Category Archive: President’s Messages

President’s Address, 2018 Annual Meeting

The following was read on behalf of WBro. Davis at the 2018 Annual Meeting of The Masonic Society on February 9, 2018, in Alexandria, Virginia.


Brethren and guests,

I regret that treatment for prostate cancer prevents my attending this meeting, but I know I am leaving it in good hands.

In October 2015, my predecessor, Jim Dillman, called and chaired a board retreat in St. Louis, Missouri, to set strategic goals for The Masonic Society. We were one vote short of a quorum, so the gathering was not an official board meeting, but several of us attending said that the meeting was one of the most productive we had ever participated in. At the meeting, we set three initiatives for the next two years, and distributed them to the members for online discussion.

I subsequently, before taking office at Masonic Week 2016, talked with each board member separately, as well as other key members of TMS, and learned their own priorities and commitments.

Our first initiative was an annual TMS conference, and indeed we had TMS’s first two annual conferences, a small but excellent one in San Jose, California, in October 2016, organized by board member Gregg Hall, and a larger one in Lexington, Kentucky, in September 2017, organized by board member John Bizzack. Chris Hodapp, editor emeritus of the Journal of The Masonic Society, called it “one of the very best and most useful Masonic symposiums I’ve attended in a long time.”

My own hope is that TMS Conferences will attract and serve not only Masonic leaders and researchers, as Masonic Week does so effectively, but also more and more of the many Masons who have, perhaps only recently, become interested in the history, philosophy, and symbolism of the Craft. If they attend only one national Masonic event, I hope it will be ours.

But conferences are expensive, and require an extraordinary amount of planning and preparation time, so our now-available funds and volunteers may not be able to support an annual conference. Increasing our membership may allow us to continue annual conferences, but for now at least, we may be able to hold conferences only biannually.

Our second initiative was a TMS School. So far, the school has offered one course, in the history and philosophy of Freemasonry, created and conducted online by Michael Poll, editor of our journal. The board has begun discussing another TMS School program, an educational tour of Masonic sites in the UK, organized by board member Greg Knott.

Our third initiative was a TMS Scholar program, to offer financial support for a major project by a selected Masonic researcher, who in turn would be available to speak to lodges of research and other Masonic organizations during his or her term of service. Planning for this initiative is ongoing.

And I know that many of you share my view that under Mike Poll’s editorship, The Journal of the Masonic Society continues to be Freemasonry’s leading periodical.

My personal highlight during my term as president occurred a year ago, at Masonic Week 2017, when board member Greg Knott and his lodge brother Todd Creason arranged for past president Jim Dillman and me, representing TMS, to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, at Arlington Cemetery. We did so, in full Masonic regalia. I was especially honored to be allowed, as a veteran, to render a hand salute to our fallen heroes.

In conclusion, it has been an honor for me to serve as The Masonic Society’s president during the last two years. It has been a pleasure to know and work with my brother directors and officers, as well as many other TMS members. I am very optimistic about the society’s future.

Again, I’m sorry I can’t be among you tonight. But I know you’ll proceed to meet on the level, act by the plumb, and part on the square.

Fraternally and sincerely,

Ken Davis, President, The Masonic Society

President’s Message, Issue 34: TMS 2016 Annual Conference

President’s Message, Issue #34, The Journal of The Masonic Society

How good and how pleasant it is …
by Kenneth W. Davis, FMS

I’m recently back from one the most interesting and informative Masonic events of my life, the 2016 Annual Conference of The Masonic Society, which took place October 7-9, in beautiful Morgan Hill, California.

2016 Annual Conference Program CoverHonoring the conference theme, “Freemasonry on the Frontier,” speakers took participants on a fascinating historical tour of the expanding North American frontier, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Kicking off the conference Friday evening was Jefferson H. Jordan, Jr., immediate past grand master of Masons in New Mexico, speaking as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, “Mark Twain.” Clemens’s talk emphasized his Masonic experience and his travels on the Western frontier of the United States.

The first presentation Saturday was by William Miklos, who invited us to participate in “an Imaginary Conversation among the Thirteen Masons of the Continental Convention.” Bill is founding master of the Golden Compasses Research Lodge, past master of the Northern California Research Lodge, and a founding member of TMS.

Following Bill were Moises Gomez, past grand historian of the grand lodge of New Jersey, who spoke about the early traveling lodges of his home state, and Kyle Grafstrom, junior warden of Verity Lodge 59 in Kent, Washington, speaking on “Freemasonry in the Wild West.”

Saturday afternoon began with Adam Kendall, a founding fellow of TMS and editor of The Plumbline, the journal of The Scottish Rite Research Society, who presented “Pilgrimage and Procession: The 1883 Knights Templar Triennial Conclave and the Dream of the American West.”

He was followed by Wayne Sirmon, treasurer of Mobile Lodge 40 and past master of the Texas Lodge of Research, who spoke on “West by Southwest: The Expansion of Frontier Freemasonry from the Old Southwest”—by which he meant, to my surprise, not New Mexico and Arizona, but Alabama. (Who’d have thought?)

The “frontier-themed” presentations ended with a fascinating look at “Freemasonry and Nation-building on the Pacific Coast,” by John L. Cooper III, past grand master of the Masonic Grand Lodge of California. We were especially honored to have John present, as he is currently president of our sister organization, The Philalethes Society.

After Saturday dinner was a special bonus presentation by Moises Gomez, who in addition to his Masonic honors is a twenty-eight-year veteran of the Emergency Service Unit of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. As such, Moe was among the first responders at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He spoke on his experiences at “Ground Zero” and the Masonic values he saw embodied there, and he presented conference participants with a commemorative pin.

9/11 Commemorative PinThe single most important person in making the conference a success was TMS board member Gregg Hall, who coordinated all local arrangements and pitched in with preparing our gourmet meals.

The year 2017 will include two already-scheduled TMS events. The first will be our seventh annual dinner at Masonic Week, February 9-12, at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. The dinner will take place Friday, February 10, at 6:30 pm, and will feature an after-dinner talk by Mike Poll, past president of TMS and editor of this journal. All Masons, ladies, and guests are welcome!

Our 2017 conference will be held September 7-10, at Embassy Suites in Lexington, Kentucky. The conference, tentatively titled “Celebrating 300 Years of Freemasonry,” is being coordinated by Masonic author and TMS board member John Bizzack and is being cosponsored with Lexington Lodge 1 (chartered in 1788), The Rubicon Masonic Society, The Grand Lodge of Kentucky Education Committee, William O. Ware Lodge of Research, and Ted Adams Lodge of Research.

Besides presentations by nationally known speakers, the conference will include tours of the Kentucky Horse Park and Ashland Estate, the home of famed nineteenth-century Mason Henry Clay, as well as a formal festive board at historic Spindletop Hall.

As a former faculty member at the University of Kentucky, a thirteen-year resident of Lexington, and an official, governor-proclaimed Kentucky Colonel, I know first-hand the beauty of the Bluegrass State and the hospitality of its people. Just as my wife, Bette, and I took advantage of the location of our 2016 conference to make a spectacular trip down the California coast, I hope many of you will take advantage of the equally beautiful and historical setting of the 2017 event.

(An aside: when I lived in Lexington, I was not yet a Mason and did not know John Bizzack. Only recently did we discover that I served on the very grand jury that indicted the criminals whom John and his fellow police offers rounded up in a sting operation. The Masonic world is a small one.)

I look forward to seeing many of you at Masonic Week in Virginia in February and at the TMS Conference in Kentucky in September. Each of them will be a must-go event in this Masonic anniversary year. Be there, and on the square!

Fraternally,

Kenneth W. Davis

President’s Message, Issue 33

President’s Message, Issue #33, The Journal of The Masonic Society

Point to Heaven . . .
by Kenneth W. Davis, FMS

You won’t be surprised to learn that my Masonic e-mail signature block includes the line “President, The Masonic Society.” However, the line before that carries another Masonic title, “Chaplain, Albuquerque Lodge 60 and the New Mexico Lodge of Research.” I value deeply my office in TMS, but I value equally the honor of serving as a chaplain. As chaplain, I try (succeeding only in part, of course) to follow the injunction given me when I was installed (from the monitor of the Grand Lodge of New Mexico):

“Reverand Brother . . . it is your special duty to conduct the devotions of the Lodge, and to present before the throne of Heavenly Grace the spiritual needs of your Brethren. In all your intercourse with your Lodge, it is expected that you will ‘point to Heaven and lead the way.’”

As chaplain, I recite the opening and closing prayers, as well as the prayers within degrees. But I also love—though I am a layman—the occasional opportunities to be “pastoral” for my brothers.

When we elect a new candidate for degrees, and after the secretary has called him, I give the candidate a phone call. I introduce myself, extend my congratulations, and ask him three things.

First, I ask him what Volume of Sacred Law he wishes to take his obligations on. I tell him that no one, at least in the context of blue-lodge Masonry, will ask about his specific religious tradition again. As our twenty-first landmark requires (again in the version within the New Mexican monitor), “that a Book of the Law, a religious code of some kind puporting to be an exemplar of the revealed will of God, shall form an essential part of the furniture of every Lodge.”

I often ask the candidate to check the website of the Grand Lodge of Israel. In that highly contentious country the seal of the Grand Lodge of Israel displays the Jewish Star of David, the Christian Cross, and the Muslim Crescent.

Second, I ask the newly-elected candidate to not read any details of the degree rituals, so he can experience the degrees without foreknowledge and preconceptions.

And third, I tell him about chambers of reflection. Like, I suppose, most North American lodges, the two blue lodges of which I’ve been a member do not have such chambers. So I ask the candidate to find three blocks of time between then and the degree—at least fifteen minutes each—when he can sit alone, in the dark and in silence, and meditate on his past, present, and future, including his eventual death.

(Incidentally, though I don’t have a skull on my personal home “altar,” I do have the polished box, provided by our cremation service, that will one day hold my ashes. That’s a pretty good memento mori for me.)

The most moving event in my service as chaplain happened in June of this year. John Baker, a fifty-year Mason and Albuquerque 60’s marshall and oldest active member, passed away. I had sat next to him in lodge for several years, and had come to rely on his friendship, advice, and occasional prompting.

While John was hospitalized, I had visited him and said a prayer, but a Masonic commitment prevented my attending his funeral. So I was grateful to be invited to his cremation. Three members of the lodge were there, along with John’s son-in-law, an artist.

We gathered around the uncovered cardboard box in which John’s unembalmed body lay. We each said our goodbyes, and I offered prayers. John’s son-in-law, though not a Mason, had painted on wood an abstract image of an all-seeing eye. He laid it on John’s chest, and asked him to personally present it as an offering to God.

With the funeral director, we put the cover on the box, wheeled it into the cremation room, and slid it through the open door of the furnace. The funeral director closed the door, and the other four of us together pushed the green button that started the flames. I had never before felt so powerfully the reality of the words from Ecclesiastes 12:7 recited in the Master Mason degree: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” I’ll tangibly felt John’s spirit making its final exit from his body.

Thanks for letting me honor John by telling that story. Please send me your own “chaplain” stories, or better yet, post them on the TMS member’s forum.


By the way, an excellent source for Masonic prayers, for many occasions, is the pocket-sized Compendium of Masonic Prayers and Graces, by Rev. Neville Barker Cryer, published by Lewis Masonic.


A final note:

This journal’s editor-in-chief, Michael Halleran, who gave us more than four years of excellent work, has resigned. I’m proud to announce that he has been replaced by Michael Poll, whose service begins with this issue. Mike Poll is eminently qualified for the job, and he has gathered an outstanding team: Assistant Editors Mark Robbins, Christopher Rodkey, and Christian Christensen; Art Director John Bridegroom; Advertising Director Jay Hochberg; and Review Editor Tyler Anderson. Please give them your thanks and support!

Fraternally,

Kenneth W. Davis

President’s Message, Issue 32

Important: For new information on the TMS Conference, Scholar, and School, see the tabs above.

By the Exercise of Brotherly Love . . .
by Kenneth W. Davis, FMS

Here in New Mexico, the first-degree lecture lists the “Tenets of a Freemason’s profession” as “Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth”—doubtlessly not a surprise to Masons everywhere.

The lecture continues by defining brotherly love:

By the exericise of Brotherly Love, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family—the high, the low, the rich, the poor—who, as created by one Almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support, and protect each other. On this principle, Freemasonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion; and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.

In the US, the “perpetual distance” between people of different religious and political tribes seems large. Even in some Masonic lodges, religious and political differences among brothers are causing discord, even hatred. Young brothers are being told, for example, that Freemasonry is for members of only one religious tradition.

How did our Craft get into this situation, and how do we get out? One answer, although certainly not the only answer, may seem puzzling at first. I suggest there may be a correlation between true brotherly love and a deep devotion to our ritual—including lectures like the one I quoted above—and to what it stands for.

Freemasonry is often defined as “a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” We live in an age filled with signs but almost devoid of symbols. In the sense I am using the word sign—a sense drawn from the science of semiology—signs have single, simple, explicit, surface meanings. An octagonal yellow road sign usually means stop, and nothing else. (Even those who choose to ignore that meaning acknowledge it.) In contrast, symbols have multiple, complex, implicit, deep meanings. The American flag is not just a sign, but a symbol, with a wide range of meanings around the world, positive or negative or both.

To complicate the matter, something can be a sign to one person and a symbol to another. To someone who lost a loved one because of a driver running a stop sign, the octagonal yellow road sign may call up a host of associations and feelings; it may become a symbol. And to someone in the world with no particular feelings either way about the United States (can we imagine such a person?) the American flag will be just a sign, simply identifying the USA. The fading Coca-Cola painted on the side of my childhood home (an apartment over our newspaper shop) can be seen as a mere sign, pointing to a particular brand of soft drink, or as a symbol, representing a whole cluster of economic and sociological and psychological and historical meanings.

In some earlier cultures, people lived lives surrounded by what they saw as symbols. A rock wasn’t just a rock; it was a part of the body of Mother Earth, or the residence of a god, or an emblem of solidity, or an instrument of punishment, or all of the above. Our culture, in contrast, has few symbols. We tend to focus on surface meanings. A rock is just a rock—or at best an example of granite or marble or sandstone. Most of us are “fundamentalists” in one way or another, taking what could be symbols and reading them as if they were merely signs, with simple, single, knowable meanings, religious or scientific. The literalist religious fanatic and the radical atheist have much in common.

The language and imagery of Freemasonry is remarkably rich in symbols, if we respect them as such. As Masons, we have the opportunity, in every lodge meeting, to move beyond our everyday world of signs into a highly charged, deep symbolic world.

In my mother lodge, one of my brethren was an ordained Gnostic bishop steeped in Western esotericism, while others declared—quite vocally—that they hold little truck with esoteric interpretations. From my Gnostic brother, I was reminded that the letter G in the east end of a lodge can stand not only for geometry and God (the latter mostly only in Germanic languages), it can also stand for gnosis, the inner sacred knowledge—light, if you will—that we Freemasons seek. For me, now, when I see the G, I recognize that it is not just a sign: it has at least three symbolic meanings for me.

So Masonic ritual, if taken seriously, is deeply symbolic. What’s that have to do with brotherly love?

My answer is that the way we see things as signs or symbols is reflected in the way we see people. In the industrialized, materialist West, too many of us—especially men, I think—see most other people has having simple, single meanings. One way we do that is through labeling: he’s a Republican, she’s a Mexican, he’s gay. By giving a person a neat label, we can avoid—we can’t not avoid—looking into the depths of meaning that person carries. Another way we attribute simple, single meanings to people is through seeing them as functionaries, as things that exist solely to serve a narrow function for us. As an unknown (to me) writer put it, “People were made to be loved. Things were made to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved, and people are being used.” We go through our days not really seeing the people who wash our cars, or clean our restrooms, or fight our fires, or teach our children.

A former colleague of mine who taught psychology was once leaving a ice cream shop near the University of Kentucky campus holding hands with his wife and carrying their young daughter on his shoulders. They passed two students heading toward the shop, then overheard one of the students whisper to the other, “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that guy was my psych professor.” To that student, my friend existed only in the classroom; he couldn’t possibly eat ice cream, much less have a wife and daughter.

Because we men, especially, tend to look at other people in these ways, we find it very hard to develop close, initimate, deep male friendships. I suggest that a fundamental cause is our male tendency to dismiss other people as having simple, single, superficial meanings rather than complex, multiple, deep meanings.

When, as a brand new Mason, I learned that some of my brothers had partisan political views almost diametrically opposed to mine, I honestly questioned whether I had joined the right lodge. After all, I had spent much of my adult life avoiding relationships with “that” kind of people.

I’ve since learned how foolish that reaction was. (I was about to say “juvenile,” but realized that would be an insult to children.) I share with those brothers a respect for the deep symbolic language of our ritual, for its rich multiple meanings. Having this mutual respect, we are able to look past surface differences into the depths of each other’s being and respect what we find there. That’s not sappy sentimentalism, but a truth I’ve learned, to my great surprise, in my seventh and eighth decades of life. I believe I was a good man when I became a Mason at the age of sixty. Now, thanks to Masonry, I’m a lot better.

Millions of men in our culture are seeking that truth, without even knowing it. They are looking for deep symbolic meanings below the surface of things, and they are looking for deep male friendships. I suggest that those two yearnings are closely related, and that Freemasonry is uniquely positioned to fulfill them. Many lodges are finding that deep respect for ritual can lead to deep respect for one another.

In our time—with deep divisions among people and cultures that seem to remain “at a perpetual distance” from each other—the world desparately needs Masonic respect. It’s a gift Freemasons, in our daily encounters, can give the world. We call it Brotherly Love.

Fraternally,
Kenneth W. Davis

President’s Message, Issue 31

Past, Present, Future

I grew up in the rural Midwest, in an apartment above the eight-page weekly newspaper our family ran. Across the alley from my bedroom window was the only three-story building around the town square, the brick Masonic building, with the town’s most popular café on the first floor. I wondered sometimes what happened on the second and third floors, behind the dark shades that got pulled down some evenings. But I guess I didn’t wonder enough to ask.

My maternal grandpa, in a nearby town, was a Mason. I remember that some evenings he would “go to lodge,” but he never talked about it. Apparently based on his membership, my mom was in Eastern Star, and my sister was a Rainbow girl, but I wasn’t interested enough to ask what all that was about either.

I stayed uninterested until my middle age.

For several years I had been part of an informal men’s support group, a group of men young and old, married and unmarried, gay and straight, who got together every week to share our inner and outer experiences of being male (in the words of a song from the musical Rent) “living in America, at the turn of the millennium.”

When the group broke up, I found that I missed their fellowship. And like many American men, I realized that I didn’t have many male friends outside of my workplace.

Along came the book The DaVinci Code, with its slight references to Freemasonry. Then along came the movie National Treasure, with its portrayal of Masons as keepers of an apparently long-lost, but actually long-held, treasure. Near the film’s end, when a close-up shot revealed that Harvey Keitel’s character, FBI Agent Peter Sadusky, was wearing a Masonic ring, I realized that I wanted, for the first time, to find out more about Freemasonry.

So I went on the Web and found my way to a lodge, and within a year, at the age of 60, I became a Master Mason. And indeed what I discovered was the male support and fellowship I had been missing.

But there was more. My doctoral dissertation had been on the teaching of mythology, a focus I had left behind professionally when I moved into the field of business communication, but one which had never stopped fascinating me. So it was a bonus for me that the fraternity I was joining had such a rich tradition of myth and ritual.

And it was an extra bonus to learn that Freemasons were indeed keepers of an apparently long-lost, but actually long-held, treasure, one much richer than the movie National Treasure could show.

As I explored the fraternity further, I found great pleasure in applying my knowledge and skills as an academic to a whole new world I felt passion for. And that led me to The Masonic Society.

Now, ten years after giving my first three distinct knocks on the door of a lodge, I find myself as TMS president. It’s a honor I prize almost as much as my PhD diploma and my DD Form 214. I truly love The Masonic Society—what it has done, and what it can do.

The bylaws of the society say it is “organized exclusively as a center of union for Freemasons who desire to study and promote Freemasonry, its history, philosophy, rites, customs and practices while promoting the common good and general welfare of its mystic art.”

It may be because I’ve been a career teacher, but the key phrase, for me, in that mission statement is “study and promote.” The words are a reminder that “promoting”—not so much in the sense of “marketing” as in the sense of “furthering”—the benefits of Freemasonry, for individual men and for the world as a whole, requires study.

As my immediate predecessor, WB Jim Dillman, has told you, the leaders of TMS who could attend met in November in St. Louis. Out of that intense one-day meeting emerged a focus on study, on learning. What also emerged were three programs I am happy to announce.

First is an Annual Conference of The Masonic Society, taking place this year October 7-9, at Morgan Hill Masonic Lodge, Morgan Hill, California (just twenty minutes from San Jose International Airport). The theme of the conference will be “Freemasonry on the Frontier,” the role of Masonry in the westward expansion of the US and Canada.

The conference will begin Friday evening with an informal dinner and end with lunch on Sunday. The event is being coordinated by TMS Director Gregg Hall.

Details on the conference, along with a call for presentations, will appear in the Spring 2016 issue of The Journal of the Masonic Society. To receive advance information when it’s available, please email conference2016@themasonicsociety.com and ask to be put on the conference email list.

The second new program is The Masonic Society School, a program of noncredit online Masonic “courses,” study groups, and reading groups, as well as possible tours and other experiences, exclusively for TMS members. We expect to launch the first offerings at the October conference. The school is being coordinated by TMS Director Greg Knott.

Details on the school will appear in the Spring 2016 issue of The Journal of the Masonic Society. To receive advance information when it’s ready, email school@themasonicsociety.com and ask to be put on the school email list.

The third new program is The Masonic Society Scholar, an annual award to a Masonic researcher/educator. During the year of the award, the recipient will make himself available to speak at a number of lodges of research and other Masonic bodies throughout the world (with travel expenses paid by the local organization).

The first TMS Scholar will be announced at the Annual Conference this October. The program is being coordinated by the immediate past president of TMS, James Dillman.

Details on the program, along with a call for nominations, will appear in the Spring 2016 issue of The Journal of the Masonic Society. For advance information, email scholar@themasonicsociety.com and ask to be put on the scholar email list.

(Secretary-Treasurer Nathan Brindle has rightly asked me to make you aware that by sending email to these addresses, you are opting-in to receive occasional emails about the three programs.)

So you see why I am so happy to help lead TMS through this exciting time.

Please let me introduce the other members of the leadership team, and the special projects they will be “owning”:

• First Vice President Patrick Craddock, who, with me, is looking at the society’s overall, long-term strategy

• Second Vice President Jay Hochberg, who is overseeing our presence on social media

• Secretary-Treasurer Nathan Brindle, who continues his excellent and expert job of keeping TMS operating

• Executive Editor Michael Halleran, who, with the help of Art Director John Bridegroom, produces Freemasonry’s best journal

• Fellow Director José Díaz, the “information architect” for our website

• Fellow Director Aaron Shoemaker, coordinator of our relationships with lodges of research

• Fellow Director John Bizzack, who is doing the initial work on a 2017 Annual Conference in Lexington, Kentucky

• Fellow Director Mark Robbins, who is leading our discussion of how to best use the wealth of knowledge that has appeared in the more than thirty issues of this journal

• Member Director Gregg Hall, who, as I’ve said, is coordinating the Annual Conference this October

• Member Director Greg Knott, “dean” of The Masonic Society School

• Member Director Oscar Alleyne, who is exploring the future of the Quarry Project

I also want to acknowledge our four past presidents, whose wisdom, skill, and commitment brought TMS to where it is today. As a further indication of that commitment, all have agreed to take on continued leadership roles. In chronological order of their presidencies, they are

Roger Van Gorden, who will be consulting with Patrick and me on long-term strategy

Michael Poll, who will work with Jay on social media

Bo Cline, who will work with the other past presidents on membership development

James Dillman, who, as I’ve said, is coordinating the TMS Scholar program

And you, as a TMS member or subscriber, have a leadership role too. Please let us know what you want from TMS, and more important, what you can give TMS. Just email me at president@themasonicsociety.com, and I’ll get your message to the right person.

Thanks for continuing support of, and faith in, TMS! I’m excited to be working with you!

Fraternally,
Kenneth W. Davis

President’s Message, Issue 28

The program for The Quarry Project II is almost complete and I’m pleased to be able to share many more details about the conference with our members and subscribers. The conference will be held in Indianapolis September 18-20. As noted in my previous column, this year’s event will all be under one roof. The Hilton Indianapolis Hotel and Suites in downtown Indianapolis will host all TQP events. It is conveniently located just west of Monument Circle in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. The Circle Center Mall has over 100 stores and is located just across the street from the hotel. There are dozens of restaurants and entertainment venues within easy walking distance.

We have assembled an impressive list of presenters from within and without the Masonic fraternity who will offer instruction and guidance on a variety of topics associated with the three different program tracks. I’d like to share some of the highlights with you. Please note that the programs are not completely etched in stone and remain tentative.

The research, writing, and editing track sponsored by The Masonic Society will feature keynote speaker David Hackett, PhD, who will present on academic research by the non-academic. Topics to be addressed in the breakout sessions include how to obtain original source materials, how to use an academic library, communicating your research, Masonic blogging, on-demand printing, and publishing options. One session will be devoted to the newly-released Quarry Project Style Guide, a project that was initiated at the first TQP in 2013. The first edition of the style guide has been released and is published on the TQP website. Several Masonic publishers have already agreed to adopt the style quide. The goal of this project is to establish some consistency in Masonic writing. A round table featuring editors of prominent national Masonic publications will discuss a topic related to publishing and public relations.

The library/museum track sponsored by the Masonic Library and Museum Association is not completed at this time, but the keynote address will be delivered by Helge Bjørn Horrisland, who will present on recovering Masonic history. Breakout session presentations will include library collection development, cataloging your library collection, using your museum collection in exhibitions, photographing and numbering your collection, connecting your audience to your collection, collection policies, and a case study on building a museum from the ground up. A round table discussion regarding procurement and use of college interns will also be part of this track.


Additional presentations

The public relations track sponsored by the Masonic Information Center (part of the Masonic Service Association) will feature keynote speaker Scott Monty, a former Ford Motor Company executive. The topic of his presentation is not available as this goes to print. The breakout session topics include use of social media, awareness via Masonic philanthropy, public relations and marketing, advertising and media campaigns, history of the MIC, and a look at Masonic public relations from outside the fraternity.

After Sunday’s keynote address, a panel featuring the steering committee members will review the event, answer questions, solicit comments from attendees, and discuss the future of The Quarry Project.

The speaker at the Saturday evening banquet will be John Bizzack, who will address the perils and consequences of poorly conducted research.

We are very excited about adding the public relations track sponsored by the Masonic Information Center to The Quarry Project. Although this may extend somewhat beyond the stated mission of The Masonic Society, we are always interested in contributing to the education of the craft and in being of service the fraternity at large. Communication within Freemasonry at both the local and grand lodge level has not always been our greatest strength. Public awareness and media relations have become increasingly important and we have not always put our best foot forward. This is a great opportunity to hear from people who have managed communications effectively at every level.

The Masonic Society and Masonic Library and Museum tracks are open to anyone, Freemason or not, with an interest in Masonic writing, research, editing, and preservation. The public relations track breakout sessions will only be open to Freemasons from jurisdictions in good standing with the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America. A valid dues card will be required for admission to those breakout sessions.

Please share this information with anyone you know who may be interested in attending. This conference is intended to be almost entirely instructional in nature. New and aspiring researchers and museum curators and librarians without formal training will profit tremendously from the information presented. It also gives attendees the opportunity to network and establish connections with experts in various aspects of writing, research, and preservation.

We particularly want to get information about TQP into the hands of the various lodges of research around the U.S. and Canada and we will be sending letters to as many of them as we can find addresses for. These letters don’t always end up in the right hands, so if you belong to a lodge of research, please share this information with your fellow members. Encouraging them to become members of The Masonic Society wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Go to The Quarry Project website at www.thequarryproject.com to find information on registration, accommodations, and the latest information on the programs.

Best wishes to all of you for a safe, healthy, and enjoyable summer. I look forward to seeing many of you in Indianapolis in September.

James R. Dillman, FMS
President, The Masonic Society

President’s Message, Issue 27

The Masonic Society, the Masonic Library and Museum Association, and the Masonic Information Center, a branch of the Masonic Service Association, are pleased to announce that Phase II of The Quarry Project will be held September 18-20, 2015 in Indianapolis, IN. The conference will be held in a downtown Indianapolis hotel. As this goes to print, we are ready to sign a contract with a hotel and the registration page will be up by the time you receive this issue of the magazine.

The Quarry Project is a continuing effort designed to promote Masonic research and preservation by providing instruction and guidance to Masonic writers, researchers, and editors both within and without the fraternity and also to Masonic librarians and museum curators on the display, preservation, and cataloging of Masonic archives. Phase II will feature a third track on Masonic public relations sponsored by the Masonic Information Center, an arm of the Masonic Service Association. The public relations track will address topics such as effective use of social media, publications, and best practices.

The format for Phase II will remain basically the same with a few tweaks based on feedback from Phase I attendees. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will begin with a general session featuring a keynote speaker. Attendees will then break out to the instructional sessions of their choice on Friday and Saturday with both days adjourning at approximately 5:00 P.M. Lunch on Friday and Saturday will be included in the registration fee. A banquet will be held on Saturday evening. Sunday will feature a roundtable discussion immediately after the morning keynote address and the conference will adjourn by noon.

We invite anyone, Freemason or not, with an interest in these topics to attend the conference. The programs are currently being developed and will be made available as soon as they are complete. Further information will be released as it becomes available. Registration will be begin on March 1, 2015. The Quarry Project website is www.thequarryproject.com .

In conjunction with The Quarry Project, The Masonic Library and Museum Association will hold their annual meeting prior to this event on Thursday, September 17. Please contact the MLMA for further details on their meeting. Their website is located at www.masoniclibraries.org .


One of the presentations offered during Phase I of The Quarry Project addressed a proposed style sheet for Masonic organizations and publications who have never adopted one. The response to the proposal was positive. Kenneth Davis, a member of the TMS Board of Directors, and Brent Morris, Editor of the Scottish Rite Journal, have completed the first draft of the style sheet, which was introduced at Masonic Week 2015. The style sheet is now available on The Quarry Project website, which is linked above. We are encouraging the organizations and editors of Masonic publications to officially adopt the style sheet. A list of adoptees will available on the website as well. We wish to thank all of those who contributed to the style sheet with your comments and recommendations.


The Annual Meeting of The Masonic Society was held on Friday, January 30 at Masonic Week in Reston, VA. Approximately fifty-five guests enjoyed a very nice evening of food and fellowship. M. Wor. Bro. Michael Halleran, Editor of The Journal of The Masonic Society and current Grand Master of Kansas, gave an informative presentation on changes implemented in his jurisdiction during his year in the Grand East. As usual, we were pleased to welcome dozens of visitors to our hospitality suite. It is always a pleasure to renew acquaintances with so many TMS members and friends that we only see at this event. We also enjoy meeting many first-time attendees.

Masonic Week 2016 will move to an area known as Crystal City in Arlington, VA. This location is near Reagan National Airport. There are plenty of restaurants and shopping venues nearby. This location will also offer quicker and easier access to Washington, D.C. for those who wish to sightsee. My understanding is that there will be significant program changes next year that spread the various events out over the course of the week and also allow more time for other activities. We look forward to seeing you there next year.


We are constantly looking for ways to grow The Masonic Society as well as to enhance the value of membership in TMS. At the Board of Directors meeting during Masonic Week, we discussed a variety of topics. One of the principal areas of discussion concerned how we will deliver The Journal of the Masonic Society. More and more publications are going strictly digital. We do not anticipate that happening anytime in the near future, but we do have to consider the increasing costs that accompany a high quality paper magazine and increased postage, particularly overseas. One of the major concerns associated with going digital is protecting our material. We will be investigating one potential solution to that problem in the near future. We have yet to reach a consensus on precisely how to proceed, but it is unquestionable that a digital version of The Journal of The Masonic Society will be available in the not too distant future for those who prefer to receive their magazine in that format.

We want TMS to be more than just a magazine and, as such, we are looking at various methods of providing content above and beyond what you get in The Journal. This would include video and podcasts. We will be consulting with professionals in the field in order to determine the best path forward. As always, I welcome any comments or suggestions you may have concerning the future of the organization. Please send them to president@themasonicsociety.com .


We live in a world that seems to become more dangerous and divided every day. Wherever you live, please pray for your country’s leaders as well as for those in uniform protecting our freedom. As Freemasons, we can remain proud of our long history of friendship and brotherly love and especially our record of tolerance, which we find so lacking in the profane world. Thank the Grand Architect for the opportunity to be part of the world’s greatest fraternity.

James R. Dillman, FMS
President, The Masonic Society

President’s Message, Issue 25

In my fourteen years as a freemason, I’ve spent countless hours in lodgerooms, bars, restaurants, parking lots, and on internet discussion forums debating any Masonic topic you can imagine. One topic has prevailed over all others. You’ve probably already guessed it. Yes, it’s standards of dress for lodge and, no, that’s not the subject of this column per se. The discussion of that topic is, however, representative of so many other Masonic discussions concerning food, proficiency, how to wear your ring, and other unregulated lodge customs and practices.

These discussions are predictable, boring, often contentious, and generally unproductive. Think about the last time you participated in a discussion on one of those topics. How many minds were changed? How much advancement in Masonic knowledge was gained on either side of the argument? Was this a good use of your time? For most of us, the answers to these questions will be zero, none, and probably not.

I’ve come to a few conclusions in regard to all of these various unregulated lodge practices that might be worth your consideration. It doesn’t matter whether a lodge likes pickled pigs’ feet or pheasant under glass, whether you dress in t-shirts and blue jeans or white tie and tails, or whether your proficiency requires simply knowing the signs, grips, and words or a twenty-page research paper. If you belong to a functioning, generally contented lodge of brethren of high moral character, who remain true to their obligation and exemplify the tenets of brotherly love, relief, and truth, you’re doing the real work of freemasonry. Don’t succumb to the wishes of others who would impose standards that are not realistic for your lodge. If, however, your lodge is experiencing serious problems, perhaps you need to contemplate making some changes and seek the counsel of brethren who belong to a flourishing lodge. If you feel like a fish out of water in your lodge, find another one or start up a new lodge. In some jurisdictions, it takes as few as ten brethren to start a new lodge.

For those of you who tend to offer unsolicited advice that is neither wanted nor needed under the guise of raising the bar, remember that we are a fraternity of men of every country, sect, and opinion. There are many paths to Masonic light. Celebrate not only the diversity of race, creed, and religion that we pride ourselves on, but also the diversity of customs and practices that make visiting and conversing with other brethren so enjoyable. When you encounter something that is not your particular cup of tea, but is not contrary to Masonic tenets and philosophy, exercise your freedom to ignore it.

It is always appropriate to remain vigilant in defense of our rules and to protect the reputation of the fraternity. It is our obligation to assist a brother purposefully seeking to improve his Masonic experience. At a time when our numbers are dwindling and our influence waning, we should take every opportunity to support and encourage our brethren instead of searching for ways to divide us.


One of the more common complaints I hear is that most freemasons don’t read much about the fraternity and I find that to be a valid complaint. I think it is important for a brother to have at least some knowledge of our history, philosophy, and symbols beyond what is offered in our rituals and lectures, as much of that is allegorical. Allegory- the Hiramic Legend, for example- is used to impart moral lessons and not to inform. Freemasonry has a rich history that goes largely ignored by many freemasons.

Not everyone has the time or inclination to conduct an in-depth study of Freemasonry. Although there are excellent books like Chris Hodapp’s Freemasonry for Dummies or Brent Morris’s TheComplete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry that provide a cursory look at Masonic history and are written in a style that won’t induce slumber, many freemasons are loathe to pick up a book.

The Journal of the Masonic Society is a perfect alternative for a brother who might not invest the time necessary to read a book, but might take fifteen or twenty minutes once every month or two to read a 2500-word article on some aspect of Masonic history or philosophy. The Masonic Society will always cater to the more serious minded students of freemasonry, but we can also benefit the brother who is a more casual observer of the fraternity and perhaps even inspire him to pick up a book or two. Please share the benefits of membership in The Masonic Society with all of your brethren and help broaden the path to further light in freemasonry.


For those who regularly attend the annual meeting of The Masonic Society during Masonic Week, please note that next year’s event has been moved up a couple of weeks to January 28-February 1. The event will once again be held at the Hyatt Hotel in Reston, VA. The Masonic Society meeting and banquet is traditionally held on Friday night, which would be Friday, January 30. Registration information should become available in late October or early November. We will keep you up to date via the website and our Facebook page. Discussion at the 2014 meeting indicated that Masonic Week would once again be changing locations in 2016.


The officers and directors of The Masonic Society are actively discussing whether to sponsor the next phase of The Quarry Project. As most of you know, TQP was created to provide instruction for both novice and experienced Masonic researchers and preservationists. Phase I was held last September in Alexandria, VA at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial and was an unqualified success. The conference was co-sponsored by the Masonic Library and Museum Association and the GWMNM. An announcement on Phase II will be made sometime in October 2015. To learn more about TQP, visit the website at www.thequarryproject.com .


It is with regret that I inform you that Bro. Gord Vokes has submitted his resignation as a member director of The Masonic Society. Many of you know Bro. Gord from his frequent postings on the TMS discussion forum. Bro. Gord has fulfilled his duties as director honorably and his contributions to TMS are greatly appreciated. He has graciously agreed to stay on until a replacement is appointed. Thank you, Bro. Gord, for your service to TMS.

James R. Dillman, FMS
President, The Masonic Society

President’s Message, Issue 24

In my initial President’s Message, I provided a list of objectives that I hoped to accomplish during my term in office. One of those objectives was to communicate with the membership to determine how we might be of better service to you. As previously noted, we want to be more than just a magazine. We believe we took a big step in that direction by co-sponsoring The Quarry Project. We have held mid-year meetings in Indianapolis, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, and Philadelphia. All of those meetings featured several speakers and a banquet. We have been contributing sponsors to a few different Masonic workshops and symposiums.

I would like to hear ideas from you, our members, on how we might improve on or expand our mission to promote Masonic research. I would also be interested in any comments you have about The Journal of The Masonic Society. We considered including a questionnaire in a forthcoming issue of the journal. It occurred to me that I have been a recipient of a number of these types of surveys and I have yet to fill out and return the first one. I also get a steady stream of online requests asking me to fill out one kind of survey or another and I always decline. I doubt if most of you are more inclined to fill out and mail a survey than I am. As such, I think the best way to accomplish this is to simply ask those of you who have suggestions or thoughts about the job we’re doing to send them directly to me. Please send them to president@themasonicsociety.com . You may also send them via U.S. Mail to The Masonic Society, 1427 W. 86th Street, Ste. 248, Indianapolis, IN 46260-2103. Make sure that you address them to my attention. I pledge to read and respond to every one in as timely a manner as my schedule allows.


Since we last published, the Editor of The Journal of The Masonic Society, Michael Halleran, has assumed the title of Most Worshipful Brother, owing to his election as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Kansas back in March. We congratulate MW Bro. Michael and send along our best wishes to him as he leads the brethren of Kansas for the next year. They could not have chosen a more dedicated, capable, or worthy brother.

M.W. Bro. Michael has also marked his one-year anniversary as Editor of The Journal. He has done a stellar job with the magazine and has been a true pleasure to work with. This will be a challenging year for him as he fulfills his other duties as a husband and father, practicing attorney, and Grand Master of Kansas. Please remember Michael in your devotions and ask the Grand Architect to grant him good health, safe travel, and the strength necessary to keep up with his busy schedule.


W. Bro. John Bridegroom has likewise celebrated his one-year anniversary as Art Director of The Journal. John is responsible for the layout and photography and is a most talented graphic artist. He has done artwork for many different Masonic organizations all over the country. I think you’ll agree that The Journal is as aesthetically pleasing as any periodical published anywhere. John is also a very busy freemason. He was just elected to serve as Grand Conductor of Council for the Grand Council of Cryptic Masons of Indiana. He has also been appointed as the new Public Relations Director for the Grand Lodge of Indiana and chairs the committee that oversees The Indiana Freemason, the official publication of the Grand Lodge of Indiana.


This is a bit personal, but also something that I know will be of great interest to all of you. W. Bro. Chris Hodapp, Editor Emeritus of The Journal of The Masonic Society, continues to fight health issues. Most of you know that Chris underwent successful surgery for cancer a few years ago. He remains cancer free, but is plagued with chronic back pain as a result of the very invasive surgery he underwent. His doctors have had no success at alleviating his pain. Chris takes heavy doses of painkillers, which do little more than take the edge off. The side effects from the medication along with the constant pain affect his ability to concentrate, to travel, to sleep, or do just about any of the things that we take for granted. Ask him how he is doing and he’ll say he is fine. But he’s not. Everything Chris does is a struggle.

The Masonic Society owes a tremendous debt to Chris. It was largely Chris’s name on the magazine that gave immediate credibility to TMS. It was shortly after TMS was founded that his health problems first began. Throughout his diagnosis, treatment, and surgery for a life threatening disease, Chris continued to edit, write, and lay out the magazine with little or no help. He also handled all of the advertising. He did it all for a pittance of a salary. I have no idea how he did it, but he did and I’m eternally grateful to him, as all of you should be. I’m asking all of you to please keep Chris and his wife Alice in your thoughts and prayers as Chris struggles with this chronic pain and the debilitating side effects of the medication.

James R. Dillman, FMS
President, The Masonic Society

President’s Message, Issue #23

One of the most common laments among freemasons suggests that we should be doing a better job of guarding the West Gate, the implication being that we are admitting a steady stream of unworthy men into our fraternity. You can wager with absolute certainty that any discussion of whatever is deemed to ail freemasonry at any particular moment will eventually result in someone insisting that the root of the problem lies in our failure to guard the West Gate. This is immediately followed by a chorus of nodding heads and various exclamations of assent. Honesty compels me, and likely you as well, to confess to pointing a finger at the West Gate to explain away our troubles on more than a few occasions. Let’s examine this old bromide to determine if there is actually any truth in it.

Freemasonry demands that its initiates be of good repute before the world with a strong moral fiber. There are other organizations and fields of endeavor with similar demands. How does freemasonry match up against them? I would say that we are doing much better than the public service and political arena and at least as well as doctors, lawyers, policemen, teachers, and the clergy. Do some men of weak character and low morals slip through the cracks and become freemasons? It happens, but rarely, and they are more often than not found out and expelled. We are a fraternity of mortal men who are as subject to human nature as anyone else. Good men sometimes make bad decisions and when they are freemasons, the cost of their poor judgment is usually their membership cards. The preponderance of the evidence indicates that we are pretty good judges of character.

So who are these allegedly unworthy men that are sneaking through the West Gate? It depends upon who you are asking. Ask one brother and he will tell you that they are bologna sandwich-eating Neanderthals who dress poorly for lodge, cover their lapels with pins, don’t read, cannot comprehend the true lessons of freemasonry, hold fish fries in their lodges, and think the entirety of freemasonry is contained within the ritual. Ask another and he will just as boldly aver that they are snooty, wine-sipping rich guys in tuxedos who read boring books, attend highbrow lectures, eat expensive food, could find Masonic symbolism in a chainsaw, and can’t go more than a minute without expounding upon the wonders of the kaballah and alchemy. One faction bemoans anti-intellectualism and the other screams elitism and the true spirit of brotherhood that we are obligated to extend to every freemason gets lost amid the bickering.

I see this debate, which often devolves into serious arguments, played out on social media, in Masonic discussion forums, and in parking lots after lodge. There is a somewhat humorous element attached to this. If you ask any individual brother, he will swear to Heaven above that he is upholding the tenets, traditions, and requirements of freemasonry and that it’s the other guys who are letting the undesirables pass through the West Gate. It occurs to me that the common ground we should be searching for is easily discovered if each of us thinks back to the time when we first knocked on freemasonry’s door.

Before we were initiated, we were all asked in one form or another if we sought the privileges of freemasonry based on, among other things, a desire for knowledge. The path that leads to knowledge is laid out in the Fellowcraft degree where we learn about the power of the human mind, which, with the aid of our five senses, enables us to seek and store knowledge. We are given a mini-course in architecture because speculative masonry, the building of a spiritual temple, corresponds so closely to operative masonry and the construction of temporal buildings. We are introduced to the liberal arts and sciences because all of the knowledge we attain falls within the realm of one of those arts or sciences. From that point on, freemasonry becomes a very personal journey and we are each entitled to pursue knowledge and further light by following a path that we choose for ourselves.

James R. Dillman, FMS
President, The Masonic Society