Sunday, February 18, 2018

Godspeed, John Glenn

On February 20, 1962, 50 years ago today, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth in his space capsule, Friendship 7, blasting off with his flight crew wishing him, "Godspeed, John Glenn." At flight's end an indicator light warned his heat shield was loose.  Glenn therefore kept his retrorockets in place to secure the heat shield and returned to earth in what he described as "a real fireball."  Brother Glenn is a member of Concord Lodge 688 Concord, Ohio.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Council of Grand Masters Badge

Le Chevalier d'Eon de Beaumont

The James Bond of his time, d'Éon de Beaumont, was a French knight, a spy in the elite secret espionage force of King Louis XV and a swashbuckling swordsman. A member of La Lodge de l'Immortalite 376, London, he was also a member of the Royal Court, a captain of dragoons wounded in the Seven Years War, and a recipient of the coveted Order of Saint-Louis for service to France; and King Louis XVI, assuming the throne upon the death of his grandfather, ordered de Beaumont to wear a dress for the rest of his life!

You heard that right. The bizarre story of le Chevalier d'Éon de Beaumont puzzled his contemporaries and has caused historians since to speculate about the motives behind his quirky personality. It all started when Louis XV decided to stick his nose into Russian affairs. He needed a spy...

Fair-featured, one reason de Beaumont enjoyed stunning success as a spy was his ability to disguise himself as a woman and move about unnoticed. He was so convincing in this role that he conspired with Russia's Empress Elizabeth to pass himself off as her maid of honor.

After de Beaumont's mission in Russia, King Louis XV developed secret plans to invade England. He shared those plans with de Beaumont and sent him there to spy on the English and gather information that would facilitate the impending conflict. De Beaumont was so successful Louis XV appointed him Minister Plenipotentiary — the most powerful French citizen in England. De Beaumont enjoyed his elevated status in England until the King abandoned his plan to invade England and appointed the Count of Guerchy as that country's French ambassador. In the same action, the King demoted de Beaumont, betraying his years of loyalty. De Beaumont, in return, used secret French documents to discredit Guerchy and have him convicted of corruption.

De Beaumont shrewdly held back the documents which exposed the plans King Louis XV had devised to invade England. Not only did this in all likelihood save his life, but it also gave him an enormous amount of leverage in his future negotiations with the French government; and negotiate he did, obtaining a generous pension and keeping his job as a spy, although the King refused to let him return to France.

Continuing to live in England, de Beaumont began to dress openly as a woman and rumors circulated that he actually was a female. He refused to cooperate with requests to prove his sex.

Homesick, de Beaumont negotiated his return to France by agreeing to relinquish the damning documents detailing France's previous intention to invade England. He also demanded the French Government officially recognize him as a woman. King Louis XVI agreed but, in return, ordered him to dress as a female for the remainder of his life. De Beaumont consented and astonishingly, King Louis XVI paid for his wardrobe. His Masonic records are lost but from that point it is certain de Beaumont never entered a Masonic Lodge again.

Speculation raged over his true gender. De Beaumont continued to insist he was a female, but never offered proof. He lived another 33 years after returning to France — all the while claiming to be a woman. He lost his pension and died penniless in London in 1810. Finally, an autopsy ended speculation about his gender when it determined conclusively that le Chevalier d'Éon de Beaumont was, anatomically at least, a male.

A Charles Jean Robineau painting of a match between d'Eon de Beaumont and Saint George circa 1789.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Farmer

Rummaging through some papers last week I found a note scrawled in longhand describing a Brother's Masonic journey. This account started with the mundane tale of a farmer who wanted to become a Freemason. This simple story was informally jotted down in 1952 as a recollection of events that took place long before, shortly after the turn of the century. I thought it was worth sharing with you. Here is that farmer's Masonic tale:

One day I was in the barn lot at home on the farm discussing things with a cousin of my mother. I told him I was interested in Masonry and hoped to become a Mason someday. This was in November, 1908.

A short time after I received an application for membership. I signed it and was elected for initiation, which happened on February 9th 1909. I studied faithfully and was given the third degree on March 9th 1909.

Shortly after receiving the third degree the grand lecturer, came to town to hold a lodge of instruction. I attended all three days and then accompanied brother to other towns for more instruction, becoming proficient in all three degrees.

I was elected Junior Warden in 1910. In 1911, I sent a petition to The Grand Master asking for the establishment of a Masonic lodge near my home. A lodge under dispensation was set up with myself as Master, under dispensation, In the spring of 1911. At the fall meeting of the Grand Lodge the new lodge was granted a charter. I was elected Master of the lodge. It was a very active organization and continued to grow. I became Master a second time when the lodge was 4 years old — and then secretary.

World War I came along and I went to France. The lodge hall burned down, destroying all the records. But the lodge continued to grow.

When I returned from overseas after World War I, I took an active interest in Masonic Affairs in the whole country. When the District Deputy died I was appointed to the place in 1924. I entered politics in 1922 and was elected again in 1926 after a defeat in 1924.

In 1930, William R. Gentry was elected Grand Master of Mason's of Missouri. He appointed me to the Grand Lodge line and in 1940, I was elected Grand Master of Masons of the Grand Lodge of Missouri.

In the study of the Masonic lectures and the reading of the biblical references I was impressed with the moral code taught by the lectures and the Bible.

I always tried to live and act by this moral code.

Harry S. Truman, the White House, Washington DC, December 31, 1952

We Are All Scientists

You are a scientist. I am a scientist. In fact, I have a framed piece of paper from a major university on my office wall declaring I am a scientist. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fact that I am a Freemason. Have you ever considered that as Freemasons we are all scientists? You are, indeed, a scientist. Welcome to the club.

Consider the Winding Staircase. The closer you get to the top, the closer you get to the natural sciences and their tools. Logic: Science cannot survive without logic. Arithmetic: mathematics is the basis of many branches of science. It is the language of the study of the universe. Geometry: the root of our craft upon which our skills are developed and based. Astronomy: the fabric of the universe and the science which reveals its grandeur.

You are a spiritual individual. I am a spiritual individual. And just as before, I'm talking about the fact we are Freemasons. We were asked in whom we put our trust. And our answers revealed our spirituality.

You may have heard there is some sort of conflict between spirituality or, if you will, religion and science. Well, it can't exist within the hearts of millions of Freemasons… Through symbolism, observation and study we understand they are related and compliment each other.

I am intrigued by the experience of Dr Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon, no less, who admitted to being a marginal, skeptical Christian. He clinically died of meningitis and was revived into a comatose state. Doctors claim near-death experiences are a function of the dying brain. But Dr. Alexander was measured to have no brain activity at all and yet had an amazing journey through what he calls "the realms of heaven." The journey couldn't have been a hallucination in his brain since it was completely inactive. After a week, he returned to consciousness and told his story in his book, Map of Heaven.

In it, as he vividly describes heaven, he says, "Nothing is isolated in Heaven... Nothing is disconnected. Everything is one… Everything is connected to everything else.

He is almost describing a phenomenon scientists call "quantum entanglement," whereby quantum particles that have had previous interaction will continue to instantly interact no matter the distance between them, even if it is millions of light years. They are connected. They are one. An interaction on one will be sensed by the other… instantly. This is no pipe dream. This has been observed and proven by experiment. Einstein himself couldn't explain it, calling it "spooky action at a distance." If Einstein couldn't explain it, I'm sure none of us can.

There is so much we don't know that rests on the threshold of the physical universe and heaven. A conflict between science and spirituality? Not at all. By our science we may curiously trace nature through her various windings to her most concealed recesses. By it, we discover the wisdom, power and goodness of the Grand Architect of the Universe and view with delight the proportions which connect this vast machine.