"To preserve the reputation of the fraternity unsullied must be your constant care..."

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Repaying a Very Old Debt

Alice's brother Bobby passed away in Texas in November just before Thanksgiving Day, and we were finally able to settle his estate a couple of weeks ago. It was a complete shock to us, but he and his wife Karen who preceded him in death in August lived a somewhat hermit-like life in recent years. They both died without a will, and so we had to deal with probate court and other messes via long distance before we were able to do anything with his property. 

We had to drive back to Texas a few weeks ago once we were at last permitted by the court to dispose of their belongings. It's a gruesome task for anyone to pick though literally everything in someone else's home. Clearing out their house, we had to separate all of the collected clutter and detritus of everyday life from the things that meant something, and bring home all of their important papers and anything of sentimental value. Buried in the piles I discovered the funeral guestbook from the service from Bobby and Alice's father, Robert L. Funcannon, Sr. back in 1998 in Garland, Texas. I hadn't seen it before. It was at that service that Bobby, Alice, and I witnessed the first Masonic funeral service any of us had ever seen. Those ten Masons, their ceremony, and their kindness to us all influenced both Bobby and I to become Freemasons ourselves. 

I have recounted the story of that day probably hundreds of times all over the country and the world for the last 18 years, and in Freemasons For Dummies as well. Of how I called every Dallas area lodge on a Sunday night before the Monday funeral to ask if anyone could perform a service; how a lodge Secretary working late that night said he'd do what he could to help; how ten Masons showed up the next day who didn't know Robert but nevertheless put on a service far more moving than anything the rented minister said who kept mispronouncing his name; and how on the flight home the next day I told Alice I had to become one of them. Until this evening, I had never known just who those Brethren were all those years ago. But now I do.

So, I am proud and honored to finally properly thank in public the Brethren of James Ladd Burgess Lodge No. 1305 in Dallas, Texas, and Past Master Guadalupe Moreno of Duck Creek Lodge No. 1419 in Garland. Sadly, it appears from my Internet search that WB Moreno himself passed away in 2005, just before my book was published, so he had no way of knowing the lives he and his Brethren touched that day, and how many other men the story of that brief event might go on to influence to knock on a lodge door somewhere in the world. 

As Masons, we may never know the lives we touch in countless ways we may never give a second thought to. But that's why we all need to make sure we answer every phone call, every email, every question from a curious elevator companion or stranger at the next gas pump who asks about our jacket emblem or ring or Masonic license plate. 

I have up at the top of this blog one of the first admonitions each of us receives: "To preserve the reputation of the fraternity unsullied must be your constant care..." That's our job - yours and mine - every day. And those Texas Brethren certainly went above and beyond to do that for our little family 17 years ago. 

Thank you, my Brothers. You changed my life. I hope that, in some small way since then, I have honorably paid forward that debt I have owed each of you for a long time.

Scottish Rite Research Society Announces Writing Contest

My apologies to all for being a bit late in spotting this, as our entire household was unavoidably detained earlier this month. The Scottish Rite Research Society is celebrating its 25th year and has announced a very special and noteworthy competition for Masonic scholars. They are holding a contest to reward the best articles to be published in their special 25th anniversary volume of Heredom, their annual collection of papers. 

Prizes, you ask? They are offering cold hard cash for your original work. Yes, really.

1st place: $10002nd place: $5003rd place: $250

The rules are brief and simple:

(1) Articles must written by members of the Scottish Rite Research Society.(2) Articles must written by a single author. No co-authored articles are eligible.(3) Articles must be original to Heredom. No reprints are eligible.(4) Authors release publishing rights of their articles to the SRRS.

If have a manuscript that you would like considered, contact editor S. Brent Morris at bmorris@scottishrite.org

(NOTE: So far, I have been unable to find a mention anywhere of the deadline. Once I do, I will update this posting.)

Membership in the SRRS is $55, and you need not be a Scottish Rite Mason (or a Mason at all) to join. SEE HERE for information.

H/T Arturo de Hoyos/Facebook

The Changing U.S. Demographics of Young Adulthood

Those of us with even a passing interest in the next cohort of potential Freemasons knocking on our doors should take a look at the results of the most recent U.S. Census, and especially one particular summary report issued this month about it by the Census Bureau:

The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975–2016


The report specifically examines changes in social, economic and demographic trends among young American adults between 18 and 34 (commonly branded as 'Millennials') over the last 40 years. It tracked four "common milestones of adulthood:" getting married, having children, getting a job, and living on one's own. The percentage of Americans achieving all four of those "adult milestones" by age 34 went from 45% in 1975 down to just 24% in 2016.

Here are a few takeaways:

  1. Most of today’s Americans believe that educational and economic accomplishments are extremely important milestones of adulthood. In contrast, marriage and parenthood rank low: over half of Americans believe that marrying and having children are not very important in order to become an adult. 
  2. Young people are delaying marriage, but most still eventually tie the knot. In the 1970s, 8 in 10 people married by the time they turned 30. Today, not until the age of 45 have 8 in 10 people married. 
  3. More young people today live in their parents’ home than in any other arrangement: 1 in 3 young people, or about 24 million 18- to 34-year-olds, lived in their parents’ home in 2015. 
  4. In 2005, the majority of young adults lived independently in their own household, which was the predominant living arrange- ment in 35 states. A decade later, by 2015, the number of states where the majority of young people lived indepen- dently fell to just six. 
  5. More young men are falling to the bottom of the income ladder. In 1975, only 25 percent of men, aged 25 to 34, had incomes of less than $30,000 per year. By 2016, that share rose to 41 per- cent of young men. (Incomes for both years are in 2015 dollars.) 
  6. Between 1975 and 2016, the share of young women who were homemakers fell from 43 percent to 14 percent of all women aged 25 to 34. 
  7. Of young people living in their parents’ home, 1 in 4 are idle, that is they neither go to school nor work. This figure represents about 2.2 million 25- to 34-year-olds. 
Of course, generalizations are always imprecise measurements, especially with something as nebulous as a generation's perceived "attitude." But when we as a fraternity have our tin can of institutional destiny tied to the tail of the next generation or two immediately following us, we need to at least keep an eye on these kinds of major shifts that affect our own present and future membership. Despite all of our solemn cant about making no innovations, Freemasonry has always adapted to suit and serve the society in which it resides. It is a constant evolutionary process, and those who fail to evolve will find themselves reaping the whirlwind.

The current U.S. population today is 324,911,917. The latest available figures on regular, recognized U.S. Masonic membership from the Masonic Service Association are for 2015: 1,161,253. That is just 0.36% of Americans who are currently Freemasons – which makes us either very elite or very precarious, depending on your point of view. (Just by way of comparison, the worldwide estimate of Freemasons currently being floated by the press in its coverage of the United Grand Lodge of England's 300th anniversary is 6 million. Since everybody's best guess in 2005 was around 3 million, one wonders who's doing the counting, and just how they calculated that.)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Robin Hood and the Masons


Between 1955 and 1959, England's ATV channel featured a 30 minute television drama, The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Richard Greene as the famed Robin of Locksley, the outlaw with a heart o' gold. Each week, Robin and his band of Merry Men would do battle in and around Sherwood Forest with the evil Sheriff of Nottingham and keep England safe for the eventual return of Richard the Lionheart (who was off on Crusade, or swanning about in France, or getting his royal keister tossed in an Austrian jail and ransomed). The show was quite popular, eventually generating 143 episodes, and it was exported to air in the U.S. market on CBS. 

The famous story takes place in the late 1100s, which makes the video above all the more interesting as a cultural artifact. It is an excerpt of the Season 3 episode, The Mark, and opens with a small gathering of Masons. An Apprentice explains the Operative Masons to Robin, and then an older Brother (Walter) wanders over and casually offers to make him a Speculative Mason, with a very abbreviated bit of business that should seem a bit familiar.

I haven't found any references anywhere that Richard Greene was a Mason himself - it would have been a nice touch if he had been. 

One unrelated but interesting trivia highlight: several writers on the British show were some heavy-hitting American scriveners like Ring Lardner and Howard Koch who had been blacklisted during the HUAC hearings. In fact, Koch served as the script editor for the series. They all worked under pen names.

(This video was posted originally on the Masonic Studies MS Facebook page from which it is shamelessly cribbed, for which I thank the page's owner.)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Alexandria-Washington Lodge 22 Charter Yanked



Word is trickling out this morning that Virginia's famed Alexandria-Washington Lodge 22, located in the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, had its warrant arrested last night - April 13th. It seems that Grand Master Vernon S. Cook and several members of the Grand Officers' line arrived and seized their charter.

I have heard more information as to why, but it being a matter specifically of lodge business, I hesitate to post it. However, as one observer quipped to me, it's "like sucker punching a FBI agent. The whole bureau will come after you hard." This seems to be more of a private squabble between the Grand Lodge of Virginia and the lodge, and not a particularly tyrannical move. More like an administrative punch in the nose for a what looked like a deliberate slight.


More if anything escalates. In the meantime, if you're planning on visiting the lodge for a meeting in an upcoming trip to the DC area, you might check with them before getting all dressed up...





UPDATE 1:35 PM:

I was misinformed and have edited the above story to clarify that WB Andrew Hammer did NOT have any charges preferred against him. The lodge charter has been arrested, period. I sincerely apologize for the error to all parties involved.

BTW, all Virginia members are duly admonished to be aware of, and fully comply with, the Grand Lodge of Virginia's extraordinarily restrictive rules regarding online communications. Obviously some committee there had way too much time on their hands, and this tome was the result. Take notice and govern yourselves accordingly.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Brother Don Rickles - RIP


Another of my boyhood icons has passed to the Celestial Lodge, which is one of the saddest and most unstoppable side effects of aging, I'm afraid. Nevertheless, it's always a pleasant discovery when one of them turns out to have been a Freemason. 

Brother Donald Jay Rickles passed away today at the age of 90. He died in his Los Angeles home of kidney failure. He is survived by Barbara, his loving wife of 52 years.

Brother Rickles was raised on June 6, 1953 and remained a member of what is today Service City Geba Lodge 1009, which meets in the Anchor Astoria Temple on 30th Avenue in Astoria, New York (the lodge has been through several consolidations, and I haven't been able to find out which of them was his original one). My understanding is that he hadn't attended his Mother Lodge for almost three decades, but still faithfully mailed in his dues check each year.

To mark his passing, I include a Youtube link above to his 1968 album, "Hello,  Dummy," which I feel is only appropriate for my site. For those who live their lives in a perennial state of indignance and offense, I suspect his brand of comedy will be positively horrific in this day and age. That's too bad, because he packed audiences full of folks of every race, creed, ethnicity, and persuasion who were only too delighted to be on the receiving end of his "insults" for over half a century. He spared no one, and by doing so, made us all laugh at each other and ourselves as a result. Meanwhile, offstage, he was known as one of the kindest and most generous people in show business. Not a bad legacy, that.

His column is broken and his brethren mourn.

UPDATE 4/14/17:

Brother Bil Vassily in New York got curious about Brother Don's original lodge, and passed along the following bit of detective work:
Doing some research I find the following.
Don Rickles was born and brought up in Jackson Heights, Queens.Geba Lodge #954 was located in Elmhurst which is just north of Jackson Heights.
I lived in Rego Park during the early 60s that was just south of both.
Service Lodge #1009 was located in Flushing, Queens which was quite a distance east of that area of Queens.
Going by a Grand Lodge Proceedings dated 1954 lists the two lodges as separate. Geba #954 and Service #1009.
My bet is on Geba #954.
Bil was ultimately correct: their Secretary confirmed it was indeed Geba Lodge 954.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Who Sez Illuminati Freemasons Can't Be Arrested?

I guess we evil Illuminati Masons should keep the number for our bail bondsmen handy after all.

We've been on the road for the last ten days or so and still aren't home yet, so I'm a little behind on things. But this one came up on my alerts a couple of days ago out of Sebastian, Florida. I was hoping my Masonic license plate would keep me out of the pokey as we drove across the country, but now I'm not so sure.


The Indian River County Sheriff’s Office received a call in Sebastian about a male and female subject lying under a blanket in the grass near the complainant’s home.
As the deputy arrived, he walked to the area to perform a welfare check.

The female was later identified as 37-year-old Kristen Morrow, and the male was identified as 25-year-old George Major Davis.
Morrow came out from under the blanket and started yelling.
“I am part of the Illuminati and free masons. You have no authority and I don’t have to leave,” Morrow said, according to the report.
The deputy was fifty feet away when Morrow started yelling these things. As he approached further, a male subject appeared from under the blanket.
Morrow continued to “yell at the top of her lungs even as I stood a few feet from her,” the report said.
“She continued to yell and rant that she was a famous music talent and she knew judges and her family would have my job,” the deputy said in the report.
Then Davis began to yell why he was being detained. The deputy advised that he was there to perform a welfare check and that there was no reason to yell.
“He continued to yell along with the female about free masons and their impending music record deal and the celebrities, judges, and power their family had,” according to the report.
As they continued to yell, several occupants from the nearby apartment units had come out because of the noise. The deputy determined the disruption by the two subjects was affecting the peace and quiet of the residents.
Morrow and Davis were arrested and transported to the Indian River County Jail where they were charged with disorderly conduct.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Christ's Tomb Restoration Project Completed - For Now


I'll put my Knights Templar chapeau on for this post.

The long held sacred burial shrine of Christ, the Aedicule within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, has been partially restored over the last year after 200 years of non-stop arguing by the three sets of Catholic denominations (Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic) that control the site. After finally shutting up long enough to begrudgingly permit the €3.3 million project (that included an additional surprising and generous contribution by Jordan's King Abdullah), tourists are once again able to visit this place. It is believed to cover the cave where Jesus was entombed and resurrected. 

Photo showing the old 1947 scaffolding still in place before the 2016 renovation


The curiously distinctive metal scaffolding that surrounded the structure since 1947 when the British welded it in place to "temporarily" stabilize it has finally been removed. So, now the religious authorities can go right back to squabbling with each other again over such vital articles of faith like who has the right to move a ladder once left up against an upper story wall by a workman (the infamous "Immovable Ladder" that hasn't budged since at least 1757, and probably centuries before), and other similarly pressing issues. Even the Ottoman Turks gave up trying to reason with them, and the Roman Catholics' own official Papal policy about the place is literally called the "Status Quo." A rare canonical case of understatement.

But according to this article in National Geographic about the project, the crumbling structural problems underneath the Aedicule have not yet been addressed, and will very soon deteriorate if more work is not undertaken immediately. One wonders if the three denominations will ignore that problem, as they aways have - or just bitch about it, too - until the Israeli authorities again condemn the place and forbid visitors to force their hand, like they had to this time.

It's a testament to Christianity's own sectarian madness (on top of just the Middle East's own special brand of it) to note that the key to lock and unlock the Church's exterior doorway has been entrusted to an Islamic Arab family in Jerusalem for centuries. 


Because the Christians themselves have never gotten along well enough to have custody of the key to Christ's tomb.

Jesus wept.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

French Grand Master Attacked in Paris


Unfortunately, the age-old accusation that Freemasonry is some sort of evil Jewish plot to do...something...still lives on around the world, and flourishes, in particular, in parts of Europe. (I'll just ignore, for the moment, even discussing the Middle East, where it's just taken as fact and is regularly front page news.) In France, anti-semitism is on enough of an increase that an alarming number of French Jews have decided to emigrate to Israel and elsewhere instead of dealing with growing threat levels in their own country. Along with that has come what appears to ge a growth of anti-Masonic sentiment, as well. Case in point:

Several news sources are repeating a story from Paris' La Parisien paper this week that Christophe Habas, Grand Master of the Grand Orient de France, was attacked Wednesday night as he left their Paris headquarters by a woman wielding a hammer. As she struck him, she repeatedly yelled, "Jew!" before fleeing the scene.

From the March 23rd 
La Parisien story (via Bing and my high school French translations):
The grand master of the Grand Orient of France (GODF), Christophe Habas, was assaulted Wednesday, around 11:20 pm, in Paris, by a woman as he came out of the headquarters of the largest French Masonic obedience, on Cadet Street (ninth). The head of the GODF, 51, filed a complaint. An investigation for "voluntary violence" was opened and assigned to the territorial security of Paris, according to a police source.

'A woman armed with a hammer rushed on me', said Christophe Habas, who was able to wrest it with the help of passers-by. The woman then took flight, and the grand master of the GODF, a doctor, survived with a few scratches. 
The woman "made anti-Semitic remarks", according to the victim. "I think it was also anti-Masons", Christophe Habas, who the author's profile "seems to coincide" with a previously reported woman recently trying to write remarks hostile to the Freemasons on the asphalt of Cadet Street. 
According to Christophe Habas, who is also Chief of neuroimaging at the Quinze-Vingts hospital in Paris, she is probably "mentally ill, which, in a paranoid fit, gave free rein to her delirium in anti-masonic, anti-Semitic conspiracism."

The grand master of the GODF (with more than 50,000 brothers and sisters) is concerned about a possible resurgence of anti-masonry "especially at the present time, in an election period, with the social networks that are set on fire by spreading everything and anything."
Non-Masons don't tend to make distinctions between our own internal and arcane demarkations of who's regular and irregular—most especially when they go posting anti-Masonic news site comments, or say, bashing anyone they believe to be a Freemason in the head with blunt objects. All anti-Masons know is that we're all in on whatever bizarre, nefarious plot they believe in. I despise invoking the infantile "everything I hate is Hitler" analogy that is the current vogue these days, but it is nonetheless applicable in this very specific instance. When the Gestapo was rounding up Freemasons in occupied Europe, they didn't go around checking the dues cards to see who was "regular" and who wasn't. Nor did Franco's police, or Mussolini's. The slogan of "All Freemasons Jews, All Jews Freemasons" is an oldie but a goodie in much of the world, even if we don't hear it much over here. 

And it doesn't seem to be losing popularity anytime soon, I'm afraid.

UPDATE 3/26/2017:

Here's the punchline to this story: 

There's a certain tragic irony in my later discovery this afternoon that GM Habas was attacked as he departed a joint meeting and presentation between members of the Grand Orient de France and the Grande Loge Nationale Française on the subject of "Foundations of Violence To the Fraternity." 





Sunday, March 19, 2017

Memento Mori Gas Logs

I haven't the slightest idea why, but I am passing along a link sent to me today by Ed Sebring, just in case anyone out there is in desperate need of a fireproof skull. 

You know, for those sooper-dooper, ultra-secret, "high-ranking-above-even-33°" Satanic Luciferian Masonic ceremonies we're all supposed to be engaging in.

According to the Amazon listing, they are also handy for your "gas fireplace, barbeque, or fire-pit." No mention of creepy Masonic stuff, but then that's just what "we" should be expected to hide from "them." 

Available in white, black, or brown. Pricey at $65 a - er, - head, but I'm sure they'll still sell like hotcakes.

Looking for Help: Malcom Davies Research Paper From 2007

I was contacted this weekend by a researcher in Amsterdam inquiring about the late Malcom Davies. I had the opportunity to meet him in 2007 at the International Conference on the History of Freemasonry in Edinburgh, and he delivered a paper at that event this researcher is trying to obtain a copy of: "The Mystical Muse: Early Masonic Operas, Cantatas and Dramas."  

Unfortunately, he passed away in 2010.

Is there any possible chance that anyone out there ever published Malcom's ICHF paper, or obtained a copy that I might forward to them? Their group, 401 Dutch Operas in the Netherlands, is hoping to perform some airs from a Dutch comic opera entitled, Les noces de Venus ou les filets de Vulcain in a concert at the Théâtre Français in the Hague. Because ICHF in 2007 did not publish the papers delivered at that event, I have been unable to find it, but perhaps someone else knows of a source.

Malcolm was named as the special chair of Freemasonry at the University of Leiden in the Hague in January of 2008. Although born in Crewe in the county of Cheshire, England, he had lived in the Netherlands for 20 years. He was trained as a musicologist, and he studied at Trinity College of Music in London and the University of Southampton, before moving to The Hague's Royal Conservatory of Frans Brüggen. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Utrecht on The Masonic Muse. Songs, Music and Musicians Associated with Dutch Freemasonry: 1730-1806.

In 2008, he organized a two day symposium in The Hague, where seventeen researchers from European and American universities lectured on the theme "The Expression of Freemasonry: Its ritual, oratory, poetry, music, literature, art and architecture." Brother Davies maintained the academic study of Freemasonry had to be very broad based so that we might understand the effects it had on society, as well as how it has adapted to suit the culture and time in which it resides. He argued for the study of a new "historiography" of Masonry: a greater understanding and examination of the political, philosophical, religious and sociological backgrounds of the 18th and 19th century Masons.

If you can help, please contact me at hodapp@aol.com and I will connect you and this researcher privately. many thanks.

Monday, March 13, 2017

'McMasons'


I came across that damned word last night again in a conversation: McMason. It's a derogatory term used in the fraternity by some to disparage their own Brother Masons who received the degrees of Masonry at a One Day Class event. Variations include One Day Wonders, Blue Lightnings, Fast Food Masons, Sidewalk To Shriners, and other not especially flattering labels. Curious: I never knew we have two classifications of Master Masons in this fraternity. I thought we were just one sacred band, or society of friends and brothers, who could best work or best agree. 

Silly me.

My longtime friend and Brother Nathan Brindle reminded me this morning that we were both passed to Fellow Crafts and raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason 18 years ago today, just one day short of the portentous Ides of March. It was a Saturday all day event, and we were both raised on the floor of Calvin W. Prather Lodge 717, which was then on the north side of Indianapolis. It was their second of three locations throughout their history, and they have since relocated again to the east side in Lawrence. That prior building is gone now - razed and flattened several years ago - so I have nowhere to go and park and tearfully relive the day's events, wrapped in melancholia. (Interestingly, their first home still stands down on College Avenue, long ago sold and converted to a church, but at one time with the largest lodge room in the state.)

It was a curious day. Indiana had only recently started having One Day events, and our Mother Lodge, Broad Ripple Lodge 643 was in dire straits at the time. I joined Broad Ripple via an Internet contact I made to the Grand Lodge, and Roger VanGorden sent me their direction for reasons known only to him. When I petitioned, I mentioned it to Nathan, and he told me that he too had thought of joining the fraternity for many years himself, but never followed through. So, he petitioned about the same time. I've known Nathan only a few months less than Alice - about 40 years now - so we were both happy to share the experience.

I was initiated in November, but Broad Ripple was in sad shape. They would go on to lose five members from the officer's line in the next 12 months, and came close to deciding to just give up and turn in their charter. At my first meeting, David Bosworth, a Prather lodge Past Master, showed up and announced he had been appointed as a Grand Lodge Representative and was sent to find out just what the hell was going on at Broad Ripple. Things were not good at the new lodge I had just joined unwittingly. Indeed, the lodge was unable to confer the remaining degrees on Nathan and me for three months until they finally gave up and sent us to the One Day Class at Prather, simply out of despair.

But God love the dedication of true Brothers. WB Don Seeley was about the only serious ritualist we had at Ripple, but he was mighty good at it. He was the only member we had who knew the Master's part for all three degrees flawlessly, and delivered them all with passion. He knew Prather didn't have a strong lineup either, and they were holding the Class that Saturday because they were the Mother Lodge of then Grand Master Robert Hancock. He wanted to show the state how these could work. So, Prather had three men who needed all three degrees, and we had Nathan and myself. WB Seeley called them and said he'd cheerfully volunteer do the Master's part for the FC and MM for all five of us candidates. But his condition was that Nathan and I would have our second section of the MM conferred individually, all the way through. Then, he'd do it all over again for the other three men together however GM Hancock stipulated. It would make for a crushingly long, and for many, tedious day. But Nathan and I got to have our individual MM degree experience just as it was meant to be. Which makes us both sort of hybrids - we are sort of One Day Class Masons, but we aren't. There aren't any photographs of that day - I think everybody was just sick and tired of the place when the day's festivities finally ended that they fled out of sheer terror that somebody might decide to fire up the Royal Arch degrees at the last minute.



Nathan and I looked almost identical when we joined, although he was already starting to lose hair up top. He's also gone gray since then, taking on sort of a George R. R. Martin look, while I have retained my boyish floppy mane for almost five decades (apart from that whole radiation and chemo thing). It took a while before local Masons could remember which one of us was Hodapp and which was Brindle. The ladies in the Grand Lodge office eventually gave up in despair and finally just settled on referring to both of us as simply 'Brindap.' That seemed to solve it for most folks.

The lodge elected me in desperation as Senior Warden nine months later and Nathan as Junior Warden. And a month past my second anniversary as an EA, they made me the Worshipful Master of Broad Ripple 643. We didn't close or turn in the charter, and Nathan followed me to the East the next year. With dedication and hard work and stubborn bullheadedness, our Mother Lodge is now one of the most vibrant ones in Indiana, and I'll put our little lodge up against any in the country for excellence in every aspect.

Nathan has gone on to serve as Secretary or Recorder of at least six Masonic organizations that I can think of, including the only Secretary that the Masonic Society has ever had, with a couple of thousand members to keep track of. We both served on the Indianapolis Masonic Temple Board for our downtown landmark building, and have served on numerous Grand Lodge committees. We both were part of the Knights of the North who wrote Laudable Pursuit anonymously in 2004, which has been influential to lodges and grand lodges all over the country (and whose members were principally the founders of the Masonic Society). Ideas in that long paper also helped to impact what has become the Traditional Observance/European Concept/Observant lodge model in the U.S. We were both founding members of Lodge Vitruvian 767, itself a European Concept lodge. Nathan went on to serve as a top officer in the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis, and is now a Trustee for that magnificent Cathedral. And he's done countless other things locally, statewide, and nationally to help and influence the fraternity. Meanwhile, most of you know some of what I went on to do. 

Just a couple of us poor ol' dumb McMasons.

My whole point in relating this long soggy tale of which every one of you has your own variation is that Freemasonry is not about being a memorization club. It's not about the minutiae of how degrees are conferred - it's different all over the world, and just because it's one way where you come from, it's not that way everywhere. Yet, all those men are your Brethren, too. Just as us McMasons in lodge with you. Every single Mason has the power to make a difference in his lodge, his district, his state, his country, and the world, whether he received his degrees a month apart, a year apart, or an hour apart. It's what he does when he walks out of that Temple building that makes the difference. But it's also how you treat him when he sits in lodge with you. An ashlar doesn't polish itself. And the most certain way to make absolutely sure you never see that Brother a second time is to tell him he's some sort of second class Mason simply because his lodge chose to send him to a One Day Class for some reason you may not be privy to.

It's been studied countless times over the last 40 years by grand lodges. The participation rate of traditionally raised Masons over One Day ones is identical. How they got there makes absolutely zero difference. How they are treated by their lodges and their brethren, along with their own personal desire and dedication, is what matters.

Michael Shirley over on the Midnight Mason blogsite recently talked about this concerning those who regard One Day Class participants as somehow deficient, and observed, "They are setting themselves up as arbiters of what a Mason is, as if they themselves are on some Masonic pedestal to which these 'inadequate' Brethren must aspire." If you seriously believe a ODC Mason is somehow deficient of...something...then get off your own ass and teach him, instead of sneering at him for something that was almost assuredly not even his decision in the first place.

Otherwise, the next time you feel some adolescent urge to blurt out 'McMason!' to a man who's your Brother, put a sock in it and maybe think about what you've accomplished for the good of the Order lately, instead. And if he's shoveling harder and faster than you, get to work alongside him. Or at least thank him. At least he's building something. What are you doing?

SRICF High Council Meeting Louisville Nov 10-11, 2017

For those in the Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis, updated hotel information for the Annual High Council Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky November 10-11, 2016 is available on the SRICF website HERE.

The meeting will once again will be held at the beautiful Brown Hotel. Hotel reservations may now be made HERE.



The very extensive Art & Science of Alchemy and Lecture Guide written by Fratre Steven Burkle IX° for his detailed presentation at last year's event is available for $40 to SRICF members on the Products page HERE.  Members must place their orders through their College Secretaries only, as there are no direct sales. I do not believe the book is available to non-members at this time, as there is a limited supply.

I will post new information regarding the program as it is finalized and made available. Alice may join me this year, as Billy assures me he can talk the Brown into letting us bring Wiley this time. 

He claims he "knows somebody..."

Thursday, March 09, 2017

New Netflix Movie: 'Burning Sands'

You may have encountered these for sale online - wooden cricket bat-syle paddles with Masonic symbols, and even Prince Hall markings on them - and wondered why the heck someone would want such a thing. They are common items around college campuses, used in "Greek" fraternities, but certainly not something you should be finding in a Masonic lodge. True Masonic ceremonies are not in any way degrading or could be considered hazing in any way, shape, or form.

Well, an article popped up today and may be a little insight into the source of where and why there is sometimes a tradition of frat-style hazing in (hopefully) illegitimate, self-styled Masonic lodges. Netflix premieres a new film tomorrow about a black college fraternity, called Burning Sands. It portrays an African-American college freshman's rough journey to become a full-fledged member of 'Lambda Lambda Phi' at the fictional Frederick Douglass University.


From the review:
Gerard McMurray's complicated but utterly entertaining drama “Burning Sands,” which will debut on Netflix March 10th centers on the controversial “underground” frat hazing at an all-black college. That’s just the jumping off point.

At first glance one might ask “where is the African-American unity” but just like real life, you have to peer deeper and decide to listen and to hear the words being uttered by the central characters. Through this prism of the societal construct called fraternity, we see our history reflected in shattered shards.
The story opens as aspiring inductees are entering the dreaded Hell Week and being put through their paces by their future big brothers on the low-down since their fraternity has been banned due to hazing infractions in the recent past.

The screenplay by first-time screenwriters Christine Berg and director Gerard McMurray has a fearless, honest tone and does not flinch in demonstrating just how brutal some of the big brothers are in constantly roughing up the pledgees. Beating after beating, one young man is kicked off the line, leaving five aspirants to ponder their place in the fraternity and question brotherhood on a wider canvas. All this, mind you, while they struggle to maintain academic demands and their personal lives. (MORE HERE)
Almost makes me want to reactivate my Netflix account just to see how it's handled.

While no regular Masonic ritual is even remotely analogous to the kind of underground hazing depicted in the show, an interesting aspect of the film is the exploration of the reasons and continuing need for fraternalism, not only in the black community, but among all men. But it also is curious to note that television producers seem to be discovering fraternalism on a wider basis in dramatic fashion, instead of in parody. Last September, the mini-series Queen Sugar portrayed a Masonic funeral service. And in October, AMC announced development of a new series called Lodge 49 about a fictional Shrine-like fraternal lodge.

According to its early description, Lodge 49's premise:
 "centers on Dud, a deadbeat but charming ex-surfer who joins a fraternal order hoping to reclaim the simple, happy lifestyle he lost when his father died. Through the Lodge and his newfound connection with the other members, Dud will come to find the missing sense of purpose in his life and confront his deepest fears and greatest hopes... [It explores the idea that] life can be magical if you look at it from the right angle, what it means to be on the fringe, and the importance of community."

UPDATE 3/19/2017:

Since I first posted this entry, I've been told of an independent film released in 2016 called Goat that similarly examined the culture of brutal "underground hazing" in a white "greek" college fraternity, which may have perhaps inspired the creators of Burning Sands to explore the subject from the black fraternity side of the issue. Additionally, the new series has generated much online chatter about such practices in some fraternities - there's a good one on The Root website by Kasai Rex HERE.

Again I reiterate: legitimate Freemason lodges (especially the ones you will commonly hear of as being regular and recognized) do NOT engage in such practices. Masonic degrees are NEVER supposed to humiliate or punish or endanger our candidates. In fact, one of the first things you will be told upon entering the lodge for your first time is "Fear no danger." This isn't the time or place to drone on about origins and effects of rites of initiation, psychological preparation and transformation, debating bonds of fraternalism through shared experience vs. physical humiliation and adversity, etc., etc. But suffice it to say that Masonic degrees have their adopted roots in the oldest forms and traditions of hermeticism, not Boot Camp. And if a "Masonic" lodge asks you as a petitioner to sign a release or waiver form indemnifying them of all legal responsibility for your potential future injuries during your degrees, you should keep on hunting for a different lodge, unless that is REALLY the sort of experience you hope and expect to find. I usually don't like slinging around accusations in the nature of saying a Masonic lodge is "doing it wrong," but I sure as hell do in this type of scenario.


(Click to enlarge)

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Lawsuit: Hidden Ladies Room Cameras Found in Louisville Scottish Rite


Just what the fraternity needs - an ugly, salacious scandal hitting the nightly news.

Media outlets in Louisville, Kentucky are reporting tonight that a lawsuit has just been filed there involving the Scottish Rite Valley of Louisville concerning the accidental discovery about six months ago of surveillance cameras hidden in three ladies' rest rooms and locker room areas of the building. Metro Police have been investigating the case since this past fall and say the matter is still under review. The incident itself is not new, but the lawsuit and it now hitting the news is a new development.


WAVE-TV 3 is reporting on its website:
Two women claim they were secretly recorded while undressing in the bathroom of the Scottish Rite Freemason's Temple on Gray Street.
"And you really don't understand how a person feels until they're in that position," said one of the victims, both of whom have asked to remain anonymous.
The women said there is no way to know just how long the video cameras were hidden inside hollowed-out coat hooks that were mounted inside the women's restrooms. Nor do they know how many other women, and children, were recorded in the most private of places.
The hidden-camera hooks are available for purchase on the internet. The alleged victims said the hooks were mounted on the wall of the women's restroom within the Scottish Rite.
The camera, activated by movement, was discovered by a 27-year-old woman when she accidentally knocked it off the wall last October. She and a 53-year-old friend were both changing clothes in that restroom for a costume party.
They asked not to be identified as they spoke about the moment they pulled out the memory card and watched the video.
"Panic, shock, fear immediately," is how one of them described it.
She added that several women from the party appeared on the video, including her 17-year-old daughter. Only two were caught on camera without their clothes on. She said she was recorded while she was stripped down to her underwear. Her younger friend, seen naked from the waist up.
"There's audio on it," that woman said of the video. "You could hear people using the restroom. You could hear people's conversations. We saw ourselves on it. And most importantly the one thing we did see is Scottish Rite regalia of someone hanging the hook."
It was a red Scottish Rite hat, to be specific, but she said the face underneath that hat was obscured.
The women told a temple leader what they found, and he called Louisville Metro Police, who would find even more hidden cameras -- three in all in a total of two women's restrooms.
Police also found doubled-sided tape, the same type used to mount the hidden cameras, in each of the restroom stalls.
LMPD is now investigating it as a case of video voyeurism. And these two women said they believe they are not the only victims.
"You have to think about the other organizations that meet there," one of the victims said. "Rainbow Girls. Job's Daughters. Any kind of other events that take place there."
Said the other victim: "It's devastating. It's absolutely devastating to think someone without my knowledge has pictures of me and video of me, and has pictures of my body. It's devastating."
Michael Valenti, an attorney for the Scottish Rite, agreed to and then backed out of an interview with WAVE 3 News, citing the active criminal investigation. He said his clients have been cooperating with police. He did not respond to messages asking if he could guarantee the hidden cameras were no longer being used in the women's restrooms at the Scottish Rite Temple.
The victims have now filed a lawsuit against the Scottish Rite Foundation of Kentucky and a temple leader, for invasion of privacy and negligence.

The suit names the Consistory and its local building manager 'for negligence' as Defendants. The actual text of the lawsuit can be viewed in its entirety on Scribd HERE. No one has been charged by police or identified as the person who installed or monitored the cameras as of yet.

(As a side note, I do find it more than a little irresponsible for the reporter to show a close-up of the coat hook camera gadget and then chirpily add that such devices are easily available on the Internet. Nice way to encourage a few hundred copycats there, Scoop - right down to loads of bored teenaged boys with too much time on their hands. That's real Cronkite stuff.)

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Paul Bessel's Website Up and Running Again


After more than two months of disappearance, Paul M. Bessel's enormous website at www.bessel.org is once again up and running. Brother Paul's site contains more than 200 individual pages of research that took him over two decades to compile, including Masonic statistics, lists, maps, and other resources that have been indispensable to other researchers for many, many years. His information regarding Prince Hall recognition alone is one of the most commonly referenced resources of its kind anywhere.

Restoring his site was accomplished with the gracious permission and assistance of Paul, and with the sponsorship and under the auspices of the Masonic Society, especially Nathan Brindle. In fairness, I kind of shoved it on Nathan when I saw the site had vanished around Christmastime, and we plunged ahead without really asking permission of the Society's Board to do it on their behalf beforehand. Nevertheless, it's up, it's fixed, and it's there to stay now, and the Board thankfully agreed it was the right thing to do.

The current goal has been to just get Paul’s old site back up and restore the thousands of hours of hard and tedious work he had done before. Numerous pages and graphics files were lost suddenly when his hosting company switched servers last year, so those had to be rescued from Wayback Machine archives. Additionally, Paul himself had not updated the site in several years. I’m sure it was a big job requiring constant tending and it undoubtedly became a chore after a while. My reason for wanting to restore the site was to ensure that the 20 or so years of research he had done before not be lost forever. Additionally, hundreds of other websites all over the world, as well as references in numerous books on Freemasonry, and even Wikipedia articles, had links or footnotes that pointed to data contained on his website. I felt it would be disastrous for all of those references to Paul’s information to just vanish into thin air and a 404 error message page.

Thankfully, Paul agreed and was very accommodating in permitting us access to his account and authorization to take over its administration. In return, we left Paul the option to update his site should he have the desire to do so in future. Somewhere down the road, we may tackle attempting to update selected pages - but bear in mind that his site is enormous, and it took him two decades to get it to where it currently stands. To truly go in and update the constantly changing things like grand lodge email or physical mailing addresses and websites, annual statistics, and much, much more, in addition to his numerous other pages that need tweaking, would be a major undertaking. It was his personal devotion that made the site so indispensable over time, and it would take an equally dedicated person or group of researchers to fix it all and keep it up to date again. And finally, I will just also add that Paul constructed the site with software that has been long outdated and unsupported, so it would also require technology changes to fix it properly without breaking anything. (My own websites suffer from the same problem, and I dread wading into it for my comparatively small website, much less one the enormous size of Paul’s.)

Some of this got discussed on the Philalethes Society email list last month when others began to notice the site was gone as well. In the wake of Paul and I explaining what was going on, I began to get private messages with suggestions for changes, or updated information from around the world, especially from folks in jurisdictions whose contact information or web addresses had changed. Please note that the immediate objective has been to preserve Paul's existing work, and that has been accomplished.  I appreciate the updated information brethren passed along, but I’m afraid it will be a while before anyone gets around to taking a stab at the kind of serious updating the site needs if it is to truly become up to date again. Thanks so much for everyone's kind offer of assistance, nevertheless.

There are few Masonic websites that are trustworthy, well researched and documented, and truly indispensable for Masonic and academic researchers of the fraternity: Paul's site; the incredible website of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon that is largely the dedicated work of the inexhaustible Trevor McKeown; the ever growing PhoenixMasonry Masonic Museum and Library site which is the labor of love of David Lettalier; and the MasonicInfo.com Anti-Masonry Points of View website of Ed King. There are certainly others, but these four continue to stand out as massive online storehouses of reliable information any Masonic researcher or casual observer needs to have ready links to at all times.

Finally, take this as a cautionary tale. If you have a lodge, grand lodge, company, or personal website of any size or complexity, and you don't wish it to vanish into the aether upon your death, incapacity, technical obsolescence, or just plain neglect, take steps to preserve it now before it becomes almost impossible for you or others to retrieve. Paul's original files were partially on an outdated home computer he was able to access enough to create a DVD copy to send me, but not all of his files were there. His hosting company's administrator went beyond the call of duty and seriously earned his hosting fee by painstakingly rebuilding the missing parts of the site from Wayback Machine captures for us. Don't make the same mistake and force others to salvage your website the hard way. Make complete site backups and make sure others have access to your site passwords and account sign-ins somehow if something prevents you in future, for whatever reason.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Arsonist Damages Toronto Area Masonic Temple


The Weston Masonic Temple in Toronto, Canada was firebombed with a Molotov Cocktail on Wednesday afternoon. A suspect was arrested last night and charged with three counts of arson. 

Police have charged a 36-year-old man with three counts of arson after a fire at a Masonic Lodge in Toronto’s west end.
The fire started shortly before 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Weston Masonic Temple on Weston Road, near Lawrence Avenue West.
There are reports a Molotov cocktail was tossed through the building’s basement window.
The blaze was small and was quickly extinguished, but it caused damage to the left side of the building.
No one was injured.
Michael Mendez was arrested just before 8 p.m. He had a bail hearing in a Toronto court on Wednesday morning.
Toronto Fire said there have been other suspicious fires in the neighbourhood, but it’s not known if they are connected to Mendez. However, police said the Masonic Temple fire was not connected to the fire at the Islamic information centre on Wednesday morning.
While news reports called it a "small fire," reports from brethren there have noted the lodge's dining room was destroyed. No word as to whether any damage to the lodge room itself was sustained, but it apparently cannot be used because of the overall smoke and water damage.


The building is home to several area lodges and appendant groups. It is one of just two Masonic Temples in the Humber Valley area, so they have all had to find the closest alternative meeting areas until the building can be restored.

Lodge member Chuck Scott told a TV reporter at the scene that the neighborhood had been plagued by a "firebug" who had attempted to set fire at a funeral home just across the street, among other locations. Additionally, there was a fire a week ago at a local Islamic Information Center, but early police statements have not connected that fire to the others in the neighborhood. Why it hasn't was not explained. Speculation is circulating among neighbors that in a desire to characterize the Islamic Center fire as a "hate crime," it seems more likely that all of the fires in the same vicinity were crimes of opportunity, and not ideologically motivated.

But hey, what do they know.






In an unrelated story, the Hamilton Masonic Temple in Hamilton, Ohio was substantially vandalized Tuesday afternoon. A man was caught in the act of spray painting graffiti extensively around large sandstone building by local police.

From the Journal-News website:
The mystery of who caused an estimated $10,000 in damages to a prominent Hamilton building wasn’t too tough to solve.

Hamilton police say the man responsible for the vandalism signed his name and birth date in black spray paint on the side of the Hamilton Masonic Lodge as a police officer watched.

Lamar King, 21, of Hamilton, has been arrested and charged with a felony count of vandalism and a misdemeanor charge of possession of criminal tools in connection with Tuesday’s vandalism of the building at 724 High St.

Police responded to a call shortly after 2 p.m. Tuesday and an officer witnessed King tagging the lodge with black spray paint, according to Sgt. Brian Robinson.
“The man was tagging the building and then signed his name and spray painted his birth date underneath,” Robinson said. “We will not tolerate such corrosive counter-productive behavior. He tagged ‘em, we bagged him.”

Thomas Durr, chairman of the Masonic Lodge, told the Journal-News that the organization recently completed $50,000 worth of building restoration and landscaping.

“We are looking at somewhere in the area of $10,000 or more in fixing the damage caused by this criminal,” Durr said.

The Masonic Lodge has been in the city since 1927, he said, and this is the first act of vandalism he can recall.

Lodge Master Seldon Brown told the Journal-News on Tuesday night that 22 places around the building were damaged by black spray paint.

Durr said the sandstone that was vandalized on the building is expensive to clean.

“You can’t power wash it because it will ruin the sandstone,” he said. “This will take a while to get cleaned up.”

King is out on bond and has been ordered to stay at least 500 feet away from the building. He is scheduled to appear next week in court for a preliminary hearing.

The Hamilton Masonic Temple is home to 3 Craft Lodges, 3 York Rite Bodies, 2 Eastern Star Chapters, a De Molay Chapter, And a Rainbow Assembly.