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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 Hamas 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


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 despair 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.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Brother Mike Segall Passes

LtoR: Mike Segall, Philippe Benhamou, a Dummy, and Michel Singer in Paris at Le Petit Chatelet 2006

How very odd that I just posted earlier this morning about Freemasonry in France. Brother John Worlein just passed along a message this evening that Illustrious Brother Michael Segall 33° in Paris has passed to the Eternal Lodge today. He was 84.

I'm just at that age now when friends have started passing away with enough regularity that I can't merely pass them off as rare tragedies that just come along every eight or ten years anymore. And it's a function of Freemasonry itself that many friends I first met when I joined 18 years ago who were already much older than I was at the time are now reaching the eighth and ninth decades when life becomes even less of a sure thing every day than previous years.

So strange. I had not heard from Mike for several years, but just this month I had been e-mailing back and forth with him. I sent him a note a week ago that he hadn't responded to, and I literally was in the middle of typing a follow up this evening just to make sure he had gotten it. Now I find out why.

I first encountered Mike, as so many others did, online. Some from Compuserve. I did on the Philalethes Society e-mail list in 1999. He was my first contact with the subject of European and French Freemasonry, and he was a prolific poster. He had forgotten more about Freemasonry than most of us will ever know. In those days, he and his lovely wife Odette were regular attendees at Masonic Week, and they made plenty of friends in person as well. Lots of those friends over the years would visit them if they traveled to Paris, and more than a few were entertained in their home near the Eiffel Tower. Many, many U.S. Masons took ideas that Mike and a small handful of others told us about practices there and introduced them into our lodges. In fact, those of us who wrote Laudable Pursuit and the nascent Traditional Observance/European Concept movement that was just starting to formulate then owed an enormous debt of gratitude to Mike and others whose names I will not mention here. I sadly will not because, as I discovered the hard way, there are European Brethren who still to this day can suffer professional and social consequences, merely for the cultural faux pas of being publicly outed as a Mason.

Mike was a member of the Grande Loge de France, which is not the obedience that UGLE and U.S. grand lodges recognize. In those days, many Masons on both sides of the Atlantic understood that the Masonic history of France was somewhat chaotic, but that the GLdF was easily as regular as the Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF), and with a far better pedigree. Because of our online friendships with Mike and others, a growing sentiment developed among U.S. Masons who were in their grand lines and headed to the East to push the recognition envelope and openly recognize both the GLNF and the GLdF. First to try was Terry Tilton in Minnesota in 2001, and he had much support among his own members. But the UGLE and almost a third of the GLs in the U.S. quickly ceased amity (or threatened to) with Minnesota over Terry's temerity to recognize two grand lodges simultaneously in France. It was the first big Masonic crisis I had ever seen since joining in 1998, and it involved my online friends.

When Roger VanGorden became Grand Master of Indiana in 2002, he found out Alice and I were planning a trip to Paris. He was sympathetic to Terry's position, and he asked me when I was in Paris to simply see for myself whether the GLdF's lodges were regular or not, and report back. I was given special dispensation to sit in Mike's "irregular" lodge, and he vouched for me that evening. I visited Loge La Roumanie Unie No. 717 in their grand lodge building in Paris.

Funny. Lodges are much the same wherever you go. They were short-handed that night, so they asked me if I would sit in the Treasurer chair, since I was Treasurer back home. I had to quickly scramble to manage to blurt out in my pidgin French, "Venerable Master, to the best of by knowledge, the books of the lodge are in order." Were there differences? Of course, there always are, everywhere you go. But everything I saw firsthand that night was perfectly regular in every way. 

Meanwhile, while I was playing with Masons that night, Mike's wife Odette had Alice packed into their Smart Car and took her on a terrifying, high-speed sightseeing trip all over the city that would have put an Italian cab driver to shame. They got a parking ticket at Sacré-Coeur. Odette snatched it off the windshield, shrugged with a proper "harrumph," and jammed it into the glove compartment, which was already overflowing with scores of others just like it.

Ultimately, the GLdF and America imbroglio melted down completely. Terry Tilton was compelled to give up his dream, Minnesota was immediately forgiven by the world for its terrible transgression, and U.S. Masonry quickly settled back into its sleepy complacence and ignorance again. But the friendships remained, and still remain. As do the memories. Alice and I have been back to Paris many times, and we enjoyed the occasional dinners with Mike and Odette, like the one in the photo above in 2006. I went over and met Philippe Benhamou, the co-author of the French version of Freemasons for Dummies, and Mike and Odette and Brother Michel Singer joined us that evening. And others.

Mike wrote under the pseudonym of Michel Saint-Gall, and his most popular work was the indispensable French reference book, "Dictionnaire du Rite Ecossais Ancien et Accepté" (Dictionary of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite), which illuminated the numerous Hebrew words, phrases and symbolism that appear in the Rite's rituals around the world, including Pike's.

Photo: Michel Singer

In his last email, he said, "We just celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary and things hold well together, even if we quarrel every other day. It works as an excellent cathartic, Odette has long stopped throwing plates at me, and then we do laugh a lot too. At and about most everything."

There are many other memories of Mike that I won't bore anyone but Alice with, or those who want to sit in a bar and reminisce sometime. But his death leaves a very big hole in my Masonic heart, and I suspect it will with others all around the world who knew him only electronically over the years. He touched more Masons in more ways neither he nor they would ever know. Mike brought Masonic light to many from a world that was dark to most of us, and that debt could never be repaid. His column is broken, and his brethren do indeed mourn.

Merci et au revoir, mon frère. Gémissons, gémissons, gémissons et espérons.

Tuesday 2/28/17:
Word comes that Michael suffered a pulmonary embolism which stopped his heart for 25 minutes. He never awoke. Odette has said he would never have accepted being trapped in his body as a vegetable, so perhaps this was its own sort of blessing.

Brother Michel Singer has informed us all via Facebook that Michael's funeral will be held at the funerarium of Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris on Thursday, March 9th, at 2 PM (1400). I can't think of a more fitting place for his Earthly remains to be returned from whence they came than this very special place where so many brilliant men have made their way before him. All are welcome to attend and make their final tribute. He is to be cremated. 

Additionally, I have Odette's e-mail address, which I will be happy to pass along privately, should you wish to contact her. Please send me a note at hodapp@aol.com

Photo: Jean-Laurent Turbet

France President Hollande To Visit Grand Orient Museum and HQ

The French press is all atwitter this morning (here's Le Figaro, for example). The current President of France, François Hollande, will visit a Masonic grand lodge as president for the first time since at least before WWII. Today, February 27th, he will spend an hour at the Rue Cadet headquarters of the Grand Orient de France (GOdF), the largest Masonic obedience in the country. The occasion is the 300th anniversary year of the official founding of the modern fraternity in London, and the GOdF is the location of Paris' magnificent Musee de Franc-Maconnerie (Museum of Freemasonry). So, this is a nice gesture, despite the political minefield he's wandering across. 

Depending on who's writing the headline, some are branding this visit as a shocking development. As in much of Europe, Freemasonry in France is under an enormous strain of public suspicion. Whenever a French news magazine or scandal sheet has slumping readership, a good, solid, lurid anti-Masonic cover story always plumps up sales, and they love to allege secret Masonic perfidy in the halls of the Elysee Palace. So, Hollande going deep in the heart o' Masonland is big headline stuff today. He's getting away with it because he's a lame duck anyway. His name is not on the ballot in the upcoming rounds of presidential run-offs and elections - after one term in office, he's had enough. So, he's not committing political suicide by doing this. 

The Museum is one of the largest of its kind in the world, is supported to some extent by France's intricate government cultural funding apparatus, and tells the story of the country's extremely diverse Masonic landscape. As a way of clarifying that diversity, I'll just say that representatives of 17 different Masonic obediences (what we would simply brand as grand lodges here) will be in attendance. The last time I was able to find any comparisons, between 20-25% of all French Freemasons are women. So, the Museum has a big and complicated story to try to explain, and it was to a large extent a cooperative effort with many of them. French Masons tend not to sling around accusations of "clandestine" and "bogus" at each other, and are usually pretty cordial, for a whole raft of historical reasons. 

The Grand Orient is not recognized by the UGLE, the US grand lodges, or the vast majority of the Anglo-Saxon descended Masonic world, but it's the largest by far in their country. Next in size is the Grande Loge de France (GLdF), which isn't recognized by many either. You have to go down to the third in size - the Grande Loge National Francais (GLNF) to get to the one the bulk of us are in amity with.

Hollande will have a ten minute private chat with the GOdF's Grand Master, Christophe Habat, a 20 minute walk through of the Museum itself, then give a 30 minute speech. The Grand Orient has never been shy of taking official public policy stands on political topics, and they have always been strong supporters of France's strict religious separation policy of laïcité - which is one of the big reasons why Freemasons have been and remain crossways with the Roman Catholic Church, who sees us all as the primary architects of France's extremely hard line secularism laws and policies. The Grand Orient really is kind of exactly what the Vatican accuses us all of, and they're in no hurry to figure out the differences between us. Anyway, there have been renewed battles politically in France regarding laïcité laws and policies over Islam, especially regarding public displays of religious symbols and clothing and much, much more, so Hollande's speech is expected to talk about that in what he thinks is friendly territory.

It should be interesting to see the headlines Tuesday morning. 

NOTE: For those who understand spoken French, the video of Hollande's address at the Museum can be seen HERE.

EDIT: Karen Kidd chided me over something that I needed to revise here. If you ever go to Paris, tell your traveling companion that she really, really WILL find the Museum interesting, and you're not just dragging her to some boring Mason thingie after coming halfway around the world. Unless, of course, she's a female Freemason, in which case, she might be asking at the docent's desk about coming to a meeting herself. 

The GOdF starting accepting female members (and visitors) into their lodges several years ago. Plus, intervisitation between obediences in France is pretty laissez-faire - they tend not to pester visitors much about their home lodge affiliation very closely. It's an attitude U.S. Masons in particular can't easily accept, that the French don't bandy around labels like "clandestine" and "bogus." They don't largely because of their experiences under the Nazi persecutions during the Occupation. When the Gestapo busted up Masonic lodges, they really didn't give a tinker's dam about trifles like "regularity." They simply arrested everybody in the place and confiscated the Secretary's records so they could find anybody who stayed home that night. After the war, Masons across Europe finally developed an informal feeling that "We're all in this boat together." They've lived through purges and national laws outlawing Masonry and personal persecutions under Mussolini, Franco, the Russian czars, Soviet regimes, the occasional kings who didn't join themselves, and others that make the Morgan period in the U.S. look like a walk in the park. When your life and freedom are on the line over you wearing an apron on Thursday nights, you tend to not really get in a lather over where somebody else got their charter.

Also note that if you ask very politely at the desk and explain that you or your spouse are Masons, they may take you upstairs and let you see one or more of their very beautiful lodge rooms, which are generally open to visitors. Despite the exterior of the building looking like a foreign departures terminal at the CDG airport plopped in the middle of a quaint 19th century neighborhood, their lodge rooms on the inside appear quite old and have an enormous variety of decoration. The Lafayette Room is particularly memorable, but all are quite unique. 

Both Cadet and Le Peletier Metro stops are the same distance, about a 2 minute walk.

Birmingham, AL's Historic 'Colored Masonic Temple' Made Part of National Monument: Seeks Restoration Funds

Just before the end of 2016, Birmingham, Alabama's historic Colored Masonic Temple, built by the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Alabama between 1922-24, was declared by the National Parks Service as a part of the History Birmingham Civil Rights District, a wide area of the city that encompasses many significant buildings in the same general area. The seven-story building at the corner of 17th Street N and 4th Avenue was a major landmark in the 1960s as the longtime headquarters of the NAACP and their legal team, a shelter for the period's famed Freedom Riders, as well as other businesses and facilities that were central to the city's black community. All along with being the home to the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge itself, Masonic lodges, appendant groups, and a 1,500 seat auditorium and ballroom. At the time it was built, according to their website, it was "At the time of its erection, the Temple Building was the largest and best equipped state-of-the-art luxurious building built by and paid for by Negroes in the entire world." 

Statistics are difficult to come by - the previous ones I can find are from back in 1992 when Alabama's Prince Hall membership stood at 30,822, with 593 lodges (their Eastern Star were just as impressive, with 30,474 members in 554 chapters). According to a report today, that number has paralleled almost all US grand lodges in proportion: according to the MWPH Grand Lodge's website, by 2013 they had dwindled to about 4,500 Masons in 318 lodges.

A long story highlighting the Colored Masonic Temple appeared Sunday on the AL.com website, written by Erin Edgemon - Historic Civil Rights Landmark Launches Fundraising Campaign.

The District designation will hopefully help attract new interest locally and nationally in helping the building's trustees in infusing much needed funds for stabilization and restoration, a problem so very common with our Temples all over the country. This one has fallen on especially hard times, and I can't determine from the article whether any lodges still reside amidst the crumbling plaster, peeling paint, and the occasional collapsed ceiling. It doesn't look likely, although it is possible the greatest damage is simply cosmetic.

From the article:

When the Colored Masonic Temple opened in downtown Birmingham in 1924, it was one of the only places African-Americans could walk in the front door and not have to move to the back.
For decades, the seven-story, Renaissance Revival building housed black professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and accountants. At one time, it housed a barbershop, a jeweler, a billiards room, NAACP offices and much more. The structure, located in the 4th Avenue Business District, hosted social events and meetings. Legends like Duke Ellington and Count Basie regularly performed in the 1,500 seat auditorium and grand ballroom.
The Masonic Temple, commissioned by the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free & Accepted Masons of Alabama, was a symbol of black prosperity in the segregated South. The building was also a major landmark in the Civil Rights Movement for housing the NAACP's legal team and sheltering Freedom Riders in 1961. The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth also organized protests and sit-ins there. 
Beginning in the early 1910s, The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alabama began raising money, a whopping $650,000, to build the massive structure.
Now, more than 90 years after the Masonic Temple opened its doors, Birmingham's grand lodge needs to make magic again. The grand lodge is seeking to raise $10 million to $15 million to restore the building.
This time, though, the temple has the power of the National Park Service behind it.
The Colored Masonic Temple is part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. The monument also includes the A.G. Gaston Motel, the neighboring Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the 16th Street Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, St. Paul United Methodist Church and portions of the 4th Avenue Business District.
Corey Hawkins, who serves as the grand master of the grand lodge, said the group hired Community Concepts Agency to launch a capital fundraising campaign and is working with the city of Birmingham to secure other funding.
A GoFundMe campaign was launched on Saturday to help raise money for the first phase of the project. The goal is $50,000.
Birmingham City Councilor William Parker and other city officials worked with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to secure $600,000 in funding for asbestos and lead paint abatement.
"It sounds like a lot, but we do have faith that we can get some assistance," Hawkins said, of the amount of money that needs to be raised.
"We are hoping that because of the importance of the temple to the Civil Rights Movement, especially during Jim Crow times, it was a place where African-Americans could go and walk in the front door and not have to go in the back, and sit anywhere they wanted to in the building. If they sat in the balcony, it was by choice. It wasn't by demand.
"We are hoping that story gets out there and people remember ... that the Masonic Temple played a major role," he continued. "It was where a lot of the organizing was done (for the civil rights) marches and protests. It housed the NAACP, as a matter of fact the NAACP was the last to move out."
Noted civil rights attorney Arthur Shores, of the NAACP had his office in the Masonic Temple, Hawkins added.
The temple was also a place where acclaimed black entertainers came to perform, he said. 
Hawkins said the upcoming renovations will be the first for the temple. Despite that, he said the temple is in remarkable condition. The structure is sound, he said, but the building likely needs new plumbing and electrical wiring as well as extensive renovations to make the office and retail space more open and modern.
The grand lodge plans to restore the two-story grand ballroom and the office and retail space. In the adjoining parking lot, they plan to construct a parking garage with additional retail space on the ground floor.
Clark said the antique items left behind will be restored and displayed in the temple to celebrate the building "being a center for dentistry, surgery, medicine, music and law for blacks in the 1900s."
Hawkins said he knows the fundraising and restoration won't be easy, but he's up for the challenge.
"We know with God anything is possible," he said. "We are going to keep fighting."

Hawkins said he looking forward to the day when the Masons and sister organization, the Eastern Stars, can all gather at the temple for a ribbon cutting.
He said he wants to have a big celebration to "commemorate our forefathers, the dream they had by building this building when they did, and us being able to hold on to it and secure its existence for another 90 years."
Read the rest of the article HERE.

It should be noted that Alabama is one of the nine remaining states in the United States in which the predominantly white mainstream grand lodges and their predominantly black Prince Hall grand lodge counterparts still do not recognize each other.