Monday, February 24, 2014

Elk Lodges: A Brief Photo Essay

While this blog is primarily concerned with things Masonic, I have on occasion commented on other fraternal organizations. One such group, worthy of note and admiration, is the fraternal organization most commonly referred to simply as "The Elks."

It began when a group of actors and entertainers decided to organize  so they could meet on Sundays and still avoid paying an excise tax, called themselves the Jolly Corks. That same year as membership grew, some members saw the vision to become more helpful in the community. In February of 1868, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was chartered–and with a great new spirit and direction, began to help Veterans, Scouting, Scholarships and more–wherever Charity, Justice and Brotherly Love were needed!

FORMAL ORGANIZATION AND NAME The Order of Elks was formerly organized February 16, 1868, in the City of New York. Its full corporate name was "Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America." Its declared purposes are to practice its four cardinal virtues, Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its members; to quicken the spirit of American patriotism; and to cultivate good fellowship. 
The animal from which the Order took its name was chosen because a number of its attributes were deemed typical of those to be cultivated by members of the fraternity. The Elk is distinctfully an American animal. It habitually lives in herds. The largest of our native quadrupeds, it is yet fleet of foot and graceful in movement. It is quick and keen of perception, and while it is usual gentle and even timorous, it is strong and valient in defense of its own. A representation of the majestic head of the male, with its spreading antlers, was adopted as the first badge of the Order, and is still the most conspicuous element of its copyrighted, fraternal emblem. 

QUALIFICATIONS OF MEMBERSHIP Membership in the Order is limited to any citizen of the United States, not under twenty-one years of age, who believe in the existence of God, who subscribe themselves to the objects and purposes of the Order, and who have been duly initiated in a Subordinate Lodge. There are no branches, or degrees of membership in the Order; there are auxillary organizations, such as State Associations, and Past Exalted Rulers' Associations. STATE ASSOCIATIONS Under the laws of the Order, State Associations may be formed in any, or all states by such Subordinate Lodges as may voluntarily desire to organize into such groups. They have power to regulate their own internal affairs, and are authorized to inaugurate and foster such benevolent activities as may be selected
by them for their serious objectives.

Recently, a brother, who demonstrates his enthusiasm and quiet generosity, reached out to share his enthusiasm for all things BPOE with me. Since he was so kind as to permit the use of material from his personal collection and a friend's I am happy to share some select images related to The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) which is also often known as the Elks Lodge or simply The Elks. For those who don't know, the Elks is an American fraternal order and social club founded in 1868. It is one of the leading fraternal orders in the U.S., claiming nearly one million members. As with the Freemasons, many notable people who are or members of the Elks.  

The list of famous Americans who were Elks include Generals Douglas MacArthur, George S. Patton, Presidents Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Gerald R. Ford. Others include Tip O'Neill, Lawrence Welk, Will Rogers, Jack Benny, Eddie Arnold, Clint Eastwood, Buster Keaton, William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill), Gene Autry, Whitey Ford, and Mickey Mantle.

Special thanks to Al Hoffman and Jason Castlebury, in whose collections the photos displayed here reside. This small display would not be possible without the dedicated work of these two brothers!  I hope with their assistance to provide some more detailed information and of course, more beautioful photographs. If anyone wishes to contact them, I will be happy to pass your information along to them. Just contact me at eoghanballard @ .

Friday, February 21, 2014

A few thoughts Under An Open Sky

I've read something which will come into print soon, in another language, on the history of Freemasonry. I am not at liberty to reproduce the content of that material, nor do I intend to comment on it here, but it has caused me to think about a subject it touched upon, at least in passing. A practice in Freemasonry, still extent today I don't doubt, but much demeaned, was once far more common than it is now. I refer to lodges "working under the open sky."

From perhaps the first invention of a Grand Lodge and subsequently, the Grand Orient systems, those cyclops of the masonic institution which while spreading the organization of Freemasonry, may have ironically done as much to impede the spread of its inner meaning, a lodge "working under the open sky," meaning a lodge with no superstructural affiliation, has been when not cast as an evil thing, one to be pitied and avoided.

This is unfortunate. Some very good masons got their starts under the open sky. One that comes immediately to mind was a man who later had more "formal" affiliations, José Julián Martí Pérez (1853-1895). José Martí was not only a mason worthy of the name, but is considered to be one of Cuba's foremost national heroes by all Cubans, regardless of their politics. No doubt, many others can be named. Allow me to remind everyone that before the advent of the Masonic Juggernaut, the Grand Lodge system, which we have today for better and for worse, as everything when viewed honestly may be seen as mixed blessings, all lodges were "under the open sky." 

While I am committed to working within the context of a Grand Lodge, albeit a blessedly small one, I am not convinced that there is no place in the present, or in the future, for the totally independent lodge. Mind you, I'm not rushing out advocating people start them. However, I think that in looking at the future of Freemasonry, all options should be considered. There is much that masons would have to foreswear to follow such a path, not the least of which is access to a wider community, but when looking at the politics and the convoluted communications that a Grand Lodge of any order necessitates, one cannot help but see some appealing simplicity in a single lodge following its own lights.

Call me a romanticist, or even names more foul, but the idea remains if nought else, fascinating. To think back on the freedom and the excitement that being a member of such a lodge in centuries past must have given its members, is appealing, whatever else you may think of the idea.  It is true that such a masonic experience seems unlikely for me anytime soon, and for the overwhelming majority who call themselves, and on occasion each other, masons. Still, I for one, would gladly trade the Freemasonry bound and gagged by too many rulebooks for the freer and more soaring Freemasonry of a classic lodge under the open sky. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Rough Ashlar No. 12

Petty Sectarianism seems to be the keynote of many masons experiences of the Craft. Recently reading a discussion online by some otherwise intelligent masons, I was reminded just how shallowly the teachings of our craft have penetrated the psyches of some of our fellow masons.  They are quick to take exception to observations that might cause them some uncomfortable self reflection, but are oblivious to the disrespect that has become ingrained in their own assumptions about legitimacy.

The real purpose and message of Freemasonry has nothing to do with the petty political divisions invented by various Grand Lodges and Grand Orients around the world to cement and maintain authority. That is not Freemasonry.  There are fortunately, some people of vision who may lead the way to a more rational approach.  I hope they have enough influence.

Nobody is Clandestine. Do the Methodists define the status of Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics, or Buddhists?  For all the talk of brotherhood in Freemasonry, it's greatest failing has been how much time and energy it wastes trying to define who is not entitled to be considered one.

For Freemasonry to be taken seriously again in the world, that has to change.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

At a Perpetual Distance: Universal Freemasonry and its Historical Divisions: Agenda & RSVP Information

The Roosevelt Center is developing as a network of scholars and students in California and more broadly in North America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe and across the globe. The specific purpose of the Roosevelt Center is to promote research, conversation, education and communication in general around the study of civil society and/or Freemasonry. Support is given to faculty, students and projects related to the study of Freemasonry and democratic civil society around the world. The Roosevelt Center approaches Freemasonry as an association representative historically of civil society as it developed from the eighteenth century onwards. The approach at the globally networked Center is multi-dimensional. It involves a cultural, comparative and global study of civil society. It also concerns the meaning that Freemasonry could assume in private and public life, as well as it examines Masonic thought in a variety of historical and contemporary settings.

Work at the Center/network/forum is intended to engage an array of questions and approaches in the arts, humanities and social sciences relevant to civil society, including cultural studies, the study of symbolism, ritual and theater, aesthetics, affective and cognitive neuroscience, comparative religion, the history and advance of science, moral and political philosophy, new approaches in historical geography, and the 300 year history, and prehistory, of modern Freemasonry since the Enlightenment.

Past lectures and events co-sponsored by the Roosevelt Center:

Distinguished Professor Margaret Jacob, UCLA, in Santa Monica Pacific-Palisades Lodge, California, USA

Tom Jackson gave a paper at Lodge Hollywood, Grand Lodge of Califorinia, Tarzana, California, USA

Professor Eric Pallazo, a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Institute, lectured both in Los Angeles, California and in San Francisco, California USA

Visiting Professor, UCLA, María Vázquez Semadeni presented at Lodge Liberal Arts in Los Angeles, California

John Slifko preesented a paper at Lodge Liberal Arts, Grand Lodge of California, Los Angeles, California.

Dr. John Cooper presented at Lodge Liberal Arts, Grand Lodge of California, Los Angeles, California.

Steve Doan presented at Lodge Liberal Arts, Grand Lodge of California, Los Angeles.

Announcements of future lectures and events including international conferences, projects, and activities supported by the Roosevelt Center.

Here is the agenda and RSVP link for the upcoming March 23, 2014 Conference entitled:

 "At a Perpetual Distance: Universal Freemasonry and its Historical Divisions"

The international gathering is to held at Liberal Arts Lodge Building, 2244 Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, 90064.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Discourse on the Modern Rite: José María Bonachi Batalla

Discourse on the Modern Rite by MIHஃ José María Bonachi Batalla, of the Grand Orient of Brazil, and the president of the UMURM (Universal Masonic Union of the Modern Rite). Brother Bonachi Batalla is the Past Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of the Higher Orders of Wisdom of the Modern Rite, which is based in Brazil.

 Discurso del MஃIஃHஃ Bonachi Batalla, presidente de la Unión Masónica Universal del Rito Moderno (UMURM) y Past SGIG del Supremo Conselho do Rito Moderno - Brasil