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Friday, February 16, 2018

'41 Million Men' - A New Must-Have Book About Millennials and Masonry

Last June, I had the rare treat of locking a large group of America's various grand lodge officers in a room for the Northeast Conference of Grand Masters and browbeating them for 25 minutes or so. They actually took it pretty well, and the North Carolina contingent got so excited that they stood on their chairs cheering at the end, so it must not have been entirely idle air-bending. The subject that was much on the minds of everyone in that room that day was an almost obsessive concern over What To Do About Millennials. All last spring and summer, articles, editorials, marketing programs, and more came pouring out of Masonic offices everywhere that fretted and and concentrated on how to reach, recruit, and maintain the interest of men born between 1981 and about 2000. It was a curious preoccupation. If you read much of it dispassionately, you'd get the impression that what was being discussed was some odd, alien species, or perhaps some lost tribe of Amazonian rainforest dwellers who wandered out of the jungle and encountered their first flush toilet.

Well, just in time for the Conference of Grand Masters this weekend (and I mean JUST in time), Macoy Publishing has released a new book that needs to be on the bedside table of every grand lodge officer in the country, and probably the top three officers in any current Masonic lodge, too: 41 Million Men:  The Importance of the Millennial Generation To Freemasonry, edited by Steve McCall, with an introduction by Michael Halleran.  The book features essays by McCall, Halleran, Matt Nelson, Matthew Stuart, and Samuel Friedman, and it is due to go on sale on Saturday. Buy it and read it. You can literally finish it in one night, or on one plane trip.
Unlike the usual treatment of topics like this, their collection of essays is NOT written by a group of 70 year olds telling another group of 80 year olds "what young men want." These are actually active, enthusiastic, and very level-headed Millennial Masons in the trenches. Like most of us, they have encountered more than their share of failing, 'hospice lodges' providing nothing more nourishing to the heart, soul, mind, and stomach of the the rank and file Freemason besides prison coffee and gray bologna sandwiches in the basement. This diminutive volume presents the statistics in black and blue about who this generation of men are, how many of them are out there in the world, why they do and do not become Freemasons, and why so many of them who actually join the fraternity wind up leaving within two years or less. And they actually provide some solutions, because the world doesn't need yet another book with the premise, "I'll tell ya what's wrong with this fraternity..." 

I despise generalizations, as a rule. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., reportedly said of generalizations: "No generalization is worth a damn, including this one." Nevertheless, what's important to understand is that the general attitudes, beliefs, values, behavior, and habits of Millennial men really ARE a perfect fit for what Freemasonry has to offer. 41 Million Men should be at the top of your reading list if you are in any sort of leadership position in this fraternity, and you ignore it and its information at your peril.

Steve McCall presents a generational overview of the current American demographic and their various broad characteristics and patterns of behavior. Samuel Friedman writes about the Millennials' generational attitudes about race, diversity, and gender, and how that may affect the fraternity going forward. Matt Nelson writes about the all important (and almost never practiced) topic of Masonic education, what forms it can take, what it should be providing, and how to introduce it into any lodge. Moreover, he stresses why it's so very, very important that we all need to be doing this right this very moment. And it's not like this is quantum physics, either. Matthew Stuart writes about the Millennials and concepts of spirituality, and why Freemasonry is the ideal fit for them, if we're doing this right. And the book is filled with practical advice on how to attract and retain these men who are so vital to keeping this fraternity alive in the coming years. 

Half-baked plans, with no long-range planning, and zero enthusiasm will no longer do, and we are watching the results of that past behavior all around us. The truth is that we’ve got a cataclysmic problem with leadership and vision in this fraternity. Merely flacking and plumping for new members year after year and not knowing how to keep them is like your mechanic saying "I couldn't repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder."

Here's a clue: I hate to break it to all of us, but younger men will have their revenge by simply outliving us. And try as we might, we can't rule anybody from the grave. Why make everybody's life miserable by ceaselessly insisting that the programming and practices in our lodges will only change when they rip the keys to the Temple out of our cold dead hands, and not before?

One thing is certain: if we continue to present to the world outside nothing better than an image of senior citizens in crumbling, once-magnificent temples, who gather only to play cards, swill Folger's Decaf, and exchange nothing but stories about how mean our doctors are to us these days, we will achieve the oblivion we so richly earn. Everyone over 65 in this fraternity was 30 once, too, and we do well to remember how we were all treated by the WWII veterans who refused to change anything, either. Let's not do to those who follow what was done to us. 

The poet George Meredith once wrote, "Keep the young generations in hail, and bequeath to them no tumbled house!" There are just as many Millennial men in America right now as there are of us Baby Boomers. It's long past time to hand them the keys, sit back, and say "Do greater things, and make us all proud." 

Start by buying this book. And then get to work.

The Masonic Society at Masonic Week

Because I haven't been at Masonic Week in the last couple of years, I've been late to spread the word about an organization that is dear to my heart. The ninth annual meeting of the Masonic Society was held in Arlington, Virginia last week and the new officers were elected who will steer the organization into its second decade of life. 

The Masonic Society celebrates the tenth anniversary of its official founding on May 1st, 2018, but it first began as a barstool conversation earlier that February at Masonic Week by a couple of brethren frustrated with the status quo of research groups at the time. Since then, it has gone on to great achievements and successes. 

On February 10th, Patrick Craddock was elected as the Society's President. He is a Past Master of Conlegium Ritus Austeri No. 779 in Nashville, Tennessee, but many of you may know Patrick as the proprietor behind the Craftsman's Apron, a unique supplier of bespoke Masonic regalia in the United States. Patrick is a longstanding expert on historical Masonic aprons along with being a talented artist, and his original creations are the best hand crafted aprons you will find anywhere. He is also a dedicated historian and scholar, and he will be an outstanding leader for the Society.

Jay Hochberg was elected as First Vice President, and if you don't know Jay personally, you may have encountered his long-running blog, the Magpie Mason. He is a tireless worker in the quarries of the fraternity, and extraordinarily active especially in the northeastern states.

Oscar Alleyne of New York rounds out the top three spots as Second Vice President. A brilliant scholar, Oscar is one of those active, enthusiastic, inquisitive Masons who always seems to be everywhere you turn, even overseas, and he is indefatigable. 

The combined knowledge and experience of these brethren make a formidable team for the Masonic Society going forward. I'm looking forward to the next decade and what it brings. 

Michael Poll continues as the Editor of the Journal of the Masonic Society, along with John Bridegroom as the art director for the finest Masonic magazine in the world; and Nathan Brindle remains as our Secretary/Treasurer. Nathan has done this thankless job since our very beginning, and it is a seriously time consuming position we stuck him with. These brethren are the cornerstone of our organization and deserve our deepest gratitude.

The keynote speaker at the annual banquet this year was Eric Diamond from Chicago. You may recognize Eric from his podcast Xoriente, which has been airing for as long as I can remember such a thing as podcasts being around. He was certainly among the very first Masonic podcasters in the U.S. According to Jay's report from the evening, "Eric spoke of the need for today’s Freemason to assert himself in the public square to help society sidestep the perils of what is known as the “Dark Enlightenment,” not unlike how our Masonic ancestors brought the Enlightenment to English, French, and American life centuries ago."

The following Fellows were selected for the year:
Oscar Alleyne
Tyler Anderson
Christian Christensen
Patrick Craddock
Moises Gomez
Cameron Poe
Christopher Rodkey
Finally, congratulations, thoughts and prayers go out to my friend, fellow Lodge Vitruvian member, and brother Ken Davis, our outgoing President. Like Roger Van Gorden, Jim Dillman, Nathan Brindle and I, Ken was part of the "Indiana Masonic Mafia" that helped to mold the Society in the beginning. Ken and his wife Betty retired and moved to New Mexico in recent years, and he became every bit as active Masonically there as he was in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, in recent months, Ken has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and now must do battle with that damned disease. He was unable to attend the annual meeting this year. All of us wish him godspeed, and he has our gratitude for all he has done to advance the goals of the Society.

Not a member of the Masonic Society? For full memberships or a subscription to the Journal, visit the website at www.themasonicsociety.com

Monday, February 12, 2018

Grand Masters Conference in Indianapolis Begins Saturday

Coinciding with the bicentennial celebration of the founding of the Grand Lodge of Indiana this year, Indianapolis is hosting the 2018 Conference of Grand Masters of North America. Events start Saturday, February 17th and run through Tuesday, February 20th.

I will be roaming the halls or manning a vendor's table at the Hyatt with my usual stack of Freemasons for Dummies and my other books. But this year is very special for us in Indiana, and I will have copies of my latest, Heritage Endures: Perspectives On 200 Years Of Indiana Freemasonry. It will be the perfect souvenir of your trip to Indianapolis this year, and a bargain at a paltry $25. Plus, my Grand Master Rodney Mann is tired of tripping over all of these book boxes on his way to his office. So I had to do something drastic. 

I promise that, unlike the usual grand lodge history book, this one will be of interest to all Masons, not just us Hoosiers. This isn't just a list of antique grand masters and forgotten lodges, and Indiana is placed into the wider story of the fraternity.

And hey, any book autographed by me twenty years from now will be worth FULL retail...

While you're in town, be sure to visit our three major landmark Masonic buildings: the Indianapolis Masonic Temple at 525 North Illinois Street; The Indianapolis Scottish Rite Cathedral, just north of the Temple at North and Meridian Streets; and the Murat Shrine Temple at 502 North New Jersey Street. 

Indianapolis Masonic Temple

Also, be sure you visit the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana on the 5th floor of the Masonic Temple. Our director, Past Grand Master Michael D. Brumback has flown back from wintering in Phoenix just to be here for the Conference, and he is the consummate Museum guide. We have many special exhibits here specifically for the bicentennial year, including the Fredericksburg Lodge Bible upon which the young George Washington took his three Masonic obligations in Virginia in 1752-53.

Fredericksburg Lodge Bible

No one will be bored in this town, I promise. If this is your first time in Indianapolis, don't just chain yourself to the hotel. You and your traveling companions are NOT confined to the Hyatt when it comes to shopping, dining, and loads of sights and attractions, including museums and theatres. Downtown Indianapolis is FILLED with 300 restaurants, so you will find an embarrassment of riches when hunting somewhere to eat dinner. Better yet, this is a walking city, even in the winter time, and loads of business areas are interconnected connected with covered walkways, including the Circle Center Mall. Everything is close by. The Hyatt is a five minute walk from dozens of eateries, in all price ranges. Check out the Downtown Indy website for ideas. 

Here is the current schedule of the Conference events:

Registration desk will be open from 9:00am to 3:00pm.
GRAND LODGE of INDIANA: Pre-conference Tour at 9:00 am
-Welcome and Tailgate Party: Refreshments at 5:30 pm, Dinner at 6:30 pm, Dress is casual, wear your favorite team apparel.

Registration desk will be open from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Grand Secretaries' Tour departs at 9:30 am

Grand Masters Conference opens at 10:00 am. Dress: Coat/ties-Dress/Pantsuit. 

Reports of Planning, Executive Secretary, Nominating Committee, Election of 2019 Officers.

a) Grand Masters and their Ladies "Get Acquainted Lunch"
a) Deputy Grand Masters and their Ladies "Get Acquainted Lunch" a) Grand Wardens, Officers and their Ladies "Get Acquainted Lunch"

SUNDAY AFTERNOON: Conference will begin with Reports by the George Washington Masonic Memorial Association; National Masonic Foundation, Masonic Renewal and MasoniChip International; . Breakouts on Database Management, Blue Lodge Finances, & Millennial Apprentices.

SUNDAY EVENING WILL BE OPEN. So take advantage of our incredible downtown lineup of dining options.

MONDAY, February 19, 2018
Registration desk will be open from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm
Grand Secretaries Conference convenes at 9:00 am
Grand Masters' Conference reconvenes at 9:00 am with reports from Time and Place Committee and Commission on Information for Recognition. 

Breakouts on Lodge Security, Social Media & Generational Differences and Expectations followed by a second session on Lodge Security, Social Media and Masonic Youth.
(You can't tell from these descriptions, but one of these breakout sessions deals with 'How to Improve the Stated Meeting,' presented by Roger S. Van Gorden of the Masonic Renewal Committee. I highly recommend this one if you haven't seen it before.)
Grand Masters, Grand Secretaries & Visiting Grand Lodge Officers photos at 11:00 am.

Grand Secretaries' and Grand Masters' Conference reconvenes at 1:30 pm. Breakouts on Peer Groups, JGMs, SGMs, and DGMs.

BANQUET HOSTED BY THE CONFERENCE OFFICERS: (All welcome) Entertainment and 2018 Presentations. Social Hour -- 6:00pm; Banquet at 7:00pm, $75.00 each. Dress: Coat/Tie-Dress/Pantsuit.

DAD LAND SHRINE/DEMOLAY MEN'S BREAKFAST 7:00 am -- Sponsored by the Imperial Shrine on behalf of DeMolay International. Donation of $20.00 is being collected for DeMolay International.

Grand Secretaries Conference reconvenes at 9:30 am
Grand Master's Conference reconvenes at 9:30 am with reports from Time and Place Committee and Commission on Information for Recognition. 

Breakouts on Temple Associations, Redistricting/Consolidation & Social Media.

LADIES BRUNCH: The Masonic Medical Research Laboratory will host a Ladies Brunch on Tuesday morning at 9:15 am. 


The Grand Masters Conference will reconvene with business session and discussion on any items not completed. Our 2019 Hosts, the Grand Lodge of South Dakota will have a presentation on the 2019 Conference.

After adjournment the National Sojourners, Inc., Grand Masters Chapter 996 will meet.


There will be a huge lineup of vendors on hand on the third floor at the Hyatt throughout the Conference. The  diagram of those tables is below. Click the image to enlarge:

Please stop by my table and chat. I'm looking forward to meeting up with old friends and making new ones. And I hope you have a great time in my home town! Great Masonic ideas and practices got their start in Indiana, and we have much to be proud of here.

Welcome to Indianapolis!

Indianapolis Scottish Rite Cathedral

Murat Shrine

AASR-NMJ's Hauts Grades Academy Goes Live Today

As of today, the Hauts Grades Academy education program of the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction is officially live and running with its first class of registrants. 

This initial class is full, but new students will be admitted soon.

The degrees that made up the original Scottish Rite were known as the Hauts Grades (French for 'high grades') in its early beginnings, and the HGA is specifically designed around the degrees worked in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. It is a course available to all 32° Scottish Rite NMJ Masons in good standing, free of charge, with both offline and online offerings. (33rds can enroll too, but we know it all, right?)

The HGA program is divided into three levels. At Level One, the candidate delves into the rituals of the 29 AASR-NMJ degrees with an open book, 100-question, multiple choice exam. Trial questions will be provided before Level One participants get started, in order to see the nature of the actual test. Additionally, the test may be taken and retaken (with different, randomly generated questions) until it is successfully passed.

Once that level is passed, at Level Two the candidate picks any nine degrees and writes a substantial essay on each of them, reflecting on the lessons and teachings embedded in their rituals. The Academy Advisory Board will mentor the candidate throughout the process. 

Finally, at Level Three the candidate creates a professional research paper—a Master Work— not less than 2,500 words in length, focussing on any topic of his choosing, from history and ritual, to philosophy of the Scottish Rite. Papers created by HGA participants will be published annually by the Supreme Council, or as articles in the Northern Light magazine. Graduates of the HGA will receive a certificate at each level, and upon successful completion of the program, presented with a special Hauts Grade Academic jewel.

The HGA program is envisioned to always be a work in progress, and the goal is to foster, support, and encourage Masonic scholarship throughout the Scottish Rite NMJ.There will be online reading materials provided for the course, as well as a list of other outside recommended reading material. There will be student follow up and feedback throughout, and the program will be constantly evaluated, with improvements and adjustments made as it progresses. Because of the personal attention required  by the course facilitators to accomplish this, the HGA must limit the size of each class.

If you are interested in enrolling in the Hauts Grades Academy but missed your chance to be a part of the first class, SIGN UP HERE to add your name to the waiting list, as registration will be opening again soon.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Josef Wäges Named Newest Blue Friar For 2018

The Society of Blue Friars was formed back in 1932 to specifically recognize the excellence of Masonic authors, and their annual meeting is held each year in February during AMD/Masonic Week in the Washington D.C. area. It is arguably the smallest of Masonic organizations, and possibly the oddest, since it has no ritual and few rules. The Grand Abbott chooses the new Friar, and it is usually a closely guarded secret until its announcement. Each new Friar, upon the announcement, is required to give a short paper to the audience and fellow Friars. 

This morning in Arlington, Virginia, the 74th Consistory of the Society was convened by Grand Abbott, S. Brent Morris, who named Brother Josef Wäges of Fate, Texas as the 108th Blue Friar. 

Josef is the co-author of The Secret School of Wisdom: The Authentic Ritual and Doctrines of the Illuminati (2015), and he is a dedicated and careful scholar and researcher.

His presentation today was on Etienne (Stephen) Morin and an obscure 1764 manuscript of ritual from Santo Domingo, known in some circles as the Baylot Manuscript. Morin was a French dignitary in the Caribbean who was responsible for the early spread of Masonic degrees of the Order of the Royal Secret (later the Rite of Perfection) between 1763 and 1771. These would become the foundation of what we know today as the Scottish Rite. The rough and hard to read Santo Domingo Manuscript comes from the French Masonic archives of Jean Baylot in Paris' Bibliothèque Nationale, and predates the far more famous Francken Manuscript by almost twenty years.

Congratulations to Josef for this honor and recognition of his scholarship and talents. I'm looking forward to his rumored new project later this year.

Following the presentation, the fellow Friars who are in attendance always gather for lunch. To my great bewilderment, I was accorded the honor of being named Friar No. 101 in 2012. I was unable to attend Masonic Week again this year, but Brother Shawn Eyer (Friar No. 102) posted a photo on his Facebook page of the assembled authors today.

LtoR: Robert G. Davis (103), S. Brent Morris (83), Arturo De Hoyos (88), Mark A. Tabbert (95), 
Richard E. Fletcher (81), Thomas Jackson (93), Josef Wäges (108), Shawn Eyer (102).


Wednesday, February 07, 2018

UGLE Responds To Attacks In 'The Guardian'

(Please see updates at the end of this post, as they are ongoing.)

On Sunday and Monday of this week, The Guardian in England published a total of FIVE inflammatory and discriminatory articles taking swipes or downright smearing Freemasonry with a variety of false or inaccurate articles and editorials. I recapped them HERE.

Fortunately, attitudes about these kinds of press attacks have taken a dramatic change over at Great Queen Street in London. Dr. David Staples, the recently named Chief Operating Officer for the United Grand Lodge of England, has been extremely proactive in answering these types of hit pieces. And whether the news outlet prints them or not, he's posting them on the UGLE's website as well, so they can be searched and accessed in their entirety. His most recent letter to the Guardian can be seen HERE.

It reads in part:

The existence of the two lodges in question is not secret, they don't operate at Westminster and they don't have MPs or journalists in their respective memberships.
ln particular: 
  1. The article claimed that "Two Freemasons' lodges set up for members of parliament and political journalists are continuing to operate secretly at Westminster". This is inaccurate. The Lodges do not operate at Westminster and only meet in Camden at Freemasons' Hall. 
  2. The article stated "Exclusive: Lodges for MPs and journalists are so covert even lobby reporters do not know members". The Lodges in the article do not have any MPs or journalists as members. 
  3. The Lodges are not secret. Their meeting place is open to the public all year and their meeting dates are published in the United Grand Lodge of Englanddirectory of Lodges and Chapters available for the public to buy from most Masonic retailers. Details of the founding of the New Welcome Lodge were published in the press including in the Daily Telegraph. The New Welcome Lodge and Gallery Lodge are referred to in Hansard and have had Wikipedia pages for 12 years. Both Lodges feature in publicly available academic articles (on Researchgate, among other resources) and press. A detailed history of Gallery Lodge, together with its past and present members, was published in 1968. lt is wilfully misleading for the Guardian to state that the Lodges operate secretly or to imply that their existence is "secret" or "covert". 
  4. The article claimed that "The New Welcome Lodge has about 30 to 40 members ... only about four of the current members are MPs". This is fictitious, as anybody connected with the Lodge would know. New Welcome Lodge only has 22 members. There are no current MPs who are members of New Welcome Lodge. 
We provided extensive information and quotes to Ian Cobain in answer to his questions about Freemasonry and he used this information in other contemporaneous articles about Freemasonry. He chose not to ask us about New Welcome Lodge and appears to have ignored all of the widely published and available information about it and Gallery Lodge. He did not provide us with any opportunity to correct the errors in his article. Instead, inaccurate information has been published to create a misleading impression of Freemasonry. The reader is deliberately left to infer that journalists and MPs meet in secret at Westminster as Freemasons, which is untrue and which the author must have known or suspected to be untrue. There is no evidence for, or truth in, these inferences in the article about Freemasonry. 
By publishing inaccuracies which foster and promote popular prejudices against Freemasonry concerning corruption, power and control, the article damaged the reputation of the United Grand Lodge of England as a membership organisation and encouraged further discrimination against individual Freemasons.
We request that you publish a retraction of the article in an agreed form which confirms that journalists and MPs don't meet in secret at Westminster as Freemasons. We also request that you publish an apology to Freemasons for misleading the public about the nature of Freemasonry. 
Yours faithfully,
Dr David Staples
For and on behalf of
The United Grand Lodge of England
While something tells me The Guardian has zero intention of printing it, retracting their stories, or issuing apologies or corrections, it is long past time that damaging and idiotic articles like these this week be called out for the deliberate hit pieces they are. Bravo to Dr. Staples for taking the bull by the horns at long last and confronting them.

UPDATE 2/8/2018:

Obviously knowing full well that any news outlet would do no more than selectively quote any letter or press release, the UGLE followed up their letter to the Guardian and other news outlets with full page advertisements in the Telegraph, the Times and other major papers in England, declaring 'Enough Is Enough.' That got enough attention to then create its own news, and the Guardian, the Telegraph, BBC, and others have all been covering it today. Of course, après nous le déluge: the nutters poured out of the woodwork on any site that permitted comments, and the anonymous anecdotes of "my old man was passed over for a job by the bloody Masons until he faked the handshake" have been running non-stop, along with the usual allegations of Satan worship, snippets of ritual, false connections with the P2 crap, et al. I suspect it's all getting more coverage than the 300th anniversary did over there. 

Of course, no one doing all of this anti-Masonic pontificating and accusing has any idea what they're talking about (Editorialist Dawn Foster in her Guardian piece sneeringly asked “Masons, tell me this: if you truly huddle in secret to no malign end and with no professed benefit unavailable elsewhere, what is the point?”). They don't know because they've never bothered to actually speak to a Freemason or read anything that wasn't an accusatory hit job. 

They don't seem to understand how or why anyone on this Earth would want a private sanctuary away from the shrill shrieks and endless caterwaul of the outside world, where members can share their experiences, anecdotes, triumphs, failures, and everything else among their brothers who will pass no judgement upon them and will treat a complete stranger from the other side of the world as a lifelong friend, simply because of what they share in common. 

Nor do our detractors ever seem to understand that Masonic "secrecy" is nothing more than a symbol, just like everything else we do in the lodge. A symbol of something sorely lacking in the world anymore: honor.


I have this book...

Click the image to enlarge:

UPDATE 2/8/2010:

Guardian's Dawn Foster and UGLE's David Staples squared off this morning on 'BBC Breakfast.' If you have UK access to the BBC iPlayer, you can see it HERE. It begins at about 1:37:45. If you are on Facebook, the isolated segment can be seen HERE.

He appeared again this afternoon on BBC's 'Afternoon Live' in a balanced interview.

Robert Lomas (author of The Hiram Key and many other books about the fraternity) weighed in with a lengthy and generally well written response on The Telegraph website (apart from a few questionable historical claims). See 'I’m a Freemason, and the discrimination against us has to stop.'

And in the spirit of the age in which we live, Masons in England have been circulating the hashtag #EnoughIsEnough with the following Tweet:

UPDATE 2/9/2018

SkyNews interview debate from Thursday with The Guardian's Dawn H. Foster and Dr. David Staples:

Take special notice of how obsessed both the interviewer and Foster are over attempting to goad Staples into revealing "the handshake." It's a thread that runs through English journalism whenever Freemasonry comes up as a topic. It's a pathetic demonstration of just how foreign the concept is in society anymore of something that used to be the most important thing a man could be known for: his honor. If a man can't be trusted to keep his word about something as insignificant as a grip or a sign or a password, then he's just plain and simple not a trustworthy man. Period. 

Honor means that, even if all of those 'secrets' are available online, or in books, or in The Guardian, a Mason will simply say, "I'm sorry, but I can't tell you, because I gave my word." A man's word used to mean something, and in this fraternity it still does—at least, if you're doing it right. Masonic secrecy is a lesson, nothing more.

Note also the other obsession, that of demanding the grand lodge turn over it's membership lists and making them public. The tone deafness is astonishing, because the justification for that demand is so that the press and the public can run anyone out of their job based upon that very membership in Masonry. "Tell us who they are," goes the chant, "because members of what we consider to be a secret society shouldn't be in a position of power!" Obviously Ms. Foster doesn't remember the bloody history of persecution in England against members of her own church for being "secret papists." So there's no reason why she should know that the Freemasons were the first social organization in England that specifically did not discriminate against religious faiths among their members.

As Dr. Staples quite rightly said, "The trouble about Freemasonry is that, if you want a medical opinion, you go and ask a doctor. If you want to know about how to build a building, you go and ask an architect. But if you want to know about Freemasonry, you ask absolutely everybody but a Freemason."

UPDATE 2/10/2018

Following The Guardian's publication of their anti-Masonic stories last Sunday, a digested version of the article, "Two Freemasons Lodges Operating Secretly at Westminster" began making the rounds of other news sites via a syndication service called Press Association (similar to the Associated Press here). The story was picked up by an increasing number of papers and websites throughout England, the wider United Kingdom, and even outside of the Commonwealth. I even had it pop up on a small town Ohio newspaper site in mid-week.

Continuing its campaign to finally fight back against spurious claims, the UGLE's communicatons office subsequently filed an official grievance with the Complaints Committee of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). IPSO is a self-governing editorial body within England comprised of both major and minor news outlets, and anyone may lodge a complaint over inaccuracies found in news stories. All of their members voluntarily subscribe to the IPSO Editorial Code, and if the investigators discover that inaccuracies have indeed been published by one of their papers or sites, or discovers a breach of the Code, the publication is expected to remove the story, print a correction or retraction or clarification, or issue a public or private letter of apology. Further, the IPSO committee can demand the exact placement and type of correction or apology, if it comes to that.

As a result of the filing, England's Mirror.co.uk (also known as The Daily Mirror) removed their online version of the Press Association article on Friday. The Guardian and other sites circulating the story have not yet responded, but the UGLE issued a statement thanking the Mirror for their quick action. It's a strange turn of events when a tabloid like The Mirror has higher standards than The Guardian. or maybe it's not.

UPDATE 2/12/2018:

This morning, the Belfast Telegraph's editorial regular, Ruth Dudley Edwards, weighed in on the furor ginned up down in London. She had a very, very different take on Freemasons than The Guardian's Dawn Foster. In fact, she was well acquainted with Ms. Foster from a prior confrontation. Needless to say, Edwards was not impressed. 

From "Freemasons do a lot of good and no harm... why can't the 'progressives' let them be?"
The obsessively progressive Guardian newspaper has it in for the Freemasons. The most recent assault was precipitated by shock-horror revelations - as discussed by deeply concerned columnist Dawn Foster - "of two lodges within the Palace of Westminster: one incorporating members of parliament and staff in the Commons and Lords, and the second comprising political journalists".
This was, of course, all about power and the "stench of privilege". 
I wasn't surprised Ms Foster was both hostile and ill-informed. 
I was on Sky TV with her last year to discuss the DUP and she seemed to know nothing positive about the party; her major contribution was to say it was "backward".
In her list of things that she thought wrong with the masons, one was that she was unlikely to be let into the organisation as her Catholicism would be unacceptable to most lodges.
If she had bothered to spend two minutes Googling, she'd know that the Freemasons admit anyone who believes in a supreme being, including Catholics, Jews, Hindus and Muslims.
She did at least admit that there were a small number of female Freemasons while grumbling that there were so few and they were in separate lodges.
But men and women often bond in very different ways.
Whatever they did, it was clear that, to Ms Foster, the masons were clearly up to no good, so she suggested that unless they made their membership lists public they should be banned from public service.
For, as she concluded: "If you truly huddle in secret to no malign end and with no professed benefit unavailable elsewhere, what is the point?"
Growing up in Dublin I was exposed to various mad stories about the world being ruled by a secret conspiracy of Jews and Freemasons led by Prince Philip and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.
Being intellectually inclined to believe in the cock-up rather the conspiracy theory of history, I was sceptical.
But of course secrecy is intriguing.
When I worked in the Civil Service I had a colleague who one day mentioned that he was off to a masonic meeting. I plied him with questions, and he was most obliging.
With the masons having had 200,000 murdered by the Nazis, and being subject to a great deal of ill-informed prejudice, while most are open about it, some fear that their careers will suffer if they declare themselves. 
Which is presumably why it turns out that the sinister Westminster lodges (which have websites and meet in Camden) contain neither MPs nor journalists. 
Both male and female masonic organisations have cooperated with behind-the-scenes documentaries, but they hold back on describing every aspect of the ritual.
Why shouldn't they?
Look, like the loyal orders, the masons are egalitarian, mainly attract decent people who like socialising privately with people of the same gender and enjoy the little bit of magic that comes from ceremonies, rituals and what others think are funny clothes. They are encouraged to be good and useful: last year the United Grand Lodge of England contributed £33 million to charity.
I value the right of people to gather freely and am sick and tired of hectoring feminists condemning what they don't understand. 
Rituals do nothing for me, so I'd never become a mason. 
But I'd rather spend an evening with them any time than with the self-righteous, consciously "progressive" bigots who are destroying feminism.

And then there is this letter in The Telegraph from Christine Chapman, the female Grand Master of the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons. It seems that Ms. Foster just keeps stepping in where she's not wanted.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Christopher W. Kimmel, Requiescat In Pace

"How can I help?" asked the voice at the other end of the phone that particular evening. 

It was my longtime friend and Brother, Chris Kimmel, phoning from down in Vincennes. I had just posted a Facebook message expressing terror over the onrushing deadline for the new book. I had saved the creation of a vital, yet annoying, massive appendix of reference tables as my very last task after two years. But time was running out, and I had no idea how to do it myself. As usual, I had shot off my mouth and pretended I could do it all myself before I realized just how daunting a task it would be. Worse, the manuscript was going to be sent off to the printer in such a hurry that there was no time for a final edit by a disinterested, independent reader. The deadline was carved in stone, it couldn't be missed, and I was screwed.

Chris listened as I ranted in my usual, amped-up, 'catastrophe' voice reserved for these last-minute, self-inflicted...well...catastrophes. 

"Just send me all your files. It's handled," he said calmly. 

And sure enough, it was. Chris created the lists for me in a matter of days. Then he speed-read the rest of the manuscript, and sent along corrections or notations throughout the day and night as he finished each chapter. Because that's what Chris Kimmel did. He always asked, "How can I help," and then he just handled things calmly, quietly. Chris contributed, participated, volunteered, followed, led, organized, or just plain showed up for the entire time I've known him. 

Chris died on Saturday. He was just 52. His incredible wife Toni posted a simple announcement on Facebook a few hours after he passed away. 

And I don't know what the hell all of us will do without him now, because men like Chris don't come along very often.

His obituary appeared Sunday evening, and I reprint it here, just so you can get an inkling of what he accomplished in his lifetime:
Christopher W. Kimmel, 52, of Vincennes, passed away February 3, 2018, at Good Samaritan Hospital.
Chris was a member of Vincennes Masonic Lodge #1, and the First United Methodist Church. A former president of the Vincennes Jaycees Club, he had received a national Jaycees award for his work as vice-president. He was a Red Cross volunteer. Chris was a Phi Betta Kappa graduate of Ball State University, and was close to receiving his master’s degree there. A 1984 graduate of Lincoln High School, he also graduated from Vincennes University. He was currently working as a video research specialist, and had worked in several areas related to computer science.
Chris was Past Grand Director General of the Yeomen of York, a Past Master of Vincennes Lodge No. 1; of Oaktown Lodge before it merged into Vincennes Lodge; and of the Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research UD. He received the Order of Service to Masonry, primarily for his masterful work chairing the planning of the 2009 bicentennial celebration of the chartering of Vincennes Lodge No. 1, was active in the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana, and was a frequent contributor to the Indiana Freemason. He also chaired the Grand Lodge Masonic Education Committee.
A member of Vincennes York Rite bodies, Kimmel was a Knight of the York Cross of Honor, was a past governor of Banks of the Wabash York Rite College in Terre Haute and held the Order of the Purple Cross, and was a member of St. Cyril Conclave, Red Cross of Constantine, in Evansville, and a Past Director General of Terre Haute Preceptory No. 6, Yeomen of York. He was also an Eagle Scout, was a Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s national honor society, and had completed the Wood Badge, Boy Scouting’s paramount adult leadership course.
Kimmel was also a past Sovereign Master of Edward C. Echison Council No. 326 Allied Masonic Degrees and had acted for years as its Director of Work. It was he who changed the council’s annual degree day from the straight portrayal of one of AMD’s antique degrees to an ongoing analysis of the degree and of the Masonic world and the world in general in which the degree was written.
Born January 21, 1966, in Olney, IL, he was the son of Wayne and Pam (Stover) Kimmel. Surviving is his wife, Toni (Eagleson) Kimmel; his mother, Pam Corrona and her husband, John, of Vincennes; his father, Wayne Kimmel and his wife, Bridget of Vincennes; his step-sister, Dina Madden and her husband, Mark, of Seymour, IN; his step-brother, Phil Corrona and his wife, Suzanne, of Vincennes; his father and mother-in-law, Joe and Judy Eagleson of Vincennes; and his nieces and nephews. A brother, Gregory Eric Kimmel, preceded Chris.
Friends may visit with Chris’s family from 3:00 – 8:00 on Tuesday, and from 9:30 – 10:30 on Wednesday, at Goodwin Funeral Home, 524 Broadway Street, Vincennes, Indiana. A Masonic Memorial Service will be held at 7:00 PM on Tuesday. The funeral service will be conducted at 10:30 Wednesday at the funeral home. Interment will follow in Memorial Park Cemetery.
Donations may be made to Vincennes Masonic Lodge #1 or to the Vincennes area Boy Scouts.
The Masonic service is Tuesday night, and his funeral will be Wednesday.

The part left out of that obituary is the part Chris never talked about. If you knew him and Toni in person, you didn't have to ask. But if you only were acquainted with him online, there's no reason you would have known.

Chris had been confined to a wheelchair ever since a tragic accident paralyzed him as a teenager. His range of mobility was extraordinarily limited; he could type using a mouth stick, and he could use the toggle control for his power wheelchair. A handshake was more of a knuckle bump than a clasp. He was a terrific ritualist because he understood the meaning behind words, even if he was only speaking softly, which was usual for him (unless he was shouting from across the Cathedral at Grand Lodge, "Grand Master! Point of order!" or tearing apart some legislation's inexactitude). He was brilliant, funny, intuitive, insightful. And prolific with just that damned mouth stick. He could even turn out a set of detailed organizational by-laws for you in no time flat.

Yet, even though I knew he suffered tremendous chronic pain, I never heard him complain in public. Even privately, he despised talking about his health—to the point that he never wanted anyone to know when he was hospitalized, unless it was to explain his absence from an event. But with Toni by his side—or several close, trusted Brethren who helped when Toni couldn't be there—he accomplished so much that the rest of us should be humbled. Probably even ashamed of ourselves. Because that list up there, and everything else he did that doesn't appear on it, reads more like the work of several people.

When Chris petitioned to join Vincennes Lodge No. 1 back in 2000, they requested the help of our unique Bartimaeus Lodge U.D. here in Indiana. That special purpose lodge, which was started way back in 1961, was created specifically to assist candidates who are handicapped to experience the degrees of Masonry as closely and as properly as their abilities will permit. The lodge is named after the blind beggar whose sight was restored by Jesus on the road to Jericho, as told in the Book of the Apostle Mark. Chris' passing this weekend reminds me to tell the story of that lodge more fully, sooner rather than later. I'll do that this week. 

But the problem for Chris was that Bartimaeus Lodge was taking too long between his degrees, in Chris' estimation. He was driven to experience, and advance, and excel, even before he was a full member of the fraternity. Consequently (just as I did myself), he pressed to be sent to a one-day class for his Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees, "even though I hate the idea of them." That was Chris, and he was always frustrated when others couldn't keep up with him. He was always a fighter for higher, better standards in everything, because he met those standards for himself first. And he was always, always a stickler for attention to detail. Because of that, he was the world's best fact-checker, and he was a dogged researcher who wanted to know more.

My heart goes out to Toni, who has spent so much of her life devoted to caring for Chris and making so much of what he was able to do possible in the first place. She saw him through so much adversity and triumph, and everything in between that no one else could even know. More than a few brethren only half-joked that Toni should have been named as an honorary Mason so she could have been Chris' Senior Warden for those years he served as Master of Vincennes, Oaktown, and then Dwight L. Smith lodges. Or maybe Secretary, since we all know that Secretaries really run any lodge. 

And Chris' parents still survive him. That obituary doesn't tell that story in full either, but no parents should ever have to bury their own children. Yet, Pam and Wayne have lost both of their sons now. I can't even imagine that.

Leonardo da Vinci once wrote, "I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death." I don't know if Chris ever encountered that quote in his lifetime, but he certainly lived by that credo.

There are photos of Chris posing with brethren over the years that others have taken, and he was an avid Facebook poster, too. But he didn't post pictures of himself. In fact, the usual image he used as his onscreen persona was his old high school graduation photograph. So, despite the photos I have of him with the Indiana Order of Service to Masonry around his neck, or his Master's jewel, or in other fraternal settings we've all known him from, I'm using the one he seemed to prefer. The hair was longer back then, a bit curlier, too. Maybe darker.

But that's Chris.

His column has long been broken, but it has fallen to the ground at last. And his brethren mourn.

Shocked! 'Guardian' Discovers Freemasons In The Pressrooms... Just Not Theirs

Not one, not two, but THREE articles were posted on the UK-based Guardian website Sunday obsessing about Freemasonry. Just as you'd guess they would, they managed to jam in a reference to handshakes AND "rolled up trouser legs," along with rattling Roberto Calvi's mouldering bones from 36 years ago as part of their very deep background. Even the aging Martin Short got dragged out of retirement as the late anti-Masonic wingnut Stephen Knight's intrepid standard-bearer once again. 

It was like a trip down memory lane, analagous to listening to a radio station replaying nothing but old Peter Noone singles—the journalism equivalent of the brain cell-destroying guitar riff in 'Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter.' It would merely be tiresome if it weren't for the insidious repetitiveness of it.

No surprise, really, as all three pieces were authored by the same Guardian reporter, Ian Cobain. Here's a sampling, but follow the links for the full effect.

The first was a heart attack-inducing, stop-the-presses revelation that there are affinity lodges in London that MIGHT have Westminster politicians and (unbelievably) fellow news reporters "handshaking" each other as members:

Two Freemasons' lodges operating secretly at Westminster

Two Freemasons’ lodges set up for members of parliament and political journalists are continuing to operate secretly at Westminster, the Guardian has learned.
New Welcome Lodge, which recruits MPs, peers and parliamentary staff, and Gallery Lodge, established for members of the political press corps known as the lobby, both remain active, according to Freemasonry records.
A third lodge called the Alfred Robbins Lodge, which was also set up for journalists, also continues to meet regularly in London.
The identities of the members of these three lodges remain unknown outside the world of Freemasonry, however, and so discreet are the members of Gallery Lodge that few journalists working in the lobby appear to be aware of its existence...
The Guardian understands past members of Gallery Lodge have included former journalists at the Times, the Daily Express, the Scotsman, and several Hansard reporters...
One gets the very peculiar feeling that what really irked Cobain was that there weren't any Guardian members he could discover as members of those lodges (or who would admit it to him, at least, because why would they?). It reads like the unfilmed introduction to the old Monty Python 'Architect' sketch. ("And your bleeding Masonic handshakes! You wouldn't let me join would you, ya black-balling bastards?!...Oh please, if you could put in a word for me, I'd love to be a Freemason!...I've got a second-hand apron...I nearly got in at Hendon...")

I don't know myself, but perhaps it's just because that particular lodge's members who are journalists don't regard The Guardian as journalism. But I digress.

But don't miss the billboarded "Guardian Graphic" illustration of the "secret handshake." This keeps poor anti-Masons up all night long in cold sweats just contemplating it, so they take opportunities just like this to "expose the secret" with the same sort of childlike glee a three year old has when he discovers he can make a fart noise with his tongue to annoy the adults.

Then there's this next gem:
Integrity or influence? Inside the world of modern Freemasons
The secret society is still pretty secret, and recent claims have reawakened long-held suspicions over its influence in public life.
The often-repeated message has been that Freemasonry in the 21st century should not be seen as a mysterious and clandestine affair. The unspoken message has been that the wider public has nothing to fear.
Then on New Year’s Eve, the outgoing chair of the Police Federation, Steve White, tossed a hand grenade into this carefully crafted reputation management operation, with an allegation that Freemasons were blocking reforms in policing and thwarting the progress of women and officers from black and minority ethnic communities.
“The people who blocked progress at the Police Federation were all masons,” he said. “And they were all a pain in the arse.”
On reading the interview with White, many people who had not given Freemasonry a moment’s thought for many years immediately recalled the enormous suspicion surrounding the organisation during the 80s and 90s...
Only because bird cage liner rag sheets like The Guardian made sure to remind them of paranoid, unproved ALLEGATIONS from 30 or more years ago that countless expensive investigations failed to substantiate in any way. And that the FORMER head of the Police Federation on his way out the door this year decided to blame "secret" Freemasons, of all things, in his own organization's ranks for giving him the Order of the Boot. And certainly not through any failure on his own part.

Finally, there was this third little entry that is apparently intended as a very brief guide.
Freemasonry explained: a guide to the secretive society
During some periods of history, Freemasons have been persecuted – by the Nazis, for example – and have needed to go underground to survive. But there are persistent suspicions that Freemasons also remain secretive in order to conceal the way in which they can assist each other in business and the workplace.
Is there any substance to these claims?
Such rumours are very rarely substantiated, and masons are expected to swear an oath that they will not be involved in “any act that may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society, by paying due obedience to the laws of any state”. But parliament’s home affairs select committee heard that in 1995, the Lancashire police authority was obliged to pay £70,000 to a father and son who were assaulted and then arrested and prosecuted after stumbling on a masonic dinner being hosted by a lodge dominated by police officers. The committee heard that a police officer who investigated the fracas was a mason, as was the manager of the hotel where the dinner took place...
No details, or even a link to that story from 23 years ago, of course. No explanations as to why the two men were assaulted or arrested, what did or did not transpire, and no certainly acknowledgement that ANY organization can have jackasses in it, regardless of its lofty stated goals. 

Why, even a news organization can be susceptible.

It's been standard procedure in the UK press for three decades now to gleefully tout when a miscreant, misbehaver, or criminal happens to be a Freemason, that becomes the headline. Not whether he's a Manchester United fan, or a stamp collector, or a front pew-sitter in the local Anglican church, or a member of the Communist Party of England. No, it's only someone's Masonic membership that gets trotted out and brandished like a clap-trap reprise in a bad music hall act.

Longtime UGLE Director of Communications John Hamill wrote a very long description of the post-1984 open attacks against Freemasonry back in 2000 (read it HERE), and details the sort of discrimination against the hiring of Masons that went on back then. This is exactly the sort of thing that The Guardian and many others seem to want to return to once again.

A decade of Mason hunting by the Home Secretary Jack Straw went down in flames in 2009 when the European Court of Human Rights declared the singling out of Freemasonry for public excoriation without proof to be in violation of EU laws. England was forced to finally drop their regulations that demanded all members of the police and judiciary publicly reveal their Masonic memberships simply because of the PERCEPTION of POTENTIAL wrongdoing. The Guardian knows this, since they themselves printed the story.

For as long as I've been reading stories like this there has been a strange dichotomy in the anti-Masonic tactics used by the English press. On the one hand, the Freemasons are continually brayed about as being dangerous, "dodgy," too influential, too "secretive," and in general, constantly covering up for members' bad behavior. Of course, you would be damned secretive too, if the hostile and sensationalistic press had turned public opinion so deliberately against you that just acknowledging your membership could endanger your job, your friendships, or your public reputation simply because of the imaginary horrors outsiders have created. Yet on the other hand, the press there goes on and on about how anachronistic, archaic, un-prestigious, useless, and downright silly the fraternity is these days, and how much membership in England has plummeted (a situation the press has openly helped to stoke themselves).

They can't have it both ways. Either we're all-powerful and nefarious, or we're useless and impotent. Which is it?  Because the simple truth—that Freemasonry is exactly what it has always claimed to be all along—just doesn't sell newspapers or even make good click-bait.

In other European news, the Italians are ramping up their anti-Masonic auto-da-fé hearings, once again trotting out their own favorite claim, that Masonic lodges are really just safe-spaces for Mafiosi. 

There must be an election coming soon. 

But that's another post for another day.


Oh come now. A FOURTH sniping Masonic article in the Guardian in just two days?

Is there a secret Freemasons' lodge in your workplace? Quiz

They're seriously taking on the characteristics of a teenaged stalker at this point. I just hope no one took actual money for this last one. That would be theft.

And meanwhile, in classic circular-citing fashion, The Independent, Vice.com, and SputnikNews.com are now reporting what The Guardian is reporting about the Freemasons...

UPDATE 2/6/2018

Aaaaaand a FIFTH one on the second day, this one an editorial. And a damned ignorant and ill-informed one, by a female and a Catholic to boot, who quite openly declares that she therefore has TWO major chips on her shoulder. 
Secret Freemasons should have no place in public life by Dawn Foster
Because 'freedom of association' for everyone but not for the bloody Masons, apparently. (By the way, she seems to think that being a Catholic would be an immediate disqualifier for lodge membership. The lodge would be unlikely to blackball a Catholic petitioner. She has things 180° backwards, I'm afraid. It is her own Church that would object to Masonic membership, NOT the other way round. Pesky details, I know. Who cares when a juicy accusation is at stake?)

Once again, dragging up ancient allegations and hearsay from decades ago when the UGLE had 350,000 members and nearly 10,000 lodges. They were inflated INCREDIBLY out of proportion ("Well, the fellow's whole body language changed after I gave him the handshake...") and made sensational and even scandalous in their time by the press, and now get dusted off as fresh fodder for these retreads. 

The Guardian has decided to go all in on Mason bashing this week. And no wonder—they've started opening up articles on their websites for comments recently, and the Mason-related ones in the last two days have gotten hundreds of posted comments in response. Of course, the UGLE's millions and millions of pounds raised for public charities never come up in these hit pieces, unless as a casual aside (and usually immediately followed by a "But critics say...") then the smacks continue.

Fortunately, attitudes about these kinds of press attacks have taken a dramatic change over at Great Queen Street. Dr. David Staples, the recently named Chief Operating Officer for the United Grand Lodge of England has been extremely proactive in answering these stories. And whether the news outlet prints them or not, he's posting them on the UGLE's website as well, so they can be searched and accessed in their entirety. His most recent letter to the Guardian can be seen HERE.