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Monday, September 18, 2017

Indiana Grants Dispensation To New Lodge

Just a quick post to congratulate all my Indiana brethren up in the northwest corner of the state for receiving their new dispensation from Grand Master Rodney Mann for their brand new lodge, Crowned Martyrs Lodge U.D. My understanding is that it is styled as a "European Concept" lodge.

Their lodge's mission statement is:
"To provide a Masonic Experience focused on dignity and decorum, provide substantive education presentations, and foster true brotherhood. To expand the Masonic experience to engage all of the senses, strive for perfection in our Masonic work, and create a sacred space where all brethren are elevated to a state that, while it remains level for all present, is elevated high above our common lives in the profane world outside our tyled doors. To break bread with one another as a way to bridge all distance between us, heal all wounds and absolve all greivances that may obscure the Light between brethren. To serve the Grand Architect, and erect ourselves as Temples for him to dwell within."
In the early 2000s, the Grand Lodge of Indiana dramatically reduced the number of Masons required to charter a new lodge from twenty-five down to just ten. That was done deliberately to make it much easier to establish a lodge than in more than a century, and to encourage more smaller, intimate ones. The philosophy at the time—and continues to be—that a smaller lodge helps to foster closer and greater brotherhood than a large one can. It was that sentiment that we originally had when we founded Lodge Vitruvian 767. In fact, we declared at the time that we would keep from accepting any more than just 36 members. That was done specifically because the more and more members a lodge has, the more anonymous they become to each other, which has long been the philosophy in Masonic jurisdictions outside of the U.S. The smaller the lodge, the closer the friendships, and when you keep the number below 36, you all know when Brother Charlie misses a meeting or loses his job, and are far more likely check on him. Additionally, it was always our intention that if more than 36 Masons ever wanted join us in future, they would be deliberately encouraged to start their own new lodge instead of increasing the size of ours. 

With that in mind, all the very best of luck going forward to Worshipful Master James A. Iles and his officers and the charter members of Crowned Martyrs Lodge U.D!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

MSA Disaster Relief for Florida Issued; Texas Ongoing

I didn't have to wait long after the previous post.

The Masonic Service Association of North America has just issued an official Disaster Relief Appeal for Florida a moment ago (click the image above to enlarge). The press release is as follows:
SEPTEMBER 13, 2017
Hurricane Irma hit Florida with the “longest-lasting powerful hurricane or typhoon ever recorded, worldwide,” according to National Public Radio. More than 60% of the state was without power. Widespread flooding, depleted grocery shelves, and damage from high winds have made life miserable for many.
The Grand Lodge of Florida has requested this Disaster Appeal to care forthe many brethren who live in Florida, and have been impacted by the storm. While the damage is still being assessed, the certainty of many months of recovery is expected.
 Donations can be made online at www.msana.com. When remitting by check, please mark clearly that you wish the funds to go to the Florida Disaster Appeal.
Please forward any donations you feel appropriate to help our devastated Brothers and their families to MSA. Please make checks payable to MSA Disaster Relief Fund and send to 3905 National Drive, STE 280, Burtonsville, MD 20866.
​MSA is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
​# # #
Simon R. LaPlace, PGM, Executive SecretaryMasonic Service Association of North America3905 National Drive, STE 280
Burtonsville, MD 20866www.msana.com

PLEASE NOTE: Check with your own grand lodge to see if they are collecting donations as part of the MSA Appeal, just to prevent confusion as to whom is donating to what.  

Remember that the Texas Appeal is also ongoing. When remitting funds directly to MSA, please mark donations specifically to "Texas Disaster Appeal" or to "Florida Disaster Appeal" on the memo line of your check or on the envelope. To donate directly to the MSA Appeals by check, make checks payable to MSA Disaster Relief Fund and send them to: 
Masonic Service Association
3905 National Drive, Suite 280
Burtonsville, MD 20866
You can also donate via PayPal HERE. There are separate buttons for Florida and Texas.

The Masonic Service Association is arguably the best and most effective way to provide financial assistance to Florida and Texas Masons (or to any other jurisdictions that may also request these official Disaster Relief Appeals through MSA). MSA is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. That is important to remember, especially if you, your company, or foundation are making a large donation and are in need of a tax deduction in return. The charitable arm of the Masonic Service Association was specifically established for the purpose of raising tax deductible donations, and to effectively distribute and account for the funds provided to Masons who receive assistance. Your entire donation will be sent to the affected jurisdiction. MSA deducts nothing for administrative expenses or expenses of any kind. Meaning if you donate $100.00, all $100.00 gets to Florida or Texas Masons.

Florida Lodge Damaged in Storm

You never want a Masonic lodge to make the news this way.

As I was flipping channels Monday night, I caught a live report during The Five on Fox from Florida, discussing the hurricane damage from Irma and interviewing some of the folks there. What should pop up but a shot of a Masonic lodge with its roof peeled apart. Rick Leventhal reported from Ormond Beach, just north of Daytona Beach on the East Coast:
"The storm dumped eight to 12 inches of rain here in Volusia County in a very short period of time flooding countless streets and neighborhoods like this one in low lying areas and knocking down trees and power lines leaving hundreds of thousands of people in the dark in this county alone.

But some of the locals in the neighborhood just a few miles from us in Ormond Beach say, it was a twister, a tornado that did the worst damage in this storm roaring through like a free train at about 9:30 last night, splintering trees and knocking down utility post and ripping roofs off of houses, dropping them in neighbor's yards and right in the middle of the street. We talked to some folks who hunkered down inside the Ormond Beach Masonic lodge nearby. They'd thought they'd be safe there and instead, the storms ripped the roof, the brand-new roof off the structure and had the people inside thinking that the end could be near."

Brother David Poulin, Senior Warden, was interviewed outside of the heavily damaged Ormond Beach Lodge 326, as an unidentified brother looked on:

"They were sitting there playing cards. The lights flickered three times and they went dead silent and all of a sudden it sounded like a bomb going off. He did two tours in Vietnam..."
"Heh. And I said how close was that to Nam just last night and he says, it ain't going to get no closer than that."
Ormond Beach Lodge 326 has a website HERE and they also have a Facebook page HERE. They announced on the website before the storm hit that several members were in the area offering help, and both members and area residents were in the lodge building at the time using it as shelter. According to brother Chris Van Duyne, they have two lodges, an OES Chapter, York Rite bodies, and a Grotto that all meet there, so it's a vital Masonic link to the community. It's entirely possible, if not probable, that they still don't have power today. Sadly, I suspect that given the breadth of the hurricane with its surrounding effects, theirs won't be the only one that was hit.

I will say that as I drove north from Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, before the storm even hit the mainland, a mile-long convoy of tree service and power trucks were already headed south to prepare for what they knew was coming.

I have not seen an official MSA Disaster Appeal for Florida yet either, but I will certainly post such an announcement if and when it comes (the Texas one is ongoing). From the sound of reports, everyone across Florida has their hands full right now, so it will undoubtedly take a while for offices to get back up and running. MSA posted last night on its Facebook page that the office of the Grand Lodge of Florida has been closed, but they have been in touch with them. After Grand Master Richard Hoover is able to evaluate the situation, he will decide if a Disaster Relief Appeal is warranted. 

I am unable to find any updated online presence coming from the MW Union Grand Lodge of Florida PHA, aside from their website. Their GL offices are in Jacksonville, and that area got hit as well. If anyone wants to pass along an official Facebook link for them, please let me know.

NOTE: The Scottish Rite-SJ's Tyler's Place podcast interviewed Brother Pedro Nicot Santana in Puerto Rico and Florida's Grand Secretary, Richard Lynn on Saturday.

In the meantime, please keep all of our citizens in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and all of the other affected areas ravaged by both of these recent storms in your prayers. And if you have a lodge meeting coming up, please pass the box of fraternal assistance with them all in mind. It will be needed.

(This post has been updated as of September 13th at 1:25 PM. Thanks to those who supplied new information. More as I get it.)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Curious Decisions of Foreign Book Licensing

Wiley Publishing, the company that produces the whole For Dummies series in the United States, licenses its various titles to different foreign publishers, and I've been especially surprised and happy over the years over the growing number of editions created by the French publisher, First EditionsI was extremely gratified when they hired my French Masonic Brother, Philippe Benhamou as the co-author to rework my initial framework and tailor the French version of Freemasons For Dummies (La Franc-maçonnerie Pour Les Nuls) to better suit that unique market. 

First, there was the original edition, which was a substantially reworked version of my own original book for the French marketplace—but one that went far beyond a mere translation. Take a look at the way that French Amazon describes the book on its website (taken from that book's introduction) and you can immediately see why many alterations had to be made:

"[T]he double door opens. You are invited to enter. You are at first surprised by the calm and harmony of the place. Your eyes adjust to the soft blue light that falls from the star-decked ceiling. You start to see the different elements that adorn the temple: first the Sun and Moon framing a large luminous triangle with an eye in the center. Then, on the ground, black and white tiles and three small columns each surmounted by a lighted candle. On each side, you feel presences, but you dare not even turn your head.
"The door closed quietly. You walk slowly towards what looks like a small altar with an open book that supports a compass partly covered with a wooden square. No doubt, it is indeed a Masonic lodge. Behind the altar, the one facing you seems to chair this meeting. He holds in his right hand a gavel with which he strikes a blow, and then speaks:

"Welcome to the Temple of Freemasonry. Here you'll discover what attracts nearly 3 million women and men around the world to meet regularly in temples like this to work in a rigorous ritual. We will visit all of the varied Masonic landscape. Varied, because there are both atheists and believers, Catholics, Jews and Muslims, young and not so young, ambitious and modest ... While every Freemason has his own individual commitment, all share a faith in man and in his development; they agree on the fact that the world has meaning, which it suits everyone to discover in order to find their place.
"Entering the temple of Freemasonry is to therefore first share these values: freedom of thought, respect for others, tolerance and brotherhood. These ideals were born during a history of almost three hundred years we will explain. You can then explore the differences, for instance, between American Freemasonry and European Freemasonry, between the French Rite and the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, or between a "Compangnon Freemason" and a "Compagnon du Tour de France."
"More so, you'll have access to a practical guide to Freemasonry for the use of non-masons: discover the method of initiation by degrees, including the initiation ceremony, visit a lodge, decode the symbolic language. All that punctuates the life of a Freemason since the first day of his initiation will be presented to you in the familiar style of the readers of this [For Dummies] series. 
"So advance one step, approach the square and compass, and let us guide you..."
And that's just the first page.

Philippe's name on the cover is placed above mine for a damned good reason: he had to subtract the strictly US/Anglo-Saxon Masonic material, and then compile all new information that was specific to the far more complicated minefield that makes up the French Masonic world. That meant creating a book that would be applicable to the members (or potential ones) of the Grand Orient de France, the Grand Loge de France, the Grande Loge Nationale Française, and more; PLUS the feminine AND co-Masonic organizations (since women make up more than 20% of French Freemasonry). He had to include all original material specific to French Masonic history that I had no reason to address. And to make it even more complex, French appendant orders and bodies are also very different, as well.

Next came a pocket-sized edition—actually a bit too big for the average pocket, at 400+ pages. Maybe better suited for a sturdy backpack... or a Masonic apron case. But that still wasn't enough for our French publisher.

I was downright, drop-dead jealous when the next version was a hardback, full COLOR illustrated French edition of La Franc-Maçonnerie Pour Les Nuls. Never before had I encountered a hardback For Dummies book in ANY language (much less one with my name on it). And for those too embarrassed to be caught reading a bright yellow For Dummies/Pour les Nuls book that could be spotted from low earth orbit (as the former Prime Minister of Senegal discovered the hard way several years ago), the paper dust jacket was easily removed, revealing a bland, inconspicuous, black cloth volume, complete with a bookmark ribbon sewn into the binding. (Would that Wiley's U.S. editions offered such a beautiful version here, since we have a MUCH larger potential audience.) Philippe and the French publisher amassed an enviable array of more than 100 illustrations of artwork, objects, symbols, jewels, aprons, and lodge rooms, including more than a few images I had argued (to no avail) to be put in my original U.S. version six years before.

Now, First Editions has just released La Franc-maçonnerie pour les Nuls en 50 Notions Clés (Freemasonry for Dummies in 50 Key Concepts), a sort of abbreviated, introductory arrangement of the 50 most important topics needed to have a basic understanding of French Masonry. And a mere bargain at the paltry sum of just €8.50!
"Welcome to Freemasonry!

"Freemasonry is surrounded by many clichés, assumptions and misconceptions. But close your ears to rumors. This book invites you to discover from the inside one of the oldest secret societies of the Western world: Freemasonry. Clear, precise, playful, it helps to better understand the mechanisms and the sanctity of the initiatory experience while dusting some legends attached to the Freemasons. What is Freemasonry, what is its history, what philosophy underpins its work, the meaning of the Masonic symbols, or what the initiation, many questions, and many others, who will find their answers in a didactic work devoid of jargon!"

Philippe is a talented author and has written several other books on French Freemasonry, and even L'Histoire de l'Aviation pour les Nuls (History of Aviation For Dummies), motivated in part by his role as an engineer in the French aerospace program. He ventured into fiction in 2014 with Madame Hiramabbi: La concierge de la rue des trois frères, which features more than just a little symbolism that some of us will recognize—beginning with the title, along with Mme. Hiramabbi's cat Solomon...

Back in 2007, I also had the happy experience of accidently meeting the Brother who was translating Freemasons For Dummies into Dutch (Vrijmetselarij voor Dummies). Jimmy Koppen is a Mason from Belgium, and I had the pleasure of stumbling into him by total accident in Edinburgh, Scotland at the International Conference on the History of Freemasonry that year. He had contacted the Dutch/Flemish publisher of the Dummies books and asked if such an edition was being planned. He suddenly found himself plunged into the business of translating my American original, AND Brother Phillipe Benhamou's French version, along with making even more specific alterations to explain the variations of Freemasonry in both Belgium and the Netherlands, PLUS incorporating the history of the Craft in those nations. Because of the unique way that Belgium was created with its melding of French, Dutch and German societies, along with having to make the book applicable to both Belgium and the Netherlands, Brother Koppen's job was equally complex.

Sadly, the Dutch/Flemish edition didn't catch on like the French one did, and it was never reprinted after its original publication. However, Jimmy Koppen did establish a Dutch language Masonic blog of his own at VrijmetselarijVoorDummies.blogspot.com that was updated continuously up until at least two years ago. He has also written other books on Freemasonry, as well as Belgian Politics For Dummies (Belgische Politiek voor Dummies).

Over the years, there has also been a German version, Freimaurer für Dummies (a straight translation without any customization by Harmut Strahl, and I have no idea if he is a Freemason or not). Despite the fact that it is just a German language version of a pretty distinctly American book, it too has recently been published in both full sized and pseudo-pocket sized editions. And it's done well enough to warrant a new cover in 2015. It's unfortunate that it doesn't even include at least a chapter about the complex and unique arrangement of the United Grand Lodges of Germany. Theirs is a complicated Masonic landscape to negotiate, and both the fraternity and the general public would have been better served if the publisher had involved a knowledgable German Mason with it.

Over the years, I've heard rumors of a Romanian and a Russian translation on the horizon, but I haven't seen them. Interestingly though, there is a Turkish translation of Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies (Komplo Teorileri ve Gizli Cemiyetler) but not of the Freemasons book. It also appears to be a straight translation without being locally customized for the Turkish market. I suspect the potential audience in Turkey will be woefully disappointed with it however, since Alice and I wrote the book several years before the feud between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his nemesis Fethullah Gülen really kicked into high gear. They'll find no mention of Gülenists anywhere in its pages.

While more than a few people have requested it, there remains no Spanish language version of Freemasons For Dummies for either the U.S. or especially the Mexican market, which is definitely needed (the actual masonic market in Spain is pretty small by comparison). As in Europe, the Mexican Masonic landscape is complex, with its competing grand lodges and supreme councils which are not uniformly recognized throughout the Anglo-Saxon Masonic world. There are more than a few American states, the UGLE, and the other Home Grand Lodges that do not recognize the same Masonic bodies in Mexico, and a version of the Dummies book localized for them (or Brent Morris' Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry, or frankly ANY sort of similar guide, not just mine) would be helpful. And popular.

The same situation is also true for Brazil, which also has large, multiple, competing Masonic groups. A Brazilian Portuguese edition would be invaluable in that country, as well. (NOTE: See below.) And after last week, I have a feeling a Tagalog translation for the Philippines would fly off of shelves, as well. But we authors have almost zero input on licensing decisions like this. It often just takes an excited and qualified translator and author in a foreign country to push for such an edition on their own. That's how Brother Koppen got the Dutch edition published.

UPDATE 9/13/2017

Brother Kennyo Ismail posted a comment yesterday letting me know that there IS indeed a Brazilian edition of Freemasons For Dummies. Maçonaria Para Leigos was published in December 2015 by Alta Books, and he wrote a very kind introduction to it, as well. Kennyo acted as the technical reader and editor on that edition, and he made a few tweaks to ensure it was not baffling to Brazilian brethren when it ventured into purely American Masonic practices and structure. I never received a copy from Alta by way of my own publisher, so I have no way to currently flip through it to see if anything major was adjusted. Kennyo and I had spoken about such an edition back in 2012 and 2013 at Masonic Week, but I presumed nothing had ultimately come of it after that. So I'm happy to know it actually did make it into print. 

I also dug a little bit and saw an old note from 2014 that there is supposed to be a Hungarian edition of the Conspiracy Theories/Secret Societies book published by Taramix Kft., but I've never seen that one, either.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

STARTS TOMORROW! Masonic Society Conference, Lexington, KY September 7-10, 2017

The Masonic Society's 2017 Conference in Lexington, Kentucky begins tomorrow evening, and you don't want to miss it! This promises to be one of the best of these events the Society has ever hosted, and John Bizzack and the other organizers have done an outstanding job. An amazing list of speakers, panelists, and presenters will be on hand for a VERY intensive program.

PLEASE NOTE: You do NOT have to be a Masonic Society member to attend this event. We'd love for you to join TMS, but anyone may sign up for the Conference regardless.

Speakers and panelists will include:

Thomas W. Jackson
Mark Tabbert
Jordan Yelinek
Dr. Elquemedo Oscar Alleyne
Patrick Craddock
Allan Casalou
Andrew Hammer
Jon T. Ruark
Dr. John Bizzack
Cameron C. Poe
Richard A. Graeter
A certain Dummy

Early check-in begins at noon tomorrow, Thursday September 7th, with a Welcome Reception at 6PM. The main Conference events kick off at 9AM on Friday with introductions, followed by Tom Jackson's opening presentation of The History of the Future of Freemasonry. Speakers and panels will take place throughout Friday and Saturday, and I'll be moderating a panel on Friday afternoon on the topic of "Freemasonry and the Next 100 Years." There will also be a closing panel discussion on Sunday morning from 9-11AM for those still in town. The current program may be seen HERE.

Lexington is a fascinating city with a very storied history of its own. Included with the Conference fee are optional tours to Kentucky Horse Park and Henry Clay's historic home in nearby Ashland. Please sign up for these on the registration so the organizers know how many people to expect to accommodate. (Note: spouses or friends not attending the Conference itself can sign up for the tours for $20 apiece.)

The Conference website is available HERE.  Registration is $125 for the Conference only, plus $45 per person for the Festive Board on Friday evening (this dinner is for Masons only - back tie or business suit, please). If you happen to be a member of Lexington Lodge 1, there is no charge for the Festive Board, as you are the local hosts.

All events will be held at the Embassy Suites in Lexington. I have no idea if there are any rooms left in our bloc, but online reservations using the Masonic Society Conference code, CLICK HERE.

By the way, speaking of John Bizzack, be sure to check out his new book, Island Freemasonry, published by Macoy Publishing. It is an absolutely outstanding exploration of the explosive, rapid expansion of the fraternity on the frontier of America in the late 1700s and early 1800s. On the one hand, Freemasonry was a positive, civilizing, leadership-training influence that attracted the best of men, while encouraging others to emulate them. However, that unbridled expansion into distant, often rugged, uneducated men on the frontier also laid the seeds of the Morgan Affair and numerous other troubles that have plagued us ever since, and was as much about political and practical expansion at the time as it was about brotherhood. Arguably more. John has done an excellent job of connecting history's dots, and it is well worth your time to read this tremendous work of scholarship.

To become a member of TMS, visit the website at http://www.themasonicsociety.com

Monday, September 04, 2017

MSA Issues Hurricane Harvey Disaster Appeal for Texas

You are more than aware by now that the entire Gulf Coast of Texas and parts of Louisiana have been smacked by Hurricane Harvey in the last week. Many U.S. Masonic jurisdictions are circulating this message, but I will do it here as well, in case yours hasn't yet.

The Masonic Service Association of North America has issued an official Disaster Appeal HERE  on behalf of the Grand Lodge of Texas AF&AM:

The entire Gulf Coast of Texas was deluged with high winds and rain from Hurricane Harvey, setting records for rainfall from any single storm anywhere in the continental United States.
Extensive building and property damage, electrical outages, unhealthy conditions caused by flooding, and widespread disruption of normal living conditions has occurred.

The Grand Lodge of Texas has requested this Disaster Appeal, to assist their many brethren who have been injured or who have received extensive damage to their homes from Hurricane Harvey.
Donations can be made by check or online at Texas Disaster Appeal.
Any donations received by MSA and designated for Texas will be collected and forwarded to that jurisdiction. Thank you for your concern.
We were asked if any of your donation to a disaster appeal is deducted by MSA for administrative expense, say 10%, and the answer is "No." All expenses, charges by PayPal, bookkeeping, or cost of thank you letters, everything, is absorbed by MSA in its operating budget. The entire gross donation will be sent to the affected jurisdiction. That's the way it's always been, and that's the way it will continue.
Please forward any donations you feel appropriate to help our devastated Brothers and their families in this stricken jurisdiction to MSA.

PLEASE NOTE: Check with your own grand lodge to see if they are collecting donations as part of the MSA Appeal, just to prevent confusion as to whom is donating to what.  

When remitting funds directly to MSA, please mark donations specifically to "Texas Disaster Appeal." To donate directly to the MSA Appeal by check, make checks payable to MSA Disaster Relief Fund and send them to:
Masonic Service Association
3905 National Drive, Suite 280
Burtonsville, MD 20866
You can also donate via PayPal HERE.

The Masonic Service Association is arguably the best and most effective way to provide financial assistance to Texas Masons (or to any other jurisdictions that may also request these official Disaster Relief Appeals through MSA). MSA is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. That is important to remember, especially if you, your company, or foundation are making a large donation and are in need of a tax deduction in return. The charitable arm of the Masonic Service Association was specifically established for the purpose of raising tax deductible donations, and to effectively distribute and account for the funds provided to Masons who receive assistance. Your entire donation will be sent to the affected jurisdiction. MSA deducts nothing for administrative expenses or expenses of any kind. Meaning if you donate $100.00, all $100.00 gets to Texas Masons.

The Grand Lodge of Texas AF&AM is also collecting donations directly on their website HERE.  There is a link on that site to donate via credit card, as well. 

From the Grand Lodge of Texas  website:
Please donate to the Official Grand Lodge of Texas A.F. & A.M. Hurricane Harvey Masonic Relief Fund. All funds will go to the Lodges that have been effected by this tragedy. Many, many Lodges are suffering damages from this once in a 500 year disaster, and can use all the aid and relief you can provide to get them, their Brethren, and their families back on their feet. Please donate what you can today! We thank you for your charity!

The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas has also issued the following message on their website HERE:
Individuals and families who are members of the Texas Prince Hall Family and who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey and who are in need of immediate temporary emergency financial assistance may be considered for financial donations through the Prince Hall Charitable Foundation.

The letter and form to request Hurricane Harvey Assistance can be found HERE.

I have not found any such official appeal out of Louisiana as of yet, but will update this post if I'm made aware of it.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Irma is now gaining in strength in the Caribbean as I type this, heading for Puerto Rico and Florida, and perhaps elsewhere. Please keep our brethren in these affected areas (as well as all of those who are in the approaching harm's way) in your prayers and in those of your upcoming meetings.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

MGM XV 2017 Wrapup: Manlalakbpay na Gurong Mason

Sitting in the crowd with about 450 new Masonic friends waiting for 
the commencement of the Master Mason degree for the MGM 2017 event. 
(Photo by Nel Pacis. Click to enlarge.)

It's Sunday and I'm flying back home from this outstanding Manlalakbpay na Gurong Mason weekend in San Francisco. This is the first time I've ever spoken at an occasion I can't pronounce, but it's been a wonderful experience. How the heck did I never hear of this before?

My deepest thanks to Worshipful Brother Miguel Jabagat, Jr. of Crocker Lodge 212 in Daley City, and to Brother Ressi Esquerra of Vegas Lodge 32 in Nevada for their friendship and their very kind invitation. Without them, I might not have met more than 450 brethren and their ladies this weekend. 

Nor would I have been aware of just what a very big deal this annual gathering is.

It was also great to spend some time with Brother George Gray of Lodge Hamilton 233 in Hamilton, Scotland. (Hamilton 233 was chartered in 1810, and shares quite an impressive building with Lodge Hamilton Kilwinning 7, near Glasgow.)

Brother George Gray of Scotland's Lodge Hamilton 233

You feed 400+ hungry Masons and their ladies in waves, 
and a roast hog makes a good start 
(that's what's left of the hog behind me, not the foreground subject).

My newest Masonic Brother, Jaime Calibo, the day's candidate.

Congratulations to my newest Masonic Brother, Jaime Calibo, raised at Saturday's MGM event. 
Some Facebook friends have questioned the appropriateness of an occasion as important as a Master Mason degree being conferred in a packed gymnasium with less than perfect acoustics. I had a chance to speak briefly with Brother Jaime after the madness of the day's events, and I was happy to discover he was thrilled to be at the center of the attention of so many brethren from all over the globe. Rest assured, he was honored and overwhelmed by all of the attention and brotherhood surrounding him. MGM is a landmark event in the Filipino Masonic community. It was more than appropriate, and made a suitable impression upon him that he won't ever forget.

The day's degree work was impeccable, including the several additional charges performed after the lodge officially closed. While there were some notable differences in the wording or the delivery, it was curious for me to note that I had seen ALL of them done in my own Mother lodge over the years on any given Master Mason degree evening, especially in our earlier days—usually by visiting brethren. We give wide latitude to Masons here in Indiana to include these "optional" charges without having to formally close the lodge first, and many are within our official  Monitor. That's why it behooves Masons to travel as far and wide as possible and see all you can, across the country and the world. And why some jurisdictions need to loosen their corsets over what is considered perfectly regular in recognized jurisdictions just across their own state lines.

Brothers Rexl Villarin, Jaymcee Castro, Bong Gazaga, and a Dummy.

At the end of the afternoon, and before the party for the evening kicked into high gear, it was announced that next year's event, Manlalakbpay na Gurong Mason XVI 2018, will be in Salinas, California. If you've never attended one of these gatherings before, don't skip an opportunity if you are in the vicinity in the future. You will be bowled over by the full-throated warmth and brotherhood expressed by these brethren who demonstrate all that is good and admirable and the very best about the fraternity of Freemasonry. 

And I'm very happy to finally own my very first Masonic barong after all these years.

Well done, Brethren. And thanks again for asking me to take part.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Speaking at 2017 Manlalakbpay na Gurong Mason XV on Friday

I'm in San Francisco for the next few days for the 15th annual Manlalakbay na Gurong Mason event, often just abbreviated by the simpler and more memorable (and possibly more pronounceable) initials MGM. It is a yearly gathering that moves from state to state to see how different jurisdictions confer the Master Mason degree via the host lodge's ritual. After the degree is officially ended, several visitors also demonstrate different charges given for Master Masons in their own states. As a result, everyone gets to see the variety of such additions that other grand lodges have adopted over the years.

From what I have already seen as things are getting underway Thursday evening to gear up for the weekend, this is truly a unique, grassroots event. Originally established 14 years ago by a handful of Filipino Masons in the Grand Lodges of California, Nevada, and Washington, and almost without any real promotion, this year there are well over 400 brethren registered, and undoubtedly more will come at the last minute. Each year, a different lodge acts as host and plans the schedule and activities.

The host lodge for 2017 is Crocker Lodge 212, 17 Hillcrest Drive, Daly City, California. And in case you were curious, Manlalakbay na Gurong Mason simply translates as "Traveling Master Mason," and it is signified by an enormous traveling gavel. While its origin began with Filipino-Americans in the Masonic community, no regular, recognized Master Mason is turned away—it's open to all.

Friday actually begins with a golf tournament at 9AM at Crystal Spring Golf Course. Later there's a basketball game as well.
Registration for the rest of the weekend opens at 1:00PM Friday at the Crocker Masonic Temple, and it's a beautiful building they have, I might add. Built in 1936, it contains just the right balance of Egyptian-flavored art deco decor, with beautiful woodwork, and even a brand new custom checked and tessellated carpet, imported from New Zealand. 

It's been lovingly cared for, hidden behind its suitably streamlined side entrance. This is no Masonic "Center," it's a Temple where great things go on inside (which is why I object to that misguided trend from back in the 80s of stripping "temple" from our buildings, out of some absurd attempt to buy love from the outside world by declaring there's nothing sinister going on behind our doors). Beyond just being a lodge building, their ground floor dining room/party room and the front door always open to the outside as lodge musicians take to the stage makes them look, act and feel to be a part of the local community. 

As lodges so often used to be.

I'll be speaking there Friday night at their Masonic Education/Symposium at 6:00PM, along with Worshipful Brother George Gray, a member of Hamilton Lodge 233 in Hamilton, Scotland.

Then on Saturday, the centerpiece events take place at the Westlake Community Center at 145 Lake Merced Blvd. in Daly City. Picture taking starts at 12:30PM; the Master Mason degree is at 1PM (bringing your own regalia is a good idea); Social time at 5:30PM; Dinner follows at 6:30PM.

Things wrap up Sunday morning at the lodge again with a farewell breakfast at 7AM.
All of this, a three day gathering, including THREE meals, two speakers, a souvenir tee-shirt, and a commemorative lanyard and registration tag for just $55.

Just tonight, the warm fellowship among these Masons has been unsurpassed, and the growing reputation and success of this gathering clearly demonstrates they have captured lightening in a bottle. It has grown into an internationally attended event. Many, many thanks to Worshipful Brother Miguel Jabagat, Jr. of Crocker Lodge 212 and Brother Ressi Esquerra of Vegas Lodge 32 in Nevada for their friendship and their very kind invitation. I am honored and truly looking forward to being a part of the next couple of days.

WB Miguel Jabagat, Jr., WM of Crocker Lodge 212 and MGM XV's host

UPDATE 9/3/2017: 

Had a fantastic time at this great gathering!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Arkansas Update...Sort Of

I have deliberately steered clear of the situation in the Grand Lodge of Arkansas for many months. That's not because everything is fine and dandy there now, but for a variety of reasons. Brethren from both inside and outside of the jurisdiction keep contacting me privately and asking what's happening there. I have shut up about it publicly and hoped Arkansas' Freemasons could solve their own internal problems internally. If they have no desire to storm the Little Rock Bastille, I have no real desire to be their Jean-Paul Marat from five states away, and nor should anyone else. I was also giving their current Grand Master Carl Nelson his opportunity to sweep up the shattered glass and patch up the wounded, or just go on shooting even more on his own, or something in between. Finally, Arkansas brethren should have the opportunity to find their own voice and either demand transparency and open honesty, or to create it on their own without my further unneeded carping.

That has happened to a small extent. For the contra side, there is the spoof 'Arkansas Grand Lodge' Facebook page, which has kept up a steady stream of expulsion and suspension news, court documents, and inside information unavailable anywhere else. It's the one with the Popeye profile photo, NOT the Grand Lodge seal. The page seems to be the principal gathering point for those watching things unfold. (Not to be confused with the authentic, official The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Arkansas FB page, which mostly just posts degree and meeting announcements—but strangely, NOT any reminder or announcement of an emergency, tyled "emergent" meeting at a North Little Rock Baptist church, scheduled for September 9th, which only lodge Masters, Wardens, and Secretaries will be permitted to attend.)

Another newer website, Arkansas Grand Lodge F&AM Awareness, seems to be primarily dedicated to releasing the public court and state government documents.

Be aware that both of these sites are run by detractors of the Grand Lodge and are, for obvious reasons, hosted anonymously by their authors. It's up to you as to where you decide to get your information from, but Arkansas Masons should at least be aware they exist. They both appear to be run by current, not expelled, members of the fraternity in Arkansas and have not as yet posted incorrect or false documents that I have been made aware of.

It's up to Arkansas Masons to decide on their own whether things have improved there or not. I have no real bead on it from here and no vested interest either way. However, I will simply say that the spoof Arkansas Grand Lodge Facebook page yesterday morning posted the above photograph. He pointed out that it comes directly from the official Grand Lodge of Arkansas website, under the topic heading, "What Is A Mason?" The photo is still there as of this afternoon.

According to the post, approximately 50% of the Masons in the photograph have currently been suspended or expelled.

What IS a Mason, anyway?

UPDATE 8/28/2016:
Just as an observation, that photo above? It vanished from the official Grand Lodge of Arkansas F&AM  "What Is A Mason?" web page two days after this posting.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

'The Masonic Pageant': Guide to AASR-NMJ Degrees Now Shipping

Well. Looky what Al, our friendly UPS man, delivered today along with his usual daily present of a Milk-Bone biscuit for Wiley. 

After more than a century of being largely ignored in print, Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the U.S. can at last rejoice. After a year and a half's long and twisted path to publication, The Masonic Pageant: The Scottish Rite Degrees of the Supreme Council, NMJ by Illustrious Brother Frank Conway, 33° is finally being shipped by Cornerstone Publishing and can be ordered directly from the publisher HERE. 

From the website:
The Masonic Pageant is a clearly written and easy to understand explanation of the Scottish Rite Degrees as worked by the Supreme Council 33º, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Frank Conway, Ph.D., 33º, MSA provides a long needed and extremely valuable resource to all Scottish Rite Masons of the NMJ. This is a must have book for all NMJ SR Masons and bodies of the NMJ.
"Dr. Frank Conway has done a great service for Scottish Rite Freemasons with this book. His volume is far more than just a simple, up-to-date guide to the degrees of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Each chapter contains a synopsis of the stage presentation of the degree itself, along with a brief description of its counterpart in the Southern Jurisdiction. But it is in the center of each chapter where you will find the heart and soul of this work. The historic origins, symbols, and myths behind each degree are thoroughly explored, whether it is a story based largely on biblical accounts, medieval sources, or more recent events. Conway draws upon a vast wealth of knowledge, covering more than 2,500 years of history and legends that have gone into the creation of these degrees, and he provides much in the way of background and context. The eager Brother will find much here to enlighten his journey through the degrees." ~ Christopher L. Hodapp, 33°
"Freemasonry encourages its members to engage in a search for light – knowledge and understanding – and this search requires access to accurate information. The Masonic Pageant provides the searcher with up-to-date information on the Scottish Rite degrees of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA. It is a boon to all who seek to understand the complex symbolism and ritual themes of these degrees." ~ S. Brent Morris, Ph.D., 33°, Grand Cross
The last serious attempt to publish a guidebook to the NMJ degrees was the continuously revised Book of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite by Charles T. McClenachan last released in 1907. In the ensuing 110 years, NMJ members have been left in the dark regarding the background, symbolism, history, and any other information about the degrees that make up their own distinctive system of rituals that differ completely from their Southern Jurisdiction counterparts (and the rest of the world's). Illus. Brother Conway has finally addressed this gaping lack of access to knowledge and performed an incalculable service to the more than 200,000 members of the NMJ who have been starved for information for so long, and to the rest of the world that knows almost nothing of the differences.

In all honesty and sincerity, this book should be adopted by each and every NMJ Valley and placed in the hands of every single new Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret on the day of their degree conferral, as well as offered to existing members at every stated meeting. It's that invaluable and well written.

The book is 320 pages long and the list price is $29.95, plus shipping. 

It is well worth the investment. Today, the website still shows a reduced pre-order price of $26.95, but it could pop up to its regular $29.95 list price at any second, so he who hesitates is out 3 smackers.

And no, as some have wryly suggested, it's NOT in loose-leaf format for regular revision...

(Please note: In full disclosure, I was deeply honored to be asked to pre-read and write the foreword to this book, and I did so because I felt it was such a vital work that needed to be actively supported. But it is Frank Conway who has done the very heavy lifting of authoring this incredible resource, and the sole credit belongs to him and to Michael Poll at Cornerstone for bringing it to life.)