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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Homosexual Ban Remains in GL of Georgia

A resolution to remove the language banning homosexuals from Freemasonry in the Grand Lodge of Georgia F&AM's Code has failed late Tuesday afternoon. The resolution lost in a close 231-247 vote at the annual communication today.

There was a possibility that the failed resolution could be reconsidered and voted on again at Wednesday's session, but that did not happen.

From all reports, MW Drew Lane, Grand Master for 2015-16, did an outstanding job of running the proceedings with great dignity, fairness, and understanding. It could have been a highly contentious situation when the legislation came to the floor, and that did not happen. I also understand that one Past Grand Master made a passionate and persuasive statement in favor of the proposed bill that changed some minds.

At this time, the grand lodges of Georgia and Tennessee are the only two regular Masonic jurisdictions that have regulations in their codes that prohibit homosexuals from membership.

Earlier this year, grand lodges of California, the District of Columbia, and Belgium all withdrew amity with Georgia because of the edict and subsequent approval by the voting members affirming the homosexual ban, and numerous other grand lodges around the US and the rest of the Masonic world issued various statements condemning Georgia and Tennessee.

The Grand Lodge of Tennessee also had amity withdrawn by DC, CA and Belgium for its own homosexual ban, although that rule had been in place for over 30 years and had only recently been enforced.

Georgia and Tennessee Masons seeking regular, recognized, alternative membership options outside of the state that do not have residency requirements, SEE THIS POST.

For the complete background on this issue, SEE HERE.

UPDATED 10/26/2016

Monday, October 24, 2016

History of Freemasonry in Indiana: A Favor

I have been tasked with writing a new history of the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM, concentrating especially on the last 50 years. So, I have a great favor to ask of Freemasons throughout the state of Indiana, but I am intentionally casting a wider net than just posting on the appropriate Facebook pages or a blurb in our magazine. 

The late, esteemed Masonic author, Dwight L. Smith, who served as our Grand Secretary for over four decades, wrote the definitive chronicle of the Grand Lodge, Goodly Heritage, for our 150th anniversary in 1968. While my book will certainly encompass that first century and a half, I have no intention or desire to reinvent the wheel of Dwight's making. He spent two decades researching and 12 years writing it while he edited the then-monthly Indiana Freemason Magazine, and I would be fooling myself to believe I could similarly cover that same period in the kind of detail he did.

In addition, an earlier work, A History of Freemasonry in Indiana from 1806 to 1898, was written by Daniel McDonald, and it too provides great detail of earlier years. 

So, my principal task is to tell the story of the fraternity in Indiana between 1968 and today. And this is where my favor comes in. If your lodge has had a history compiled for a major anniversary or building dedication or other such event, I would very much appreciate a copy. If your lodge has been through what your members considered a time or event of great change or upheaval or improvement or innovation or catastrophe, especially in the last half century, I would like to have that information. Even if you are an individual Indiana Mason and you believed you experienced something that would be important enough to include in the book, feel free to pass that along, as well. 

All of that goes for appendant bodies in Indiana, as well. While the book will primarily be about Craft Freemasonry in our state, I would also like to include references to appendant groups that didn't make it into Dwight's book. The other bodies have influenced and affected Masonry in and out of the state, and they were mostly ignored in the two previous major works.

Likewise, if you or your lodge or appendant organization are NOT in Indiana, but took part in an event that happened in Indiana or that involved Indiana Masons specifically, and you believe it might be of interest to readers or future researchers, please send that to me, as well.

I've been waist deep in research for a year already, but these types of histories and anecdotes are difficult to come by, outside of what I have personally collected myself, or what we have in the Masonic Library & Museum of Indiana. So, I would deeply appreciate any contribution anyone would care to provide. 

I need to completely finish the entire project by next September in order to get it prepared for the printer to have it printed, bound, boxed, shipped, and ready for Founders' Day on January 13th, 2018. So, if you believe you have something for me, please forward it while you're thinking about it. 

My email address is hodapp@aol.com and do me a favor by putting "HISTORY" in the email header so I can easily spot it.

Thanks in advance, Brethren.

Anti-Masonic Comic Creator Jack Chick Dies

A chapter - albeit, a small one - has closed in the bizarre world of anti-Masonry. According to his Facebook page, comic book religious tract artist Jack T. Chick joined the Choir Invisible yesterday at the age of 92.

Chick was a California evangelist who took up the pen and brush against any religious belief, tradition, or philosophy that was at odds with his own brand of evangelical Protestantism. Over five decades, his company purportedly distributed more than 750 million of his tiny comic books (once described by media critic Steven Brill as "religious pornography") that railed against Catholicism, Judaism, Mormonism, Islam, homosexuals, divorce, Dungeons & Dragons, Harry Potter, Freemasonry, and many others, at less than two bits apiece.  He eventually published more than 150 different titles.

He was especially savage towards Roman Catholicism (referring to the communion host as a "death cookie"), and blamed many of the world's problems on that faith, including the Ku Klux Klan (!), the Holocaust, and world Communism.

Unsuspecting "sinners" often found these little gems of paranoia, brimstone, and hatred tucked under their windshield wipers, stuck between the beans in the canned vegetable aisle, or jammed into the seat pocket on their vacation flight. Sadly, some even made their way into care packages sent to U.S. troops overseas.

"Oops! There's Baphomet again!"

In the Masonic world, his tracts That's Baphomet?, The Curse of Baphomet (now out of print)and The Unwelcome Guest were notorious for perpetuating the 19th century Leo Taxil hoax, among other hoary whoppers. Albert Pike got strategically misquoted (or just plain had quotes invented), "Satan" took up residence in lodge meetings, the Eastern Star ladies were accused of witchcraft, and even Shriners got a swipe for their red fezzes, because, according to Chick, the Muslims originally dipped them into the blood of Christians. 

Unfortunately, the pervasiveness of his little booklets perpetuated this madness to an unsuspecting public, and plenty of Masons over the years have had to answer questions from nervous friends and relatives who got their delusional information straight out of Chick's tracts.

According to the company's website, they intend to keep distributing his miniature missives, despite the loss of their founder.

Requiēscat In Pāce

Friday, October 21, 2016

Massachusetts Lodge Is Unique Local Landmark

While most of us think of Masonic lodges built after about 1950 as being less inspired architectural landmarks compared to the grander temples of the first third of the 20th century, there are standouts from later periods. Not every post 50s temple has been a steel, prefabricated pole barn in a cornfield.

Last weekend on October 15th, the brethren of Social Harmony Lodge in Wareham, Massachusetts joined with many other Massachusetts lodges to celebrate a statewide Masonic open house, allowing the public an opportunity to come in, look around, and ask their questions. The unique structure is a landmark in the town.

The lodge was originally chartered in 1823 in nearby Middleboro before moving to Wareham a few years later. It was located in various sites in the town, including one on Main Street where it was situated for more than a century before finally moving to its present location in 1964. They currently have about 140 members on the rolls.

(While somewhat smaller in size, it is reminiscent of the similar A-frame design of Abraham C. Treichler Lodge No. 682 at the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, PA, below.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

WB Oscar Alleyne To Speak at Lodge Vitruvian in Indianapolis 10/25

Lodge Vitruvian 767 is Indiana's only "European Concept" lodge, featuring limited membership, brief meetings, formal dress, fine feasts, and the celebration of Masonic learning.

The final stated meeting of the lodge for 2016 will be next Tuesday, October 25th, opening at 7:00 PM in the Temple of Broad Ripple Lodge 643, at 1716 Broad Ripple Avenue, on the north side of Indianapolis, IN. 

Our traditional Festive Board will follow at Capri Ristorante, located at 2602 Ruth Drive in Indianapolis (just off Keystone Avenue, between 71st and 75th Streets). Attendees are responsible for the cost of their meals.

Our guest speaker for the evening will be Dr. Elquemedo Oscar Alleyne who will discuss the topic of Clandestine Freemasonry, and relate his own experiences as a former member of a clandestine lodge. Since his early introduction to the fraternity, he has since gone on to serve twice as Master of Wappingers Lodge 671 under the Grand Lodge of New York F&AM. He is a Director of The Masonic Society, a well respected and widely published researcher and author, and an extraordinarily active and enthusiastic Mason - on top of an incredible professional career in public health management. 

At Vitruvian we believe in formal dress for our members. While it is the internal and not the external parts of Man that Masonry regards, dressing in tuxedo and white gloves is actually a great leveler in a lodge - who can then say who is the banker, the bricklayer, the Ph.D. professor or the plumber?  Visitors are requested to wear tuxedo or business attire.

Unfortunately, the mundane business of grand lodge requirements will lengthen this meeting slightly, as our elections must be held that evening. However, it is always our best intention to dispense with our actual meetings in under an hour, so we will accomplish this as quickly as possible in order to get to Capri in a timely fashion.

Reservations are not required, but would be deeply appreciated. Please visit the event page HERE.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Grand Lodge of Cyprus Celebrates 10th Anniversary 10/29

The Famagusta Gate on the island nation of Cyprus

The Grand Lodge of Cyprus will celebrate its 10th anniversary on October 29th in Nicosia. 

According to the Masonic Press Agency website today:
Cypriot ties with Freemasonry dates back more than two centuries. The first documents are found Larnaca, the main port on the island at the time. The first Masonic Lodge in Cyprus was founded in the jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodge of England. Cypriot Lodges are currently working in Greek, English, German and Italian. 
The Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Cyprus is Most Worshipful Petros S. Machalepis. The Masonic Ceremony will take place at Famagusta Gate, built in 1567 by the Venetians.  
Map from Maphill

From the Wikipedia entry about the GL of Cyprus:
There are three recognized jurisdictions or organizing units of freemasons in Cyprus, each holding authority over its respective lodges.
Grand Lodge of Cyprus is a sovereign grand lodge, derived from originally Greek chartered lodges but which now works in at least four languages, including Greek, English, German and Italian.
Another group, the District Grand Lodge of Cyprus, is a unit of the United Grand Lodge of England, subordinate to that external jurisdiction, and operating in English to serve mainly British citizens living on military bases or elsewhere on the island: Cyprus is a Commonwealth nation, and favored Mediterranean holiday destination for citizens of the UK.
The third group is the lodges that operate under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Turkey at the northern part of the island. While the Grand Lodge of Turkey and the Grand Lodge of Cyprus are not in mutual recognition, the United Grand Lodge of England is in amity with both grand lodges, permitting intervisitation and plural membership.
The Grand Lodge of Cyprus shares control, or jurisdiction over Masonic activity in the south of the island due to the historical and continuing presence of the United Grand Lodge of England’s District Grand Lodge of Cyprus, which serves Freemasons from the UK’s twin military bases on Cyprus and other British citizens and English speakers residing there. In the north Cyprus only three lodges with charters granted by the Grand Lodge of Turkey operate. A treaty of full amity was reached with the UGLE, defining terms of mutual recognition, free intervisitation and good will as ratified by the UGLE on June 6, 2010.
Now widely recognized among international Freemasonry, the Grand Lodge of Cyprus holds mutual recognition treaties with 140 of the world's Masonic grand jurisdictions, as of the end of 2012.Such agreements exist in the form of letters or patents that proclaim that, as of a certain date, freemasons from one jurisdiction may visit and attend lodge meetings or other Masonic functions in another. These agreements are reciprocal, and foster the cherished Masonic principle of intervisitation.
The complex story of how the widespread recognition and the unique agreement among Masonic bodies on Cyprus was finally achieved can be found HERE

Larnaca Lodge Hall

The Grand Lodge of Cyprus operates four Masonic temple buildings on the island in Nicosia, Larnaca, Paphos, and Limassol.

GL of Kentucky Approves Joint Visitation With Prince Hall Lodges

The Grand Lodge of Kentucky F&AM recognized the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Kentucky F&AM in October 2011, however no visitation privileges were granted at that time. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge had asked for recognition without visitation. They were simply recognized as a sovereign jurisdiction only. 

I just received word that the GL of Kentucky has at last approved joint visitation with their Prince Hall counterparts today at their annual communication.

This still leaves Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia as the last nine remaining mainstream grand lodges that do not recognize their Prince Hall counterparts.


Brother John Bizzack has passed along the additional news that the Grand Lodge of Kentucky also approved legislation that will grant lodges the option of opening Stated Meetings and conducting their business on the Entered Apprentice degree. Actually it must lay over until a final vote next year, but this is a major advancement. 

It's taken a couple of years to accomplish this, and it's a welcome change that more and more jurisdictions are adopting. This is the longstanding manner in which the overwhelming majority of lodges around the world conduct their business, and the practice of restricting business meetings to Master Masons only was an unfortunate product of the 1843 Baltimore Convention that introduced many innovations to American lodges.  Glad to see it laid to rest in Kentucky.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Euclid, Freemasonry, and Philosophical Geometry

In the last section of the Master Mason degree lecture recited in Preston-Webb Masonic ritual, Euclid's 47th Proposition from his collected Elements of Geometry is only briefly referenced:
“The Forty-seventh Problem of Euclid was an invention of our ancient friend and brother, the great Pythagoras...This wise philosopher enriched his mind abundantly in a general knowledge of things, and more especially in Geometry, or Masonry. On this subject he drew out many problems and theorems, and, among the most distinguished, he erected this, when, in the joy of his heart, he exclaimed Eureka, in the Greek language signifying, "I have found it," and upon the discovery of which he is said to have sacrificed a hecatomb. It teaches Masons to be general lovers of the arts and sciences.”
Anderson's Constitutions of 1723 follows the trail from Pythagoras to Euclid, who was credited with assembling the various theories of geometry into a cohesive science, or as Anderson calls it, the Royal Art: 
"[T]he Greater PYTHAGORAS, prov’d the Author of the 47th Proposition of Euclid’s first Book, which, if duly observ’d, is the Foundation of all Masonry, sacred, civil, and Military...
"But after PYTHAGORAS, Geometry became the darling Study of Greece, where many learned Philosophers arose, some of whom invented sundry Propositions, or Elements of Geometry, and reduc’d them to the use of the mechanical Arts. Nor need we doubt that Masonry kept pace with Geometry; or rather, always follow’d it in proportion’d gradual Improvements, until the wonderful EUCLID of Tyre flourish’d at Alexandria; who gathering up the scatter’d Elements of Geometry, digested them into a Method that was never yet mended, (and for which his Name will be ever celebrated) under the Patronage of PTOLOMEUS, the Son of Lagus King of Egypt, one of the immediate Successors of Alexander the Great."
Apart from Freemasonry's obvious operative-era connection to the science of geometry, how did Euclid's 4th century BC writings wind up being referenced in an 18th century fraternal organization in Britain? 

It turns out that Euclid's theories were actually common currency among Enlightenment era political philosophers, and were not necessarily being used for mathematics. They were being applied to demonstrate the scientific "proof" of concepts like equality among men, even as late as Abraham Lincoln's arguments against slavery in the 1850s and 60s. It's not an enormous leap of imagination to suspect that Founders like Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, John Jay, and many others probably had a volume of Euclid's Elements lurking on their bookshelves at home.

Nautilus is an online magazine dedicated, in part, to applying science to everyday life. An article recently appeared that explores this Euclidean application to philosophical thought. 

From Euclid As Founding Father, by Adam Kucharsky:
“In the course of my law-reading I constantly came upon the word demonstrate,” Lincoln said. “I thought, at first, that I understood its meaning, but soon became satisfied that I did not.” Resolving to understand it better, he went to his father’s house and “staid there till I could give any propositions in the six books of Euclid at sight.”
He was referring to the first six of books of Euclid’s Elements, an Ancient Greek mathematical text. On the face of it, Euclid’s Elements was nothing but a dry textbook: There were no illustrative examples, no mention of people, and no motivation for the analyses it presented. But it was also a landmark, a way of constructing universal truths, a wonder that would outlast even the great lighthouse in Euclid’s home city of Alexandria.
Elements proposed that definitions were at the foundation of knowledge, and led to self-evident axioms that needed no proof. From these definitions and axioms, Euclid showed how to prove dozens of mathematical propositions, producing knowledge that was objective and undeniable. A person of reason would have to accept a proven fact, no matter what their personal beliefs or convictions were. Elements would become a best-selling work, second only to the bible in printed editions, and used until recently as the standard text for mathematics classes. It profoundly influenced Western thought, and shaped Western science and art. What’s less recognized is its role in the creation of modern politics: The distance from proofs about equilateral triangles to the foundations of democracy in Europe and the United States turned out to be just about two millennia.

John Locke was an early pioneer of Euclidean thinking in politics. Born in 1632, the Englishman grew up in a time of turbulence, with a nine-year civil war beginning in 1642. Locke, whose father had fought against the Royalists in the war, would go on to develop a great interest in the concept of morality. In forming his ideology, Locke took guidance from the logical structure of Elements. He believed that by following the logical consequences of self-evident statements “as incontestable as those in mathematics,” it would be possible to demonstrate what was right and wrong.
Historically, absolute monarchs and the church had dictated laws and justice. Enlightenment thinkers such as Locke sought to challenge this tradition. Rather than defining equality from above, he wanted to root it in natural, objective laws. Locke believed that the “natural rights” of a society could be established in a similar manner to geometric theorems, and would therefore be “as certain as any demonstration of Euclid.”

(Read the whole article HERE.)

Several 17th and 18th century philosophers like Benedict Spinoza and Thomas Hobbes used Euclid's Elements as a basis for demonstrating the truth of their philosophical theories. So it's not surprising that the Royal Society members and other Enlightenment thinkers who helped transform Freemasonry from an "operative" skill to a "speculative" philosophy for tolerance and equality among diverse members would sneak Euclid under the door.

H/T to Redditer "poor_yoricks_skull" today.

Amazon's New Review Polices Could Affect Authors

Amazon's new book review police are out in force

The rise of Lulu.com and Amazon's CreateSpace have changed the face of small batch self-publishing forever. Before they came along, if an author wrote a book that had limited readership appeal, the paths to actually getting it into print were generally pretty limited: track down a small, independent press that didn't mind printing up a small batch of copies and warehousing them for years (or decades); or pay a vanity press to print up a couple of thousand books that the author would then stack up in his garage until the mice finally chewed into the boxes. 

With the new online self-publishing services, that has changed completely. Now, an author can upload a Word file, pick a predesigned cover, and in a matter of minutes, have a book listed online on the world's biggest book retailer, that looks exactly like something from Random House. For Masonic authors, this has been especially exciting. It would be difficult to find a field of study that has more books written about it for such a comparatively tiny sliver of the book buying public than Freemasonry. Because of this new technology, we have greater access to more Masonic books than at any time in our history. If you think there's a dearth of Masonic education resources in the world, you haven't been paying attention.

One of the most important aspects of promoting (or buying) any book, regardless of the subject, is positive reviews. It's difficult enough to convince a substantial group of readers to actually buy a book in the first place. But it's even harder to count on them to actually take a few minutes after they've read it to sit down and type out a few sentences about what they thought of it. Reviews are the lifeblood of the book business, and most especially for the self-publisher. They are important because more (and better) reviews make a book listing look more promising to a shopper who is reluctant to part with $14.95. And the more confirmed sales there are of a book on Amazon, the higher the ranking number becomes, along with a greater likelihood of the title being promoted on another popular book's page by Amazon's inscrutable marketing algorithm. 

So, over the years, desperate authors have sought out numerous ways to encourage folks to give public feedback for their work on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, and elsewhere. Some have tried asking Facebook friends for reviews, while others have resorted to a sort of soft bribery by offering gift cards in return for a few kindly sentences and a five-star rating.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous authors (or savvy ones, if you think that way) have found ways to game Amazon's ranking system over the years. Some authors have paid for reviews, created dozens of phony screen names and posted their own sock puppet reviews, and other schemes. 

Now, apparently, Amazon has decided to take the matter in hand and announced (or just quietly enforced without fanfare) new rules regarding the posting of reviews. If you are an author of a Masonic book, and especially a self-published one, these rules could affect how you go about seeking sympathetic brethren's online opinions of your work. 

Author Anne R. Allen co-hosts a blog that deals with writing, and yesterday she posted an extensive article examining the new review rules and how they could touch on what you and your readers might otherwise regard as harmless attempts to help each other out.

See Amazon's New Review Rules: Should Authors Be Worried?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

2017 Masonic Week Info

The 2017 Masonic Week schedule has been published. This annual event will run from February 9-12 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Crystal City, Virginia (a stone's throw from Washington DC, the Reagan International Airport, and the Pentagon). Masonic Week traditionally hosts annual meetings and degree conferrals of lesser known Masonic organizations, many of which are invitational bodies.

The following groups will be represented this year: the Commemorative Order of St. Thomas of Acon; Masonic Order of Athelstan; Order of Knight Masons; Society of Blue Friars; Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests; Allied Masonic Degrees; The Royal Order Masonic Knights of the Scarlet Cord of the United States of America; The Masonic Society; Rectified Scottish Rite (CBCS); Ye Antiente Order of Corks; Grand College of Rites, the Philalethes Society, Sovereign Order of Knights Preceptor, Masonic Order of the Bath; and the Worshipful Society of Free Masons, Rough Masons, Wallers, Slaters, Paviors, Plaisteres and Bricklayers (aka “The Operatives”).

An additional group appears on the list this year: the Universal Craftsman Council of Engineers. I thought I had come across almost every Masonic group currently at work in this country, but this is a new one on me. They have apparently been around since 1899, and information about them can be found on their website HERE.

A reservation/registration form has not been posted yet, and neither has hotel reservation information. So keep an eye on the page for upcoming updates.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

'Inside the Freemasons' Tells UGLE's Story to a Worldwide Audience

Several months back, the United Grand Lodge of England granted access to a British production company to create a four-part series for the Sky television network to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the modern founding of the fraternity in 1717. The result is Inside the Freemasons, and the final show has been expanded to five episodes. Now, it may be distributed to other television markets outside of the UK.

From the BroadcastNow.co.uk website yesterday:
The series was commissioned as a four-parter but on delivery earlier this year, Sky and the Freemasons themselves agreed that it should be extended by one hour.
Emporium [Productions'] Emma Read, who is renowned for securing difficult access after series like Sky 1’s Harrow: A Very British School, won the confidence of the organisation and has delivered a series that she says “found the fun” in Freemasonry, as well as uncovering its secrets.
The show features stories from across England and Wales, including the consecration of a new lodge in Cardiff, and features individuals from many walks of life – from ex-military members in the north-west to biker Freemasons in Newcastle.
“We told a story of 21st century men and why they joined, what they get out of it, and why they would want to join something where they have to learn all these rituals perfectly and dress up in aprons and gloves,” Read explains.
The show is being distributed by Hat Trick International. Director of sales Sarah Tong says that because of the unprecedented access and the intrigue that surrounds the organisation, she expects it to easily attract an international audience.
“People will think they know what a Freemason is – this sort of secret society – so they’ll watch thinking it’s all very peculiar and strange, and that’s why it will sell,” she explains.
The society has members across the world, including a massive contingent in the US, which Tong says she hopes will give the show traction there. Hat Trick is also targeting Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavian and Europe.

Friday, October 14, 2016

PA Academy of Masonic Knowledge: Live Steaming on Saturday

Brother Seth Anthony just passed along this information about their meeting tomorrow, 10/15:
The Academy of Masonic Knowledge is meeting this weekend and we are pleased to announce that this event will be live-streamed, via YouTube, on Saturday. The stream will begin around 9:15 AM, with the first speaker taking the stage at 9:30AM. 
To view the feed, just visit the Masonic Villages of PA channel on YouTube and the live link should appear at the appropriate time. 
We will be taking some internet based questions for the speakers (although the number is to be determined.) I'll be sure to watch this thread for potential questions, as well as the comments on the YouTube video and via Facebook. Remember, this is not a tiled event, so please keep any questions appropriate. 
As a reminder, the speakers are:
Heather Calloway – Heather is the Archivist and Special Collections Librarian and an Assistant Professor at Washington College in Maryland. She served the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction as Director of Programming, Museum Curator, and Digital Media Director at the House of the Temple in Washington, DC.
John Hairston – Bro. Hairston is a member of Harmony Lodge No. 2, under the jurisdiction of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington and is the author of the new groundbreaking book “Landmarks of our Fathers: the Critical Analysis of the Start and Origin of African Lodge No. 1."
Christopher Murphy – Bro. Murphy is the Charter Junior Warden of Fibonacci Lodge No. 112, the first Observant Lodge chartered by the Grand Lodge of Vermont. He is a member of Vermont Lodge of Research No. 110 and the Philalethes Society. He will present his paper “The Tavern Myth.”

GL of Ohio Changes Alcohol Rules

Word is trickling out that the Grand Lodge of Ohio F&AM  has just approved legislation that will permit renters of Masonic facilities to serve alcohol at events. 

Doubtless there will still be restrictions involved, but this will be excellent news for lodges struggling with raising funds to protect and maintain their buildings, especially historic ones. Far too many event planners pass our facilities by because of restrictive alcohol bans, even for outside renters and caterers with proper permits.

Legislative Ballot 2016-1 was passed and is now officially Ohio Masonic law:
Chapter 34, SEC. 34.02 Lodge Prohibitions  
a) A Lodge or Temple Company may rent, lease or sub-lease the public areas of its building, excluding the Fraternal, dedicated areas in which the Lodge Room(s) is located, to any person or persons or to any business entity for rental events at which alcoholic beverages are served. Licensed caterers only approved by the Trustees or Temple Company of the Lodge, shall have full responsibility for obtaining all liquor licenses and necessary insurance coverage for serving and dispensing all alcoholic beverages. Prior to undertaking the provisions to which this regulation applies, the approval of the Grand Master or his designee must be obtained.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Knights Templar Arrested 709 Years Ago Today

Today marks the 709th anniversary of the arrest of the Knights Templar on October 13th, 1307. 

The tale of the Knights Templar is a story with a larger-than life aura of myth, that finished in an abrupt and almost unbelievable tragedy. Founded in 1119 by nine crusading French knights as a tiny band of dedicated protectors of Christians in the Holy Land, the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon shot across the political landscape like a meteor, vaulting from obscure guardians of pilgrims in Jerusalem into the most powerful and influential force of their age. They were fierce warriors, devout monks, skilled diplomats, and international bankers. Within just a half century of their birth, they walked with kings and advised popes, brokered treaties, and built castles and preceptories on a massive scale. Then, even more inexplicable than their rise came their fall, less than two centuries after they began, in a harrowing plunge into arrest, trial, flight and execution that shocked the medieval world, both East and West. 

The end began for them at dawn on Friday, October 13, 1307. The sealed order to King Phillip IV's seneschals and bailiffs had gone out a full month before. It was accompanied by a personal letter from the king, filled with lofty prose about how heart-rending it was to be compelled to do his duty, while detailing frightening accusations against the Templars. The letter would have had an eye-popping effect on the king’s men, and their secrecy was undoubtedly assured. The sealed arrest order was not to be opened until the appointed day.

At this time, France was the most populous nation of Europe, even greater than Russia. France took up more than 40,000 square miles, an enormous area to cover from the back of a horse. Yet Phillip IV managed to carry off his own Night of the Long Knives, in a country without telephones, trains, or automobiles. It was a stunning piece of work. Hundreds of the king’s men simultaneously opened letters all over the country that morning, ordering them to converge on every Templar castle, Commandery, Preceptory, farm, vineyard, or mill.

It was shockingly effective, instantly chopping off the head of the Order. Phillip obviously had a hit list of the most important knights to capture. Accounts differ wildly, but the most respected ones agree that 625 members of the Order were arrested in the first wave. These included the Grand Master Jacques de Molay; the Visitor-General; the Preceptors of Normandy, Cyprus, and Aquitane; and the Templars’ Royal Treasurer.

The vast majority of the literally thousands of Templar properties in France were small manors and farms, tended by as few as two or three aging brethren. Often, a small Preceptory with a few serving brothers and the occasional aged knight was all there was to meet these armed bailiffs of the king. The average age of those arrested was 41. They were not, as a rule, the cream of the Order’s hardened fighting force, and many of those tending these unfortified properties were in their 60s and 70s.

The Templars were put into isolation, and immediately subjected to the gruesome tactics of medieval interrogation on the very first day of their arrest. The technique of the strapaddo was common. It involved binding the victim’s wrists behind his back, passing the rope over a high beam, pulling him off of the ground, and suddenly dropping him, snapping his arms and dislocating his shoulders. Stretching the victim on the rack was another favored method. Perhaps the most horrible was coating the victim’s feet in lard or oil, and then slowly roasting them over a flame. More than one knight was handed the tiny bones that fell from his burned feet by his dedicated torturers. Subjected to these agonies, the overwhelming majority of the knights confessed to any charge that was put to them.

Phillip’s goal was to arrest all the Templars, subject them to torture immediately, and exact confessions from them on the very first day. He knew that the pope would be livid over his actions, and that Church officials would be wary of agreeing to the kinds of interrogations Phillip had in mind, so time was of the essence. He wanted to hand Pope Clement V a stack of confessions so damning that the pope would lose his stomach for siding with the Order.

The pope reacted just as Phillip had planned. His outrage over the arrests turned to dread and resignation as the “evidence” was presented to him. Phillip leaned on Clement to issue papal arrest warrants all across Europe, which were largely ignored or skirted around by other monarchs. Very few show trials went on outside of France, and there were no cases (outside of the tortured knights in France) of Templars who admitted to any charges of heresy.

In an outburst of courage and remorse, most of the arrested Templars subsequently recanted their confessions, and proclaimed to Church officials that their statements were made under the pain of torture and threat of death. To intimidate the remaining Templars, Phillip ordered 54 of the knights to be burned at the stake in 1310, for the sin of recanting their confessions.

In 1312, Clement finally decided to end the situation at a council in Vienne. Just to make certain the decision went the way he intended, Phillip stationed his army on the outskirts of the city. The pliant pope officially dissolved the Order, without formally condemning it. (In truth, he had secretly absolved the Order of all wrongdoing after his own investigation at Chinon in 1308 in a document that served to at least save the knights in the hereafter, even though he was powerless to stop Phillip in the temporal world.) All Templar possessions apart from their cash were handed over to the Knights Hospitaller, and many Templars who freely confessed were set free and assigned to other Orders. Those who did not confess were sent to the stake. Phillip soothed his loss of the Templars’ tangible assets by strong-arming a yearly fee from the Knights Hospitallers, to defray his costs of prosecuting the Templars.

By 1314, both the pope and public opinion had completely abandoned the Knights Templar. The four senior Templar officers in Phillip’s custody had been waiting in prison for seven grim years. All of them were old, the youngest being Geoffroy de Charney, who was almost 60. Jacques de Molay was in his 70s and had spent four years in solitary confinement. The four men were finally led onto a platform in front of Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral to hear the charges and make their public confessions. The charges were read, and two of the men accepted their fate of perpetual imprisonment and were led away.

But Jacques de Molay and his trusted follower Geoffroy de Charney did not follow suit. Weakened with age and imprisonment, de Molay shouted in a voice that startled the assembly that he and the Templars were innocent of all the charges. They were returned to their cells at once, while Phillip called together his council and quickly pronounced sentence, using the insane logic of the Inquisition; if they had recanted their confessions, then they were considered “relapsed heretics,” and the penalty was the stake.

Late that afternoon, de Molay and de Charney were led to the place of execution, which was a tiny isolated island adjacent to the Île de la Citè, called the Île-des-Juifs (Island of the Jews) in the middle of the River Seine. The condemned men could see Notre Dame Cathedral in the east, but the site was not chosen for their view. Rather, it was chosen so that King Phillip could enjoy the entertainment without leaving his palace just across the river.

Each man was stripped down to his shirt and tied to the stake. Jacques de Molay, with unbelievable courage, asked not only that he be turned to face the Cathedral, but that his hands be freed, so that he could die at prayer. His request was granted. The two men were roasted alive by the Inquisitional method that began with hot coals, so that their agony could be prolonged as much as possible. It was dusk on March 18, 1314.

When the Pont Neuf was built, the Île de Juifs was joined to the rest of the Île de la Cité, and today there are not one but two plaques near the bridge to commemorate this event. Jacques de Molay did not go to his God in silence. Legends insist that he died defiantly shouting his innocence and that of the Templars, calling on King Phillip and Pope Clement to meet him before the throne of God in one year’s time, where they would all be judged together. Indeed, both men, relatively young, would be dead within the year. One month after the death of de Molay, Pope Clement V, age 54, died, it was said, of cancer. Phillip the Fair, age 46, died in a hunting accident probably brought on by a stroke. He died on November 29, 1314, managing to get in just under the wire.

The gruesome death of Jacques de Molay is the last act of the Templar story. At least, the last act of the accepted, scholarly story of the Knights Templar that is told, in names and dates, between the covers of the history books. But in reality, his death is only the beginning. It’s the beginning of the myth of the Knights Templar, which is the maelstrom around which an endless stream of fact blended with speculation swirls, unabated.

(Excerpted from The Templar Code For Dummies)

Brother "Tommy" Ford Passes Away, Best Known for TV's 'Martin'

Actor, producer, director and Brother Thomas Mikal "Tommy" Ford passed to the celestial lodge Wednesday afternoon in an Atlanta hospital. He is best known for his five years starring as the character of 'Tommy Strawn' in the 1990s sitcom, Martin, with Martin Lawrence. 

He was just 52.

In Martin, Ford's character was generally the straight man for Lawrence's jokes, but he often stole scenes with his trademark "bald-headed logic" and funny comments in odd situations. After Martin ended, he also appeared in New York Undercover, The Jamie Foxx Show, and The Parkers. He had recently completed directing a documentary about bullying.
Brother Ford had just undergone a routine knee replacement surgery in late September. He was admitted to the hospital Sunday after an aneurysm ruptured in his abdomen, his wife Gina Ford told TMZ. He was placed on life support Sunday, never recovered, and he passed away Wednesday afternoon. 

According to the American Heart Association, an aneurysm occurs when part of an artery wall weakens, allowing it to widen abnormally or balloon out.

Brother Ford was made a Mason "at sight" by MW Grand Master Norman L. Campbell of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington, D.C. on April 30, 2016.

He was an enthusiastic supporter of many community programs and causes. The video below features him at this year's Prince Hall Masonic Classic scholarship event at Howard University sponsored by the MWPH Grand Lodge of DC.

His column is broken, and his brethren mourn. 

Requiescat in pace.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fall Session of Academy of Masonic Knowledge: Saturday 10/15

The Fall session of Pennsylvania's Academy of Masonic Knowledge will be held ths coming Saturday, October 15, 2016, in the Deike Auditorium of the Freemasons Cultural Center on the campus of the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. 

Registration will open at 8:30 a.m. with the program beginning at 9:30 a.m. 

Announced speakers for this session are:
John Hairston is a member of Harmony Lodge No. 2 under the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington, and is the author of the new groundbreaking book, Landmarks of Our Fathers: The Critical Analysis of the Start and Origin of African Lodge No. 1.
Heather Calloway is Archivist & Special Collections Librarian and an Assistant Professor at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. She served at the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite - Southern Jurisdiction as Director of Programming, Museum Curator, and Digital Media Director at the House of the Temple in Washington, DC.
Christopher Murphy is the Charter Junior Warden of Fibonacci Lodge No. 112, the first Observant Lodge chartered by the Grand Lodge of Vermont. He is a member of Vermont Lodge of Research No. 110, and of the Philalethes Society. He will present his paper, “The Tavern Myth." 
A lunch (requested contribution of $10) will be served at noon and the program will be completed by 3:00 p.m. All Masons are welcome to attend. Dress is coat and tie.

Pre-registration is required.
To pre-register, please send your name, address, Lodge number and telephone by e-mail to: AMKSecretary@pagrandlodge.org

Monday, October 10, 2016

New Allegations in Arkansas

2016 Grand Master of the MW GL F&AM of Arkansas, Billy Joe Holder

After several weeks of relative quiet in Arkansas, a new wrinkle has developed in the last week or so. A meeting was held in little Rock on October 7th between Grand Master Billy Joe Holder and his line officers, and Masters of lodges across the state. It was presumed by many to have been called for the purpose of finally informing them of the suspensions of the Deputy Grand Master and the Grand Senior Warden, but it seems that subject was not discussed after all. 

Word is slowly trickling out about the details of the meeting, and the principal message seems to have been "Don't believe what you read on the interwebs." It was suggested that Arkansas Masons should not read Facebook. But the major concentration of the meeting was to talk about purported cost savings within the Grand Lodge. 

Meanwhile, an anonymous letter was circulated in recent days, reportedly to all lodges in Arkansas, blowing the whistle on some inside information from Little Rock that has previously gone unreported. 

The most shocking allegation in the letter is the reporting of a thwarted five-year $100 assessment against all Masons in the state, amounting to a combined total of $500 per member. The fee was to be enacted last year by an edict issued by 2015 Grand Master Sam Lattin, co-written by Billy Joe Holder. Further, the edict would have suspended voting at the annual communication, and permitted the sitting Grand Master to remain in office indefinitely. According to the allegation, the edict had already been signed, sealed, and prepared for mailing. Only last-minute protestations by the Past Grand Masters prevented the letters from being sent out to lodges.

I am NOT a fan of anonymous letters in any institution, and especially not in Freemasonry. In the last year, anonymous letters have been sent in Kansas, Indiana, New Jersey, and more, in an attempt to inform Masons of what the nameless author claims to be skullduggery (usually within the ranks of their own grand lodge). I continue to think it is a terrible way to influence changes or right a wrong, and I have rarely posted them.

But in jurisdictions that forbid any discussion of Masonic matters outside of the confines of a tyled lodge, or in those that prevent open and honest discussions of contentious topics on the floor of their annual communications, I do understand the frustration of attempting to do things by the book. And in jurisdictions where grand masters pull the trigger on suspensions and expulsions at the drop of a hat instead of allowing members to air their grievances and addressing them, as a Brother is pledged to do, I sympathize with their terrible dilemma. In Arkansas, it is regular practice to send a Mason a summons to appear before a trial commission or just a hearing before the GM, accompanied by a letter to sign to waive proceedings and simply self-expel. Why must a Mason choose between complete silence in the face of injustice, versus voluntarily risking a lifetime suspension or expulsion from the fraternity he cares for so deeply, just for the offense of speaking up? 

Not long ago, someone forwarded me a copy of the Digest of the Constitution and Laws of the MW Grand Lodge F&AM of Arkansas. As I read through it, I was struck by a curious feature of the book. I have read many such documents over the years, but I have never encountered a Masonic code that had more specific definitions of "un-Masonic conduct" in my entire Masonic career than this one.  There are a full 243 specific definitions and clarifications of offenses and specifications relating to Masonic charges and trials, comprising Chapter 4 of the Digest. 

In his famed masterwork The Prince, the author Niccolò Machiavelli wrote, "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things." 

In light of the current state of affairs in Arkansas, I reluctantly post the letter that has been sent to the lodges. (Click images to enlarge.)

To more fully understand the plummeting statistics of membership in the GL of Arkansas, which dramatically exceed the national average of losses across the U.S., click the image below to enlarge a chart of stats between 1992 and 2015.

Take note that in 2012, there were no suspensions for un-Masonic conduct and 6 expulsions. By 2015, 12 had been suspended and 43 were expelled from the fraternity. That is a sobering statistic, under any circumstances.

UPDATE 10/11/16:

An article was forwarded to me this morning that sheds some light on what the $500 assessment edict may have been in response to. It seems that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas lost a half-million dollars last year in an investment deal gone south.

A Masonic grand lodge in Arkansas lost $500,000 it invested in a real estate fund run by the United Group in North Greenbush that collapsed last year when several of the company's student housing projects went into foreclosure.
The lodge, officially known as the The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Arkansas, sued United Group back in April in U.S. District Court in Little Rock, claiming that the organization was misled by United Group executives and Edgar Page, a Saratoga County investment adviser.
United Group created two real estate investment funds in 2008 to raise money for projects during a time when bank loans were scarce, recruiting financial advisers like Page to find wealthy investors, most of whom were from the Capital Region.
But the Arkansas case reveals that United Group and Page were traveling across the country in some cases to raise up to $50 million for the funds, which were created in partnership with a North Carolina firm called Davis Capital Group.
United Group student housing projects in Plattsburgh, Cortland and Brockport all fell into trouble with lenders last year, leading to heavy losses in the two funds.
Back in August 2014, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sought to bring civil penalties against Page, alleging he failed to disclose to his clients that he was negotiating the $3 million sale of his company to United Group at the same time he was recommending they put money in the funds. Page raised $15 million for the funds, SEC documents show.
United Group, which has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the case, has not spoken publicly about the funds or the failure of the student housing projects, which were built under the company's late founder Walter Uccellini, who died in a 2012 plane crash.
The United Group did not respond to questions by the Times Union in time for deadline. Page has denied wrongdoing, and his case remains pending.
A call to United Group's attorney in the Arkansas case, Little Rock attorney Chad Pekron, was not immediately returned Tuesday.
According to its lawsuit, the Arkansas Grand Lodge invested the $500,000 in the DCG/UGOC Equity Fund in 2010. But its members soon became worried about broken promises of distributions from the fund and worse-than-expected vacancy rates at the dorm projects.
In 2013, United Group executives cut off communication with lodge officials, the lawsuit claims, leading Robert Jackson, a member of the lodge's board of finance, to file an unspecified complaint against the United Group and Page with the SEC.
The Masons were notified early this year by their brokerage firm T.D. Ameritrade that their investment in the United fund "had no value."

In the wake of the losses, the Grand Lodge has made the decision to attempt to sue the investment fund in federal court (now adding legal costs to the fiasco, on top of the investment losses). The judge in the Arkansas Eastern District Court case has already thrown out much of the suit. The court case (Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Arkansas v. DCG/UGOC Equity Fund LLC  et al: Case No. 4:15-cv-00219) may be followed online HERE.

Background on this situation:

3/13/10: Grand Lodge of Arkansas Pulls Charter, Files Charges Over Website
12/16/10: News From Arkansas
2/17/11: A Gathering Storm In Arkansas
2/18/11: More Sad News From Arkansas
11/9/12: Shrine Declared Clandestine in Arkansas
1/31/13: South Carolina Suspends Relations With Shriners Internationa
6/19/16: Arkansas Rumblings
6/26/16: Reprehend With Justice
8/23/16: GL of Arkansas Suspends Grand Senior Warden
8/28/16: Grand Lodge of Arkansas' Yezhovshchina: Grand Line Officers Purged
9/3/16: More Antics Out Of Arkansas
9/11/16: Arkansas: Floggings Continue, Yet Morale Doesn't Improve