Category Archive: News

President’s Message, October 2021

At my lodge’s September meeting, I decided to take home our cloth aprons and gloves for a well earned laundering. I’ve never poured so much bleach in my life! Naturally, this activity prompts contemplation of what it all says to the Masonic mind. Gloves are not worn in all Masonic lodges; actually, I think gloveless lodges outnumber we gloved lodges. What do they mean?

We in New York remember, from the lecture of the Hiramic Legend, how during the search for our Operative Grand Master, a dozen Fellow Craft Masons wearing white gloves and aprons, as symbolic of innocence, confessed their conspiracy to King Solomon. During the ensuing search for the Ruffians, it was learned that they too had clothed themselves in white gloves and aprons in making their escape. Suddenly, these garments don’t seem exactly emblematic of good and purity, so what are we to do?

It has been a contentious subject here and there in Masonic history. I bet every grand lodge has in its leadership some officer or cadre of officers or a committee or something that studies the rituals and orations, looking for imperfections and ways to improve the language and understanding of it all. In 1906 Michigan, it was decided to delete mention of gloves from the above part of the Third Degree because it was thought, incorrectly, that gloves did not exist in ancient times. The word “garments” was substituted, but the lodges rejected the whole proposition, so the switch was abandoned.

In 1734 London, Swalwell Lodge’s Master and Wardens decreed that any brother attending lodge without his gloves and apron would be fined one shilling. Of course, my lodge has these white aprons and gloves for its brethren and for visitors alike—which is good, because we don’t have shillings.

My suggestion is to regard our white gloves as lessons in equality and unity. Whether a brother toils all day in industry, or labors in law, serves in sales, or anything else, we in lodge assembled are workmen of like mind and shared ambition: to improve ourselves and to better the condition of mankind. One brother’s hands could be calloused and cracked, and another’s could be soft and manicured, but both Masons meet together on the Level, laboring in our gentle Craft.

You should have seen the aprons when they came out of the wash. You know how a three-fold cord is not easily broken? Try defeating the Gordian Knot of thirty aprons’ drawstrings tangled into one hellish mass. Thanks to Bro. Chad, Past Master of Arts and Sciences Lodge 792, now I know about delicates bags. The right tool for that job.

In closing, if you are in or near New York City, join us on Thursday, October 28 for the meeting of The American Lodge of Research. That’s Masonic Hall on 23rd Street in the French Doric Room on the tenth floor at 7 p.m. Masonic Society Founding Fellow Piers Vaughan and myself will be among the presenters. Hope to see you there.

President’s Message, September 2021

(Secretary-Treasurer’s note:  My fault for getting this posted late.  We just spent six weeks moving house.  Mea culpa.)

Of course the huge news in Freemasonry in the United States these days emanates from the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, which hosted its biannual session in Cleveland at the end of August.

The biggest announcement, of course, concerns the abrupt change in leadership. Masonic Society Member Peter J. Samiec, who has been with us since 2009, is the new Sovereign Grand Commander of the NMJ! (Bro. Samiec is a New York Mason, so although I’m not a Scottish Rite member, I’m proud to see one of us in the Big Chair.) Congratulations, Illustrious Sir! I don’t envy you, but, seriously, good luck!

Also, and this was reported two years ago in the pages of The Journal of the Masonic Society, Greg Knott, a Founding Member of the Masonic Society who has served on our Board for many years and currently is the Second Vice President, was coroneted a 33° Mason. Well deserved, Bro. Greg!

I’m sure there are other Masonic Society brethren who either received the Thirty-Third and Last Degree or who were elected to be coroneted in 2023, or who maybe were honored in other ways, but I failed to find the information among the social media platforms. Please, if you know of other names in the news, send me the info.

And, in other headlines, Masonic Society Fellow John Bridegroom has been tapped to fill the Grand Tyler station on the Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees of the USA. Wonderful news! John has been with the Masonic Society since Day One way back in 2008. He serves on our Board of Directors and is the creative talent that designs The Journal, ensuring it remains the most attractive and accessible of all Masonic periodicals.

One of my favorite Grand Lodges in the Northeast (second only to my New York) is Pennsylvania, where it has been announced that Masonic Society Member Yasser Al-Khatib is the new District Deputy Grand Master of the Sixth District. If you know, or know of, Bro. Yasser, you probably are scratching your head pondering how he finds time for his many Masonic duties, but he always makes it work. Oh, he also is the Master of Pennsylvania Lodge of Research. I’m tired just from typing all that.

Speaking of Masonic research, I’m no longer vexed by the claims posted in social media about alleged Masonic facts and biographies. I’m inoculated. Immune. Bemused. Case in point:

Around July 21 every year, the anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon, there always are messages of Masonic pride because astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second to walk on the lunar surface, is a Freemason. Fair enough. We do like our famous Masons! The only version of events concerning Aldrin’s Master Mason Degree that I’ve heard in my twenty-four years in the Craft puts the future moon-walker inside Montclair Lodge 144, located in his hometown of Montclair, New Jersey. That’s how it’s written up in various books of history and trivia. Heck, many years ago, that night in 1956 was described to me personally by brethren of that lodge who had received the account as a sacred history of their (now defunct) beloved lodge.

So, around July 21, I see a post in social media in which a Brother Mason says Aldrin was raised in, and is a member of, a lodge in Colorado. Hmmph! I replied with the fact that Aldrin was raised at this Montclair Lodge in Jersey. He answered coolly with a repetition of what he believes is correct.

What’s a Masonic researcher to do? (To his credit, the Brother didn’t say “Educate yourself,” to which I only could have answered “I am literally shaking!”)

I follow Aldrin on a different social media platform, so I tweeted the question to him: “Bro. Aldrin, can you clarify a point of history that is confused? Did you receive the Third Degree of Freemasonry at Montclair Lodge 144 in your old hometown, or at Greenleaf Lodge 169 in Colorado? Both make the claim.”

I figured I’d have this wrapped up in about fifteen minutes, at which time I would savor my victory won on behalf of facts, logic, and reason. Aldrin still hasn’t answered. So much for the prestige of being President of the Masonic Society.

But I’ll tell you a secret: About twenty years ago, Bro. Gerald Reilly, over in the United Kingdom, one of my fellow seekers in the old Masonic Light Yahoo! Group, asked the assemblage if we knew where Aldrin was at labor. Having known that Montclair story, I answered him, explaining how that lodge is no longer extant, but that its successor lodge is accessible—and that I’d ask. I emailed the secretary about it, only to be surprised by his answer. I paraphrase: Bro. Aldrin didn’t pay his Montclair Lodge dues for many years, and the lodge carried him on the rolls for the whole time because, you know, he’s the second human to walk on the moon. But, after an inexcusable duration of never hearing from him, the lodge suspended him for non-payment of dues.

So, perhaps he parked his membership in Colorado, but was raised in New Jersey in a courtesy degree. Of course, if he was NPD’d by the New Jersey lodge, he forfeited his membership in Colorado, per Masonic custom. Oh well.

Now, on to that Charlie Watts-is-a-Mason nonsense.

President’s Message, August 2021

Brethren, with the arrival of August, I begin the fourth quarter of my two-year term as the Masonic Society’s president. There was so much I wanted to accomplish, and the clock’s ticking is egregiously loud now. Anyway, this message is more of an administrative update.

First, I want you to know that Masonic Week 2022 will be a live, in-person event! That means the Masonic Society’s annual banquet will resume its rightful place as the premier affair of the five days of festivities. Update your calendar and plan to be with us on Friday, February 11 at 7 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. No word yet on the menu, dining fee, etc., and we are seeking a brilliant after dinner speaker. More on all that later this year, after the Masonic Week Planning Committee finalizes the logistics. (Also, last month, the voting members of the Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees, meeting virtually, elected to continue hosting Masonic Week at the Hyatt Regency for three additional years, so we all will be meeting there through February 2025.)

And at our meeting next February, you will meet our eighth president: Bro. Oscar Alleyne of New York. Oscar is well known about the apartments of the Temple, serving as a valued and indefatigable leader all around the fraternity, and he recently was elected to membership in Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076 in London. How ’bout that?!

In the nearer future, you can catch me speaking at a few Masonic venues in and around New York City. Currently, I am finishing a presentation titled “How to Research a Masonic Subject,” which I’ll share with the brethren at my two research lodges and AMD council.

Saturday, September 11 at 10 a.m. – New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786, meeting at Hightstown Lodge 41 in Hightstown, New Jersey. Plan to arrive by 9:30 for coffee—and to ensure we don’t accidentally lock you out of the building!

That very night and in that very same place, I’ll do it again for J. William Gronning Council 83 of Allied Masonic Degrees. Only AMD brethren may attend. Council opens at 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 28 at 7 p.m. – The American Lodge of Research, meeting in the Colonial Room (tenth floor) of Masonic Hall in New York City. Yes, The ALR is back at labor! After a period of confusion (don’t ask), we installed a new officer line in June, and we resume our regular labors. (And Bro. Oscar was key to getting us reorganized.)

If you cannot join us for any of these meetings, don’t despair! I’ll submit the paper to Bro. Michael Poll, editor in chief of The Journal of the Masonic Society, for possible publication.

President’s Message, July 2021

Here in the United States, our Independence Day is upon us, and while I don’t feel right passing off someone else’s words in my messages to you, I have to share the following. It’s just that we don’t hear oratory like this anymore. I’ll refrain from editorializing on why we typically do not hear rhetoric of this nature from today’s Masonic leaders, and will only point out that what you are about to read is thematically consistent with two messages printed in the pages of The Journal of the Masonic Society. The first, in Issue 41 (Summer 2018), was the text of the after dinner remarks by Bro. Eric Diamond, one of our Board members, at our annual meeting several months earlier. The second, from this February, was delivered by our guest speaker, MW Bro. Akram Elias, and is summarized in Issue 52 (Spring 2021). But this is excerpted from remarks at the cornerstone ceremony of the Rocky Mountain Scottish Rite Consistory in Colorado in November 1921.

Masonic Lodges are a confederacy of moral republics—her temples, centers of law and order, citadels of stability—for aside from its spiritual, altruistic significance, a Masonic Temple has its utility side. It is as practical as a soldier’s ration. It has to do with government and with the home. It is an auxiliary in the State house, to the church, to legislation, and an active partner to any institution or cause whose aim is the uplift and betterment of man. This Temple will be a college of manhood, a university where Americanization will be fostered, a home of brotherhood and fellowship, and a sanctuary of friendship and a school of patriotism and liberty. It is the reserve line in every battle for free government, good citizenship, civic virtue, and education. It has enemies, as all have who aggressively fight ignorance, bigotry, and wrong. They affect our purposes no more than winds against granite rock, and to those enemies Freemasonry sends its challenge:

“Hammer away, ye hostile hands,
Your hammers break, God’s anvil stands.”

When completed, there will be built within this Temple an altar; upon the altar, a Bible; draping both, an American flag. Upon their knees, with hands upon these symbols of faith, every Mason must pledge his loyalty to God, country, home, and his fellow men. In Masonic Temples, creed is optional, loyalty to country and God imperative. All in all, Masonry is organized righteousness—mobilized patriotism.

Those words were spoken by Bro. Alva Adams, who served three non-consecutive terms as governor of Colorado. He also was prominent in Freemasonry there, having been Grand Lecturer of the Grand Lodge, and also the Sovereign Grand Inspector General of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite at that time. The couplet at the conclusion comes from the poem “Hammer and Anvil” by Samuel Valentine Cole, which I recommend to you.

If your lodge is reducing Independence Day to a cookout and maybe participation in a local parade, remember Adams’ clarion for a moral republic and a college of manhood.

 

President’s Message, June 2021

Believe it or not, there is great diversity in Masonic rituals. What is worked in my lodge in New York does not match perfectly with rituals in neighboring jurisdictions, something noticed instantly when visiting a lodge in Pennsylvania or Massachusetts. In addition to the official published rituals, lectures, and charges, there are other pieces that sometimes can be added to your degrees and meetings. Perhaps you have joined a Chain of Union after lodge is closed. Maybe you have been lucky to hear the “Canadian Charge” (it goes by several names) after a Master Mason Degree. Some European forms of Freemasonry even have ceremonies in lodge for weddings and baptisms. That’s a bit much for my tastes, but here is an item I found while researching for a paper I’m writing. In the pages of the April 1915 issue of The Builder, the magazine published by the National Masonic Research Society, is an oration authored by brethren of Lyons Lodge 93 in Iowa. It is a charge a brother delivered to his son upon being raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. Happy Fathers Day!

My son: Tonight you become a member of an order—not only of friends, but of brothers. In your life, as you master its teachings and experience its good influences, you will have a great mental growth.

Masonry fosters only the right doers; its principles, its teachings, its mysteries all tend to the elevation of man. Masonry gives maturity to the good character, and character may be likened to a universal bank. The deposits that are made in the bank of character bear an eternal interest. No thief can steal them; no panic can dissipate them.

The life of him who is pure, just, honorable and noble, finds within the tenets of Masonry loyal protection “from the evil intentions of our enemies.” We believe that you will be true and faithful to the teachings of Masonry, and we trust that you will so live that your words and your actions will be such as to brighten the memory of all the good men who have stood where you and I now stand—amid friends and amid brothers.

You are the son of a Mason who reveres Masonry’s teachings and stands uncovered in the presence of its sublime mysteries. If you will have your conduct in harmony with the principles of Masonry, you will aid my remaining years to pass in peaceful satisfaction.

You are not only my son, but you are also my brother. Believing that you will always prove yourself as being worthy of having been this evening “raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason,” I hope to be steadied by your arm as my son and as my brother when I depart on the journey whose goal is the realm of silence.

Even the All-Seeing Eye has a tear after that. Please feel free to keep this handy if you or a lodge brother ever comes to enjoy the honor of seeing a son become a brother.

President’s Message, May 2021

“Time is a great mystery, the general relation in which all things perceptible stand to each other in regard to their origin, continuance, and dissolution. It is a movable image of eternity, or the interval of the world’s motion, illimitable, yet silently ever rolling and rushing on…”

Knight of Time (29°) ritual
Egyptian Masonic Rite of Memphis

If you love Masonic ritual, especially for its literary characteristics, that Knight of Time Degree from long ago is a rewarding read. I quote it here simply to render an embarrassed apology for not keeping current month to month with a President’s Message in this space. Sorry about that. My time management skills never were enviable, and lately it has been hard keeping track of what day it is.

We Masonic researchers love past times, and we delight in reading history. One convenient gateway into Freemasonry’s yesterdays is examining those famous men who came in the same way and manner during previous generations. As I write this to you on April 30, it is the 232nd anniversary of Bro. George Washington’s first inauguration as President of the United States. On a typical anniversary, brethren from the Grand Lodge of New York would convene at the very location in Manhattan where that epochal event happened to re-enact the ceremony, replete with the actual Masonic Bible on which Washington placed his hand when taking his oath of office. That is not possible this year as New York still tries to find a way out of the various states of enforced inactivity stemming from the pandemic.

May 1, when this message goes live, is the anniversary of the occasion in 1917 when the Grand Lodge of New York met for its 136th Annual Communication, also in Manhattan. Among the speakers that afternoon was Bro. Theodore Roosevelt, who was Washington’s 25th successor in the presidency, who addressed his Brother Masons on the defining event of those days. Less than a month earlier, the United States had entered what we today call World War I. They were emotional times, with the gamut of enflamed passions, from love of country to hatred of practically all things German. I won’t reproduce all of Roosevelt’s speech, but excerpted for you here are highlights that may induce you to seek out the entire text for your history studies:

Brother Grand Master, Brother Masons from Canada, Brothers and every Mason from our State and from the United States: Busy though I was, and difficult though it was for me to get even an hour away, I could not resist the opportunity you gave to speak to a body like this at such a time as this on such a subject as this. I speak to you, who represent in every community in this State the men to whom we have the right to look for leadership in service, leadership in service to our own brethren, leadership in service to our State as a whole, leadership in service to the United States, and now leadership in service to the calls of justice and freedom throughout the world… .

Now, brothers, it is a fine thing for a nation which treats the possession of the heritage of mighty names in the past as a spur toward good action in the present, but it is an evil thing for that nation to have a heritage of noble achievements in the past if it treats that achievement as an excuse for failure to achieve in the present. It is a fine thing to commemorate Washington’s memory, but only if we try to act now in the spirit of the men who upheld the hands of Washington when he was alive. I want to call your attention to the fact that Washington was not much of a speaker, but he never said anything he did not mean, and he never offered to try to make good what he had said. And I wish us now in this country today to treat as a form of action to be translated into continuing action, or else to be treated as a disgrace to us. It rests with us, with the American people, to make [President Woodrow Wilson’s] message of April 2nd one of the great State papers in our history. And that message will either reflect credit upon America or deepest discredit, accordingly as we do or do not translate it into efficient action… .

There cannot be anything more infamous than a wicked war, and there cannot be anything more glorious, more soul-stirring, than to do one’s duty in the great war for righteousness now being waged, to the end that peace shall come and that it shall be the peace of justice and of righteousness. We don’t wish a foot of land or a dollar of indemnity at the end. All we ask to do is to render service to mankind, but we hope to earn for ourselves the inestimable privilege of handing on to our children, with added glory, the heritage we received from our fathers… .

Therefore, Brothers, use your influence to see that we do two things: prepare, really prepare, and do our full duty in this war; and inaugurate a policy of preparedness that is to be continued after the war, and at the same time strike, and strike now. Let me give you a homely illustration. If a householder knows that there is a homicidal burglar operating in the neighborhood, and says he does not care to purchase an automatic because he is neutral between the burglar and the other householders, and anyhow is a peaceful citizen and does not think anybody is going to attack him…he is guilty of folly. But suppose he then wakes up one night and finds the homicidal burglar in his house, but held by two neighbors so that the burglar can’t get at him at the moment. What do you think of that householder if, when asked to come to the assistance of the two householders with whatever weapon that is handy, which happens to be a poker, he says ‘No, I have now come to the conclusion that an automatic is the right weapon, and I decline to hit the burglar until my automatic has been bought.’ We should say, ‘You were guilty of folly before, but you are a plain, unadulterated fool now, and you cannot atone for folly in the past by worse folly in the present.’ It is just so with us.

If you squander precious time in the social media platforms, you may have seen this quotation in a meme lately: “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And weak men create hard times.” You might want to suppose that comes from some genius of ancient Western Civilization, but it is borrowed from a novel by a contemporary writer named G. Michael Hopf, a combat veteran himself. It speaks to the Masonic mind for all the obvious reasons you understand from the Third Degree while also insisting there is true urgency embedded in the often mistakenly downplayed daily events of our lives today.

Many Freemasons see themselves as inheritors of some knightly tradition from the Middle Ages, but I’m not one of those. I am content to leave myself in a lineage of strong men who crafted magnificent wonders out of nature’s raw materials in anticipation of good times. A kind of “Knight of Time,” if you will.

Fiat lux. Fiat lex. Fiat pax.

Jay Hochberg
President

President’s Message, February 2021

I have been negligent in submitting President’s Messages for publication here on our website, which several members have told me makes the Masonic Society, or at least its website, look defunct. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize for the longstanding oversight.

To catch up, let me tell you about the Zoom webinar we hosted February 12 to hear the greatly anticipated comments of an eminent Freemason. We are working on editing the video of that event, and we will share it online for all to see soon. In the meantime, here is my summary of the memorable speech.

The Masonic Society Lecture 2021

In lieu of the Masonic Society’s usual banquet during the annual Masonic Week festivities in Virginia, we gathered via Zoom February 12 to host one of the most dynamic thinkers and persuasive speakers on the Masonic scene today. As president of the Society, I hadn’t anticipated the pandemic would still hound us into 2021, so I in fact had been planning for our customary dinner-lecture at the hotel in Arlington when I first contacted MW Bro. Akram Elias last June. It was my desire to find a speaker who would continue a theme opened by RW Bro. Eric Diamond, one of our Board members, who addressed the group in 2019 with a speech that rightly should arouse Freemasonry’s latent desire to infuse a positive energy into the public square because, candidly, we have turned into an introspective and persnickety historical society. Having discovered earlier in 2020 the Masonic Legacy Society, co-founded by Elias, I recognized exactly such a presenter of urgent Masonic ideals. He graciously agreed to join us, without any hesitation, mental reservation, etc.

MW Elias has been a Freemason since 1996, when he was initiated, passed, and raised in Potomac Lodge 5 in Washington, DC. He has presided in the East of La France Lodge 93, Benjamin B. French Lodge 15, Cincinnatus Lodge 76, and Pythagoras Lodge of Research, all in Washington, where he also is a founding member of other lodges. In 1999, he joined the Grand Lodge officer line, culminating in his term as Grand Master in 2008. He is a York Rite and Scottish Rite Mason, and a Shriner, as well as a member of invitational groups. His Masonic accolades and accomplishments are too numerous to include here. In his professional concerns and employments, Elias has been engaged in the field of international relations for more than thirty years; he is a co-founder and president of Capital Communications Group, Inc., an international consultancy that provides to governments and private clients alike an array of strategies for navigating across humankind’s varied nations and cultures.

His presentation is titled “Freemasonry in 2026: A Force for Good, or a Footnote in History?” He spoke for approximately thirty minutes before fielding questions for an hour.

“I hope every Freemason would take a few moments to truly think deeply and seriously about what it means to be a Freemason in our country five years before our country celebrates the 250th anniversary of our independence,” he begins. “And about the special relationship that has existed between the Founding of the Great Experiment and the role Freemasonry has played in the establishment, development, and evolution of the Great Experiment; and where we are today—at a major crossroads. Will Freemasonry rise to the challenge once again to help propel this Great Experiment into the future?”

Elias defines the Great Experiment as the uniquely American system of governance needed “to advance the human condition.” Not only democratic elections, which had been tried with only partial benefits to previous societies, but also “the genius of the Founding Fathers,” meaning government as a “systems engineering machine that people can use to solve their own problems.” By employing individual liberty, self-governance, and the rule of law, America, which he acknowledged was led at that time by white, Anglo-Saxon property owners, could set in motion a system that would “expand the Experiment” so as to include and embrace all the people of America.

“Enlightened citizens are of the utmost importance to the success of this Great Experiment,” he also says, and that is where Freemasonry enters the history. “Masonic lodges truly were incubators” where its members elected their leaders, voted on legislation, and honed their skills in rhetoric. The lodge experience produced leaders of local communities who could safeguard freedom, which is always endangered. “America created civil society,” he adds. While the world always had “society” consisting of structures—religion, ethnicity, family—that predetermined a person’s identity, it took the American Experiment to birth a place where an individual could relieve himself of constraints and enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, and other inalienable rights. “It is also, from an Enlightenment perspective, freedom from ignorance, freedom from bigotry, freedom from superstition.”

“Masonic lodges spread across the country. It was a place where people learned to govern themselves,” Elias continues. “They were laboratories where Masonry is taken seriously. How does Masonry take an individual and make him better? That happens by studying seriously the deeper meanings of the symbols and allegories of our Craft. It is the esoteric, the hidden aspect, that enables a person to transform from within.”

“Masonry was instrumental to help bring people together of different backgrounds to try to work together to build their communities.”  The result over time was making the Great Experiment more inclusive. “One way to look at the evolutionary history of the United States is to see each generation had to fight its own viruses—we live in a COVID pandemic right now. Viruses have variants and can spread sometimes like wildfire. Well, ignorance, superstition, bigotry, and extremism are viruses, and each generation of Americans would face those,” he says, referring to the revolutions in American life that ended chattel slavery and racial segregation, and that expanded suffrage and economic opportunity beyond the original Founders’ social class. “It took generations and generations of Americans to fight hard and make the Experiment more inclusive.”

“As Masons, we are taught in our ritual—we live it in many jurisdictions in our country—we need to attract people of different faiths, backgrounds, races, nationalities, etc.,” he explains. “We know what are the minimum criteria for someone to knock at the door and be accepted in our Craft.”

“Five years before we celebrate our 250th anniversary, given where our country is, what are Freemasons going to do? Are we, as Freemasons, going to go to lodges and do the stuff that we would typically do—conduct some business, maybe spend some good time together because we are fellows who like one another and spend an evening together—or  are we going to really go back to the fundamentals of Freemasonry and make it relevant again?”

“Freemasonry has a unique role: It is to build a better person, a more engaged, enlightened citizen, and that’s what we need, because if we don’t have enlightened citizens who take on the responsibility, engage the system engineering machine, to move us forward, solve our problems, always expanding opportunity for all—if we don’t do that, it becomes the rule of the mob,” Elias adds conclusively. “As Benjamin Franklin told that lady who asked ‘What have you given us, Dr. Franklin?’ And he said ‘A republic, madam, if you can keep it.’ And a republic needs enlightened, engaged citizens.”

TMS 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting, Friday, February 12, 2021

Please join us next Friday evening, February 12, for The Masonic Society’s Virtual Annual Meeting, featuring guest speaker MW Akram Elias, PGM of the Grand Lodge of Washington, D.C., who will speak on “Freemasonry in 2026: A Force for Good, or a Footnote in History?”

President’s Message, October 2020

(Mea culpa from your Secretary-Treasurer — Jay’s column is late because I’m late putting it up! Sorry about that! — Nathan)

We Freemasons like our milestones. From our first entrance into the worshipful lodge, and through the degrees, and, for some, through the chairs, and, for a few, grand rank. Of course we also have our anniversaries: that first formative year as a brother, then the fifth year, and shockingly suddenly it is time for the silver anniversary, then the golden, and maybe more. With this issue of The Journal of the Masonic Society, we mark not an anniversary, but a milestone. An anniversary measures time, and time can be passed without effort, but a milestone is like a target. There’s a reasoned plan, a deliberate exertion, sustained determination, and—hopefully, but not always—the achievement. So here we are at Issue No. 50.

I have a unique vantage point for surveying the Masonic Society’s body of work. By dumb luck, I was invited to join at the start not only as a Founding Fellow, but even as a member of the Board of Directors. It seemed a little crazy to me, because the rest of the leadership team consisted of highly regarded figures on the Masonic scene in America. I was a recent Past Master and currently in the East of my research lodge, but I wasn’t a Past Grand Master, or an author, or a luminary of any kind. I hadn’t even unleashed my blog on the world yet. But I recognized the need for, and believed in the mission of, the Masonic Society—as I do still—and happily signed on with a desire to make a good fraternity better. As my colleagues writing to you here on this subject surely have mentioned, the basic concept of The Journal of the Masonic Society is to be “the Time magazine of Freemasonry.” (For those of you too young to know Time, it was the benchmark general interest magazine of American journalism, accessible to readers from all walks of life, and still around after 97 years.) We aim for a harmonious fusion of scholarly research, speculative thinking, news/current events, opinion/reviews, photography, and more. I believe we do it well, so perhaps in this context, respecting Time actually propels us toward a milestone.

Before our launch in 2008, there had not been such a resource available to the laboring Master Mason since the 1920s, when it was a pretty common thing. From the 1700s to the Great Depression, motivated Masons edited and published independently to satisfy a demand for useful information. The brethren wanted to read about their fraternity during a time before grand lodges and other bodies began supplying official periodicals. When those magazines debuted, the independents drifted away. What happened upon the advent of the Masonic Society was pretty amazing! Before, many existing magazines showed inevitable editorial biases. Grand lodge magazines were weighted in favor of the charitable work, while the publications of multi-state and national bodies seemed to struggle for want of good material. A different Masonic society was given to printing biographies of long deceased Baseball Hall of Famers. The arrival of The Journal of the Masonic Society changed much of that. The fruits of the labors of contemporary writers, showcased in a modern layout and design, and buttressed by the independence brought by paid memberships reminded Freemasons in America that it’s better to have the best. It was thrilling for me to see brethren come to our kiosk at Masonic Week to sign up for membership; to see brethren reading The Journal while relaxing in the hotel lobby. I’ll never forget strolling through the ground floor of Masonic Hall in New York City one night in May 2009 and overhearing a passing group of older Masons talking about us. “There’s a new society,” one said. “It’s alternative. It’s called the Masonic Society, and they publish a very attractive magazine.” And then there was the morning I received a call from the principals of that other Masonic society, offering me the editorship of their magazine (with $9,000 annual pay and a few perks) when they finally decided to plan a future without their longtime editor. That meant infinitely more to me than being coroneted a 33 Mason. I declined as graciously as I could given the shock I felt. I was committed resolutely to the Masonic Society and to building something new that was urgently needed in the Craft. (They wound up hiring away another key Masonic Society figure, and he has been doing a wonderful job with that academic quarterly.)

There is no rule and guide for presiding over a modestly sized non-profit group in the Masonic world. Worshipful Masters have their rituals, lodge bylaws, grand lodge constitutions, and generations of accreted traditions, habits, and preferences. Presidents of the Masonic Society? Not so much. Consequently the Society can differ in conspicuous ways with each new president’s term. It’s safe to say we have staved off chaos, but predictable, comfortable success is elusive too. That’s good though. Keeps us on our toes. Over the years, we have had to cycle through a number of officers and directors, worthy and well qualified Masons all, but who could not give the Masonic Society the sustained professional attention it demands. Our first Executive Editor was Chris Hodapp, probably the best known Freemason in the country thanks to his books, blog, and speaking engagements. He produced this great magazine—words and layout—for its first eighteen issues, even while he fought off cancer. Today he is our Editor Emeritus. Chris was succeeded by author Michael Halleran, Past Grand Master of Kansas, who continued the excellence. In more recent years, we have been lucky to have our second President, Mike Poll, at the helm, bringing his many years of experience as an eminent Mason and indefatigable book publisher to lead us to new heights, to more distant milestones, with Art Director John Bridegroom, graphic designer extraordinaire, crafting the layout.

And life goes on, Freemasonry is a “progressive science,” time waits for no one, and, as you read this fiftieth issue milestone of The Journal, we already are well into production of No. 51. See you then.

Jay Hochberg
President

President’s Message, August 2020

Issue 49 (Summer 2020) of The Journal of the Masonic Society has been out for about a month, so let me tell you about it in case you are not yet a member. You’ll find a lot of facts, logic, and reason within its pages.

In fact, the Winding Stairway of the Middle Chamber Lecture in the Fellow Craft Degree (for a great many of us) is presented in several contexts. Jim Rumsey of Texas gives us “The Masonic Philosophy of the Winding Stairway: A Pathway to Enlightenment,” in which he leads us up the stairs, step by step. On Music, for example, this elected member of his grand lodge’s Committee on Work explains how “Music teaches us to manage our time…and to understand that it takes time and patience to accomplish life.” And that “Harmony is bringing all things together and managing conflict.”

Meanwhile, in his “Light from the East Coast,” the President of the Masonic Society brings to our attention the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher Thomas Reid, whose name is noted in the Second Degree section of William Preston’s Illustrations of Masonry. Reid is renowned as the Father of Common Sense. His treatise titled Inquiry into the Human Mind expounds on the Five Physical Senses, also known to Free and Accepted Masons through the MC Lecture, and the President’s point is to urge Freemasons to use their faculties and common sense during the pandemic so as not to be “affected by hysterical media or by politicians who never planned for any emergency.” Hmmm.

Pennsylvania’s William Britton shares “Reflecting on the Reflections of a Newly Made Mason,” an essay that was inspired by a talk he witnessed in a lodge he had visited and that made quite an impact. Sharing his thoughts, for example, on Astronomy, Britton says:

As the seasons change—winter to spring, spring to summer—so the morning changes to midday, then afternoon, and leads us into the center, or middle chamber of the day. With that advancement comes maturity—time when we are fully able to make intellectual decisions in life, rather than using our emotions, relying on rationality as a means to make decisions based on reason. It is here, in the middle chamber, we are given more refined tools that become essential to the precision required in the building process. When a building is being erected, every stone in it must be so placed that the stress of gravity pulls on all portions of the structure in such a manner that its unity and consistency are preserved. Such it is when we base our decisions upon the foundation of rational reason.

I like what he writes in this piece. I think it recalls Stoic philosophy, but you decide for yourself. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that when our GMHA avows “My l u ma tk; bt m intg nv,” he is not referring to pure, honest duty. He is affirming how his obligations are integral to his being. When one speaks of a building’s structural integrity, he is not talking about the building’s honesty; he is referring to the building’s very ability to exist per the proper applications of the useful rules of architecture. The Emperor Marcus makes this very point in his Stoic reflections we know as the Meditations.

Upon opening this issue of The Journal, I actually landed in the middle, where we find “Masonic Perspectives: A Second Look at Aspects of Controversial Topics in American Freemasonry.” This is one in a series where the authors reach into history to demonstrate how—to borrow Karr’s famous axiom—the more things change, the more they stay the same. In this case, John Bizzack (Masonic Society Board Member) and Dan Kemble examine two articles from the May 1929 issue of The Builder magazine. The first is titled “The Future of Freemasonry,” by Herbert Hungerford, and the second is “Where Are We Drifting?” by R.J. Meekren. You probably can guess what these two vintage articles say, because you probably have been saying the same thing, namely that “we in America have been bitten by the lust for size, for numbers, for wealth.” (Hungerford) And that the “leaders of the Craft have very frequently expressed grave fears in regard to losses from various causes, especially those by suspension for non-payment of dues. Rather less frequently, doubts have been voiced as to whether the growth in the last decade has not been altogether too rapid.” (Meekren)

There is much detail provided in membership statistics, but it is not dry reading. It really is a very important lesson in Masonic practice that future grand masters ought to read and comprehend, so the Craft may break its pointless cycle of initiating and losing such high numbers of brethren.

In The Journal’s Spotlight section, we find an interview with the irrepressible John “Coach” Nagy, a persuasive voice in social media and a prolific author. Here Nagy extols the urgency of research, and illustrates the value of etymology in understanding Masonic vocabulary—something I prize myself. We use the terms Free and Accepted, Freemason, and free stone often enough, and Nagy explains that our word “free” should not be taken merely as “unrestrained,” but as per its French origin, franche, meaning “superior, excellent, pure, master.” The discussion spans three pages, but I wish it went longer.

Likewise looking into word meanings and our need to guard the West Gate, Francis Fritz of Arizona asks “Are We a Secret Society?” It’s a pretty short, but thoughtful, opinion piece that just may cure brethren of reciting a certain ubiquitous catchphrase about a society with secrets. Check it out and decide for yourself.

Giovanni “Joey” Villegas of Manila, Philippines renders a lengthy study in the back of the magazine on the subject of “Masonry in the Time of the Corona Virus,” that naturally was written independently of the President’s message in the front of the magazine, but that synchronously also encourages us to keep calm. After a deep recitation of facts and numbers on how the fraternity worldwide is dealing with the pandemic, Villegas reminds us that “Masonry is indeed about applying the tenets and teachings for the benefit of our brethren and of all mankind. You don’t need to have a meeting to learn and serve Masonry. It was never about collecting degrees or aspiring for positions and awards. It always has been about Brotherly Love (caring), Relief (helping), and Truth (learning).”

The regular features of The Journal consistently help us navigate the Masonic world outside our lodges. In the reviews section, Steven Shimp, a Past Master of St. John’s Lodge 435 in Pennsylvania (I’ve never seen a St. John’s Lodge numbered so high!) praises the Masonic Lite podcast, hosted by five fellow Pennsylvanians. Shimp credits the show for using informal talk to present Masonic education. In the books department, Seth Anthony (another Pennsylvanian!) discusses the Roger Dachez and Alain Bauer book Freemasonry: A French View, which he lauds as “an excellent, short read that is absolutely packed with Masonic knowledge” and that clarifies for the American reader the often vexing story of Freemasonry in France. My friend Dave Tucker of New Jersey sizes up Michael Poll’s Measured Expectations: The Challenges of Today’s Freemasonry, which was honored as the Grand Lodge of Illinois’ book of the year. “Measured Expectations examines the needs of a newly raised Mason,” Tucker writes. “The book is full of very practical observations and suggestions.” Another(!) Keystone State Mason, M. Vincent Cruciani, reviews the insightful Roy Wells’ Some Royal Arch Terms Examined. Noting how the book is more useful to English Royal Arch Masons than to Americans, Cruciani encourages us to read the book for its decoding of Hebrew terms.

Speaking of Mike Poll, the Editor in Chief of The Journal, in his Editor’s Corner column, also addresses Masonic life during the pandemic. (Let me point out that this issue of The Journal went into production in April, so it’s important to appreciate the time lapsed.) He notes the online discussions among Masons, and the organized efforts of brethren to help, aid, and assist the needy, whether they are Masons or not. “We are Masons and have the need to act like Masons.”

Perhaps as a kind of bookend, Masonic Society Second Vice President Greg Knott, in his photography feature “Through the Camera Lens,” takes us on a tour of the Civil War battlefield of Fredericksburg. He shows us the statue of Confederate soldier Richard Kirkland, who was thus memorialized because he risked his neck to bring water to the wounded Union men strewn about the field. “This selfless act is a reminder of the obligation we have as Freemasons to assist our brothers and others who might need some aid,” Knott writes. “During this time of COVID-19 pandemic, let us remember to reach out to our brethren and their families to ensure their well being.”

SMIB.

There still is more to this issue of The Journal of the Masonic Society, but it’s hard for me to believe you’ve read even this far, so see for yourself. It’s the best $45 you’ll spend in Freemasonry.

Fiat lux. Fiat lex. Fiat pax.

Jay Hochberg
President

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