Door and what it all meant to him. R.I.P.

‘Publicity’s Presidents’ Day message’


Well, this isn’t actually a Presidents’ Day message. The following is a message from the Master of my lodge to the brethren of Publicity 1000 in our February trestleboard, but it’s Presidents’ Day and George Washington’s birthday, and I’m in Virginia enjoying the Washington Masonic Memorial centenary festivities, so I’m sharing this.

As America marks the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln this month, we Free and Accepted Masons ought to celebrate these two giants on whose shoulders we still stand, so many years after they made so much history. I don’t know if there are better exemplars of the type of mature masculinity that our gentle Craft inculcates in its brethren.

You know about Washington the Freemason, the general, the president, the “Father of our Country.” Here I just want to share a little about Washington the boy. Not the cherry tree myth, but the real story of how he adopted a code of adulthood as his own. A book published in France in the seventeenth century contained a detailed list of virtues to educate boys. It was translated into English, and it was so popular that it remained available a century later, when the teenaged Washington received it in Virginia. He took it to heart and he transcribed this list of 110 maxims into his school book. We know it today as “George Washington’s Rules of Civility.”

Some examples:

No. 39  In writing and speaking, give to every person his due title according to his degree and the custom of the place.
No. 56  Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.
No. 109  Let your recreations be manful, not sinful.

Click here for a free copy from the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.

It all prescribes the dignified and moral conduct expected of a gentlemen of those days. Lincoln was born a decade after Washington’s death, and born into a far more humble environment than Washington, but he too is renowned today for the same unimpeachable manly character. Did you know he once fought a duel, with swords, intended as a fight to the death?

In 1842, he rebuked a public official in the wake of a government scandal. The public official challenged Lincoln to the duel. For weapons, Lincoln chose large cavalry broadswords instead of firearms, knowing he was much taller than his opponent and enjoyed a longer reach. Before anyone could be hurt, Lincoln used his weapon to hack off a tree branch, demonstrating his advantages over the other duelist. The two wisely agreed to a truce.

Years later, during the Civil War, Lincoln was president and his former adversary was a U.S. brigadier general who won an important battle and was wounded in the action. Lincoln nominated him for promotion to major general. Lincoln never was a Mason. Supposedly, he had an interest in the Craft, but the Anti-Masonic hysteria of the 1820s and ’30s dissuaded him. Washington, as you know, was initiated into the local lodge even before he turned twenty-one.

Examples of outstanding integrity from Washington’s and Lincoln’s lives are numerous because of their virtuous characters, and their public lives obviously reveal the inner men. As Freemasons, it is our challenge to labor in self-improvement and we would be wise to emulate these leaders by incorporating their qualities into our own lives. Our world needs masculine energy, and in the spirit of masculine self-development, I encourage each of you to take time this month to reflect on Freemasonry’s Four Cardinal Virtues for your own personal growth. And consider ways to incorporate other Masonic teachings in your improvement as a husband or father or friend or neighbor. Identify personal areas where you want to grow; create plans to achieve realistic goals; and budget time to work toward success.

Remember, true self-improvement is an ongoing process, so make sure to evaluate progress and adjust plans as needed. Let us also remember the principles of Freemasonry, such as Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth, and strive to live by them daily. Freemasonry is more than a fraternity; it is a philosophy for living. Simply upholding our principles places us far ahead of other men on the path to becoming better men and citizens—to being good and true.

As always, I am honored to serve as your Worshipful Master, and am grateful for the dedication and commitment of each and every member of Publicity Lodge. I am proud to be a part of this fraternity and to be associated with such a great group of men. Thank you for your continued support and for being a part of our great brotherhood.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

‘Hudson Valley Masonicon'


Not much is known thus far, but save Saturday, April 8 for the Hudson Valley Masonicon (that’s how they’re spelling it), to be hosted by (but not at) Wallkill Lodge 627.

This will be at Hoffman Lodge 412 in Middletown, starting at 10 a.m. Register here. Tickets are priced at a mere $10 each through Sunday, March 12, at which time they will spike a crazy 50 percent to $15!

Angel Millar is the only speaker announced at this time, and I certainly will provide more information as it becomes available.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

‘Monday’s parade info’

Bullwinkle Studios/Jay Ward Productions

The Order of March of Alexandria’s George Washington Birthday Parade has been posted—and my group is in the rear.

Looks like we’re ahead of a certain NYC lodge.

New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786, that is. That’s okay. Somehow we’re way ahead of A-W 22, so go figure. Desperately, I tried to court the organizers with a certain picture of Washington—if you catch my meaning—but to no avail. Grand Marshal is George Seghers, by the way.

This will be great. The Grand Architect is taking care of the weather: sunny and 61 degrees forecast. (For the record, I am all for climate change!) There is a new parade route this year, from what I understand.

Normally I’m not a fan of Masons in parades for some reason, but this is very different. There will be hundreds of the brethren, in our regalia, in procession, like it’s 1923 or something. The line-up includes 30 grand lodges, 33 lodges, and other Masonic groups and individuals and “Masonic overflow.” (The Bulgarian grand lodge isn’t even recognized yet. They will make their case before the grand masters conference on Sunday.)

Later in the afternoon, we’ll assemble outside the George Washington Masonic National Memorial to celebrate its centenary cornerstone re-dedication ceremony.

And, hey, if you’re going to be there the day before—on Sunday—please bring your apron to our research lodge’s meeting at 4:30 in the Memorial. Shawn Eyer will be our speaker. (What else are you doing at 4:30 on a Sunday?)

Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

‘MRF in Tucson next month’

The sugar skull is a key
symbol of Tucson.
The Masonic Restoration Foundation will meet in Tucson, Arizona for its twelfth symposium next month, and registration is open now. (It usually is done in August, but I’ll guess Arizona is no place to be in August.)

I have attended a few of these, and I cannot urge you strongly enough to go. You will cherish the experience as one of your greatest Masonic memories. That’s Friday, March 31 through Sunday, April 2.

The talent awaiting you at the lectern in the Scottish Rite cathedral is unprecedented. Joining the familiar faces (Hammer, Craddock, Bizzack, Allen, et al.) will be new speakers voicing their views and experiences in the Observant Masonry movement. The keynote will be MW David Cameron, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario (where there are three Observant lodges). Click here to be amazed at the roster of diverse presenters on the schedule.

UPDATE: From the Faceypage, February 24.

The weekend offers more. The Harmony on Friday night will leave your face flushed from the pleasure of true Masonic feast and fellowship.

Tickets are available for the complete event, and for the individual days. This is a blazing highlight on the Masonic calendar in America.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

‘Firefighters may reconsider relationship with Freemasons’

London Fire Brigade
This photo from March 2020 depicts Metropolitan Grand Master Michael Snyder presenting the first of the trucks to Fire Commissioner Andy Roe.

Several years after accepting a £2.5 million gift from London Freemasons, which was disbursed to acquire two aerial ladder fire trucks, the city’s Fire Brigade is second-guessing its association with the Masons, The Guardian reported Friday.

Last year, an investigation of complaints from firefighters produced a report, titled “Independent Cultural Review of London Fire Brigade,” that labeled the fire service “institutionally misogynist and racist.” What has that to do with Masonic philanthropy? The aggrieved also found time to object to Freemasonry because it is a “secret society” without female members.

The Guardian quotes firefighters labor union boss Gareth Beeton saying “The union’s women’s action committee is backing this. The fire service is a public sector organization, and it should not be funded by organizations like this one.” And an unnamed Fire Brigade source supposedly said they are “considering our options for this relationship now.”

At more than 200 feet, these trucks’ ladders are the tallest in the Brigade’s fleet (furnish your own William Preston joke), and they feature yellow Square and Compasses with “Donated by London Freemasons” in white against the red background.

In recent years, Freemasons there also have donated helicopters and boats to public safety uses. Maybe it is thought in some quarters that not having these assets is preferable.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

‘Possible Influence of Plato’s Works in Masonic Ritual’

Maryland Masonic Research Society will do it again next month. From the publicity:

Possible Influence of Plato’s Works
in Masonic Ritual

Edward D. Johnson, 32º, is Past Master of Pentalpha Lodge 194 in Germantown, Maryland and Past President of the Maryland Masonic Research Society. He also is a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Washington, Orient of District of Columbia; and the Maryland College of SRICF. He actively pursues and stays abreast of the latest in Masonic scholarship through his memberships in Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle, Scottish Rite Research Society, the Philalethes Society, and the Masonic Society. He has been published in the SRRS’ Heredom and The Plumbline on multiple occasions.

This meeting will be March 18 at the Odd Fellows Lodge, located at 6 Ingleside Ave. in Catonsville.

I’d love to hear this, but the meeting is too far away. I believe Plato does influence Masonic ritual somewhat, but I think his influence is felt almost everywhere, so don’t listen to me.

Friday, February 10, 2023

‘Masonic relief for Türkiye’

Grand Lodge is fundraising to assist earthquake recovery work in Türkiye.

Either click here to contribute, and mark it for Disaster Relief and Türkiye; or, if mailing a check, make payable to Masonic Brotherhood Fund and add “Türkiye” in the memo.

The Grand Lodge of Türkiye, headquartered in Istanbul, is in amity with the Grand Lodge of New York.


Wednesday, February 8, 2023

‘A square is the fourth part of a circle’

“I can’t quite understand why we call it ‘Square.’ Maybe we should rename it ‘Madison Round Garden.’”
Eric L. Adams
110th Mayor of New York City
February 7, 2023

New York Post
The fourth and current Madison Square Garden under construction. Saturday is the fifty-fifth anniversary of its opening.

Hizzoner’s comment yesterday about MSG is real, sadly. It sounds like something out of a Seinfeld script, but the chief executive of our city, allegedly a lifelong resident too, is unaware of the World’s Most Famous Arena’s commonly known history. For those not from the area, the original MSG (circa 1880) was situated at Madison Square Park, itself a block from Masonic Hall. The second one was there too until about a hundred years ago. The current venue is the fourth landmark to have the name, despite its location about a mile from the park.

Anyway, his remark reminds me of the obvious line from the Fellow Craft Degree.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

‘Masonic philatelists will meet again’

The first post-pandemic meeting of the George Washington Masonic Stamp Club is scheduled for three weeks from today at the Washington Masonic Memorial in Virginia.

That’s Sunday, February 26. Meeting at 2 p.m., but the brethren gather to socialize at 1:30. If there be anyone in waiting to receive the Master of Philately Degree, it will be conferred. (Contact Secretary John Allen here if you expect to receive the degree.) By 4:30, everyone will head to Theismann’s Restaurant and Bar, near the train station, for a no-host meal.

I wonder if changing up the day’s agenda might spark things for the club. You’d think the proximity to Washington might inspire them to host speakers from the Postal Service or the Postal Museum or a historian or something.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

‘Knapp-Hall tarot returns!’


It is time for a follow-up to last October’s post about the purported return of the Knapp-Hall tarot deck from the Philosophical Research Society. The PRS now advises there is a delay in shipping, but the decks are available. This is a limited run of 1,500 in a design consistent with the original 1929 printing. Price: $100. From the publicity:


The Revised New Art Tarot aka the “Knapp-Hall Tarot” was originally published in 1929, a collaboration between illustrator & artist John Augustus Knapp (1853-1938) and writer, sage & teacher Manly P. Hall (1901-1990). It was released the year after Hall’s monumental encyclopedia of esoteric traditions and symbols, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, illustrated by Knapp, and over the years this exceedingly rare and beautiful Tarot has come to be known as the Knapp-Hall deck–with original examples selling for thousands of dollars, when they can be found.

It initially was issued with 78 cards, a two-piece, plum fabric-covered box, and a 48-page booklet containing “An Essay on the Book of Thoth” written by Hall. The Knapp-Hall Tarot Deck has been re-printed several times over the years but always with different dimensions and new designs for the reverse of the cards. For this Limited Edition of 1,500, we have replicated the graphics, texture, feel and dimensions of the original 1929 Revised New Art Tarot as closely as possible given modern printing methods. Card images were taken from scans of an original 1929 deck with only minimal corrections for wear and tear. The sepia tone of the card stock, due to aging, has been preserved to reflect what a 1929 deck would look like today.

Please note that this beautiful Tarot is smaller and more delicate than most modern decks, so treat it with care in handling. Any imperfections in the cards (for example, the Knight/Warrior of Pentacles has a smaller border than the other cards) are present in the original 1929 deck scanned for this edition.

Friday, February 3, 2023

‘Skeletons in the Lodge Hall’

Click to enlarge.

If you think I know where Freemasonry’s skeletons are buried, wait until you hear from Heather! The perfect choice for the Sankey Lecture, Heather Calloway is the Executive Director of Indiana University’s Center for Fraternal Collections and Research.

She’s got a million stories. Attend the lecture in person or online. Don’t cost nothin’.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

‘New short film from UGLE’


It strikes me as unusual when a Masonic grand lodge displays continuity in thought, word, and deed, but in this instance it’s the United Grand Lodge of England, which employs paid professionals who support the fraternity leadership, so there is that asterisk. I refer to “Inventing the Future,” the current messaging heralding this year’s commemoration of the 300th anniversary of Anderson’s Constitutions.

I have relayed the news of Quatuor Coronati 2076’s events in celebration of the tercentenary. (Forget about the Virginia conference. Mark said it is not to be.) An exhibition in the Museum of Freemasonry is open through the end of the year. I told you about the historical reproduction of the text from Lewis Masonic. Ric Berman’s book, Inventing the Future, is out. Yesterday was a rare Especial Meeting of the Grand Lodge, attended by 1600 visiting brethren, in London. And I learned last night of a newly released short video and a podcast upcoming, both devoted to “Inventing the Future.”

The Surrey 1837 Club
Yesterday inside Freemasons’ Hall, London.

I am beginning to discern a pattern.

This short film, produced by Matthew Mitchell, is a treat. This facet of “Inventing the Future” is a 29-minute speculation, leavened with humorous dialogue, into how the Constitutions were conceived and written, plus how the Duke of Montagu came to be the first noble Grand Master of the flourishing Grand Lodge of England. To wit:

The new podcast is still to come, and I certainly will link to it when it debuts, but it will be apart from the also new Craftcast, the UGLE’s official podcast.