Monday, February 22, 2010

Third International Conference on the History of Freemasonry

The Third International Conference on the History of Freemasonry (ICHF) will take place 27th - 29th May 2011. The first two conferences were held in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2007 and 2009 respectively. This Third Conference will be held at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA. Watch the Grand Lodge of Scotland web site for more information, as it becomes available.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

First in the Hearts of his Countrymen

Tomorrow (February 22, 2010) marks the 278th anniversary of the birth of George Washington, Freemason and the first president of the United States of America. Tomorrow also marks the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the George Washington Masonic Memorial Association and the birth of the George Washington Masonic Memorial.

The following was paraphrased from the George Washington Masonic Memorial web site:

In 1909, Charles H. Callahan, Senior Warden of Alexandria-Washington Lodge, purchased several lots on Shuters Hill, in Alexandria, VA for the purpose of establishing a fire proof repository for many of the artifacts donated to the Lodge by Washington's family and friends. On February 22, 1910, Joseph W. Eggleston, the Grand Master of Virginia, invited every Grand Master in the United States to assemble in Alexandria-Washington Lodge for the purpose of forming as association to plan and build a suitable Memorial to George Washington, the Mason. Thus was born the George Washington Masonic Memorial Association.

Ten years after the first official meeting of the Association, the concept of a colossal building as a Memorial "lighthouse" to Washington was approved by the Grand Lodges of the United States. The site was selected because it followed the ancient tradition for the location of temples on hilltops or mountains. It was also located on land with which General Washington was familiar - it was the very spot once proposed by Thomas Jefferson as the ideal site for the nation's Capitol.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Memorial took place on June 5, 1922. Louis A. Watres, President of the Memorial Association and Past Grand Master of Pennsylvania, and Charles H. Callahan, Past Master of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22, and a future Grand Master of Virginia participated in the ceremony. Despite the great expense, the Memorial Association was determined not to borrow money. Construction only proceeded as money was collected for each stage of the project.

On November 1, 1923, the Memorial's cornerstone was dedicated in a Masonic ceremony. President Calvin Coolidge, former President and Chief Justice William H. Taft and numerous other dignitaries performed the ceremony before a crowd of thousands of Freemasons from around the nation. The onset of the Great Depression did not stop work on the Memorial. For over 10 years, Freemasons steadily and faithfully contributed to the construction of the Memorial. On May 12, 1932, the bicentennial year of George Washington's birth, the dedication of the Memorial took place with President Herbert Hoover participating.

After World War II, work on the Memorial's interior began in earnest. By 1970, the George Washington Masonic Memorial was completed. In 1999, the large square and compasses were added to the front lawn, a visible sign to the Masonic nature of the Memorial. A repository of many artifacts and the history of American Freemasons, the Memorial remains a lasting monument to George Washington, the Man, the Mason and Father of our Country.

Today, the annual meeting of the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America is taking place in Arlington, VA. Tomorrow, in honor of the occasion of the Memorial Association’s 100th Anniversary, conference delegates will be transported to the Memorial to join in on the celebration. Visitors will have an opportunity to witness the unveiling of a new portrait of George Washington as a Freemason, by local artist, Christopher Erney; they will see the Memorial’s new logo, also designed by Christopher Erney; and can visit the newly established American Freemasonry exhibit created by Mark Tabbert. At that time, a recreation of the famous Life Magazine cover photo of October 8, 1956 showing the Grand Masters of the United States jurisdictions lined up on the steps of the Memorial, will be taken.

If you find yourself in the DC area, come join in this momentous event.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Masonic Week 2010

Last Friday night, I attended the Second Annual Dinner of the Masonic Society at the Hilton, Alexandria Mark Center hotel in Alexandria, VA. This event was held in conjunction with “Masonic Week”, which is an annual gathering of the Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees of the United States of America. As such, there were members of the various different York Rite Orders present from all around the country and the world. It was great to finally meet and visit with TMS President, Roger Van Gorden and TMS Secretary-Treasurer, Nathan Brindle. Unfortunately, this year’s gatherings were disappointingly attended due to the numerous storms that hit the Washington DC area and shut down the airport for a couple of days.

Following dinner, Chris Hodapp (author of “Freemasons for Dummies” and “Deciphering the Lost Symbol”) was to moderate a panel discussion on the future direction of the Craft and the appendant bodies in the wake of Dan Brown's effect. As previously noted, turnout was slight and some of the members of the proposed panel were unable to attend. Instead, Chris gave a brief description of the phenomenon of Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol” and his ideas about how the interest in Brown’s book might affect the Craft, he described the six year wait for the publication of Brown’s latest book and the speculation that accompanied that wait, and he described what was finally revealed in “The Lost Symbol” as a 508 page love letter from Dan Brown to Freemasonry. Chris painted an optimistic picture of how Masonry would be improved as great numbers of the Dan Brown generation entered the Craft. He then opened the floor to questions and comments. As per usual, the questions and comments were concerned with how more and more men coming into Masonry might be encouraged to fill the ranks of the appendent bodies.

What I noted was little discussion of how Masonry might change to accommodate a new generation of Masons, who like Chris, are more interested in the last fifty pages of “The Lost Symbol” than the all of the rest of the book. In those last fifty or so pages and after the conclusion of his tale, Brown discusses the greater philosophical truths of Freemasonry. This is the aspect of Freemasonry that will attract men in search of esoteric thought and greater socialization. But what will they find in modern Freemasonry?

My question for Chris is can Masonry survive the exposure that will be brought upon it by the Dan Brown effect? Will the reality of Masonry, as practiced in many Lodges, drive away those in search of a more spiritual and philosophical experience? Will the desire to increase membership in our appendent bodies cause us to fling open our doors and, as Chris says, admit anyone who has a pulse and whose check clears to the point that Masonry becomes so diluted that it has more the appearance of a social club than a philosophical society?

To make good men better, good men must have the opportunity to meet in fellowship with other like minded individuals who are seeking greater truths. They should have fun and enjoy each other’s company, but they shouldn’t be distracted by what is common in the world. Lessons are taught in the three degrees of Masonry that sets the individual Mason on a path toward greater enlightenment. But, completion of the third degree . . .“is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Beginning

This is my inaugural post on this transition from "THE GRAND-MASTER'S MUSINGS" Blog. I have chosen to call this new Blog "THE END OF THE BEGINNING", borrowing that phrase from a quote by Brother Winston Churchill. It was Churchill who said, in a speech in November 1942, marking the end of the Battle of Britain:
"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

This quote seems rather poignant, as I am about to embark on another phase of my Masonic career.

This past year has been very rewarding to me on several levels. During my term as Grand Master of Masons in Alaska and through the efforts of many dedicated Alaskan Masons, the Grand Lodge of Alaska has taken a giant step toward meeting the needs of a new generation of men seeking the promise of Freemasonry. This is just the beginning and a lot of hard work remains to continue Alaskan Masonry on the path through the 21st Century. On another level, I have had the opportunity to travel across the country and around the world, representing our great state and the Masons of Alaska. I have formed friendships that will last a lifetime and have created connections with many Masons who I hope will become very close and dear friends.

It is now time for me to step to the background and let others lead our Grand Jurisdiction forward. I yield to them and will focus my attention on my personal improvement in Masonry and the betterment of those around me.

“THE END OF THE BEGINNING” will chronicle my thoughts and ideas on how I hope to improve myself. I hope that it will also generate similar thoughts and ideas among my readers on how they too may improve themselves in Masonry. And, I hope that they will share their ideas in a dialogue in how we might work together to make the world better, one Mason at a time.

Here’s to a new beginning.