Sunday, December 13, 2015

Background on the book From Vaquois Hill to Exermont

author W.L. Sanders, WWI
The 138th Regiment, 35th Division was formed by combining the 1st + 5th Missouri Nat. Guard Regiments.  Both were recruited, in the main, from the St. Louis, Mo. metropolitan area.  The 1st was an old established outfit.  The 5th was organized after the start of WWI.

Brother Tom enlisted in Company A, 1st Mo. Regiment in April 1917.  He was "Killed in Action" Sept. 28, 1918 at age 25.  Brother John enlisted in Co. K, 5th Reg. in late August, 1917 at age 19+.  Soon after his arrival overseas he was hospitalized in an English hospital with a form of Rheumatism (Note: In his  earlier teens he had suffered from this ailment). However, he participated in all the action in which his outfit was engaged.  After the Argonne battle, he was assigned to battalion intelligence.  At one time, he told me he was one of a detail assigned to cut the barbed wired in front of the lines before the Sept. 26 advance.  After the armistice, he was hospitalized and came home on the USS N. Carolina.  He was discharged as a total disability with a heart ailment that eventually caused his death at age 47.

From reading the book [From Vaquois Hill to Exermont, James E. Rieger, 1919], the chief of staff's report and from other reliable sources, it is evident that the 35th Division had excessive casualties.  It is also fairly clear that the Div. was definitely underofficered and suffered from poor leadership.  Any success achieved seems to have been the result of individual effort with little competent direction from on high.

It is also fairly evident that the Division was not adequately "battle hardened" for such a tough assignment as the Argonne drive.

From the evidence I have been able to come up with the Div. received this assignment because of their proximity to the site and because of the difficulty in getting nine Division into ["line" ?] + 3 Division into support on short notice following the St. Michel offense[ive].

The normal procedure was to ease the new Divisions along more gradually.

[signed "W.L. Sanders"]

--

The author is my Great-Uncle William "Bill" Sanders.  Uncle Bill served in both the First and Second World Wars.  He volunteered both times; for WWI he was an enlisted infantryman; in WWII he was a Lt. in the Navy, serving as a Seabee in the Pacific theater.  He was 42 years of age.  This little text was discovered in his copy of  From Vaquois Hill to Exermont.  I have reproduced it here, respecting his text to the letter as much as possible.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Be there with bells shells on

Conques as seen from St. Roch Chapel
Conques is a little village in the Aveyron whose greatest claims to fame are the relics of Sainte Foy and the monastery which grew wealthy around them.  This is a tiny town, yet it boasts a large and magnificent basilica in the Romanesque style, well-maintained and in a context so picturesque you may begin to wonder where the film crew is hiding.  In French -- as in English -- the word conque means shell and is descended from the Latin concha.  I giggle at this because in Argentina the concha refers to the female genitalia. My wife says it all the time when she's pissed off at say, an olive jar she can't open: "¡La concha de la lora!" Which literally means "The (female) parrot's shell!" but really means "Cunt of a whore!"  It's used where an American might say "God fucking damn it!" or some such.  Why not?

The metaphor is more clear when seen
When you see a conch, with its flesh tones and here smooth/there bumpy texture, not to mention the overall form, it's clear from whence the metaphor arrives.  Shell metaphors are not entirely lost in English, either: surely you've heard of the bearded clam?  It's not strictly feminine, for that matter.  A pair of masculine accouterments, depending on the region, can be referred to as "mountain oysters."  Curiously, there actually is a Modiolus barbatus, or "bearded mussel."  It is also known as the "horse mussel" or (getting so clever here) the "bearded horse mussel."  In any event, this isn't some term of modern perversion; the shell's connection with the vajayjay is of ancient provenance.

According to legend, Conques (Concas in Occitan) was named by its founder, a hermit named Dadon, who thought that the hills encircling the village resembled a shell.  Being a hermit, he may have been, uh, lonely.  Whether or not the origin story is true or not is beside the point. Maybe it does resemble a shell, which might partially account for why the area holds a special place in the hearts of pilgrims along the Saint James Way, which passes directly through the village. The symbol of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage is the shell. I recall a lecture in which the professor described the shell as a representation of the soul's journey of the human soul; in this interpretation the road to Compostela would also be the journey of one's soul towards a state of plenary forgiveness, perfection and paradise.  It is more than metaphor, because in Roman Catholic doctrine, making this pilgrimage did in fact earn the pilgrim total absolution from his or her sins.

The magnificent reliquary of Sainte Foy
Dadon came to this wild place at the end of the 8th century but apparently didn't stay long.  Perhaps he left after he was joined by a group of Benedictines; it certainly would have messed with his plan to lead the hermit's life.  These monks founded the monastery which still exists today. 

The monastery would have probably drifted into obscurity if not for Sainte Foy. In 866 her relics were brought here from Auch in what has been called a "furtive translation"; stolen, in other words.  Once ensconced in Concas, the relics and the monastery soon came under the protection of the Carolingian monarchs.

St. Roch showin' some leg
At first, Conques was a local attraction, but over time it developed into an important destination for regional pilgrims; in the 11th century Conques became an important stopping point along the Saint James Way as well.  During the same period the village was becoming a monastic center of the highest importance, a status attested to by the quantity and quality of the cult objects in its treasury.  Conques is today a tiny village of less than 300 permanent residents but it still has the single largest collection of goldsmithery in France.  These relics are not just museum pieces; they are still used in religious processions and services.  The reliquary of Saint Foy in majesty is an important example of the style and iconography of the Romanesque and typifies images of the Virgin dating from this period, including contemporary and later "Vierges Noires" or Black Madonnas.

Pilgrims coming to Conques from long distances, even from beyond the Pyrénées, were first recorded in the mid 11th-century; this is an example of the growing popularity of pilgrimages which turned many local shrines into centers of international importance.  It was also in the 11th century that a kind of "cult of femininity" developed in the song and poetry of the the Troubadours and the theology of the Church. (See LoS: Women)  In addition to Pilgrims, the Way was also a major route for the Troubadours, whose voyages did much to spread the notion of courtly love, the cult of the Virgin, and the cults of obscure saints such as Sernin, Liberata, Quitteria, etc.  The patron of the Saint James Way is male -- St. Roch -- but the shell which serves as the Way's "logo" is a female symbol.  As  metaphor for the vagina, the shell it evokes (among other things) maternity, sexual desire and original sin. 

The cult of the Virgin took off in the Romanesque period.  Hitherto a background presence, Mary rather abruptly swung into place as a central figure in the Christian narrative, a place she still occupies in Catholic France today (See LoS: The Virgin and the Cross).  Both in hymns and iconography, she changed from a distant and ethereal figure into something more earthy. Laced with liberal doses of conscious and unconscious sexual desire, worship of the Virgin was also inexorably linked with feminine concerns; evoking her for aid in childbirth was common, and her symbolism at this time -- e.g. her foot crushing the serpent -- was an evocation of her perpetual Virginity, her exception from the pains of childbirth and the expiation of original sin.  The evolution of the Virgin into a more intimate and "earthy" interlocutor was almost certainly due to the influence of St. Bernard, a towering figure in the Medieval Church, both in theology and concrete affairs.  He wrote the Templar Rule and was instrumental in creating what would become Christendom's most powerful order; he whipped up internal pogroms against heretics and preached the Second Crusade against Islam.  He was instrumental in drumming up support for Pope Innocent during the schism beginning in 1130.  One of his disciples became Pope Eugenius III.  He was also one of the founder of the renewed Cistercian order.  A big deal to be sure.

The tympanum of the Basilica of Sainte Foy
The pilgrims' patron, St. Roch, is recognizable by a plague sore or wound on his inner thigh, a kind of gash that never heals, which bleeds but never bleeds out. Roch is often pictured daintily lifting his garment to reveal this wound.

Roch was said to have born to a mother who'd been barren until she prayed to the Virgin. When he caught the plague, he retired to live in a forest, where his dog helped him to heal by licking his wounds.  In the forest he was sustained by a miraculous spring. Miraculous springs are all over Marial legends, a survival perhaps of Celtic traditions:  sacred groves, springs and high places are associated with any local Virgin of note.  LoS has recounted numerous examples of such springs associated with:  the Virgin; many obscure saints such as the aforementioned Quitteria and Liberata, (sisters and Virgin Martyrs of the distant pagan past whose cult stretches from Aquitaine to northern Portugal); and even male saints such as St. Fris, who also exhibits many of the characteristics of the Virgin. Upon his death, St. Fris' body was swallowed up by a rock; when it was later re-discovered, a miraculous spring appeared from within the rock.  The body was incorrupt.

This echoes the story of St. James.  When brought ashore in Iberia, a massive rock closed around his relics; this rock was then taken to Compostela.

One of the seven sisters of Quitteria and Liberata (there were nine in total) was named Euphemia, or Eumelia.  Cornered by pursuing Roman soldiers, she threw herself from a cliff to avoid capture.  Where she fell, the rocks opened and swallowed her whole; a spring immediately appeared on the spot.

Picturesque, you say?
I've had occasion to write about "the Milky Way" before; I'll here reiterate that, like Rome, Compostela held significance way before the Christians adopted it. The pilgrimage to Compostela was a Celtic tradition that symbolized the journey of the soul from birth until death, following the sun until it sank into the sea at the end of the known earth. Unlike today, the Celtic pilgrimage did not end in the city itself, but at the beach and into the very ocean -- following the Sun towards death as it disappeared beyond the horizon at a significant westerly point. Perhaps this ocean terminus is why the shell is the Camino's symbol -- the journey is the destination. As previously stated, the medieval mind, attuned to a more visual language as opposed to the written word, recognized the shell to represent the soul's journey through life. Think of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus"; the goddess is being birthed from the waters riding a shell. The goddess of erotic love is here a bit demure, but she surfs a giant shell, a vagina basically; "con" in French is the rather commonplace translation of the English "cunt". The root of course the same as concha. So it's not just the Argentines who make the link between the shell and the female sex. It's found in the Latin roots.

The basilica today
A small tower at the cemetery is marked with this pair of circles inscribed with a star.  I took a compass reading and it's not oriented towards any of the cardinal points. 
Ostensibly, the cult at Conques is centered around Sainte Foy, a.k.a. Santa Fe, a.k.a. Saint Faith. Faith personified. Faith was first associated with the city of Agen, where she was martyred during the reign of Diocletian for refusing to sacrifice to Pagan gods.  This was said to have occurred in the 3rd century. In the 9th century a monk stole her relics and brought them here. Legend has it that where he fell, exhausted, he struck his staff upon the ground and the water broke: a spring sprang up and he survived. Today a small chapel stands at this spot.  The sexual imagery is inescapable. A man wields a phallic staff and, driving it into the ground, causes life-giving waters to erupt from "mother" earth.  Again, St. Fris is said to have created a spring when he planted his standard in the ground.  His cult, which is highly localized in the Gers and almost unknown outside a few scattered places, developed around the same time as that of Saint Faith, that is to say when the nameless monk stole her relics.  Fris, Roch, Sainte Foy, the Virgin, all associated with healing waters.  Even today, the Pyrénées are dotted with towns built around thermal spring; cures effected at these spas are reimbursable by the national health insurance.  No coincidence then that Lourdes, another Pyrénéen town, is the most famous pilgrimage site in Catholicism -- based around its healing waters.  The modern pilgrim still honors these saints by carrying symbols of the masculine and feminine powers and the sexual union behind the miracle of life, as well as the source of the sin he or she is trying to expiate:  the modern pilgrim carries a staff, to which they usually attach a shell.  All in the name of the Holy Faith.

----

And I was going to do more with this when I began months ago but its been sitting around as a draft for so long I'm just gonna ding the bell and hand it off to the runner who takes it straight to the presses.  Then a sniff of cocaine, a Tom Collins, and a few hours of stimulating talk before the fireplace with my manservant Jacky.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Apocalypse France: La France Maçonnique


La France maçonnique is the first episode in a series of documentaries entitled Apocalypse France.  It's currently only available in French, but will eventually be subtitled for the wider world.

The film takes a dim view of French Masonry, especially the Grand Orient, which is described as a lobby with strong ties to the Socialist Party and a historically strong influence in French politics, from the Revolution to today.  It claims, for example, that Masonic nepotism resulted in a disproportionate number of Masonic generals in the French Army at the beginning of the First World War, chosen regardless of competence, with disastrous results.  The documentary also proposes that Masonry is essentially the religion of the Republic!  There are certainly links in the expressed values of the Republic and the Craft, attested to by its language and symbols.  How this translates into concrete policy actions is another story.

Does the film exaggerate Masonic influence in France?  This is a good question, and I'm not sure the film makes a tight case; the interviewees generally have a negative view of the Craft, and with one or two exceptions, positive views are not well represented.  I think the film has some valid points to make, but it suffers from a lack of historical background, context and examples of if and how specific Masonic initiatives have been implemented as official state policy.  For example, the film mentions that Jules Ferry, a Freemason, succeeded in passing the laws which bear his name in 1881 and 1882; these laws made public education free, non-clerical, and mandatory.  But that's the extent of the reference.  In Argentina, in 1884, education also became free, compulsory, universal and non-clerical.  In both countries these laws harmed relations between the Church and the State, and were actively promoted by their respective Grand Orients.  In Argentina, the "father" of Argentine education is President Domingo Sarmiento; his tomb is considerably strong enough to support a good many large bronze Masonic plaques and emblems.  Some development of the references made in this film, more details, such as the link between Freemasonry and public education, would have made for a better film.  I recognize the one-hour format limits content, but perhaps a more historical narrative and fewer musings by the talking heads could have permitted the inclusion of more fact, as opposed to the opinions of its interviewees.

Still, it's interesting viewing and the questions it raises are worthy of consideration.  It's strange for me to have participated in what is essentially a negative view of Masonry, but I think it's better to be open and acknowledge opposing points of view than pretend these points of view don't exist.  Masons have usually deigned not to answer its critics and in this silence, critics have had free reign to present their case without rebuttal, thus controlling the narrative.  As I said in my last post, there's a lot of BS floating around out there about Masonry; if there are valid criticisms of Masonry to be made, the currency of the BS can only cloud the issue, functioning as a kind of disinformation where there is so much to be disbelieved that even true information is tainted with suspicion.  People are lazy or simply not that interested to sift through and distinguish wheat from chaff; it ends up where a person simply believes whatever scurrilous invention comes down the Pike, or on the contrary scoffs away everything which hints of secret dealings and unseen hands in action.  I had that experience when I wrote about the links between Scouting and Masonry; people are so used to dodging BS that they wrote it off as "conspiracy theory".  Those that had actually read the work and examined the facts presented still seemed reluctant to recommend my writings without the disclaimer that the author didn't seem to be a nut job....

If Masons acknowledge their critics, it will certainly be much more useful than simply letting them go unanswered.  One also has to bear in mind that this is not a documentary about Masonry as a whole, but in France; a lot of Anglo-Saxon Masons will be surprised, shocked even, at the level of political involvement by Masonry in France, something officially forbidden by Masonic bodies in the UK and the US.  The Grand Orient certainly has friends in high places and is clearly operating to influence the political life of the Republic.  How successful it has been is another issue, and I'm not sure the film gives us enough "history" and concrete examples to justify its claim that it has been extremely successful in its efforts.  Which isn't to say that is hasn't.  If you're looking for answers, this film might be a good starting point, but there are no smoking guns or jaw-droppers here.  It will probably be more interesting to someone already familiar with Masonic history and its rivalries; for a newcomer, not enough is done to explain what Masonry is; what different Grand Lodges and Orients currently operate in France; and how these Lodges relate to each other and the other Lodges in the world.  There are some killer shots inside various Lodges as well as extensive historical illustrations (again, without much context), as well as some thoughtful commentary by the interviewees.  French-speaking Masons should definitely check it out.  We'll keep you posted if a sub-titled version is made available.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Pack of Lips Now


Update 11/11:  I won't be appearing in this documentary after all.  Not enough time to fit everything in, apparently.  In the end, they decided to focus on France and the bits of U.S. Masonic history I discussed were too far away from the central theme.  Oh well, it was an interesting and useful experience.  Helped me appreciate how hard giving an interview can be.  I'll probably be a lot more understanding when I see interviewees that don't come across very well.  Still looking forward to seeing this....

A few weeks ago I sat in my armchair in front of a cozy little fire and was interviewed for a documentary about Freemasonry.  I spoke primarily about the differences between "Anglo-Saxon" and "Continental" Masonry, racism and the Craft, and a few other related topics.  

The documentary will actually be the first episode in a 7-part series entitled Apocalypse France; each episode will have a different focus and this one, obviously, trains its lens on the political activities of France's various Masonic Orients and Lodges.

I don't know how much of my interview will be in the documentary. We shot over an hour of footage but the episode will only run to 45 minutes, so it may only be a few seconds. In the second trailer (below), you can see my hand for all of a second, holding a Masonic coin.

I hope I don't come to regret my participation. The documentary could be qualified as "anti-Masonic", or, more precisely, it takes issue with the lobbying activities and political ties of the different Grand Lodges and Orients. But I trust the filmmakers in the sense I don't think they'll manipulate the footage to make me look a fool (I do that all by myself!) or appear to have said something I haven't. Best to be forthright and honest. I could have refused their request for an interview, but then I'd have let the filmmakers have their say without at least being able to inject my perspective into the conversation.

Right move or not, what's done is done. Hopefully, a subtitled version will appear one day; this episode would be of great interest to the English-speaking Masonic community, where generally speaking, the Masonic landscape is a little less crowded.  LoS readers will also see some nice video footage of places I've written about, such as Toulouse's Egyptian Revival Terre Cabade Cemetery or Blagnac's Temple du Sagesse Suprême (a.k.a. the "Illuminati Pyramid").

BTW, in case you're wondering, there is as much BS floating around in France about Freemasonry/Satanism/the Illuminati (aren't they all the same?!) as there is in the U.S. and U.K.  The subject must sell a lot of magazines because at least one national monthly will publish an exposé or "the whole, unvarnished truth"-type features on the subject every year or so.  They of course tend towards sensationalism and do a lot to nourish the manure pile.  

Hopefully this project doesn't simply pile it on even higher!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ektoplazzem


Dear Laws of Silence:

First a bit of background on ectoplasm:

DefinitionA substance said to be excreted by mediums during trances; a slime-like substance said to be associated with hauntings.
SignatureSaid to be white/gray/transparent or any other colour, viscous; resembling mucus. Said to ooze from solid objects or from mediums' bodies involving mucous membranes (nose, eyes, mouth), and to take form as a misty substance.

Source:  Wikipedia

The text above (minus "Source:  Wikipedia") was electronically cut-up four times, re-formatted, the punctuation eliminated, and given an aleatory title (on the ectoplasm page, the words "with the" were typed into "find" and, when found, the next two words were selected).  I wish I could say that this geste had no particular purpose and wish even more I didn't have to say that the result has no particular value.  The cut-up tool has merely repeated only a few of the words several times and eliminated several others.  The secrets liberated from inside this prison of words thus do not shed any light on my question (forthcoming).  Cybernetic bibliomancy has led nowhere, so fate has forced you upon me.

"Le Miro"

with be
nose, from said
any said be
take said viscous
nose, said to nose
trances, be to trances
by said said
other said take to said
take any be said associated
nose, other said take
to nose
to said trances
viscous
said to to be white/gray/transparent
by trances
take nose, associated to be
colour,
        colour,
                bodies

So the point, the question, is this.  You fellows obviously think of yourselves as what Tzara's vulgar herd would consider clever men; whereas this opinion is debatable, it is undeniable fact that you both have noses.  Tell us, then, prayIs Caspar indeed the ghost of Richie Rich?

Kind regards,

Théophile Prades
Beaupuy, France

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Back atcha

As I mentioned in a recent post, reddit has recently sent some traffic our way.  It's always nice to see that people feel what we're doing is worthwhile (or shitty) enough to bring to other people's attention.  The comments on one of these links aren't all positive, but it doesn't so much matter whether the opinion is good or bad, as long as people are talking about the posts and, more importantly, the topics.  The comments are kind of fascinating; comments people leave here on LoS are usually positive, so I like seeing what people are saying when they aren't saying it to our face, so to speak.  Plus, I don't take the negative stuff too hard, it suggests ways we can improve what we do.

Although some of the responses were critical, the person who shared the link has a generally favorable opinion of our post:  More on Grand Master Flash, and the Masonic Fraternal Police Department Story

Someone else linked to LoS in a comment about Eblen's Cave: Tennessee Cave Degree.  The guy who left this comment also commented on the previous link, so I suppose we can assume he came across the cave post as a result of visiting the blog via the police post.  Cool!


Finally, it's very flattering to be included in Phoenixmasonry's list of "popular Masonic blogs".  I don't know how popular we are and we're not a specifically Masonic blog, but I think we do have an interesting approach to Freemasonry.  I'm glad LoS' profile is rising -- it's a good reminder to keep things tight -- people who know their stuff won't hesitate to tear us apart if we post BS.  All without allowing this increased scrutiny to overly-influence our style and opinions!

Anyway, just thought I'd pop this up to demonstrate the value of site stats and hopefully send some visitors over to these sites which have shown an interest in our work....

Monday, August 17, 2015

My Bologne has a first name:

L'obelisque
When I moved to Toulouse in April, 2002, I lived a few hundred yards away from this plaza and for over a year regularly frequented the restaurants and bars nearby.  My best pal Alex's office is just around the corner and the plaza provides a convenient shortcut to the hopping/happening Place St. Pierre.

Which is why it's kind of odd that I must have seen this plaza fewer times than I can count on one hand.

The few times I had been there I must have

dithered about as if in a dream, 
some kind of hapless mote 
floating through on a sunbeam

(from Burning Pizzle by J. Trenchwheat)

because I'd never really quite grokked -- done the spit-take as it were -- the fact that there's an obelisk fountain at the dead center.  And if there's anything I'd grok, it's an obelisk fountain.  This quiet, almost hidden plaza in the midst of one of Toulouse's hubbiest bubs features an obelisk and, as Prof. Freedom Williams once said, "I'd never even gone "hmmm."")

The Place de Bologne is relatively new, so it's jut another indication that the Egyptian Revival is still going strong in Toulouse  (I've written extensively about plethora of contemporary pyramid monuments in the metropolitan area).  Egypt remains a source of inspiration for architects, developers, and builders as it has since the Phoenicians, Hebrews, Greeks, Romans -- times when Egyptian civilization was the antiquity of what we consider our own antiquity.
Place de Bologne as seen from the LoS helicopter
Take a S.I.P.
Imagine how geeked out I got when after seeing the obelisk I took a look at the office doors facing it and saw a triangle logo for home builder (an outfit called S.I.P.)  I have explored the links between Freemasonry, the Egyptian Revival(s), the triangle and/or pyramid logo, and the French real estate and construction industries.  In this case I was doubly geeked:  facing this first S.I.P. was another be-triangled business:  Groupe Osiris (!) is a developer and real estate manager.

Osiris has the cool-for-us title of the "Lord of Silence" -- but he was also known as the "Lord of the Dead" and the "King of the Living".  Interesting -- perhaps the Groupe seeks to evoke the importance of urban planning and lodging as a controlling force in our lives.  Haussmann certainly understood the relationship between urban geography and political liberty when he designed wide boulevards favorable to army forces and cannon at the expense of the narrow streets favorable to building blockades and defending the poor quarters with rusty rifles and kitchen knives.

King of the Living Room
When Toulouse performed the same kind of "remodeling" (at about the same as Haussmann), the city's motivations were probably less strategic than practical in terms of everyday traffic.  In any event, if an urban zone is defined by the constant reconstitution of its component parts (to paraphrase T.A. Wilson), a city is in a constant state of degeneration, regeneration, and transformation.
Osiris worship was in essence a cult of regeneration and rebirth, and a city it essentially an entity which is dying and re-birthing itself at every second of every day.  The city is its own mother, father, and child, a family coiled-up into a convoluted relationship which at its mutating center is a kind of cosmic incest.  (If in fact we can speak of a center at all; perhaps it's less inaccurate to speak of something so folded up in upon itself that it's all periphery.

Given the increasingly restrictive circles in which the elite travel, and -- like boolean ovals -- intersect through various boards, clubs, business groups, Lodges -- tighter and tighter as we head towards the tip of the pyramid -- it's no small wonder these increasingly reduced and therefore intimate business bedfellows move with ease within the nomenclature of this incestuous Egyptian genealogy: Horus, Osiris, Cheops....

One of the many challenges facing urban planners is how to move a city forward without totally destroying its past.  One can't forbid any and all new construction in an historic city or we end up stunting a city's dynamism.  We have a static showpiece where we can't even put in a new skylight because it doesn't mesh with the surrounding 19th century character, for instance.

That said, I'm a firm believer in taking the time and spending whatever is necessary to properly investigate new construction sites and thinking long and hard about what we're destroying.  When in the 19th century the city of Toulouse plowed through the medieval warren of the centre ville to create a logically straight pair of central axes, they did indeed facilitate movement through the center of town; they also forever destroyed  its medieval character.  The neighborhoods around these axes remain today among Toulouse's most beautiful streets.  Imagine what has been lost.

In my own time, during the renovation and construction of the new Palais de Justice, the remains of the palace of the Counts of Toulouse were found; minimal archaeological investigation was carried out and what we might have learned from it has probably been lost forever.
  
Not so far from there, the destruction of a building attached to the Church of the Dalbade revealed a medieval cemetery underneath.  This was also investigated, but then, poof, a new building appeared and the cemetery was lost forever.

The Place de Bologne is another such place, which "represents in an edifying manner the problems posed by a certain kind of urbanism" (here).  Some of the buildings were renovated for use in the current plaza, but some very old buildings, in one of the oldest parts of Toulouse, were simply destroyed.  If we were dealing with some run-of-the-mill urban building, we could shrug it off as acceptable change.  "Urban Renewal" has been used to put lipstick on the pig of various corrupt and disruptive schemes dreamed up by developers eager to squeeze every last coin from every last square foot, but if we look past the abuse of this doctrine, we'll find it's a necessary and even positive part of urban evolution.  Without renewal, there is no urban stasis, only decay.

But the ruins here were in fact the last vestiges of the palace of the Visigoth kings of Toulouse, before various depredations obliged them to remove to Toledo (Spain, not Klinger's hometown).

This is an important and relatively under-known period of the city's history:  the Dark Ages, the transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages -- the Visigoths being one of the tribes who brought that about -- in the epicenter of Gallo-Roman France.  The Visigoths had sacked Delphi and Rome and legend has it that they made off with the spoils of Solomon's Temple.  They built the first Church of the Daurade in an octagonal, Byzantine style, so-named for its golden mosaics.  Their kingdom extended from Andalusia to the Loire and Toulouse was their capital; Place de Bologne was the epicenter.

The worst part is what they destroyed it all for; the architecture is unremarkable and the entrances to the plaza are gated, giving the impression of a private rather than a public space.  Indeed, all the buildings on the plaza are a tightly controlled development, not really an organic residential zone but operated by one of the powerful developers which have had so much power in determining the ever fluid urban and suburban landscapes of French cities and villages

As one site puts it "the result of these errors makes this place close, cold, without life.  With a century of history destroyed beneath our feet."  Interesting now that I think of it.  Another one of these "dead zones" is Compans Caffarrelli, which, incidentally, is another big plaza surrounded by high-rises, a public space privatized, basically, but with a cold and inert feeling despite the fact that several hundred people probably live there.

One must also consider the chilling effect of all this not only on street life, but free speech.  Consider this anecdote from a few years ago:

Taking pictures of this pyramid and architecture, Daurade was approached by a squat little security guard, a little nervous and scowling, who informed him that taking pictures is forbidden. So there you have it. On the city streets one is free to photograph what one wants. But as all this public space is enclosed and privatized, public inquiry and expression are somewhat less free. In fact, taking a photo is forbidden. Whatever the reason for this, security probably, it still doesn’t eclipse the fact that in this new world order everything will be for sale, and those with money to buy are welcome. As long as the money keeps flowing in the right direction: up towards the pinnacle.
The fountain isn't remarkable:  an obelisk in an octagonal basin, accessed by three steps which form the octagonal base.  The plaza itself is paved in the same form.  I suppose one could read something into the three steps in terms of Freemasonry, but that may be pushing it!  It occurs to me that this is the second thing in this post described as octagonal; it's possible the form of the plaza is a reference to the original Church of the Daurade which sat in roughly the equivalent position at the other end of the Quai Lucien Lombard.

I've already mentioned in a few posts how the Count of Montalambert called Toulouse the "home of vandalism".  Part that vandalism isn't just the destruction of history, but replacing what has been destroyed by shite architecture.  Toulouse has recently been obliging people on the outskirts to sell their homes so they can be razed and big dumpy apartment blocks put in their place.  The whole quasi-rural character of vast tracts close to the dead center of Toulouse have been sucked into a cold and sterile, inorganic mess of character-less, undifferentiated buildings.

So, I was attracted by the Egyptian obelisk and, sniffing around for anything vaguely Masonic, came across the two developers using triangles -- a subject to which I've already dedicated both a post and a Picasa album -- one of these developers specifically evokes Osiris.  A curious choice, given the theme of death and rebirth.  They certainly killed something off here -- a piece of history which could furnish much-needed detail about the Visigoth period of Toulouse -- but whether something worthwhile has been born from this remains to be seen.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Freemasonries: David Henry X°, Clandestinity and Recognition

I began this post months ago -- when it was more relevant -- and have only just tidied it up and readied it for posting.  I'd like to thank Fred Milliken, who read an earlier draft and corrected some of my errors regarding recognition issues and my misuse of the words "irregular" and "clandestine".  Any mistakes that have persisted in this post are entirely my fault and should not reflect adversely on Bro. Milliken.  I'd like to thank him for his time and consideration for helping me out.  My appreciation and respect, always.

Update 11 Aug.:  My site stats show significant traffic from a reddit discussion about this post in which a couple of participants criticize what they see as its lack of clarity vis-a-vis Prince Hall Masonry.  I think understanding these "Masonic Police" requires providing as much context as possible, which to my mind means that an explanation of Prince Hall and it's relationship to other duly-chartered Grand Lodges is necessary.  That said, I'd like to point out that while David Henry, his cohorts, and his "Masonic" associates identify themselves as Prince Hall Masons, they are considered to be clandestine, or Masonically "illegal" (and thus not recognized) by the legitimate Grand Lodges of California and the United Grand Lodge of England.  Although I think a modicum of attention while reading this post makes that clear, I add this preface so that if you're skimming (as I often do) you won't think I'm identifying this "Police Dept." -- or the Lodges associated with it -- as legitimate Prince Hall Lodges.  Though costumed as Cops and Freemasons, they are, in the words of The Phylaxis Society, bogus.  But please, read on and judge for yourself.  I know it's a long post, but knowledge is bought with time.  Fair enough?

When news of the Masonic Fraternal Police Department broke a few months ago (see Grandmaster Flashy), Freemasons everywhere rolled their eyes and sighed "here we go again."

David Henry X°
Many people hear the word "Freemasonry" and think that one Lodge is the same as any other.  For the general public, Masonry is a monolithic structure, controlled from on-high by a single, secretive cabal of old dudes in top hats.  

But any Mason will tell you that this is simply not the case.  Freemasonry has its rivalries, factions, competing Grand Lodges and Orients, with disputes as noisy and fractious as any number of national parliaments one can witness jeering and hissing on C-SPAN.  The difference is that these disputes usually aren't carried out in public.

There are several different traditions within Masonry.  Christianity has its Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox adherents.  Islam, its Sunni, Shiite and Sufi varieties.  Buddhism is divided into Theravada, Mahayana, Zen....etc.  In Masonry we can speak of both "Anglo-Saxon" and "Continental" Masonry, as well as Lodges who are neither one nor the other (such as the Scandinavian Rites).  Very (very) simply put, Continental (aka Liberal, Dogmatic or "Red") Masonry is organized into Grand Orients and derives from a French model.  Anglo-Saxon, ("Blue") Masonry is organized into Grand Lodges and based on the English model.

There are significant ritual differences between the two traditions, and even many Masons may not be aware that relations between "Red" and "Blue" Masonry are sometimes strained; while they might recognize each other as legitimate forms of Masonry -- and even this is not always the case -- diplomatic relations are sporadic.  Their differences are also related to politics, but for the purposes of this article let it suffice to say that Lodges are not directed from on high by a single Masonic authority.

In Anglo-Saxon Masonry, each country is governed by an independent Grand Lodge with its own officers, rules, ritual particularities and diplomatic protocols.  In the U.S., each state has its own Grand Lodge and accordingly, there are variations within their practices.  More importantly, they are all independent, none of them beholden to or under the authority of another.  What holds all these Lodges together is that they are recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England.  If a Mason visits any (U.G.L.E.-recognized) Lodge and presents a dues card issued by a Lodge recognized by the U.G.L.E., he is considered a "non-clandestine" Mason and welcome to participate in the Lodge.

This patchwork of authorities is not without its problems.  Recognizing the "legitimacy" of  a Lodge is considered to be of critical importance.  If I cross state lines and want to attend a Lodge meeting, the host Lodge must be certain that my "Mother" Lodge is not clandestine.  This is quite easy, because there is a directory of recognized Grand Lodges and Lodges to which the Worshipful Master can refer.  For the public however, it's not so simple; anybody can buy Masonic regalia, find the rituals and present themselves as a duly recognized Mason.  As far as practice and ritual goes, they may in fact be genuine; given the sorry state of ritual I've witnessed in some mainstream Lodges, some of the "clandestine" Lodges may even be superior in the quality of their practice. 

For many years, a controversy has existed within Freemasonry -- tied up with the issues of regularity and recognition -- and it's still being worked out today.  I'm speaking about Prince Hall Masonry.

I'm no expert in Masonic jurisprudence and there are people far more informed about this topic than I, but indulge me for a few moments while I try to sum up the history and problems involved.

At some point prior to the onset of American War of Independence, an African-American educator and intellectual named Prince Hall led a group of African-American petitioners to Boston's St. John's Lodge, with the ultimate goal of creating a charter and forming their own Lodge.  St. John's refused their petition.

In 1775, the group tried again with a military Lodge under the aegis of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. This time they were successful; Hall and his fellows were initiated and went on to found African Lodge No. 1.  Unable to create a charter without the assent of a Grand Lodge, African Lodge No. 1 applied to the Mother Grand Lodge of England, who issued a charter as African Lodge no. 459 in 1784.  Prince Hall then helped to establish Lodges in Philadelphia and Rhode Island.  These Lodges were generally excluded from the (white) mainstream.  The Prince Hall Masons understood that integration with the mostly-white was unlikely so they focused instead on being recognized.  In 1808, still excluded from mainstream Masonic society, they formed African Grand Lodge to oversee the Lodges they had created. 

In 1813, the Mother Grand Lodge merged with another Grand Lodge to form the U.G.L.E., thus ending a schism in England that had arisen from ritual differences and that had led to the existence of what was called "Antient" and "Modern" Freemasonry.  As a result of the merger, the African Grand Lodge was stricken from the U.G.L.E.'s rolls due to a lack of contact between the African Grand Lodge and the Mother Grand Lodge for many years.  Newly independent, they petitioned for recognition from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts but were refused.  So in 1827 they formally declared independence from the U.G.L.E. and all other American Grand Lodges, who had themselves already declared independence from the English Grand Lodges after the Revolution.  This formal separation led to a separate and independent tradition of African-American Masonry, which today we call Prince Hall Masonry.  Freemasonry, like the rest of American society, was segregated, and most Grand Lodges viewed the African Lodges as irregular and clandestine. 

In 1994 the U.G.L.E., recognizing that racism had in effect forced the African Grand Lodge into a separate tradition, ruled that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts "should now be accepted as regular, and be recognised."

While many Masons in both mainstream and Prince Hall Lodges had been pushing for some sort of reconciliation for decades, the U.G.L.E.'s decision set the gears in motion for concrete action.  For if the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was recognized, then the Lodges it chartered could also be considered as recognized; and if they were recognized by the U.G.L.E., one could no longer use the issue of clandestinity as a justification for not recognizing them.

Merging

At this point, one might ask why the Prince Hall Lodges and mainstream Grand Lodges didn't consider merging, thus eliminating the grotesque spectacle of a racially-segregated brotherhood.  This was indeed considered, but it quickly became apparent that this "solution" was anything but.

First of all, what would happen to the leadership of each Grand Lodge?  Each Lodge had its own officers and those administrations would either have to be dissolved and new elections held, or one administration would have to give up their offices and defer to the other.  Obviously, given human nature, this would be a thorny issue.  Not to mention succession.  What would happen to the Masonic veteran who'd worked his way through the Grand Line with the hopes of becoming Grand Master?  Both Grand Lodges would have Brothers who risked having the carpet yanked from under their feet.

There's also the question of identity and ritual differences  Prince Hall had a 250+ year history and over time has developed its own identity, customs and traditions.  Why risk losing all that in a merger?

Then there's the issue of property.  The Masons own buildings, sponsor charities, own retirement homes, hospitals etc.  How would this be handled?  Not impossible, companies merge all the time, but it's still a complex and expensive process.  Contrary to popular belief, most Grand Lodges are not rolling in piles of cash.  Would the Grand Lodges have the money to effectuate a merger?

Needless to say, no Grand Lodges and Prince Hall Grand Lodges have merged.

Mutual Recognition

For practical reasons, the best solution has been mutual recognition.  Each group maintains its leadership structure and preserves its individual identity, its ritual differences and traditions.

In some  ways, this has been easier for Prince Hall Lodges.  There is in each state a Grand Lodge that all Lodges in that State report to.  They are chartered by that Grand Lodge and must respect its decisions in matters of jurisprudence and ritual, suspensions, visiting rights, etc.  The criteria for determining the legitimate Grand Lodge is clear; one need only look to see which one is recognized by the U.G.L.E.  But on the Prince Hall side things are a bit less clear.  Prince Hall Masonry has historically seen more schisms and the creation of clandestine Lodges than non-Prince Hall Masonry.  In some jurisdictions, there is more than one Prince Hall Grand Lodge; some of these have equally large numbers of Brothers and can trace their origins back to the original African Grand Lodge.  So the issue facing the non-Prince Hall Grand Lodges is that it isn't always clear which one to recognize.

There is also a supposed legal question.  Some Masons in America have interpreted Masonic jurisprudence to mean that there can only be one Grand Lodge per jurisdiction (The Right of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction, a.k.a. the American Doctrine).  They would argue that recognizing another Grand Lodge is Masonically "illegal".  But clearly the U.G.L.E. disagrees, or they would not have recognized the Prince Hall Lodges.  In fact, without going into the technical details, the U.G.L.E. has stated that two Grand Lodges can in fact operate in the same jurisdiction.  The principal caveat being that a Lodge can only declare loyalty to one Grand Lodge and that a Grand Lodge has no authority over a Lodge that has declared loyalty to another.  It also is clear that raiding -- where one Grand Lodge sets itself up and tries to poach member-Lodges from another -- is strictly forbidden.

Personally, I'm one of those people who think mutual recognition with full visiting rights was something that needed to be done years ago and Lodges which haven't done it yet should make this their number one priority.  Lodges have long accepted black members and Prince Hall has long accepted white members.  The groups are not officially racially segregated.  The reality may have lagged behind due to racist attitudes, but these attitudes have changed and you'll find fewer and fewer Lodges that would refuse to admit a black man.  Thing is, a lot of black men prefer to join Prince Hall Lodges.  After all, the Prince Hall Lodges have a long history and are held in high regard in many black communities.  Black men are often simply more comfortable in a Prince Hall Lodge.  Still, when you look at this map from Paul Bessel's website about recognition issues, it's clear that all of the Grand Lodges which have not recognized their Prince Hall counterparts, except for West Virginia, are states which belonged to the Confederacy.

A cautionary tale

Let's get back to the Masonic Fraternal Police Force.  In addition to saying something to the general public about not looking at Masonry as one monolithic entity, it can also be instructive to Masons about the pitfalls of non-recognition.

The ringleader of the M.F.P.F. is a guy who goes by the name of Grandmaster David Henry X°.

A quick look at Henry's Google + profile immediately raises red flags.  Henry claims degrees and titles that don't even exist in Freemasonry or are presented in a very odd manner.  He calls himself a Illuminati Grandmaster and Absolute Most Illuminated Sovereign Grand Baphomet.  (He forgot "Grand Wazoo", but that's another story.)  Then there are his degrees: 32°, 33°, 90°, 96°, 98°, X°, 360°.

For the edification of the non-Mason out there, this is pure nonsense.  In the Scottish Rite a man can earn the 32°, and the 33° is awarded for outstanding contributions to the Craft.  But a 33° Mason will only identify himself as 33°, not 32° as well.  The Rite of Misraïm did have 90 degrees but this Rite no longer exists independently.  It merged with the Rite of Memphis, and as of 1980 the Rite of Memphis-Misraïm did indeed have 99 degrees.  So, it's possible Henry did the 98 degrees, but the same question remains, why list 90° and 96° as well?  As for 360°, the only place I've heard tell of something similar is among the 5 Percent Nation.  He may have been a 5 Percenter, I can't say otherwise, which is fine by me.  But it's not exactly Masonry.  As for an X degree, I suppose he's referring to the O.T.O., whose X° (tenth) degree is called Rex Summus Sanctissimus (Supreme and Most Holy King!)  Llewellyn states "It is the title held by the National Master General of the O.T.O. in a particular country."  I'm sure the O.T.O. would beg to differ.

Thing is, researching this guy I came across the following video:


In this video, made in the wake of the demonstrations following the Zimmerman verdict, a group of Masons stands with an L.A.P.D. spokesman to call for peace and calm.  Are all these Masons members of Henry's group?  In the preview image you see here (click to see video), Henry is the guy on the far left with the killer beard and the shades.  By what authority is Henry there?

On 19 June 2014 the L.A. Watts Times reports on the 10th annual St. John's Day ceremony in L.A.  In attendance were several Masonic leaders, including Brandon Kiel, the Justice Department staffer arrested along with Henry in connection with the the Police Department imbroglio.  Surprisingly, also present was one Van A. Hibbler (sic), who Henry thanks for "making [me?] a Grand Master years ago." 

Interesting.  While researching my first post on this subject, I came across an article in the L.A. Weekly written after Henry and Kiel were arrested, in which Hibler distanced himself from Henry.  He says "a while ago" Henry approached him about forming a new Lodge, and he'd insisted that he go through proper channels.  After the new Lodge didn't pan out, he came back and talked about his police department scheme.  Hibler said he wasn't interested.

I wonder if these meetings occurred before or after the St. John's Day ceremony in 2014, where Hibler was in attendance as Henry thanked him for making him a Grand Master....

Henry is on the far left, Hibler is second from right.  June 3, 2014
The LA Sentinel also ran an article on this event, mentioning that it was organized by the
The Southern California Conference, founded by Honorable Grand Master Willie G. Gauff, Sr., 33°; was designed to create unity among the Grand Lodges in Southern California.
Are all of those who participated in this conference clandestine Masons?  Outside of this article, I can't find a single online reference to the conference and references to Hibler are likewise sparse.  Outside of the  interview in the L.A. Weekly and various reprints of the L.A. Watts Time article, I can only find one other reference to him as a Masonic leader, also in the LA Watts times from 7 February 2013
The M.W. Illustrious Scottish Knights Grand Supreme Council under the leadership of M.W. Grandmaster Hon. David Henry 33rd (giving honor to his M.W. Grand Master Hon. Van A. Hibler 33rd) presented the Della Smith Queen Sheba Legacy Award to Wilma Smith Kiel. Grand High Priest Brandon Kiel 33rd, Deputy Grandmaster Kevin Briley 33rd, and Illustrious Assemblyman Mike Davis (ret.) 33rd, were also in attendance to present this award.
There is also reference to the VH Hibler Youth and Outreach Corporation, a non-profit organization incorporated in 2005 which appears to have been suspended by the California Secretary of State.  This may have resulted from not filing a Statement of Information listing officers and directors.

According to the Phylaxis Society, a Prince hall research organization
There are more African American Bogus Grand Lodges in the United States than there are Legitimate Grand Lodges around the World.
Not surprisingly there are quite a few in  California.  The specific Lodges the three people arrested claimed to have belonged to -- the Knights of Luxor Knights Templars Grand Lodge AASR (Henry, Kiel) and Lady Jewel of the Nile Grand Chapter (Hayes) -- are not on the list, but spokesmen for various recognized Prince Hall Grand Lodges contacted by the Guardian stated that the groups the individuals in question were unaffiliated with them.  Hayes also claimed to be a minister at L.A.'s Israel Missionary Baptist Church, but yet again, staffers there denied this when contacted.  Hibler was associated with the Prince of Peace Grand Lodge (here), and this site mentions him as a key figure in the Lodge and the president of the Youth and Outreach Corp.  Phylaxis specifically lists the Prince of Peace Lodge as clandestine, i.e., bogus.

So Henry appears to be a self-aggrandizing "Grand Master" of a clandestine Lodge, having been made a Mason in yet another clandestine Lodge, mentored by a man who despite appearing together in photographs as recent as last year, both as "Grand Masters", claims to have discouraged Henry from pursuing the creation of a new Lodge and Police Department.  But there's a lot more to this guy, if any of his claims are to be believed.  Judging from the articles we've read, he's certainly regarded as a community leader, at least in some communities and, unless it's all lies, seems to run in pretty diverse circles....

Given our recent post about our intention to write a piece about Freemasonry and the Illuminati in Hip-Hop, one video on his YouTube channel entitled ILLUMINATI GRANDMASTER HENRY X°, ICE T & SYNDICATE caught our eye.  I didn't see Henry but in a comment on that video he writes (it's always caps lock with this guy)
....YES I WAS A ORIGINAL MEMBER OF ICE T AND THE RHYME SYNDICATE I WAS WITH ICE T FROM 1983 TO 1991 MY NAME WAS (INKK) I'M THE SAME PERSON ON THE POWER ALBUM HIGH ROLLERS I'M THE YOUNG GUY STANDING NEXT TO THE DJ EVIL E ON THIS VIDEO ALSO ON HIGH ROLLERS I'M THE GUY IN THE RED SHIRT THAT ASK ICE ABOUT PEOPLE GETTING SHOT UP ON CRENSHAW!!! WE WERE ON THR DOPE JAM TOUR , PUBLIC ENEMY, EPMD, BIG DADDY KANE, N.W.A. , THE LIST GOES ON!!!
The photos page on his Google + profile do show him with a host of industry-looking types, so he may well have been involved in the game at one point.  This would be an interesting avenue to explore in my eventual post about Freemasonry and Hip-Hop.  It's actually not that far out an idea.  Masonry has always been popular among the police and the military (Prince Hall's entree into Freemasonry was via a military Lodge comprised of soldiers stationed in Boston), but it has also counted a number of entertainers among its ranks.  A large number of big stars have been members of the Craft since before the age of cinema.  Maybe this has something to do with why Masons are called "traveling men", either in the role of chicken or egg.

Henry does have bona fide entertainment creds, I think.  In 2002 he won a local Emmy for a story he produced entitled Info Thieves.  He was nominated again in 2005 for a segment called School Violence.  At least, a David Henry from L.A. was nominated.  Ya see, Henry?  Start spreading outlandish tales about who you are and people will even begin to question the true stuff.  If what he says is to be believed, he also designs some pretty badass Masonic bling.

Other photos on his profile are more relevant to this post, and shed some troubling light on Henry's purpose behind his police force.  Some have written him off as a deluded man with good intentions who did something incredibly stupid and naive.  Maybe all that is true.  He's clearly also a man with a need for power, recognition and obedience.

Here he is as Grandmaster with the text:  "Seek and Destroy all who broke their oath."  Other photos indicate he thinks he was at war with the hacker collective Anonymous, touting freedom, equality and justice.  But for whom, really?  Not oath-breakers.  One pictures wolves and says (caps lock always): "For Masons who forgot their obligation the Grandmaster the wolves are watching".  He's also pictured with Maxine Waters, Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown.

So who the hell is this guy?  He's (possibly) consorting with rappers and high-ranking politicians, collecting an Emmy, threatening apostates, recruiting an aide from the Attorney General's office, appearing with the L.A.P.D., at the inauguration of a street named after a local civil rights activist.  Is it all the same guy?  And if it is, does that make his Police Department, more, or less sinister?  A lot of Masonic imposters have been more or less ingenious and accomplished people, so it's not like this type of character is totally foreign to Masonic history.

There are some lessons to be learned from all this by Mason and non-Mason alike.  All this took me was a couple of hours of poking through the Internet, but most people aren't going to do that.  They'll just read the headline and assume that THE Masons are pulling some shenanigans yet again.  It also puts into sharp relief the reason why the mainstream Lodges have been cautious about recognition.  Years ago this was a convenient excuse, but the will just simply wasn't there to push very hard.  Now the Craft is changing; a few years ago the average age was 71.  That has since dropped to 65, which is still old, but it's expected to drop.  This article in the L.A. Times speaks about the resurgence in interest among younger people; one man interviewed will be the first black Worshipful Master in his Lodge's history.  As the average age of members decreases I think we'll see a more diverse group of men.  Prince Hall will still continue to attract its traditional membership but I also think we'll see more and more African-Americans in non-Prince Hall Lodges.

"Mainstream" Grand Lodges have been ignoring Prince Hall for over two centuries but that hasn't stopped the latter from flowering, working with an enviable ritual quality and serving their communities to the point that Masonry is held in higher esteem among African-American communities than among whites, where it has become seen by many as something of an atavistic joke, full of racist, doddering old men in goofy hats and tiny cars.  Perhaps it isn't a coincidence that since recognition has had some years under its belt, the Craft is starting to attract younger men as described in the L.A. Times article.  This may also be part of the resurgence in so-called Traditional Observance Lodges, which aspire to return to the contemplative and esoteric aspects of the craft, rejecting the "instant Mason" formula of one-day classes in favor of taking one's time, not foregoing the memory work and even requiring candidates to research and present aspects of the Craft before going on to the next degree.  There is also an emphasis on perfecting ritual and often Lodge is held as a black-tie affair, as in times past.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that these last two items, ritual excellence and more formal attire, might be a reaction to visits to Prince Hall Lodges, where Mainstream masons learned a thing or two about how ritual should be done.  For the most part, we can at least say that now we're doing it together.

Working together fosters openness, which in the future can only benefit the Craft.  Think of Henry David on the podium behind an L.A.P.D. officer, representing Freemasonry.  Recognition will help the public distinguish between the legitimate and the clandestine, hopefully with the result that they will reject the spurious and self-appointed Grandmasters that for the moment, it seems, can easily delude the public.  If Henry and his crew hadn't gone the extra step of playing police officer, they might still be up there among the "community leaders" in pursuit of whatever goals they were trying to obtain.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

mEME lEAKER'S dELIGHT (Re:Ducks)

These tracks are now for sale as a CD!  

Limited to 27 copies, each one will be signed, dated and numbered, with liner notes.  

Each CD will feature a unique hand-collaged cover and a mini-mini broadside containing a brief poem, composed especially for your order!  The price will be fifteen euros, shipping included!

A hand-made, unique CD in a limited series of 27!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Name that tomb

Some time back I did a little post on Lisbon's Cemetery of Pleasures, which is the best cemetery name, like, evah.

My goal was to document a pyramid mausoleum I saw there, the Jazigo dos Duques de Palmela -- which is loaded with Masonic symbolism -- but I didn't have a decent photo.  I did a little search and found one; the guy who snapped it, Luis Morgado, kindly agreed to let me use it.

So, I was delighted to hear from Luis again the other day, about the time I did my post which took a look at renovations at Toulouse's Terre Cabade cemetery, with it's Egyptian Revival gate and gatehouse, as well as a quick peep at the humbler pyramid tombs of Charles Piazzi Smyth and Charles Taze Russell.  Luis is traveling in North America and taking pictures; he did a great set in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery, in search of the tombs of some of America's greatest architects.  It's a wonderful cemetery with some impressive funerary architecture, if you're into that sort of thing, which I am!



I'm just gonna cut-and-past Wikipedia on this one:
Well-known Chicago brewer Peter....Schoenhofen's family mausoleum was designed by Richard E. Schmidt, a Chicago School architect, in 1893....The mausoleum is internationally famous and is one of the most photographed mausoleums at Graceland Cemetery.
The Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum is a steep sided tomb designed, like many of the monuments at Chicago's Graceland Cemetery, in the Egyptian Revival style....The pyramid's design combines both Egyptian (the sphinx) and Christian (the angel) symbols.  Regardless, the American Institute of Architects' Chicago guide book called the angel "rather out-of-place".  The door to the pyramid is styled after the gateways at Karnak, in Egypt....A bronze molding of bundled reeds surrounds the door and the door's themselves feature cast lotus designs with coiled asps around the handles.
While the Schoenhofen Mausoleum is a pyramid, and referred to as such, its design is only Egyptian-inspired....There are several historical works that are considered related to the Schoenhofen Mausoleum. The Roman funerary pyramid of Caius Cestius is considered a historical predecessor to the Schoenhofen Mausoleum.  Perhaps more closely related are the pyramid by Louis Carrogis Carmontelle at Parc Monceau in Paris and a cenotaph by Antonio Canova that was erected as the tomb of Maria Christina in Vienna at the Augustinian Church.
As far as I can make out, neither Schoenhofen nor Schmidt were Freemasons, so I suppose this is really just a part of the larger Egyptian Revival rather than a nod towards esotericism.  Still, it's an impressive mausoleum, and it was nice of Luis to think of LoS.  And in that there's a nifty anecdote....Apparently Luis tried to send me these photos a couple of weeks ago, but his email was returned -- twice.  Then, the day after I posted about pyramid tombs, he saw the post and sent the email again, and it came through. 

I guess the universe needed to let me know something.  Still trying to figure out what that might be....