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.

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 plough’


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 a local Grotto 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. 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.