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Friday, March 16, 2018

GL of Kansas Suspends Recognition of Arkansas and Cuba

The following message just came early this afternoon from the annual communication of the Grand Lodge of Kansas AF&AM meeting today in Topeka:
"During the Committee on Foreign Relations report, it was recommended that fraternal relations be suspended or withdrawn from two Grand Jurisdictions.
"With no discussion, the Craft of Kansas voted almost unanimously to suspended recognition with the Grand Lodge of Cuba.
After minimal discussion, the Craft of Kansas voted overwhelmingly to withdraw recognition of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas."
Without further details, I presume the action taken over Cuba stems from ongoing disagreements over Florida. In February 2017, the Grand Lodge of Florida F&AM's Grand Master Stanley Hudson withdrew recognition from the Gran Logia de Cuba for their failure to "renounce the clandestine lodges operating" in Florida's jurisdiction. Their brief period of recognition by Florida had lasted just three months.

That controversy stems from lodges operated within Florida made up of exiled Cuban Masons who are not affiliated with the Grand Lodge of Florida F&AM. They obviously see this as an invasion of their territory by Cuba, and this discussion apparently has gone on for a while. Florida largely looked the other way at the operation of the exile lodges with an understanding that they would cease once relations between the island nation and the US were normalized and the two Grand Lodges reconciled. That apparently did not happen, at least as quickly as the GL of Florida wanted it to. Here is a link to a letter regarding the matter from 2014 and to the story from February 2017. Now it seems that Kansas has decided to weigh in on the matter, as well.

As to the continuing saga with the Grand Lodge of Arkansas F&AM, it is too complex to explain simply here. The Grand Lodge of Oklahoma VERY briefly withdrew recognition of Arkansas in 2016 by an edict of their then-grand master, but that quickly lapsed and amity was restored. Now, Kansas has suspended recognition officially by the vote of the Grand Lodge.

I did not have the opportunity to speak with Arkansas' newly elected (in February) Grand Master Brad Phillips when he was in Indiana for the Conference of Grand Masters, but things have been remarkably quiet out of Little Rock in recent months. Nevertheless, this action just taken in Topeka seems to confirm that Arkansas continues its policies of preventing their own members from receiving letters of good standing when attempting to demit and affiliate in adjoining states. Arkansas has been chaining the exit doors closed for several years now. But recently, Arkansas lodges have also been pointedly refusing to permit sojourning Kansas Masons from visiting meetings. The Grand Lodge of Arkansas has a past history of denying Masonic visitations from jurisdictions that have recognized their Prince Hall counterparts, and both Oklahoma and Kansas have been on the receiving end of this action. Apparently, Kansas has finally had enough of it.

Pertinent updates and links to past stories concerning Arkansas can be traced starting HERE or HERE

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

2018 Midwest Conference on Masonic Education in Rapid City, SD: April 20-22

The Midwest Conference on Masonic Education was formed in 1949 at a gathering of interested Masons from Illinois (including Alphonse Cerza) and Iowa. Since then, the Conference has provided a forum for sharing best practices in Masonic Education with each of its member jurisdictions.

The outcome was to continue getting together by establishing its first Annual Meeting which was held in December 1950 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The organization is comprised of a loose and ever-changing collection of Masonic educators from Grand Lodge jurisdictions located in twelve north central states and the Canadian Province of Manitoba. Other participants frequently include chairs of Masonic Education as well as Grand Lodge officers.

The aim of the Conference is to promote Masonic Education, in part by providing a forum for educators to gather, freely discuss Masonic issues, socialize, and learn from sharing experiences while building beneficial relationships. In addition, the Conference initiates special projects such as collecting data on educational practices across all North American jurisdictions, as well as encouraging Masonic research and writing by individual educators.

The Conference meets once a year, usually in late April or early May, in one of the member jurisdictions. Responsibility for conducting the Annual Meeting rotates each year, eventually being hosted by all member jurisdictions before repeating.

A typical program schedule includes presentations by well-known Masonic speakers, experiential as well as scholarly participant presentations, roundtable discussions, and jurisdiction reports. Sufficient time is also arranged to provide informal chats among attendees.

The 2018 conference will be held in Rapid City, South Dakota on April 20 - 22, 2018. This promises to be another outstanding program of speakers and great hospitality by the Grand Lodge of South Dakota. Speakers this year include Jim Savaloja, and keynote speaker, Mark A. Tabbert, Director of Collections for the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. More speakers are expected to be added as the date approaches. If you have an interest in presenting, please contact Yancey Smith at GM@mygrandlodge.org.

Registration is $160.00 for both Masons and Ladies. The cost includes Conference materials, social time with hors d’ oeuvres Friday night, Breakfast and Dinner Saturday and Continental breakfast Sunday. Hospitality room will be open Friday and Saturday nights after the events.

Men’s registration also includes lunch on Saturday at the Ramkota. Ladies registration includes a Saturday trip to the Journey museum, a private tour of the StavKirke Chapel in the Hills, lunch at the Firehouse Brewing Company, and shopping at Prairie Edge Trading Post.

Registration for the Conference closes April 13, 2018, so don’t delay; register today.

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Ramkota Hotel, 2111 Lacrosse Street, Rapid City at $92.99 plus tax per night. Reservations can be made by calling the hotel at 605-343-8550 (mention the Masonic Education Conference to get this rate). The Ramkota will hold this block of rooms until March 20th.

For registration and complete information, visit the MCME2018 website at http://www.mcme1949.org

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Decline of Men, and What Freemasons Need To Do About it

On Wednesday of last week, United States Marine Corps Commandant General Robert B. Neller told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense: "It's a strategic issue that less than 30 percent of the young men and women of our nation are qualified just to join the military, either because of physical, mental or moral issues."

Think about that for a minute. 

It means that  7 out of 10 young Americans between roughly 17 and say 30 are NOT qualified to serve in the military for "physical, mental or moral issues."

It's part of a much, much larger matter, particularly involving men in America. I despise people that hang "crisis" around the neck of the topic de jour, but when looked at in the aggregate, the statistics involving American men by almost every measure are alarming, and have been for quite some time. Economics, crime, job losses and wage stagnation, drug use, suicide, illiteracy and education failures, illegitimacy rates, government dependence, homelessness — pick any of them, or pick your own.

Coincidentally to the General's statement Wednesday, last Thursday Tucker Carlson on Fox News began a month-long series of reports on the decline of men in America. The video of his long introduction can be seen above. I recommend a viewing of it.

This blog site is a deliberately myopic one. I focus on Freemasonry and topics and events in the world that affect the fraternity going forward. That's why I feel so strongly that this report from Carlson is an important one that brings up issues that are having profound effects upon American society at this very moment. And because they specifically revolve around men, they are vital to understand for the leaders of the Masonic fraternity, too. Because we have a job to do, and we're failing at it.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the show:
"The signs are everywhere. If you’re a middle aged man, you probably know a peer who has killed himself in recent years. At least one. If you’re a parent, you may have noticed that your daughter’s friends seem a little more on the ball than your son’s. They get better grades. They smoke less weed. They go to more prestigious colleges. If you’re an employer, you may have noticed that your female employees show up on time, whereas the young men often don’t. And of course if you live in this country, you’ve just seen a horrifying series of mass shootings, far more than we’ve ever had. Women didn’t do that. In every case, the shooter was a man...
"The average American man will die five years before the average American woman. One of the reasons for this is addiction. Men are more than twice as likely as women to become alcoholics. They’re also twice as likely to die of a drug OD. In New Hampshire, one of the states hit hardest by the opioid crisis, 73 percent of overdose deaths were men.

"But the saddest reason for shortened life spans is suicide. Seventy-seven percent of all suicides are committed by men. The overall rate is increasing at a dramatic pace. Between 1997 and 2014, there was a 43 percent rise in suicide deaths among middle aged American men. The rates are highest among American Indian and white men, who kill themselves at about ten times the rate of Hispanic and black women.

"You often hear of America’s incarceration crisis. That’s almost exclusively a male problem too. Over 90 percent of inmates are male.

"These problems are complex, and they start young. Relative to girls, boys are failing in school. More girls than boys graduate high school. Considerably more go to and graduate from college. Boys account for the overwhelming majority of school discipline cases. One study found that fully one in five high school boys had been diagnosed with hyperactivity disorder, compared with just one in 11 girls. Many were medicated for it. The long term health effects of those medications aren’t fully understood, but they appear to include depression in later life...
"For men, the consequences of failing in school are profound. Between 1979-2010, working age men with only high school degrees saw their real hourly wages drop about 20 percent. Over the same period, high school educated women saw their wages rise. The decline of the industrial economy disproportionately hurt men.

"There are now seven million working age American men who are no longer in the labor force. They’ve dropped out. Nearly half of them take pain medication on any given day. That’s the highest rate in the world.
"Far fewer young men get married than did just a few decades ago, and fewer stay married. About one in five American children live with only their mothers. That’s double the rate in 1970. Millions more boys are growing up without fathers. Young adult men are now more likely to live with a parent than with a spouse or partner. That is not the case for young women. Single women buy their own homes at more than twice the rate of single men. More women than men now have drivers licenses.

"One study using census data found that single women in their 20s living in metropolitan areas now earn eight percent more on average than their male counterparts. By the way, the majority of managers are now women. Women on average are scoring higher on IQ tests than men are.

"Men are even falling behind physically. A recent study found that almost half of young men failed the Army's entry-level physical fitness test during basic training. Fully seventy percent of American men are overweight or obese, as compared to 59 percent of American women.
"Perhaps most terrifyingly, men seem to be becoming less male. Sperm counts across the west have plummeted, down almost 60 percent since the early 1970s. Scientists don’t know why. Testosterone levels in men have also fallen precipitously. One study found that the average levels of male testosterone dropped by one percent every year after 1987. This is unrelated to age. The average 40-year-old-man in 2017 would have testosterone levels 30 percent lower than the average 40-year-old man in 1987.
"There is no upside to this. Lower testosterone levels in men are associated with depression, lethargy, weight gain and decreased cognitive ability. Nothing like this has ever happened. You’d think we’d want to know what exactly is going on and how to fix it. But the media ignore the story. It’s considered a fringe topic..."
Pick it apart, take issue with this stat or that one, obsess over some point where you think Carlson overstated all you like. If you don't like him or you don't like Fox News, then pretend it's Rachel Maddow or Edward R. Murrow if you like. The point is, something grim is happening to the American man in society today at almost every sociio-economic and racial level, and it bodes ill for all of us. 

This is far from a whole new controversy or topic, and Carlson is by no means alone in sounding this alarm bell. He's just the latest to highlight it, and he's got a big platform from which to spread the word. After the clip above ended, he interviewed Jordan Peterson, a Canadian clinical psychologist, cultural critic, and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. Peterson is hated in many circles for bringing issues like this up at all, but he's one voice among many now. It's been going on for quite some time.

Recall the specifically Christian-centric "Promise Keepers" movement in the 1990s, which was partially organized to attempt to halt the decline of masculine character in America. It too was publicly excoriated at the time in some quarters for fighting against the accepted cultural norms, and for celebrating what were seen as old fashioned, pseudo-Neanderthal morals and attitudes about men and women, and the very real, very serious, very honest, biological, physical, and mental differences between the sexes. But Promise Keepers, as large and as successful as they were at the time, was just a drop in the bucket, and they have largely faded from the landscape today.

Freemasonry has been around for at least three centuries, and we long ago adopted the catch phrase that we "make good men better." So, do we? Do we really? Maybe the bigger point is that there seem to be less and less good men out there to start with, however you define "good." That's because the society and the culture aren't even preparing them for the future anymore. While Freemasonry is not, and never has been, a home for wayward boys or a rehabilitation program, it has always been a philosophy and institution to encourage self-improvement through association with other men who are worth emulating. We are needed now more than ever before in a society that has left vast swaths of men unprepared to deal with life, men who are simply giving up. We can and must fill a void that exists by doing our part in helping to fix society at this critical moment in time. But we must also come to grips with the fact that the men who are joining the fraternity today (and who are already members) are NOT the men who joined 50 or 100 years ago, by any measure you may choose: in temperament, stability, knowledge, motivation, competence, competitiveness, faith, morality, education, and personal responsibility. 

That's just a plain fact. And it's not a pretty one.

Civilization is a long game, not easily analyzed in ten year spurts, much less in five minute news reports. But these stats have been trending this way since as far back as the 1970s, as traditional male roles have been made more and more diminished, and even obsolete, by almost everything, everywhere you look. On the family side of the equation, there was Dr. Pincus' invention of the birth control pill, followed by the legalization of abortion on demand, no-fault divorce, combined with the huge expansion of the social safety net that encouraged the destruction of the extended family. On the morality and virtue side of the equation, there has been the complete dismantling of any and all religious considerations, or even gentle guidance, in the public square, along with the plummeting rates of those who will even acknowledge a belief in a Higher Power, however that power may be conceived. Laws and regulations have completely replaced what people used to do or not do because it just wasn't right before, or the neighbors would talk. Now, the neighbors don't know who you are, don't care, and they don't dare talk about you anyway. Judges and legislators used to discuss crimes that were "an affront to God and Man." Now, neither can even be mentioned, if only as an abstract construct, in a public policy statement or ruling, or much of anywhere else outside of a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque. 

Meanwhile, consider the huge shift in attitudes about adolescence and adulthood itself. As recently as World War II, it was not an uncommon story to hear about men lying about their age to join the military as young as 16 or 17. In the 1960s, there was an insistent clamor to reduce the age of consent lower, and the drinking and voting ages were dropped from 21 down to 18 to coincide with the draft age (and in time for the 1972 presidential election) — the 26th Amendment giving 18 year olds the vote was passed by the states faster than any other Constitutional amendment in history. But in the last decade, something quite bizarre has happened. Smoking ages and drinking ages have been almost uniformly increased by state laws back UP to 21, and now states are attempting to raise the age of various gun purchases to that higher age, as well. It seems that 18 year olds are deemed less trustworthy or less responsible than they were in 1970 in the public perception. Likewise, when the Obamacare laws were enacted, the age of child dependents permitted to stay on their parents' insurance plans rose all the way up to age 26 — further reinforcing the social acceptance that the age of childhood could now be prolonged beyond a quarter of a century — nearly a full third of the average lifespan today. Indeed, more 25 year olds today are still living with — and off the labors of — their parents (or even grandparents) than at any time in recorded history. And a substantially higher percentage of these 25 year old, at-home children are men than women. 


Then there is the matter of men in the workforce. Automation has rendered the natural physical strength advantage of men over women unimportant now. Jobs once reserved exclusively for men that were considered too strenuous or too dangerous for women are overwhelmingly being replaced by machinery or technologically advanced tools. Wage stagnation has driven far more women out of domestic life and into the workplace than any sense of 'liberation' or 'empowerment' has. Until the 1980s, it was absolutely possible and probable that a mature, responsible man could support a wife and two or more children on his salary alone. Two-income households have become a basic necessity now, regardless of family size, and not just a decision based on some sense of personal fulfillment. But automation is not just robbing men of jobs anymore. Women are being supplanted too, putting even further downward strain on households and on earnings. Tens of thousands of formerly middle class Americans are now living in second hand trailers and motor homes, traveling the countryside like nomads, chasing low-paying, seasonal jobs just to survive. Amazon even has a program for these people, calling them their CamperForce. We seem to be living through a modern-day Grapes Of Wrath period. But these aren't just Okies fleeing the Dustbowl anymore. They used to be our neighbors, and they're from everywhere.

Stir all of that soup together, and the result has been an almost complete transformation in five decades of men from the supporters and protectors of their families and society into what is today obsolescence. In a world where all gender roles (and even genders themselves) are interchangeable, men have been rendered, as the British so chillingly refer to it, "redundant." This hasn't been a gradual evolution over centuries or epochs, but of just a few recent decades or less. What was most admirable and successful about men vs. women for tens of thousands of years that enabled the human species to endure and flourish has been pushed overboard in less than half a century by America and much of Western civilization. To quote Ned Beatty in the movie Network, we have "meddled with the primal forces of Nature."

Good, bad, or something in between, it doesn't matter. This is where we are right at this moment in time.

We're fifty years away from the pivotal year of 1968 (the "Summer of Love") that became 1969 (the "Summer of Regret"), and that gives enough distance to compare what we were before with what we are now. In the world of Freemasonry, grand masters everywhere are currently obsessing single-mindedly on how to appeal to "the Millenials," and starting to sniff around about the generation coming after them, too. The reason young men are coming to us is because they are searching for something. They want to fill an emptiness at the center of their lives. 

Often, these young men have been raised without moral or religious instruction, or any sort of fraternal bonding at all. In that regard, an increasing number of them equate Bible passages that make up the very foundation of Masonic rituals as being no more or less significant than both ancient and new age mystical manifestations or charlatanism; who learn their own moral code because nobody from their mom to their schoolteachers to the cop on the corner wants to impose upon their own sense of self-discovery and self-esteem. They are seeking something that the culture used to provide but lost the keys to the car for a couple of decades ago. Often, they don't know WHY they want to join the fraternity themselves, they just know that SOMETHING IS MISSING FROM THEIR LIVES. And distracted parents, shrinking families, unstable jobs, nonexistent friendships, and churches they've never been in haven't provided that 'something' to them.

This is not mere evolution going on today. Evolution takes time. But we are experiencing a terrible rending of society itself right now, a society that no longer trains the very people who will soon inherit it, run our governments and our corporations, and decide whether to shut off your life support machine on some not too distant morning. A society that DEPENDS on the passing of knowledge and culture and ideas and history and moral and spiritual values, or it will implode when its own people who have the control panel in their hands don’t know how or why the damn thing doesn’t work anymore. Wikipedia has become our national memory and replaced the need for anyone to have one of their own anymore, and the collective consciousness of internet groupthink, of Facebook likes or Reddit upvotes, has replaced our own conscience and moral compass. As Masons, self-improvement has always been a cornerstone of improving the society around us. That’s supposed to be our mission. But we can’t improve the world if we can’t even improve our own members, or keep them long enough to even try. Or just simply attract those men "who can best work and best agree" that we are all supposed to be emulating in the first place. Society isn't like a faulty iPhone that can be fixed by just tossing it out and getting a new one.

We once either attracted men who were the pillars of the communities, or we taught the ones who would become those leaders. Masons didn’t need to beg those men to join, or provide one day classes or reduced proficiency, or form study groups to “peer into their mindset.” They were attracted to us because of our reputation — a reputation we’ve been living off of for well over half a century now, that we don’t earn or even deserve any more. Where are our Masonic mayors and councilmen and school principals, and sheriffs and judges and business leaders and shop owners and congressmen and presidents today? Much less, our philosophers who debated the issues of the Enlightenment that we were living out within the walls of our lodge meetings before any nation put them into practice? Not many of them can be found in our lodges now. 

The Lodge of the Nine Muses that Benjamin Franklin shared with Rousseau in Paris was studied by an academic historian in the 1960s, and he called it the United Nations of its era. Do we have any lodges like it anywhere the U.S. today? The truth is that when we circulate lists of famous Freemasons now, we’re lying. Those lists are like a phantom limb that our brain remembers from before it got blown off in our more recent past.

We once demanded the very best in our membership, but we also CREATED the very best, too. The most admired men in any society don't often start out that way. But they became the best over time, in their family, their little towns, their states, their fraternity. Masons didn’t hunt for them, they hunted out Masonry.

Of course we are all on the level. But there’s a flip side to that, of our responsibility to lead and improve society around us every day, in ways large and small, regardless of how we start out. That’s what George Washington meant when as a teenager he wrote down the aphorism in his copybook, “Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”

Children in single-parent families now make up 40% of the kids born in the U.S. today, and in the African American community, that percentage soars to 67%. They have been raised by daycare centers, drugged to be calmer and more manageable, staring into TV sets and smartphones, isolated behind backyard privacy fences or closed up in apartment cubicles, and never even knowing their who next door neighbors are (even the ones who don't move away after a year's lease expires). A growing handful are now home schooled, and never physically interact with other students until they reach high school, or even college. They have more virtual friends online than real, flesh and blood ones. Teenagers have lost the desire to learn to drive a car or be independent of their parents. They're even giving up the most basic concept of the mating ritual: dating.

And yet, young men today are looking for a mystic tie to other men. They are looking for enlightenment. And undeniably, they are looking for a connection to the past that maybe their parents, friends or other institutions were never able to give them. Most of all, they are seeking a connection to something larger than themselves. They come looking for the Masonic lodges of Washington and Franklin and Hancock, of Mozart and Goethe, of Thurgood Marshall and Rudyard Kipling. Of festive boards and philosophical discussions and toasting to the King, the Queen, or the President. Lodges of the world's oldest, largest and most legendary gentleman's fraternity the world has ever known. They’ve read all about it. But if what they find instead is peeling plaster, foul smelling furniture from the Coolidge Administration that should be cleaned and then burned, suspicious meat sandwiches, generic pop, and three hour business meetings about when to hold the fish fry or bitching about who's going to fix the toilet, followed by a bunch of guys stabbing each other in the back out in the parking lot, they won’t be back.

Like it or not, we’ve suddenly had a big fat awesome responsibility shoved onto our shoulders as Masons, and especially as Masonic leaders, that have never existed before. That’s now on your head and mine, because we’re still here and we keep coming back every week as these men cycle through our lodges. You can bitch about “kids these days” like your own parents used to, but like it or not, they are ours to raise now. We’re stuck with the job because society won’t do it anymore. Countless of them are moral and spiritual ciphers, hunting something they can sink their teeth into that reaches into their heads and hearts, without understanding why they need it. They just know that they do. But they won’t find what they need and we won’t have the opportunity to help them find it if they flee the building before anybody has the chance to help them discover that ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’ vacuum they recognize they lack.

The current wave in sociology, in education, and even in government is to attempt to completely deny basic human nature, and basic biological wants and desires that are baked into our cakes since childhood, and to instead alter them by fiat and by passing laws and constantly repeating theoretical utopianism that is just not true. The current state of the American Man and society at large shows that these attempts have taken a horrible toll. When human beings no longer have anything to strive for, no greater purpose to live up to, no horizon to conquer, no common belief or shared sense of mission, no sense of duty for even the children they give birth to, nothing to defend or protect or provide for, and no worth of any kind because they have no responsibility to succeed at anything anymore, they are capable of doing tragic and even horrible things, if only for revenge or out of despair. Or that most horrible of all dragons: sheer boredom.

History is something that happens when you aren’t paying attention. But we ignore this growing crisis of the decline of men in society at our peril, and at the peril of our communities and nation as well. As Masons, as citizens, as fellow creatures, it's long past time that we rolled up our sleeves and start fixing each other before there's nothing left to fix.

Ancient Temple in Syria Damaged By 'the Devastations of War"

It is a heartbreaking irony that the regions described in the holiest books of three of the world's major religions still remain the most war-torn parts of the globe today. A Turkish Air Force missile attack has severely damaged an historic Hittite temple site in Syria dating to 1,000 BC, and believed to be similar in design to Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. It has survived for 3,000 years, but it may not survive the 21st century.

The American Schools of Oriental Research’s Cultural Heritage Initiatives is reporting that an important Biblical-era archeological site known as the Tell Ain Dara Temple in northwest Syria was hit on or before January 22, 2018 by two Turkish missiles. Preliminary surveys of the site show substantial damage to the already toppled ruins caused by the explosions. Analysis of shrapnel indicates the damage was caused by two JDAM missiles fired by a Turkish F-16.

What partially makes this temple important to archeologists is that it is believed to be a design similar to the famed Temple of Solomon on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem that plays such a central role in Masonic ritual and symbolism. Most of the Syrian buildings themselves had been toppled perhaps centuries ago, but these new explosions have destroyed surviving artifacts and carvings at the site.

According to the ASOR website: Current Status of the Tell Ain Dara Temple:

The most significant find at Tell Ain Dara is the remains of an Early Iron Age (ca. 1200–550 BCE) ​in antis​ temple. This structure is the best-preserved example of a temple from this region during this time period. Located along the northwestern edge of the high mound, the northwest-southeast oriented temple rests on a low platform and is decorated with a series of basalt reliefs and animal protomes (an adornment consisting of the frontal view of the creature) carved in the highly distinctive Syro-Hittite style. The core of the temple consists of a portico, an antecella, and a cella. In addition, a passageway runs around the western, northern, and eastern faces of the central series of rooms. A series of limestone thresholds in the temple’s main doorways are adorned with carvings of larger-than-life human footprints that lead inward, conveying the idea that a deity has entered the temple. The presence of these impressions is unique to this building. 
The precise dates of the temple’s construction and use remain unknown. The temple was likely founded towards the end of the second millennium and underwent a series of changes before its destruction, possibly in the 8th century BCE. According to the excavator, the building was cleared of rubble in preparation for its reconstruction, but this never materialized. The building was eventually covered and built over in the following centuries.
The god or goddess worshipped in the building remains unknown. The excavator attributed it to Ishtar on the basis of a stele depicting that goddess that was found in a secondary context. Scholars have also offered other suggestions, including the weather god Ba’al Hadad.
Since its discovery, the Ain Dara temple has played a central role in discussions about the appearance of the contemporary Temple of Solomon, which is described in the Old Testament. Some scholars view it as a close parallel. Others are less certain.
The Temple site in 1990.

More details and photos at the link HERE.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

2018 International UCLA Conference April 7th: "Secular Enlightenment—Balancing Faith and Masonic Virtues"

On Saturday, April 7th, 2018, the 7th International Conference at UCLA, sponsored by the California Masonic Foundation, will take place in Los Angeles. 

This year's topic is "Secular Enlightenment: Balancing Faith and Masonic Virtues."
The Enlightenment created a new culture that formed the basis of our modern civil society. As this movement spread throughout Europe, Masonic lodges became an important enclave for social transformation. Learn how Masons balanced the intersection of religious and secular forces during this period, with an approach that was both radical and revolutionary. Hear from iconic Masonic scholar Margaret Jacob as she completes her pre-retirement tenure at UCLA. Speakers from around the world will travel to Los Angeles to honor Professor Jacob's remarkable career and share global perspectives of Masonic scholarship.

Scheduled presentations include:
• The French Revolution: Did existing Masonic values of fraternity and equality fuel the French Revolution, or was it the French Revolution that enshrined these values in Freemasonry?
- José Antonio Ferrer Benimeli, University of Zaragoza, Spain
• Early secular Freemasonry: Although early Freemasonry claimed to accept men of all faiths, in the 19th century, this aim was oftentimes limited by imperialist forces.
- Jessica Harland-Jacobs, University of Florida
• Secular spirituality: From the unique vantage point of 20th century Turkey, discover how Freemasonry offers men an avenue for exploring secular spirituality through universal esotericism.
- Remzi Sanver, Ph.D., Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey
• Lodges as sanctuaries or workshops for the world: In the 18th century, Masonic lodges found themselves at a crossroads when some members wanted to limit philanthropy to the intimate setting of the lodge and others wanted to promote Masonic values within the public sphere.
- Pierre-Yves Beaurepaire, University of Nice, France
• Revisiting the Illuminati: Although the Illuminati Order was dismissed as a school for radicalism in the 1700s, contemporary research suggests that Illuminati degrees may in fact align with the central ideas of radical, secular Enlightenment thought.
- Reinhard Markner, University of Innsbruck, Austria (Markner, who edited "The Secret School of Wisdom: The Authentic Rituals and Doctrines of the Illuminati," was awarded the Regulus Award by the Policy Studies Organization in 2015)

Also speaking at this conference will be:
• Susan Mitchell Sommers, Ph.D. (author of “Thomas Dunckerley and English Freemasonry”) – Saint Vincent College, Pennsylvania
• María Eugenia Vázquez Semadeni, Ph.D. (author of “The Formation of a Republican Political Culture: the Public Debate on Freemasonry in, Mexico 1821-1830,”) – University of California, Los Angeles

April 7, 2018
University of California, Los Angeles
1200 De Neve Drive
Covell Commons, Grand Horizon Ballroom
8:30AM - 5:30PM
Conference registration is $30. Add a Southern-style buffet lunch for just $20. To register, visit the Conference website HERE.

Boston University Fraternalism Lecture: Katherine Lennard, "Fraternalism and the Ku Klux Klan" 3/28

To the average, casual scanner of internet headlines these days, when the phrase "Ku Klux Klan" pops up, there's an immediate snapshot association in the mind of a pathetic handful of tobacco-dipping yahoos in a clearing in some rural Southern backwoods, burning a cross, and yelling at each other about white purity while their wives heat up the baked beans. That's the contemporary Klan that networks like A&E and the Discovery Channel go out and videotape for their TV shows. 

If the reader encountered the Klan in high school or college, they probably know about the Klan's origins and rampant violence of the post-Civil War period, and its 1960s revival as a murderous group battling against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, with its bombings, kidnappings and killings.

But there was a middle period that gets glossed over in American history. It tends to get briefly mentioned, if at all, even though it provided the greatest photo opportunity "the Klan" ever had — the 1925 march on Washington, DC, with 125,000 Klansmen swathed in their robes, marching with American flags down Pennsylvania Avenue with the Capitol Dome in the background. That second period of the Klan doesn't get talked about very often, and there's a reason why: it was a national humiliation during the Golden Age of Fraternalism, when Klan membership soared into the millions, all across the nation. At its height, the Klan of the 1920s had between 4 and 5 million members (some estimated 15% of the U.S. population), and an awful lot of great-grandfathers out there who were fine, upstanding men paid their annual klecktokens and carried a KKK dues card from the Invisible Empire in their wallets for about four years or so. After all - it was just another club...

That period of the Klan had a momentary success in America because it rode on the back of the Golden Age of Fraternalism. The Klan of the 20s used commissioned salesmen to spread across the country and enthusiastically sell their newly polished image of "100 Per Cent Americanism" as an ultra-patriotic, anti-immigration, Christian fraternity, with ritual, uniforms, its own peculiar terminology, and bilious officer titles, just like the Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, the Woodmen of the World, or the Freemasons. In fact, in many states their salesmen specifically targeted Masons for their promotional efforts. It's far more complex than this simple explanation, for a variety of political and social reasons that all converged in the eight years before the Depression struck, but the result was that the KKK became a very brief, but very powerful and influential political force in the 1920s. (I have an extensive chapter in my new book Heritage Endures that covers this turbulent period, because Indiana had the greatest percentage of its citizens who were both proud Kluxers and Freemasons, including two major players in their national organization.)

Boston University has announced its 4th annual Fraternalism Lecture at the end of this month. On March 28th, Dr. Katherine Lennard of Stanford University will present a lecture entitled “’Yours in the Sacred and Unfailing Bond: Fraternalism and the Ku Klux Klan” as the 2018 annual fraternalism lecture sponsored by the American & New England Studies Program at Boston University. The lecture will take place at 7:30 in Room 101 of the Kenmore Classroom Building, 565 Commonwealth Ave, in Boston Massachusetts. It is free and open to the public.

Dr. Lennard holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Michigan. Her dissertation examined the design, production, distribution, and use of Ku Klux Klan regalia in the first third of the twentieth century.

The annual fraternalism lecture series is made possible through the generosity of Boston University Lodge, A.F. & A.M. Previous lectures in the series have been presented by David G. Hackett, Joscelyn Godwin, and Corey D.B. Walker.

For more information, or to make a contribution to support future lectures, contact William D. Moore, Director of the American & New England Studies Program at moorewd@bu.edu.

Monday, March 05, 2018

"Looking Back At Our Future" Masonic Symposium, Dayton, OH This Weekend: 3/9/18

Last chance to sign up for this weekend's Masonic Lodge Symposium, "Looking back At Our Future," at the Dayton Masonic Center, 525 West Riverview Avenue, Dayton, Ohio
Friday, March 9, and Saturday, March 10, 2018.

Registration ends tonight, Monday, March 5th, so don't wait!

"This symposium is designed to offer the participants a look at how five lodges have approached the challenges of practicing Freemasonry in the Twenty-First Century. Each of these lodges have followed a path unique to them in exploring Freemasonry, its lessons, teachings, and past practices whereby to assemble a operating paradigm which meets the needs of their members. It is our hope that all who attend will gather ideas that they find helpful to the operation of their own lodges to launch them on the path to a more enlightened and rewarding practice of Freemasonry. The goal is not to create clones, but to inspire as we all learn from each other."

I'm proud to see three members of Indiana's own Lodge Vitruvian 767 as Presenters:
  • Dan Hrinko - author of The Craft Driven Lodge
  • Richard Frederick - Arts and Sciences Lodge
  • Clifford Nicol - Arts and Sciences Lodge
  • Brent Arnold - Immediate Past Master of Lodge Vitruvian No. 767, Indianapolis
  • James R. Dillman - PM Lodge Vitruvian No. 767, Indianapolis and former president of The Masonic Society
  • Steve Vedra - PM Lodge Vitruvian No. 767, and Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research U.D., Indiana
  • Richard Graeter - author of Reform Freemasonry?
  • Larry Solomon - PM Caliburn Lodge No. 785, Cincinnati
  • Jason Rogers - Caliburn Lodge No. 785, Cincinnati
  • Robert Miller - Caliburn Lodge No. 785, Cincinnati
  • Samuel Lawson - Lodge Vitruvian No. 767
  • Jeff Okrutny - Tippecanoe Lodge No. 174, Tipp City, Ohio
  • Paul Bathgate - Tippecanoe Lodge No. 174, Tipp City, Ohio
  • Zach Jacobs - Tippecanoe Lodge No. 174, Tipp City, Ohio
  • John Bizzack - Lexington Lodge No. 1, author of Island Freemasonry

For more information and registration, see the website: http://www.21stcenturyfreemason.org/

Sunday, March 04, 2018

A Fraternal Gem: J. H. Rathbone Museum and Resource Center

Every state in the union has its share of odd museums dedicated to a wild variety of preservation causes (or obsessions, depending on how it's organized). That's what makes small, specialized museums so interesting in the first place, because what may be eminently missable to much of the population can alternately be endlessly fascinating to others.

Lafayette, Indiana (hometown of Purdue University, for you out of staters) is home to one of those unique museums that few have ever heard of, but if you have an interest in frateralism in America, you need to know about it. 

The J. H. Rathbone Museum and Resource Center was originally founded to store, preserve, and display Knights of Pythias memorabilia. In fact, their building is also the meeting location of Lafayette Lodge No. 51, Knights of Pythias. This was the home lodge for James Carnahan who was the founder of the Uniform Rank Knights of Pythias, a military branch best known for their drill teams, similar to the Masonic fraternity's Knights Templar. But since the Museum's creation, it has grown into fulfilling a much larger purpose. It now comprises a collection of thousands of items concerning all things fraternal.

The role of fraternal societies in America, especially during the period of their explosive growth between the end of the Civil War and the 1929 Great Depression, cannot and must not be ignored or forgotten. In 1927, author Charles Mertz estimated that 30 million of the 106 million people in the United States at that time held membership in at least one fraternal group. Just ten years later, author Charles W. Ferguson upped his estimate to 50 million fraternal members out of 122 million Americans. These societies helped people young and old to learn and appreciate the American way of democratic life and values during a period of massive upheaval and immigration from countries with little or no experience of it. In a different nation, such a huge clash of disparate foreigners arriving into a country might have become enormously fractious and divided along ethnic, religious, economic, or political lines. But America was different then, and fraternal groups had a lot to do with that. (And no, I'm not forgetting the elephant in the room of racial segregation that was enforced through the early 1960s.)

They taught their members basic civility, organizational skills, administrative roles, public speaking, religious and social tolerance and equality, and lessons of civic responsibility. And they provided economic stability and a social safety net when millions might very well have become what was referred to then as "wards of the state," or at least suffered tremendous poverty long before the days of government welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, and social security. 

The segregated African-American fraternal societies also exploded in popularity at the exact same time, many directly paralleling their white counterparts, and teaching the exact same lessons and skill sets to their members. Black fraternal groups arguably had as great an influence on their part of American society as the black churches in strengthening their community, family life, faith, business and civic skills at a time when white America was largely ignoring them.

Without fraternal societies at that critical period in time, America would have been a very, very different place. In fact, it's arguable that society is in severe need of a rebirth of the fraternal society right this very minute, for many of the exact same reasons, and more. America seems to have lost its most essential civic and civil skills these days, what with all of our internal tribalistic divisions and total lack of social manners and abilities, and a lodge room is perhaps the most ideal place of all to relearn them. 

But that's another post for anther day.

The Rathbone Museum is packed floor to ceiling with artifacts, clothing, regalia, hats, swords, books, newsletters, and all of the other ephemera that the fraternal societies of the 19th and 20th century poured out to their members. Freemasonry and the Odd Fellows were merely the largest of the groups, but the Knights of Pythias, Woodmen of the World, the Red Men, the Grange, the Foresters, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Knights of Columbus, the "animal lodges" of Elks, Moose, Eagles, and hundreds of others (an estimated 800 in 1927) were every bit as active and proud of their orders. Like Freemasonry, they had rituals and ceremonies, officers with bilious titles, costumes and regalia, jewelry, lapel pins and medals (Oy! the medals!), and more. Countless examples of all of this are on display in the Rathbone Museum's limited space.

Surprisingly, there are very few other museums like the Rathbone. (In fact, I hope that one day a friend and Brother of mine will open his unique Washington D.C. house as a museum, as it is packed with thousands of these types of items, as well, and deserves to be seen and protected.) While the Rathbone is a labor of love curated by Dr. Ken Moder, it is noteworthy that his board of directors is made up of others who may be known to some of you: Pennsylvania's fez-obsessed resident Seth C. Anthony; the House of the Temple's Heather Calloway; Kelby Dolan (who has done much work with us at the Masonic Museum and Library of Indiana); Odd Fellows member Michael Greenzieger; John Hardesty; and Teresa Snarr. 

So if you find yourself in west-central Indiana, maybe passing through on your way to Chicago or elsewhere on I-65, and Lafayette is not out of your way, be sure to stop in at the J. H. Rathbone Museum and Resource Center at 134 South Earl Avenue, Lafayette, Indiana. And if you encounter a treasure trove of items related in any way to any of the countless fraternal societies in America, please contact Dr. Moder and his team before you just shrug and consign grandpa's top drawer of rings, old ribbons or silly hats to the dumpster. They might have little or no monetary value, but they are not just junk. They might help to tell the story of an important period in time when organizations like Freemasonry and numberless others helped to weave the very fabric of American society into something unique and strong.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Anti-Masonry: Be Careful What You Print

Here's a publishing tip: Don't go rooting around in Nazi propaganda for your stock photos.

During the anti-Masonic media tumult in England in February, the Manchester, England-based Catholic Times newspaper decided to weigh in with their own take on Freemasonry by publishing a letter from one of their readers on the 'Letters To The Editor' page. Blaring the headline, 'Dangers Lurking In Masonic System Of Philosophy,' the letter contained the usual array of canards against the fraternity. Given the Roman Catholic Church's official strictures against joining Masonic lodges, that's to be expected in a paper specifically skewed to that particular audience. If any organization has the right to create their own lopsided messaging that is specifically anti-Masonic in nature, it would certainly be the Catholic press, no matter how incorrect they might be.

Unfortunately, the large graphic they chose to accompany the letter couldn't have been a stupider choice. 

Immediately below the anti-Masonic letter was a different letter, this one a complaint that the paper had recently published blatantly anti-semitic material in an earlier issue. Anthony Silkoff, the Interfaith and Social Action officer of the Board of Deputies of British Jews  wrote a strong objection to the Catholic Times about a different reader’s letter which had alleged “a dramatic increase in Jewish voices on the radio”, as well as complaining about a “Jewish comedian” using sexual slang. Mr. Silkoff described the original letter in the paper as “racist drivel,” and his message was printed on the same page as the anti-Masonic letter. Right under it, as a matter of fact.

So what did the Catholic Times use to illustrate their reader's takedown of the fraternity? 

A photo that's appeared in books like The Hiram Key and others, and apparently has been around since the 1940s. 

The man, blindfolded with his trouser leg rolled up, was standing in front of a door with two Stars of David above it.
However, as Mr Silkoff highlighted, the picture of the man was taken from a Nazi-era antisemitic pamphlet about Jews using Freemasonry for subversion.
In a second letter to the Catholic Times, Mr Silkoff wrote: “At best, this is an incredibly grave mistake for you to use this Nazi image, and especially to use it on the same page where you had to print an apology for antisemitism.
“Where did you find this Nazi image and how did it end up in your paper?”
Mr Silkoff told the JC: “This episode has caused such concern because the Board really values the strong relationship we have with Catholics in Britain.
“We cooperate on lots of issues, particularly education and faith schools.
Our many friends in the Catholic church will be just as surprised as us to see this happen twice.”
Mr Flaherty said: “I had no idea the photograph was an antisemitic image.”
He said he had found the image on Google and not checked its source.
Ooops. Pesky details like that tend to reinforce the beliefs of Freemasons, especially in England and other European countries, that the press is never to be trusted.

Just as a matter of reference, two recent surveys of U.S. and Canadian Freemasons have shown that as many as 23% of Masons in those two countries identify themselves as Catholic. The fraternity does not restrict Catholics from joining. On the contrary—Freemasons do not ask a petitioner or their own members what particular faith they espouse. 

These two surveys were anonymous and unofficial. Freemasonry is designed specifically NOT divide its members by religion, politics, race, economic class, or profession. As a result, when Speculative Freemasonry first became widely known in the first half of the 18th century, the lodge was the first organization of its kind in England where Catholics, Protestants, and Jews met and socialized side by side without discrimination.

Apparently that is still considered a radical notion by a shrinking handful of people who just can't contain their contempt for it to this day.

Upcoming 2018 Masonic Conferences and Symposia

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania: March 17, 2018
Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge Spring Symposium

Speakers: 2016 Prestonian Lecturer Ric Berman - "Foundations: New Light on the Formation and Early Years of the Grand Lodge of England"
Adam Kendall - "The Geometry of Mystery: Ancient Egypt, Freemasonry, and Secret Societies"

Attleboro, Massachusetts (Ezekiel Bates Lodge): April 28, 2018
Masonic Con 2018

Featured presentations this year will include:
For more information, see the website at: https://eb1870.org/masonic-con-2018/

And if you are coming to town the night before on Friday, April 27th, Ezekiel Bates Lodge and Bog Iron Brewery have teamed up to host the Masonic Con Pre-Party, complete with two specially brewed craft beers just for the occasion. See this separate page to reserve a spot: https://eb1870.org/bog-iron-night/

Alexandria, Virginia (George Washington National Masonic Memorial): May 10-13, 2018.
Apollo 2018 World Festival of Masonic Arts.

The Apollo Festival of Masonic Arts is a world celebration of the symbolic culture of Freemasonry, organized by the Association of Masonic Arts (AMA), and hosted by different grand lodges around the world. The main purpose of the festival is to present the centuries old masterpieces of the Craft and contemporary art products, made by brethren from different cultures and countries.

Washington DC (The Whittemore House), May 18, 2018.
World Conference on Fraternalism Social Capital, and Civil Society 2018: Not Men Only - Sisters, Sororities, and Ritualistic Societies.  

Speakers will include: Cécile Révauger, Olivia Chaumont, Emanuela Locci, Paul Rich, Guillermo de los Reyes, Nancy Theiss, Demetrio Xoccato, and Teresa Lynn.

Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada (The Delta Lodge): April 6-8, 2018
53rd Spring Masonic Workshop

"The Development of Freemasonry into a symbolic society"
This year's theme has an historical bent as it looks at the change from Operative Masonry to Speculative Masonry in Scotland and other parts of the world.

Featured Speaker: Robert L. D. Cooper

Istanbul, Turkey (Movenpick Hotel): April 14, 2018
Fifth International Symposium on Freemasonry

Speakers include Ric Berman, Susan M. Sommers, Yavuz Salim Agaoglu, and Okan Yunusoglu.
For information contact Bro Ahmet Senkut, the Grand Orator for the GL of Turkey at ahmetsenkut@gmail.com

(Click image to enlarge)

Beirut, Lebanon: June 8-10, 2018
A “Masonic Discovery Travel to Lebanon” is offered by the District Grand Lodge of Lebanon (Scottish Constitution) in conjunction with the installation of Bro Rabih Jarmakini as District Grand Master. In conjunction with thus event, organizers will be offering a tour to Hiram’s Tomb in Tyre and to the Temples of Baalbek.

Check out www.dgll.org or email to dgm@dgll.org for further information

Toledo, Ohio (Camp Miakonda): August 9-12, 2018
Camp Masonry 2018

Speakers: Eric R. Schau, J. Keith Green, Robert Johnson, Harry Weaver III, Jason Bryce, Chad E. Simpson

See the website for meals, camping information, lodging, and pricing plans.

Alexandria, Virginia (George Washington National Masonic Memorial): September 14-16, 2018

Quatuor Coronati Lodge of Research will host a rare North American Conference for 2018 with a program of research papers and debates.

Fort Worth (Fort Worth Masonic Temple): September 15-16, 2018
Texas MasoniCon 2018

Speakers: Michael Poll, Piers Vaughan, Charles Dunning, Jr., Pete Normand, Brad Billings, Roberto Sanchez, John Tolbert, David Bindel, Larry Fitzpatrick.

Tickets $45 in advance.